Here is a transcription of an Interview with Slavoj Zizek which has been edited in Le Nouvel Observateur, a french newspaper :
Slavoj Zizek – The new philosopher
Nicknamed the “Marx Brother” by The New Yorker, an anti-capitalist and virulent thinker, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek remains quite still unknown. He is today publishing Philosophy in the present.
We discover him but Slavoj Zizek is already a heavyweight in the world thought. Nicknamed the “Marx Brother” by The New Yorker, the Slovenian philosopher, translated into twenty languages, combines a radical critique of global capitalism, end of Marxism, reflect on the ideology of mass democracies, inspired by Lacan. The opera, Lenin, “The Matrix”, September 11, many subjects on which he has already exercised its subtle sense of paradox. Combining the analysis of Hollywood blockbusters with references to contemporary political philosophy the most advanced, Giorgio Agamben to Toni Negri, the unusual Zizek will soon be here as a voice heard. Publishing Climates published two collections of his writings.
Le Nouvel Observateur: Marx and Lacan are the two major sources of your mind … What was your intellectual development?
Slavoj Zizek: In the late 1960s, Slovenia was a socialist country course, but still open, with a possible access to the West. When I was young, the official philosophy of the Party was a Marxist in the westernized like Frankfurt School. The dissidents themselves, camped on a kind of nationalism Heidegger. We, the younger generation, we were not satisfied by these two options, as we follow with passion the explosion of Foucault, Levi-Strauss, Althusser, Lacan. Therefore, for us, the choice was never between Western liberalism and nationalism vulgar fool. Why Lacan has become so important in this small country of two million stupid people? It’s pretty mysterious, and even comical. There are there six or seven seminars Lacan year and dozens of books published. I remember during a broadcast on the largest TV station in the country just before the free elections, a Communist candidate to another saying, “No, what you say is wrong because you do not understand the phallus is the signifier of castration! ” It was a debate among national politicians, as if Bush had said that to Kerry during the campaign! Yes, the very last years of communism, between 1985 and 1989 were really a magical time for intellectuals. While seeing the radical fallacy of communism, we have developed any naive idea of the West, and have cultivated a critical vision of democracy.
NO: You advocate the idea of a possible transcendence of capitalism and advocate for urgent re-politicization of the economy. What do you keep of Marxist thought?
SZ: If I were dictator, I would give you five years in the gulag for a question like that! (Laughs) It’s not about what is still alive and what is dead in Marxism. This, I find dangerous is the typical approach is also in the United States in cultural circles. It turns Marxism into cultural analysis, we appreciate the theory of alienation, commodity fetishism, but the spontaneous ideology of everyone Nevertheless, capitalism with a human face. It appears to have less trouble imagining the end of the world that changes will be minor, our economic system. It leaves no open space for thinking outside the radical capitalism, the output. In France, which seems very popular today is the idea of capitalism controlled by a strong republican spirit. One wonders how humanize capitalism with a little more solidarity or minority rights. Or worse yet, one wonders how to keep its national identity in a global world! It’s absolutely ridiculous, it does not work. No, the only question is: Is it capitalism or not the ultimate horizon?
NO: You wrote a book about September 11th. You will just present the attack against the Twin Towers as the end of the capitalist utopia …
SZ: In the late 1990s, everyone said that the end of communism meant the death of utopia, and now they were entering the real world and the economy. I think just the opposite. It is the year 1990 have been the explosion of utopia. The liberal capitalist utopia that was supposed to solve all the problems absurdly. Since Sept. 11, at least we know that the divisions are still there and there. We begin to realize that “globalization”, that means in fact a split as strong as ever, within each country between those who are globalized and those excluded. Already more than a billion people around the world, from Latin America to China through the African Great Lakes, thrown together live in slums without wild collective to find a stable minimum in a traditional ethnic organization . They are left with nothing but fundamentalist religions or direct gangsterism. The reality of global capitalism, what is it? One example that Congo – Brazzaville, not even real colony of France but of Elf-Aquitaine, electricity does not work anymore in the second city of the country. It is also the fact that my leftist friends in the U.S. have no contact with organized labor in their country let alone the workers! The truth of globalization is a partitioning even more ferocious than the traditional division of classes in the nineteenth century. In a book on Lenin, I talked about it, this global crisis that I see happen if we imagine anything. A new kind of apartheid. Or a restructuring of feudal capitalism with Chinese characteristics. The situation is explosive, and in saying this I do not doom the manner of the old Adorno. I make a finding.
NO: What is your view on the current anti-globalization movements?
SZ: It’s a real mass movement, and at least they have identified the right target, global capitalism, in contrast to the left of the 1970s which was concerned only with cultural battles against sexism or racism and believed that the ultimate in radical was to read a novel by Jane Austen by detecting of homophobia on page 32! What bothers me however in the current anti-globalization, what are their demands. Take the likes of Negri and Hardt, the authors of “Empire.” Their book is as anti-state, but it ends with what? At the request of a universal minimum wage and universal citizenship. This is typically the Lacanian position of the hysteric, which causes the master by bombarding it with impossible demands! [Laughs] We do not want to destroy the enemy: it is for the enemy. We accept the powers that be. Well, I do not think you can break the vicious circle of capitalism based on the democratic forces as embodied today. In our democracies, we do not ever vote on the crucial economic choices. Nobody really believes that a collective agent can influence the course of society. “Even the Social Democrats are Thatcherite now,” once said Peter Mandelson, a friend of Blair. Alas, I think he’s right. Look in Spain too. Zapatero does not affect the economy, preferring to look to legalize gay marriage and gay parenting. Politics, that’s not for me. Attention, what I say here has nothing to do with a sort of anti-democratic or fascist left! I’m just saying I do not find in a current anti-globalism political radical enough. This is why it is condemned to remain in my opinion a parasitic resistance movement and is not able to change things decisively.
NO: Let’s talk about the current spread of religious fundamentalism and the “deep complicity” that unites you think the global capitalist ideology …
SZ: No need to turn to Islam, taking the example of Western fundamentalism. After all, at home as it became a mass phenomenon. The FBI estimates that 2 million people néochrétienne right activist. Neo-conservative who votes in the U.S. now? The working class. Take the example of Kansas. Thirty years ago yet it was the state of the most radical left in the United States. Today is the rightmost. The tragedy is that the energy of the left has been reappropriated by the people and that is the multiculturalist left that made it possible for the United States in divesting all the talk about the exploitation and poverty. One day we asked Stalin what was the worst deviation: the deviation of the response left or right handed? He said: both are worse. Great phrase! [Laughs] Well me the same way, I refuse to choose between democratic capitalism supposedly tolerant and fundamentalism: because it is the product of another.
NO: Yes, but we can not overlook the specificity of Islamic fundamentalism Islamism as you see it as a pure product of the contradictions of globalization?
SZ: Yes, and I also rejects the term terrorism. It is used to disqualify bulk religious movements and popular struggles, to prevent any breach in the revolutionary world as it goes. The problem of abstract humanitarianism is that it is good for the victims until they agree to act as victims but as soon as they organize themselves, it is believed the emergence of a new totalitarianism. We loved the Kosovo Albanians fled when the “barbarians Serbian” donkey in the mountains. Now they are seen as dangerous Islamists. The attack against the Twin Towers, the terror, we agree. And when Israel bombed a Palestinian camp, it’s terror or not? Here we look away. Yet for me, Lacanian, it is always from the exceptions articulated truth. I am not prepared to disqualify terrorism in all circumstances. About Islamic fundamentalism, which obsesses everyone, we must never forget that it is something entirely conditioned by the Western policy. The Taliban are a purely postmodern. Same for the Islamic headscarf uniform. All this has nothing to do with a tradition supposedly restored. So, instead of fantasizing about Islam, it would be better to concern itself with roger on the dramatic impasses of capitalist modernity.