A few years back Verso Books came out with a series “Revolutions” with the description “This essential new series features classic texts by key figures that took center stage during a period of insurrection. Each book is introduced by a major contemporary radical writer who shows how these incendiary words still have the power to inspire, to provoke and maybe to ignite new revolutions…”
Four of these books have an introduction by Žižek. This is the first in a series that will eventually cover all four of these books.
Robespierre was a central figure during the French Revolution, and is probably most widely known for the “Reign of Terror.” We will cover 15 selections from his speeches to the Constituent Assembly, the Jacobin Club, and the National Convention. These cover the period 1789-1794. From the early days of the Revolution to the last words he spoke in public.
“If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a specific principle as a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our most pressing needs.” – Robespierre
We will also cover the introduction by Žižek, where he addresses the question on how we should approach Robespierre’s thought.
“How are we to reinvent the Jacobin terror?” – Žižek
Combined with these works, we will delve freely into an early essay by Nietzsche “The Uses and Abuses of History for Life.” Perhaps this will be an aid in our approach. Perhaps not.
“A historical phenomenon, completely understood and reduced to an item of knowledge, is, in relation to the man who knows it, dead: for he has recognized in it the delusion, the injustice, the blind passion and in general the whole earthly and darkened horizon that was the source of its power for history. This power has now lost its hold over him insofar as he is a man of knowledge: but perhaps it has not done so insofar as he is a man of life.” – Nietzsche
The Verso book can be obtained from your favorite bookseller (same title as this event, about 200pp).
The Nietzsche essay is included in the book “Untimely Meditations.” Several links/translations of the essay are available on the internet – here is one:
next up in our series –
Žižek Presents: Lenin – The Day After the Revolution
(we will supplement with an essay by Freud – “Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through”)
“Knowledge without action should be hated by us.” – Nietzsche