Essay on the Collective Man

Image: Bayram Er


Considerations about desire in socialism and consumerist sublimation

Dixi et salvari animan meam

There is no doubt that uncertainty hovers over socialism as to whether the desire that was authorized and subsumed by commodities, in the context of hyperproduction in mercantile societies, will change substantially, or, on the contrary, will remain in the mold of our current narcissism.

Part of the confusion that hangs over this doubt is due to the fact that most of the time the analyzes start from the capital system as we know it until now. As it is today, social life appears fundamentally devoid of the action of its agents who are consumed in the reproductive performance of the regime of accumulation, private, as value-money-capital. The social relationship and the gift are crossed biopolitically (in the sense used by Foucault) by productivity, consumption and mass desire.

Thus, life is taken over by fetishes and reification of objects and things in general, of knowledge and senses, the more the mode of production of goods “elastifies” social well-being for a few, prosperity for some, and religiously carries out salvation for the masses. Life in a society populated by human relationships disappears today more than ever, as if by “magic”: but, in this case, the magic actually happens when, by chance, the Other seems so irreplaceable to us, which provokes us a powerful frustration. Identifications other than human are preferred.

We live in a time when the struggle for moral self-determination, free will and science is exhausted in denialism taken by assault on State power and, consequently, to consolidate tyranny. A Necropolitical (Mbembe, 2018), institutional and state, or the Bloody Reason (2010), social, by Kurz, are situations at the limit of the narcissistic sociability typical of Capitalism. There is no doubt that our so-called “free market” or “economic freedom” societies are totally immersed in the ontological individualism of the reproduction of capital, reproducing both its unequal relationship with the workforce, as well as competition and selfish consumption. . In a word, we have narcissism aimed at the absolute internalization of the Ego, or identification with oneself almost exclusively through the things one consumes. As in mercantile societies of the capitalist type, the realization of commodities requires a common means of exchange, and as it is money that equals their labor value, in the abstract, narcissism unfolds naturally through mercantile selfishness, that which sees Wealth is not money, and because of it he wants to accumulate and exercise power over others.

In socialism, fundamentally, the end of private property is accentuated, which becomes public-state. However, there are other characteristics little experienced in mercantile societies based on accumulation, such as self-management, cooperativism and collectivism. It is clear that for this to happen, it is necessary to immediately introduce a mechanism of direct social management, for self-management in public administration (in Legislation and Justice), in the control of total social institutions (sanatoriums, orphanages, asylums, and other socio-educational and welcoming organizations), in industrial and agricultural production (logistics and distribution), in the education of children, adolescents and adults, in the arts, leisure and culture in general.

Anyway, and here is the difference: substantially the “soup” of the set of social relations from which the new sociability will be verified will be absolutely different. This is undoubtedly due to the nationalization of the means and forms of planning the production and distribution of material goods, at least that which is essential for the dignified reproduction of life and the formation of a collectivist and cooperative conscience. But this stage, which must be built in the transition phase that is what socialism is really about, to reach communism, will only be successful if it is developed with broad participation of society. The immediate mechanisms of this participatory construction must advance according to the level of material and immaterial development of society and the awareness of social agents, until finally new public management frameworks can develop in this sense.

Freud predicted, negatively, not only the lowering of the individuality and intellectuality of the mass man (Mass Psychology and Analysis of the Ego, 2011 [1921]), but also the impossibility of Communism in meeting happiness as much as equalizing the material distribution due to each human being (Discontents in Civilization, 2011 [1930]). In the 1921 work, Freud writes: “If another mass connection takes the place of the religious one, as the socialist one seems to be doing, the same intolerance towards outsiders occurs that existed in the time of the religious struggles, and if the different scientific conceptions came to to have some day, equal importance for the masses, the same result would also be repeated with this motivation.” (1921, p. 41). And when the author asks himself whether “the community of interests, by itself and without any libidinal contribution, does not necessarily lead to tolerance of the other and consideration for him” (1921, p. 44, emphasis added), the answer is “that in this way, a permanent limitation of narcissism is not achieved, as this tolerance does not last longer than the immediate advantage that one takes from the collaboration of the other” (1921, p. 44-45).

All this elaboration, in our view, is correct, if one considers the social system of the competitive type, based on meritocracy, monopolistic, individualistic, selfish, narcissistic and sublimated from consumerism, that is, the system of free market and private property . Not that the sexualized libidinal theory for social life is wrong, on the contrary, it is absolutely right to decipher to a large extent the evils and motivations of the capitalist “value” system – but not of all modes of production and cultural superstructural forms. . This man is the man of capitalism, this society is the free market financier society.

But for Freud, cooperation and the relationship rationally established by interests can only pass through desexualization, which at great cost one wants to accept in a lasting way. And so, when he speaks of “homosexual sublimation”, he seems to have found something so unnatural, hateful and rejected by society, that even if one accepts the psychoanalytic thesis, the community, and cooperation without immediate interests is made unfeasible by the relationship of comrades that appears so inappropriate and objectionable. In the words of the author: “As in the individual, also in the development of all humanity it is love that acts as a cultural factor, in the sense of a change from selfishness to altruism. And both the sexual love for women, with all the implications it implies, of respecting what is dear to women, and the love for other men, desexualized, sublimely homosexual, linked to work in common.” (1921, p. 45). After all, what is the importance of all this if it is not to reinforce the interdiction and identification outside the free relationship with people? In a society that prohibits in order to sublimate merchandise-objects and fantastic transcendental narratives, the possibility of affection must also appear as prohibited, but it is not Scientific Socialism!

The “outsiders” are always the “outsiders”, because there are “insiders”: foreigners are first and foremost encouraged to remain that way, different, so that others know where they belong and believe in their set of beliefs and beliefs. internal protocols, as demonstrated by Pierre Clastres (archeology of violence, 2011). In itself, this has nothing to do with “enmity” or any kind of “racism”, because if such enmity were really taken seriously, humanity would never have left its common places, both from the territorial and values ​​point of view. All humanity is foreign! – in many ways and on all sides, syncretic (as the space of culture demonstrates) and tolerant (not like hedgehogs, in all corners strangers coexist with the locals), and if hospitality (Derrida; Dufourmantelle, of hospitality. things, of the political hypervaluation of difference.

But for this stage of rationality to be supplanted, the financialist mercantile system must be overcome. If there is no historicity, not for "truth" but at least for "civilization", of course, the repression of the libido and the sublimated identification, somewhere in objects other than the genuine affection for camaraderie, remains as doxas. Desire is the desire of historical man, his “enjoyment” takes place through equally historical objects. The ability to regulate the accumulation regime cyclically creates and recreates the circuit of affections, their sexualization and sublimated desexualization. In short, the problem is not per se the libidinal question, but the space and content or the form of the social relationship for the constitution of the individuals' psychic subjectivity.

In the second text of 1930, Freud also attacks Communism. “Communists believe they have found the way to redeem evil. […] But I can see that your psychological assumption is an untenable illusion. Suppressing private property, we remove from the human taste for aggression one of its instruments, undoubtedly powerful, and certainly not the most powerful. But we haven't changed a thing about the differences in power and influence that aggressiveness uses or abuses for its purposes, let alone in its nature. (2011, p. 58-59). And then Freud concludes that aggressiveness “was not created by property” (p.59), that it exists from prehistory as much as in childhood when “property has barely abandoned its primary anal form” (p.59) and that constitutes “every tender and loving relationship between people” (p. 59), etc.

We have already analyzed this part of Freud's text on another occasion ( Let's not go back to it here, except to note that the Czech author ultimately tells us that all these things have been realized, since prehistory, through "differences in power and influence", which he cannot identify. with the differences in themselves and the resulting, from our most past ancestors, of the “value” they established for them. But in our favor, we think that at least it is accepted that private property is a “powerful force” for aggression, even if, obviously, Freud does not see privatism as a historical construction of the modes of social production in favor of collective subsistence. Because, effectively, neither Capitalism, nor Socialism nor Communism are the end of history, but only the successive stages – even if not positively linear or evolutionist-causal (Hacking, historical ontology, 2009), but not “by chance” as Badiou tells us (truth and subject, 1994) – of the liberation of the human precisely from these conditions in which he is forced to dive, as in the myth of Erysichton who, unable to stop eating, devoured himself (Ovid, Metamorphoses, VIII, 738-878).

We believe that desire in itself is not as important as Zizek (The vision in parallax, 2008) was concerned perhaps a little excessively, in the wake of the psychoanalytic tradition. What matters is how and with what new elements and values, the subject will face his traumas, repressions, triangular identifications of the masses with characters and specific narratives, religious, denialists or even regarding the naturalness of the contradictory in the development of the scientific paradigms given by the consensus. For example, the consumerist narcissism of the mercantile system tends to end to the extent that competition and individualism go beyond the transitory satisfaction of desire prohibited by the global mercantilist culture/civilization, because it will not be the reified market and the fetish of goods that will impose itself on the human spirit.

None of this happens in any way, “by chance”, or randomly, nor by magic, even when some of the assumptions of the private accumulation regime are politically extinguished. Altruism is a concrete psychic construction, as much as narcissism, oriented to the reproduction of collective material survival; capital societies also require the specific formatting of narcissistic character and behavior as a psyche form, thus the freedom it proclaims. Hypocrisy, not cynicism, is the structure of capital. Hypocrisy, as a visible symptom of bourgeois subjectivity loudly and religiously proclaims “love of neighbor”, repeatedly and naturally externalizes “what is mine”. The Other is not my enemy, it is not that I hate him, but more deeply it is that “he cannot be mine”, except through the will of power that results, in the last instance, from property. Whether such a phenomenon is prehistoric or contemporary only proves that “property” is a powerful force for such effects of domination and interiorization of the I in absolute terms.

Socialism is the transition phase from bourgeois society to Communism. In it, private property is extinguished, even though certain forms of it may transitorily coexist under state control, in the beginning. This control can be verified by the state monopoly with shareholding or by the complete nationalization of infrastructure activities and economic wealth. In any case, the financial system must be controlled. But the end of private property in broad sectors of the economy and the state monopoly in activities essential to the production and circulation of values ​​is not in itself the ultimate goal of Socialism. This must immediately organize the workers and the population in general to autonomously assume the direction of the economy and the organization of the vital sectors of society, not only of the rational and sustainable production of industry and food, and their organized distribution, but also as regards to the production of energy and clean water, and also in sectors such as health, mobility, such as science and research, education, arts and culture.

Socialism and self-management are inseparable, not only from a political point of view, as the end of ruling class power, the end of appropriation of the means of production and its moral/cultural hegemony, but, fundamentally, from a practical point of view, with extinction of the line of management that executes the ways of knowing and doing in the command circuit with a view to the interests of reproducing exchange values ​​and capital accumulation. The vital importance of self-management by workers and the population is to eliminate “power-over” and “power-know-how” (Holloway, Change the world without taking power, 2003), which implies, after access to work tools and techniques, the resumption of integral knowledge for man of what is done and why it is done. It is not just about avoiding the exchange of power and command from the hands of the capitalist and his agents, to the hands of the power and command of the State and its nomenclature - not the exchange of privatism for statism within and in the molds and terms of commodified societies by capital, but, above all, their end and their passing through humanity, starting with the extinction of the abstract work of things and non-things.

For the rest, it is not necessary to expand on the contribution of self-management to the elaboration of protocols and successful practices of consensus. Socialism does not imply the loss of the contradictory, on the contrary. The free manifestation of knowledge and thought and its collective sharing in the lives of subjects often leads to greater participation and the political development of “diplomacy” and the elaboration of interdisciplinary paradigms, as long as people are raised to protagonists of their own destinies . Consensus can feed, in return, the taste for the public thing as much as for science itself.

The “real socialisms” of yesteryear invested little in the self-management modality of workers and organized populations for the management of social life. And, for this reason, they maintained the structures of power and management typical of the commodity form and the regime of accumulation, investing by other means in the continuity of societies of competition and narcissism of the market. In Communism, this shared management of total knowledge and decision of priorities to guide social life – from ecologically non-predatory production to circulation and science, and in the immaterial production of education, culture and the arts -, must be reasonably developed in such a way that cooperation and collectivism are the permanent and most developed forms of sharing food, goods, science, knowledge and culture. For himself, according to the formula “From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.” (Marx, Criticism of the Gotha program, 1984 [1875]), and for the virtuous exchange of use-values ​​and gift products and no longer merchandise.

John Holoway insisted (2003) that it was fundamental for the change of community social life that the way of producing commodities changed its specialized, segmented and partitioned form. According to him, the dominance of capital and its management is verified first of all in the segmented way in which goods or exchange values ​​are produced under the management of capital, so that abstract work can deconstruct knowledge and prevent the autonomy of the do of the makers. Behind this way of producing foodstuffs and other goods necessary for social life, there is not only the lowering of workers' wages and the increase in surplus value, or just the control of capital for this exploitation, but, fundamentally, the alienation of direct producers of capital in terms of their “know-how-to-do”, which is what makes it possible for the products resulting from their work, the goods, to be perceived as foreign objects to their own intellect and doing.

This is the mechanism that causes producers, isolated and distributed in their respective segments, to be manipulated by management, and thus “atomized” do not realize that what they do derives from certain social relations established by the exchange of various actions, and many for the same doing (calculated in the average working time, labor value is defined, the other side of abstract work in the realization of goods!), social relations that can only be based on inequality and under the power of the dominant capitalist class (which makes itself felt equally on legal form, political form and cultural form). The absence of social relations in the conscience of the makers increases individualism and immediately the fetish of things and reification on the spirit of sublimation through consumed objects.

Hence, the idea of ​​individualism that begins with work contracts, and the extreme distribution of the various industry specialties and the domination that predicts “power-over”, result in a narcissism in thinking and doing, destroying the ontology that unites thinking / create while doing / produce. This narcissism, in turn, finds in hyperconsumption the ever-increasing and new possibilities of identification and sublimation with the goods offered by capitalist mercantile societies. In this case, the narcissistic spectrum of capitalism is not only the basis for the production and realization of goods, but also a psychic evaluator of “well-being”, seen as competence, success and prosperity based on the quantity of consumer goods purchased.

However, such commodified narcissistic sublimation cannot offer the human something that does not return sooner or later in a poignant way as greater frustration, leading subjects to consume more and industry to produce more, in a way that always provides more alienation than what a criticism. In the end, it will even be doubtful whether it is necessary, or even possible, for individuals to make a critical and reasonable reflection on the “truths” and paradigms placed to put societal life into effect in terms of the reproduction of capital, which results in the “failure” of science and the contradictory can be identified in a narcissistic nagationism that, beyond epistemology and academic controversy, is constitutive of the capitalist mode of production itself, such as the idolatry of the private accumulation regime and the religiosity interested in “prosperity” (Jappe, the autophagic society.

Hyperproduction is neither a new nor unusual phenomenon in the capitalist mode of production. Paul Lafargue explained it in 1880, in his right to laziness, as a consequence of the exploitation of workers by the owners, since it is from salaried work that the transformed wealth of nature comes out. As this wealth does not return to the workers, but is distributed in the end by the owners, it follows that the lower the wages, the more wealth (more value or surplus value) remains in the hands of the latter. The acceleration of production after the invention of the loom provided an increase in productivity and a hyperproduction of goods to extract ever more wealth from the wage labor force. It happens, however, that these goods must be exchanged by economic agents and consumed by people, that is, goods must be “realized” in consumption, exchanged until only their visible and general part remains, which is money. In this process, the real value of the goods – exchanged in the abstract for the average value of the work that produced them – has already been lost sight of, and awareness has been lost of what, after all, market exchanges are all about, namely, what are the times of work incorporated in them in face of a certain set of techniques (accumulated knowledge passed on generation after generation) and social relations, according to the legal apparatus subsidiary to “free” trade.

From the point of view of hyperproduction, the first consequence is that only a small part of social agents can, yesterday as today, acquire/consume these products, given the ever-increasing need to lower their wages, whether due to demand restriction or due to increase in unemployment. Until then, however, these crises were strictly economic and were overcome cyclically. But now unemployment is structural and permanent due to the strong increase in science and technology applied to production, growing technological investments motivated by competition and market monopolization.

So, more and more there is overproduction with chronic and permanent over-unemployment (Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Bob Jessop), because both phenomena are structural to the very development of the capitalist mode of production – many goods to be sold with little distribution. of wealth generates stagnation in the economy, stock losses and difficulties in honoring payments. Today's exponential unemployment leads some authors to think about the possibility of the masses (Holloway) or the crowds (Negri) embracing common movements to confront capital.

One of the subterfuges to this fundamental contradiction of the reproduction of capital is the increase in monetary liquidity, that is, an increase in the total amount of money, mainly through credit, however, without concrete ballast in the real economy, an increase in money and other credit securities. in a fictitious way. According to experts, this “bubble” of credits and virtual currency has never been as big as it is today, as with each recent crisis, central banks have injected more money into the market to help the financial system and companies, with the growing consequence of devaluation. of currencies and inflationary pressure around the world.

The crisis is monetary and of the financial system (excessive borrowing, excess currency), and it makes it impossible for the value of goods to be established by human labor arbitrated at their average value – the collapse of abstract labor, therefore, of the forms merchandise and bourgeois social relations, as advocated by the authors of the Critical Theory of Value (Moishe Postone; Robert Kurz; Anselm Jappe; Norbert Trenkle). Hence, value would cease to be the psychological principle of exchanges, would cease to be exchange value and would return to being use value, which is somehow compatible with the so-called “solidarity economy” and “creative economy”. With that would approach the end of the fetish of things like those that seem to have value outside and beyond social work. Soon, the primacy of value as a social relationship through work could be reestablished. This powerfully changes the narcissistic life of consumption, at least from the point of view of the dark speculation of mercantile sublimation.

But there is something else: the collateral phenomenon of the unavoidable paradox of capitalism is that, ripped from the world of productive factory work in the terms and forms of segmented and specialized production, and compulsorily removed from the domain of capital and its management, the subject of work, the wage earner of capital, now traversed by all the perfidy of the precariousness of his work, is increasingly far from the reification of the market and the fetishes of commodities – the “know-able-to-do” does not now appear under the absolute and direct dominion of the “power-over”.

Finally, it is necessary to understand that the form, content and mercantile and financial hermeneutics unfold from production, in the circuits of exchanges with a view to sharing more value and general wealth. This means that the mercantile logic of abstract work, expropriation of knowledge and the predominance of capital's power over doing, are not restricted only to the production of goods and living, but that it extends to the other spheres of social life, in an alienated way. in terms of total social organization as a social relationship. All spheres of the dimension of the social superstructure absorb, so to speak, the necessary structure for the reproduction of capital, starting with its creative partitioning of doing, its submission to the domain of management, economic par excellence, to hyperconsumption and money-making. That is why it seems so difficult to assume that social agents, generally involved in the totalitarianism of commodities and immediate material wealth in the form of property and money, can emancipate themselves from market fetishes subliminally introduced into everyday life.

Evgeni Pachukanis, in 1927, in his work The general theory of law and Marxism, stated that: “The selfish subject, the subject of law and the moral person are the three main masks under which man acts in the commodity-producing society.” (2017, p. 185). He demonstrated that not only the end of private property, which directly affects the organization of production, immediately transforms the content and character of the mercantile form of social organization, but that beyond production, exchanges and credit also dominate. culture, political and legal life, and that while the “commodity form” and its character of bourgeois morality with a view to acquiring money were not subverted in its content, the human relationship and its fetishized assumptions behind the social organization would not change the form narcissistic psyche of the bourgeois man.

For this, it is necessary that individuals modify their considered equality, and no longer measured, from the extinction of property, and from this to the end of the bourgeois psychology of mercantile sublimation. Self-management and the occupation of politics prepare the human for other identifications with science and culture with the purpose of education for cooperativism and communitarianism. It seems to us that in this way, the frustrations inherent to the struggles of the Self with Civilization (civilizing culture) are not directed towards narcissism and, therefore, many of the fears and anxieties that psychoanalysis still seeks to treat will be replaced by very different ones. Meanwhile, the political man will remain, in Marx's words, "an artificial abstract man" (On the Jewish Question, 2010), as long as commercial relations and mercantile psychology still persist.

*José Manuel de Sacadura Rocha He holds a PhD in Education, Art and Cultural History from Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie. Author, among other books, of Legal anthropology: towards an anthropological philosophy of law (Elsevier).


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