Chris Hedges Pandemic Video

Chris Hedges and Slavoj Zizek on the Pandemic’s Ramifications

On this week’s “On Contact,” in the first of a two-part interview, Chris Hedges discusses the social, political, cultural economic ramifications of the pandemic with the philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

Below is an excerpt from Slavoj Zizek’s new book Pandemic!: Covid 19 Shakes the World.

“Driven by demand to persevere and not to fail, as well as by the ambition of efficiency, we become committers and sacrificers at the same time and enter a swirl of demarcation, self-exploitation and collapse. When production is immaterial, everyone already owns the means of production him – or herself. The neoliberal system is no longer a class system in the proper sense. It does not consist of classes that display mutual antagonism. ‘This is what accounts for the system’s stability,’ Byung-Chul Han, argues in The Burnout Society, that subjects become self-exploiters. Today, everyone is an auto-exploiting laborer in his or her own enterprise. People are now master and slave in one. Even class struggle has transformed into an inner struggle against oneself.”

14 comments

  1. I love Zizek. He has such an original and fresh perspective on current affairs.

  2. It mainly the narcissists surviving in this (ONGOING) pandemic, who complain about the “new rules.”

  3. Here’s the flip side of the coin of the anti-maskers who Zizek sympathizes with at some level for objecting to a loss of humanity (and I agree with him on that):

    The liberals are now supporting Orwellian surveillance and informing acts that would make the Stasi State blush. For example, liberals were cheering recent cases of children informing on parents who participated in the Jan 6 Insurrection. They also are supporting authoritarian schemes like using social media to track and essentially DOXX participants in the insurrection. It seems like they can’t work hard enough for their FBI friends, who liberal now embrace (like NSA and Pentagon). This is a complete reversal of the former unwritten rules of social conduct, where it was not cool to rat out friends and family (or anyone else), an informer was loathed, and FBI surveillance denounced.

    My goodness, Joe Biden’s recent Domestic Terrorism Strategy is an openly announced COINTELPRO 2.0 and liberals and corporate media are applauding it!

    1. For the Left to join with Liberals to support the FBI, law enforcement, and the Intelligence agencies is foot-shooting to the extreme. This can only end badly for the Left.

  4. Zuzek says that those who are exploited in the traditional sense today are kind of lucky, I’d argue that those who own the means of production are, too. I don’t have a vehicle new enough to drive for Lyft, I don’t have the knowledge or equipment to earn a living online, etc. Yanis Varoufakis’ claim that we now live in a techno-feudal economy describes my reality better. What Zizek describes applies to some other class that I’m not a part of.

  5. When those at the top of the heap become so paranoid they are compelled to enact laws to surveil the entire population, we are on the cusp of WW3.
    And we all know which Empire will fire the first shot.

  6. I just can’t see the ruling class ever having an issue with Zizek. Large volumes of noise and delightfully witty complexity that’s popular. Like popular music.

    Slavoj’s got no real solution and that might be a cheap shot. He went for about 30 minutes here but appears physiologically capable of going for hours entertaining the audience and not upsetting anything in particular.

    Slavoj is clear on his disapproval of the “Trump mask rebels” – distancing himself from these hicks who apparently lacked the insight or intellectual capacity about the undebatable danger. This is denigration and obfuscation of what might actually be resistance to neoliberalism. Frightening really. I suspect this hatred-called-empathy is going to make it easier than ever to harm people. It really is something to behold – looking at people who can’t pay their bills, whose lives are destroyed and then asking aloud why they might hate us.

    It’s too easy to malign the suspects – note the spectacle of a mask burning orgy in the back ground. That’s the programming and we can’t change the channel.

    This is how the ruling class ran the pandemic, they started the “mask war” for the public not the other way round – but it’s not about masks or safety too much as it is about controlling what people think for security. It doesn’t matter too much whether people die from the virus or more likely a fentanyl overdose. Ruling class violence hides itself with descriptions like deaths of despair or poverty.

    Presumably Slavoj empathizes with the unhappy hicks the ruling class led into the Capitol. But that’s not how it happened according to the story that’s being told at the moment. Progressives have been calling out for prison or worse for months on end now. There’s gotta be somewhere better than here right now.

  7. This has been the strangest element of these last few years–and the past year many times over. Libs cheering for censorship, prison, quarantines, identification of political “extremists” as dangerous. I’d expect that from mainstream libs, but not the far left. The far left has really surprised me.

    1. You need to define “far left” before you make a claim like this. Going back over the last 150 years, the far left has often been locked in a battle to the death with right-wing, fascist forces and “playing nice” was not on the top of the list. Also, if you define far left as socialist/communist, as it traditionally was, then civil liberties were not always the foremost goal — often being associated with the bourgiousie.

      1. Yes, I’d say I’m talking about socialist/communists, anarchists, anti-authoritarians in general. I’ve never seen anti-authoritarians clamor so much for authoritarianism. Anyone concerned about fascism is, to me concerned about the nexus of corporate power and the state. While this has been evident in both parties since the US began, it’s typically been more associated with Republicans (another way of saying this is that the right has been less concerned about this, the left slightly more so). So it’s ironic to me that a Left (which is not, of course, and hasn’t been represented in the Dems for a long time) would fight so hard for big pharma and big tech to assume unchecked power, and sneer at anyone who questions this. They can be concerned about Monsanto, big oil, the weapons industry, etc. and they’re entirely naive (or I’m not sure what–I’m finding it mystifying) about pharma, despite its egregious record of promoting harm (and indeed losing lawsuits on those very grounds). I chalk it up to the fact that the left trusts govt to much (while the right trusts corporate power too much). History has shown that we need to keep a close eye on both to keep things from going haywire. The left doesn’t realize they can find wholehearted support for fascism inside themselves bc they’ve been so busy identifying it coming from the right. They’re not looking in the mirror right now. They’re still wringing their hands about Trump, while turning their lives fully over to the state and big pharma. They’ll discover that these forces are not always benign (guess they haven’t studied history–I’m not sure–mainly I feel perplexed about why they are behaving this way. Primal fear always creates blindness–I guess that’s one possible explanation).

      2. Thanks for responding thoughtfully. I think this is a broad stroke and borders on a strawman argument, though. Communists and socialists and centrist liberals all probably have too much faith in the benefits of even the most well-functioning government, while anarchists … how would they do so and still be anarchists?

        Personally, I don’t know any leftists who think big pharma is a trustworthy friend, yet can also accept the benefits of vaccines and masks and so on.

        If I get a vaccine and accept the closure of indoor spaces because of a pandemic, that means I have turned over my life to the state and big pharma?

        Whatever our political/historical framework, there is always a venn diagram where our interests and those of institutions we don’t trust or control align and where they don’t. Libertarians and anarchists (to the extent there are true differences) one one end and statist communists and fascists on the other end consider denying this reality to be an acceptable trade-off to having a “pure” solution that will presumably offere more overall benefits to either the individual or the whole populace.

        I think the issue does come back to terms and vagueness, especially in America. Not saying this is you, but there are a lot of libertarians who think they are “on the left” because they are for free speech, sexual/reproductive rights, etc., but really don’t give two shits about humans outside their immediate circle when it comes to health care, violence, poverty, etc.

        Just as with those who want easy access to machine guns but shrug their shoulders at the victims of gun violence: When people who are basically safe from Covid, because of economics, lifestyle or what have you, worry more about vaccine side effects than the actual current deaths of strangers, I am skeptical of their motives. And when people worry about the civil liberties of the Jan 6 hooligans but mockingly call BLM “identity politics,” I don’t think they are “on the left.”

        There are ways of thinking that emphasize AND rather than OR. You can believe in science and still be alert to the lessons of Tuskegee and Hanford and DDT. You can believe that large societies need governments and still be in constant revolt agains their excesses. You can have a blend of free market and socialist economic models.

        Civil liberties are at the top of my fantasy wishlist, but “freedom” is not the only value in the world worth defending. Empathy, community, sustainability, equality, sharing, protection of the weak, justice, inclusion…

      3. Absolutely. I’m with you on the “ands.” And I’m FOR all the ands. And I’ve been very critical of Libertarianism for just the reasons you state. And there can be some pharma products that could be valuable and worth the risks. But the risk to kids of covid are HALF that of the flu. For middle aged people it’s EQUAL to that of the flu. Facebook has taken down a group 200,000 strong of people seeking help on adverse events. They just took down the Canadian version of the same, 91,000 followers. Long time health advovcates and public servants are being summarily silenced, cheered on by what used to be called liberals/leftists. In my city, the city govt decided it could involuntarily “quarantine” people as they deemed necessary. In my state the gov has lost his unilateral powers, but in exchange they have been transferred to an unelected person, who at any moment could decide to take kids out of school and make us stay in our houses. “Essential workers,” whom the left has professed to be in solidarity with, were instantly thrown under the bus as professional-class “leaders” of the left took refuge in their homes behind their laptops and left Black and Brown people on the front lines to build their herd immunity for them. Black and Brown children were devastated by the lockdowns, as were workers whose jobs disappeared, for what? This WAS a pandemic for people over 70 years, but not for younger people. But not once did the left ask for a public health discussion, for weighing pros and cons, for considering “collateral damage.” They were instantly in lockstep with what govt/pharma said (never mind that even the American Academy of Pediatrics displays Pfizer as their top donor on their website). I can’t figure out if it’s fear, or a strange kind of naivety or innocence, or just that they were never really liberals/leftists, once you scratched the surface. It was all pretend. Or maybe a combination of the above. All I can say is I went to bed a radical leftist with a lot of likemindedness in certain circles, and I woke up, I’m told, a right-wing extremist. I do believe the middle/mainstream left is on the wrong side of history on this one. Time will certainly tell.

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