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The contradictions of capitalist charity – Zizek

August 25, 2010

A colleague just sent me one of the most brilliant things on Youtube.

Its an animation of a piece by Zizek about charity.  Its very very worthwhile!

Me thinking:

If Zizek is right and capitalist charity is fundamentally flawed whats the best way forward?

Should we aim for a return to what he terms pre 1968 charity that was altruistic and not directly tied to consumerist culture?  No more Project RED where ten cents of the cost of the T-shirt you just bought goes to an AIDS program in the country hosting the sweatshop the shirt was sewed in.  Instead just give your ten cents directly to an aid organization and bypass the consumerism.

Or should we aim for a consumerist charity that goes beyond surface level solutions and pushes capitalist charity to its most logical conclusion.  Should we aim for a charity that while base on capitalist consumption actually starts to dismantle the institutions that underly its very capitalist basis.  Should the charitable  funds from Starbucks be used to empower farmers’ collectives into creating a market alternative to Starbucks’ global coffee monopoly?  How you ask? By consumers compelling Starbucks to give their charitable funds to an entirely independent charitable organization and remove itself from any control over how the funds are spent.  It can be done.  If Nestle can be compelled to advertise the virtues of breast milk while selling baby formula, activist pressure makes anything possible.

Or are there other alternatives?

More from Zizek is here too:

“We’re bombarded with daily media reports about violence done by individuals, groups, or nations. Slavoj Žižek, cultural critic and provocateur, would have us look behind the visible, overt violence to what lurks beneath. In his recent book simply titledViolenceŽižek discusses violence in the context of ideology, capitalism, language, and mainstream discussions of tolerance”.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Annick permalink
    August 26, 2010 9:50 PM

    Look no further than the current issue of the New Yorker for a perfect example of Zizek’s thesis:

  2. Jenny permalink
    September 1, 2010 9:20 AM

    Bill Gates was kind of doing the second option when investing in the very companies that caused Africa strife;


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