Love him or hate him, Slavoj Žižek is no ordinary thinker, with a reputation for his always provocative and take-no-prisoners approach to social analysis. In an interview for Al-Jazeera released at the end of the year just passed, the Slovenian philosopher takes the audience through an intellectual journey across the momentous changes and the subsequent upheavals that have shaken the global financial and political system. As ever, his analysis is controversial and yet fascinating. It starts from the protests movements, and goes on touching the widest possible span of issues, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the rise of China, challenging our understanding of the world order as we (think we) know it.
In the wake of the most severe global crisis of our times, Žižek suggests that the much needed ‘revolutionary change’ will not come about in the form of a miraculous solution. Change is already taking place, and it is manifesting itself though the growing, fast-spreading awareness that the difficulties we are all confronting are neither temporary nor compartmentalised. The current global issues have not been merely caused by some bad, greedy guys operating in an otherwise good system—they are part and parcel of the system itself, and the recent protest movements have clearly shed light on this. Hence, what really matters in this specific conjuncture is not to find fast solutions, but to break what Žižek calls ‘the iconic Fukuyama-taboo’—the so far largely unquestioned “unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism” and its assumed irreplaceability.
From this angle, the very remarkable achievement of the protests lies in the way in which they have exposed how the system is not simply ‘faulty’ and needing fixing but, rather, it is likely to implode— because it has lost its self-evidence and ‘automatic legitimacy’. This is why, in Žižek’s view, it is beyond the remit of protest movements such as ‘Occupy’ to make realistic demands or to suggest for stable solutions to the global crisis. Their truly revolutionary aim has been fulfilled: they have removed the lid of one of the most cumbersome Pandora’s boxes of our age—they have revealed the limits of the “End of History”, and released a large flux of energy of protest in this way. However, Žižek concludes, what the future has in store for us is uncertain, because it will depend on the result of the final and most difficult of the battles— the struggle for who will appropriate such great energy.
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Categories: Rethinking The World