I had a doctor’s appointment while I was reading this and my doctor asked me what the lost causes were that were being defended. I had to admit I didn’t know. Having finished the book, I have a somewhat better sense of what Žižek means with his title. The lost causes he refers to are all manner of ultimately failed revolutions, the October Revolution in Russia, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, even Heidegger’s association with Naziism.
Žižek is working in this book to create a reinterpretation of Marxism calling back to Hegel and bringing in concepts from Freud and Lacan. The book is an eclectic mix of cultural criticism, history and philosophy as part of Žižek’s effort to come up with an authentic Marxism for the twenty-first century. In particular, Žižek sees revolution and failure as essential elements of Marxism and not mere incidentals. A revolution, paradoxically, has to fail in order to succeed in Žižek’s view because there can be no end of history and the dialectic must continue.
Of particular note to me were the sections on Stalin. I’ve wanted to write something for a while from the perspective of a true believer in Stalin and this gives me some of the material that I’ve desperately needed.