First as Tragedy, Then as Farce Book Summary By Slavoj Žižek

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (2008) is an ambitious book.

It analyzes how our everyday lives are shaped and determined by the capitalist system that surrounds us.

The book explores the hidden ideology of capitalist society and attempts to uncover what we can do to develop an alternative way of seeing the world that can lead to a better life for everyone.

Not only does it provide a critical examination of modern society, but it offers solutions for how we can make meaningful changes in order to create a better future.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce Book

Book Name: First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (Why the crises keep happening)

Author(s): Slavoj Žižek

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Categories: Economics

Author Bio

The author of the book "First as Tragedy, Then as Farce" is Slavoj Žižek, a renowned philosopher and cultural critic from Ljubljana, Slovenia.

As for his academic experience, Žižek currently holds a senior researcher position at the University of Ljubljana and serves as Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University.

He also directs the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities in London.

Uncovering The Causes Behind Capitalism’s Tragedies And Farces: An Introduction To Slavoj Žižek And Communism


It’s impossible to deny that capitalism has had a massive influence on our world, and is continuing to permeate more and more aspects of our societies.

Everywhere we turn, we can see the ideology of it present in some form.

The events of 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2007-8 are prime examples – both stemming from the same global system which is heavily rooted in capitalistic thought.

But how does it do this? How does capitalism continue to remain strong despite all these major crises? For answers, we can look to Slavoj Žižek’s work- he explains how this ideology seeps into all aspects of society by making us believe that, although we may have many permissions, very few rights come with them.

This way, companies are able to impose restrictions and regulations that feel like they support rights when in reality they are really just mounting further control over our lives.

The consequences of living in a capitalist world should be clear: unbalanced power structures between those who possess most wealth and those without; environmental degradation due to corporate greed; increased levels of inequality; etc.

But maybe there is an alternative- communism clues us in to what a different kind of world could look like.

It is definitely worth exploring if we want a more balanced future for ourselves and generations following.

Capitalism Is An Ideology, Not A Neutral System – Understanding How It Keeps Us Dreaming Through Crisis

People often view Capitalism as the natural evolution of social organization and a completely neutral way to make the economic system run like clockwork, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Capitalism is actually an ideology – a set of beliefs that shape how we see and act in the world.

That’s why it can exist within different civilizations without problem; like Buddhism, Christianity, or belief in a welfare state.

It proves our presumption wrong because any ‘naturalness’ or neutrality would have these systems of meaning unnecessary.

When Capitalism faces crisis after crisis, which happens more often than we think, this reinforces our sense of trust and desirability in it instead of us being critical about it.

The responses from leaders when socialist regimes face falling apart for example don’t suggest compromise but even more extreme forms.

Similarly during 2008 financial crisis what we focused on was inadequate regulations rather than ponder on the hidden flaws Capitalism harbours.

It’s pretty clear then, that Capitalism isn’t a mechanism but an ideology that is strengthened again and again by crisis.

Capitalism Seeks To Erase People’S Responsibility For Its Injustices By Encouraging Individualism And Separating The Private Self From Public Life

Capitalism falsely claims credit for freedoms and rights that were wrought through revolutionary, emancipatory efforts – freedoms and rights that capitalists in power consistently opposed.

These include universal suffrage, labor laws, freedom of the press and more.

By doing this, capitalism not only steals credit for what it never accomplished but allows us to avoid taking responsibility for its mistakes.

For instance, we often separate our public life (our job or responsibilities as a parent) from who we “truly are” in private.

This means our behavior is disconnected from our inner self and allows us to act without taking into consideration the consequences of our actions – such as an Israeli soldier being involved in removing Palestinians from their homes but denying any culpability due to his personal circumstances.

The idea that there are two selves – one public and one private – also makes collective action difficult as it’s seen as oppressive to an individual’s sense of self-expression and autonomy.

Thus, capitalism falsely credits itself for society’s freedoms while blaming systematic errors on individuals instead of looking at the bigger picture.

Permissions Are Not Power: How Capitalism Has Maintained The Status Quo By Masking Inequality With Permissions


In recent years, capitalism has transitioned from its traditional hierarchical structure to one of teams and projects, appearing more egalitarian on the surface.

However, these collaborative systems of labor organization fail to provide an equal distribution of power as the ultimate decision-making authority always lies with a CEO or other boss at the top.

This situation of false equality can be seen in more than just workplace dynamics but also in the expanded rights granted to marginalized groups.

Despite the legal legitimation of same-sex marriage or other forms of rights, those groups still remain lacking in actual power.

As such, while some freedoms have been achieved due to capitalism, inequalities have remained intact when looked at holistically.

Consequently, this new phase that capitalism has entered into can be mistakenly perceived as equitable when it is precisely not so.

Revealing The Root Of Global Problems: Uncovering The Reality Behind Ideological Fetishes

Capitalist ideology shifts focus away from our real enemies, replacing real conflict with ideological fetishes.

The “object” that has been granted a greater value or quality hides the truth of struggle between classes in society.

For example, when we practice Western Buddhism and pretend to reach inner peace while taking part in capitalism, our true situation is hidden.

We are not only denied the crucial knowledge of who our real enemies are but also the ability to fight against them.

We become victims of language play and inability to identify truth.

Similar can be said about Anti-Semitism and its substitute, “the Jew” which serves as an outlet for displaced anger.

Likewise, the Israel-Palestine conflict’s underlying problem – class struggle for power – is obfuscated by Islamo-Fascism’s fetishization of the State of Israel.

This fetish masks deeper conflict in a region where all revolutionary politics have failed, leaving people without any hope of actual transformation or liberation.

The removal of this fetish would force us to face reality regarding who is truly responsible for inequality and how we can effectively fight against it.

The Meaning Of Consumer Culture: How Buying Is About More Than Just Getting Something Useful

When it comes to buying things, it’s not just about the material or economic benefits of one product over another – there’s a much deeper story hidden beneath it.

In today’s society, consumption has become more than simply acquiring a product; it has become an experience in itself.

We buy products with more than just practical use in mind.

We buy them to show what we believe in and who we are as people.

Take Starbucks, for example, who have advertised their coffee as ‘ethical’, when really they are still a huge capitalist corporation designed to make money for its owners rather than invest in the people who work for them.

By buying their coffee, we’re participating in a purchase that makes us feel good – like we’ve done something positive – even if the wider socio-economic impact is negligible.

The ideology behind what we consume and how we buy things is now inherently linked up with our identities and beliefs.

Companies ask us what they should be providing us with because they want to know who we are and how their customers perceive themselves.

Through our choices of products, brands and how much money we spend on them, others get an insight into what kind of person you think you are or aspire to be.

Exploring The Possibility Of A Viable Communist Alternative To Capitalism: Examining The Need For Collective Action And Rethinking Property


When it comes to dealing with the capitalist system, the only real remedy is a revamping of the communist idea.

As Vladimir Lenin himself noted, this means starting from scratch instead of trying to build upon what already exists.

In other words, a genuine vegan revolution must begin from the beginning in order to lay down the foundations for collective action.

The philosopher Alain Badiou calls this approach “the communist hypothesis”.

While focusing on expropriation and other implementations of communism may be misguided, Badiou maintains that it’s still worth pursuing because it entails collective action—the core prerequisite for establishing an egalitarian society.

What separates communism from capitalism and socialism is its attitude toward property and ownership.

Capitalism defends private property while socialism prioritizes state property; but communism fundamentally questions any form of ownership– seeing some things as too important to belong to any one person–while recognizing the very basics that we all need in order to survive (for example: clean air).

It’s clear that if we are to have any chance at achieving a more equitable society then we will have to rethink our concept of property and ownership; by taking on board what was meant by revamping communism and beginning anew we can seek real remedies for capitalist ideology.

The Four Main Antagonisms Of Capitalism And How Communism Can Respond To Them

Today’s world contains four great antagonisms: the commons of culture, commons of external nature and commons of internal nature.

All three of these antagonisms focus heavily on aspects that are necessary for our survival.

The first is the commons of culture, which covers language, communication and education – all resources that are now being privatized under the notion of “intellectual property”.

The second is the commons of external nature, encompassing the environment, species extinction and clean water access – a global problem that can’t be solved by individual governments or private companies alone.

Finally, there’s the commons of internal nature, which refers to human nature itself and explores what possibilities exist when it comes to manipulating it through genetic engineering.

These antagonisms create an urgent need for a new global organization; otherwise we risk devastating our planet even further with further privatization and genetic modification, while struggling to preserve some humanity in our souls at the same time.

And unfortunately, it will be the capitalists who stand to profit from it all.

The Divide Between The Included And Excluded: How Communism Creates A Radical New Way Of Thinking

At the core of why communism is needed, lies a conflict between those who have a place in society (the Included) and those who don’t (the Excluded).

We all know paperless immigrants and the working class are often in this “part of no-part” category — they are excluded from the decision-making process.

Once they become included, however, they practically cease to exist as part of the included group.

Remember: when you include more people in the political process, you end up with the same political system which was oppressive before.

That’s where communism comes in: it prioritizes inclusive representation for those most marginalized by society – those who are considered ‘excluded’ – instead of trying to fit them into an oppressive system.

The ultimate goal is for the institutional distinctions between included and excluded to begin fading away — a shift that can only be accomplished if we place political power in the hands of those who are often most forgotten.

Capitalism Needs Socialism To Survive: The Case For Capitalism With Asian Values


Many people assume that communism and capitalism are incompatible, but when it comes down to it, their relationship is much more intertwined than we think.

Communism may not have ever been fully achieved, but when it comes to socialism — the large-scale communal ownership of resources by the government — this is exactly what many countries look like today.

For example, “capitalism with Asian values” has become a popular form of economic system in China that relies heavily on central control and planning, while in Singapore there’s “communitarianism,” which assigns roles to people within a socialist state while keeping the proletariat Excluded from the decision making processes.

But despite appearances, these forms of “socialism” ultimately benefit capitalist interests over workers’ rights.

And even though many countries might appear democratic on the surface, if we take a closer look we see that this isn’t always true either.

Singapore and China are both considered capitalist states yet remain essentially non-democratic under totalitarian rule.

Ultimately, capitalism won’t survive without some form of socialist intervention: whether openly with state control or stealthily with communitarianism.

However one thing remains certain: forces that may seem opposed to capitalism will not necessarily lead to an egalitarian society where everyone is truly equal; instead they merely serve as a means for capitalists to stay in power.

Wrap Up

The overall message of First as Tragedy, Then As Farce is clear: the only way to create a free and egalitarian society capable of handling today’s critical issues is to challenge capitalist ideology – and ultimately replace it with something better.

For this to be possible, people must be able to identify and recognize the ideology’s pervasiveness in their lives so they can effectively confront it.

This book provides invaluable insight into this necessity, ultimately leaving the reader with the understanding that any lasting progress towards true equality and freedom will require actively overthrowing capitalism.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.