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Lunch break

This is an animated lecture from Slavoj Zizek on the role that charity plays in our economy. Actually, that's a bit of a banal description: It's a radical argument against charity, or at least the role it plays covering up inequities in our economy.

But this is a lunch break with an agenda. Zizek is a provocative thinker, but discursive, and often tough to understand. Not here, though, and his clarity doesn't arise through any special effort of his own. Over lunch, I was talking with Dylan Matthews about educational innovation. Watch a couple of minutes of this video and tell me that using videos like this one in schools wouldn't lead to vastly increased lecture comprehension:

By Ezra Klein  |  August 2, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
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Zizek is a confused old commie, unable to give up the failed utopian dream.

It is not possible to "restructure society in a way that makes poverty impossible."

It's nonsense of the first order. Poverty is not a characteristic of "society", but an attribute adhering to individuals. To eradicate poverty, one would have to remake human nature. A number of Zizek's old commie chums have tried that, and people don't like being murdered, so the efforts failed.

Zizek is a moron.

If Klein finds value in that video, then he's a moron, too, though there is other evidence in abundance in such regards.

Posted by: msoja | August 2, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

The presentation is entertaining, but I'm not sure that it did anything to increase comprehension. What the hell is he trying to say?

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 2, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

People learn in different ways. For visual learners, I am sure that this video (or something like it) would increase comprehension as opposed to just a teacher yelling at them for 45 minutes. Personally, writing helps me learn, even if I never look at the notes again after I write them down. A solid education reform would be for educators to seriously think about learning styles and incorporate diversity into their teaching plans. Many already do, but I imagine that if you are tilted towards a particular style it is difficult to teach another one.

Posted by: adamwaxman | August 2, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

When I was a child our third grade teacher told us the story of the Iliad and the Odyssey and drew stick figure pictures on the blackboard of the events, which we copied. We loved this and never forgot it. She also told us the story of the Persian wars that way. Phidippedes the Runner, King Xerxes, Themistocles, Demosthenes and Alexander. For many years I had my drawing, which I copied, of a Lacedemonian slave picking olives. This was not stick figures but was based on an antique original.

It certainly stuck in my mind, as that was many decades ago.

Posted by: harold3 | August 2, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

um... SchoolHouse Rock?

Posted by: will12 | August 2, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

What does he mean? Try these two examples:

1) Food banks. One of the most inefficient ways imaginable to slightly improve the lives of poor people. Increasingly these are employed people struggling with inadequate wages. Food provided by food banks for working people is effectively a subsidy to the businesses that hire them.

2) Stress management seminars offered by businesses for their employees. Wouldn't it make more sense to just put the people under less stress? And what happens when their employees dutifully use all these techniques to cope with stress which increases steadily over time? Something's got to give, often with percussive results.


Posted by: NoniMausa | August 2, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

--"Wouldn't it make more sense to just put the people under less stress?"--

LOL. That's exactly Zizek's prescription, isn't it?

If one abhors poverty (and how can one not, eh?) then "we" must re-invent "society" so as to "make poverty impossible". Alors! Gadzooks! Yes! And, of course! (Never mind the fact that no one "invented" society in the first place. cough cough)

Likewise, if one abhors stressful jobs (and bloody how can one not?) then business owners must be exhorted to stop pinning the consequences of their employee's actions upon their employees.

It all makes perfect sense. And so easy to make happen, too.

Posted by: msoja | August 3, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

msoja - if one of the most interesting modern thinkers seems easy, confused, moronic, or nonsensical, you're likely projecting.
even when i read people i disagree with, i try to find the intelligence in his/her points. one should not base his/her opinion on ethos, but on logos. it's the difference between the simplest people and those who can actually participate in the conversation humanity has been having for thousands of years about how to improve our situation.
zizek's insights are almost always thought-provoking and often brilliant. your tirade, while thought-provoking to me, proves the latter is beyond your grasp.

Posted by: aynspimp | August 3, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

--"[O]ne should not base his/her opinion on ethos, but on logos."--

What logic did Zizek utilize in his little cartoon harangue? Can you lay it out for me? Because I didn't see it.

Posted by: msoja | August 4, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

--"if one of the most interesting modern thinkers seems easy, confused, moronic, or nonsensical, you're likely projecting."--

I'm guessing you mean "interesting" in the old Chinese curse sense.

Posted by: msoja | August 5, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

I went looking to see if I could find a transcript of Zizek's "talk", but have had no luck, so far. His speech without the cartooning is here:,-then-as-farce

The guy looks like a slob, and has some serious tics, though those are only distractions.

I still find nothing intelligent or otherwise admirable in his comments.

Posted by: msoja | August 5, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Zizek is a bigger nutball that I guessed, and Klein's admiration of Zizek is another disgrace that should hound him into ignominy.

One of the ambiguities of Žižek's recent work lies in his attitude toward the kind of Islamic fundamentalists who perpetrated the attacks. On the one hand, they are clearly reactionary in their religious dogmatism; on the other hand, they have been far more effective than the Zapatistas or the Porto Alegre movement in discomfiting American capitalism. As Žižek observes, "while they pursue what appear to us to be evil goals with evil means, the very form of their activity meets the highest standard of the good." Yes, the good: Mohammed Atta and his comrades exemplified "good as the spirit of and actual readiness for sacrifice in the name of some higher cause." Žižek's dialectic allows him to have it all: the jihadis are not really motivated by religion, as they say they are; they are actually casualties of global capitalism, and thus "objectively" on the left. "The only way to conceive of what happened on September 11," he writes, "is to locate it in the context of the antagonisms of global capitalism."
//end cite

That's a long article, but ought to be read by anyone interested in the commie Zizek. There is at least one rebuttal out there, too, but not particularly up to the challenge posed by Kirsch.

Posted by: msoja | August 5, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

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