Slavoj Žižek has been interviewed by Al Jazeera to give his unique perspective on the tumultuous changes happening in the world financial and political systems. In an extensive conversation with Tom Ackerman, Žižek discussed the Arab Spring, London Riots and the Occupy movement, as well as the various financial and political crises across the world from Europe to India. Throughout the discussion, Žižek explored the themes of violence across the political spectrum and his irresistible desire to provoke friends and enemies alike.
Visit Al Jazeera to view the interview in situ.
Žižek also visited St Marks bookshop to discuss his views on the Occupy Wall Street protest.
The Party of Wall Street has ruled unchallenged in the United States for far too long. It has totally (as opposed to partially) dominated the policies of Presidents over at least four decades (if not longer), no matter whether individual Presidents have been its willing agents or not. It has legally corrupted Congress via the craven dependency of politicians in both parties upon its raw money power and access to the mainstream media that it controls. Thanks to the appointments made and approved by Presidents and Congress, the Party of Wall Street dominates much of the state apparatus as well as the judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, whose partisan judgments increasingly favor venal money interests, in spheres as diverse as electoral, labor, environmental and contract law.
The Party of Wall Street has one universal principle of rule: that there shall be no serious challenge to the absolute power of money to rule absolutely. And that power is to be exercised with one objective. Those possessed of money power shall not only be privileged to accumulate wealth endlessly at will, but they shall have the right to inherit the earth, taking either direct or indirect dominion not only of the land and all the resources and productive capacities that reside therein, but also assume absolute command, directly or indirectly, over the labor and creative potentialities of all those others it needs. The rest of humanity shall be deemed disposable.
On Saturday 15 October, no fewer than 900 cities all over the world have hosted demonstrations linked to the Occupy movement. The main targets of the protesters have been financial citadels such as Wall Street and the London Stock Exchange, where those who have caused the crisis but refuse to pay for it have their headquarters. The large majority of these demonstrations have taken the form of peaceful gatherings, culminating in acts of civil disobedience, namely the occupation of public spaces.
However, there was one demonstration—one of the largest, indeed, gathering some 200,000 people—that turned soon into a dramatic series of violent crashes between a minority of the protesters and the police, and amongst protesters themselves; the square where the final rally was planned became a real battlefield. This is was what happened on 15 October in Rome: a huge, colourful mass mobilization, and a youth riot, both at the same time.
Tariq Ali, author of Obama Syndrome, has written a piece for the Sunday Herald on the ninety-nine percent protesters at Occupy sites around the world, but most famously at Occupy Wall Street. In it he compares this fledgling activist movement with the mass protests of the past. A section of the article is reproduced here:
"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at," wrote Oscar Wilde, "for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias." The spirit of that 19th century socialist is alive among the idealistic young people who have come out in protest against the turbo-charged global capitalism that has dominated the world ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters who have taken up residence at the heart of New York's financial distract, are demonstrating against a system of despotic finance-capital: a greed-infected vampire that must suck the blood of the non-rich in order to survive. The protesters are showing their contempt for bankers, for financial speculators and for their media hirelings who continue to insist that there is no alternative. Since the Wall Street system dominates Europe, local versions of that model exist here too. (Interestingly it was the Wall Street occupiers rather than the indignados of Spain or the striking workers of Greece who had an impact in Britain, revealing once again that the real affinities of this country are Atlanticist rather than European.) The young people being pepper-sprayed by the NYPD may not have worked out what they want, but they sure as hell know what they're against and that's an important start.
Judith Butler, author of Frames of War and Precarious Life, visited Occupy Wall Street to lend her support to the protesters there. In a rallying speech, amplified through the human microphone, she gave her thoughts on the reception of the movement and its demands.
I came here to lend my support to you today, to offer my solidarity, for this unprecedented display of democracy and popular will. People have asked, 'So what are the demands? What are the demands all these people are making?' Either they say there are no demands and that leaves your critics confused - or they say that the demands for social equality and economic justice are impossible demands. And impossible demands, they say, are just not practical.
If hope is an impossible demand, then we demand the impossible. If the right to shelter, food and employment are impossible demands, then we demand the impossible. If it is impossible to demand that those who profit from the recession redistribute their wealth and cease their greed then yes, we demand the impossible.
But it is true that there are no demands that you can submit to arbitration here because we are not just demanding economic justice and social equality, we are assembling in public, we are coming together as bodies in alliance, in the street and in the square. We're standing here together making democracy, enacting the phrase 'We the people!'
A video of Butler delivering her speech at Occupy Wall Street is available below.