New!

What is Žižek's view on Soros Foundation and and his 'open society'?





In a CTheory interview of Slavoj Zizek by Geert Lovink published 1996, Žižek was asked "What is your view on the work of the Soros Foundation and the concept of an “open society”?" Žižek, in response said:
If you look into my heart, you’ll see I am an old fashioned left winger. In the short term I support it, but I don’t have Popper notions about it. Soros is doing good work in the field of education, refugees and keeping the theoretical and social sciences spirit alive. These countries are not only impoverished, but the sphere of social sciences is hegemonized by Heideggerian nationalists. But the Soros people have this ethic of the bad state vs. good civic, independent structures. But sorry, in Slovenia I am for the state and against civil society! In Slovenia, civil society is equal to the right wingers. In America, after the Oklahoma bombing, they suddenly discovered that madmen are everywhere. Civil society is not this nice, social movement, but a network of moral majority, conservatives and nationalist pressure groups, against abortion, [for] religious education in schools. A real pressure from below. 
For me the open society means something very practical: the unwritten rules of the political space. For example, if you oppose the present government or the hegemonic party, are you then still accepted or is there an unwritten, unspoken stigma that you are a half nationalist traitor and so on? Up to what extent can you make a career without making political compromises? I don’t have any fundamental hopes in a socialist revolution or whatever. We have several big crises coming: the ecological, the developed against the underdeveloped world and the loss of the sense of reality in the face of all the rapid changes. I don’t underestimate the social impact of the loss of stability. Is the frame of liberal capitalism able to solve this antagonism? Unfortunately my answer is no. Here I am the old fashioned left wing pessimist. I think that ghettoisation, like half of L.A., is far stronger than the Marxist class struggle. At least both workers and capitalists still participated in legality and the state, whereas liberal capitalism simply doesn’t integrate the new ghettoes. Liberal democracy has no answer to these problems.
A lot of times, this Soros approach of openness indulges in its own species of covered racism. Recently at a conference in Amsterdam, Press Now asked whether it was possible to find a universal language so that intellectuals from various parts of the former Yugoslavia could start a dialogue. I find this cliché extremely dangerous, because it comes from an idea of the Balkans as the phantasmatic space of nationalistic madness. This phantasy is very well manipulated and expressed in some popular works of art, like Kusturica’s film Underground. He said himself, in Cahiers du Cinema, that in the Balkans, war is a natural phenomenon, nobody knows when it will emerge, it just comes, it’s in our genes. This naturalisation of the Balkans into an apolitical, primordial theatre of passions is cliché and I find it very suspicious. I would like to quote Hegel here: “The true evil is an attitude which perceives evil everywhere.” I am very suspicious about this apparent multicultural, neutral, liberal attitude, which only sees nationalistic madness around itself. It posits itself in a witness role. The postYugoslav war is strictly the result of European cultural dynamics. We don’t need this simplistic liberal deploring of “why don’t people speak to each other?” Nobody is doing power analysis. 
A common Western cliché is the so-called complexity of the Balkans. This specifically allows the West to maintain its position as an excluded observer. What you should do is what I call a phenomenological reduction a l’envers. You should not try to understand it. Like TV, the funny effect when you disconnect the voice, you only have these stupid gestures. Cut off the meaning and then you’ll get the pure power battle. The Balkans are a symptom of Europe in the sense that it embodies all that is wrong in the light of the utopian notion of the European Community itself. What is the dream? A kind of neutral, purely technocratic Brussels bureaucracy. They project their mirror image on the Balkans. What they both have in common is the exclusion of the proper political antagonisms.