Slavoj Zizek says ‘the dream of universal liberal democracy is over’

Arjun Neil Alim speaks to the west’s most dangerous philosopher on how to resist radical right, Jordan Peterson and the digital surveillance state

Friday 19 April 2019 12:50
Even the poor can no longer afford the favelas of Rio de Janeiro
Even the poor can no longer afford the favelas of Rio de Janeiro

Sitting across from Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, I begin to discern a pattern to his thought. Things are bad, catastrophic even, but never in the way we understand. The #MeToo movement failed, not because it alienated moderate supporters, but because it didn’t go far enough in creating an authentic solidarity. China’s creeping totalitarianism is horrifying, because it disguises similar developments in the west. Favelas in Latin America are bad, because the impoverished can’t even afford to live in them anymore.

“They said that the Rwandan genocide was linked to colonialism and one of my black friends exploded, ‘you white people are so patronising, you don’t even allow us to be evil on our own’.” Žižek’s radical Marxist philosophy can only be described as pessimistic absurdism. The 70-year old thinker is explaining to me that the liberal left in the west has failed to understand identity. In creating a culture of victimisation, they have succeeded in patronising and alienating minorities: “Of course, immense injustices were done to them, but we shouldn’t say ‘so now we should show our great liberalness and give them charity’, we should empower them.”

On why only black people can use the n-word: “It is extremely racist and humiliating because it implies that blacks are like spoilt children, they are not adults like you and me, where an adult is someone who can control himself and follow certain ethical rules.”

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