‘The Real of the Capitalist Illusion‘ by Slavoj Žižek

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Lacan begins the eleventh week of his seminar Les non-dupes errent (1973-4) with a straight question directed back at himself: “what was it that Lacan, who is here present, invented?” He answers the question “like that, to get things going: objet a.” Objet a has a long history in Lacan’s teaching, it precedes for decades Lacan’s systematic references to the analysis of commodities in Marx’s Capital. But it is undoubtedly this reference to Marx, especially to Marx’s notion of surplus-value /Mehrwert/, that enabled Lacan to deploy his »mature« notion of objet a as surplus-enjoyment (plus-de-jouir, Mehrlust): the predominant motif which permeates all Lacan’s references to Marx’s analysis of commodities is the structural homology between Marx’s surplus-value and what Lacan’s baptized surplus-enjoyment, the phenomenon called by Freud Lustgewinn, a “gain of pleasure,” which does not designate a simple stepping up of pleasure but the additional pleasure provided by the very formal detours in the subject’s effort to attain pleasure.

The point of this homology is not to search in Marx for the origins of Lacan’s theory, but to explore how reading Marx’s critique of political economy through Lacan enables us to reactualize Marx, to conceive the structure of the self-propelling circulation of capital (“money which begets more money”) as the fundamental fantasy of capitalism, fantasy not in the sense of subjective illusion but in a much more radical sense of a fiction which structures our social reality itself.

Fantasies of Capital: Alienation, Enjoyment, Psychoanalysis” — A Jnanapravaha Mumbai Conference.