Žižek’s critique of Direct Democracy


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  1. An Duine Gruamach says:

    Thanks for posting this – it certainly is nice to see an intellectual with an idea of pragmatism!

  2. George Gunn says:

    Zizek makes a good point and it’s one we should embrace in Scotland in our current struggle to become politically independent of the UK: that we must have a functioning state in our new nation which allows the people to live their lives and create the society, the necessary wealth and the “nation”. And yet, in light of the recent by election result in Donside, it is also necessary to have that spark of joy in the political message because right now the people of Scotland need something more than promises of safety and security: they need inspiration and a dream of what is possible. Pragmatism, yes; but also they need a passionate articulation of what a new Scotland will mean to all of its people, whoever they are and wherever they happen to come from,or we will lose this referendum.

  3. afedscotland says:

    For me it’s really interesting that celebrity leftists like Zizek, David Harvey and others feel they have to address and argue against direct democracy (and sometimes autonomous or libertarian socialism more broadly). It shows that these ideas are really in the ascendant, being discussed and put into action at least to some extent in assemblies around the world, most recently Turkey, but I’d imagine we’ll see the same in Brazil.

    Of course, I disagree with Zizek. He’s a philosopher who has called for a ‘Thatcher of the left’, fashionably denounces social democracy and in the same breath more-or-less urges us to return to it. His call to have Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras, returned to power repeatedly Stalin-style, with Tsipras chuckling opposite him is galling but also quite troubling. Why? Because what’s being ridiculed and shut down as worthy of any further comment is that ‘ordinary’ people, working class folk, can genuinely participate in and decide on the most important decisions of their lives, their work and wider society.

    I think this idea is worth fighting for, and it’s one that’s unavoidably revolutionary and anti-capitalist. It argues that we shouldn’t accept the control of capital or profit, that decisions about a community should made by that community, and control of work in the hands of workers themselves. Direct democracy means breaking down the division between the economic and political, and challenging state power which isn’t neutral but backs capital and alienating in itself. It goes back to the great aim of the labour movement: workers’ control of industry and society.

    But this is a million miles away from greater ‘accountability’ or proportionality in representative democracy and questions the meaning of self-determination.

    There are of course examples of movements in which direct democracy was central that have existed for ‘more than two months’ as Zizek put it. Even the example he mentions, the Zapatistas, has existed for many years now effectively outside of Mexican state power. In fact, since he’s been to South America and ‘knows what he’s talking about’, he should realise that there have been and are several mass movements like the Piqueteros of Argentina, the Landless Workers’ Movement of Brazil, the wave of self-management in factories have lasted for long periods of time and have had a deep influence on many people’s lives. I would also argue against what he said about Bolivia. But this is just South America.

    Can we develop a society where direct democracy is universalised with large-scale structures, I think so but no-one can say for certain. The point is the process and the movement to get there. Is it worth it? Absolutely. How far can we go? Let’s see.

    Btw, anarchists in Scotland have started a wee freesheet for promoting pretty much anything in the country that’s organised from below. http://scotlandaf.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/introducing-autonomy-a-new-freesheet-by-afed-scotland/

    1. Braco says:

      a great post, thanks.

  4. Just found this post so the comment is late but important for where we are heading and it is that Zizek cannot believe in a society that is not infantilised. Like his comment on nobody being able to believe in a socialist government, he himself has been subjected to the ideology of being infantilised for so long he is not fully aware of his total belief that it is the only possible way of existence. 55% of the population voted to remain in an infantilised state not to be part of the Union but to remain infantilised because we are not only conditioned from birth to become infantilised we are conditioned as parents to believe that infantilising our children is necessary for their safety. The state will be the same whether we are independent or not if we remain infantilised: mum and dad in government will continue to ignore our temper tantrums when things don’t go our way and they will continue to make the decisions because they are the adults and they know best on this subject Zizek is wrong there can be no change if we remain infantilised because we will always seek a state to control us annd set our boundaries.

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