Slavoj Žižek – The Courage of Hopelessness (May 2017)

Giorgio Agamben said in an interview that “thought is the courage of hopelessness” – an insight which is especially pertinent for our historical moment when even the most pessimist diagnostics as a rule finishes with an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice, it functions as a fetish which prevents us to think to the end the deadlock of our predicament. In short, the true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlight of another train approaching us from the opposite direction. This train appears lately in five figures: the renewed fundamentalist-terrorist threat (the declaration of war against ISIS, Boko Haram…); geopolitical tensions with and between non-European new powers (China and especially Russia); the rise of new radical emancipatory movements in Europe (Greece and Spain, for the time being); the flow of refugees crossing the Wall that separates “Us” from “Them”; the explosion of violent populism in all developed countries. It is crucial to see these threats in their interconnection – not in the sense that they are the four faces of the same Enemy, but in the sense that they express aspects of the same immanent “contradiction” of global capitalism.

[Lecture delivered at the NSK State Pavilion on May 20th 2017.]

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