Steve Jobs, Slavoj Žižek and “Good Capitalism”

Scrnshotsdesktop-1317981768png_med_rectTony Curzon Price in openEconomics:

Slavoj Žižek has been pointedly critical of the “Western Bhuddism” that Jobs' [Stanford] commencement speech so exemplifies. Zizek analyses it as part of the the legitimating fabric of ideology coming out of the West Coast. As he sees it,

… George Lucas explained the personal level through a type of pop-Buddhism: “[Skywalker-father] turns into Darth Vader because he gets attached to things. He can’t let go of his mother; he can’t let go of his girlfriend. He can’t let go of things. It makes you greedy. And when you’re greedy, you are on the path to the dark side, because you fear you’re going to lose things.”

This is pure Jobsianism. But for Žižek, what is really notable is:

the parallel political question: How did the Republic turn into the Empire, or, more precisely, how does a democracy become a dictatorship? Lucas explained that it isn’t that the Empire conquered the Republic, but that the Republic became the Empire. “One day, Princess Leia and her friends woke up and said, ‘This isn’t the Republic anymore, it’s the Empire. We are the bad guys.’ [… Star Wars'] key insight [is] that “we are the bad guys,” that the Empire emerges through the very way we, the “good guys,” fight the enemy out there.”

As so often with Žižek, there is an important element of truth here that we should not allow his bluntness to obscure. The nugget to keep is that the Jobsian message of authenticity, of quasi-Randian pursuit of the dream, of perfectionism is not just value neutral – it is a platitude that these virtues can be put to the most terrible uses; ironically and terribly, the virtues actually engender the worst vices.