"I'd tax cats. Heavily" - Slavoj Zizek


Renowned Slovenian philosopher and cultural theoriest, Slavoj Žižek, recently participated in a live webchat on the Guardian website. Guardian readers were asked to submit their questions for the typically rambunctious Žižek, and they ranged from his thoughts on Scottish independence, ISIS and the London riots to...cats.

Asked if we can learn anything from our feline friends, Žižek answered.

"Nothing ... Cats are lazy, evil, exploitative, dogs are faithful, they work hard, so if I were to be in government, I would tax having a cat, tax it really heavy."

Personally, i've always thought that lazy cats are more Communist than the hardworking and ever eager to please dog, who are more like the annoying office suck-up than a toiling Communist Stakhanovite.

More seriously, on the question of left strategy and direct, participatory democracy, Žižek believes that, to an extent this is a worthwhile tactic to pursue, but with a few caveats. Firstly, using Venezuela as an example, he states that alongside grassroots democracy you also need a "strong authoritarian leader" to set the terms in which such democracy can function. Yet, he also admits that his critique of non-hierarchical governance has a personal side to it.

"Can you imagine living in a society where you would have to be engaged all the time in some stupid local problems? Debating this and that, how to organise healthcare, schooling, parks, whatever. It would be hell. I want a certain degree of alienation. I want some nameless agency just to do these relatively efficiently, so that things function, and I can do what I really want to do. Read books, watch good movies, and so on. I don't think that active participation of the majority should be kept as an ideal, it is something that works only in states of emergency." 

On a happier note, when asked about the relation between Lacan and Schopenhauer, Žižek ends by expressing his love for the apocolyptic finale to Von Trier's Melancholia

"I don't see any continuity between Schopenhaeur and Lacan. I think Schopenhauer is at the origins of the rationalist philosophy of life which has nothing to do with the Freudian unconscious. The Freudian unconscious is rational, articulated, structured like language. Schopenhaeurian drive is life drive, while the Freudian drive is death drive. And in the opposition between life and death, I'm for death. That's why I love Von Trier's Melancholia - all life on Earth disappears, so I think it's a film with a happy ending."

To read the webchat in full, visit the Guardian website.

Žižek's latest books, Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialismand Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj are both available now from the Verso website.