Lacanian Review Online: The Infernal Greed of Capitalism

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

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LRO – COVID-19 2020 #32
2nd April


Reflections on the Super-ego as a Result of the Quarantine
Silvia Ons


It is common to establish a comparison between the Freudian super-ego, which opposes a renunciation upon jouissance, and the contemporary one – so wisely anticipated by Lacan – that orders enjoyment. We can, however, intertwine them, given that the obligation to enjoy as a kind of contemporary commandment that invades our world, and that is so well adjusted to the capitalist economy of consumption, also imposes the renunciation of those singular jouissances not governed by this imperative. The present situation of quarantine illustrates this question very well, given that those subjects who have found in their lives singular jouissances not governed by consumption, are those that live the situation better.

Removed from the “we must go on holiday”, “we must go shopping”, “we must have new experiences”, “we must travel”, “we must improve our finances”, “I must meet more and more people on Tinder”, etc., they are indifferent to those limitations experienced by the general current. I refer of course to certain social classes and not to the poor who, crowded together and without resources, find it impossible to live the quarantine well.

I would like to remember a quote from Lacan, in Television, that is very illustrative with respect to the capitalist super-ego: “surplus-value is the cause of desire of which an economy constitutes its principle, that of the extensive and consequently insatiable production of the lack-of-enjoyment. On the one hand, it is accumulated in order to increase the means of this production by way of capital. On the other, it extends the consumption without which this production would be vain, precisely through its ineptitude to procure a jouissance with which it might be held back.”

It is interesting to reflect on these affirmations. Capitalism generates an infernal greed, and what might detain it or at least hold it back would be the encounter with a jouissance that would not be provided by the object of consumption, that for Lacan is inept to satisfy it.


Translated by Howard Rouse
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