We are greenwashing ourselves – Slavoj Zizek on ‘cultural capitalism’
Slavoj Zizek has kind of been carrying the torch for intellectual Marxists in recent years. He is both a polemic and entertaining figure – a true academic ‘rock star’. He also lectures in clear, understandable language unlike many academic types, though some of his scholarly writings can be pretty bewildering.
In the following video Zizek discusses what he calls ‘cultural capitalism’. It is essentially about how we may do good things within the structures of a bad system, while in fact contributing to it. For example, we ‘offset’ ecological and human damage by buying fair trade and organic products so we can feel good about ourselves. He compares this to religion; like buying indulgences or performing penance, but also to convince ourselves that we are doing good and that we are fundamentally good people.
Cultural capitalism essentially means that we are greenwashing ourselves. We are not ecological. Our society is not good for the environment or ultimately good for humanity, but we try in some ways to make up for that. Zizek’s idea is that by pretending we are doing good we ultimately ignore and even fuel the evil, while mitigating our guilt enough that we are comfortable with it.
It’s a painful thought. Sure, we can rationalize it – all rational people can rationalize – but can we be so bold to outright deny it?
Check out the following Slavoj Zizek lecture, entitled ‘First Tragedy, Then Farce’, brilliantly animated by RSA Animation: