My forthcoming debate with Slavoj Žižek

We are excited to announce the program for the Dec. 7 Holberg Debate! Slavoj Žižek will give the keynote “Why I Am Still A Communist” and then be interviewed by @tylercowen

We invite everyone to watch the livestream and tweet Qs for Žižek. Use #qholberg.

Bergen, Norway — I’ll be there!


I like Zizek. A lot of what he says is incomprehensible, but I think that he is a genuinely funny person who has some good ideas. This will be an interesting interview.

This is going to sound snarky, but I feel basically the same way about Cowen.

Zizek is funnier, but Tyler has better ideas.

Which one?

"We will have low productivity until the 2040s", "Average is over" or "We should grow faster"?

Which of those ideas are not better than communism?

Zizek is a Titoist, but with a Leninist grasp of the force required to stay in power.

He IS interesting if you like someone who takes 10% of Freud and garbles even that. Good on film, good on poseur postmodernists, though.

I suppose if your only alternative to nationalism is communism, and you grew up in Yugoslavia, he’s your guy!

"Which of those ideas are not better than communism?"

I wasn't trying to compare - just stating them. By the way, U.S. productivity has been increasing at 1.6% for the past 2 1/2 years and at 2.9% for the past six months. The Great Stagnation is over!

Stagnant enough...

A few five year plans should speed things up.
BTW, the infrasctructure morrass of the USA is outshined by the best subway system in the world, that of Moscow, a project overseen by Stalin.

Good times! I assume there will be videos and transcripts available but if not, let us know details so that we can set the necessary alarms to watch live.

Livestream and video,
Feel free to tweet Qs to Žižek, text or video, using #qholberg.

Everyone knows the old joke, what's the difference between a communist and Nazi? Tenure. So there is your first question. Why should a blowhard who defends a system that murdered people in the tens of millions, and tortured and destroyed the lives of even more be treated as anything but garbage? And the question for you, Tyler, is would you be even going near him if his speech were titled "Why I am still a Nazi"? And if not, then why are you going near an apologist for mass murder?

Godwin's law at 3rd comment. This is a record Sir!

OK, how about "I am still a Maoist"?

Sorry not sorry for more than a few pedantic lines.

Hitler and his followers never called themselves "Nazi", they named themselves as "National Socialists" which aligns very well with Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or German National Socialist Worker's Party.

Nazi in other languages apart from Deutsch was a very useful term because it is fully charged with negative connotations and avoided further ideological discussion. For the USA, it avoided the need to explain why was a war was fought against a worker's party while one ally, the USSR, was ruled by another worker's party. The Soviets also loved the term Nazi because it got rid of the Socialism in the name of Hitler's party. The second S in USSR stood for Socialism after all.

Well, the point is National Socialists would never say "I am still a Nazi" because Nazi is some kind of pejorative term, the way you call the enemy. I seriously doubt National Socialists were into self-deprecation humor.

I am still a Maoist is historically correct because people has referred to themselves as Maoists in an unironical way.

this isn't pedantry it's insanity

The National Socialists stopped being 'socialist' after the Night of the Long Knives when Ernst Rohm and his associates were murdered or arrested by Hitler with the connivance of Goring and Himmler.

They did this partially to gain the support of big business and conservatives. After Rohm's death the Nazi courts upheld business contracts, private land right, nationalized unions under gov't control and so on (unless you were Jewish of course). Goring made investments in the Frankfurt stock-market as did many other Nazi party members.

Not very socialist in the end.

You’re a malevolent idiot.

"The second S in USSR stood for Socialism after all." - No, no it did not. The third one did.

"Why should a blowhard who defends a system that murdered people in the tens of millions, and tortured and destroyed the lives of even more be treated as anything but garbage?"

The answer is that Marxism is dead everywhere – except American universities. If some of my college professors and class mates taught me anything its that "AmeriKKKa" did all those evil things as well, so we really have no way to morally judge socialism. Apparently Karl Marx was also basically right and the Soviet Union and China were just misunderstood. There really is a far left bubble in American academia and for many intellectuals calling oneself a communist/marxist is a bold and daring move. Indeed, you have to be a real knuckle dragger not to understand the genius of Marxism.

Please post video after the event to your website and/or YouTube. Thanks.

Beer and popcorn, this will be interesting =)

There will be livestream

Not sure if it's going to be didactic, but it will be fun for sure.

It won’t be didactic but it will be dialectic!

+1 I assume there will be some discussion of Hegel, looking forward

New low for Tyler.

Agreed. This is like debating the last believer in Bigfoot. Maybe there will be moments of comedy, but expecting something intellectual to emerge from this exercise is a complete waste of time.

I’ll read the transcript for the attacks on postmodernism.

Also: Two guys discussing stuff. One holds a fringe view. The other is a leftist.

This is a debate as opposed to a conversation?

He was born in 1949 to a middle-class household? What standard(s) made his family middle class in Yugoslavia in 1949?

How was that achieved?

I don’t think Yugoslav middle class in 1949 would have been the same as American middle class in 1949, but I can say after spending a couple of days in Yugoslavia in the 80s, there was a definite difference in the outward appearance of success in Belgrade.

Sounds fun.

What side is Tyler on?

Why I am still a lLBJ liberal? Why I still vote for Alzheimer's presidents? Why a still vote for wars declared by cattle ranchers in Wyoming? Why I still support California exemptions from basic liberties? Why I still continue to bankrupt Illinois? And the biggest one of all, Why I still think 'This time is different'.

I think we have to accept that on paper communism will always be romantic and appeal to some aspects of human nature like an irrational tendency towards certain aspects of egalitarianism. We just can't get ride of this people.

Ask him about collaborating for a Abercrombie and Fitch Catalog

Will the debate be held in English, or in continental philosopher gobbledygook?

You Anglo-American philistine!

Welcome to my hometown! Make sure to experience the city while you're there, it's a really special place.

Though Zizek adopts the political aims of Marxism (and is a competent interpreter of many finer point in its doctrines), he has always seemed to me to be evasive regarding his commitment to the normative, and ultimately also ontological, grounds for these aims -- grounds, to be sure, which are not specific to communism, but rather reflect Marx's Lockean and 19th-century-naturalistic education. To put it very roughly, for Marx, value is nothing but a reification of labor, and labor (the transformation of matter by technical means for consumption) is the activity characteristic of the human, i.e. the actualization of its species-being (homo faber). Only on this basis does the concept of exploitation have any edge: the extraction of value from my labor by someone else is my becoming dispossessed of my own labor, that is of my own essence; it is, truly, my enslavement, in that I am not the owner of what makes me human. The exploited worker's claim to political rule is just and legitimate (: it has normative force), on this view, because it is the demand to dispose over what is naturally theirs (their own labor) and of which they have been unjustly robbed. Now, it strikes me that Zizek has an all-too-nominalistic outlook on norms in general to really get behind this picture, but most of all I doubt he can buy the way it reduces value to its natural basis in labor. I believe Zizek's opinion of the concept of nature is something to the effect of 'There is no such thing as mother nature, and if there is, she's a f-ing b-tch.' Ok; but then 1) what is value? 2) in what sense is the capitalistic extraction of value from labor 'exploitation,' let alone unjust ? 3) what, if not this injustice, is the source for the normative or ethical demand at the hear of proletarian struggle? 4) or, instead, is there just no such demand, but only the aim to seize power because might=right? Let him show his cards!

I remember in one of those survey courses in school I read my customary few paragraphs of the assigned reading, one of the existentialists on seriousness, or the serious man, or something. Like many another who's quick but lacking in depth, I naturally had a certain levity myself, so for a few months afterward I adopted a sneering mental attitude toward the serious man - who was supposedly everywhere a menace - in much the same way I might have worn a beret.

Little did I know it would be a rare honor and privilege, to meet - in print at least - a serious man, in the coming decades.

I feel like Zizek can be summed up as, "The best economic system is one where we aren't handing over huge sums to one small class to make sure everyone else gets basic necessities. You know, like communism, where everyone is in control... but like every time that's happened, huge sums end up getting handed over to one small class but no one gets anything... Oh, heck, screw the world. Screw everything."

As is so often the case, I'm confused by TC's post. It would be a clear conflict of interest if TC were to both debate that stinkin` commie rat and then afterwards have a "conversation" with him. Although the post's title claims debate, the body claims conversation. I'm confused. FYI, from Wikipedia:"The Holberg Debate is held in December each year. The debate marks Ludvig Holberg's ideas of enlightenment, and seeks to discuss and find answers to key social issues. The Holberg Debate was held for the first time in 2016. Former participants in the Holberg Debate are Timothy Garton Ash, Jostein Gripsrud, Jonathan Heawood, John Pilger and Julian Assange." So, Communism is a "key social issue"? In whose Universe??? From reddit:" Žižek will deliver the keynote "Why I Am Still A Communist." He will then be interviewed by Tyler Cowen for 50 minutes, after which there will be about 50 minutes of Q&A. The event will be livestreamed, and you can tweet your questions at any time, as text or video, using #qholberg." It seems to me that Communism can't be seriously argued until our A.I.Overlords enter the fray or some profound (and fundamental) change in human nature occurs.

Zizek's reading of Hegel in 'The Fragile Absolute' remains interesting to me, I would like Zizek to either get back to that kind of close reading or at least to elevate his community organizing with a bit more straussian tact.

The Holberg Variations? :-)


Step outside of the economics role and make it an interview or discussion, drawing upon everything, cultural, economic or otherwise (even going further into psychology than Jordan Peterson, a pychologist by training). Go full pop culture, full philosophy, full psychology. If you go with a traditional narrative opposed to Marxism, it will be booooooorrrrrrring, and you both will be talking past one another. The "debate" with Jordan Peterson was dreadfully borring, Peterson utterly clueless as to where Zizek was coming from, Zizek tacitally dismissive of the same old conventional wisdom counternarrative. Eventually they got some momentum toward the end, having an engaging discussion, with far too little time left to allow for an in depth discussion across a wide range of topics.

Have fun.

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