RSA Animate – First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

In this short RSA Animate, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving. View the original lecture on RSA Vision. Download a transcript of this video (pdf)

  • Lightfootnicholas

    Nathan, with respect, I would like to pose a response. You seem to have misunderstood Zizek’s fundamental point. Rather than advocating a critical-theorist dictatorship, he is demanding that we take responsibility for the consequences our own actions (be them direct or indirect) and the dominant social order which they perpetuate. Do you not see that you make the same assertions as he does?
    Yes, of course we should continue to try an alleviate poverty/suffering/inequalities. However, we must recognise that ‘ethical consumerism’ is a myth – insomuch as it works to reproduce the conditions in which poverty manifests. His argument is not a form of abstract utopianism but one of concrete utopianism. (I would also urge you to reconsider how you conceive Utopia/utopianism – it is a heterodox mode of thought that is not restricted to the imposition of blueprints, as you seem to imply).
    Let me, if you will, propose another way of thinking about this. Consider the effects of modern Western consumption patterns for our descendants, our children. Should we continue, in blind ignorance or enlightenment, these patterns? They are creating new forms of poverty in the present, and will foster a truly dystopian future for our potential descendants. Will buying a slightly more ethical brand of T-Shirt ameliorate anthropogenic climate change? It will not. 
    Our Western lifestyle is a form of totalitarianism: it creates systematic poverty around the globe over which those affected have no control or voice. Surely, as Zizek argues, it is time to re-evaluate how we conduct our daily lives and organise ourselves as a society?
     You create a binary dichotomy between abstract and concrete poverty – this is either misinformed or misguided. Rather, poverty must be recognised as a transgressive feature of the world today – it is not inherent, natural or necessary. We can work to eliminate it, whether we make it impossible is irrelevant. A future utopia would indeed be one in which no man was consigned to the gas chamber of extreme poverty due to the actions of another. It is this that we should work towards whilst simultaneously recognising that it may not pan out the way we intend.

    I hope this might help elucidate the wider debate about the causes of and solutions for poverty.

  • stevelaudig

    Too many “and so ons” and his facile mind reading of others makes this a dead end. the more I read of this guy, the less I care to. “And so on” “and so on” Vonnegut would be proud.