The Passing Spring

A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the government's austerity reforms and the public payment of bank's debts in Madrid on October 27, 2012. (Photo: AFP - Dominique Faget)

By: Rami Zurayk

Published Sunday, November 4, 2012

In his November 2012 Foreign Policy article, Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek, attempts to answer the question: Who was the victor of the economic crisis? The article, titled “Capitalism: How the Left Lost The Argument,” explained how the left squandered the opportunity to benefit from the crisis because it could not provide a realistic revolutionary alternative to capitalism.

Despite the overload of books and articles pronouncing the failure and death of capitalism, the capitalist system seems to have emerged from the crisis stronger than before. It has turned into a terrifying hybrid, which Žižek described as a type of populist capitalism, which was a more radical form of the old system.

According to Žižek, this transformation has resulted in the rise of populist racism, the outbreak of war in poor countries, and a widening of the gap between rich and poor. He points out the example of the Arab Spring, which after its first surge of enthusiasm is now mired in compromises and religious fundamentalism.

He also talks about the anti-globalization Occupy movement, which was influenced by the Tahrir Square protests and spread around the world within months, but then fizzled out.

In his pessimistic conclusion, Žižek wondered whether this crisis was staged in order to “demonstrate that the only solution to a failure of capitalism is more capitalism.”

Žižek’s analysis is extremely pertinent to the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Spring. Who can deny that populist capitalism has won the day when kings and princes have become the symbols and sponsors of revolutions?

How can we explain the absence of local anti-globalization movements? Such movements were gaining popularity during the early 2000s, with seminars and forums on the subject frequently held. Beirut twice hosted Arab and international anti-globalization conferences that brought together activists from all over the world. They came to express their support for the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine.

If the reason behind the demise of such movements is the absence of a revolutionary ideology that rejects what Žižek terms the “bourgeois state of law upon which modern capitalism depends,” is it not time to rectify this?

Rami Zurayk is Al-Akhbar's environment columnist and author of the blog Land and People.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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