24 Jun 2018

Slavoj Žižek on the Radicals’ Game


Slavoj Žižek, “Happiness after September 11″, from Welcome to the Desert of the Real, 75-77:

When today’s Left bombards the capitalist system with demands that it obviously cannot fulfill (Full employment! Retain the welfare state! Full rights for immigrants!), it is basically playing a game of hysterical provocation, of addressing the Master with a demand which will be impossible for him to meet, and will thus expose his impotence. The problem with this strategy, however, is not only that the system cannot meet these demands, but that, in addition, those who voice them do not really want them to be realized.

For example, when ‘radical’ academics demand full rights for immigrants and opening of the borders, are they aware that the direct implementation of this demand would, for obvious reasons, inundate developed Western countries with millions of newcomers, thus provoking a violent working-class racist backlash which would then endanger the privileged position of these very academics? Of course they are, but they count on the fact that their demand will not be met – in this way, they can hypocritically retain their clear radical conscience while continuing to enjoy their privileged position


The gesture is that of calling the other’s bluff, counting on the fact that what the other really fears is that one will fully comply with his or her demand. And would not the same gesture also throw our radical academics into a panic? Here the old ‘68 motto ‘Soyons réalistes demandons l’impossible!’ acquires a new cynical and sinister meaning which, perhaps, reveals its truth:

‘Let’s be realists: we, the academic Left, want to appear critical, while fully enjoying the privileges the system offers us. So let’s bombard the system with impossible demands: we all know that these demands won’t be met, so we can be sure that nothing will actually change, and we’ll maintain our privileged status!’

— Slavoj Žižek, “Happiness after September 11″, from Welcome to the Desert of the Real, 75-77.

3 Feedbacks on "Slavoj Žižek on the Radicals’ Game"

Dick the Butcher

Make the World a better place. Shoot a liberal in the face.


Create a crisis and use it to seize power. Republicans are the stupid party, they can’t see through this and they cannot agree on an agenda that will result in any legislative success. The Democrats act in lockstep and if they get the congress and the presidency again they will continue to destroy America.

Seattle Sam

Exhibit A: Elizabeth Warren. If you total up the spending proposals that she has advanced (e.g. medicare for all, free tuition), they come to about a third of the Gross Domestic product of the United States. She is bright enough to understand that this simply could not happen even if she had power to order it. It’s just a game to demagogue conservatives.

Warren: I propose free college tutiton for everyone.
Rational Person: That would be unaffordable and direct resources to people who can’t make use of a college education.
Warren: Why do you want to prevent children from getting an education?


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