Capitalism with a human face.

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Does charity degrade and demoralize?

He's a philosopher and and a psycho-analyst, but calls himself an "old-fashioned marxist" . He speaks very fast, with a heavy accent and uses a lo of difficult words. I had to watch his presentation three times to fully grasp it, but once I've unlocked his message, there's nothing I can do bu fully embrace his criticism: Please, please watch Slavoj Zizek's speech on charities (and appreciate RSA's animation):

Remember my post on LemonAID, the guys that got a lot of credit for being "social entrepreneurs" - Zizek obviously shares my doubts on these kinds of companies, he even cites Starbucks, just like I did. "Let's make the evil itself work for the capitalism with a human face". In the comments of that post, a few readers shared their enthusiasm about "Corporate Social Responsibility" (CSR) - Zizek would surely disagree.

Another example: In my hospital we co-operate with an organization that flies kids with congenital heart defects from Afghanistan to Germany to get them to surgery. I never had a good feeling about that project, but Zizek hits the spot when he says: "If you operate a child then they live a little bit better but in the same situation that produced them". 

Many CISVers are frustrated by what we do, because the results of our educational work is so hard to measure. Many turn away and look for organisations with a more hands-on approach. Following Zizek however, I do think that we are working much more on the core of the world's problems than developmental charities do. 

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If I understand what Zizek is advocating it is basically the principle that also sparked the change from "development aid" to "development cooperation" in gov't-to-gov't relations, no?

Turning charity into capacity building (see below), which GTZ - Germany's largest governmental development cooperation organization - has been working on since 1974. So, all German taxpayers are financing this "development cooperation" - No need to buy fairtrade products?

This is taken from GTZ's website ( and touches directly on Zizek and your examples of children's health:

"Imagine a country that is struggling with a poor health care system. [...] child mortality is high. What can we do? Provide more money for medicines, equipment and personnel? That alone will not solve the problem. The management and organisation of health facilities must be improved, and their funding placed on a sustainable footing. Training [...] must be professionalised. [...] And what about health education?"

As this reform of government relations happened several decades ago, couldn't this also been on the horizon for supermarket purchases?

Along that vein, what he quotes from Starbucks, "We invest in and improve coffee growing practices", may be a step in the right direction.

... and so on and so on.

I agree that the modern form of development cooperation probably has integrated some of Zizek'S criticism, and focuses more on education and infrastructure, which should have more sustainable effects.

However, I think Zizek's criticism is far more fundamental, and targets on the fact, that we cherish things such as charity, aid programmes and philanthropism, whereas they are purely the "nice face" of an awful system called capitalism.

Take Bill Gates: He's been donating more than 90% of his wealth to a Foundation that support research on Malaria, HIV etc. But why the hell does the system allow one man to earn so much money, that he get's to decide were to spend it? And didn't he buy his personal airplane and yacht first before he started wondering what to do with all his money?

Or Starbucks: A company that is aggressively spreading their brand around the globe, reducing the chances of local businesses to thrive should now be hailed for selling fair-traded coffee?

I don't consider my self as a revolutionary system-critic, but Zizek's talk brings up some interesting thoughts, and more than ever I'd say: Beware of products that are branded "ethical".

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