‘The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology’ by Slavoj Žižek

First published by Verso in 1999. Download link updated on 10th August 2021.

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A spectre is haunting Western academia, the spectre of the Cartesian subject—Deconstructionists and Habermasians, cognitive scientists and Heideggerians, feminists and New Age obscurantists—all are united in their hostility to it. The Ticklish Subject seeks to undermine the common presupposition of all these critiques by posing a provocative question: what if there is a subversive core of the Cartesian subject to be unearthed, a core which provides the indispensable philosophical point of reference of any genuinely emancipatory politics?

In this new, long-awaited systematic exposition of the foundations of his theory, Slavoj Žižek explores this question through a detailed and rigorous confrontation with predominant contemporary notions of the subject: Heidegger’s attempt to overcome subjectivity; the post-Althusserian elaborations of political subjectivity (Ernesto Laclau, Étienne Balibar, Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou); deconstructionist feminism (Judith Butler); and the theories of second modernity and risk society (Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck).

While philosophical in tenor, The Ticklish Subject is first and foremost an engaged political intervention, addressing the burning question of how to reformulate a Leftist project in an era of global capitalism and its ideological supplement, liberal-democratic multiculturalism.


Slavoj Žižek is a Philosopher and psychoanalytic social theorist. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana; Professor at the School of Law and Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London; Distinguished Scholar at the Kyung Hee University, Seoul; and Visiting Professor at the German Department, New York University. His field of work comprises Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, dialectical-materialist metaphysical interpretations of German Idealism and Marxian critique of ideology. His more than sixty books in English have been widely translated. His latest publications include Pandemic! & Pandemic! 2, Hegel in a Wired Brain, Sex and the Failed Absolute, Like A Thief In Broad DaylightReading MarxIncontinence of the Void, and The Day After the Revolution.

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