The Sublime Object of Ideology


An epic clash between the Marxist intellectual (Slavoj Žižek) and the forces of capitalist reaction (Jim Rogers).

Žižek finds Rogers’s statements “obscene and ridiculous,” but not, he tells us, because he “counts himself as a communist,” even though he does. For this luminary of the Pomo lecture circuit, the word “socialism” means a system that uplifts and empowers the poor and non-White, and which evil capitalists would thus fight tooth and nail to prevent from ever coming into being. Period. Talk of bailouts being “socialism for the rich” will quickly get the kibosh put to them.

On a deeper level, Žižek is a post-Marxist who’s grown spoiled and blind by his success. The American welfare state has enacted, in whole or in part, every one of the 10 planks of Marx’s 1848 Communist Manifesto, the most important being the progressive income tax and the central control of credit through the Federal Reserve System. In a Western world in which governments consumes between 40-60 percent of national incomes, the notion that we’re suffering from excessive laissez-faire is obscene and ridiculous.

Žižek, whose dialectical interpretations of cinema, opera, and pop culture I’ve come to enjoy, seems to think that “socialism” must entail massive state facilities, nationalized steel mills, and collectivized agriculture. Soviet-style Communism updated to the present age and sensitive to local color.

But the contemporary state has mostly done away with such anachronisms in favor of race-based contracting, affirmative-action hiring, and interventions in the credit markets so that various non-White groups will get the chance to experience home ownership and higher education. As Peter Brimelow wrote in 1993,

Classical socialism called for direct state ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Neosocialism just aims at political control. Socialism claimed to be more efficient. Neosocialism claims to be more equitable. Above all, neosocialism professes to combat ‘racism,’ since this magic word cows all opposition.

And it’s neo-socialism, not capitalism, that has reached its crisis point. Or at the very least, Western nation-states can no longer afford such a political regime and maintain current living standards and taxation levels.

Whether neo-socialism’s demise will summon a right-wing Lenin remains to be seen.

And here’s Žižek taking on another one of my favorite economists, Marc Faber.

Much as with the Rogers video, Žižek says something true -- that capitalism is based on collective trust -- before existing reality altogether. Actually, professor, there are consequences to monetization and excessive debt levels, and we can’t just all close our eyes and dream up a new “system” in which the government could print money indefinitely without it ever losing value and pay off old debts by taking on new ones.

In 1920, the Russian ruble went through hyperinflation and many Bolsheviks convinced themselves that they were witnessing the “withering away of money” and that the people were transitioning to a new communist consciousness.

Ideology is bliss.