from the world's big
Why There Are No Viable Political Alternatives to Unbridled Capitalism
"Behind every rise of fascism is a failed revolution," said the Frankfurt School thinker Walter Benjamin. Here, Slavoj Žižek revives that statement in the context of the failed left.
Slavoj Žižek: I still believe in the saying of this oath Frankford School fellow traveler Marxist Valter Benjamin who said that behind every rise of fascism there is a failed revolution. I think even if we strategically, I'm not sure about it, accept this term Islam fascism for Islamic fundamentalist, this so called Islam fundamentalism is strictly relative with the disintegration of secular Islamic left, which was pretty strong in the '50s, '60s and so on, but then began to disintegrate. So I think we shouldn't be too fascinated with this phenomenon. We should rather ask what happened with the left. I think this phenomenon of right wing populism are strictly the obverse of something that did not happen. They didn't just happen, they happened because something else didn't happen because the left didn't provide a proper answer. And that's for me the true tragedy today. On the one hand we are entering a period, and we are already in this period for almost ten years, where rage, discontent are exploding everywhere, even in our Western countries, Occupy Wall Street in Europe, the demonstrations in France, Greece and so on. On the other hand it is as if the left, even if it succeeds in, sometimes not always, in recapturing the energy of this rage cannot really offer a new political model that would be not only seductive enough to mobilize millions of people, but even in itself it doesn't have enough consistency. What I'm saying is this, in Europe we didn't yet fully accept the fact that the 20th century is over. By this I mean the following: The 20th century left, which had basically three strengths orientations, Stalinist communism, that's over. Not only it's over, in a beautiful irony where ex-communists are still in power they are mostly the most efficient agents of the most ruthless new liberal global capitalism. Do you know what I mean? If you want to be a successful capitalist today don't go to Western Europe, go to China where every Chinese will tell you the main function, almost, of the communist party is to prevent the formation of an independent working movement trade unions to keep workers under control, Vietnam the same story and so on.\r\n
So, old Stalinism is no longer operative. Unfortunately because of the change economic situation and so on, also we don't have new social democracy. Social democracy in the sense of the old welfare state it simply belongs to another era. It would have to be radically reinvented, it didn't happen. Which is why unfortunately some even right wing analysts who claim that social democracy where it still exists is today the greatest conservative force. In a way tragically they are right because almost all the struggles of social democracy today is to keep the old rights, you know, no they will not take from us, I don't know, health insurance or whatever like to stick to the rights which were gained 30/40 years ago. Now of course I absolutely sympathize with it, but so many things are happening. Can you even imagine how our lives at all levels were revolutionized through digitization, through new forms of science, new forms of liberal capitalism? I don't think that a simple return to old social democratic welfare state can work.\r\n
Then we have a third orientation subterranean one, which still is popular among some people. This idea of rejecting big state representation mechanism, political parties, state power and to opt for local democracy, transparent local communities managing their affairs. I also think that we have to drop this last dream. It doesn't work. It's good when it happens but if nothing else today's problems are global problems in a much more radical sense. Think about what is happening with capitalism. I know works that are popular at least in Europe Jeremiah Ripken, Paul Basin, this idea which I find wonderfully attractive, although I think they're simply fighting a little bit too much, namely what is happening today with digitalization, biogenetics and so on, is almost a new beautiful example of the most orthodox Marxism when they say with the development of productive forces a new situation emerges where old relationship production no longer can cope with, isn't this happening today? Everybody knows even, the how is that guy called from Tesla boss Elon Musk or what, he said recently private property will no longer work. We will have to introduce some kind of citizens general income plus government; we have to pay for it. So everybody knows that, at least the way we know it the model of capitalism is reaching its limits. On the one hand with so-called cooperative commons, free circulation and so on, it's over. The market economy is approaching its limit.\r\n
Of course, there are attempts, even very successful, to re-privatize we took over again these commons. For example, Internet, ideal place of commons, we all communicate and so on, but you know you have Facebook controlling private communication, if you want to buy books and so on all this it's controlled intellectual exchanges by Amazon.com, just name them, software controlled by Microsoft and so on. But nonetheless, it's clear that capitalism is approaching a limit. Okay, but I don't believe in this simplistic answer where they say oh this is this self-organization without central power and so on and so on. No, I think the big task today is precisely to reinvent large-scale very strong social political agents structures with strong authority. Just think, for example, about biogenetics. Tremendous things are happening today. We really are on the edge of creating a new man like reconstructing through biogenetic interventions our genetics and so on. Who will control this? Should these be privatized and so on? Intellectual property. Everybody knows it's a mess, it's ridiculous how big companies try to control it. Ecology, it's no longer this individualist approach which is very intelligently supported I hope you noted this by big companies and state apparatuses, the way to divest us or redirect us from really approaching the big problems by addressing us as individuals, responsible individuals like let's say, simply by situation, you criticize big companies for polluting environment and a typical ideologist today would tell you, but what did you do? Who are you to criticize it? Did you recycle all your Coke cans? Did you put all newspaper aside and so on and so on?\r\n
And this works wonderful. It redirects your attention to yourself and then it makes you feel guilty, at the same time it offers you an easy way out, redirect, buy organic food and so on and you can go on living the way you are. So back to the main points so I don't lose myself, it's clear that we are approaching different levels a critical moment. But the left, and this should be the natural terrain traditionally of the left. The left was thriving in such critical moments, now let's be frank, it doesn't have a solution. Let me give you a metaphor that I always like to use for this. I hope our viewers have seen a movie I think about ten years ago it was popular V for Vendetta. I will not go into the story. The point is that at the end there is a revolution in England, imagine England the crowd breaks through the police barrier penetrates the British Parliament; the people take over and the end of the film. My idea is that, sorry for this vulgar expression but it expresses precisely how I feel, I would like to see - I would sell my mother into slavery to see a movie called V for Vendetta Part II. Okay guys, people took over. What would they have done a day later? How would they re-organize the power? The same stage how would they restructure the power? This gap becomes like you could have touched it. It becomes so obvious with here is a government, big populous , they want referendum. No. A day later as you know, literally almost a day later they capitulated, they make a deal with the European Union. Now for me it's too easy to criticize them traders; they betrayed it. What could they have done? Give me – accept from these empty phrases of we need more true democracy; people's voice should be heard, what does this mean? This is nonsense. Here I disagree softly with my otherwise good friend I admire him, Yanie with his idea of DM democratize Europe.\r\n
I always am telling him let's take these two cases how they dealt with the European Union, I mean the Greek state and immigrants. But if the European Union were to be more transparent in the sense of democratically controlled, but in the simple sense of more acting in accordance to the will of the majority, refugees would have been treated in a much worse way. A big majority today in Europe of people, I wouldn't say how big majority, but clearly a majority are against any new immigrants and so on. In this sense I write this about in the book how this was a very simple but efficient right wing criticism of Angela Merkel, where is her sense of democracy? She invited one million immigrants to enter Germany. Who legitimized her in doing this? I am on her side but in a very precise sense. I think we should take this very painful lesson, the majority is not automatically right. Now, I'm not saying there should be a communist party which is always right, I'm just saying that a certain dose of healthy mistrust of not democracy as such but will of the majority is for me totally legitimate. People quite often are not right. And I think Angela Merkel did something that great politicians do, you enforce a measure knowing that the majority is against it hoping that if you have enough time to enforce this measure retroactively through its success it will become acceptable to the majority, but you have to take the risk.\r\n
So, back to my big problem, I think that the ultimate cause of all this populism and so on is the simple fact that we live in an era of great dissatisfaction rage and so on, but the left doesn't have a model, it's all empty praises. People should decide more through democracy, blah, blah, blah, but what does it mean? Like what to do? How to re-organize the state? Because the big problem is this one, of course, it's still the old Fukuyama problem I claim. You know Francis Fukuyama have forgotten today, and I don't agree with him, but he was onto something in that sense. Even today the majority of the politicians, even the leftists, are Fukuyamaists in what sense? They think that liberal democratic capitalism is the ultimate form and all we can do is to render it better, you know, more health service, more tolerance whatever you want, more welfare, but the basic model is accepted.\r\n
No one is asking the questions that people were asking 40/50 years ago like is capitalism the ultimate answer? Can we imagine social organization beyond state and so on and so on? So that's for me the big problem is this let's call it enlightened social democratic Fukuyamaism like what Tony Blair stood for in the United Kingdom. Is this enough or is something more radical needed? I think it is, not that I believe in any communist revolution or whatever, but simply I think that the problems we are facing cannot be resolved at this level. So, that's my sad prediction. Either a new form of the left will be reinvented or here is my simple but I love it answer, or look at Hollywood, I always trust Hollywood. Hollywood is warning us all the time Hunger Games, Elysium and so on, that's the society we are approaching. Twenty percent of people live in the privileged zone, the majority is out. That's the future.
"Behind every rise of fascism is a failed revolution," said the Frankfurt School thinker Walter Benjamin. Here, Slavoj Žižek revives that statement in the context of so-called Islamic fascism, or Islamic fundamentalism. What can explain the rise of groups like ISIS? The secular Islamic left, which grew in popularity through the 1950s and 60s, has weakened, if not failed, leaving no program effective enough to mobilize the millions of people needed for a popular movement.
Why has the left failed? According to Žižek, it failed to appreciate the end of the 20th century. Not only has Stalinist communism failed — today in China, the main function of the communist party is capitalist in nature, i.e. to prevent the rise of a workers' rights party — but social democracy has also failed. The welfare state of western Europe is no longer liberal, i.e. new and progressive, but a conservative force that tries to hold onto rights that were gained decades ago. According to Žižek, life is moving too fast — through digital, scientific, and economic changes — for old rights to apply.
Finally, local democracy is no longer an applicable model of society on which the left can build a political platform. Unlike Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former finance minister, who believes simple democratic reorganization of power represents a path forward for Europe, Žižek points to the immigrant crisis in Europe. Angela Merkel has defied the will of the German people to accept Syrian immigrants into her state. She has acted anti-democratically, and yet liberally.
What is ultimately needed is a new conception of the left — a new kind of progressive platform — that does not rely on old tropes. We must either rely on that, says Žižek, or prepare for the Hunger Games-inspired society which Hollywood has warned us is coming down the pike.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
These new status behaviours are what one expert calls 'inconspicuous consumption'.