Laughter and Capitalism

Laughter and Capitalism
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  S : J󰁯󰁵󰁲󰁮󰁡󰁬 󰁯󰁦 󰁴󰁨󰁥 J󰁡󰁮 󰁶󰁡󰁮 E󰁹󰁣󰁫 C󰁩󰁲󰁣󰁬󰁥 󰁦󰁯󰁲 L󰁡󰁣󰁡󰁮󰁩󰁡󰁮 I󰁤󰁥󰁯󰁬󰁯󰁧󰁹 C󰁲󰁩󰁴󰁩󰁱󰁵󰁥 8 (2015): 22-38 S󰁡󰁭󰁯 󰁯󰁭󰅡󰁩󰄍LAUGHER AND CAPIALISM I n his ime o crisis, ineres in Marx’s economic hough has once again ound is way o he core o inernaional poliical-economic debaes. Only a good decade ago, many voices claimed his figure’s atemps o hink he capialis mode o producion no longer sufficed o explain our financialised echno-capialis socieies, bu he has now made a riumphal comeback rom he annals o poliical philosophy. In he same move, anoher old alliance ha had vanished rom he poliical agendas, Freudo-Marxism, has now re-emerged, reormulaed hrough is Lacanian developmens. Marx and Freud, he criique o poliical economy and psychoanalysis (one could also wrie, he criique o libidinal economy) are no longer reaed as ways o hinking ha belong o some amed “culural heriage” (which is o claim ha hey do no need o be aken seriously). Insead, hey are resuming heir roles as criical and radical voices, addressing he quesion, in all is necessiy and complexiy, o how o break ou o capialis srucures.Te official ranscripion o Lacan’s seminar D’un Autre à l’autre  , which conains his mos direc conribuion o he criique o poliical economy, was published in 2006, only a litle more han a year beore he oubreak o ye anoher undamenal crisis o capialism. Te seminar in quesion, oo, was a crisis seminar, held in he ur-bulen momen o 1968-69, direcly afer he suden and workers’ proess, which had reached heir well-known climax in May 68. Ye Lacan’s seminar conains more han a conronaion wih he poliical evens o is ime. I also perorms a wide-reaching reorienaion o he criical projec known under he slogan o he “reurn o Freud.” In his reorienaion, which, i is rue, sreches back o Lacan’s “excom-municaion” rom he Inernaional Psychoanalyic Associaion, Marx slowly re-placed he auhoriy o Ferdinand de Saussure, and consequenly, he poliical im-plicaions o he heory o he signifier prevailed over he episemological value o srucural linguisics. Pu differenly, he science o value supplemened he science o signs, and he inricacies o discursive producion 1  became he main preoccupa-ion o Lacan’s hough. 1.   In is double aspec, which comprises producion o subjeciviy and producion o enjoymen.  󰁯󰁭󰅡󰁩󰄍: Laughter and Capitalism   S 8 (2015): 23 Despie being openly reserved oward he revoluionary slogans or he proclaimed goals o he worker-suden alliance, Lacan sided wih he movemens by deermin-ing he sources o he srucural opposiion o he social rebellion. Te heory o discourses, developed in he afermah o May 68, could hereore be read boh as Lacan’s heory o crisis as well as his heory o revoluion. Is pivoal poin is he link beween srucure and insabiliy. Lacan srives o hink he real consequences o discursive logic by examining he conradicions, dynamics and impossibiliies inheren in every srucural order. I is wihin his perspecive ha his noorious response o he revoluionary sudens and criiques o srucuralism should be read: “… i he May evens demonsrae anyhing, hen hey demonsrae precisely he descen o srucures ino he sree.” 2  “Srucure i[n] he sree” inerwines he space o discursive relaions wih he sie o poliical acion, which, according o he agens o May 68, escapes he deerminism o srucural laws. Lacan’s ormula-ion, on he oher hand, argues ha evens, be hey social or subjecive, poliical or raumaic, are   realisaions o srucure; hey are above all logial   evens, an as-serion ha does no simply sugges ha hey are overdeermined by a se o rigid relaions. Lacan persisenly argued agains he dichoomy o srucure and even, because his opposiion depends on an oversimplified concepion o boh erms, a double misundersanding. Jus as srucure is no sable and invariable compen-dium o necessary relaions, even is no pure and mysic “oudoors,” which would inervene ou o he blue in order o bring abou a sudden ransormaion. For psy-choanalysis, here is some kind o even-characer peraining o srucures as such, and one can hemaise he emergence o evens only by concepually linking sruc-ure and insabiliy. Lacan’s heory o discourses hus pushes srucuralism oward he logi o insabiliy, wheher his insabiliy is called crisis, revoluion or even. Wha maters is ha all hese cases necessiae a more sophisicaed and criical noion o srucure. Consequenly, his reorienaion brings abou a undamenal reinvenion o srucuralism, which now begins o designae a science o he real, 3  a science whose privileged episemic objec is precisely insabiliy.In his ramework Lacan inroduced and deployed his conroversial hesis ha here was a wide-reaching homology beween Marx’s deducion o surplus-value and Freud’s atemps o heorise he producion o enjoymen. Te producion o value in he social apparaus and he producion o enjoymen in he menal ap-paraus ollow he same logic and evenually depend on he same discursive sruc-ure. Tis move conroned Lacan’s “reurn o Freud” in he mids o a capialis 2.   Lacan’s inervenion ollowing Michel Foucaul’s lecure “ Q’est-e qu’un auteur ?   [Wha is an auhor],” in Dits et érits   (Paris: Gallimard, 2001) 848.3.   In he concree case o Lacan’s eaching, a science o he srucural real. See, or in-sance, he ollowing remarks: “Srucure is hus real. In general, his is deermined by means o convergence oward impossibiliy. Tis is why i is real.” And urher: “Le us say ha, in principle, i is no worh speaking o anyhing oher han o he real, in which discourse isel has consequences. Call i srucuralism, or no. Las ime I called i he condiion o seriousness.” Jacques Lacan, D’un Autre à l’autre   ( Seminar XVI  , 2006) 30-31.Henceorh cied in he ex as Seminar XVI.  󰁯󰁭󰅡󰁩󰄍: Laughter and Capitalism   S 8 (2015): 24 crisis wih a more general deadlock ha Freud had already sumbled upon in his heoreical and clinical work: he producion o  jouissane   agains he background o a psychic conflic, a ension beween opposing demands or heerogeneous in-sances in he menal apparaus. One o Freud’s greaes meris consised in he ac ha he no longer conceived o enjoymen as a more or less insignifican side-effec o saisacion, which would signal he decrease o bodily ension once he saisacion o a need, desire or drive had aken place. Insead, he recognised in enjoymen a produc emerging direcly rom he increase o ension. One merely needs o consul Freud’s wriings in meapsychology (or insance, Repression , In- stints and their Viissitudes   or Beyond the Pleasure Priniple  ) in order o become aware ha Freud associaes he producion o enjoymen wih he inensificaion o ension. Te more he unconscious endency demands saisacion, he more he menal apparaus works on creaing he condiions or saisacion. However, his saisacion does no ake place a he end o his process—i is inscribed in he process isel. Te unconscious endency consanly demands more enjoymen, and consequenly, more psychic labour. Already rom Freud’s earlier works, such as Te    Interpretation of Dreams   or Jokes and Teir Relation to the Unonsious,  i becomes ap-paren ha unconscious labour perorms an endless ask o saisying an insaiable demand. I is no surprise, hen, ha Lacan a a cerain poin described he uncon-scious wih he expression “ideal worker,”   a worker ha does no “hink, judge or calculae” 4 . Ye complicaions emerge even in his seemingly auomaic acory ha is he unconscious.For psychoanalysis, libidinal economy never ollows he machine-like model. In-sead, i is always ariculaed around a undamenal deadlock (e.g. repression), and he acual source o enjoymen should be sough precisely here. Already in Freud, his deadlock was conexualised boh episemologically and poliically: i rig-gered he “scienific projec” o psychoanalysis by becoming is privileged objec, bu i also provided specific insigh ino he mechanisms ha suppor he social mode o producion. I is no exaggeraed o claim ha Das Unbehagen im Kapital- ismus, disconen in capialism, would be he more appropriae ile o Das Unbe- hagen in der Kultur, disconen in culure, since one can hardly ignore ha Freud never speaks o some absrac culure, bu precisely o indusrial socieies marked by insaiable consumerism, inensified exploiaion and recurring breakdowns, economic depressions and wars. Te nexus o he episemological and he poliical problemaic ha accompanied he Freudian heory o he unconscious suggess ha capialism belongs among he crucial problems or psychoanalysis and ha clinical pracice consanly conrons he pahologies o wha one could call he capialis mode o enjoymen. Lacan brough ou his poin in he ollowing em-phaic remark: “Te more sains, he more laugher; ha’s my principle, o wi, he 4.    Jacques Lacan, elevision: A Challenge to the Psycoanalyti Establishment  , ed. by Joan Copjec, rans. by Denis Hollier e al. (New York: Noron, 1990) 16. Henceorh cied in he ex as elevision .  󰁯󰁭󰅡󰁩󰄍: Laughter and Capitalism   S 8 (2015): 25 way ou o capialis discourse—which will no consiue progress, i i happens only or some” ( elevision  16).Te relaion beween psychoanalysis and capialism could hardly be siuaed in a more openly anagonisic way. Psychoanalysis is he envers o he capialis dis-course, is conflicual flipside and inversion—which means is inernal border and he poin where he capialis discourse can be desabilised, saboaged and invered. Tis clearly does no mean ha psychoanalysis already sands ouside capialism, or ha i possesses posiive knowledge o how o break ou o is orms o domina-ion. Bu i does sugges ha he imperaive   o psychoanalysis, as i was invened by Freud and reinvened by Lacan, consiss in no shying away rom direc con-ronaion wih capialism and in pursuing he line iniiaed precisely by Marx’s criique o poliical economy: o desabilise he appearances ha susain he capi-alis mode o producion and o mark he poin, rom which he capialis social link can be envisaged in is irreducible conradicion. In Lacan’s words, “Wihou any doub, he worker is he sacred place o his conflicual elemen, which is he ruh o he sysem” ( Seminar XVI   39). o mobilise his conflicual elemen—namely he subjec ha boh Marx and Freud encounered in producive social labour and in unconscious labour— against   he capialis sraegies o exploiaion is he shared effor o psychoanalysis and he criique o poliical economy, which is why no psy-choanalys can be indifferen o he quesion: How can he exi rom he capialis discourse be brough abou  for all?  Tis  for all   is indeed crucial, since i demands ha psychoanalysis  fore   he junc-ure o he singular wih he universal, raher han remaining in he apparen au-onomy and sel-sufficiency o clinical experience. Te impossibiliy o he psycho-analyic proession, which Freud had already spoken abou seems o redouble and inensiy when conroned wih his challenging poliical ask. 5  On he oher hand, Lacan’s remark conains a sobering momen or everyone else: here is no such hing as an easy way ou, an exi rom capialism or one, some or many. Claiming he opposie would mean o all back ino an exremely problemaic dichoomy beween inside and ouside, and consequenly, o ideniy he exi wih a meaposi-ion. Tis would hen amoun o an even more problemaic eishisaion, according o which psychoanalysis, or insance, would be considered he “grea Oudoors” o he logic o capial, a small oasis o auheniciy wihin he vas capialis deser. Lacan’s criical sance is clear: psychoanalyss mus resrain hemselves rom be-coming sel-sufficien, sel-absorbed or sel-cenred, or hese are precisely he key eaures ha will abolish he radical and criical characer o heir discipline and 5.   “Here le us pause or a momen o assure he analys ha he has our sincere sympahy in he very exacing demands he has o ulfil in carrying ou his aciviies. I almos looks as i analysis were he hird o hose ‘impossible’ proessions in which one can be sure beorehand o achieving unsaisying resuls. Te oher wo, which have been known much longer, are educaion and governmen.” Te Standard Edition of Complete Psycologi- al Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XXIII, rans. James Srachey (London: Vinage, 2001) 248. Henceorh cied in he ex as Sandard Ediion, ollowed by he volume number.  󰁯󰁭󰅡󰁩󰄍: Laughter and Capitalism   S 8 (2015): 26 inegrae i ino he logical rameworks o he dominan social discourse. A case o such assimilaion is well known, he Inernaional Psychoanalyic Associaion, which can mockingly be called he “proessional insurance plan agains analyic discourse” ( elevision  15). Te insiuion, creaed by Freud in order o be he official guardian o his episemic invenion, soon became an insiuionalisaion o he resisance agains he mos revoluionary insighs o psychoanalysis.By searching or a way ou o he capialis discourse, he ask o psychoanalysis becomes embedded, rom he very ouse, in a significanly broader conex han he supposed inimacy o he analys’s office. In he apparen clinical wihdrawal rom he social srucures, he later are mos effecively a work. Tey re-emerge in he paien’s speech, as well as in he srucure o his or her libidinal economy. Capialism is inscribed in he menal apparaus—his was already Freud’s insigh, when he ound he bes meaphor or unconscious desire in none oher han he capialis, meaning ha psychoanalysis began wih a undamenal criical and po-liical insigh rooed in he rejecion o he opposiion “unconscious—conscious” or “privae—social.” Te unconscious is no archive or reservoir o unclear represena-ions and orgoten memories; i is a sie o discursive producion. Consequenly, wha maters mos in he unconscious is no he “explici conen” o memories and signifiers, bu what happens   o hem, he procedures ha manipulae he maerial, and which can be approached in a logical way. Freud amously broke his logic down o wo cenral symbolic operaions—condensaion and displacemen—or which Lacan provided a linguisic ranslaion: meaphor and meonymy. Bu or Freud he unconscious processes were all abou a specific  form of labour  . Opera-ions like condensaion and displacemen are no simple auomaa; hey demand a labouring subjec, which, in he given regime knows only one orm, labour-power. Hence, o alk abou unconscious labour is ar rom innocen. Freud reers o he same economic realiy and o he same concepual apparaus as Marx.Te imporan Freudian insigh would hus be ha he unconscious is no neural or ranscenden space o hinking: is mechanisms and he corresponding mode o enjoymen depend on he same srucure as he social mode o producion. Lacan named his predominaing srucure he maser’s discourse, a discourse ha he firs idenified wih he logic o he signifier, which comes down o his amous definiion “he signifier is wha represens he subjec o anoher signifier.” o hese hree discursive elemens Lacan laer added he surplus-objec, a  . However, or he maser’s discourse he same conclusion needs o be drawn as or he unconscious. I may be he oldes discourse, ye i does no uncion in he same way in differen hisorical conexs (slaveholder socieies, eudalism and capialism). Why is his he case?—Because is our elemens (maser-signifier, S 1;  knowledge, S 2;  subjec,  ; and surplus-objec, a  ) know differen “personificaions” (as Marx would pu i) in differen modes o producion. Tis poin can be read along wih he remark, rom he Communist Manifesto  , ha he “hisory o all hihero exising sociey is he his-ory o class sruggles”—and no o Class Sruggle. 6  Marx and Engels were cauious 6.   See Karl Marx, Seleted Writings   (Oxord: Oxord Universiy Press, 2000) 246.
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