The philosopher Slavoj Zizek hopes fervently for a “Thatcher of the left”, and pays homage to strong leaders, in the New Statesman this week. I think the opposite: we need a movement to turn the world upside down without such leaders and their potential for authoritarianism and hierarchy.
Zizek, regarded as a leading “left” intellectual, explains his point with reference to Winston Churchill’s approach to military decisions: to boil down the experts’ analysis into “a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’”. Such a “gesture, which can never be fully grounded in reasons, is that of a Master”, Zizek writes. “The Master is needed especially in situations of deep crisis.” Thatcher “was such a Master, sticking to her decision which was at first perceived as crazy, gradually elevating her singular madness into an accepted norm.”
In passing, I’d argue that this is an idealised, one-sided portrayal of Thatcher. Yes, she was more ideological and dogmatic than other Tory leaders, but she didn’t fight all her battles at once – even if she talked about them. Yes, she laid waste to British industry and sought revenge on enemies “without” (Argentina) and “within” (the miners) – but for all her ranting about curbing the state, budget expenditure grew year after year and she postponed most privatisations.
Working class communities last week celebrated not only her passing, but also that they have outlasted her, whatever their scars.
But Zizek’s main point is not about Thatcher. It is that we need someone on the “left” who can “repeat Thatcher’s gesture in the opposite direction”. He Read the rest of this entry »