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Have Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri rewritten The Communist Manifesto for the twenty-first century?

A Žižek essay I’ve restyled on my website because it’s unreadable on the original website.

The answer to the essay’s title, according to Slavoj Žižek, is no, but that’s unimportant because that’s not what he’s interested in.

If you’re left leaning you really should take the time to read this essay. Žižek raises the questions you’re thinking about. Stuff like:

  • What does the Occupy movement really mean and achieve?
  • How does Marx fit into the modern world?
  • How can you use the web?

Žižek’s main argument is that you can’t question capitalism without questioning liberal democracy: One is the political expression of a set of economic relationships. So far, so Marx, but Žižek develops this view by asking how capitalism has changed since Marx’s time (it’s become digitalised) and what form might dissent take.

This is where he criticises the Occupy movement and moves from Marx to (gasp!) Lenin. The problem with Occupy is that it simply plays the capitalist game and becomes subsumed into relatively controllable entities such as Greenpeace. Žižek notes that Marx is quite the star on Wall Street these days.

What’s missing is the concept of the party and the possibility of real change, which is where Žižek introduces Lenin (or the becoming Lenin – Žižek isn’t naive about the Soviet Union.) Where Lenin proposed using the banking system to create a socialist administration, Žižek wants to appropriate the world wide web.

Exactly how this will happen is sketchy, but that’s not within the scope of a short essay. Any leftie will find Žižek’s willingness to really question the status quo inspiring. And, considering recent history, it’s about time.