Slavoj Žižek draws some intriguing battle-lines in a discussion of Thomas Piketty:

So what I’m saying is that I think he’s utopian because he simply says that the mode of production has to remain the same; let’s just change the distribution by, nothing very original, radically higher taxes.

Now here problems begin, here the utopia enters. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do this, I’m just saying that to do this and nothing else is not possible. That’s his utopia. That basically we can have today’s capitalism, which basically as a machinery remains the same just oh oh oh when you earn your billions oh oh here am I tax, give me 80 percent. I don’t think this is feasible. I think, imagine a government doing this, Piketty is aware it needs to be done globally. Because if you do it in [one] country, then capital moves elsewhere blabla. This is another aspect of his utopianism, my claim is that if you imagine a world organization where the measure proposed by Piketty can effectively be enacted, then the problems are already solved. Then already you have a total political reorganization, you have a global power which effectively can control capital, we [have] already won.

The ‘utopia’ perversity is predictably Zizekian — part of some half-mad tactical gambit that doesn’t lead anywhere — but the argument for sovereign global authority as the sole coherent telos of Left politics is decidedly insightful. Given this convincing thesis, the insignificance of serious internationalist initiatives in prevailing left-political discussion is striking. It would seem that anything pitched lower than the level of global governance was self-evidently irrelevant — or even counter-productive — to socialist purposes.

Recent news, I’m sure, doesn’t help

ADDED: More from Žižek on the topic of global governance (via same link) —

It is definitely time to teach the superpowers, old and new, some manners, but who will do it? Obviously, only a transnational entity can manage it – more than 200 years ago, Immanuel Kant saw the need for a transnational legal order grounded in the rise of the global society. In his project for perpetual peace, he wrote: “Since the narrower or wider community of the peoples of the earth has developed so far that a violation of rights in one place is felt throughout the world, the idea of a law of world citizenship is no high-flown or exaggerated notion.”

This, however, brings us to what is arguably the “principal contradiction” of the new world order (if we may use this old Maoist term): the impossibility of creating a global political order that would correspond to the global capitalist economy.

And, for light relief:

Zizek has always been vocal about his general disdain for students and humanity writ large. He once admitted in 2008 that seeing stupid people happy makes him depressed, before describing teaching as the worst job he has ever had.

“I hate students,” he said, “they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.


“I can’t [sic] imagine a worse experience than some idiot comes there and starts to ask you questions, which is still tolerable. The problem is that here in the United States students tend to be so open that sooner or later, if you’re kind to them, they even start to ask you personal questions [about] private problems… What should I tell them?”

“I don’t care,” he continued. “Kill yourself. It’s not my problem.”

(This sort of thing makes me warm to the guy.)

ADDED: Slate scold Rebecca Schuman is not amused.

7 thoughts on “Broken

  1. He kind of perfected this Joker mode. One is rarely sure when, if at all, is he joking/provoking and when stating “honest” opinions.

    • He’s a trickster, a true con man of the first order, a literary hoaxer after Borges and Lem. In his home country he once wrote an anonymous critique of his own work, published the article in a local communist publication, appended a false author and a book he’d written (false of course).

      The next day the bookstores across the country were inundated with requests for this fictitious author’s book. Ever since that time Zizek discovered that tricking people through provocation allows him to see what typically never surfaces do to our usual polite behavior. Using the provocative statements allows him to see the left or right wing extreme feedback loops which usually surface fast across the web.

      His ethical Idealism is of a different order that our usual normative crap ala Brandom, etc.

  2. “the argument for sovereign global authority as the sole coherent telos of Left politics is decidedly insightful” Regarding the situation in Europe, it’s indeed quite explicitly the solution proposed very recently by Z. Bauman, É. Balibar, J. Habermas. I appreciate the way you summarized it.

  3. Sure! Specifically in regard to what I wrote: that is global authority (or regulation) as the explicit solution proposed to the current “crisis”. See:
    1) Zygmunt Bauman “Times of interregnum” (2012) where he suggests (as he still does today) to “complement” “negative globalization” (capital, finance, commodity trade) with “positive” globalization (political representation, law and jurisdiction at a global level);
    2) Étienne Balibar, in a follow up comment “Out if the interregnum” (2013) suggests the same thing: the “hyper power of the global financial system […] must be counteracted through coercitive measures of regulation” at the international level.
    3) For Habermas, see his “Plea for a constitutionalization of international law” (from August 2013).

    Regulation (or authority) at a global level is an interesting to consider. But as Zizek already suggested a month ago (“Who can control the post-superpower capitalist world order?”) it really is a problem rather than a solution.

  4. Pingback: Naphta Politics | Urban Future (2.1)

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