Tuesday, April 25, 2006


LRB has an excellent article about the humanitarian (so called) face of global capitalism by the critic-philosopher Salvoj Zizek. He coins the term "liberal communist" and then goes on to find out who these people actually are and what they mean and what they do...

Liberal communists do not want to be mere profit-machines: they want their lives to have deeper meaning. They are against old-fashioned religion and for spirituality, for non-confessional meditation (everybody knows that Buddhism foreshadows brain science, that the power of meditation can be measured scientifically). Their motto is social responsibility and gratitude: they are the first to admit that society has been incredibly good to them, allowing them to deploy their talents and amass wealth, so they feel that it is their duty to give something back to society and help people. This beneficence is what makes business success worthwhile.


According to liberal communist ethics, the ruthless pursuit of profit is counteracted by charity: charity is part of the game, a humanitarian mask hiding the underlying economic exploitation. Developed countries are constantly ‘helping’ undeveloped ones (with aid, credits etc), and so avoiding the key issue: their complicity in and responsibility for the miserable situation of the Third World. As for the opposition between ‘smart’ and ‘non-smart’, outsourcing is the key notion. You export the (necessary) dark side of production – disciplined, hierarchical labour, ecological pollution – to ‘non-smart’ Third World locations (or invisible ones in the First World). The ultimate liberal communist dream is to export the entire working class to invisible Third World sweat shops.

The Gene Siskel film center is screening the documentary on Zizek called, simply, Zizek! in May. I am, of course, going to miss it. I had read somewhere that Zizek would himself be in attendance at the screening. Anyway, you can watch the trailer of the documentary here. There is a hilarious (to me) line in the film. Zizek says, "the fact that it is not just nothing, things are out there, that means something went terribly wrong somewhere". Haha!! That's speaking like a true intellectual! The reviews from Village Voice here and here and here is the wikipedia entry.

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