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Slavoj Žižek: "Liberal? God forbid!"

The following conversation took place on January 30, 2016 with René Scheu of a Swiss newspaper. You can read the conversation translated in English via google here:



In the new World Order, Slavoj Žižek wants to keep an overview. Ljubljana's solitaire works manically at his work. René Scheu visited the Slovenian philosopher.

Mr. Žižek, your books still breathe the same urgent tone as over twenty years ago, when we got to know each other - but the author has now arrived at the pension age.

Sad but true.
I still write like a madman. I just discover how much pleasure the misanthropy prepares for me. Life in self-isolation is wonderful.




Do you mind the age?

I am 66, now 67 years old, suffering from diabetes and a few minor heart problems, and I have therefore stopped joking around the world. In Ljubljana I now lead a half-way quiet life and concentrate on my work. Because nothing has changed: I still write like a madman. I just discover how much pleasure the misanthropy prepares for me. Life in self-isolation is wonderful.

But there can be no question of retirement in the conventional sense?

That depends on the point of view. But that much remains clear: I am employed as a researcher at various institutions in the world - so I get money without doing anything for it. I am here in Ljubljana, at the School of Law of the University of London, in Seoul and at New York University. , ,

They behave as a true Homo Oeconomicus. Do you like the exchange with students so much?

Oh, no, not at all, least in the US. The students are not at all prepared and torment you with totally idiotic questions that have a lot to do with themselves but nothing to do with the subject of the seminar.

What have you done for the next time?

My greatest dream would be to perform a Wagner opera on a renowned stage. Actually it should be «Parsifal». Before my death, I would like to put this idea into practice: "Parsifal" in the context of a big corrupt megalopolis. The Gralsgemeinschaft is a gang of drug-gunsters, Titurel is crazy because of excessive drug consumption, the Gralshüllung is collective hash consumption, and Klingsor, the boss of a puff, wants to take over the drug business of the Grail. And then, in the remaining productive time, I will write a few thick philosophical books. Either now or never! I do not really care about cultural politics.

You are joking? It is agreed that you are exposing yourself in terms of time diagnostics.

I know. For interviews this is also okay - but no longer for books. When I think about present questions and put my thoughts on paper, I always feel that I am bluffing. I feel like someone who says trivial things that others could have said better - and I am writing them just because these others have decided to be silent. It's like I'm my own replacement.

Over the last few years, you have been successfully working on your reputation as an author with an extreme position, as a radical Marxist, even a Stalinist. , ,

Oh God! It takes so little to reach the border in our alleged liberal societies. The "New York Times" did not want to publish any texts from me any more - it found my political attitude to the left. The established media is losing paid circulation and wants to keep the readers at bay by concentrating middle-class attitudes so as not to offend anyone any more. The subtitle of my last book "Trouble in Paradise" was "Communism after the End of History" - the word "communism" had to disappear. My books are always subject to language cleansing. Also from my joke book, which I personally do not like, three jokes were deleted.

The "New York Times" did not want to publish any texts from me any more - it found my political attitude to the left. The established media is losing paid circulation and wants to keep the readers at bay by concentrating middle-class attitudes so as not to offend anyone any more. The subtitle of my last book "Trouble in Paradise" was "Communism after the End of History" - the word "communism" had to disappear. My books are always subject to language cleansing.
Which one?

Tasty jokes with Hitler. They are taboo in Germany today.

For reasons you can understand?

No. This pseudo-correctness is not only damn dull, but also dangerous.

I note: they also enjoy almost 67 in the role of Infant terrible. And some shit storm is almost a knight today. Speaking of which was your favorite?

I have recently published a lengthy essay on the refugee issue in all possible world languages ​​- and has been thrown with much "shit" by "politically correct" leftists. Referring to a few more recent ideas from my American friend Fredric Jameson, I pleaded for the use of the army in the refugee crisis - not to protect the EU's external borders under the threat of arms, but to provide for orderly relations within and to set up camps in North Africa and the Middle East, where the refugees are welcomed, registered and their status clarified. Recognized refugees could then be taken to Europe without risks and integrated into the work process as quickly as possible.

What is to be scandalous?

Militarization! These colleagues want to open all boundaries instead - who questioned this is in their eyes a monster. In reality, this kind of pseudo-dome culture led to a chaotic situation in the interior, which in turn plays into the hands of the capitalists.

Ha, finally, the evil capitalists. Clarify me: What exactly is your point?

We should not import clutter, but export order!

Well said. But what does that actually mean?

Look at the Middle East. Today Iraq, thanks to the intervention of the Americans, is half a failed state and largely in the hands of the IS. The same applies to Libya - the state is non-existent, chaos prevails. Syria lies down, Americans and Russians fight here indirectly. All these countries are perfectly integrated into the global economy with regard to raw materials, but they are politically anarchy. This is exactly my point: these two poles do not close, but complement each other perfectly. We have caused great disaster there - and we should not now also cause great disaster. Is that clear enough?

A steep thesis. It was precisely the USA, which for decades supported the dictatorships there, in order to create political stability. With stable regimes better business is possible than with failed states.

Are you so sure? The fact is, chaos reigns, and people flee. They are pushing into the better half of the world, which my friend Peter Sloterdijk once called the Crystal Palace of Capitalism, calling on Dostoyevsky. This division has long been a favorite motif in cinema and games: here the dome, the chaos. We should see to it that there are no internal conditions like civil war.

Do you conjure up a battle of cultures with your two-world model?

I do not believe in what most media are doing - that we are in the middle of a war against the "Islamic State". We are dealing with a clash of civilizations, but this takes place within each culture: the US and Western Europe against Russia, the Sunnis against the Shiites, etc. All pretend to fight against the IS - it is, so to speak, the fetish They use to meet their respective true enemy.

I paraphrase: You want to defend the Crystal Palace by military means?

No, I want to open the palace in an orderly way for everyone. However, the current problems can not be solved by importing the chaos - that is quite clear to me. Whoever denies this is a hypocrite - or someone who lives in a protected ghetto. The problems can only be solved if we export order and curb global capitalism.

....the relationship between order and chaos, luxury and poverty is not symmetrical: the crystal palace inhabitants sit in front of the screens and see the world out there - the exploited, on the other hand, do not look into the interior of the palace from their position.






They aim at the big picture - this is a distinguished but predominantly ineffective gesture. As a Marxist, they would have to find the European prosperity problem problematic. Why defend them?

No, no, I do not. For the relationship between order and chaos, luxury and poverty is not symmetrical: the crystal palace inhabitants sit in front of the screens and see the world out there - the exploited, on the other hand, do not look into the interior of the palace from their position. The scenery is complicated by another circumstance: we palace residents believe the world to know outside - but in truth we have no idea. We can not even imagine life in poverty and misery, much less to endure such a life. That is why solidarity with the "poor" is often something so self-complacent. Living in the palace and sympathetic to the other - in this position you have both: the money and the good conscience. Abominable!

Do you openly criticize the prevailing hyperrealism? The next shit storm against you is brewing.

With pleasure! I only say what I think. To the same extent as we criticize the dark sides of Christianity, Judaism, and even Buddhism, we also need an absolutely open debate about Islam. Anyone who dares to criticize Islam and does not stick to the politically established distinctions between good Islam and evil Islamism is immediately set as an islamophobic racist by a politically correct left. That is absurd! These people strengthen the idiots from the right margin, pegida people and other racists by their attitude of the nine-time clever taboo. Marine Le Pen, Sweden Democrats, etc. - they are a real threat to Europe, but not people who use their right to freedom of expression.

Are you going to be age-old?

Liberal? God forbid! I am a convinced communist. But all these moral guards, who determine what is said and can not be said, get on my nerves. I've learned to ignore them.

What do you think of Angela Merkel?

When Angela Merkel told the refugees from the east and south: Come on, we can do it !, I found her decision courageously. And I should have done the same in their place. But before that, I would have thought about what a realistic plan should look like, which allows an orderly procedure. In Germany it looks as follows: chaos in the interior - but the capitalists are already looking forward to the cheap new workers! A paranoian might think that Merkel had acted solely in the service of German industry.

Do you really believe that? Only a minority of the current refugees has, according to the first studies on professional qualifications, which allow them to integrate quickly in the local labor market, and many still are not allowed to work freely. A circumstance, however, which should be quickly remedied, I find. On the one hand, to give people a perspective, on the other hand, to allow them to bear the costs themselves if possible.

There is also something to be said about this: some refugees are undoubtedly criminals, gangsters, if not terrorists. And they have only one goal: to plunder in the new homeland. But I immediately add: violence, violence against women is a global phenomenon - so we do not make it easy for us!

The German police will not be tired of pointing out that the crimes remain manageable beyond all media gimmicks. Whoever argues in fact, in fact, to capitalize on the leftist, is only consistent when he demands open limits, no social benefits, but unrestricted access to the labor market. They sound like system defenders, indeed conservative.

Do not get me wrong: I have great sympathy for the many refugees who are looking for a better life. This is exactly how I would act in its place. This does not mean that we should idealize the situation. Many of my - leftist - friends are striving for the threatening situation of increasing social unrest! The new refugees, they think, would ensure a repression competition on the labor market - and the existing working class is beginning to radicalize. To these friends, I am not only accusing idealistic cynicism, but also a confusion of thinking. Do you seriously import the revolutionaries from abroad because you are no longer able to train them? The result is foreseeable: the right-wing extremes are given further impetus.

I have great sympathy for the many refugees who are looking for a better life. This is exactly how I would act in its place. This does not mean that we should idealize the situation. Many of my - leftist - friends are striving for the threatening situation of increasing social unrest! The new refugees, they think, would ensure a repression competition on the labor market - and the existing working class is beginning to radicalize.

This is, of course, also lump-suming on your part. They demand a "leading culture". With sarcasm: This is politician-slang and means: nothing at all. Everyone understands something else under the so-called Leitkultur.

I do not, of course, have any Christian-Western values ​​in the sense that are always invoked without anyone knowing what is meant by it. No, no, I mean something quite elementary: freedom rights, but not only, but also the radical-emancipatory legacy of egalitarianism. I strongly reject the post-colonialist idea that a revival of local traditions can help us deal with the destructive social consequences of capitalist modernization. No! The capitalist destruction of organic and hierarchical connections is a prerequisite for freedom.

I strongly reject the post-colonialist idea that a revival of local traditions can help us deal with the destructive social consequences of capitalist modernization. No! The capitalist destruction of organic and hierarchical connections is a prerequisite for freedom.

Here we are almost in agreement again. Freedom of religion also includes religious freedom. And Islam requires life rules, which can conflict with local customs, many religions do that. Let us go into the lowlands of everyday life, where it hurts: Muslims do not eat pork. How should secular schools in Europe deal with this?

I have no problem with Muslim parents demanding that their children are not forced to eat pork at schools. Their culture forbids them this, and this must be respected.

Agreed.

I am not ready yet! For if they now demand a pork-eating ban for all, so that their children are no longer exposed to the smell of pork, the fun ceases. This is intolerance, which can only be countered with legitimate intolerance. Even if Muslims maltreat homosexuals, this is absolutely unacceptable, the list could continue. We have developed a certain level of freedom in Europe - we recognize this as an integral part of our cultural identity and make them members of collectives. This is good, we should rigorously defend it.

We do.

Is that so? Let us take an example which is the order of the day in Germany: A girl from a strictly Muslim family falls in love with a German boy. The girl's family, which does not tolerate such a relationship, exert pressure on it - and even threaten it. What should the German state do?

Protect the girl!

I agree. He is not allowed to know any relativization here. Germany has its own women's houses for this, and if necessary it can equip the girl with a new identity. In other words, the personal freedom of this girl requires unrestricted protection - regardless of its cultural background. So many leftists have trouble. They say: foreign cultures, strange manners; We must not impose our morals on them, that would be intolerant!

Whoever thinks like this is self-assured: I do not mind the problems of other people, as long as they do not become mine.

The politically correct left is incredibly sensitive when it comes to sexual harassment, discrimination, racism within one's own culture circle. You look at a woman for a second too long - and you are accused of harassment. You make a gay joke, and you are already counted by students as a racist. But the same people, who think so, simply let sexist Muslim men simply grant. My God, the world is really crazy!

Now the hurt provocateur.

Shall I give you an example? In a lecture at a prestigious American university, the name of which I hint carefully, suddenly a young black woman stood up and interrupted me in the exposition of my argument. I do not know what it was, but that is not important either. For the woman just said to me: Look, I am black, I am a woman, I am a parent-parenting mother, I have AIDS, and I am absolutely not in agreement with you, understood? I was shocked when I realized that this pseudo-argument was obviously accepted by the other students as a justified objection. I was in a lost position from then on. And I immediately went through my head: this kind of intervention is pre-enlightenment,

A pure power game?

Absolute. This is another paradox of political correctness: so that your voice has weight in the public discourse, you must somehow present yourself as a victim. In the supposedly free USA, this rhetoric of self-dictation has long since taken itself to an absurdity. And the amazing thing about all the madness: Europe only begins to establish the identity policy at all levels.

On the other hand, this woman was most likely really disadvantaged. And turning one's own disadvantage into an advantage is, after all, the sign of a real rebellion - and thus of a brave attitude.

Yes, of course. But how crazy must a world in which this strategy catches? The great thing about the Enlightenment from the outset was that rational arguments have their value regardless of who expresses them. It is not just the power of the stronger, not the power of the professor, not the power of the minister, nor the power of the noble. What I experienced in the US, however, was the opposite: a return to the power of an authoritarian position.

They exaggerate.

No. Nowadays the victim has the authority. It is okay for me if someone can argue that I can argue cleanly that my supposedly rational argument is based on the position of an old, white, Central European man. To the Enlightenment belongs the eternal endeavor to overcome one's own prejudices. But to stand up, to define your own sacrificial status, and to mean that I should keep my mouth, is something entirely different in quality.

The great thing about the Enlightenment from the outset was that rational arguments have their value regardless of who expresses them. It is not just the power of the stronger, not the power of the professor, not the power of the minister, nor the power of the noble. What I experienced in the US, however, was the opposite: a return to the power of an authoritarian position.

What do you think of the plausible argument that you as a white man can never understand a black woman because of your background of experience?

Gilles Deleuze once said that any political or ethical argument, which refers to a specific experience, is wrong. He's right. For if this argument were justified, then everything would be justified, and the white racist man might answer with equally good reason. She, the black woman, could never understand him, the white man, and therefore had no right to criticize him To mock. Thus, even a racist attitude can be justified. So we can not get any further!

They were also accused of racism.

Yes, of course. One way to be racist is to disparage others as racists. When we had a war here in the Balkans, the reaction of many West Europeans was to say that we are tolerant in Western Europe, while the Eastern Europeans are attacking each other and fighting in a racist manner. That was, of course, pure racism!

Whoever considers human rights to be universal can, in your view, be a racist?

If he also wants to let others participate in it - no! For they are a progress for all mankind. This in turn does not mean that this kind of rhetoric can not be abused for imperialism. At the same time, when individual rights were discovered and securitized in Europe-in ​​the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries-Europeans did not hesitate to enslave all possible non-Europeans. Time of theoretical human rights and time of practical slavery - well, they coincide. And do you know what the Europeans said to justify the contradiction before themselves? We must compel the slaves compulsively to freedom. As if slavery were the first step on the road to freedom!

However, if the rights of freedom are universal, then I must export them if I want to promote mankind. Forced culture is the logical consequence of this realization. Are you in your heart, then, a cultural imperialist?

For heaven's sake, no! The freedom to choose one's own life is universal. The only thing is that you can not impose this freedom on anyone. Over the past 60 years, we have gathered sufficient evidence that this strategy will not work. Take the French, the Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité wanted to bring to Africa. Or think of the Americans, who were trying to impose their lifestyle on half the world. They can not force people to their happiness - but they can support those people all over the world who strive for freedom. These people will then, in the best case, change their country from within for years and decades.

The freedom to choose one's own life is universal. The only thing is that you can not impose this freedom on anyone. Over the past 60 years, we have gathered sufficient evidence that this strategy will not work.

But it is precisely authoritarian states that resist the import of these freedoms. China is the youngest and most prominent example: the Chinese leadership looks down on the West - and it says: You have your cultural liberties, we have ours. They do not fit together.

This is the official rhetoric. But it just reveals that the Chinese leaders are afraid of Western freedoms and democratic achievements. For if the political systems were really so different and not compatible with each other, they did not have to resist the cultural import. They could trust that the Chinese themselves reject Western values. Of course, they know very well that this is not happening - many dissident Chinese would at once acquire and benefit the Western freedoms.

To the prevailing cultural relativism, you are appealing to a language which is almost antiquated: you rehabilitate the concept of truth. What is your strategy?

I therefore follow my colleague Alain Badiou. There are not simply different forms of knowledge - the scientific, the magical, the social knowledge, etc. No, there is true and false knowledge. There are not simply different art forms - there is art and non-art. There are not simply different forms of management and administration - there are good and wrong policies. There are not simply different sexual practices - there is love and sex. We must learn to argue hard again - at the risk of hurting people. Their distress, their pain is not a measure of truth. And we should look at it in spite of everything. Only in this way do we reach a universalism that promotes mankind.

What makes you an egalitarian society?

Firstly, each individual has the right to participate in the universal social order, regardless of where he or she is in the social hierarchy. Egalitarianism is directed against any form of corporatism: not your position in the social body determines your chances of life, but your action, your thinking, your groin. And second, the place of political power is empty, as Claude Lefort once remarked aptly. The exercise of power is based neither on a privilege nor on a specific knowledge, but is open to all - it is ultimately contingent.

They are notoriously speaking of "liberal-democratic capitalism." What exactly do you mean by that?

This is one of my terms to describe the Western social model in which we live.

Why Capitalism? This means, depending on the definition: private ownership of production resources, consumerism, protection of private property. With state quotas close to 50 percent - this now applies to almost all Western states - these capitalist premises are questioned.

How would you name our order?

The state is owner, it is entrepreneur, it claims a large part of the gross domestic product for itself. According to Ludwig von Mises, and if we agree with the 50 per cent state quotas on the same grounds as you do, we are dealing with a semisocialist system.

(Žižek laughs) I understand your point. How about "financial capitalism"? The uncontrolled creation of money is undoubtedly a huge problem - it is precisely the capitalists who are speculating on rising prices, who profit most from it. The rich are getting richer!

The poor also - but slower. They tend to think, and the evil capitalists are to blame for all their misfortunes. At the same time, you blind the greatest profiteers of the present situation: the States. In a real market economy, they could not refinance any longer - and they would have to report bankruptcy under the interest rate of their debts.

There is no way back to good old market economy. That would be pure nostalgia. What would be my suggestion? Quite simply, the state must control and tax the financial transactions more intensively. We finally need a financial transaction tax.

The governments need the business banks as buyers for their otherwise unsaleable debt securities, eh?

I also see this point. Bankers and politicians are in the grip - look only in the USA. Regulators and regulars know each other, need themselves, arrange themselves. It is not about personal corruption, but about a kind of systemic clientelism, which is difficult for the public to see - even to me. What we definitely notice is that money has grown just as much as government debt since the financial crisis. The virtual capital that circulates on the exchanges has assumed gigantic proportions and can make every economy exploding without changing at the level of production. Marx could not have imagined such a capital growth even in his most daring dreams!

They differ: how can more corporatism overcome corporatism? That is illogical. Friedrich August von Hayek pleaded instead for a privatization of the money and a competition of private currencies. This proposal is undoubtedly radical, alone. , ,

Stop! Growth results from investment - and when lending is restricted, investment activity also decreases. We need loans, so our economy works. If one intervenes here, they are brought to a standstill - and the welfare state is under further pressure. Hayek did not look at all these side effects. His idea seems even more utopian than the concept of a communist revolution!

The revolution is the old dream of many ancient Marxists. So, do you ask for an investment constraint? This path leads directly into the planning economy.

One thing is clear to me: the states must regain their ability to act.

Is this realistically different from true austerity?

Do you know who made the most of the welfare state in the US? It was Richard Nixon. Or take Alan Greenspan. He believed in the policy of the endless expansion of money - even though he was a supporter of the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand! In short, the Conservatives have got us this debt mess. And the people who support you, conservative-state super-contractors and bankers, are benefiting from it. But it is precisely these who are considered to have economic competence. That is absurd!

True - Gerhard Schröder, after all SPD, was a real reformer. Where do you see real reformists in Europe today?

To be honest, I do not see any.

So gloomy?

We live - sorry - in pretty crappy times.

Source here.