Rage, Rebellion and New Power (notes)

Rage, Rebellion and New Power – Slavoj Zizek

Lecture notes recorded and then edited and put together for cohesion and clarity. Almost certainly an interpretation.

In Alain Badiou’s new book True Love­ he contends that the main focus of philosophy is to create doubts; it is not to undermine social features and factors but to see the dangers of patriarchal nihilism as some sort of liberation. There is no frame for creating a self in this form of so-called “liberation”. The New World Disorder, if one may call it so, affects the students and the youth that oscillates between monotony and the hedonism of sex and drugs. Badiou notes the withering and the disintegration of the self and the pointlessness of a world where conscription is seen as an unnecessary thing and the price we pay for it is the reactionary mercenary who wages his wars for money in the Middle East.

In this world of the disintegration of the world, the young and the adolescents are at the brink of perpetual adolescence without any ritualistic initiation into the world as we knew it. In older times, the initiation was either through traditional rites in the traditional sense or in the world where the men would go to the army. The identity is supplanted by its difference and in its absence we are given to a world where those notions of self are also lost. Instead of that we are given a world where the notion makes for good liberal lines like “women can do better than men”. Women, who were symbolic or hidden before, suddenly become the conditioned figures of caring. The election makes for a good comparison here. Trump is the eternal Adolescent while Clinton is the self-assured, self-controlled representative of the feminine and the victims. On the other hand, the Philippine president Duerte stands for the very decay of law, the disintegration of law into the law of the wild. In condensing the three – Hillary Trump Duerte – we come closer to understanding the New World Disorder.

In many ways we are dealing with the post-traditional totalitarian subject; the subject experiences, joyfully and experimenting the reconstruction and the performative deconstruction of the self. And this is the self that completely fits the consumerist society that we are living in today. Therefore, the attack on hegemonic patriarchy is flawed because the fluidity and the reconstruction of the self does not liberate or emancipate. In creating many selves, we forget that all universals are colored by ways of life. Each way of life informs the other ways of life. So where do we place customs and traditions that are disappearing and the injustice and justice and are embedded in many cultures? Should homophobia and kinship rules be included in the emancipatory struggles of our world? This brings us to the case of Alliances of Struggle.

Today’s predominant anti-sexism is structured by coordinates that don’t align against the Third World struggle against global capitalism. The same language for a First World nomadic liberal and the language of anti-sexism do not match because such abstract solidarity, for instance for the refugees, does not help. This is not the main ideological problem. The problem is that white first world liberals have dominated the issue of diversity and what to be outraged about. And it tends to santitize all conversations and suddenly we have revolution against revolution, chocolate without sugar etc. In creating safe enclaves for sanitized political slogans it has become more possible to become racist. People don’t react to racist speech and in doing so, private fantasies of racism are becoming more and more public. In prohibiting prohibition, we arrive at Donald Trump. He has said that Melania has never once farted in front of him. It is so because we don’t mention these things in public. The disintegration of ethics has also resulted simultaneously in a loss of manners. However, manners do matter. In fact, the Left should shamelessly grab the opportunity to defend public manners.

This may sound very Eurocentric however when Eurocentrism is also being critiqued from the European point of view. In countering the dark legacy of Europe, we arrive at a very European solution. However, global capitalism cannot be defeated by small communities. We simply have to admit that small scale actions do not attack global capitalism. In fact, global capitalism is not global enough to be countered by small scale actions. There is crisis in manufacturing consent in such small scale actions. Marx has said that –

Chaotic rage with no clear goal becomes organized which then becomes a revolution where one learns of the true antagonist against which the revolution succeeds and creates and reorganizes power. In many ways, this chaotic rage is only becoming populism. Rage, these days, is not just the start but also the end of action.

In the Paris Revolts of 2005, there was no pretense that there was any vision or any goal. This was no 1968. It was rage. Just pure rage. Our predicament in the Left is that this raging dissatisfied populace cannot articulate itself in the action of Leftism. The problem with any leftist politics, for instance Syriza in Greece, is that the left does not know how to restructure power. In fact, it is the Social Democraticism that is the helm of all conservatism.

We have tendencies in today’s world that points towards a postmarket economy with the undermining of private property – people use Über and Airbnb. Like the end of V for Vendetta; what happens after the end? How do they restructure the power in England? It is a strange predicament that we are waiting for a radical catastrophe for such restructuring to happen because we have no model of such restructuring. We are living in a Sloterdijk dystopia. We live in a moral inertia. When the Iraq War started there were a lot of protesters. Today, a lot worse is happening. We are entering the climate of the First World War where people knew what was happening but never expected the war to really start.

This is a potentially revolutionary moment. We have incompatible socio-economic factors. The language is not of openness. We have actually accept that a war is waiting to happen. The future, as Frank Ruda says in Defence of Fatalism, is closed. We have to embrace the full concept of predestination to understand and change our future. That is the new of new power and rebellion.


Lecture Notes from Humboldt Universität Berlin (27.10.2016)


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