On Monday evening, NYU Global Distinguished Professor Slavoj Žižek spoke at NYU’s Skirball Center for Performing Arts about what must be done to create a communist society in a Western, capitalist world.
The philosopher and cultural critic spoke in front of a sold out crowd at the Skirball auditorium, opening his talk with an old Soviet joke about how today, Marxism only works in principle.
Žižek continued by speaking about how our current society would provide the ideal conditions for a truly Marxist society.
“Marx’s critique of political economy and his outline of the capitalist dynamics [are] still fully actual,” Žižek said. “One should even make a step forward and claim that it is only today, with global capitalism, that Marx’s analogy became fully valued.”
Žižek also spent some time expressing his belief that our current society mishandles the way in which we talk about important social issues such as feminism and the LGBTQ community.
“The ongoing struggle between alt-right and conservatives and gay rights is an important struggle, but for me at least, strictly part of today’s global capitalist dynamic,” Žižek said. “To be authentically transgender is extremely painful and symptomatic but the most radical position imaginable.”
Later in the talk, Žižek hailed China as a prime example of working communism. This comment was met with some skepticism from LS first-year Ann Fulton, who pointed out that Žižek glossed over many of the harmful policies that exist under the Chinese communist system.
“I felt like Žižek largely ignored some of the more radical and oppressive social initiatives that China is currently implementing in society,” Fulton said. “One of the most important things he did not talk about was the new social credit system that essentially suggests that people should be rewarded based if they follow a certain set of government mandated guidelines. Rather than focus on this, Žižek just praised China’s economic propensity.”
Žižek concluded his talk with a statement about how modern society could implement a socialist movement in first-world countries. Contrary to Marx and other radical socialists, Žižek stated that he does not believe that citizens must orchestrate a revolution to uproot capitalist society.
On the contrary, he stated that these kind of wars could wipe out humanity because they would result in the use of nuclear weapons. Instead, Žižek focused on how in order to make a better society, individuals should be held accountable for their choices.
“Today’s ideology makes you personally responsible,” Žižek said. “It asks, what did you do for society?”
Catering to a politically active audience, Žižek also offered his opinion on President Donald Trump, simultaneously lambasting the president while not letting modern American liberals off the hook.
“Of course, the enemy is Trump,” Žižek said. “But a true leftist should never forget that Trump just filled in the gap of the failure of disintegration of the liberal democratic hegemony.”
Email Mansee Kahurana at [email protected]