For the last two centuries, Western philosophy has developed in the shadow of Hegel, an influence each new thinker struggles to escape. As a consequence, Hegel’s absolute idealism has become the bogeyman of philosophy, obscuring the fact that he is the defining philosopher of the historical transition to modernity, a period with which our own times share startling similarities.
Today, as global capitalism comes apart at the seams, we are entering a new period of transition. In Less Than Nothing, the product of a career-long focus on the part of its author, Slavoj Žižek argues it is imperative we not simply return to Hegel but that we repeat and exceed his triumphs, overcoming his limitations by being even more Hegelian than the master himself. Such an approach not only enables Žižek to diagnose our present condition, but also to engage in a critical dialogue with key strands of contemporary thought—Heidegger, Badiou, speculative realism, quantum physics, and cognitive sciences. Modernity will begin and end with Hegel.
In this rigorous examination of Hegel's philosophical legacy, famed Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Zizek (Living in the End Times) demonstrates how deeply Hegel's ideas have pervaded Western thought and culture for the past 200 years, from Marx's critique of capitalism to Hitchcock's films. Zizek reveals the often subtle connections to later thinkers, in particular psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, as "repetitions" of Hegel, and spends as much time examining psychoanalytic theory as philosophical concepts, viewing both as attempts to understand the difficult nature of humanity. Zizek draws these connections across a variety of apparently unrelated topics, from Plato's Parmenides as the first work to deal with dialectics to a detailed discussion on quantum physics, whose laws appear to follow Hegel's thinking about reality. He uses humor to illustrate many concepts, frequently drawing on old jokes from former communist nations, providing laughs as well as understanding. Hegel and dialectical materialism, Zizek argues, still play an important role today in shaping views on history and political struggles. Though occasionally repetitive and potentially overwhelming in scope, Zizek's latest offers a lucid rendering of modern society's debt to Hegel.