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Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek have become two of the dominant voices in contemporary philosophy and critical theory. In this book, Geoff Pfeifer offers an in-depth look at their respective views. Using Louis Althusser’s materialism as a starting point—which, as Pfeifer shows, was built partially as a response to the Marxism of the Parti Communiste Français and partially in dialogue with other philosophical movements and intellectual currents of its times—the book looks at the differing ways in which both Badiou’s and Žižek’s work attempt to respond to issues that arise within the Althusserian edifice. Pfeifer argues here that, ultimately, Žižek’s materialism succeeds in responding to these issues in ways that Badiou’s does not. In building this argument, Pfeifer engages not only with the work of Althusser, Badiou, and Žižek and their intellectual backgrounds, but also with much of the contemporary scholarship surrounding these thinkers. As such, Pfeifer’s book is an important addition to the ongoing debates within contemporary critical theory.
Geoff Pfeifer’s The New Materialism provides the definitive account of the contemporary emergence of a form of materialism that goes beyond both traditional materialism and idealism. He sees how Althusser’s incisive reading of Marx unleashed a complete rethinking of materialist philosophy. No one will be able to think about materialism in the same way after reading Pfeiffer’s groundbreaking book.
Todd McGowan, Associate Professor of English, University of Vermont
With the ‘return of Althusser’ in the contemporary philosophical and political debates, Geoff Pfeifer’s The New Materialism: Althusser, Badiou, and Žižek offers the most detailed investigation and reconstruction of Althusser’s materialism, and it’s influence on the two great contemporary philosophers, Badiou and Žižek. A must read for anyone who is interested in the contemporary revival of materialism.
Agon Hamza, author of Althusser and Pasolini: Philosophy, Marxism, Film
Geoff Pfeifer’s The New Materialism is essential reading for anyone interested in debates on contemporary materialist philosophy. Not only does Pfeifer provide clear and insightful readings of Badiou and Žižek; the book also applies their work to a rejuvenation of the materialism of Althusser. Reading Althusser through the prism of Badiou and Žižek, as well as the original political context of Althusser’s political philosophy, Pfeifer demonstrates with precision important ties between these three key thinkers. Without idealizing the work of Althusser, the book shows just how in their reactions to him, Badiou and Žižek see through, each in their own way, corrections to his project to rid Marxism of its idealist and teleological variants, while still brining it to its full realization by developing approaches atypical of the idealism/materialism divide. Pfeifer ultimately explains why anyone wishing to grasp the "new" significance of Althusser’s materialism must first pass through Badiou and Žižek.
Matthew Flisfeder, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications, University of Winnipeg
Geoff Pfeifer makes one thing clear: it is all but easy to be a materialist in philosophy today. Until the mid 20th century, materialism consisted mainly in recognizing necessities and in resisting illusions of freedom. Today, however, we have to recognize, following Louis Althusser, that there are illusions of necessity that a "new" materialism has to break with. Only in this way can the underlying aleatory encounters be revealed, encounters that allow for unexpected social change. Pfeifer's scholarly meticulous, but easy to read elementary study, introduces the reader to the most prominent elaborations of this program by Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek. This book is a milestone on the way for anyone trying to be a materialist in philosophy these days, and a benchmark for all the fashionable attempts that claim to have already reached this goal.
Robert Pfaller, Professor of Cultural Theory at University of Art and Industrial Design, Linz, Austria.
Introduction 1. Louis Althusser and the Parti Communiste Français 2. En Media Res: Althusser’s Materialism, the Challenge to the PCF’s Marxism, and the Rise of Anti-Humanism 3. Badiou’s Materialist Project: Stasis and Change 4. Badiou as Structuralist, or the Idealism of Formalism 5. Žižek and the Materialism of the Immaterial, or Why Hegel Is Not an Idealist 6. Žižek contra Badiou. Conclusion: New Materialism?