RSA Animate - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

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  • Social enterprise
  • Behaviour change


In this short RSA Animate, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving. View the original lecture on RSA Vision. Download a transcript of this video(pdf)

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  • Too many "and so ons" and his facile mind reading of others makes this a dead end. the more I read of this guy, the less I care to. "And so on" "and so on" Vonnegut would be proud.

  • I think this sort of critique of the curent funtion of charity in society is entirely necessary, and this talk highlights these hypocricies well.

    After all, is there not a glaring inconsistency in the way that when we donate to charity 'every little helps', but when we buy unethically sourced goods 'what little difference do my desicions make?'.

    I've written more on this subject here:

  • Nathan, with respect, I would like to pose a response. You seem to have misunderstood Zizek's fundamental point. Rather than advocating a critical-theorist dictatorship, he is demanding that we take responsibility for the consequences our own actions (be them direct or indirect) and the dominant social order which they perpetuate. Do you not see that you make the same assertions as he does?
    Yes, of course we should continue to try an alleviate poverty/suffering/inequalities. However, we must recognise that 'ethical consumerism' is a myth - insomuch as it works to reproduce the conditions in which poverty manifests. His argument is not a form of abstract utopianism but one of concrete utopianism. (I would also urge you to reconsider how you conceive Utopia/utopianism - it is a heterodox mode of thought that is not restricted to the imposition of blueprints, as you seem to imply).
    Let me, if you will, propose another way of thinking about this. Consider the effects of modern Western consumption patterns for our descendants, our children. Should we continue, in blind ignorance or enlightenment, these patterns? They are creating new forms of poverty in the present, and will foster a truly dystopian future for our potential descendants. Will buying a slightly more ethical brand of T-Shirt ameliorate anthropogenic climate change? It will not. 
    Our Western lifestyle is a form of totalitarianism: it creates systematic poverty around the globe over which those affected have no control or voice. Surely, as Zizek argues, it is time to re-evaluate how we conduct our daily lives and organise ourselves as a society?
     You create a binary dichotomy between abstract and concrete poverty - this is either misinformed or misguided. Rather, poverty must be recognised as a transgressive feature of the world today - it is not inherent, natural or necessary. We can work to eliminate it, whether we make it impossible is irrelevant. A future utopia would indeed be one in which no man was consigned to the gas chamber of extreme poverty due to the actions of another. It is this that we should work towards whilst simultaneously recognising that it may not pan out the way we intend.

    I hope this might help elucidate the wider debate about the causes of and solutions for poverty.

  • All this video makes me think is that people should choose charities carefully, if they feel this way. Aim for ones that promote more general social change and stuff. But then, it's not so much about charity as it is about Fair Trade being a panacea for western guilt. Which is kind of obvious. But personally, it isn't a huge deciding factor in what I buy. Not to say that I don't care about ethics, but more that it doesn't influence my purchases as much as perhaps the people marketing the stuff would like it to. I think that doing decent research into charities to donate to is more important than which coffee I buy, as in the end, it could help more at the source of the problems.

  • Wow. What a convoluted mess! Lol.

    People buy organic because they don't like pesticides or other chemicals on their fruits. They like them natural, that is their choice.

    As for Starbucks..."semantic over investment of burden" blah blah blah. Big useless words from tenured professors with too much time on their hands. He says that you perform a series of ethical duties when buying Starbucks and it makes you feel warm. Who cares about feelings.
    The purchases you make (in many companies) goes to dozens of great things INCLUDING payroll. The system works, and he has the audacity to say it is immoral to cure the "horrible evils" that result from private property by donating food/clothes/money to people down on there luck. There are plenty of people who have once needed charity, learned to make a decent living, eventually supported themselves, and returned the favor once they learned how to work a decent job or run their own business.

    Slavoj Zizek is a world class loser and most people regard him as such. His ideas are outdated. My ten year old daughter could win a debate with him, and she is down syndrome!