Spanish version

In a recent interview (Tavis Smiley, PBS, March 1st, 2017), the insightful ex-Yugoslavian thinker Slavoj Žižek rightly stressed that for all the fuss about it, attacking Trump is at the end of the day, a mere exercise of symptomatic healing: in the best case scenario (e.g. an impeachment or his defeat in 2020) overthrowing Trump would serve to neutralize the effect while all the same leaving both the cause untouched (i.e., the malaise of globalization amongst the local, rural white working class) and the bigger picture undiscussed (i.e., the fact that the liberal left is ultimately losing its credibility as a tool for social improvement by making more and more superficial concessions to politically correct causes, just not to address the economic questions that most pressingly matter to ordinary people: unemployment, its link to outsourcing practices, how much welfare state should be in place and how best to regulate immigration):


“My idea is that if Democratic Party remains what it is, this liberal establishment, let’s call it, even if we win over this Trump, there will be another Trump. (…) This is the predominant farce today. You know, all the big names from Silicon Valley and so on, they are all very progressive about LGBT and so on, but you don’t touch capitalism and so on. We have to do this. That’s the key to our survival (…) a little bit of a push toward the left in the sense of (…) workers’ rights. If we don’t do this, if we don’t mobilize also ordinary working people and so on, then it doesn’t matter if we get rid of this Trump. Another Trump will come”.


This in turn, takes us to Europe, a continent that is currently “full of Trumps”. Et pour cause: in the wake of Brexit and Trump’s victory, the liberal left has, for the most part, taken the easy way out: doubling down on its original bid, rather than taking advantage of the above events to reconsider the basic premises of its overall discourse. And of course, when you don’t t do politics, others will do it in your stead, and you shall be responsible for the consequences of your inaction. This is how, by refusing to play its economic role as a global political actor, the liberal left is effectively paving the way for the disproportionate electoral success of right-wing parties: “Look at Europe, this politically correct approach of liberal left. Just let’s talk it up. Start to vote immigrants, but let’s change it into a humanitarian issue. (…) How to help them instead of addressing the true causes of all this (…) Then you get what? The catastrophe that is now Europe”.


Predictably enough, the end result has been a surge across the board of the only politicians who have  brought to the fore a discourse that connects with the everyday concerns of ordinary people: from Farage in the UK (UKIP) to Le Pen in France (Front National), passing through Wilders in Holland (Partij voor de Vrijheid). Sure, their respective scapegoat instrumentalization of the societal mistrust vis-à-vis the racial-cum-religious Other (encapsulated in Wilders’ claim that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but most of the terrorist are Muslims”) is misleadingly simplistic, but that’s what you get when you refuse to show up and to propose meaningful economic policies that resonate with the people you are supposed to be serving. To make things worse, most of the liberal left electorate remains equally clueless, mired as it is in taking the streets to denormalize Trump while virtue-signaling the-more-the-merrier versions of the kind of multiculturalism, identity politics and human rights advocacy that stopped being fashionable somewhen around the late 70’s.


In sum, the recent political events have made clear that unbridled globalization and xenophobic protectionism are just two sides of the same coin: fair trade and political freedom. As such, they are less to be pursued or advocated for as ends in themselves than to be envisaged as dialectical moments necessitating from an overcoming towards those very goals (i.e., fair trade and political freedom). Such new stage of capitalism, though, will only come about should both sides of the conversation be willing to seek common ground and ultimately, should they be able to find it. Otherwise and for the time being, as Zizek crudely concludes, “I just expect more of this”.



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