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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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The following constitute a preliminary note-taking/synoptical exercise undertaken for my own benefit, but shared in case anybody finds them useful. I should probably highlight that I have not read all of Žižek's work and would in no way consider myself an expert. Slavoj Žižek's appearance last night at LSE was, as usual, a spectacular mix of fiery political polemic fused with the humour and outrageous showmanship for which he is famed. It is rare for a political philosopher to fill a lecture hall. Žižek filled three via video relay. Beginning with an analysis of natural capitalism which posited that ubiquitous commodification would be unlikely to have the impact described by Hawken -- leading instead to a profit motive that would exploit nature in the same ways in which traditional capitalism exploited labour -- Žižek moved to a discussion of capitalism's responses to ecological disasters. Most topical, of course, was the Deepwater Horizon spill. On this front, Žižek expressed disappointment with the strictly "legal" response forwarded by Obama. Instead of mobilizing every resource at its disposal, the massive state apparatus was content to apportion blame and let damage continue for which there can be no retrospective monetary compensation. In other spheres, I was less comfortable with the rhetoric. Citing the built-in guilt-price in products such as Fair Trade, Žižek posited that most of our practices for preventing ecological disasters are superstitions, rather than actual prophylaxis. The example cited was recycling, which was, bafflingly, supposed to be a ritual against Icelandic ash clouds. As far as I was aware, recycling was supposed to prevent the accumulation of millions of tonnes of plastic and can, on a mass scale, be highly successful. In the end, with all its eschatological implications, though, Žižek moved the focus towards, hazily, the rise of a capitalism without democracy. Seemingly more a series of disconnected points, each was, for  the most part, well-made. It seems, though, for the more thorough analysis, I'll have to read the book (of which Žižek said: "Chapter 3 is the only really good part"!) "Living in the End Times" was sponsored by Global Policy Journal: