Slavoj Zizek on resurrecting the Left

November 30, 2009

Soon after the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, treatise “Das Kapital” saw a resurgence in popularity throughout eastern Germany.

The 1867 critical analysis of capitalism by Karl Marx became a bestseller for academic publisher Karl-Dietz-Verlag, as a rejection of capitalism set in following intense financial turmoil.

More than a year later, questions over the validity of the capitalist economic system remain in focus amid ongoing concerns about the cost to society of bank bailouts, high unemployment and stimulus measures.

If anything, the financial crisis has made capitalism more lean and mean, author and philosopher Slavoj Zizek told Reuters ahead of a talk at the London School of Economics.

“Capitalism as we knew it cannot survive — it’s the time for mobilization.”

Zizek, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities in the University of London, posits in his new book “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” that “critical leftists have hitherto only succeeded in soiling those in power, whereas the real point is to castrate them . . .”

Zizek suggests that those in power should be undermined via “patient ideologico-critical work” rather than direct confrontation.

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Comments

In other words “before kingdoms change, mens’ hearts must change

 

I’m sorry, but to call Das Kapital a ‘communist manifesto’ is patently absurd. Marx and Engels wrote a little book called “The Communist Manifesto” that fills that space a little better. Das Kapital is precisely what Marx identified it as, a critique of political economy.

Posted by Logan | Report as abusive
 

“Das Kapital” Logan is a study on the flow of goods and capital in the capitalist free market system. It is precisely the devaluation of obsolete goods and machine that erode wealth. Also the affects of inflation pose the same consequence when introducing finance in order to consume and produce. Perhaps you should reread “Das Kapital”?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

Resources are no longer plentiful. The bankers have destroyed all the inflated wealth. In the meantime the planet is in peril and the free market system and the politically run economies are incapable of sustaining mitigating action. I think there is a little more at stake here than preserving an economic system of privilege.Before civilization mankind fought each other over the control of potable water and viable farmland, not oil or gold. As we ponder the fate of capitalism and our personal finances we remain oblivious to our descent into that same condition. As with global climate change we must act quickly and decisively. Or it will be to late.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

It never ceases to amaze me how few people understand the root causes of the financial crisis, and how many will bend the facts to breaking point for the sake of staying on their tired old hobby-horses. “The banks have destroyed all the inflated wealth” – what kind of nonsense is that? The reality is that the whole western world (that’s “people”, in other words, or “pretty much everybody” if you prefer) has been living beyond its means for a generation. End of story. Nothing to do with Marx, Stalin, Aristotle, Attila the Hun…

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive
 

This shows that some East Germans currently have a better grasp of ‘where it’s at’ than most of us Brits, and most Green Party members in many countries. However, I would suggest that people should read Andre Gorz and Joel Kovel, in addition to Karl Marx and, probably, Zizek (I haven’t read his book yet).

Posted by Farnaby | Report as abusive
 

What is this?East Germany was the best example of state control, snooping and misery, together with worsening poverty, pollution etc. The consequences of totalitarianism and marxism.The world as a whole is richer, more free and healthier than at any time in it’s history. Thanks capitalism!Why is this “academic” wasting tax-payer’s money to bang the old worn out drum?

Posted by martin | Report as abusive
 

Mathew, have you played Black Jack in a casino ever? Do you now what “Insurance” on your hand is? You pay the dealer a smaller sum than what you wager. if you lose you only lose the insurance not the wager. What do you think credit default swaps are?The real estate market was inflated and leveraged out of sight because of the demand for mortgage backed securities. Hence the need for ever more mortgages to write new bonds. The very same companies(Goldman Sachs to name just one) that bought and sold these instruments insured themselves and others with credit default swaps and other derivatives. There was no need to worry about the risk of sub-prime mortgage backed securities because everyone was insured. That is why we bailed out AIG. They owed more on derivatives than they had in cash reserves. They were essentially bankrupted by all the losses incurred paying off all the derivatives they wrote..The derivatives market is estimated to be valued at around 500 trillion or more dollars outstanding. I don’t know if I believe those numbers. It appears that no one wishes to accept risk in the investment community. It will be interesting to see what happens when the commercial real estate industry begins defaulting on all the empty warehouses and retail centers.I think it was George W. Bush that stated off camera that the Wall street boys got greedy with their fancy investment schemes. Or don’t you remember that fact?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

Martin, does the U.S. not have worsening poverty and pollution? How about Kingston Tennessee and the coal ash spill last year? The problems facing humanity around the globe have less to do with the particular kind of government and more to do with an inherent lack of leadership. As a result greed and influence rather than knowledge and logic rule the day.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

Dear commenting fellows! I doubt that it is the renaissance of Marx and Engels works in the Ost Block and a sort of recall of the “good old days” behind the wall. I also live in a post communist country; moreover I studied economics in the previous regime. At the university I had to read the writs of the two bearded wise guys and I do admit that I was not a Marx fun at all. However the sarcastic style in both guys’ arguments is sharp and clever and it is true that altogether these fascinating writings are fair economic diagnosis. Just take any revolutionizing idea that brought benefits or relevant changes to the whole or a large part of the world and think!Let me make a weird parallel. What happened to the Savior? After facing the effect of the Apostles’ activity the Roman Empire changed the principle of Pax Romana, refurnished their temples, carved new citations, created new sacral areas for the new religion and replaced their mythological figures with the martyrs and saints after having killed them. The historical Churches now do not understand the low level interest of human beings in church and they cannot fulfill the mission that is due to the 15 hundred year long miscommunication or misunderstanding the essence.Something similar happened to the theories of Marx and Engels. Born in very rich families both guys realized the seriousness of the situation in which the mass of people lived then. Do not omit even children’s work say in Britain. These guys had no idea about the poverty and exploitation in Russia. So, I am sure all of you know more and less about the birth of the Soviet Union. The execution of Marx and Engels principles in Russia brought miserable decades for Eastern Europe and for quite a relevant part of the world. But what has capitalism brought for the rest of the world?Return to my parallel. It is a big mistake to make judgments based on only the fact and things you are able to understand. There are so many aspects behind you cannot even imagine. Marx and Engels are one of the greatest theorists of economical sociology. But the mistake is fatal when you make a wrong judgment about the Saviour because of the history and present of the churches. …and there are so many other things on the Earth

Posted by Pannonius | Report as abusive
 

‘Patient ideologico-critical work’. Huh? If that means get a real job, pal, I agree.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive
 

The people that are ridiculed as idealists are the very people that need to be in policy making. Those are the people who can see the direction the country is going in and can set a new one.

what we have are a bunch of technicians trying to be leaders. They ridicule the thinkers as not being in touch with reality. What they don’t realize is that the reality you have is the reality you choose to have. Our actions have brought us to this place in history. To change things for the better one has to choose to commit to a new course of action.

The details of that course are worked out after the decision to take a new course is made. All we’re doing now is talking about how to fix a broken system by working with the defective parts. We should be removing the defective elements and replacing them with good ones.

This is the result of entrenched career politicians. Install term limits. Do away with corporate citizenship and corporate welfare. Then we can get somewhere.

 

Ideas are eternal, they don’t resurrect, but “reincarnate”. “Left” as idea is no exception. Therefore “Zizek’s lecture is old hat, but may open the eyes of some people. For his rich intellectual production Zizek himself had to wait the dead of the closed society he lived in. It is thanks to our weak and corrupt – but open and free – society, the one that was a tragedy and now is a farse, that he is able to deliver his illuminating proposals.

Posted by Mihael49 | Report as abusive
 

Thanks to capitalism, Zizek has become a very rich philosopher. He is the farce, and the “tragedy” is that so many intellectuals in Britain will follow him as he bakes his gulag bread.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive
 

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