Monday, November 28, 2011

Democracy and Capitalism

Slovenian-born philosopher Slavoj Zizek, whose critical examination of both capitalism and socialism has made him an internationally recognised intellectual, speaks to Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman about the momentous changes taking place in the global financial and political system.

In his distinct and colourful manner, he analyses the Arab Spring, the eurozone crisis, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and the rise of China. Concerned about the future of the existing western democratic capitalism Zizek believes that the current "system has lost its self-evidence, its automatic legitimacy, and now the field is open."

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Zizek could not have summarised my own thoughts better. The idea that the system *itself* has lost its self-evidence and legitimacy was a new thought for me. It arrived on the heels of realising just how inane the entire left-right or liberal-conservative lens has become, a suspicion long held but which never really gelled until I bumped up against a wall of people in Washington D.C. October before last while attending the same Comedy Central "Rally to Restore Sanity". Funny how it can take a visceral experience like that to prod you sometimes. At points the crowd was so thick I could have fainted and would not have fallen down, yet all were in good cheer.

    Though most on the "right" have declared that rally just more noise from the "left" I detected in its announcements and in the people there something else, something I couldn't put a finger on but which nonetheless meant, to me, that "the field is open". There seems a thread, not a straight line but an unmistakeable thread that runs straight from that rally, through the Arab Spring and into the Occupy movement.

    The Occupy movement has been most criticised for its lack of demands and goals, for its lack of a single voice, but if you've watched events in Egypt, even this week's events, you'll see the same thing. The common chorus is "the status quo is not acceptable" with perhaps an added "and we expect you guys in power to fix it or this could get ugly". These are movements that express sentiments too large to be accomodated by mere policies, and that may explain why the usual commentors are so often blind to what they are after -- they can't be considered by thinking that is from within the current system. They demand a new order, one that can possibly be self-evident and deserve "automatic legitimacy" or at least a generous benefit of the doubt someday.

    Like many of my generation (baby boom) perhaps I have held to the idea that "the system" wasn't so bad that it couldn't be corrected from within. It seemed to me that a healthy tension existed between the left and right and that our institutions had the depth to help us negotiate those tensions for the overall good. Attending the ramshackle Occupy Toronto camp and marches all I could see were people of goodwill trusting in the thing that mostly remained inarticulable except as an expression of solidarity -- "the 99%". This says to me that Zizek's observation that "now the field is open" may be an understatement.

    I tend to optimism, though often a cantankerous sort of optimism. The good cheer of the D.C. rally is more my style than the strident voices of anti-this and anti-that, but I am beginning to worry that good cheer and optimism will soon give way to uglier things. We need thinkers that aren't still trying to use the old lenses of left and right to imagine that new order. Ugh, it sounds like a long project.