Lessons From the “Airpocalypse”

In December 2016, smog in big Chinese cities became so thick that thousands fled into the countryside, trying to reach a place where one could still see blue sky—this “airpocalypse” affected half a billion people. For those who remained, moving around began to resemble life in a post-apocalyptic movie: people walking around with large gas masks in a smog where even nearby trees were invisible. The class dimension played a crucial role: Before the authorities[ …]

This Guy Is So Smart, He’s Got His Own Academic Journal

Slavoj Žižek is part philosopher, part international phenomenon. And if that seems impossible in this day and age, consider: Žižek, a Slovenian cultural theorist, has published more than 40 books in English, has starred in four films, and even has an academic journal (International Journal of Žižek Studies) dedicated to his work. Renowned for his gymnastic thinking and mastery of counterintuition, Žižek has been called “the most dangerous philosopher in the West” by the New Republic[ …]

Democracy’s Fascism Problem

Sometimes faces become symbols of the anonymous forces behind them. Was not the stupidly smiling face of Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem the symbol of the European Union’s brutal pressure on Greece? Recently, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP)—the European cousin of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—acquired a new symbol: the cold face of E.U. trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who responded to massive public opposition to TTIP this way: “I do not take my mandate from the[ …]

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[ …]

Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange: our new heroes

We all remember President Obama’s smiling face, full of hope and trust, in his first campaign: “Yes, we can!” – we can get rid of the cynicism of the Bush era and bring justice and welfare to the American people. Now that the US continues its covert operations and expands its intelligence network, spying even on its allies, we can imagine protesters shouting at Obama: “How can you use drones for killing? How can you[ …]

What Europe’s Elites Don’t Know

In one of his last interviews before his fall, despot Nicolae Ceausescu was asked by a Western journalist how he justified the fact that Romanian citizens could not travel freely abroad, though freedom of movement was guaranteed by the constitution. His answer: True, the constitution guarantees the freedom of movement, but it also guarantees the right of the people to a safe and prosperous home. So we have here a potential conflict of rights: If[ …]

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[ …]

“The True Blasphemy”: Slavoj Žižek on Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot members accused of blasphemy and hatred of religion? The answer is easy: the true blasphemy is the state accusation itself, formulating as a crime of religious hatred something which was clearly a political act of protest against the ruling clique. Recall Brecht’s old quip from his Beggars’ Opera: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a new bank?” In 2008, Wall Street gave us the new version: what[ …]

A modest plea for enlightened catastrophism

How, out of the interaction of individuals, can the appearance of an “objective order” arise which cannot be reduced to that interaction, but is experienced by the individuals involved as something which determines their lives? This is the ultimate mystery of the so-called human or social sciences. The great theoretical breakthrough of Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s recent book The Mark of the Sacred is to link this emergence of what Lacan called this “big Other” to the[ …]

Best of 2011: Only Communism can save liberal democracy

1989 marked not only the defeat of the Communist State-Socialism, but also the defeat of the Western Social Democracy. Nowhere is the misery of today’s Left more palpable than in its “principled” defence of the Social-Democratic Welfare State: the idea is that, in the absence of a feasible radical Leftist project, all that the Left can do is to bombard the state with demands for the expansion of the Welfare State, knowing well that the[ …]