Slavoj Žižek explores what the idea of political economy means in terms of understanding the current crises:
One thing is clear: after decades of the welfare state, when cutbacks were relatively limited and came with the promise that things would soon return to normal, we are now entering a period in which a kind of economic state of emergency is becoming permanent, turning into a constant, a way of life. It brings with it the threat of far more savage austerity measures, cuts in benefits, diminishing health and education services and more precarious employment. The left faces the difficult task of emphasising that we are dealing with political economy – that there is nothing “natural” in such a crisis, that the existing global economic system relies on a series of political decisions. Simultaneously it is fully aware that, insofar as we remain within the capitalist system, the violation of its rules effectively causes economic breakdown, since the system obeys a pseudo-natural logic of its own.
The obvious question then is, what can be done politically?
Today, the ruling ideology endeavours to make us accept the “impossibility” of radical change, of abolishing capitalism, of a democracy not reduced to a corrupt parliamentary game, in order to render invisible the antagonism that cuts across capitalist societies. This is why Lacan’s formula for overcoming an ideological impossibility is not “everything is possible”, but “the impossible happens”. . .
Ours is thus the very opposite of the classical early 20th-century situation, in which the left knew what had to be done but had to wait patiently for the proper moment of execution. Today we do not know what we have to do, but we have to act now because the consequence of non-action could be disastrous. We will be forced to live “as if we were free”.