‘Avatars of Avarice’ by Mladen Dolar

WATCH

The specter of avarice has always haunted capitalism. Traditionally seen as one of the seven deadly sins it was forcefully rejected by religion and morals in all pre-modern societies, particularly when linked with the figure of usury. Capitalism paradoxically instituted this anti-social sin par excellence as the very lever of sociality and the motor force of its development. The paper will briefly scrutinize Marx’s and Freud’s take on avarice, with Marx providing a genealogy of contemporary capitalism from the pre-modern miser accumulating his treasure to the forms of consumerism as the developed and universalized forms of avarice, where avarice itself has become invisible; and with Freud’s take on the ‘anal character’ as the libidinal basis of accumulation and its modern ramifications and forms of subjectivity. However, the recent development of capitalism, its neoliberal turn, its ‘debt-drive’ etc., requires a different and reflexively more complicated model which will have to consider the figure of mercy, traditionally the very opposite of avarice, as a key to these developments, the forms of subjectivity and the injunctions of the superego that form the libidinal basis of the present state.