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Brexit: Unhappy paradoxes live on [Slavoj Zizek / DiEM]

June 29, 2016

In a piece entitled “Disorder under the heaven“, Zizek offers a sort of explanation for the strange bedfellows made by anti-establishment movements such as the recently successful Brexit initiative, the odd mixture of desirable and undesirable motivations.

He cautions against the popular tendency to frame the issue as a false choice between:

  1. rejecting the xenophobia/intolerance advocated by Leave
  2. rejecting anti-democratic neoliberal status quo advocated by Remain

Interestingly, both options are negative (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but looks like it is here).

Anyways, if I am reading it right, Zizek has something like this (I may be projecting my own interpretation on it a bit):

  1.  accepting the terms of the “false choice”, and allowing the persistence of a back-and-forth political pattern
    1. anti-democratic, neoliberal political stasis featuring capitalist exploitation
    2. xenophobic/intolerant right-populist uphevals
  2. something better… to be supplied by the DiEM movement, presumably.
    1. democratic
    2. not neoliberal
    3. not driven by the xenophobic/intolerant right-populist formula
    4. informed by things the left should have learned about winning and losing in politics without selling your soul
      1. in practice, it’s either
        1. lose
        2. sell your soul

This seems a touch complex, but I think it is indeed essential to recognize and reject the simplistic view that you can’t ask for democracy and popular sovereignty without ending up with a xenophobic/intolerant version of it.

Some points of disagreement with Zizek, from me:

Economically, the Zizek criticizes the Brexiteers desire to regain control over movement of people/labor, while maintaining market access to the EU. I actually think this is exactly what will happen. After a month or two of threats, I expect the EU to come to their senses and negotiate a trade relationship with the UK that is straightforward has as its goal the preservation of the status quo as far as the major economic-industrial and financial relationships go. Germany and France needs this every bit as much as the UK does.

He also is working here to use the EU itself as the vehicle for this Democratic reform. I have serious doubts that this is possible, or even desirable. I would prefer to see it at the national level, without any large multi-national concentration of power at all.


[via Yanis Varoufakis]

From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. At this moment in history, some national governments are subject to democratic control and international organizations are not. Positive social change cannot take place unless democratic national governments get out from under the control of anti-democratic international organizations. When governments at the national level represent the interests of working people and the middle class, and are truly accountable to the voting public, they can then set about reforming or replacing the structure of the IMF, EU, NATO and so on.

    Trying to stay in the EU and reform it from within is impossible or virtually impossible, or so it seems to me.

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