One interesting argument I wanted to share from his essay Mao Zedong: the Marxist Lord of Misrule, though, is his suggestion that an ideology can only flourish in the face of opposition, and only triumph in its apparent defeat. As he puts it:
The true victory (the true “negation of negation”) occurs when the enemy talks your language. In this sense, a true victory is a victory in defeat: it occurs when one’s specific message is accepted as a universal ground, even by the enemy.
Žižek gives two examples of this (three, if you include his parenthetical remark that “the true victory of science [over religion] takes place when the church starts to defend itself in the language of science”). The first is New Labour’s role in confirming the permanance of the “Thatcher revolution” in the UK:
The Thatcher revolution was in itself chaotic, impulsive, marked by unpredictable contingencies, and it was only the “Third Way” Blairite government who was able to institutionalize it, to stabilize it into new institutional forms, or, to put it in Hegelese, to raise (what first appeared as) a contingency, a historical accident, into necessity. In this sense, Blair repeated Thatcherism, elevating it into a concept, in the same way that, for Hegel, Augustus repeated Caesar, transforming-sublating a (contingent) personal name into a concept, a title.
Thatcher was not a Thatcherite, she was just herself – it was only Blair (more than John Major) who truly formed Thatcherism as a notion. The dialectical irony of history is that only a (nominal) ideologico-political enemy can do this to you, can elevate you into a concept – the empirical instigator has to be knocked off (Julius Caesar had to be murdered, Thatcher had to be ignominously deposed).
A similar lesson can be drawn from the Communist Party’s introduction of capitalism to China over the past thirty years, so that the truly revolutionary force in China today is capitalism, with its “breath-taking dynamics of self-enhancing productivity” in which “all things solid melt into thin air”. In the Marxist view, this revolutionary dynamism is an ultimately futile attempt to escape the contradictions of capitalism, and Žižek continues:
Marx’s fundamental mistake was here to conclude, from these insights, that a new, higher social order (Communism) is possible, an order that would not only maintain, but even raise to a higher degree and effectively fully release the potential of the self-increasing spiral of productivity which, in capitalism, on account of its inherent obstacle/contradiction, is again and again thwarted by socially destructive economic crises.
In short, what Marx overlooked is that, to put it in the standard Derridean terms, this inherent obstacle/antagonism as the “condition of impossibility” of the full deployment of the productive forces is simultaneously its “condition of possibility”: if we abolish the obstacle, the inherent contradiction of capitalism, we do not get the fully unleashed drive to productivity finally delivered of its impediment, but we lose precisely this productivity that seemed to be generated and simultaneously thwarted by capitalism – if we take away the obstacle, the very potential thwarted by this obstacle dissipates…
In other words, the economic stagnation seen in Communist countries – and, by the 1970s, in countries following the social democratic/Keynesian policies that were swept away by Thatcherism – were the paradoxical result of the apparent removal of an obstacle having the effect of removing the potential which it had appeared to thwart.
But those who long for fully free and unleashed capitalism, released from the remaining constraints of regulation and social provision should be aware that the same principle may apply in both directions:
[I]t is as if this logic of “obstacle as a positive condition” which underlied the failure of the socialist attempts to overcome capitalism, is now returning with a vengeance in capitalism itself: capitalism can fully thrive not in the unencumbered reign of the market, but only when an obstacle (the minimal Welfare State interventions, up to the direct political rule of the Communist Party, as is the case in China) constraints its unimpeded reign.