Zizek: Risk Society

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Zizek: Risk Society

“So, instead of celebrating the new freedoms and responsibilities brought about by the ‘second modernity’, it is much more crucial to focus on what remains the same in this global fluidity and reflexivity, on what serves as the very motor of this fluidity: the inexorable logic of capital. The spectral presence of Capital is the figure of the big Other which not only remains operative when all the traditional embodiments of the symbolic big Other disintegrate, but even directly causes the disintegration. Far from being confronted with the abyss of their freedom, ie. loaded with the burden on responsibility that cannot be alleviated by the helping hand of Tradition or Nature, today’s subject is perhaps more than ever caught in an exorable compulsion that effectively runs his life.”

Zizek introduces the threats and paradoxes of the so-called risk society we live in today. We learn that According to the risk society theory of Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and others, we no longer live our lives in compliance with Nature or Tradition; there is no symbolic order or code of accepted fictions (what Lacan calls the ‘Big Other’) to guide us in our social behaviour. As for me the most important message of this text is when Zizek points out the two-faced modern democracy. The superficial opposition between pleasure and duty is overcome in two different ways. Totalitarian power goes even further than traditional authoritarian power. What it says, in effect, is not, ‘Do your duty, I don’t care whether you like it or not,’ but: ‘You must do your duty, and you must enjoy doing it.’ In the totalitarian democracy you not only follow, but also love your leader. Duty becomes pleasure. Second, there is the obverse paradox of pleasure becoming duty in a ‘permissive’ society. Subjects experience the need to ‘have a good time’, to enjoy themselves, as a kind of duty, and, consequently, feel guilty for failing to be happy. The superego controls the zone in which

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