[Transcript below video.]

Schirmacher: If you don’t know him, you don’t live in this world. Obviously he is the one best-known philosopher in the world, the not the best but the best-known …. To say, the most dangerous one, you know. And he has already threatened us with his last 1000-page book, Hegel is coming towards us in my form you know, I will write all about the entire world, and that, he has already started. And he does it in such a fast way that he has to sleep long, long hours in order to wake up again to the level of his own thinking. I’m very happy to welcome one of the founding professors of our program, the Jacques Lacan professor of EGS, Slavoj Zizek.

Zizek: Thank you very much, and just to begin with, are you paid by Gaddafi money or what? Because I noticed how here all the free day is Friday. Isn’t it in Islam that Friday is their Sunday no? And then, if you connect this with the fact. Do you know, it’s not a joke, there the guy… told me. You know, the name ‘Allalin’ comes from Arab. When they were in medieval times, Arab invasions of Europe and so on, they come … just putting all this together.


Schirmacher: [inaudible] money, Gaddafi is dead.

Zizek: Okay, seriously now. I want to do something, it’s my moral duty here to annoy our good friend here Wolfgang. I know that he doesn’t like all this communist politics and so on, so this is exactly what I will do. No, seriously. I just want to give you a very elementary outline of what I think is going on, in economy: where do we stand, what we can do. Okay, we all talk about crisis, Greece and so on. But you may have noticed how suspicious this crisis is. You know, the West European racist judgement, those lazy Greeks, who just spend money, clientelism, corruption. True, I was in Greece, and they admitted it to me. I mean, I am not idealizing Greece, but there is one problem. We all know who did this clientelization. The two parties who are exchanging themselves in power for the last thirty or forty years, New Democracy and Pasok … Look, a miracle: the West who puts pressure on Greece to end clientelism, fully supports exactly these two parties which EMBODY clientelism. It’s quite breath-taking.

Another thing you may have noticed. If you want to understand the psychoanalytic notion of Über-Ich, super-ego it’s the pressure of European Union on Greece. Why? Because, you know, super-ego in the authentic Freudian sense is not an authentic, let’s call it naively, moral agency; it’s a sadistic perverted agency which bombards you with impossible demands, taking into account in advance that you will fail, and then, sadistically, makes fun of you, and so on. And that’s the mystery. Did you notice the mystery of all these rescue plans for Greece? Everyone knows that they are pure fiction. But it’s a nice example of the theory of ideology, how something that everybody knows is pure fiction absolutely destined to fail, is nonetheless repeatedly. Okay, there are different theories why … one thing is that you know what, the West is really doing, under the guise of helping Greece. It’s really helping to save their own banks. German, French, and so on. But what I want to say is that we, I claim, should not focus on Greece. You know, the moment you accept this perspective, lazy Greeks, and then, Spaniards, they screwed it up. It’s a wrong perspective. I claim that the ongoing crisis is not about spending, greed, ineffectual bank regulations, and so on. My theory is a more basic one. Some economists convinced me. Not even leftist economists. An economic cycle is coming to an end. A cycle which began in the early nineties. What happened at that point? If you are old enough, in the late sixties and early seventies something very important happened. It wasn’t only the time of all-crisis and so-called stagflation, stagnation and inflation. Nixon’s administration (Richard Nixon, the president of the United States) decided to abandon the gold standard for the U.S. dollar. But this was part of a much more important economic shift. By the end of the 1960s the U.S. economy was no longer able to continue the recycling of its surpluses to Europe and Asia. Until the late sixties, the United States were up to a point what today China and others are – the export-machine of the world. All of a sudden, from the mid-sixties, surplus is turned into deficits, and then, the Nixon administration. The brain behind it was that chairman, Paul Volcker. He had an idea which was in a way quite creative and ingenious. His strategy was: Why fight the deficits? Why not boost the deficits? Why not accommodate to the deficits so that we will profit from them. And, from that point on, what happens?

I will quote here a Greek economist, Yanis Varoufakis, who wrote a nice book called Global Minotaur, like the Greek monster-god. This deficit started to operate like, I quote, a giant vacuum cleaner, absorbing other peoples’ surplus goods and capital. While that arrangement was the embodiment of the grossest imbalance imaginable at the planetary scale, nonetheless it did give rise to something resembling global balance. An international system of rapidly accelerating asymmetrical financial and trade flows, capable of putting on a semblance of stability and steady growth. Powered by these deficits, the world’s leading surplus economies, like Germany, Japan, later China, kept churning out the goods, while America, United States, absorbed them. Almost 70 % of the profits made globally by these countries were transferred back to the United States in the form of capital flows to Wall Street. And what did Wall Street do with it? It turned these capital inflows into direct investments, shares, new financial instruments, new and old forms of loans, and so on. So, it was a very strange arrangement. From two and a half decades ago, as another, I forgot his name, Ronald Reagan financial wizard said: ‘Let’s accept it, for United States to function, they need a minimum of one billion dollars a day of influx.’ And again, because the way the United States, through the dollar as the universal commodity, and through other strategies. They knew how to, as it were, recycle this growing debt. So, again, these are signs that the United States are, as we say, it’s already a commonplace, an empire in decline. It’s growing negative trade balance demonstrates that United States is a non-productive predator. It has to suck up, up to a billion dollars daily influx from other nations, to buy for each consummation. It is, as such, the universal Keynesian consumer, that keeps the world-economy running. So it is quite funny when the United States claim, you know, republican administration, against Keynesianism. But the United States are Keynesian economy embodied. This influx, which is effectively like the [teeth] paid to Rome in antiquity, or, the gifts sacrificed to the Minotaur by ancient Greeks, relies on a complex economic mechanism. The United States are trusted as the safe and stable centre, so that all others, from the all-producing Arab countries, to Western Europe, Japan, and now even China, invest their surplus profits in the United States.

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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