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Libidinal Economy

Libidinal Economy was characterized by its repentant author as an "evil" book. Why? Like Deleuze & Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, Libidinal Economy can be seen partially as a response to the question: why do the masses desire their own oppression? Lyotard's response is as unequivocal as it is infamous: "the English unemployed did not become workers to survive, they - hang on tight and spit on me - enjoyed the hysterical, masochistic, whatever exhaustion it was of hanging on in the mines, in the foundries, in the factories, in hell, they enjoyed it, enjoyed the mad destruction of their organic body which was indeed imposed upon them..." According to Lyotard, capital neither alienates (as in Marx) nor represses (as in Freudo-Marxists) desire but on the contrary generates innumerable new modes of jouissance. Accordingly, there can be no recourse to unalienated labour on which to found an emancipatory politics, but rather the anarchic jouissance of capital must be taken to its own conclusion. Like Deleuze & Guattari, Lyotard is heavily influenced by Nietzsche. Like Nietzsche, Lyotard sees in communist politics nothing but a secularized version of Christian morality, a politics based on ressentiment. He skewers middle class French communist intellectuals as being patronizing moralists and calls for an end to "commiseration" with the proletariat. Now certainly one can level a critique against middle class French communist intellectuals without much of a problem. But it's ironic coming from Lyotard, who was precisely a middle class French (ex-)communist intellectual. When Lyotard asserts that "we prefer to burst under the quantitative excesses that you judge the most stupid," one has to question who exactly the "we" in this sentence is (surely not the proletariat...)In true Nietzschean fashion, Libidinal Economy is a polemic against the perceived nihilism of Marxism and psychoanalysis. And yet the book seems curiously nihilistic itself. Deleuze won't do, Baudrillard won't do, and Marx and Freud are right out. At its worst, Libidinal Economy is pure accelerationism, advocating for the worst excesses of capital in the name of jouissance. It's frustrating because the themes Lyotard teases us with (especially the deconstruction of the concept of "primitive societies" found in Marx and Lévi-Strauss) are so interesting. As someone who has read Nietzsche, Marx, Lacan, etc., as someone who's interested in the politics of desire, I'm at least potentially interested in the politics Lyotard is putting forward here. But he really was right, this is an "evil" book.
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