For a Leftist Appropriation of the European Legacy

How, for Ranciere, did politics proper begin? With the emergence of demos as an active agent within the Greek polis: of a group which, although without any fixed place in the social edifice (or, at best, occupying a subordinated place), demanded to be included in the public sphere, to be heard on equal footing with the ruling oligarchy or aristocracy, i.e. recognized as a partner in political dialogue and power exercize. As Ranciere emphasizes against[ …]

Beyond Mandela Without Becoming Mugabe

[Transcript below video.] In view of the difficult situation in which we all, in Europe, are, now I have quite many things to say. So, let me begin. Today, the very idea of a radical social transformation appears as an impossible dream, but this term (impossible) should make us think. Impossible and possible are distributed in strange ways today. One the one hand, in the domain of personal freedoms and scientific technology, we are told,[ …]

Who can control the post-superpower capitalist world order?

To know a society is not only to know its explicit rules. One must also know how to apply them: when to use them, when to violate them, when to turn down a choice that is offered, and when we are effectively obliged to do something but have to pretend we are doing it as a free choice. Consider the paradox, for instance, of offers-meant-to-be-refused. When I am invited to a restaurant by a rich[ …]

Who needs charity from rich capitalists? The ethics of giving and the Communist vision

In his recent book Rage and Time, Peter Sloterdijk has attempt to assert – as the solution to what one might call the “antinomies of the Welfare State” – an “ethics of gift” over against mere egotistic market exchange. His proposal brings us unexpectedly close to what can only be called the Communist vision. What Sloterdijk proposes is a kind of new cultural revolution, a radical psycho-social shift based on the insight that, today, the[ …]

Slavoj Žižek on The Act of Killing and the modern trend of “privatising public space”

The documentary The Act of Killing, which premiered in 2012, provides a unique and deeply disturbing insight into the ethical deadlock of global capitalism. The film – directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and shot in Medan, Indonesia – reports on a case of obscenity that reaches the extreme: Anwar Congo and his friends are now respected politicians but they used to be gangsters and death squad leaders who in 1966 played a leading role in the[ …]

Welcome to the “Spiritual Kingdom of Animals”

The documentary The Act of Killing (Final Cut Film Production, Copenhagen) premiered in 2012 at the Telluride film festival and was also shown at Toronto International Film Festival. The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, provides a unique and deeply disturbing insight into the ethical deadlock of global capitalism. The film – shot in Medan, Indonesia, in 2007 – reports on a case of obscenity which reaches the extreme: a film, made by Anwar Congo[ …]

We don’t want the charity of rich capitalists

There is something profoundly strange about Peter Sloterdijk’s attempt to assert – as the solution to what one is tempted to call the “antinomies of the Welfare State” – an “ethics of gift” over against mere egotistic market exchange. His proposal brings us unexpectedly close to what can only be called the Communist vision. Sloterdijk is guided by the elementary lesson of dialectics: sometimes, the opposition between maintaining the old and changing things does not[ …]

If there is a God, then anything is permitted

Although the statement “If there is no God, everything is permitted” is widely attributed to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (Sartre was the first to do so in his Being and Nothingness), he simply never said it. The closest one gets to this infamous aphorism are a hand-full of apoproximations, like Dmitri’s claim from his debate with Rakitin (as he reports it to Alyosha): “‘But what will become of men then?’ I asked him, ‘without God and[ …]

Liberalism as politics for a race of devils

For liberalism, at least in its radical form, the desire to subject people to an ethical ideal – which is regarded as universal and thus universally binding – is the mother of all crimes, “the crime which contains all crimes,” for it amounts to the brutal imposition of one’s own view onto others, and is thus the root cause of civil disorder. This is why, liberals claim, if one wants to establish civil peace and[ …]

Basic instincts: The rioters’ impotent envy

Repetition, according to Hegel, plays a crucial role in history: when something happens just once, it may be dismissed as an accident, something that might have been avoided if the situation had been handled differently. But when the same event repeats itself, it is a sign that a deeper historical process is unfolding. When Napoleon lost at Leipzig in 1813, it looked like bad luck; when he lost again at Waterloo, it was clear that[ …]