Žižek on Revolution, Part 3.

Four things that will do capitalism in.


According to Žižek, there are four stumbling blocks that capitalism will, invariably, come to face – thwarting its indefinite reproduction:

1. "The looming threat of ecological catastrophe."
2. "The inappropriateness of the notion of private property for so-called 'intellectual property'."
3. "The socio-ethical implications of new techno-scientific developments (especially in biogenetics)."
4. "New forms of apartheid, new walls and slums."

These four issues are interrelated, sharing a concern with what Hardt and Negri call "the commons." Žižek defines the commons as "the shared substance of our social being whose privatization is a violent act which should be resisted." These include: the commons of culture, the commons of cognitive capital (language, education, means of communication), the commons of external nature (threatened by pollution and exploitation), and the commons of internal/bodily nature (threatened by biogenetic companies).

All these struggles share, according to Žižek, in the "awareness of the destructive potential, up to the self-annihilation of humanity itself, if the capitalist logic of enclosing these commons is allowed a free run."

But from another perspective, the particular nature of capitalism's success guarantees that it will undergo an inevitable demise. As E.F. Shumacher wrote in Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered,

If human vices such as greed and envy are systematically cultivated, the inevitable result is nothing less then a collapse of intelligence. A man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, of seeing things in their roundness and wholeness, and his very successes become failures. If whole societies become infected by these vices, they may indeed achieve astonishing things but they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of human existence.

Is this not what we are seeing today? Rising temperatures and sea levels, an ongoing economic crisis, widespread corruption, farcical politicians, the sinister exploitation of our biology by biogenetic companies which claim ownership over our genes, the explosive growth of slums. But with the Arab Spring, millions were mobilized in a growing fight against corruption and dictatorship – and more and more have followed suit, such as the anti-austerity protestors in Europe and the waves of occupations in the USA. Inequality and corporate-oligarchy are beginning, finally, to be faced head-on. And there is widespread hunger, and readiness, for an alternative.

The prevailing neoclassical economic paradigm is crumbling – the institutionalization of greed and envy, as Shumacher warned, is collapsing inwardly – but a new, more biologically and behaviorally based paradigm is struggling to emerge. To be part of a campaign that's aimed at dethroning neoclassical economics whilst announcing healthier, and more sane ways to manage our planetary household, go here.

And to learn more about capitalism's four antagonisms, go here.