Slavoj Žižek: Democracy and Capitalism Are Destined to Split Up

Slavoj Žižek: Democracy and Capitalism Are Destined to Split Up

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Well people often ask me how can you be so
stupid and still proclaim yourself a communist. What do you mean by this? Well, I have always
to emphasize that first I am well aware that let’s call it like this – the twentieth
century’s over. Which means all not only communists solution but all the big leftist
projects of the twentieth century failed. Not only did Stalinist communism although
there its failure is much more paradoxical. Most of the countries where communists are
still in power like China, Vietnam – their communists in power appear to be the most
efficient managers of a very wildly productive capitalism. So okay, that one failed. I think
that also and here I in a very respectful way disagree with your – by your I mean
American neo-Keynesian leftists, Krugman, Stiglitz and so on. I also think that this
Keynesian welfare state model is passé. In the conditions of today’s global economy
it no longer works. For the welfare state to work you need a strong nation state which
can impose a certain fiscal politics and so on and so on. When you have global market
it doesn’t work. And the third point which is most problematic for my friends, the third
leftist vision which is deep in the heart of all leftists that I know – this idea
of critically rejecting alienated representative democracy and arguing for local grass root
democracy where it’s not that you just delegate to the others. Your representatives to act
for you, but people immediately engage in locally managing their affairs and so on. I think this is a nice idea as far as it goes
but it’s not the solution. It’s a very limited one. And if I may be really evil here
I frankly I wouldn’t like to live in a stupid society where I would have to be all the time
engaged in local communitarian politics and so on and so on. My idea is to live in a society
where some invisible alienated machinery takes care of things so that I can do whatever I
want – watch movies, read and write philosophical books and so on. But so I’m well aware that
in all its versions radical left projects of the twentieth century came to an end and
for one decade maybe we were all Fukuyamaists for the nineties. By Fukuyamaism I mean the
idea that basically we found if not the best formula at least the least bad formula. Liberal
democratic capitalism with elements of rebel state and so on and so on. And even the left
played this game. You know we were fighting for less racism, women’s right, gay rights,
whatever tolerance. But basically we accepted the system. I think and even Fukuyama himself
is no longer a Fukuyamaist as I know that if there is a lesson of September 11 if other
event is that no we don’t have the answer. That not only is liberal democratic capitalism
not the universal model and is just a time of slow historical progress for it to be accepted
everywhere. But again try now in Singapore and other examples of very successful economies
today demonstrate that this, let’s call it ironically eternal marriage between democracy
and capitalism it’s coming to an end. What we are more and more getting today is
a capitalism which is brutally efficient but it no longer needs democracy for its functioning.
That’s my first point. My second point is that the problems that we are confronting
today we can list them in different ways but my point is they are all problems of commons.
For example, ecology it’s clearly a problem of commons. Nature our natural environment
is our commons, something which shouldn’t be privatized because it belongs to all of
us. It’s as it were the background or literally the ground of our being. And it’s clear
for me that here we need to reinvent not local democracy but on the contrary also large scale
solutions. The problem today is not local communitarian democracy. The problem today
is how it regulates trends worldwide. Because even here I almost admire the – if I may
use this old fashioned Marxist terms the ruling ideology, no. Like turning the cards upon
us and making us individually guilty like did you separate all diet Coke cans. Did you
separate all the newspapers and so on. I mean I find it ridiculous how not only are we made
responsible. Instead of blaming not some person but the system as such how to reorganize our
lives. But this solution also allows us an easy way out. Then as if you recycle, you
buy green products and so on and you feel well, you did your duty. And another example that I use again and again
– Starbucks coffee and others. I think it’s something very ingenious that capitalists
there. You know when you enter a Starbucks place they always tell you, you know, we take
care of nature, five percent of our profits go for Guatemalan rainforest, for Somalian
children, whatever. I think this is ingenious that when we are consumerists we feel bad.
Oh my God, I’m just a consumerist. People are starving there. We are ruining Mother
Earth. But here the message is our coffee is a little bit more expensive but the ideological
price to do something for Mother Earth is included into it, you know. I even – that
would be my idea, Starbucks you know, how they bring your bill when you pay check and
then it says that – how do they call it this additional federal tax or whatever so
much. I would love to have it where they would put it, you know, three percent for helping
Mother Earth included, five percent for Guatemala orphans included. And it makes you feel good
and so on. So what I’m saying is that, for example, this is one example of endangered
commons where I’m not underestimating capitalism here. Of course one should use all capitalists
and market tools like higher taxes for polluters and all of that. But you cannot control in this way real ecological
catastrophes. Imagine Fukushima which happened an earthquake and all that in Japan. Now it
would be a couple of years ago. Imagine the same thing just some – it’s quite realistic
act of imagining – just some two, three times stronger which means that probably the
whole northern third of Japan would have to be evacuated. How to confront this? Who will
do it and so on and so on. We need a solution here and the problem is the commons. Next
point. Finances. Everyone knows that some type of regulation is needed otherwise the
way banks function today it’s simply even from the standpoint of let’s call it naively
rational capitalism. It no longer works. Another thing – so called intellectual property.
Jeremy Rifkin pointed out how we are already almost approaching there a kind of a weird
communism. I don’t know how it is here with you but in my part of Europe, DVDs are disappearing.
You download everything. It’s – I think – okay this is one phenomenon but I think
that generally there is something in so called intellectual property, knowledge and so on
which is communist in its very nature in the sense that it resists being constrained by
private profit. It tends to circulate freely. So again how to solve this problem? I don’t
think that capitalism will succeed in privatizing intellectual property. Next point biogenetics.
Are we aware what is happening today? I mean I don’t want to exaggerate and I’m not
a panic monger. I’m not saying tomorrow we will be robots. I’m just saying that
two things are happening which are more and more reality. A, that and this is something
so tremendously important philosophically. Direct contact between the inside of our brain,
our thoughts, and outside like we all know, for example, that today still at a very primitive
level but we can directly wire our brain so that machine can read it direct – and, for
example, Stephen Hawking no longer will have needed his finger. Now he was functioning
with the finger just moving it a little bit. You think forward, your wheelchair moves forward
and so on. Of course one of the problems here is that if it goes outside you just think
about it, it happens, it also goes inside the other way around. So all this prospect
of the biogenetically changing your properties directly wiring your mind and so on. How will
this be used for social control? And, for example, when I visited China five years ago
I got in a conversation with some big shot from their Academy of Biogenetics. I mean
biogenetic department of their Academy of Sciences. And he gave me the program of goals
of biogenetics in China. A kind of a programmatic text which pretty much terrified me. It opens up the text with something like the
goal of biogenetics in the People’s Republic of China is to regulate the physical and the
psychic welfare of Chinese people. My God, what does that mean? Now I’m not here a
conservative guy who is in panic. No, it’s a new field. Who knows but we have to be aware
of the problem and it cannot be decided on the market. We need new forms of global control
and regulation. And the last thing, new forms of apartheid. That’s the ultimate irony
for me. Berlin Wall fell down, now new walls are emerging all around. The United States,
Mexico. West Bank, Israel occupied territories to even the south of Spain how to isolate
Europe from Africa and so on and so on. I think the paradox of today’s global capitalism
is that on the one hand it’s global, free flow of capital but the free movement of people
is more and more controlled and more and more we get new forms of apartheid. Full cities
and those immigrants half excluded and so on. These are all problems we are confronting
today. And the big question is can we cope with these problems within the liberal democratic
capitalist frame. I’m a pessimist here. I don’t see – I’m really a pessimist
because I don’t see a clear solution here. I’m certainly not an idiot who claims oh,
a new Leninist party or whatever, will regulate it. No, that game is over. But I claim just
two things. A, all these problems are problems of commons.
Biogenetics – our genetic inheritance is our humanity’s genetic commons with new
forms of apartheid we are talking simply about commons as the common social space and so
these are all problems of commons and how to confront them, how to deal with them because,
you know, the paradox here is that on the one hand we are already getting elements aspects
of communism like again with all the downloading and so on. New forms of circulation of knowledge
even of commodities which no longer follow the market model. On the other hand I’m
well aware that all this also brings out new problems which is why as I always repeat it,
I support Julian Assange WikiLeaks. But not in the usual anti-American way. I always emphasize
this. WikiLeaks should not be used for cheap anti-Americanism. Why not? Because there is
a point in those who say that imagine someone like Chelsea Manning in China. There would
not be a trial. She would just disappear probably together with the entire family or whatever.
So why nonetheless we should also talk about United States even if the control is much
worse in China, Russia and so on. Because there is one problem and I can tell
you I was in China and Russia. There people are well aware of the limitation of their
freedom. Nobody in China has the illusion that they are actually free. You have local
freedoms of choice, you know. You can do sexually whatever you want. You can more or less read
books that you want. You can find a job if you find it of course that you want. But the
general social network no democracy there also with us is getting worse and worse but
that’s another point. What I want to say is that the importance of WikiLeaks for United
States is that how here in the United States we can – our lives can also be controlled
and regulated but without us being aware of it. We still experience ourselves as fully
free. And this is for me the most dangerous unfreedom. The unfreedom which is not even
aware of itself as unfreedom. Unfreedom which is experienced as freedom. Another point here is we all know what is
going on now is something incredible. TISA, T – I – S – A and other negotiations
which are incredibly important. They will regulate markets, exchange of data and so
on neo-liberal lines so that they will radically define the basic coordinates of our economic
lives even more. But the point is we don’t – these negotiations are all done in secret.
So, you see, this is for me the problem of freedom today. Yes, we have freedom at the
level of freedom of choice. You buy this, you buy that, you travel here, you travel
there, whatever. But for me freedom has to be more. Actual freedom has to also be the
freedom to regulate the very basic coordinates of your life. You have a choice between this
and that but how is the entire field which offers you these choices and not other choices
– how is it structured? At that level we get more and more secret agreements, we get
less and less freedom. So freedom is a big problem today but it’s the struggle for
what we understand with freedom.


  1. Fuck the Jews and the communists they are fucking cancer, DEMOCRACY FOR THE WIN

  2. Without walls masses of people with Ebola and measles will enter countries and cause another Plague across the world. It’s already happening. Hearing him now in contrast to what’s happening in the world is hilarious.

  3. Thid man is mentally ill. Its evident how he acts always touching his nose, and constantly making noises with his nose, he cant keep hisnhand awaybfrom his face. Whether its tics or sickness, he speaks oddly and has extreme ideas. His hygiene is poor, he doesnt take good care of himself. I wouldnt trust him with advice where to go eat out let alone takr any advice on his politcal view.

  4. Be prepared for the usual complaints regarding Zizek's mannerisms- these complaints are about 90 percent of all comments regarding Zizek….this man is brilliant, just fucking listen to him.

  5. here is the proof: bitcoin has been secretly introduced, and a privately controlled cryptocurrency index, is being used, uk and france want to frexit/brexit their 500 million european democracy. democracy and capitalism will be split apart, democracy is only a useful tool for capitalists to reach certain goals.

  6. "What we see today is that capitalism doesn't need democracy." But didn't you say that "neoliberalism" is a myth and that governments intervene in economy "probably more than ever"? Zizek, Zizek…. i think you should make up your mind. No, Zizek. Even Hegel talked about the "end of history". This is definitely the end of THAT history of the past: the times when we couldn't come up with a moderate path and had to oscilate between one extreme to another. That history is over. Nowadays this system which more or less comes from United States and has been working perfectly there since the XVIII century, i mean without the "big changes" you are talking about, is settled in Europe and the so called first world forever. How many "big changes" did american democratic-capitalist system need since it's very beginning in order to become the most powerful country in the world? ZERO. Sorry, Zizek, history IS over. The same way that american democratic capitalist system worked perfectly since its very beginning without the BIG CHANGES you are talking about the same happens now in Europe and the rest of the first world. Definitely i don't think you have overcomed the XX century even if you don't stop claiming that you did. You count as another idealistic leftist you like to critize. This is the end of the discussion.

  7. "So you know what we have to do is stop looking for leadership from the top, because the least among us make their way into those positions of power… So what we have to do is knock off this fantasy of being citizens inside a democratic state, I mean, what we are, are the propagandized masses inside a fascist dictatorship."
    Terence McKenna

  8. capitalism is not a system of politics no matter how u try to equate it to such
    capitalism does not govern us but our government governs our capitalist economy
    every single time u talk about a problem with capitalism u refer to a governmental system not actual capitalism
    and yea pretty much all governmental systems have major flaws, constitutional republic was pretty decent till the 1800s

  9. you only think you are free because you lack ability to understand how limited your choices are made by the 'reigning ideology' of the times as it is exercised

  10. .Keep doing the the same thing over & over & expect a different outcome That's madness I understand half of what Zizek says Peterson more grounded Trump even more grounded

  11. Ugh… The best way to absorb Zizek’s ideas might be to close your eyes and just listen to the audio. I can’t focus on his ideas with all the sniffing and tics and weird idiosyncrasies.

  12. I"m more focused on him touching his nose then what he says, it makes it really hard to concentrate.
    Personally, I would have my nose sore touching it that much

  13. This moron is the best communists have to offer? Someone please give me the name of someone worth their weight in salt that’s a leftist because I honestly want to understand leftists ideology better. They can’t all be completely ignorant of reality, the market, human nature, and logic can they? Capitalism has Ayn Rand so give me a communist of her quality that I can study please. Or at the least give me one logical not emotional reason for any leftist ideology?

  14. I have been watching Zizek for years now and I still don’t understand why he sniffs and rubs his nose so much

  15. Democracy and Capitalism Are Destined to Split Up – Yes indeed, the standing fathers always feared democracy as they knew, this leads to the destruction of liberties – as it does.

  16. Yes but when "some invisible alienated machinery takes care of things it always goes wrong. This is why people on the right believe in individual responsibility.

  17. Capitalism is total economic domination by the rich over everyone else, wealth is representation and the means of withholding wealth from others. The polar opposite to this is democracy and therefore there has and can never be a capitalist democracy. There is the ongoing wishful thinking double negative solution called democracy where by the elite orchestrated mainstream media into portraying a bizarre psychotic contradictory farce where actors and ex tv show dipshits ponce about on screens to a narrative. Everything is justified and explained in simplistic terms and it becomes democracy because they repeatedly tell you so. No matter who is elected the rich get it all and the rest of us are lucky to go on holiday once a year if we are lucky. All the time the poverty gets worse while banks make yet more huge profits.

  18. What is up with this guy,I mean is it cocaine or meth?cuz I know he is totally high as hell.yes he is smart,but he is also tore up from the floor up!!!.damn buddy,slow down.

  19. Why this speaker always rubbing his nose,face, it something to do with addiction? Consult a doctor..your thingking too much

  20. 2:20 That was not an evil statement, but an irresponsible although sincere one.
    The question is do we want democracy at all?
    Representative democracy surely doesn't deserve to be called democracy, and in my opinion direct democracy is exactly what we should strive for, to take responsibility would change people, at least no one could blame the system distancing oneself from it. We could even be lazy and not ever engage in it, but that would still not take away the responsibility if we only had the option.

    On the other hand we could consider people to be irresponsible and incapable, in that case we don't want democracy, but in that case there is also no clear sign of hope, because regular scrutiny of any political system is the only possible assurance that we are in good hands.
    But in my opinion, a direct democracy would spontaneously engage the right people, simply because it would be harder than just voting for a representative, so it would engage only the people that have a motivation better than money or a voting invitation to do it.
    Understandably, we shouldn't expect majority to decide on participating on every possible subject in such a system, and it shouldn't be obligatory, but everyone should always have the option. People, knowing they can jump in and cooperate at any time, would have no reason not to trust such a system.
    It could produce much better solutions for problems humanity faces, no group of politicians can be as creative as thousands of volunteers from a whole nation can be.

  21. A very good final point, I would say the word freedom has a very different meaning in different parts of the world.
    And in the west it's field of meaning shrunk only to remain in the most superficial consumerist sense, so that the reality can keep accommodating it and be viewed as free.
    The meaning field of the word can only start expanding once people realise the lack of freedom.

  22. Slavoj's view of liberal democratic capitalists is the same as Republicans. European liberal Democrats are for that very important transparency, and that very important freedom in terms of the framework on which you can freely decide to travel, buy, etc.

  23. I really think you missed the mark on this one. I don't think democracy and capitalism will split up I do think cronyism May infect both and ruin both

  24. So, you're saying your a lazy slob suffering from sloth. No one wants to be like you when they grow up. What the hell is wrong with your nose. Also, throwing your arms in the air does not equal intelligence.

  25. So America feels "free"; we have local and individual degree of movement and abilities to access some information, though I'm aware this information seems eerily suspect and political. I like how he says that freedom is a system where bodies and minds have no constraints that delimit what one can do. Of course, it could be argued that we have limits put on us to harm people and that we are to obey the law, which protect us and others but from what? The law idea seems to ambiguous. It has no tangible meaning.
    That ambiguity and confusion keep us from detecting our own lack of agency in a state that is predicated on capital.
    So the government and state provide choices that we can achieve, but Freedom is when we have no authority figure creating boundaries that dictate our choices, which generally these choices socialize us into particular realities that authority wants us to exist under.

  26. Capitalism, as Adam Smith defined it, is the expression of liberalism in economic discipline. Liberal democracy and its natural continuation in Democratic agendas, can not exist without capitalism. All the errors pathological ideologues attribute to capitalism are actually errors of human nature, and can be found within instances of communist societies with socialist (aka fascist) economic policies. Communism doesn't work because the system is evil. Communism doesn't work because we're unworthy of Utopian perfection. Capitalism has a vulnerability in abuses, but it's a necessary evil to our freedoms, and Adam Smith argued for state regulatory frameworks.

  27. I certainly admire Zizek, but I find him to be startlingly wrong when he dismisses the Left opposition. How many hundreds of thousands, even millions, had to perish for the present to be what it is? He more or less ignores the historical reality.

  28. Democracy and Capitalism cannot be divorced. The failure of the latter invariably leads to the collapse of the former.

  29. The first point is Zizek hopes for a totalitarian state but with good people in control aka Platonism. Well Karl popper has destroyed that in his Open Society and it's enemies

  30. But we have the answer Professor. You just acknowledged the problems inherent in human nature(prejudice and our capability for malevolence). Nietzsche brilliantly and succinctly identified the problem of nihilism in Western culture(will to power) and compared with nihilism manifested in eastern culture. Peterson through Jung and Nietzsche brilliantly produce the antidote to nihilism. A way of reaffirming our beliefs and developing a light that outshines the darkness inherent in chaos.

  31. I totally agree that the problem of the environment should not be left at the hands of private companies. But at the same time I despair at the actions of the government. Whether we like it or not the environmental problems requires innovation. There is nothing that incentivize innovation like capitalism and the free market system.

  32. I am amazed at how at the same time Zizek can point the inadequacies of one the most competent and ethical people(Japan and Fukushima) and still at the same time expects a totalitarian system of government to work. It is as almost, that there are uncertainties inherent in nature because of our limitations as biological beings. That the best system we can hope for is a limited government that keeps us away from each other's throats but at the same time allows the individual to flourish. As if we have to take more responsibilities for our own lives and malevolence, and be held accountable for our own actions through voluntary associations and dissociations.

  33. If Banks don't work, let them fail(or let the ones that work, work!!!). Life support from the government is limited. (Ponzi schemes have limited timelines. There are people that still get involved in Ponzi scheme.).

  34. I would love to sit down with Slavoj for six hours of conversation over coffee. Mostly, I would be listening and absorbing every morsel of what he had to say.

  35. The first time I tried to watch Zizek, I paused the video. I thought "I can't watch or listen to this guy." But give it time, focus on what he's saying, and after several videos his idiosyncratic movements won't be so distracting. In his own peculiar way Zizek actually comes off as quite charismatic.

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