‘Violence: Six Sideways Reflections’ by Slavoj Žižek

First published by Picador in 2007. Download link updated on 20. June 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

In this passionate plea for awareness, Žižek turns his unflinching gaze on the capitalist democracies we live in. The book discusses the inherent violence of globalization, capitalism, fundamentalism, and language: it brings new light to the Paris riots of 2005, questions the permissiveness of violence in philanthropy, explores the bloody totalitarian regimes of the last century, analyses that violence which is named ‘divine’ and reflects on the powerful image and determination of contemporary terrorism.

Violence takes three forms: subjective (crime, terror), objective (racism, hate-speech, discrimination), and systemic (the catastrophic effects of economic and political systems)—and often one form of violence blunts our ability to see the others, raising complicated questions.

Does the advent of capitalism and, indeed, civilization cause more violence than it prevents? Is there violence in the simple idea of “the neighbor”? And could the appropriate form of action against violence today simply be to contemplate, to think?

The missing footnote 36

After this book was published in 2007/2008, Žižek was later seen mentioning in public appearances about the censorship the book itself underwent in the English edition, never specifying where it was located. Although I’ve noticed that the fourth term in the matrix of the violence outlined in the book, structural violence, was missing from the publisher’s abstract, there is yet another strange occurrence within the structure of the book itself.

In the Index at the very end, the term structural violence does appear in the English variation, albeit just once, yet it points towards a footnote labelled 36—while the Slovene edition of the book does not even contain an Index.

Now the problem is that in reality the English variation of the book doesn’t even contain a footnote 36 in that specific chapter itself, since the way footnotes are done in the English editions (as opposed to the original Slovene monograph) is that they begin from the beginning in each individual chapter and are not consecutive.

So although the Index does contain a footnote 36 pointing towards the term systemic violence, in reality there is no footnote 36 in the chapter titled SOS Violence, since the last footnote in that chapter ends with footnote 26 while the next chapter titled Allegro moderato-Adagio begins from footnote 1 all over again.

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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