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Perversity and Ethics

William Egginton argues that the notion of the ethical cannot be understood outside of its relation to perversity—that is, the impulse to do what one knows and feels is wrong. The allure of the perverse, moreover, should not be understood as merely the necessary obverse of ethically motivated behavior; rather, from the perspective of a psychoanalytic understanding of the ethical, the two drives are structurally identical.


This discovery leads the author to engagements with deconstructive thought and with contemporary gender theory. In the first, he shows that the insistent resurgence of the ethical fault-line inevitably drives even the most stalwart atheism to a theological moment. In the second, he argues that while “female philosophy” has successfully repudiated the subject-centered exceptionalism of “male philosophy,” it is precisely to the extent that it is understood to offer a kind of release from the perversity of ethics that it must fail as ethical utterances.

Reviews of

Perversity and Ethics


By Slavoj Zizek, Co-director, International Center for Humanities, Birbeck College, University of London

In today's times, when the ruling ideology presents itself in the guise of the primacy of the ethical over politics—thereby soliciting us to dismiss every project of radical political change as ethically problematic—Egginton's book reasserts Freud's message about the perverse core of ethics in all its raw force. It strikes at the very heart of today's ideological mess and cuts through its Gordian knot!

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