cover image The Courage of Hopelessness: A Year of Acting Dangerously

The Courage of Hopelessness: A Year of Acting Dangerously

Slavoj Žižek. Melville House, $18.99 ISBN 978-1-61219-003-7

Philosopher and cultural critic Žižek (Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbors) continues to offer provocative thoughts on how people should deal with a myriad of daunting challenges, but if his goal is to connect with a wide readership, he will be unsuccessful here. He assumes a greater familiarity with subjects such as the Greek economic crisis than many American readers will possess, and frequently employs academic jargon (e.g., “the Hegelian ‘infinite judgment’ ”). Some of his counterintuitive comments are just asserted, without convincing supportive argumentation, such as his peremptory dismissal of concerns that automation will threaten more and more jobs. These negatives are disappointing, as they overshadow the more cogent contrarian positions in the book, as when Žižek denounces too much activity by progressives as unproductive, and advocates thoughtful self-reflection as a prerequisite for an effective response to the Trump presidency. Žižek also cautions against the erosion of ideological differences on the left in the name of creating a unified front against Trump. Such clear-cut points, however, are accompanied by tendentious ones, such as suggesting that the murderous Khmer Rouge had the positive goal “to effectively change human nature.” This inconsistent book will not help Žižek’s often valid insights reach a larger readership beyond the already-devoted following he enjoys. (Feb.)