Reading some Zizek's work, I’ve found so far the following opinions:

  1. from “Violence”: nowadays philanthropists are just ultra capitalists that can now afford to donate because they took obscene amounts of money from the public in the first place.

  2. from “First as tragedy, then as farce”: most billionaires made their fortune by leveraging on the concept of “rent”. Eg Mark Zuckerberg patented a social network when the world was ready for it. Similarly, Bill Gates took ownership of an OS and he is “renting it out” to the world.

My question is: Are you aware of any other inputs Zizek gives on Bill Gates? Also, do you think that my brief summary above corresponds to his thinking? I’m not 100% clear on his concept of rent. Does he mean that Facebook and Microsoft could have been open source like say, the internet or Python?


2 Answers 2


Žižek talked about Bill Gates several times, for instance:

Here are the excerpts that capture the essence of Žižek's position:

Bill Gates combines the most ruthless abstract capitalism - you grab billions of dollars - with this heart-bleeding, warm tolerance.

Let’s return to Bill Gates, he correctly locates the ultimate cause of our (ecological) problems in capitalism, and then, instead of proposing changes to the system itself, he appeals to the common sense of individual capitalists. Yet, wouldn’t it be much more appropriate to try to create a non-capitalist system, which recognizes achievers? Are these two desires really irreconcilable?

Žižek questions the function of humanitarianism of capitalists like Gates and states that its purpose is to "create a false sense of emergency" that focuses only on immediate action - i.e. solving practical problems that Žižek sees as consequences of global capitalism - while abandoning the need for careful critical thinking that would lead to new theories needed to provide a better, more fundamental solution to the global issues. For Žižek, the humanitarian rhetoric of the capitalist elites is a part of capitalism itself; it serves as a correction mechanism that is intended to prolong the status quo, and Žižek disapproves of that.

  • Why the downvotes? How does this not answer the question?
    – w128
    Jan 10, 2020 at 11:47
  • It does answer the question and I couldn't have put it better myself. Well done. Feb 29, 2020 at 11:53

Ever since capital first made its face known to mankind, the question about its ruthless mendacity, its opportunism, and its amoral profiteering took centre stage of a debate that was ongoing till perhaps the end of the 20C.

The debate split into two camps, reform and revolution. Western Europe took the road of reform, and Eastern Europe took the road of revolution (though quite a few said at the time, the time was not right for revolution, nevertheless anger did, what reason would not).

In todays world, all we have is reform. Thus we have Gates and Buffet talking up reform, because it seems that this is the only game in town. One might think, that if they were such great business-men - and I mean business in the larger sense of the word - and not the small and petty-minded kind that we so often see and hear, that they could come up with an economic system that is better for many more, rather than the kind of dog-eat-dog world, that US business so often seems to be (with of course, the dogs, so often ending up on top). That might be worth the squillions they actually earn, except of course, in such a system they wouldn't earn squillions.

Are you aware of any other inputs Zizek gives on Bill Gates?

Zizek considers Bill Gates (and no doubt Zuckerberg) as the avater and icon of the new frictionless capitalism (his term for the digital economy), of post-industrial society and the end of labour.

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