Slavoj Žižek Speaks to Occupy Wall Street

zizek e1318199219627 Slavoj Žižek Speaks to Occupy Wall Street

Slavoj Zizek. Photo by Neotint

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek turned up at Zuccotti Park to address the Occupy Wall Street demonstration on Sunday, offering up a seminar on Radicalism 101 for an appreciative crowd.

Despite some difficulty with the Human Microphone—the sometimes unwieldy but strangely appealing system the protesters have adopted of repeating a speaker’s words, phrase by phrase, for the benefit of the crowd—he held the floor for the better part of an hour.

Standing above the assembly in a red T-shirt, the heavily bearded dissident–turned–academic superstar at first spoke from prepared notes, hitting on many themes that will be familiar to fans. Several riffs were recycled almost word-for-word from earlier talks included in the 2005 documentary Žižek!, but to be fair, they killed at the time and are perhaps even more relevant today.

He told, for instance, an old Eastern Bloc joke (borrowed from the introduction to 2002’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real) about a dissident who’s about to be sent to a work camp in Siberia. Since he knows his letters will be censored, he tells his friends he’ll write to them using a simple code: Blue ink for the truth, red ink for lies. His first letter arrives, and it’s a glowing report of life in the camp—a lovely apartment, great food, beautiful women. Then he concludes, “The only thing we can’t get is red ink.”

Occupy Wall Street, he explained told the crowd, is pointing out the lies that underlie American capitalist society. “You’re the red ink,” he said.

Mr. Žižek also offered some practical advice. Noting the festive atmosphere in the park, he warned, “Don’t fall in love with yourselves. Carnivals come cheap.” The meaningful work will be what comes afterwards.

He steered the discussion away from the Cold War debate between communism and capitalism, noting that former communists, particularly in China, “are today the most efficient, brutal capitalists.”

The communist revolution “failed absolutely,” he said, suggesting that “the only way we are communist is that we care about the commons,” citing the environment as an example.

Mr. Žižek suggested that the left “abandon certain taboos,” including hard work, discipline and following orders, if they support the agreed-upon goals. And he advocated reclaiming certain notions that had been adopted by the right wing, including family values.

Somewhat controversially, he described organic food as a “pseudo-activity,” designed to make consumers feel they are having a positive impact on the world and thereby absolving them from looking at the more destructive systemic issues.

Noting that he supports George Soros, he compared the lefty billionaire financier to a chocolate laxative. Since chocolate is said to be constipating, he explained—a controversial point—Mr. Soros is similarly exhibiting an internal contradiction. “First they take billions from you, then they give back half,” he said. “And that makes them the world’s greatest humanitarians.” Take the money, sure, he advised, but don’t stop fighting to overturn a system that makes it necessary.

In answer to one question, he suggested that Organize Wall Street embrace the Tea Party rather than be seen as its opposite. “The tragedy is that many of the Tea Party people should be on our side,” he said. “That’s where we should work. They may be stupid, but don’t look at them as the enemy.”

The most interesting bit of advice may have been a little hard to parse for some, but given that this quickly spreading movement seems still to be in its infancy and unsure about how to proceed, it seemed especially worth pondering: “People often desire something but don’t really want it,” Mr. Žižek told the crowd. “Don’t be afraid to want what you desire.”



  1. Guest says:

    anyone know the rest of his nyc schedule?

  2. Meinthyme says:

    Fantastic all that I want to hear but haven’t heard in the past week in the park, or in the nocommentartshow

  3. Anonymous says:

    The real power rest with those who “VOTE”.

    The movement needs to go out and register everyone 18 and over and encourage them to VOTE.

    The 1% have the money but the 99% have more “VOTES”

    Before there was the “Oracle at Delphi” there was Count Vampire J. Machiavelli

    VJ Machiavelli
    Power to the People who “VOTE”

    1. Callelillsunde says:

      but there’s also the problem of the institutions. He talks about the system that forces people to be greedy. Giant expensive campaigns for example that makes the presidential candidates “cogs in the wheel” of the machinery.  Like the famous graffiti-quote “if voting could really change anything, it would be illegal”…that´s a problem.

      1. kockunge says:

        “Remember. The problem is not corruption or greed. The problem is the system. It forces you to be corrupt.”

      2. GTHOMPSON03 says:

        the system he is actually advocating is communist system by his anti capitalism…what is so hypocritical is that he has profited from capitalism..freedoms that we have makes it possible for this fool to speak…and the young people are allowing him to influence you into actually turning OWS into a different animal…one that is about communism,not correcting the wrong things of capitalism,and protecting the good,such as FREEDOM to create,and capitalize on that creation…he doesn’t tell you the oppression that communism promotes and that it makes slavery look like a day in the park…He is feeding you lies and you are eating them like candy….don’t allow this mal content,government slave monger hijack OWS…it is wrong,HE is wrong and he is laughing at you…capitalism doesn’t make you greedy,that is an character flaw,there are numerous people who are wealthy and  generous…communism is TAKES everything away from you..your freedoms,you own nothing ! government owns EVERYTHING,INCLUDING YOU…

      3. Please read his book, “living in the end times” – he doesn’t believe or preach a “traditional” communism. He talks about the blurring boundaries of both left and the right. He talks about how the promise of Freedom from “communism” is in fact an oppressive freedom. His communism is not a slavery of the people, it focus more on the “commune”. He doesn’t berate capitalism but embraces what it can bring. He talks about moving away from traditional boundaries of governance. Seriously, there is only so much you can say in an hour long speech, read his book and you will be better informed about his philosophy, what he believes and what he preaches, because what you have just said is not the message he is promoting.

        Communism is not meant to oppressive. think about David Cameron’s big society… that is communism, its about giving power to the community. Certain leaders have put their own spin on communism to use as an excuse for dictatorship and power. Its like religious extremism. No religion condones killing but certain peiople read into the phylosphy differently.

        In terms of the character flaw issue, I can understand where you are coming from but the basis of that arguement, from either side comes down to whether you believe in lockian theory or not.  This is the theory that we are all born as a blank slate, society (family, friends, TV… anything) fills that blank slate. taking this theory into account, all your character flaws are down to the society you grow up in, from the government you are in to the people that are around you. eg. certain women in the Middle East (using a harsh example) believe that it is their duty to serve men. Men believe that women are there to serve them. In our society this would be considered sexist or imoral, but there to them to the women this would be normal behaviour, its what they have grown up to be.

        It’s a complicated and very dense topic. And you seem to brush over it as though its black and white. before calling him a fool or critising his whole theory as anti capitalist, pro communist read his full thinking, not just a praceed version of a praceed speech.

        I apologise for my spelling and grammer. 

  4. Sheep says:

    Zizek is brilliant !

    1. Gthompson03 says:

      are you listening and understanding what this idiot advocates? communism is nothing but government slavery and you are foolish enough to think his is brilliant….this man is a nothing more than a slave trader and is looking at people like you to trade…

      1. Sandy says:

        what grbage – do you work for Fox Noose?

      2. Mj_sagittarian says:

        you are part of the shit community..

      3. Mj_sagittarian says:

        yes communism is slavery yet they are master in capitalism, without them the capitalist will fall……it is the slave who sustain the power of the master..
        ……………………………you already read Hegel’s dialectic  of Master and slave? 

  5. planejane says:

    I just hope this movement will not slow for a loooong time.  There is so much truth to get out, and so many of us 99% need to be awaken.

  6. It’s incredible when a system falters, every one loves scavenging it. Capitalism is as anarchic and selfish as Communism. All systems are good as long as they’re tempered by the other. Occupy Wall Street but do not let yourselves be treated like guinea pigs by the Left or the Right. Not ideologies but a belief in values and acceptance of the denigrate will make a better society, where each one of us will have pelf and a home. 

    1. mistah charley says:

      india became hell because of too many people

    2. guest says:

      No offense, but you make no sense.

  7. Wayfrr says:

    And here in India, we have entirely forgotten the building of the nation as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi. By aping the West we are sure to come to grief.

  8. says:

    I weep for the future.

    1. mistah charley says:

      things that can’t continue, don’t continue

      in the long run, everybody’s time runs out

    2. Gthompson03 says:

      YOU SHOULD IF YOU FOLLOW ZIZEK… he is leading you down the garden path and you don’t know you really hear what he is advocating? do you really understand that he is advocating communism? capitalism is not greedy,it does not promote greed in men,it is the flawed character of man that causes greed…look AT THE USSR… it was communist controlled..the people had no freedoms,they owned nothing….the FACT THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO PROTEST IS A FREEDOM THAT COMMUNISM DOES NOT ALLOW….THINK ABOUT IT…if the system were changed to the system that this communist fool wants,you would be gunned down for protesting, you would not be allowed to own a home,the government are rationed what you can eat..In Cuba, the government rations out cigarettes! It used to be 2 packs,now because of the economy is low there,the people are only allowed 1 pack..don’t you get it ?! HE IS SELLING SLAVERY ! YOU ARE PROTESTING THE SYSTEM THAT AFFORDS YOU FREEDOM AND HE IS SELLING YOU SLAVERY ! Think of TENNAMEN SQUARE IN CHINA,THINK OF CUBA AND THE REFUGEES,THINK,THINK ,FOR GODS SAKE THINK !

  9. sickofit says:

    what a fool …..and those who believe him otherwise are his equals.

    1. Sandy says:

      … those who believe him otherwise  …   duh?

  10. Bill Donovan says:

    Zizek is the most exciting thinker we have.  For instance his comparison of the Communist party as communism failed to the Republicans today is useful.  The Communist leaders made the claim that communism failed because the state was not “communist enough.”  He points out how that sound familiars to the Republicans claim that the market failed because we didn’t allow it to be “free enough.”  Republicans are making basically the same claim as the Communists, which amounts to “We refuse to question certain core ideas, and if the world burns, then its the world’s fault, not the ideas.”  Those Communists sound precisely like Mitch McConnell and Ron Paul. There has to a way for the system we use and the lives we live to mesh better. 

  11. Vanyell1967 says:

    accidentally seen him on charlie rose, think he had too much cocaine, keeps wiping his nose with his hand, kinda gross

  12. soothsayer says:

    spoke at st marks bookstore

  13. Ellenbergenfield says:

    Since the govt. officials are trying to deter the movement by telling the homeless to go to the movement site, so it makes it look like the protest movement are just a bunch of useless bums,  all protestors should tell the homeless whom are not really there to participate  to go to the nearest house of worship for shelter since they are religious men of GOD and the priests, reverends and rabbi’s will provide them with food and shelter.  Occupy Wall StreetThe bottom line:The economy sucks to the point where people need 2 jobs just to survive. Paid wage slavery.For an average job, you need to work 2 jobs, just to for basic necessities. and the rich do not care.The average person here doesn’t have a future.A young person doesn’t have to work 80 hours a week.The more the upper management knows you need your job, the harder they make your life at your job.Organized religion is making the people think that being subservient to an affluent selfish  tyrant is what Jesus wants.Yet, Jesus was impoverished, born homeless and died capital punishment under religious law.There is no trinity. The trinity was created for more money because GOD’s law and his punishment IS severe.Recognition to the devil is fabrication.He is a gin, not even an angel.The devil has NO power. It is GOD who punishes people.Only Christianity gives the devil undeserved recognition.Jesus died for the creator, NOT our sins.And his supplication to GOD was not to end the world yet.Those who wrote the new testament did not interact with GOD’s son.

  14. soothsayer says:

    zizek also spoke at St. mark’s bookshop

  15. Marian corrigan says:

    he is amazing