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How Slavoj Became Žižek

The Digital Making of a Public Intellectual

An engrossing account of the meteoric rise of contemporary philosophy’s most contentious and prolific intellectual.

Slovenian philosopher bad boy Slavoj Žižek is one of the most famous intellectuals of our time, publishing at a breakneck speed and lecturing around the world. With his unmistakable speaking style and set of mannerisms that have made him ripe material for internet humor and meme culture, he is recognizable to a wide spectrum of fans and detractors. But how did an intellectual from a remote Eastern European country come to such popular notoriety? In How Slavoj Became Žižek, sociologist Eliran Bar-El plumbs the emergence, popularization, and development of this phenomenon called “Žižek.”

Beginning with Žižek’s early years as a thinker and political figure in Slovenian civil society, Bar-El traces Žižek’s rise from Marxist philosopher to a political candidate to eventual intellectual celebrity as Žižek perfects his unique performative style and a rhetorical arsenal of “Hegelacanese.” Following 9/11, Žižek’s career as a global op-ed writer and TV commentator married his rhetoric with global events such as the War on Terror, the financial crisis of 2008, and the Arab Spring of 2011. Yet, at the same time, this mainstream popularity, as well as a series of politically incorrect views, almost entirely estranged the Slovenian from the normal workings of academia. Ultimately, this account shows how Žižek harnessed the power of the digital era in his own self-fashioning as a public intellectual.

256 pages | 20 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2023

Culture Studies

Media Studies

Sociology: History of Sociology, Theory and Sociology of Knowledge

Reviews

“In this extremely successful study, Bar-El traces Žižek’s appeal over the past thirty years to a worldwide audience. Based on substantial research into Žižek’s own work and that of his closest associates, interviews with Žižek, and interactions with Žižek’s followers across the world, How Slavoj Became Žižek shows how Žižek has navigated vertiginously between a host of other contemporary theorists and political positions in the formulation and presentation of his own interventions and become famous—or infamous—almost from the inception of his career.”

William Outhwaite, Newcastle University

“This fascinating and provocative study of the Slovenian celebrity intellectual Slavoj Žižek takes as its epigram Hegel’s thesis that ‘the particular is trifling as compared with the general.’ Sociologist Bar-El’s book upends this precept, constructing from a detailed examination of the career of one very particular contemporary social thinker and cultural critic a wide-ranging analysis of the complex transformations of intellectual life that are now occurring on a global scale because of the growth of a ‘digital public sphere.’ Thoroughly researched and informed by recent sociological theories of knowledge production, the book is indispensable for understanding the social positioning and performative practices of public intellectuals in contemporary societies.”

Charles Camic, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Introduction
1 Slovenia between East and West: The Origin of Superpositioning
2 If at First You Don’t Succeed: The Emergence of Hegelacanese
3 Going Global: Narrating the (Traumatic) Present
4 The End of Žižek: Performing the Sacrificial Intellectual
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
 

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