The great capitalist lie is its myth of unlimited desires. That which capitalism calls the realisation of dreams. Society knows that desire cannot be given free rein, for if society has a function it is to organise the flows of desire by establishing limits to them; by adjudicating conflicts that arise.

Capitalist advertising cries out: “Fulfil yourselves! Make your dreams come true!” While at the same time, knowing full well that such a thing is impossible.

If capitalism is a desire-inducing machine, it is also the great fabricator of impossible illusions, of delusions. Success can be found, but it must always be conditioned by the relating of the impossible dream, and the paradox that the attainment of the desired-object makes that object no longer desirable.

The dynamics of capitalism depends on the fabrication of dreams and the constant stimulus of desires. It requires a society enslaved to the lust for acquisitions. Nevertheless, it must also know what the limits to those desires are. Limiting the desires it creates or exploits is also important for capitalism as it needs to control the balance of supply and demand in order to ensure that it always works in favour of capital.

A limited market benefits a corrupt or criminal system (e.g.: the USA in the 1930s). By limiting desire through laws of prohibition, an underground economy can become enormously profitable for they who dare. There is huge profit to be had for those who can control, in an underground way, that which has become illegitimate. Desire for the most potently desirable and addictive commodities: alcohol, drugs, sex, gaming, slaves and weapons, can produce unimaginable benefits for those with enough influence and muscle to traffic them from within the deeply privileged space of illegality.

Most of the above examples of prohibition were established along with the excuse that prohibition protects public health. Primitive economies are markets of exchange, but, even in the free market ideal of capitalism, it is not good to exchange goods that society deems insalubrious.

Nevertheless, our modern, complex economy has created other reasons for controlling the market. The legitimate dealers of desire need to be protected from the pirates. For the system, the acquisition of an object without an exchange of money is a threat to the very stability of the system itself.

However, in a super-surplus creating system in which consumers desire the acquisition of all, an anti-piracy discipline can only lead to a sense of frustration and constriction, because, the truth is, no-one has enough money yet to buy everything, and, we certainly can’t all of us ever have enough money to buy everything. Yet, the capitalism ideal is that we all should want to buy everything. When we walk into a supermarket, we want it all. And now! There are so many possibilities being offered, but nearly all of them just beyond our reach. The great capitalist carrot. But, how long can a system based on a perpetual temptation for us to reach out just a little bit further, to catch that which will never be caught, exist?

An article is made and it is reproduced in millions of copies so each and every one of us can have a copy if we can afford it. However, before we do buy these new mass-produced commodities, first of all we must ask ourselves if we can afford what we desire. With the stress of the cost of necessities (food, shelter, health, transport) taking up bigger and bigger portions of the daily pie of our income, the further reaching economy of completely unnecessary, but ardently desired, wishes starts to decline, even though the actual desires that have been created do not go away. Therefore, we can either: a) get a loan and go into debt in order to acquire everything we want that we think we deserve (if we can’t have these things why do we go to work every day?); or b) exchange the copiable commodities of our desires with others who have the same love of these commodities that are now available to us in a digital form that can be freely copied and exchanged. The latter of course is exchange without money, and that option is piracy. It is illegal.

Of course there is something paradoxical and essentially absurd in offering everything to everyone. It is a lie we believe because we have to. A diversion from our real condition which is one of debt.

Deleuze and Guattari talk of our debt inscription[1]. An inscription drawn on us in every flag, in every national hymn and through every hero. Through the debt, the Oedipal debt, we have to the parents we must surpass. The debt of our self-image in the society, what we call our debt to ourselves, or our self-pride and self-esteem. But when life is a constant paying back, creativity becomes secretly restricted and real freedom does not exist at all.

Is this really the least worst of all systems?

[1] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, UMP, Minneapolis, 1983



  1. Bravo again, my friend, for yet another exceptional, mind-opening piece. It seems we march to the same tune, albeit you play the trombone while I’m on the flute. Let’s hope our merry marching band gathers enough momentum to reach the tipping point!

  2. On the notion of possession and capitalisation I give you the humble donut

    Today’s selection — from The American Plate by Libby H. O’Connell. Donuts began as a small sweet treat with no hole called oleykoeks invented by the Dutch. It wasn’t till 1847 that an American seaman added the hole:

    “You may think we have a giant national sweet tooth today, but the early American settlers were no less fond of their sweet treats. The Dutch contributed to a national love of sugary baked goods. The English and the Spanish weren’t the only Europeans to colonize North America early on. The French sent explorers and missionaries, whose names dot the maps of modern Canada and the Unites States, particularly in the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi River valley. The Dutch founded New Netherland right in the middle of the Atlantic coast and up the great Hudson River. Their harbor town, New Amsterdam, would eventually become the vibrant powerhouse called New York City.

    Modern Donuts from Federal Donuts

    “Although the English took possession of New Netherland in 1664 and renamed the colony New York, many Dutch settlers remained. Farm families in the early 1800s still spoke Dutch. Several common American words, like ‘boss’ and ‘stoop,’ are Dutch in origin. Their influence lingers in place names like Brooklyn and Kinderhook, and in family names like Roosevelt and Vanderbilt.

    “The Dutch also contributed three all-American foods: doughnuts, waffles, and cookies. It would be inaccurate to say they invented these sweet treats. … In the colonial period, doughnuts were chubby circles, not the inflated rings we’re used to seeing today. A baker would drop a ball of stiff batter or dough about the size of a large walnut into hot pork lard and fry it brown. They called these deep-fat-fried calorie bombs oleykoeks, or oil cakes, serving them with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon. British Americans adopted the recipe, but called the treat a ‘dough-nut.’

    “An American seaman cook, Hanson Gregory, claimed to have created the first doughnut cooked intentionally with a hole in 1847, more than two hundred years after the Dutch arrived here. He said the hole allowed the dough to cook more evenly in the hot lard. Today, Americans consume doughnuts with enormous relish, chowing down on over ten billion a year.”

    The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites
    Author: Libby O’Connell
    Publisher: Sourcebooks
    Copyright 2014 by Libby H. O’Connell
    Pages 59-60

    All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.

    About Us is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

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