The Prospects of Radical Change Today

  • Slavoj Žižek
Keywords: Karl Marx, bicentenary, radical change, Lenin, democracy, revolutionary subject, capitalism, refugees, immigration, right-wing populism, human rights, Slavoj Žižek


In this contribution, Slavoj Žižek takes the occasion of Marx’s bicentenary for reflecting on the prospects of radical change today. First, it is shown that under Stalinism, Lenin’s works were quoted out of context in an arbitrary way in order to legitimise arbitrary political measures. Marxism thereby became an ideology that justified brutal subjective interventions. Second, this contribution poses the question of the revolutionary subject and democracy today. It stresses the role of both contingency and strategy in revolutions. In political assemblages taking place on public squares, the inert mass of ordinary people is transubstantiated into a politically engaged united force. The basic political problem today is how to best reconfigure democracy. Third, this contribution analyses the “interesting times” we live in. These are times that feature multiple crises, right-wing populism à la Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, the lower classes’ opposition to immigration, and the refugee crisis. Questions about human rights and their violation and about radical change need to be asked in this context.

Author Biography

Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a leading philosopher and cultural critic. He is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University, and International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities at the University of London. He is the author of more than forty books, including Reading Marx (2018, together with Frank Ruda and Agon Hamza), Incontinence of the Void: Economico-Philosophical Spandrels (2017), The Courage of Hopelessness: Chronicles of a Year of Acting Dangerously (2017), Against the Double Blackmail (2016), Disparities (2016), Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism (2014), Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (2012), The Year of Dreaming Dangerously (2012), Living in the End Times (2010), First as Tragedy, then as Farce (2009). In Defense of Lost Causes (2008).

Karl Marx @ 200: Debating Capitalism & Perspectives for the Future of Radical Theory