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Slavoj Žižek about Peter Sloterdijk: The revolution takes place, only differently


Peter Sloterdijk is one of the most accurate diagnosticians of our time. In his work "Wrath and Time", he offers an alternative history of the West as a starting point from the distinction between Eros (desire, ie, the desire to possess, ie the possession of objects) and thymos (pride, thus giving-will) History of anger administration. The "Iliad", its founding text, begins in fact with the word "anger." Homer calls the goddess to stand by him when he sing the song of the anger of Achilles. Although the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon concerns a woman - Agamemnon robbed Achilles of his slave girl Briseis - it is not about the loss of an erotic object, but about injured pride. And that is Sloterdijk's point.

While anger can explode in ancient Greece, he experiences a profound change, a sublimation, a postponement in the Jewish-Christian tradition. No longer we, but God is keeping a record of our transgressions, and decides on the Day of Judgment. The Christian prohibition of revenge is the exact counterpart to the apocalyptic scene of the last days. The idea of ​​a Last Judgment, in which all the accumulated debts are paid off and a world out of joint is corrected, lives in secularized form in modern leftist projects.

Now the judge is no longer God but the people. Left political movements in fact act like anger banks. They collect collective anger investment and, in turn, promise the people long-term revenge interest, thus establishing a more just world. Because, after the revolutionary anger explosion, the ultimate payment never takes place, and inequality and hierarchy always reappear, there is always an urge for the second - true, total - revolution. It is only to satisfy the disappointed and to bring the liberation to an end: in 1792 after 1789, October after February 1917.



And the revolution?

This leads us to the great problem of Western Marxism today: the absence of a revolutionary subject. Who can take the role of the proletarians? In the Third World, students and intellectuals, the excluded are presented. In the meantime, the refugees are to revive the European left, free according to the motto: If there is no real proletariat at this stage, the revolution is just being transferred to imported substitute subjects. This way of thinking is cynical through and through. It bears witness to a leftist paternalism, quite apart from the fact that it gives new impetus to the violence against immigrants.

The problem is that there is simply never enough spontaneous anger capital - so the leaders have been borrowed from other anger banks by the nation and the culture. In Fascism, the national anger prevailed, Mao mobilized in China's communism the cultural anger of the exploited peasants. In our time there are two main types of anger left: the anger of the Islamic modernist losers against capitalism as a decadent system, and the wrath of the right-wing populists, which is aimed at immigrants. In addition to this, Latin American populists, consumerists and other representatives are less resentful of the resentment that refuses to recognize globalization. The only thing that is clear here is: the situation is confusing, all the different forms of anger do not come together.

Sloterdijk now recommends overcoming resentment and renouncing a revolution, which never happens anyway. He is concerned to delegitimize the connection between intelligence and resentment in all its forms, including feminism and post-colonialism. In capitalism, he sees not only the problem, but also the solution - Sloterdijk pleads for a turn of capitalism against itself: Instead of accumulating still more wealth and consequently fearing the loss of the wealthy lifestyle, the inhabitants of the Western Crystal Palace As proud beings who rather give than take. This would be, so to speak, Sloterdijk's cultural revolution without a revolution. But is she really realistic - and more than a philosophical imagination?

Capitalism, according to Sloterdijk, is therefore capable of effecting a change from Eros to Thymos, from the perverse erotic logic of accumulation to public recognition and honor. If you think so, you must inevitably praise figures like Soros or Gates. In this optic, their charity is not merely a personal idiosyncracy; On the contrary, the new capitalists are supposed to work towards a new balance of welfare through their willingness to donate, without obeying the destructive logic of resentment and forced state redistribution. We must, therefore, learn to live in a meritocracy which respects civilized norms and personal rights, in a balance between elitism and egalitarianism.

But is Sloterdijk really a reason for his denunciation of any global emancipatory project as a case of envy and resentment? What if his urge to sense revenge and anger behind every form of solidarity is itself an expression of revenge and resentment? His envy dims the view that there is indeed a position of ethical universality that applies to all people. And which exerts its own fascination on more and more young people.



Corbyn shall judge

Jeremy Corbyn, this dry, impish British labor leader, represents precisely such an attitude - with success. From the establishment, he is regarded as an idiot, a jihadist, an anti-Semitic, in short, as an unseemable, but this does not touch him, he remains faithful to himself. Of course, Corbyn is a nuisance - and yes, with his position of global solidarity and justice, he will prevent Labor in the foreseeable future from winning the majority in Great Britain. But that is not the point. For Corbyn represents the actor of a radical social change for the boys beyond the British Isles. Corbyn is an eminent representative of those who are serious about an ethical turn in politics - and the vulgarization of political speech in public turn. Propriety and argument were once bourgeois virtues, but these were long ago betrayed by the populist bourgeoisie. Now it seems to be on the left, to demand exactly these virtues by the fact that they live the same way.

Corbyn, however desperate and naive he appears, speaks of the important problems that ordinary people deal with, from economic necessities to the threat of terrorists. He is politically incorrect, not self-righteous, not off-hand, no blender - and above all, he speaks without anger and resentment. His performances are worthy, he preserves a basic decree. It is precisely because he acts like a politician from another time, that he is well received by the boys. Would Sloterdijk be prepared to recognize, in the success of figures like Jeremy Corbyn, the expression of a new social force that is not just beyond capitalist logic, but also beyond anger and resentment? We older men should remain attentive. I wish Peter Sloterdijk all the best for his 70th birthday.

From NZZ.ch, June 26, 2017