The compulsion of capitalism

Image: Vitaly Kushnir


Lacan understands the capitalist mode of production above all as a moral order and, more specifically, as a compulsive mode of production.

No XVI Seminar, Jacques Lacan said: “What the master lives is a life, but not his own, but the life of the slave. That's why, whenever a stake in life is at stake, the master speaks. Pascal is a master and, as everyone knows, a pioneer of capitalism”.[I]

Is it really known that Blaise Pascal was a pioneer of capitalism? The connection is not evident, although Lacan supports his claim with the recollection that Blaise Pascal invented the bus and the first mechanical calculator (machine arithmetique). These inventions of a technical nature may suggest a certain compatibility between Blaise Pascal's scientific spirit and the proverbial capacity for innovation of the capitalist system; however, they do not justify a thesis as strong as the one formulated by Jacques Lacan.

As the opening quote references not only Blaise Pascal's inventions, but also the notorious wager – Pascal's probabilistic argument for the existence of God – a question arises.

Could Blaise Pascal be a pioneer of capitalism, not just as an innovator, and therefore in an epistemological sense, but also in a “deeper” spiritual sense? What would it be if not that sense in which, since Max Weber, people tend to see the historical, synchronic emergence of Protestantism and the capitalist organization of social production as more than mere chance?

The Protestant work ethic sheds light on an essential aspect of the “work” activity, understood as an ascetic process that takes place in capitalist socioeconomic conditions. Something that allows us to recognize in capitalism not only a social mode of production, but, above all, a spiritual attitude.[ii]

It is therefore more relevant that Blaise Pascal, in addition to being an ingenious mathematician and inventor, was also a passionate Christian who espoused the controversial doctrine of Jansenism, a heretical view that only a small fraction of humanity was predestined to salvation, through means of an incalculable and radically contingent act of divine grace.[iii]

In opposition to the calculating machine, there is the incalculable divine grace, the mysterious and unpredictable will of God, indeed, of a capricious God. This pessimistic worldview and its limitation of salvation to a few (not all devout believers will automatically be saved) could hardly be further from universal happiness, at least in theory if not in practice – that universal happiness promised centuries ago by advocates of capitalism.[iv]

How, then, does Blaise Pascal, that ardent apologist for a radically pessimistic religious doctrine, in which, at best, a negative universalism (that is, the universality of the fall) is asserted, fit into the well-known ideological self-promotion of capitalism as economic order and as a worldview defined by a hypocritical kind of universalism, which upholds the promise of happiness for all?

First, some context. The opening quote posted here appears in the final conference of the XVI Seminar of Lacan, D'un Autre à l'autre. In this crucial seminar, which in many respects responded to the political events of 1968 – first and foremost to the general strike, indeed universal in France – Blaise Pascal plays as prominent a role as Karl Marx.

In the first lesson of the seminar, Lacan pairs Pascal, a passionate defender of religion who preaches the universal downfall of humanity, with Marx, a passionate thinker of revolution who presses for the universal emancipation of humanity. Despite this, they are presented as partners who do not communicate: as thinkers whose works, admittedly shaped by opposing points of view, thematize an essential characteristic of what Jacques Lacan somewhat enigmatically calls “modern morality”.

In so doing, Jacques Lacan unequivocally indicates that he, too, understands the capitalist mode of production primarily as a moral order (hence also as a symbolic order) and, more specifically, as a compulsive mode of production. It is this compulsive character that capitalism and religion have in common that allows the initial junction of “Pascal with Marx”. Both understood that the main characteristic of modern morality boils down to the “renunciation of jouissance”, which again seems to contradict the sensationalist display of consumerist hedonism that dominates late capitalist societies.

Now, behind this appearance of continuous “enjoyment”, there is an imposed renunciation, which is structurally linked to the social function of work: “Just as work is not a novelty in the production of goods, the same happens with the renunciation of jouissance , whose relation to work I cannot specify here. From the beginning [...] it is precisely this renunciation that constitutes the master, the one who knows how to make it the principle of his power”.[v]

The connection between work and the renunciation of jouissance is not new in history; indeed, it defines all historical (and concrete) forms of work, as well as all relations of domination and subjection. In this sense, the capitalist master – Marx, as is well known, calls him “monsieur le capital” – remains in perfect continuity with pre-modern forms of domination. Behold, capitalism, however, transforms the master into a decentralized and dispersed abstraction that the bourgeoisie calls “market”. However, something changes in modernity when work is transformed into abstraction.[vi]

Only now has the renunciation of jouissance, which has always sustained the relations of domination, become universalized and, dressed in abstract work, swallowed up individual and social life in its entirety. Work now constitutes the central process, necessary for social reproduction and for the moral justification of life under capitalism. In this working life, the modern subject is not simply deprived of jouissance, but must, so to speak, actively renounce it.

It should be noted that, in the opening quote presented here, Jacques Lacan suggests that this renunciation of jouissance can even be understood as a synonym for the renunciation of life itself. If the master lives off the lives of others, this means that he imposes on them the renunciation of life, subjecting them to a compulsive economic process that consists of work. The capitalist master places workers in a situation in which they must voluntarily renounce life to live a life dedicated to him, that is, destined to produce a jouissance that Lacan, in the aforementioned seminar, equates to surplus value. Note that the master must again be understood as an abstraction, usually personified as “the market”, but which, ultimately, comes to be capital. Surplus value is the vital “substance” that sustains the master of capitalism; it is the Marxian name for systemic capitalist jouissance.

At the same time, the work process and the renunciation that accompanies it impose the incompatibility between life and enjoyment, the prohibition of enjoyment in life, since the latter supposedly always implies waste. This was repeated once again during the European debt crisis, but it has also been repeated over the decades with the neoliberal dismantling of the welfare state, public education, health systems, universities, etc. Privatization and, more generally, the intrusion of private capital into the public sphere – into the life of society or sociability – emerges as necessary to ensure that life does not “go to waste” and continues to be organized in such a way that the greatest possible amount of surplus-value can be extracted.

If life is allowed to take its course, it will supposedly be marked by excess, a “living beyond one's possibilities”. At least that is the suspicion that the defenders of capitalism repeatedly direct at society and, in particular, at the government always seen as a “dissipator”. It was this suspicion that motivated Margaret Thatcher's assertion that 'society does not exist'; Reformulating this controversial statement a little to make it more fair, we have, in fact, that “society should not exist” for her.

Margaret Thatcher makes an ontological claim – she makes the fundamental thesis of neoliberal political ontology that there is no such thing as society. Thatcher does not say that society does not exist; in fact, she uses a stronger negation: “there is no such thing as society”. By denying society all positive ontological status, and therefore all participation in the order of being, Margaret Thatcher incisively demonstrates Lacan's insistence on the founding and dominant character of ontology.

Understood as the realization of the “master's speech”, ontology assumes the right to decide, not simply what is and what is not, but, above all, what should be and what should not be. Although it insists to the contrary, ontology never speaks of a neutral being; it commands and thus discursively produces being. This goes for (political) non-being: what the metaphysical master (ie Margaret Thatcher) says does not exist, in fact, must not exist.

The negative ontological statement consists, ultimately, in a prohibition, in the performative production of non-being, of what should not be. Society should not come into existence, because such a social being, this ontological imposition of society and common sociality would mean, in the eyes of neoliberalism, institutionalizing laziness and waste, would consist in seeking a form of social life and social enjoyment, which it would no longer organize itself around the economic imperative of constant growth.

As the term itself suggests, the “welfare state” brings (neoliberals would probably say “forces” or “imposes”) existence on society and, in doing so, constrains – or even actively hinders – the unfolding of “ creative potentials” of economic competition. In other words, it restricts the “spontaneity” of the market through regulations.[vii] Margaret Thatcher, therefore, did not bother to hide or mystify that neoliberalism fundamentally consists in building an antisocial state; it reinforces a system of organized anti-sociality (which, by the way, capitalism in the last instance has always been; and, in this sense, a “social market economy” is a contradiction in adjective).

When Jacques Lacan argues that what constitutes the master is the renunciation of jouissance, this clearly does not mean that he becomes the master who renounces jouissance and, through this act of renunciation, becomes a master in the first place. On the contrary, the master is constituted by an act in which renunciation is violently imposed on the other. Renunciation comes as an imperative, to which every human being must submit. The latter is then placed in the subject subject position. According to the etymology, “subiectum” denotes one who puts, who is on the basis of the occurrence of something, but it also means one who is subjected (unterworfen in German).

Following this line of reasoning, this “subject” is a person whose life is in the master's clutches; it is about a person who is dispossessed of his personhood because he does not own his body (and therefore does not own “his” life). Jacques Lacan speaks of the slave as the paradigmatic example of the absolute spoliation of the body and life. The condition of slave is also associated with women and workers in general; both are constituted by renunciations imposed by a dominant power.

They also exemplify the way in which the “subject”, in capitalism and outside it, is denied, is dispossessed of his body in and through the work process; Thus, we have the forms of forced labor (slave), salaried work (worker) and reproductive work (woman). Behold, the trinity of race, class and gender is at the heart of the renunciation of the enjoyment of life that is inherent to “modern morality”, but it was also present in pre-modern domination relations; these have not disappeared but, on the contrary, have persisted throughout modernity and postmodernity.[viii]

When Jacques Lacan speaks of the renunciation of jouissance that occurs in the form of social work, he is thinking particularly of salaried work, that is, of the economic reduction of life that consists in making the human being a valued and quantified workforce, a commodity. that the supposedly free worker disposes of and sells in an act of mercantile exchange.

Marx fully exposed the radical asymmetry that resides in this apparently symmetrical quid pro quo of commodity exchange (sale of labor power for wages). Ultimately, by selling it, the worker is buying the right to live. As is known, such economic exchange takes place in a hostile symbolic universe in which the moral rule “who does not work does not eat” applies. In other words, those who do not submit to the systemic valuation of their own being become nothing, become a non-being (which needs to be understood again as an imperative lack that was imposed, that is, as a non-being). should be).

It is clear that the work that appears here as commanded work is not just any activity, but only that which produces surplus value. Hence the implicit truth of the moral rule “those who do not work do not eat”: “whoever does not produce surplus value does not work after all”. Given the devaluation of work under capitalism and the systemic tendency to degrade working life,[ix] all work now tends to appear as unproductive and redundant, as work that never fulfills its economic task and whose productivity is never convincing.

Moving to the other side of the asymmetry in the mercantile exchange relation, we see Lacan suggesting that the act of purchase must be understood as repetition, something that is not without consequences:

The rich own property. They buy, they buy everything, in short, they buy a lot. But I would like you to meditate on a fact, which is that they don't pay for it. […] Why is it that, being a rich man, he can buy everything without paying anything? Because he has nothing to do with the loss of enjoyment. It is not this loss that he repeats. He repeats the purchase. He buys everything again, or rather, what appears, he buys.[X]

Jacques Lacan is speaking, of course, of the modern (capitalist) affluent class, since the pre-modern affluent class could not yet buy everything. Behind the appearance of investing financial resources, there is the continual appropriation of other people's lives; there's the calculating, the manipulating, the playing with other people's worth.[xi] The repetition of the act of buying, the purchase without thinking or the absolute valuation, in short, constitutes the buyer as the master of foreign life; forms, on the other hand, the seller as the subject of a presumably free and voluntary renunciation of life.

As Karl Marx writes: “The capitalist has bought labor power at its daily value; thus the use value of labor power belongs to him for the whole of a working day”.[xii] The use value of labor power is ultimately in the worker's body; now, the capitalist thus acquired the right to possess the other's body for a certain period. More precisely, as the master is a disembodied abstraction, his body is, strictly speaking, the body of the other: of the slave, the servant, the worker, etc. Investing in production, repeating the act of purchase without payment (that is, without a real quid pro quo having actually occurred) also comprises the accumulation of bodies of labor, a way in which capital intensifies its own corporeality.

The body of capital is not reducible only to the material basis of “dead labor” (the means of production), but also comprises labor power (ie, the source of “living labor”). Marx then proceeds with the famous lines that reduce the capitalist to the personification (rather than the corporeity) of capital. This consists of “a single driving force, the impulse to value oneself, to create surplus value, to make its constant past, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus variable labor. Capital is dead labor which, like a vampire, lives only by sucking up living labor and the longer it lives, the more labor it sucks.”[xiii]

In fact, the master lives off the lives of others, but this characteristic is not specific to capital and its social personifications. The pre-capitalist lords – the feudal lord, the former slave owner – were already figures characterized by parasitic dominance. Capitalism has introduced another kind of master, for whom the vampire is indeed a well-chosen metaphor: the extractive master who transforms living labor, through exploitation, into unpaid surplus labor, Karl Marx's surplus value.

Extractivism here obviously means more than the simple material extraction of raw materials from the natural environment; denotes abstract extraction or, more precisely, the extraction of a specific abstraction (surplus value) through the use of materials, bodies, society and the environment. The purpose of this continuous extraction is to sustain the modern form of existence. As Marx clearly writes: capital lives the longer the more labor it absorbs.

It is a life that does not simply reproduce itself and thus maintain itself in balance or according to a certain status quo, but one that grows – a life in excess that contains a tendency to growth. It is indeed a brilliant coincidence that Marx describes this tendency as the “life drive” (Lebenstrieb). Because, given this common term, it is almost impossible not to think of Freud's theory of drives and, thus, of the dualism between Eros and Thanatos, that is, that of the drive for life and the drive for death.

Moreover, the metaphor of the vampire that Marx employs leaves no doubt that the condition inherent to capitalist “Eros” is precisely the continuous production of death. The life drive of capital is, in short, a life that lies beyond the opposition between life and death – and that lives at the expense of another life – an “eternal” life that sows death and devastation (from colonial violence to perpetual war to climate breakdown).[xiv]

Such a life was unknown to the pre-modern, pre-capitalist lord, even if he clearly based his power on the exploitation of labor and the expropriation of bodies (since it was a system that did not know surplus value and, therefore, did not was guided by “growth”). Even if the link between work and the renunciation of enjoyment is not new, the consequences of this link have been fundamentally altered by the introduction of working time as a universal measure of value.

If capitalism imposes the renunciation of jouissance, its economic priorities are supported by an ascetic demand that makes it an absolute moral order. It is questionable, however, whether this modern, capitalistic morality can really be compared with the Protestant work ethic.

Lacan's reference to Pascal certainly points in another direction, suggesting that the spirit of capitalism turns out to be Jansenist. This implies, among other things, that work in a Jansenist context cannot be understood as a path to salvation; distinctly, it appears as a meaningless, compulsive, and redundant process. In the capitalist mode of production, work is precisely the opposite of a guarantee of salvation: it becomes a “universal path to hell” insofar as it supports a system generally hostile to the organization, preservation and reproduction of life (natural and cultural). ).

Pascal's Jansenism thus proves to be more useful to better contextualize Marx's engagement with the destiny of life under the “capitalist absolutization of the market”.[xv] Behold, it is a symbolic order that imposes the renunciation of any form of life that exempts itself from the task of producing surplus value (directly or indirectly). In the first three lectures of the XVI Seminar, Jacques Lacan presents his well-known but equally controversial[xvi], homology between surplus value and what he henceforth calls surplus enjoyment.

If this homology is accepted, one must also accept that surplus jouissance, or jouissance understood as surplus, is a specifically capitalist mode of jouissance that does not exist outside of modernity. This thesis has a surprising anticipation in Freud, since he, at some point. wrote: “the most striking distinction between the love life of the old world and ours undoubtedly resides in the fact that antiquity placed the accent on the drive itself, while we shift it to its object. The ancients celebrated the drive and were prepared to honor through it even an inferior object (inferior), while we degrade (geringschätzen) the instinctual activity in itself and we find excuses for it only on the merits (Benefits) of the object".[xvii]

the german words inferior, geringschätzen e Benefits refer directly to the question of value. When an object is inferior (ie, of lesser value), this means, among other things, that value is not considered a key characteristic of that object that links the drive with that object; in other words, it means that the drive is not fixed by/in the value of the object. In Marx's terms, this object is not a capitalist fetish, value does not constitute its essential quality.

Already in the capitalist scenario, when you see an object, you don't simply see something that is more than itself and that transcends its sensible materiality. One does not see a mere embodiment of value, but, more precisely, one perceives the movement of value, value as an excess over itself: this is how the “surplus” of surplus value is observed. In capitalist modernity, the object attracts the drive only because it enables growth or, more precisely, because it grows. The object is a surplus, a More (more in added Value (added value).

It is noteworthy that Freud speaks of the ancient “celebration of the drive”, suggesting that the drive must have acted there as a binding force of the community or of sociality. In modernity, argues Freud, this is no longer the case. Drive activity is degraded, while the status of the object is elevated.

Now, it is the “merits” of the object and, particularly, its value, that legitimize the activity of the drive. It is not, therefore, so peculiar, that Marx uses the term "drive" (Drive) when he talks about the dynamics of capital, as well as other capitalist abstractions. As an object of the drive, surplus value makes the capitalist drive acceptable. The apologetic view of capitalism openly admits this, but in the same act of admission it obscures – Marx would say, mystifies – the “impure” origin of surplus value in systemic violence, of which the exploitation of labor is only the exemplary moment.

The drive is fixed on the object, but that object is inherently unstable. When the accent is on the drive, its objects can be exchanged, while in the modern degradation of the drive, the object remains the same but contains movement and change. In antiquity, the drive achieved satisfaction independently of value, while in modernity it can only be satisfied through value; essentially consists of a drive for value.

There is a shift and it goes from quality to quantity. Hence, the difference between the pre-modern and the modern libidinal economy lies in the objectification and valorization of this “more” (growth); it is known that constant growth also implies continuous dissatisfaction and this is an essential characteristic of the capitalist organization of economic, social and subjective life.

In the eyes of the defenders of capitalism, the economy never grows enough, there is no such thing as “enough” growth. Therefore, to repeat, society must be abolished from the sphere of being, because, by remaining there, it denounces the fracture inherent in the organization of social life. It exposes the insurmountable contradiction between the sociality that defines the human being and the capitalist anti-sociality, which finds its expression in the fanatical pursuit of economic growth for the sake of growth.

The fixation on value means that the drive of capital does not operate as a binding force in society, but as a force that disintegrates, dissolves and dismantles sociality. If the pre-modern masters were already anti-social in their violence, exploitation and obscenity, the modern drive of capital is based on the release of the “creative potential” of anti-sociality, on the production of surplus value from the organization of anti-sociality. sociality. In this sense, globalization therefore represents a continuous and violent expansion of anti-sociality.

In this perspective, Triebverzicht, that is, the renunciation of the drive, which, according to Freud, is characteristic of the cultural condition in general, gets an additional twist. In the context of modern (capitalist) morality, Triebverzicht it marks, above all, a change in the drive's relationship with the object and, consequently, with its own satisfaction. Renunciation does not mean that the drive is simply cut off from some presumably authentic and immediate satisfaction, but that its satisfaction becomes indistinguishable from dissatisfaction; that its demand for “more” (surplus) makes satisfaction impossible on the one hand and constant on the other.[xviii] What matters is the continuation of jouissance – and it is this feature that unites the modern mode of jouissance with the production of surplus value.

Both (value and enjoyment) are objective abstractions characterized by movement and, as such, strengthen the identity of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. This does not mean, of course, that the drive is not related to other objects; rather, it continually extracts from them the “value of jouissance” (to recall Jacques Lacan's well-appointed formula). Thus, it could be said that the modern fixation of the drive on the surplus-object is the basis of an extractive mode of jouissance, just as it is the basis of an extractive economy in the social context. Both imply that the sensible object from which the surplus is to be extracted must be destroyed. And extraction is in itself an activity marked by violence and aggression.

The renunciation of the drive also implies that modern capitalist and scientific culture is a culture of repression; this was the main thesis of Freud's persistent critique of the prevailing 'cultural morality' and its connection with 'modern nervous illness'.[xx] Of course, this does not mean that pre-capitalist cultures knew only non-repressive drive satisfaction and, consequently, did not know repression. Even so, Freud seems to suggest that the emphasis on the drive and not on the object allowed in older societies a mode of satisfaction that did not imply complete indistinction from dissatisfaction. In the Freudian vocabulary, the term sublimation marks such a difference between the repressive and non-repressive modes of jouissance.

Along these lines, Herbert Marcuse's notion of “repressive desublimation” aims to apprehend the same transformation from the pre-modern drive to the modern one, a shift from sublimation to repression and, consequently, to oppression (sublimation would mean the sociality of the drive and the enjoyment). The key point is that Herbert Marcuse uses the term desublimation to identify both a certain “vulgarization” of jouissance and a social increase in aggressiveness; behold, the foundation of social bonds is now found in unlimited aggressiveness.[xx]

*Samo Tomšič is professor of philosophy at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg. Author, among other books, of The Labor of Enjoyment: Toward a Critique of Libidinal Economy (August Verlag).

Translation: Eleutério FS Prado.


[I] Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XVI, D'un Autre à l'autre (Paris: Seuil, 2006), p. 396

[ii] One cannot avoid mentioning here Walter Benjamin's much-commented fragment on capitalism as a cult, a debt that finds no redemption or act of grace (merciless, How do you write it). Weber and Benjamin, obviously, each in their own way, developed the spiritualism of capitalism (that is, what appears as commodity fetishism, fictitious capital, value that engenders value, automatic subject, etc.). See Walter Benjamin, Capitalismmus als Religionin Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. VI (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1991), p. 100.

[iii] NT: For Jansenism, sin is inevitable in human life. Hence comes a great pessimism in relation to the nature and destiny of the human being. He despises, therefore, life and all works, however apparently meritorious, produced by those who are, after all, sinners and infidels. This Christian current is also characterized by an extreme rigorism in the face of sinful human weakness. Thus, he accepts sacrifice and suffering as something inevitable in human life.

[iv] In our times of accelerating climate breakdown and the implosion of history, there is little to say about happiness. Even neoliberals understood that talking about happiness was tantamount to falling into obscenity. In turn, defenders of neoliberalism no longer hide their authoritarian face and press for a systemic transition to a neofeudalism, in which corporations and international platforms are the new feudal lords, the new abstract and digital masters who live off the lives of others.

[v] Op. quote, p. 17.

[vi] Capitalism is characterized by the invention of what Marx called “abstract work”, therefore, by the successful quantification of all concrete forms of work, as this quantification also subsumes intellectual activities and processes. Freud also spoke of "dream work" and other types of abstract and impersonal unconscious work.

[vii] Competition is understood here as a social bond and as the fundamental logical determination of our social being or our “being-with-others” in the capitalist universe.

[viii] Of course, these enforced renunciations cannot be compared; moreover, the point is not to compare them, as that would reproduce the competitive relations that are, in themselves, an equally important component of capitalist morality. Capitalism manages to disarm the emancipatory movements that, despite their different historical experiences regarding systemic violence, are together in a political perspective. It disarms them, among other reasons, by recognizing them as separate identities that have to compete for rights and recognition in the political marketplace.

[ix] The process goes back to the structural conditions of the capitalist mode of production and is only exacerbated by contemporary capitalism; Marx alludes to this very explicitly in his discussion of so-called primitive accumulation, but this line would open a chapter too long for the present text.

[X] Jacques Lacan, Seminar, Book XVII, " It is Other Side of Psychoanalysis (New York: Norton, 2006), p. 82.

[xi] When Jeff Bezos, that personification of capitalist anti-sociality, returned from his excursion into space, addressing the low-paid workers of Amazon and the users of Amazon services and consumers, he said that he should thank them – “you paid for all this! ”. In doing so, he unwittingly demonstrated Marx's critical point: not only is this payment, made by workers, for the antisocial adventures of the capitalists' journey into space antisocial (a "jouissance," as Lacan would say), but even more fundamentally, they constitute the material basis on which capitalist speculation with money and paperwork (value) takes place. Work bodies are hostages of the system. Bezos' cynical commentary willingly admits as much.

[xii] Karl Marx, the capital, Vol.1 (London: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 342. The sequence is not unimportant: Marx asks the highly philosophical question of what or how long the working day should be; he replies that the capitalist has his own ideas about the length of the working day, about its limit, ideas that are naturally compatible neither with those of the worker nor with the capacity of the body of work. The limit of the working day is, in the last resort, death, or at best the “burnout".

[xiii] Op.cit., p. 343

[xiv] It is clear that the condition of this eternity is the production of death – and just as a vampire lives “eternally” only on condition that he drinks the blood of his victims, literally sucking the life out of them, so the drive of capital lives only by destroying the conditions planets of life. Capital's life drive is therefore a figure of the death drive (in a very literal sense: death as drive).

[xv] Lacan, op. cit., p. 37.

[xvi] NT A critique of this “homology” and its absurd consequence – founding capital on a supposedly insatiable subjectivity – was made in The infinity of desire and wealth (II), article published on the website the earth is round.

[xvii] sigmund freud, Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheoriein studienausgabe, Vol. 3 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Verlag, 2000), p. 149.

[xviii] Therefore, Freud calls the drive a “constant force”, but this constancy has completely different consequences when you invent an object that presumably grows continuously and in which “more” and “no more”, surplus and lack, are interchangeable.

[xx] Currently, it would be said that depression is the most widespread social symptom; it is, as is well known, a pathology generated by the capitalist economic system.

[xx] Therefore, Freud's “repressive hypothesis” must be defended against Foucault's criticism, which confuses repression and oppression. Although the first is the foundation of the second (repression conditions aggressiveness), it also represents the foundation of a mode of enjoyment rooted in the demand for more and more. To repeat, repression does not cut off the drive from some presumable direct satisfaction, but rather from the possibility of temporary satisfaction; releases the problematic potential of “more” (encore), making dissatisfaction determine satisfaction. In the mechanism of repression, lack of jouissance and excess jouissance, dissatisfaction and satisfaction mutually condition each other, inserting the subject in a vicious circle. Furthermore, by inciting aggressiveness in perpetuating dissatisfaction, the regime of repression reinforces the antisocial character of the drive; hence Freud's growing preoccupation with the problem of aggressiveness in his later work. There is a specific destination for this aggressive turn of the drive: it turns against its own person (Wendung gegen die eigene Person), its psychological bearer, the subject and his body. Aggression, turned inwards and outwards, then becomes the main characteristic of the modern mode of jouissance. This can be related to the problem of resentment, the latter being the central effect of the capitalist extension of competition to all spheres of human praxis.

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