Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism Kindle Edition
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When we find ourselves in really really deep trouble as a species I think we will look back on this book and say "More people should've listened to Zizek, he was trying to tell us."
It isn't possible to say "there is no truth" in Zizek's analysis. Published in 2015 he makes a statement that proves to be a prescient prophecy in his own terms: "...if moderate liberal forces continue to ignore the radical Left, they will generate an insurmountable fundamentalist wave". Isn't this exactly what happened in the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S? Once she gained her party's nomination, Hillary Clinton more or less ignored her primary opponent's positions along with his substantial base who, while not radical, were to the political left of her. Sanders' supporters are here exactly in the position of the "ignored left" of which Zizek speaks. As a result, a large cohort of Bernie's supporters in critical states simply did not vote and effectively cost Clinton the election.
Having established that Capitalism is a part of the problem Zizek calls for something else, but what? He would like, I think, to see a more egalitarian world, something of a more level playing field economically at least, but in the first half of his book he recognizes that the inclusive forces that initiate a true "emancipatory movement" (Zizek is careful to distinguish these from purposeless violence, though they can and perhaps must [Zizek's opinion] have a violence of their own) are never the forces that ultimately take power if the movement succeeds in its initial aim; ridding themselves of an unjust regime in the aegis of some particular master.
If nothing else history teaches us that some less inclusive (often out-rightly intolerant) agency, whether of the left or right, has always got the edge in the in-between time, when the government has collapsed but nothing yet has crystallized in its place. Zizek cites numerous examples of this process. Zizek well knows that today, with more than seven billion people on Earth, any transition, even leading to a better outcome eventually (something highly unlikely in itself), would if globalized, precipitate the death of billions! He also knows that this fate likely awaits us anyway as ecological catastrophe catches up with us eventually. Perhaps that is the ultimate fountain of Zizek's inclination to an "any movement having some genuine aim is better than nothing" position.
But while there is truth in Zizek's analysis, it is distorted, in my opinion, by his reliance on art, particularly literature and film (along with a few jokes) to support his over all view of human nature. Fiction is wonderful for highlighting particular characteristics of the human condition, for contrasting them to a real environment that otherwise might swamp them out. But their very value in this regard is also a liability because they accomplish their mission precisely by distorting reality.
I think it is unfortunate also that Zizek uses the word 'violence' as ambiguously as he does. In an appendix, among many other things, he mentions this and addresses one of his critics. I would take a different tack. Earlier in the book he uses the Christian notion of 'agape' as an example of violence because it aims at precipitating the destruction of the existing (speaking of Biblical times) order. An atheist by reputation and declaration, Zizek cannot but have a distorted view of theology. A true "emancipative act" need not be violent in the normal sense of that term. Christian emancipation in the proper sense has nothing to do with the politico-economic order as such (be it Biblical Rome or modern global Capitalism). In the Christian sense, agape is "beyond the law" (among the senses of violence he seems to mean) because it goes farther than the law being more just, more fair; an act that would be approved by the law.
Zizek is surely right that anything that is aimed at the politico-economic order, if successful, will surely precipitate violence of the literal kind as it collapses, but that is a distinction, the violence (or lack of violence) of the act versus the violence it precipitates elsewhere, he seems not to recognize. Was the violence of the Jacobins who commandeered the French Revolution greater than the violence the European system visited on countless peasants for hundreds of years? Perhaps not, but the same cannot be automatically said today of violence perpetrated by left or right in relation to the overall impact of global Capitalism. For one thing, in the 18th century there were fewer people in all of Europe than live today in any one of its countries.
In this book, Zizek has a decision to make. Global Capitalism is a fact and seven-and-a-half billion people on Earth is also a fact. Zizek insists that no amount of "adjustments to the present system" can over-come its inherent contradictions. True as this is, he surely sees that such adjustments can extend the life of the inconsistent system precisely by, perhaps periodically, ameliorating excessively wide discrepancies. He describes such adjustments. If he understood the distorting nature of his reliance on fiction to provide his archetypes, he might realize that "adjustment" constitutes a more ethical course under the circumstances than even a successful emancipatory event. In the end the most pressing issue is the future ecological catastrophe. While Capitalism is certainly a contributor, there doesn't seem to be any likely outcome of an "emancipatory event" that would halt the slide to that disaster anyway. Perhaps I am even more of a pessimist than Zizek?
Nowadays, writings on the crisis in capitalism are nothing new. This book is unique in that this is the most direct statement from Slavoj Zizek on capitalism.” –from an Amazon commentary about Zizek’s Trouble in Paradise by Peripatetic Reader
“These elites, the main culprits for the 2008 financial meltdown, now impose themselves as experts, the only ones who can lead us on the painful path of financial recovery, and whose advice should therefore trump parliamentary politics, or, as Mario Monti put it: ‘Those who govern must not allow themselves to be completely bound by parliamentarians.’” -Zizek, Slavoj. Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism (p. 41). Melville House. Kindle Edition.
Now I could have randomly picked any from this particular book and still be able to make today’s point: that Peripatetic was correct in his/her point that this is one of Zizek’s most accessible books. You might notice from Zizek’s quote, for instance, the striking absence of the deeper Lacanian explanations of the phenomenon at work and the etherspeak that comes with them. And I have yet to see them in what I have read so far.
But where I depart from Peripatetic on this matter is their underestimation of the value and import of the book. Whereas they see Zizek simply repeating the more nominal/accessible points he has scattered throughout his books, I see a Zizek that, in the face of urgency of our situation in the face of producer/consumer Capitalism, has recognized that high theory and social activism are two different kinds of activity, and that high theory, at best, has a trickledown effect on day to day matters. Whereas Peripatetic sees a lull in Zizek’s talent, I see Zizek (by working somewhere between the high theory he has mastered and the social criticism of a Naomi Klein (taking on the Promethean heroics of bringing fire to the people at a crucial time.
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