05 February 2013

Žižek on the depoliticization of the Left

Rhett Aultman found me this great quote from an interview with Slavoj Žižek.

I see — what worries me is two things about the left. First, it’s more and more legalistic moralization. You know, it’s kind of a pure form of protest against injustice. Then the only thing you can do is legal forums and so on. In this sense, many of the ex-leftists are getting depoliticized; they no longer ask the truly basic questions. Like even now, all the outcry was, “Oh, those bank profiteers,” and so on. I totally agree with what we just heard. But don’t you think that the truth is a little bit more complex, in the sense of — you know much more about this than me, but the way I see it is that one of the roots of the present crisis is not just greed. It’s that after the digital bubble at the beginning of our millennium, the idea was how to keep prosperity, how to keep economy alive. And it was, as far as I remember, even a little bit of a really bipartisan decision: let’s make it easier in real estate, and so on, to keep it moving. So, you know, there is a structural problem beneath all this psychological topic of the greedy bankers, which is, that’s how capitalism works, my God, which is why even concerning our beloved model — Bernard Madoff, no? — I didn’t like it how they focused on him. Wait a minute. He was just the radical version of where the system is pushing you. Now, I’m not saying — I’m not crazy — “which is why we need to nationalize all banks and introduce immediately socialist dictatorship" or what. What I’m just saying is, let’s not get rid of the problem by too easily making it into a psychological problem. You know, you can be an evil guy, but there must be very precise institutional, economic, and so on, coordinates, background, which allows you to do what you do.

The second thing, I also didn’t like the cry shared by left and right-wing populists of “help the Main Street, not the Wall Street.” Well, sorry, but those bank managers who emphasized, in capitalism there is no Main Street without Wall Street. In today’s industry, because of the competition and immense investment into new inventions and so on, without large accessibility, availability of credits, there is no prosperous Main Street. So this is a false choice. So, again, with all respect for the left and so on, I think we should avoid quick moralization, if we mean it seriously.

Emphasis mine.


misuba said...

"But don’t you think that the truth is a little bit more complex, in the sense of — you know much more about this than me, but the way I see it is" OMG.

It is actually simpler to say "our capitalism is broken, we need one that's different in these ways" than "our capitalism is fine, we just need to apply patches #1A through #37M." It only seems more complex because Žižek is the one saying it.

Jonathan Korman said...

Žižek certainly does get tangled in his own verbiage. Though I think part of that is because English is not his native language.