Slavoj Zizek: The Psychopathology of Everyday Capitalism

Macro of oxycodone opioid tablets

So where does this need to escape into opium come from? To paraphrase Freud, we have to take a look at the psychopathology of global-capitalist everyday life. Yet another form of today’s opium of the people is our escape into the pseudo-social digital universe of Facebook, Twitter, and so on. In a speech to Harvard graduates in May 2017, Mark Zuckerberg told his public: ‘Our job is to create a sense of purpose!’ – and this from a man who, with Facebook, has created the world’s most expanded instrument of purposeless waste of time!

As Laurent de Sutter demonstrated, chemistry in its scientific form is becoming part of us: large aspects of our lives are characterized by the management of our emotions by drugs, from everyday use of sleeping pills and antidepressants to hard narcotics. We are not just controlled by impenetrable social powers, our very emotions are ‘outsourced’ to chemical stimulation. The stakes of this chemical intervention are double and contradictory: we use drugs to keep external excitement (shocks, anxieties, and so on) under control, to desensitize us to them, and to generate artificial excitement if we are depressed and lack desire. Drugs are thus deployed against the two opposed threats to our daily lives, over-excitement and depression, and it is crucial to notice how these two uses of drugs relate to our private and public life: in the developed Western countries, our public lives increasingly lack collective excitement (for example, that provided by genuine political engagement), while drugs supplant this lack with private (or, rather, intimate) forms of excitement – they euthanize public life and artificially excite private life.

Perhaps it is here that one should locate one of the main dangers of capitalism: although it is global, it sustains a sensu stricto worldless ideological constellation, depriving the large majority of people of any meaningful cognitive mapping. This, then, is what makes millions of us seek refuge in our opiums: not just new poverty and lack of prospects, but unbearable superego pressure in its two aspects – the pressure to succeed professionally and the pressure to enjoy life fully in all its intensity. Perhaps this second aspect is even more unsettling: what remains of our life when our retreat into private pleasure itself becomes the stuff of brutal injunction?

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

2 thoughts on “Slavoj Zizek: The Psychopathology of Everyday Capitalism

  1. If Zuckerberg was being honest he would’ve said: “Our purpose is to gather data for the National Security Apparatus. We’re the ultimate spy.”


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