Capitalism and the assault on reason

Capitalism and the assault on reason

In May 2010, large demonstrations exploded in Greece after the government announced the austerity measures that had to be adopted in order to meet the conditions of the European Union for the bailout money to avoid the state’s financial collapse. One often hears that the true message of the Greek crisis – and that of the more recent protests in France – is that not only the Euro, but the entire project of the European Union itself is dead.

But before endorsing this general statement, one should ask, “Europe is dead, OK – but which Europe?” The only answer is the post-political Europe of accommodation to the world market, the Europe which was repeatedly rejected at referendums, the Brussels-shaped technocratic-expert Europe. The Europe, in other words, which presents itself as standing for cold European reason over against Greek passion and corruption – for mathematics against pathos.

But, as utopian as this may seem, the possibility remains open for another Europe, a re-politicized Europe, a Europe founded on a shared emancipatory project, a Europe that gave birth to ancient Greek democracy, and to the French and October revolutions.

This is why one should resist the temptation to react to the ongoing financial crisis, especially in Europe, with a retreat to protectionism, localism and the supposed safety of sovereign nation-states, which themselves are easy prey for freely-floating international capital.

More than ever, the reply to every such financial crisis should be that we need to be even more internationalist and universalist than the illusory universality of global capital. Indeed, the idea of resisting global capital by retreating to the protection of particular ethnic identities is more suicidal than ever.

[Extract. Appeared in ABC on November 8th 2010.]


Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and a senior researcher at the Institute for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many books; his latest are Against the Double Blackmail and Disparities.

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