“A schzioanalytic thesis: desire’s social investments have, and will continue to possess primacy of place over familial ones.”
From their two-volume magnum opus, the French theorists Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari proposed a number of lines of analysis that explored the limits of desire, politics and the role of the subject. Perhaps one of the most striking arguments they put forward was the argument that the libido and its associated drives were not necessarily desexualized, for as they so memorable put it:
Sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records, a judge administers justice, a businessman causes money to circulate; the way the bourgeoisie fucks the proletariat; and so on…Flags, nations, armies, banks get a lot of people aroused…
In short, desire is part of the economic infrastructural base of society, not some ideological superstructure that is associated with it after the fact. Quite arguably, the great success of capitalism in the last decades since the last great fright of Communism and ’68 were beaten back has been to make desire not just productive but more turned on than ever. Capitalism it seems has come through the recession and emerged hungrier and more desperate than ever. The coke snorting, sharp suited City boys pre-crash have grown up, but not sobered out. They wonder along, popping Viagra and MDMA, suits smeared in the ashes of recession and out of their minds with fear.
The supermarket Tesco makes an announcement of a £263 million pound profit “overstatement” amid allegations of serious fraud. The Cooperative Bank announce losses of over £2 billion and realise their former chair was someone with literally no clue what he was doing, an addiction to meth and a fondness for illicit sex. There at least the psychoanalytic subtext had the good grace to make itself explicit, whilst the sober-minded serious business of Tesco were left with their economic pants around their ankles and a crowd of onlookers commenting on the flaccid mess they saw. The property market in London goes on a steroidal binge to the point where the average price for a home goes past £500,000, impressing rich foreigners and oligarchs whilst London families are forced out.
The point is not that Tesco and the Cooperative are unique. These are not special cases, or malfunctions in the system. They are simply the visible symptoms, the manifested neuroses of a wider truth about capitalism today. Desire produces “even the most repressive and the most deadly forms of social reproduction” claimed Deleuze and Guattari, yet it seems desires can’t get what they want. Every barrier we might throw up, be it social, moral or legislative has become another kink for capitalism to transgress in its seemingly unceasing drive for another market, another commodity another thing to turn to profit. The social libidinous investments that have become so tied to capitalism embody clearly the paranoiac, reactionary, fascisizing pole Deleuze and Guattari warned us about.
Where does this leave us?
“In the subject who desires, desire can be made to desire its own repression”
What do we want?
Or rather, to frame the question in slightly more sophisticated terms, what desires in the individual subject are aligned to the desire of capitalism? In short, all of them. The basic desires of the individual subject are all ultimately made into the desires of the market. Home, family, self can all be packaged and sold back to ourselves. Perhaps this is easiest to see at this time of year in the run up to Christmas. The transformation of Christmas from a familial, religious occasion to one that we inaugurate with the first adverts of the season becomes more blatant every year. From the emotional joy of the family to the societal responsibility of history, we are shown our desires by that eager pimp of capital, the advert.
We are all the boy with machine in Richard Lindner’s 1954 painting, plugged into the great and wide social desiring-machine of late stage capitalism, where our familial investments become short-circuited by a productive force desperate to get laid. Why do we keep doing it? Because we want it. Is it not time to think again? Yes, but perhaps the more important question is it not time to start desiring, start wanting, start lusting after something other than the rapacious capitalism…It is time to redistribute our libidinal investment, or to put things back in the psychoanalytic rather than economic realm, it’s time for an affair.
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