CAPITALIST DESIRE (PROHIBITION, PIRACY & DEBT)

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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

Desire … and money

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Deleuze and Guattari saw desire split, not between necessary and unnecessary desires, but between the desire for production and the desire for acquisition.[i] For them the real revolutionary battle against capitalism had to take place by shifting the emphasis on desire away from mere acquisition to a less individualistic, more positive, creative desire for production.According to Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus thesis, our desires have been geared in the direction of acquisitions since Plato’s dialectics made it the Ideal aim of desire: “From the moment that we place desire on the side of acquisition, we make desire an idealistic (dialectical, nihilistic) conception, which causes us to look upon it primarily as lack.”[ii]

Subsequently we see lack where it did not exist, or a lack in which anything that is not in our grasp needs to be obtained. In this way the logical outcome of desire/acquisition is greed, and it also now becomes perceived as a positive element. How can greed be a vice or a sin, if it is the essential force behind all motivations?

In our anti-human civilisation desire has become desire for the acquisition of that which allows us make acquisitions. Or, in other words, the acquisition of money. All acquisitions become filtered through an accumulation of figures, because the money one has is nothing but a figure in a bank account. Reality flows in the world of these abstract figures. Not only does our dignity, self-esteem and gratifications depend on those figures, but even survival itself.

The world, they say, revolves around these figures. They represent hope – often encompassing all hope, and all desire. In the world of acquisition there is very little time for the production of anything which is not related to the figures that allow everything to operate. Greed is the most logical virtue in the acquisition-driven world. As that greed grows stronger, generosity diminishes. In the world of acquisitions the individual who would rather be productive in a creative rather than in an acquiring way is regarded as a parasite or a freak. Only a certain amount of money is necessary to ensure survival.

Survival is not enough for the citizens of the anti-human civilisation. We are also expected to desire possession, especially of that which is hard to get. Life must be seen as a lusting forward toward that which will give us plenty to show for it.

But what we have acquired is not as fulfilling as what we have created and produced. Because of this the acquisition-desire life can lead to spiritual dissatisfaction and emptiness. The Prozac society is born, where lack and the lust for acquisition is planned and organised. The whole basis of our civilisation is the struggle to make others want, need, and perhaps even lust after what we can offer them, and by so doing acquire an exchange of figures that will swell our own figures considerably. That is what we desire – a considerable swelling of figures.

[i] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, UMP, Minneapolis, 1983, p. 48

[ii] Ibid

Adolescent Society and the Anti-Nihilistic Anti-Oedipus (a revolutionary statement)

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Consumerism’s constant pressure on the pleasure button has fermented a nihilistic culture driven by a plutocratic system calling itself democracy. Our anti-human civilisation has embedded this nihilism with a deep, grass-roots pessimism. Modern life and its emphasis on individual fulfilment has fabricated a depressive tone with uninspired muscle.  Underneath the pristine glamour of the consumer society, lies the internal suffering of he or she who always wants more. Achievement is never enough – each acquisition creates or finds another lack that will open the doors toward another subjugation.

Psychologically we are an adolescent society, torn by narcissistic desires and paradoxical notions of conforming in rebellious ways. We hate the father-figures of power that govern us and will be quick to show our disdain for the present in the next elections, but, nevertheless, we are happy to receive the protection offered by that same parent without giving anything other than grudgingly back. The paternal power maintains its hold over us by creating our dreams and desires, but the Disneyworld factory of dreamworking is the system’s greatest instrument of repression. The anti-human civilisation can exert its power and control over all because the system tells the individual that he or she can also enjoy the same power. What the system promises each individual is the chance that they too can be a leader: a president or king of their own company, or at least a fascist parent.

Here we arrive at the same psychological root to the problem as Deleuze and Guattari: our society is Oedipal.[i] We submit to power because we ourselves are dreaming of achieving that power. The message manifests itself in positive thinking “You can do it!”, “Yes, we can”, “Just do it” etc.. The Fisher King is waiting for you to take his place. Laius must succumb   to you eventually, no matter how cruel he is to you now, no matter how much he wills your destruction. You are destined to step into his shoes and become the King of Thebes and, “Everybody loves a winner.”

Deleuze and Guattari argued[ii] that to fight the system one first of all had to become anti-Oedipal and become an orphan (breaking family ties), an atheist (without beliefs), and a nomad (without ties to any particular region, state or culture). To that list we would like to add a but – but without submitting to nihilism.

So, in our terms, the revolutionary must learn to be an orphan, an atheist, a nomad and an anti-nihilist believer in necessities.

Of course there seems to be a contradiction here: how can an atheist – the non-believer – also be an anti-nihilist moralist redeemer, the kind, let’s say, who believes and who can distinguish between good and evil. In order to resolve this apparent contradiction we would need to analyse what belief and non-belief is, starting with the premise that the pure non-believer does not really exist and the second, seemingly absurd proposition that it is possible to believe and not-believe at the same time. Here we don’t have room for such an analysis but … meanwhile, let a quote from the anti-Oedipal Nietzsche act as post data …

Nietzsche believed, like us, that the future survival of humanity required “another sort of spirit than those we are likely to encounter in this age.” What he called “the redeeming man of great love and contempt, the creative spirit who is pushed out of any position outside or beyond by his surging strength again and again, whose solitude will be misunderstood by the people as though it were a flight from reality – whereas it is just his way of being absorbed, buried and immersed in reality so that from it, when he emerges into the light again, he can return with redemption of this reality … This man from the future will redeem us, not just from the ideal held up till now, but also from those things which had to arise from it, from the great nausea, the will to nothingness, from nihilism, that stroke of midday and of great decision that makes the will free again, which gives its purpose and man his hope again, this Antichrist and anti-nihilist, this conqueror of God and of nothingness – he must come one day.”[iii]

Our redeemer must be Antichrist, Anti-Oedipus and Anti-Nihilist. The old edifice must be pulled right down to allow a new foundation of true, human reality to be laid. A foundation rooted in human purposiveness and a renewal of our necessary partnership with the world that is so important for our existence. Only from this completely new foundation will be able to reconstruct anything truly meaningful. Only from the ruins of our anti-human civilisation will be able to build the Human one.

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[i] SEE Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia

[ii] Ibid

[iii] F. Nietzsche, On the Geneology of Morality, II, xxiv

Foucault’s manual for Anti-Fascism (with some notes)

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In his introduction to Deleuze and Guatarri’s Anti-Oedipus, Michel Foucault summarised the book into seven points which, he suggested, could serve as a guide for the everyday life of any anti-fascist. These seven points were:

  • “Free political action from all unitary and totalising paranoia.”[i] …or, in other words, avoid dogma at all costs.

We see this as the problems that arise from envisaging objectives as something fixed, or the perception of the Ideal as kind of frozen immobility. The essence of progress is that it is always moving beyond itself. The real revolutionary objective needs to be to maintain the linear impacts of progress and keep it out of the curving tendency that will render progress circular again.

  • “Develop action, thought and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchisation.”[ii]

… let us add communication and visibility through social networking as real instruments of democracy and subsequently as destabilising instruments on all attempts to impose dogmas. This has to be done by uncovering and exposing manipulations, especially the most subtle, which are the ones that contemporary dogmas thrive on.

  • “Withdraw allegiance for the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.”[iii]

Propagate a philosophical and artistic perspective of reality.

  • “Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.”[iv]
  • “Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.”[v]
  • “Do not demand of politics that it restore the ‘rights’ of the individual as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to ‘de-individualise’ by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualisation.”[vi]

Liberation of the individual must come through the liberation of humanity, not through the individual itself.

  • “Do not become enamoured of power.”[vii]

Escape the vicious circle of our sado-masochistic reality and our perverse fascination with power. Look for harmony rather than brutal domination and/or pathetic submission.

[i] (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, UMP, Minneapolis, 1983, Preface, p. xiii)

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid, pp. xiii-xiv

[v] Ibid, p. xiv

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid