In this 10 minute discerning and animated talk, the audio in which is complemented by a visually stunning cartoon, a philosopher Slavoj Zizek discusses how ethics and charity have been co-opted by capitalism, and why this is problematic and amoral.
“In today’s capitalism, more and more the tendency is to bring the two dimensions together in one and the same gesture. So that when you buy something, your anti-consumerist duty to do something for others — for environment and so on — is already included into it. […] This is what I call cultural capitalism at its purest… in the very consumerist act, you buy your redemption from being only a consumerist. You do something for the environment, you do something to help starving children in Guatemala, you do something to restore the sense of community here and so on and so on…
[Quoting Oscar Wilde]: “The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible, and the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. The worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the core of the system being realized by those who suffer from it…. Charity degrades and demoralizes. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property.”
The full transcript of the talk: Zizek, Slavoj. 2009. “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce.” A lecture given at RSA, London.