Slavoj Žižek: Trump's rise is a symptom of a dark and subtle force

Instead of focusing on President Donald Trump, the Slovenian philosopher says liberals should incrementally challenge the fundamentals of the economic system.

Slavoj Žižek on Hillary Clinton and Trump
  • Slavoj Žižek and British political writer Owen Jones recently spoke about American politics, the left and global capitalism.
  • Žižek sees the success of President Donald Trump as proof that the left needs a major overhaul.
  • Žižek said one positive aspect of Trump's presidency could be the rise of a new movement on the left.

The crucial battle in American politics today is what's happening within the Democratic Party, not what's happening against President Donald Trump, according to the philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek.

Žižek recently sat down with political commentator Owen Jones for an interview that covered the changing nature of global capitalism, the successes and failures of modern leftist movements, and the best ways to change existing political structures.

Žižek, a frequent critic of both capitalism and the shortcomings of the modern left, said liberals focus too much on social issues, such as LGBT rights and racism, and on new right-leaning factions. The cost? The majority of working-class voters may not hear what's in it for them.

"The crucial event today is not the rise of the New Right," he said. "The crucial thing is the disintegration of the central-left welfare consensus. This is why the crucial battle in the U.S. today, it's not against Trump, it's what happens within the Democratic Party."

Donald Trump is "not the real problem"

Hillary Clinton and what she stands for—the status quo, the preservation of global capitalism and even the Republican tradition—is the primary problem for the left, which Žižek said has ceased to question the fundamentals of the system.

"Capitalism is changing, but we simply don't notice this in front of our eyes," Žižek said. "It's crucial to bear in mind that Trump is, to use your terms, a reaction–a consequence–of the new processes in global capitalism, which brought about the disintegration of this welfare state, liberal capitalist consensus."

Žižek said people are dismissed as radicals if they identify as Social Democrats today, even though policy proposals from figures such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are relatively modest compared to mainstream European democracy in the mid-20th century.

"But I claim, maybe this is also our hope," he said. "Maybe we will not succeed but we will trigger a process. Officially, Occupy Wall Stress was a failure. But they laid the foundation, they fertilized the ground."

Žižek said a similar new movement could arise as a result of Trump's presidency.

"I see a possible positive function of Trump," he said. "He from, the wrong side, nonetheless unsettled this liberal consensus and opened up a space also in this sense, for a more radical left. My idea is that, in some deeper sense, [there's] no Bernie Sanders without Trump."

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CRISPR therapy cures first genetic disorder inside the body

It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.

Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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