Slavoj Zizek: On Accelerating the World Disorder

The problem is that, today, simple opposition gets complicated: our global-capitalist reality, impregnated as it is by sciences, is itself ‘prodding’, challenging our innermost presuppositions in a much more shocking way than the wildest philosophical speculations, so that the task of a philosopher is no longer to undermine the hierarchical symbolic edifice that grounds social stability but – to return to Badiou – to make the young perceive the dangers of the growing nihilist order that presents itself as the domain of new freedoms. We live in an extraordinary era in which there is no tradition on which we can base our identity, no frame of meaningful universe which might enable us to lead a life beyond hedonist reproduction. Today’s nihilism – the reign of cynical opportunism accompanied by permanent anxiety – legitimizes itself as the liberation from the old constraints: we are free to constantly re-invent our sexual identities, to change not only our job or our professional trajectory but even our innermost subjective features like our sexual orientation. However, the scope of these freedoms is strictly prescribed by the coordinates of the existing system, and also by the way consumerist freedom effectively functions: the possibility to choose and consume imperceptibly turns into a superego obligation to choose. The nihilist dimension of this space of freedoms can only function in a permanently accelerated way – the moment it slows down, we become aware of the meaninglessness of the entire movement. This New World Disorder, this gradually emerging world-less civilization, exemplarily affects the young, who oscillate between the intensity of fully burning out (sexual enjoyment, drugs, alcohol, even violence), and the endeavour to succeed (study, make a career, earn money … within the existing capitalist order). Permanent transgression thus becomes the norm…

The only radical alternative to this madness appears to be the even worse madness of religious fundamentalism, a violent retreat into some artificially resuscitated tradition. The supreme irony is that a brutal return to an orthodox tradition (an invented one, of course) appears as the ultimate ‘prodding’ – are the young suicide bombers not the most radical form of corrupted youth? The great task of thinking today is to discern the precise contours of this deadlock and find the way out of it.

—Like A Thief In Broad Daylight: Power in the Era of Post-Humanity – Slavoj Zizek