Sunday, June 25, 2006



I saw Zizek give a talk in Dublin some months ago. I just don't know my Hegel, Freud, Lacan etc. well enough (alright, at all) to keep up on that score, but I always enjoy the jokes and pop-references, as well as his energetic delivery. I have no idea how seriously he ought to be taken; I do know that he does come up with exciting and entertaining ideas. This is too rare.

One of the most memorable things he said related to a critique of Rawls's theory of justice. (I think he may have attributed the critique to Hayek, but let's not worry about that). In Rawls's just society the only permissable inequalities are those inequalities that are not inherited (i.e. which are "merited" or "deserved" - not, thus, those deriving from our natural talents, which are not "deserved" in any meaningful sense) and which are to the benefit of the worst off in society (i.e. whose removal would actually damage the interests of the worst-off).

Whatever objections there might be to these principles, it would surely seem to egalitarians of any stripe that such a society, if it could be achieved, would qualify as some kind of "real" or "minimum" utopia.

But no!

Says Zizek: Rawls's just society is in fact a catastrophe waiting to happen, as any amateur psychoanalyst could have told him. Because, consider the point of view of the putative "worst off" in this society, who knows that his lower status (in whatever respect) is not only "merited" but is actually required by his own best interests! In capitalism, on the contrary, if I earn $10,000 and you earn $100,000 I can always turn around and say "hey, fuck you - everybody knows capitalism is unfair!"

Which is true in a funny kind of way. (I note that Zizek doesn't really work without exclamation marks).

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?