‘Interpassivity: The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment’ by Robert Pfaller

Published by EUP in 2017.


Why do people record TV programmes instead of watching them? Why do some recovering alcoholics let others drink in their place? Why can ritual machines pray in place of believers?

Robert Pfaller advances the theory of ‘interpassivity’ as delegated consumption and enjoyment. Applicable to both art and everyday life, the concept allows him to tackle a vast range of phenomena: culture, art, sports and religion.

Pfaller criticises dominant assumptions, offers an escape from prevailing ideologies and exposes how cultural capitalism promotes commodities with the promise of happiness.


Introduction: Interpassivity Today
1.The Work of Art that Observes Itself
2.The Parasites of Parricide. Living Through the Other when Killing the Father: Interpassivity in Brothers Karamazov
3.Little Gestures of Disappearance. Interpassivity and the Theory of Ritual
4.Interpassivity and Misdemeanours. The Art of Thinking In Examples and the Zizekian Toolbox
5.Against Participation
6.Matters of Generosity: On Art and Love
7.What Reveals the Taste of the City. On Urbanity


Robert Pfaller is Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Theory at the University of Art and Industrial Design of Linz, Austria. His publications are mainly in German but his most recent book is in English The Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions without Owners (Verso, 2014). His German books include Wofuer es sich zu leben lohnt. Elemente materialistischer Philosophie (Fischer, 2011), Das schmutzige Heilige und die reine Vernunft. Symptome der Gegenwartskultur (Fischer, 2008), Die Ästhetik der Interpassivität (Hamburg: philo fine arts, 2008) and Die Illusionen der anderen. Über das Lustprinzip in der Kultur (Suhrkamp, 2002).

New concepts are rare in social thinking, and interpassivity is arguably the only true concept that emerged in the last two decades. The idea that others can not only act for us but that they can also be passive for us, that we can enjoy, believe, laugh and cry through others, provides the key to understand the paradoxes of our cynical-hedonist era. So let’s not beat around the bush: Interpassivity is simply one of the great founding texts of social thought, on a par with works of classics like Max Weber.

— Slavoj Žižek

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