Most significant problems of contemporary life have their origins in nihilism and its paradoxical logic, which is simultaneously destructive to and constitutive of society. Yet, in social theory, nihilism is a surprisingly under-researched topic.
This book develops a systematic account of nihilism in its four main forms: escapism, radical nihilism, passive nihilism and 'perfect nihilism.' It focuses especially on the disjunctive synthesis between passive nihilism (the negation of the will) and radical nihilism (the will to negation), between the hedonism/disorientation that characterizes the contemporary post-political culture and the emerging forms of despair and violence as a reaction to it.
The book deals with nihilism at three levels. First, it addresses the genealogy and consequences of nihilism, which is followed by an excursus through film analysis. Then the book focuses on the 'social,' relating nihilism to capitalism, post-politics and terrorism. Another excursus fleshes out the theoretical argumens by focusing on Houellebecq's fiction. Finally, the possibilities of overcoming nihilism are considered by emphasizing the significance of concepts such as event, agonism and antagonism in this context.
INTRODUCTION: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
1. THE UNCANNY GUEST
EXCURSUS 1: CLIMATES OF NIHILISM
2. NIHILISM AND THE ‘SOCIAL’: CAPITALISM, POST-POLITICS AND TERROR
EXCURSUS 2: HOUELLEBECQ’S SPITEFUL CARNIVAL
3. THE AGONISTIC CITY
AFTERWORD: THE ASS FESTIVAL
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