'Less Than Nothing' by Slavoj Žižek Slavoj Žižek
Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism
Verso, London and New York, 2012. 1056 pp., £50 / $69.95 hb
ISBN 9781844678976

Reviewed by Tom Eyers

About the reviewer

Tom Eyers

Tom Eyers is a post-doctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. His first book, Lacan and the Concept of the Real, is forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan



It almost seems too obvious to note how Slavoj Žižek’s hyper-obsessive productivity mirrors the relentless, unfettered expansion of capital that his more political work serves tirelessly to critique. In recent years, the Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist has expressed increasing frustration with those who expect him to offer bite-sized political critique on cue, although his forthcoming publications, including yet another short book addressing capitalism, ideology and, this time, the ‘Arab Spring’, hardly suggest he is acting on his dissatisfaction. Accompanying those pronouncements of discomfort have been tantalizing hints of a magnum opus in the works, one that would definitively cement his reputation as a serious European philosopher; or at least the latest magnum opus promised to do so, after 2006’s The Parallax View, and 1999’s The Ticklish Subject.  

This book, so the rumours went, was to offer a sustained and serious reading of Hegel, Žižek’s professed philosophical first love, without the leavening jokes and pinball cultural commentary. That Less Than Nothing, the book meant to fulfill these unlikely expectations, maintains a significant distance from such self-serious scholarship is something of a relief. There would be something awkward and stultifying about a Žižek book that stays resolutely ‘on point’, and the demands for such work from a man who frequently (and effectively) drops obscene jokes into his lectures say rather less about the shortcomings of his work, present though they no doubt are, and more about the multiple frustrations of those writing within the European philosophical tradition at a time when its abstractions, long monographs and concentrated seriousness of intent has less and less institutional support.

That’s not to say that this new book is simply a repetition of the philosophical bricolage that one could be forgiven to now expect from Žižek. Running to over 1,000 pages, Less Than Nothing contains some of the Slovenian thinker’s most reflective and textually-rooted writing on Hegel, although some of the most suggestive work addresses other names in the Western canon, including Plato, Fichte and Heidegger. Hegel is the ostensible subject of only around a third of the book’s chapters, with other large sections devoted, again only in principle, to the psychoanalytic theory of Lacan and to the philosophical implications of quantum physics. (The inclusion of a chapter on the latter at the conclusion of the present book mirrors exactly the structure of The Parallax View, Žižek’s last weighty volume of philosophy). Lacan has always been the only serious rival to Hegel in Žižek’s affections, and much of what he writes on the great psychoanalyst here is little different to that already published in numerous previous books. Moreover, Žižek makes little attempt to argue in any conventionally linear way for his frequently heterodox readings of Hegel and Lacan; the philosophical consequences deduced from both thinkers, who couldn’t be more different in approach, tone and content, are often strikingly similar, with both marshaled to construct a non-teleological, eccentrically materialist philosophy of what Lacan called the ‘not-all’, the constitutive gap or lack located in the very texture of being. But again, to hold Žižek to account for ‘misreading’ Lacan as an Hegelian – Lacan being the most anti-dialectical, anti-Hegelian of all the French maître pensers – is to rather miss the point; what the Hegel-Lacan conjunction offers Žižek is a kind of philosophical machine, a tool from which to craft brief snaps of dialectical insight that may fade from memory on the turn of the page, but whose efflorescence makes the scholarly shortcuts taken to achieve them seem irrelevant. Indeed, to underline those shortcuts in the light of Žižek’s fizzing perorations almost seems pedantic, even stern and ungenerous.

Despite the book’s length, it is possible to list the repeated turns of Žižek’s philosophical machine without spilling too much ink. That it is possible to do so says much about his method, and the form that his texts tend to embody. Rather than beginning from a premise in order to let its logical consequences unfold over time, Žižek tends to approach and retreat from certain nodal points or zones of attraction, such that his books accrete gradually into collage, or into asymmetric quilts that loop back on themselves at key moments. It is unlikely that the echo of this structure with the psychic architecture of obsessional neurosis is coincidental. Obsessional neurosis as Lacan understood it is defined by repetition, by the protective distancing of the subject from the Other through the production of insistent symptoms or tics. To note this isn’t to vulgarly ‘diagnose’ Žižek, but rather to register the extremes of reflexivity, even performativity, that his texts stage. Žižek is one of the best informed of contemporary, non-clinical writers on psychoanalysis, and only a naïf would assume that his modeling of the obsessional ur-text, over and over again, is anything but intentional. But more than this, the performative brio of his writing follows a (distinctly red) thread back to his formation in Communist Yugoslavia, where the development of a non-capitalist opposition to the nominally ‘socialist’ state required the ability to hold together the demands of parodical misdirection and high-theoretical seriousness, without the gauche assumption that the one would cancel out the other.

Read within that frame, Žižek’s latest is of a familiar type, albeit one that buckles, by virtue of its very length, against its already complex rhetorical structure. The book is unedited in the best sense, in that its contradictions have enough space to breath, and its longueurs are sufficiently enveloped by their surrounding thickets of text to seem temporary. It’s not a book to be read cover to cover; to do so would be to fall into a category mistake, to assume that its end is anything but a refracted version of its beginning.

In numerous places in Less Than Nothing, Žižek finesses his central philosophical obsession, what Adrian Johnston has aptly called a ‘transcendental materialist theory of subjectivity’. At the core of this position is the rejection of an apparently false choice: either Hegel and the absolute idealism that comes with this, psychotically absent from the material density of things, or a rejection of the latter in favour of, variously, a version of the ‘linguistic turn’, or a reversion to scientific naturalism, whereby matter is all. Far from matter being ‘all’, for Žižek a truly materialist philosophy must insist on matter being ‘non-all’, on it being formatively riddled with gaps, through which the transcendental freedom of the subject might be glimpsed. Addressing the problem through the lens of Kant’s critical turn, Žižek writes: “of course there are things – processes out there not yet known or discovered by us, there is what naïve realism designates as `objective reality’, but it is wrong to designate it as noumenal – this designation is all too “subjective”.” (283) That final clause is characteristic Žižek, italics and all, dialectically rerouting one’s expectation – that the concept of noumena is overly ‘objective’, too abstract to yield possible knowledge – to the counter-intuitive revelation that, to the contrary, Kant remains beholden to the subject, to what Žižek calls “the in-itself as it appears to us, embedded in phenomenal reality”. (283). The problem, in short, is the Kantian supposition that appearances or ‘phenomena’ are of a different kind to reality in-itself, whereas for Žižek after Hegel, “we should never forget that what we know (as phenomena) is not separated from things-in-themselves by a dividing line, but is constitutive of them: phenomena do not form a special ontological domain, they are simply part of reality”. (283).

Such an argument would fail the test of most philosophers associated with Anglophone analytic philosophy; after all, if phenomenal appearances are ‘constitutive’ of things-in-themselves, how far are we from the standard anti-realist claim that reality is a construct of our perceptions? That Žižek does not hold to such a position has not prevented him from being criticized by young thinkers in the ‘Continental’ philosophical camp, grouped around a new commitment to various kinds of realism. It is Žižek’s response to these increasingly influential authors, of whom Quentin Meillassoux is the most consequential, that marks one of the genuinely new contributions of Less Than Nothing. Meillassoux has sought to inveigle a way out of what he calls ‘correlationism’ – the Kantian argument that the limited correlation between thought and phenomenal appearances marks the limit of possible philosophical knowledge – by radicalizing it from within. Meillassoux makes use of mathematical set theory in doing so, and his closeness to Alain Badiou makes Žižek an obvious interlocutor.  

The new realisms are addressed in one of a number of ‘interludes’ that punctuate Less Than Nothing. Žižek addresses the core of Meillassoux’s realism, which consists in the argument that the only necessity is contingency itself. Everything that exists could have been otherwise. But the upshot of such a position is not Humean skepticism or relativism but, as Žižek notes, “the assertion of the cognitive accessibility of reality-in-itself, the way it is independently of human existence”. (629) For Meillassoux, the shibboleth of causal necessity has blocked philosophy’s capacity to think the real. If one accepts the argument that there simply is no causal necessity at all, then reality becomes rather more approachable, in all its mutability, provided that one retains the classical distinction between the primary and secondary qualities of a thing, and that one posits post-Cantorian mathematics as a privileged instrument for thinking the primary qualities of the contingent thing-in-itself. If reality is simply the potential that it may always be other then, as Žižek writes, “[t]he absolute is the possible transition, devoid of reason, of my state towards any other state whatsoever”. (633)

Ingeniously, Žižek poses his critique of Meillassoux’s realism within the terms of Lacan’s ‘formulae of sexuation’. Meillassoux, Žižek charges, relies on the masculine logic of the constitutive exception, whereby the totality of all that is contingent is grounded by its exception, the necessity of contingency itself. For Žižek by contrast, contingency is – that Lacanian term again - “not-All”; “Not-All is necessary, which means that, from time to time, a contingent encounter occurs which undermines the predominant necessity […] so that in it, the `impossible’ happens.”. (636) Finally, “it is out of contingency that, contingently, necessities arise”. (636) It is not hard for a reader familiar with the terms of contemporary French philosophy to notice the source of this logic, for it reproduces exactly Alain Badiou’s account of the political Event that emerges out of the multiplicity of a situation as its fleeting but necessary exception. That Žižek would slide so quickly from metaphysical argument to the radical ontological politics of Badiou, without acknowledging the shift, is one of the symptoms of Žižek’s rhetorical style, and its refusal to stay within the lines prescribed by academic convention – both for better and for worse. At the negative end of the balance sheet, one sometimes gets the sense that Žižek is just too impatient to follow his opponents’ arguments to their logical conclusions. On the positive side, the frequent interposition of asides and ephemera can serve to inspire connections that the reader will almost certainly not have anticipated, allowing for the momentary illusion that we may, too, be capable of the furious synaptic intensity that seems to underpin Žižek’s quick, lateral argumentative moves.

Politics is less of a feature in Less Than Nothing than in many of his other lengthy works. Nonetheless, there are some stimulating comments on Marx in his relation to Hegel and, as in much of the book, Žižek tends to derive his own insights from close readings of other contemporary philosophers with similar agendas, in this case Fredric Jameson. Jameson’s slim volume on Hegel The Hegel Variations, published in 2010, enables Žižek to approach Marx’s criticisms of the ahistoricity of German idealism with a view to criticizing Marx’s own “utopian-ideological notion of communism” (257), a vision that Žižek reads as overly beholden to notions of full productivity and expansion that are ultimately the mere index of capitalism’s historical situation. Instead, contemporary theory must “repeat the Marxist ‘critique of political economy’” while finding ways to “imagine really breaking out of the capitalist horizon without falling into the trap of returning to the eminently premodern notion of a balanced, (self-) restrained society” (257), the latter being the obverse of Marx’s error in valorizing modern, technological productivity.  

Žižek devotes a successful chapter to Badiou’s Logics of Worlds (2006), where the latter’s attempt to derive the logic of appearances from an ontology of mathematical ‘inconsistent multiplicity’ comes in for scrutiny. Returning once again to the problematic of contingency and necessity, Žižek charges Badiou with being overly faithful to his vaunted mathematical formalism, which fails to account for the contingency required to pass “to ontology proper”. (807) Such an ontology would require “a minimum of contingency able to disrupt or surprise the necessity involved in generating formulae from axioms”. (807) Such a contingency, one infers, is to be gained through the radicalization of Hegel that repeats throughout Less Than Nothing, whereby the latter’s notorious ‘Absolute knowledge’ is taken not as the culmination of all possible shapes of consciousness, but as the formal recognition of ontological incompletion, the instability inscribed in the very texture of reality itself.  

But if Žižek charges Badiou with failing to account properly for the link between abstraction and its actualization, a similar charge can and has been leveled at Žižek himself. How, for instance, are we to square the ontology of transcendental incompletion, a kind of minimal ontological persistence that exists beyond all possible subtraction – ‘less than nothing’ – with the concrete positive demands for Marxist revolution that also reoccur at several points? Žižek is admirably insistent on the need to theorize not only the radical break with capitalism that would necessarily precipitate meaningful change, but also the kinds of popular authority and organization that would allow such a break to be sustained.  

I wonder, however, whether the commitment to the dialectical double-take that undergirds Žižek’s broader philosophical architecture and his more specific political engagements prevents him from foreseeing other, precisely non-dialectical possibilities for thought. The dialectical logic here, whereby a seemingly oppositional hypothesis is shown to be more complicit in that which it opposes than the thing opposed in the first place, ultimately restricts Žižek’s analysis to the terms of the original proposition, its antagonist, and the putative ‘third way’ that issues from their dialectical mediation. Even if, in his version of Hegel, the recuperation of negation is frequently suspended, in a manner not dissimilar to Adorno’s ‘negative dialectics’, an account of singularity, of that which falls radically outside the perspectival shifts of dialectical ontology, is lacking. Ironically, there are many such concepts to be found in the work of one of Žižek’s most important influences, Jacques Lacan, whose formulation of the ‘object-cause’ of desire, to take just one example, resists both a hypostatization of lack or negativity and the weightless positivity of Deleuzian virtualism. For all that, there is more than enough in Less Than Nothing to signal the continued vitality of Žižek’s Hegel-Lacan machine and, if nothing else, the book offers the most comprehensive synthesis to date of Žižek’s myriad obsessions. 

29 July 2012


Hamish Watson wrote, on 13 Jul 2016 at 8:26am:

Review of a review; Tom Eyers on Zizek, Less than Nothing, and a bit more by Hamish Watson.

I have just read once-through, Tom Eyers’ review of Slavpj Zizek's 'Less Than Nothing' and have found it 'helpful'. It is authoritative yet inevitably, infuriating in its collusion with an enterprise that takes any prospect of empowering the working classes, (the 99%) away from them more decisively than the sum total of Liberal self-justification that load the libraries of the world in tons. It confirms my long-held, strong suspicion that for a self-proclaimed Marxist, Zizek, and for philosophy and philosophers, or social and cultural theorists in the same vein, has lost sight of the primary aim of Marxism; illumination and insight of how and why history converges on the necessity of surpassing the totalitarian rule of Capital.

Zizek forgets it seems that Marx turned his back on philosophy; it makes no difference if Zizek etc re-baptises philosophy as 'social and cultural theory' if the central pillars of it remains grounded in philosophy; it puts the essential discourse out of reach to all but highly trained intellectuals, philosophers in the main, who suppose it seems they are the guardians of a revolution they will defer until they reach their appropriate conclusions. The endeavour is already at least two and a half thousand years in preparation, and more than forty thousand years before that with no end in sight except the uncertain end of our ‘End Times’ ... the end of our species-adolescence.

I have read several of Zizek's volumes and gnash my post-Marxian teeth in despair; it is like chewing broken bottles and eating rusty razor-blades. Tom Eyers is helpful in drawing attention to why Zizek, and Adorno too, evoke this response in me, and I am not encouraged to plough through yet another 1000 page journey of frustration in search of 'the decisive factor' that never appears.

I focus attention below therefore on one issue; it crops up over and again and it underscores my frustration, namely ‘contingency’, the ubiquitous gap that stands apparently in the way of meaningful penetration to the nub of things and provides Zizek with the title of his masterwork 'Less Than Nothing'. I preface these remarks with the observation that, following Marx, we are not something apart from nature, rather we are a part of nature, indeed, we are an extension of nature coming to self-consciousness of itself through the medium of social being in historically evolving motion; it changes the world irrevocably and it changes human nature in the process.

To concede that we are animals with a biological basis shaped by our DNA says very little of the Marxian requirement and has been very misleading; it is the classic, deficient basis of liberalism; there is nothing but individuals. The only correction available is to recognise that the extension of the self-consciousness latent as potential in our DNA into social being creates something quite new, a difference in identity between unconscious and self-conscious matter. There is no gap, rather, there is a two way interplay of dialectical relations both in theory and in practice.

Each pole feeds off the dynamic latencies practical and theoretical of the other—in the historically evolving result that is our humanised nature neither pole could exist without the other and each within the other is an original unity, a necessary relation at the origin of all social self-consciousness. This is to say that between unconscious and self-conscious matter there is distinction, but no constituting gap, no constitutional difference: On the contrary.

The practical relation of pure polar opposites at the foundation of all social being is constitutional to all aspects of human self-consciousness everywhere and Marx marked it full well in his analytic synthesis and synthetic analysis of capitalist society. There can be no exceptions except in the theological imagination where analytic reductionism is the norm. The conclusion is inescapable; every fragment of human self-consciousness is at bottom both a formative and a derivative of the constitutional dialectic.

To follow Marx faithfully in this forces me to add that just as nature determines human being in practice, we determine nature in theory according to the needs, desires and intentions of our species-nature ... each within the other; a class-divided dimension cannot be ignored but for the moment it is not centre-staged in my remarks.

In our historically evolving social being we humanise nature and can know nothing else, except the false consciousness of it generated by 'the anti-dialectic' and its celebration of power ably sustained by purely empirical objectivity, and it makes all the difference to the evaluative standpoint we adopt. In short, anything short of full recognition of the Marxian requirement falls back into collusion with the evaluative standpoint of the totalitarian rule of liberalism and neo-liberalism, the collusive ideology of capitalism itself.

In short, it is a whopping error to suppose that the decisive critique of capitalism can be secured from within the logic through which the system was assembled in the first place; and Marx knew it. This is to say that the recognition of 'the constitutional dialectic of nature and human being 'each within the other'' ' is the essential basis for the decisive critique that Marxists have always sought. Nothing less will do—no exceptions to the rule of the constitutional dialectic are valid; no exceptions can be entertained.

It so happens that Einstein's treatment of the equivalence of energy and mass which is to say the dialectic of quantity and quality, in the wake of Marx's earlier treatment of it in the commodity in 'Capital', is a decisive, new ontology. In a different, diametrically opposed register of science, Marx had foreshadowed Einstein's insight ... precisely.

Just as energy maps to quantity, so too does Marx's treatment of exchange value as price; and just as mass maps to quality, so too does Marx's use-value. Each is a methodological clone of the other. Marx and Einstein had converged independently on the dialectic of quantity and quality under the unconscious guidance of what a Hegelian may call, the cunning of reason; the cap fits and most especially as Einstein had no idea that he was exposing the fundamental principle both of material and social nature. Marx's treatment of the commodity by contrast, was fully self-conscious and in 'Grundrisse' (1857) he had worked out what was the necessary basis for his revolutionary 'analysis' of capital and capitalist society.

To locate Marx's materialism concretely within the enabling constraints of Einstein's unwitting revelation and vice versa adds massive credibility and truth-value to Marx's critique not only of capitalist society but also of its ideological justification in Liberalism ... each within the other. Of course, as to ‘enquiry and presentation’ in Capital “2nd Edition (1872) Marx abstracted exchange-value from its dialectical unity in the dialectic of exchange and use-value for their later synthesis in the flow of history as such, and in a similar way quantum theory does the same thing with energy and mass.

In Quantum mechanics mass is abstracted from its pre-existing dialectical unity in energy and mass and each is treated independently of the other; no wonder quantum theory is a mystery—just like liberalism, it is one-sided. The latter is remarked in the passing to emphasise the convergence of nature in the social matter of social being, on the enabling constraints of the constitutional dialectic of nature and human being 'each within the other', a compound unity of fact and logic. Whereas Marx had reunited his analytic findings in the active substance of the whole however, quantum theory has failed so far to do the same.

Marx's abstraction of exchange-value from the unity of the commodity has evaluative legitimacy, but the original unity cannot be forgotten since it set his evaluative endeavour within a pre-existing, constraining unity and Marx never forgot it; to neglect the fundamental point is to miss the main point of Marx's materialist conception of history. To refuse or neglect the main point is to undermine the integrity of Marx's accomplishments root and branch and 'to fall back on' the respectability of the evaluative basis of liberalism and fail therefore ever to expose the decisive critique of liberal democratic capitalism so-called; the theological imagination rules and the politically convenient gap remains. To see why the gap remains, Aristotle’s three laws of thought brought to prominence in the 15th century by The Church, is decisive; the gap is simply, ‘the excluded middle’ of the third law. The gap is the product pure and simple of the theological imagination.

I have searched in vain in Zizek's work and elsewhere for the decisive evaluative shift from the primacy of the anti-dialectic to the primacy of the constitutional dialectic and have concluded that as yet it is not recognised as the main point. Zizek of course refers to it here and there but dismisses it as the pursuit of 'a naïve ontology'. With the massive supplement supplied by Einstein I will confirm below that Zizek had not gone far enough in his massive output to see that there is a critical next step that redeems what he dismisses all too readily ... and so to 'contingency'.

By common consent 'contingency’—what could be otherwise—is the pure polar opposite of 'necessity', the a priori, the unconscious origin of self-consciousness, of everything human, of Marx’s materialist conception of history, therefore, the collective precursor of Freud’s psychoanalysis and, among everything else that led to these outcomes, Einstein’s revolutionary science: the foundation of total theory. Critique, unlike mere criticism has a duty however, to surpass its chosen target.

The evaluative basis of what I have called the universal-constant in 'Total Theory' therefore must observe the proper constraints of the constitutional dialectic without any exceptions, and in light of the foregoing, contingency, 'the empirical' by a another name, and 'a priori' necessity as such must be seen not as a mutually excluding duality, but rather as the two poles of a previously existing, dialectical unity, the unity of thought and practical experience ... each within the other, the unity of theory and practice.

In assembling or engaging total theory, 'the ubiquitous gap' of less than nothing simply disappears, or rather is bridged by the dialectical relations of unity that were there from the start; they were there before Kant in The Critique of Pure Reason (1786) distinguished the a priori from the empirical as the poles of a necessary relation; it puts the evaluative limitations of the anti-dialectic, another name for mind-body dualism in a subordinate status and conversely, it puts the constitutional dialectic on a higher evaluative plane altogether.

In his Preface to The Critique of Practical Reason (1788) Kant said "... the gaps are not to be found in the system itself but in their [philosophers] own incoherent train of thought." Contingency therefore is not in the external field but exclusively, in thought within the unity of necessity and contingency but is projected into the external field as if there it has independent existence for what now are political purposes. In fact, contingency is projected into the field of necessity but objectified as a thing in itself, a nonsense of the anti-dialectic.

Refuse this reading and Hegel's whole edifice of dialectical idealism, to say little of Marx's materialist conception of history, and both collapse into a wordy heap of dust. Locating the a priori and the empirical as the two poles of a necessary relation as above, the primacy of dialectic is instated as the higher relation yet of contingency and necessity each within the other. Refuse this reading and the laws of nature simply disappear; refuse this reading and nature could not have produced our DNA in practice let alone in theory; refuse this reading and nature could not exist. Taking this reading for granted the a priori and dialectic are synonymous terms and they furnish a more revealing exposure than simply necessity itself in the dialectics of universal history. Social being is the universal subject and, following Marx and Einstein, it is the dialectic incarnate.

As Kant observed there are gaps in understanding of course, but necessity is nature itself, the ‘universal ‘within which contingency is confronted in the long journey of human being in nature’s odyssey towards universal self-consciousness. Conversely, contingency is now a political weapon erected and promoted by our (French) thinkers and wider guardians of truth to the supreme status of less than nothing to perpetuate the Darwinian rule of the naked ape in capitalist society. Those who accept it as such and accept ‘the impossible real’ it produces as an ultimate limit are its greatest servants whatever they may say to the contrary.

Pursuing the basic point just a little further, what applies in the highlighted case above applies equally to the dialectical relations of ontology and historicity. If what follows from Einstein and Marx conjointly implies, and it is demonstrable, that there is nothing in human experience but ontological instances of dialectic to replace the bland status of every fact, and Hegel insists on it in The Introduction to The Phenomenology, then, regarding dialectical materialism as a vast aggregate of independent, dialectical instances promotes dialectic to the status if the universal a priori and transforms diamat into ontology pure and simple; it is easily established.

There is no instance of 'the relation of relations' that is not secured by 'the unity of the subject and the object in question'. Subject and object coincide in every fact or instance of the relation of relations ... the first step. Marx's materialist conception of history, nowadays called historical materialism is, as all significant texts are, an entanglement of ontology and historicity. To cut a very long story short, diamat as detailed and histomat each within the other is the inseparable entanglement of ontology and historicity 'each within the other' in practice and must be understood in this way; diamat is another name for the a priori and this too is demonstrable. Diamat, the a priori in the historical motion of historical materialism (histomat) each within the other is Marx’s materialist conception of history in the nutshell of dia-histomat. Why would Marx otherwise insist so vociferously on 'the unity of theory and practice'?

To acknowledge the constitutional dialectic of which Marx said nothing directly—he nevertheless knew what he was doing—but is justified now by Einstein’s natural science and Marx’s social science ... each within the other, is to find the decisive evaluative basis without which social and cultural theorists will defer exposure of the definitive critique of capitalism forever. Analytic reductionism cannot ever produce a wholistic synthesis but is condemned to split every possible unity into isolated fragments with gaps everywhere ... forever, or for as long as the Judaeo Christian writ, bolstered by Aristotle’s three laws of thought dominates both the theory and practice of capitalist society and the mainstream scholarship that is its greatest servant. Giving evaluative primacy to the enabling constraints of the constitutional dialectic is the only remedy available.

I have gone on much longer than intended and will come more or less to an end with the Synopsis of a volume more or less ready for publication. In it, the foregoing assertions are elaborated to a much greater extent than space here allows. From Prologue to Writings in Total Theory:

“How do we build a world that works for everyone? One answer only will do; total theory furnishes a wholistic, international standard of truth in which an informed common sense, alias the a priori, is its defining feature.
“Total theory is not the best writing ever, but it is the most important writing since writing began; don’t believe it however—test it. Everyone’s future is at stake and total theory exposes the only remedy; mass insight and the activism it urges. Its promise is a new kind of freedom, a new, wholistic enlightenment in which everything is connected to everything else in illuminating insight no one yet has exposed.
“The primary objective of total theory is to expose both the emergent pre-conditions of our yet unachieved species-maturity and a global revolution that was in our destiny from the start; from the moment our DNA appeared the insights of total theory were certain to appear. They reveal what you already know but didn’t know you knew it; these insights will change everything you ever believed.”

What began above as an intention to penetrate, not for the first time the, the monolithic work and genius of Slavoj Zizek and make a few comments on Tom’s adept Review of Less Than Nothing has become a critique of Zizek’s method, its limitations and of the apparently impossible task of Marxist thinkers in a world where Marx’s genius seems to have been by-passed and irrelevant. On the Left, we may rant at Zizek’s outrageous departures, but we owe him a debt of gratitude for his part in keeping alive what I still regard as the most significant socio-economic theory in the Western canon, indeed the most significant departure in the world to date; it is still a work in progress. This should be obvious in the foregoing.

But critique is essential and this too must be obvious in the foregoing. A critique of all method and all culture to date is essential because the theological imagination still haunts and subtly restricts all scholarship, imagination and culture to the present. Theology has not yet been sublated and in a world where at a guess 99% of the world’s population or more are ‘believers’ of one sort or another, Marx’s work in progress is still an up-hill task. If however the whole world behaves as if materialism is already the established basis, and it is—it always was, it makes no difference if theology retains its global, mesmeric power. In promoting contingency to an independent, objectified status, Zizek has not surpassed the limitations of the theological imagination; what this one instance does to the rest of his work is anyone’s guess.

Rightly or wrongly it is my conviction that as a species it was in our destiny from the start to surpass both the sway of these mystical powers and the way in which they block off insight, imagination and progress to a world beyond capitalism. Rightly or wrongly it is my conviction that the Marxian requirement remarked above and referred to as the signal of Critique as distinct from mere criticism, is the opening door to a destiny previously dismissed as utopian dreams.

There will never be candy mountains and lemonade fountains all of every day across the board, but any insight that reflexively subsumes objective idealism, historical materialism, psychoanalysis, relativity theory and everything else within the enabling constraints of a single principle, ‘the universal-constant’ of total theory, is a heady prospect to say the least and the foregoing is just a hint of its yet unleashed power. Rightly or wrongly it is my conviction that Prologue to Writings in Total Theory is its stem-cell; the difference in identity of unconscious and self-conscious social matter in conjoint historical motion and its extension into the dialectics of universal history represents an entirely new beginning in the affairs of human being, but, I and we on the Left need all the help we can get to secure it.

I would be delighted if Tom, Slavoj or Sean for that matter would review my efforts and perhaps write a Preface for them should they approve the self-revealing value of Total theory. Why not a swathe of reviews that might sum up to a volume for publication?

A pre-publication review as a Word Attachment of the Prologue to Writings in Total Theory is available on request from hamishw1@btinternet.com for free of course. The more who want it the merrier because ... well, hopefully its obvious from the foregoing and obvious that one person cannot do full justice to the launch of total theory; if civilisation survives its present, self-destructive chaos total theory could prompt the greatest revolution in all of human being to date. It is overdue; it is pressingly urgent. Its the whole point.

Should suitable thinkers from academia or the factory floor ever consider doing a review, writing a Preface, suggest improvements or be party to a collective initiative that can secure what was in our destiny from the start, my earlier Breakthrough (2010) will be a help; available from www.lulu.com

Best wishes, Hamish. 12/7/2016

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Source: Marx and Philosophy Review of Books. Accessed 21 October 2016
URL: http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviewofbooks/reviews/2012/574

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