A quote from Zizek

Zizek is one of my biggest influences – he notices a lot of things that get missed in mainstream leftist criticisms of society and politics. The discussion around him tends to be very heavy – lots of philosophers writing interminable pieces in response to other interminable pieces and reviews of gigantic books, and so on. I have too much to read as it is – I am not a fast reader! – but I do think that its at least worth trying to glean insights from Zizek and philosophy in general. What I like about the passage below is that he tells us that we have to be for the State not against it as such. It drives me crazy that so much of the Left in the US today is just against government period. The demands for immediate transparency are often cynical demands for the end of the State, as if we only knew how corrupt government bureaucrats really are we would realize that we don’t need them. And I think that we do need them. We do need law and order. But anyways…

Ripped from the “Zizek Studies” Facebook page, attributed to Zizek in an interview:

I think that we leftists shouldn’t simply believe in chaos…. The problem is that when the situation is totally desperate, especially in a situation where you don’t have to organize opposition, it’s much more probable that some dictator or new authoritarian figure will emerge. You probably didn’t experience the war, but I did. I can tell you that it’s not nice at all to live in that kind of situation. It’s nice to go on a demonstration and then go and sit in a cafeteria and discuss the demonstration and so on. To see the public order disintegrate is not a nice thing. This is why I think that, if you want revolution, you should be a part of law and order. There’s nothing dishonorable about people wanting basic security. My god, I like to feel safe. Horrible things happen if you don’t have this basic law and order. So again, I claim, things are not as dangerous as we may think. And people believe that the police are usually much more efficient and aligned in authoritarian countries. But this is the myth of strong authoritarian countries. “OK, you don’t have freedom, but at least there’s order and the police provide security.” No, it’s not like that! This is why I like to read the history books about everyday life under Stalinism. Beneath the surface, it was extremely violent and chaotic. When somebody beat you, you couldn’t do anything. This is a paradox. If you were raped, for example, under Stalinism, and you went to the police station, you know what they would tell you? “Sorry, we cannot take your case. Because we have to report that there is less and less crime in the statistics. If we take cases like yours, it would ruin our statistics.” They were simply corrupted. I never much liked the 196os, but when I spoke with my friends in France, they used to say that the most beautiful moment in May ’68 was when you came in a car from the suburbs, parked it to the north of Notre Dame Cathedral, and walked across the river; then you demonstrated, sometimes burning some cars, but not caring because it’s not your car, and then, in the evening, you went north and sat in the cafe, and debated over coffee. Doesn’t this sound interesting? If there is a lesson from so-called postmodern, post’68 capitalism, it’s that the regulatory role of the state is getting stronger…. How many things have to function in order for something to be done? Laws, manners, rules: these are what make us feel truly free. I don’t think that people are aware of this fact. That was the hypocrisy of many leftists there: their target was the whole structure of the state apparatus of power. But we still need to count on all the state apparatus functioning. So my vision is not some utopian community without a state. We can call it the state or whatever, but more than ever what we actually need are certain organisms of social power and its distribution. Today’s world is so complex. If you want to build a company today, you have to be very deeply entwined with the state apparatus – more and more so. This is why I was always deeply distrustful of those libertarian socialists who claim: “We just want local communal organization.” I don’t believe in that. I always try to enumerate how many things have to function at a state level so that they could do their so-called “local self-management or communal organization.” I think that the left should drop this model of immediate transparent democracy. It cannot be globalized in order to function. It needs a very strong state apparatus, which regulates things. If not, things will happen, as you can see today, just like capitalism which is getting so chaotic, especially in the third world. What fascinates me, therefore, is the idea that we the left should now take over this ideology: “We are the true law and order. We are the true morality.” I very much like this idea of the left taking this position. And my position is that we have to engage wherever we can and do whatever is possible. And all this is what I think we miss in today’s left.

Published by samuelbarbour

Besides writing a blog, I also teach, farm, cook, and play music. I live in the Illinois River Valley with my partner, Molly Breslin, who sometimes posts stuff at breslinfarms.com

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