Spirit, Capitalism and Superego

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Conference at Northwestern by Bernard Stiegler
May 2006
Spirit, Capitalism and Superego
Capitalism has lost its mind. Its spirit: henceforth spiritual misery is gaining ground everywhere. The societies that Deleuze called “societies of control,” borrowing the term from William Burroughs, have become uncontrollable, for they are profoundly irrational, without reason and without motives for hope. An end or goal no longer predominates: the “realm of ends” is no more. More and more people think that no good can come from hyperindustrial capitalism.
In their New Spirit of Capitalism, Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello develop the idea that 1968 ushered in a new age of capitalism. Such an idea is interesting, suggestive, often convincing. What the New Spirit of Capitalism (henceforth abbreviated NSC) calls the “artists’ critique” would be that discourse specific to 1968 as a critique of the bourgeois superego which can be seen as the origin of capitalism’s new spirit.
However interesting it may be to distinguish between this “artists’ critique” and what is normally, classically called “social critique,” I do not believe the former is in any respect the cause of the mutation of capitalism leading to control societies, becoming in turn uncontrollable. I consider 1968 the sudden surface expression of much deeper and older processes characteristic of capitalism from the late 19th century, already working to transform it into a new form of libidinal economy.
On the other hand the upheavals of 1968 are the first political, economic and social symptoms of capitalism’s loss of spirit, which consists in a process of desublimation whose effects can be directly experienced in capitalism as the destruction of spirit by capitalism.
Since 1968 this ongoing process now seems headed toward capitalism’s destruction, that is, toward the total liquidation of its spirit by capitalism itself. Libido, its energy, is now close to exhaustion, along with sublimation as a potential of socialization, leaving in its stead the reign of drives. NSC, oblivious to this tendency, sees the reign of a new spirit.
This analytic mistake arises from out of a simplistic understanding of the philosophical references which, according to the authors of NSC, inform the “artists’ critique.” There is, in particular, hardly any importance given to the thought of Hebert Marcuse, who played an important role in the political upheaval around 1968, in the USA, in Germany, and especially in France, and who rejects the possibility of a distinction opposing “artists’ critique” and “social critique.”
Marcuse’s claim is that psycho-pathological questions are much more fundamentally socio-pathological ones. This leads him to a justified criticism of Freud’s tendency to ontologize historical situations. I believe, however, that this criticism of Freud by Marcuse, however well-founded it may be in different respects, relies on a mistaken reading of Freud which is truly regressive in the context of Freud’s path-breaking advances concerning a thinking in terms of a composition of tendencies and no longer in those of an opposition of principles.
Here Marcuse’s classically Marxist position, arguing from the vantage of class struggle, impedes an understanding of what is truly novel in Freud. By the same token, Marcuse repeats and accentuates the weaknesses of Freud’s own discourse on technics and industry, and leads him to the typical 1968 discourse of the emancipation of pleasure and the liberation of the instincts, whereas he had shown as early as 1955 that the first and foremost beneficiary in the process of the liquidation of all superego barriers is capitalism – the veritable actor and agent in the process of desublimation.
 By criticising Marcuse’s discourse, I want to demonstrate that in order to think ethics, mores and morality, i.e., a thinking of the superego, in their relationship to justice and law, i.e., to politics, at a time when capitalism is replacing the authority of the superego with what Marcuse had already and quite accurately names the automisation of the superego, we have to begin thinking the originary technicity of desire as a process of adoption, i.e., as that originary capacity of libido to turn away, to divert itself from its objects: libido is the originary diversion of the libido, as the default of origine of libido, i.e., as perversion, whereas, on the contrary, Marcuse believes it possible to uncover a golden age of libido that through revolutionary struggle could be recovered: a golden age giving pride of place to the pleasure principle over the reality principle – in the age to come of the liberation of the “instincts.” This discourse is blind to the fact that pleasure, taking shape in a confrontation with reality, derives from a composition of tendencies rather than their opposition – the question being the binding or linkage of these tendencies by desire, and their degeneration leading to the reign of the drives, i.e., to spiritual misery.
Such misery results from the systematic exploitation of addictive situations by techniques of marketing. For all that, however, the object of desire is always, in its very structure, addictive. The object desired creates dependency in the desiring subject. This dependency is also what Plato describes in relation to hypomnesia, i.e., to writing as a prosthesis of memory – what he calls the pharmakon. These technologies of the spirit are pharmaka – at once poisons and remedies: supports of otium, care, cura, therapeuma and hypomnemata (from which Foucault will derive techniques for the writing of the self – techniques of individuation) but which are also essential to the calculation that, along with the printing press, made the spirit of capitalism possible (Max Weber). Consequently, the political – understood as the care a society takes of itself, being intrinsically perverse, since its social and spiritual energy, libido, is essentially that which attaches itself to what destroys it – must be thought as a libidinal economy, at a moment of great carelessness for a hyperindustrial capitalism having lost its mind.
The NSC would have us believe that Marcuse’s main concern in Eros and Civilisation (abbreviated EC) is with authenticity. This is false: his question is the “instincts” – Trieb, drive. EC is, from this point of view, more interesting than One-Dimensional Man. There can be no doubt that this discourse on Trieb and the ensuing question of the relation of capitalism and libido shaped the course of events in May 1968 in France and elsewhere, as well as post-68 French thought, including, especially, the denunciation of the discourse of alienation by so-called “French theory.” The problem with Marcuse’s theory in relation to its impact on the international student body, and in particular on French students, at the close of the sixties, is in his reading of Freud – and this problem is overlooked in NEC.
Marcuse’s main thesis is that the reality principle has become, in the age of industrial capitalism, the performance principle, in the service of what he calls surplus-repression. His critique of the Freudian theory of libido centering on the claim that psychoanalysis has naturalized this historical state of affaires, historical and therefore contingent: Marcuse suggests we change our point of view to the benefit of a struggle for the “liberation of instincts,” and on the basis of a change in theoretical perspective which consists first of all in distinguishing two levels in the reality principle: the structural level, -- a kind of “nature of desire,” and the historical level, i.e., the circumstantial, economic level – the performance principle being the specific configuration of the reality principle in the industrial age.
This distinction is interesting, based as it is on the principle that the forces formalized by psychoanalytic categories are formed in a process-oriented historicity. However it may not be possible to come up with [dégager] a structural level which would not be always already historical, i.e., historically or proto-historically or pre-historically evidenced as such [gagé], i.e., that would not be artifactual, insofar as the artifact is the operator of the processuality and the historicization of these categories, and that which engages desire qua process of individuation – but this is exactly what eludes Marcuse. That the artifact is the operator of the process, i.e., its condition, means that no pre-process ground can be abstracted from the process: which means that the structural is basically, element by element, “historical,” and, as such, “accidental.” No ontology informs the process, allowing for the identification of its constitutive elements. The elements are always already supplements: elementarity is an elementary supplementarity.
What I am calling the process of formation of psychoanalytic categories, in which elements are always already becoming supplements (always already taken up in a phantasmatic and fantastic mechanism, a process working at the real so as to “fiction” it as a technical invention) is the psychic, collective and technical (i.e., artifactual) process of individuation, in which relations are worth more than their elements. If there can be elements maintaining themselves in metastable forms – or rather through metastable, rather than stable forms – it is because they are forces constituted in these relations, i.e., constituted at least into pairs which seem to form into oppositions but which are in fact compositions—which, contrary to Cartesian method, cannot be decomposed into primary elements without being destroyed by this very decomposition. And the becoming common of these relations, in such a process of individuation in three distinct strands, belongs to the task of a genealogy, itself conceived from out of an organalogy.
In Symbolic Misery Vol 2., I have proposed a theory of a general organalogy providing the conceptual framework for a geneology of this precessuality: the process is described as a series of defunctionalisations and refunctionalisations of living, artificial and social organs. This process constitutes a genealogy of the noetic sensible. Technics, in this genealogy, itself constitutive of a process of individuation, is constantly at work reconfiguring psychic individuation, which is situated on the side of the pleasure principle, and collective individuation, on the side of the reality principle. This takes place as technics rearticulates the transductive relation in which these principles are constituted. This is to say that the pleasure principle does not precede the reality principle. The latter, as circuit, is on the contrary the realisation of the pleasure principle, insofar as the former is the horizon of transindividuation of psychic individuation which rules over the pleasure principle as its difference – différance passing through the circuit of collective individuation, providing it does not fail, which can happen.
Now, Marcuse’s reading of Freud takes place outside of this genealogy. In an ambiguous, hesitant and cramped style, Marcuse sets up the pleasure principle prior to its domination by the reality principle (i.e., the reality principle itself), as a kind of lost paradise from which the desiring subject will have fallen following some kind of fault – perhaps the one consisting in the technicisation of life, killing the living by the interiorisation of this deadness that technics is – in a fate of repression of instincts and of the “domination of the reality principle” over the pleasure principle, as if the history of desire would have to be a negative eschatology, an apocalypse whose time had come: a time to stand up and move out of the apocalypse by the messianic jumpstart of revolutionary struggle.
Writing and reading these words, I am surprised at the resemblance between this “process” and what I have described as the path leading from the prehistoric human group to societies of control becoming uncontrollable and requiring, therefore, what I called a jumpstart (in The Decadence of Industrial Democraties) which I believe to be revolutionary in import. The profound difference between what I am saying and Marcuse’s discourse lies in his positing a kind of state of nature of desire, whereas I posit its constitutive artifactuality. In addition, I do not see, on the way leading to uncontrollable societies, a continuous line of destruction of individuation, of desire, but on the contrary a series of oscillations; true enough they are more and more ample, alternating between tendencies to dis-individuation and the reconstruction, based on these very tendencies, of new types of processes of individuation, i.e., new forms of psychic and collective individuation: herein lies the play of what I have called the double epochal doubling up of historical epochs of individuation, inasmuch as the technological époché, which is always disindividualizing, requires an individuating doubling up formed by practices of individuation and, in this case, by hypomnesic practices of otium, or of what I call care.
Consequently, the task is to think the care which must be sought out at each historical or genealogical stage of these series of individuations as that which allows a psycho-pathology and a socio-pathology to be articulated, i.e., that which allows a thinking of individuation as a political economy, itself conceived on the basis of a libidinal economy.
If the distinction proposed by Marcuse between a structural and a historical level is invalid from my point of view (that of a theory of psycho-social-technical individuation), he nevertheless implements the distinction in order to consider psycho-pathological problems in socio-pathological, i.e., political terms. For if it is true – and it is the case even if there is no structural level of this element of a relation that the reality principle is – that there is a historical becoming in the reality principle, or, to be more precise, in the relation between pleasure and reality, this relation, if not this element, can become an aim of collective struggle, and not only for psychic care.
That is why the distinction between the structural and the historical appears as that which can facilitate the articulation of the psychic and the collective, of psychoanalysis and the political
Psychological categories have become political ones … The cure of personal ailments now depends more directly than before on the healing of general disorder.[1]
This is a praiseworthy aim – my own work points in a similar direction. But Marcuse fails in this undertaking because instead of studying relations, he wants to define elements to be referred back to an ontology, because he cannot see the evidence of the artefact in the constitution of desire. This failure, which will play a part in the ambiguity of the “artists’ critique,” must today be analysed meticulously, if we are to forge a new critique of capitalism having lost its mind.
There is a genesis of psychoanalytic categories, and to this extent psycho-pathology is socio-pathology. In this genesis, the process that sets everything into motion is the artefact, the accident, i.e., exteriorisation. Marcuse tries to reconstitute the genesis of the reality principle in order to found a critique of Freud. But the critique relies on a mistaken, and above all regressive reading: the philosopher would revert to a discourse of the opposition of tendencies, whereas there is only a process of composition of tendencies, and one of the main advances in Freud is to have installed thought in what since Plato is an entirely novel disposition, one that Nietzsche was the first to uncover – this way of thinking characteristic of Heraclitus, but more generally constitutive of the pre-Socratic tragic style of thinking.
Marcuse’s critique is regressive in that the constitutive elements of the tendencies, once decomposed by his critique, no longer appear as tendencies, i.e., as forces composing with one another in a process wherein they co-constitute and co-individuate themselves, but rather as hypostatised powers – precisely as principles, whereas Freud’s pathbreaking accomplishment was to have shown that only plays between forces can be analysed; forces can be distinguished but no longer can they be set into opposition, because it is the relation wherein they compose that is constitutive. These forces, which are also processes, can be presented as principles, but this is possible only because these forces can become meta-stable in historical, apparently stable but actually meta-stable forms, and it is inherent to every epoch to naturalise these processes which are themselves artefacts and, as such, simulacra, inasmuch as they are social and historical organisations of plays of forces.
In his will to place in a historical process the becoming of forces he wants to oppose, Marcuse cannot see that the question is the and whereby the psychic and the collective compose. That this and, which constitutes both the conjunctive and disjunctive relation of the psychic and the collective, is technics: Marcuse cannot see that technics at once conjoins and disjoins two planes that, in their tension, form a process of individuation, i.e., a genealogy in which the give and take whereby the pleasure and reality principles compose is transformed. This is why the distinction between a structural and a historical level, as set out by Marcuse, (and after acknowledging the merit in this will to think psychoanalytic categories as a becoming, in an always already psycho-social becoming, and not a pre-established and set structure of the psyche) has played a part in producing the ambiguities characteristic of “artists’ critique,” ambiguities detrimental to today’s critical possibilities. The elaboration of a new critique must take into account this critique of Marcuse and, in time, move out into a global critique of psychoanalysis, whose lines of flight and force I can only sketch here, by way of introduction. (A more comprehensive exposition will be found in Technics and time Vol 5)
Marcuse tends to oppose where things rather compose, and that means that he tends to reintroduce a Marxist way of thinking, i.e., a dialectical one, whereas the Freudian way of thinking constitutes a decisive break and advance on the dialectic, i.e., on Platonism. (for more on this see Technics and time Vol. 4) The upshot is, then, that Marcuse has no choice but to set the question of the relation between the pleasure and reality principles as homologous to a struggle in which one of the antagonists must prevail over the other to bring the struggle to a close – instead of thinking their play and contemplating their past becoming and future, as the future of an endless struggle, but a struggle not without motives, between tendencies for which we, the players of the moment, are responsible. In this context, responsible for making sure that the struggle does not end in a decomposition of the tendencies.
Marcuse’s argument is analogical: just as class struggle must promise the proletariat the ultimate reversal of capital, so too the pleasure principle will have to impose its law on the reality principle. This reasoning in terms of revolutionary reversal is founded on the unconscious idea of an originary fault, a guilt which for Freud is the origin of libido – nowhere does Marcuse take issue with this. The upshot is that if Marcuse is justified in wanting to naturalize the Freudian categories and thus to raise the plane of the psycho-pathological (i.e., the psychoanalytic), to that of the socio-pathological (i.e., the political), he does so on a doubly mistaken basis: on the one hand he regresses to a pre-Freudian position with respect to the latter’s advance concerning the thought of tendencies, and secondly he repeats Freud’s mistake: not to think in the play of forces, the artefactuality of desire – as the desire of what does not exist, but which, beyond all calculability, consists (while bringing into existence that which does not exist, namely artefacts.)
Marcuse knows that this way of reasoning in oppositions of that which composes constitutes a problem, and therefore, so as to justify his reasoning, he proceeds to distinguish between structural and historical reality principle. This is an attractive distinction, allowing history into the evolution of psychoanalytic categories, but a dangerous one, because it leads back to a thinking in terms of those principles beyond which we must project ourselves to reach the level of the relation, a relation that is in this case a liaison, allowing a thinking of desire beyond pleasure, and as a transductive relation sparking infinite struggles where without a guilty party there never is a winner. No winner, no fault, but a de-fault – that provides space for play. This de-fault providing space for play is necessary – and this tragic thinking which enables us to move beyond not only the pleasure principle but beyond originary guilt.
Marcuse’s “freudo-marxist” synthesis is then the identification of the reversal of capital’s domination and the reversal of the domination of the reality principle. On one side we have class struggle, and the revolutionary horizon allowing the proletariat (work) to reverse the power of capital, and on the opposing side, the struggle of principles, and the revolutionary horizon allowing the pleasure principle to reverse the reality principle, which means here the reversal of that moral order underpinning it, where the superego as the domination of the father is constituted. In the same stroke, that which, in the de-fault of mortals – i.e., in their prostheticity – stemming from the fault of Epimetheus, i.e., from a god, and which opens up the horizon of their éris, their emulation, but which can always mutate into discord – required dike and aidos, i.e., justice and propriety as consistencies of the non-existent, and which must be counter-distinguished from existing law and the moral translations of existing ethics – vanishes. And it vanishes into what for Marcuse is little more than a repressive superegoic apparatus of the “instincts” which stand to be liberated from it.
Our author’s ignorance of the stakes involved in technics – of the role of what I call tertiary retentions and Derrida the supplement – is combined with the above-mentioned regression concerning the theory of the composition of tendencies when technics is seen, through the industrial set-up, as the vector for the domination of the reality principle. Marcuse goes so far as to see in Freudian theory the legitimisation of repression devoted to domination. In the face of and against this “domination,” Marcuse calls for a political agenda, as a psycho-social-pathological question, the liberation of instinctual needs and the instauration of a “non-repressive mode of existence” constitutive of a “new stage in civilization.” In other words, technics here is not conceived as what is at once, as the condition of transindividuation and as a tertiary retentional milieu, the vector of synchronisation, i.e., of the reality principle, and of diachronisation, i.e., of the pleasure principle – and, just as much but more profoundly, of Thanatos and Eros --: technics is not conceived as the condition of conjunction and disnunction in individuation, but solely as an instrument of control, which certainly can be reversed by a non-dominant pleasure principle but which does not constitute pleasure as such, i.e., individuation as such.
If our agenda today more than ever involves affirming not only the possibility but the absolute necessity of breaching a new stage in the history of civilisation, it cannot be done by imagining this new stage as a non-repressive mode freeing instinctual needs. The price of the intermittent character of the passage into noetic actuality, where the noetic soul passes only temporality into actuality, always in the sway of a tendency to regress to the stage of the sensitive soul, the price then is that regression and repression are the tragic conditions of the noetic, which distinguishes justice and law, ethics and morality only insofar as a Sittlichkeit exists (mores and savoir-vivre) and a Moralität, as crutches for this noeticity in default. Here, moreover, how is one going to separate savoir-vivre from mores and custom, and mores from morality, and as the existence of ethics which is the experience of Aidos, i.e., of that propriety – that which expresses shame in the ignorance of the necessary difference between what exists and what consists? Infinite justice, which does not exist, and which in this respect is the object of desire, is irreducible to finite law, whereas desire cannot desire its object, structurally infinite, unless it undergoes the ordeal of its de-fault (which is not a lack – it is more than a lack, it is the consistency of its in-inexistence) in the existence of a law / right you have to have. Since a tendency is constituted in a relation it established transductively with its counter- tendency, life is that which accomplished death (as the dead, or as deadness) and vice versa (that is why life is full of ghosts, i.e., returns of the dead in the shape and form of spirits and fetiches, i.e., of suddenly animated objects which constitute occult forces – including commodities), whereas pleasure is that which constructs reality (inasmuch s the former phantasizes the latter by the individuation of the psychic being who, unaccomplished, caries on with her phantasm and, through this pursuit that she transindividuates, trans-forms reality, being inversely and transductively trans-formed by reality: pleasure cannot be opposed to reality, nor life to death, or liberation to oppression, justice to law, ethics to morality, necessity to accident …
The relation between the two great drive-based tendencies evolves throughout time, as a series of compositions, and with the evolution of this relation the principles evolve in turn. This is the most interesting aspect of EC, despite and with its limits: its apprehension of drives as “material”, or more exactly, as the potential of an evolution (which should be termed the pre-individual stage, but that is miles away from Marcuse. Simondon describes this pre-individual potential as the bequest of vital individuation, and one cannot speak of material insofar as the hylemorphic system has been jettisoned, the schema which opposes matter and form instead of seeing them as the poles of a dynamic composition.)
The primary drives of the human organism … are subject to historical modifications. (EC, p. 8)
Marcuse thus confronts us with the problem of a genealogy of desire, in quite explicit terms: when the “performance principle,” the reality principle (i.e., for us the pleasure/reality relation) gets to the point where, as industrial capitalism, and for Marcuse himself, it coincides with a process of desublimation which is also a diversion of libidinal energy having become morbid, for it leads to a drop in libidinal energy, which calls for the revolutionary organisation of a new form of sublimation. Now Marcuse terms this new form “non-repressive”:
In this book I have forged the notion of “non-repressive sublimation”: by this I mean that the sexual drives, without losing a bit of their erotic energy, surpass the immediate object of their aim and eroticise the non-erotic and anti-erotic relations between individuals, and between the latter and their surroundings. (reference?)
Hyperindustrial capitalism hijacks infantile libido, which is normally invested in parents, directing it toward commodities, thus destroying the processes of primary and secondary identification, i.e., the psyche itself. But the possibility of such diversion is to be found in the process of adoption which defines every process of psychic, collective and technical individuation, and which itself is grounded in the originary and constitutive capacity of the libido to divest itself of its objects, which are less “natural” and “spontaneous” than they are configured by a state of the organisation of collective individuation – which by the way is also what constitutes the historical character of perversion. The latest stage in this hijacking, i.e., the type of arrangements between the terms of transductive relations whereby tendencies come together and compose, is the decomposition of these tendencies, i.e., their destruction as tendencies composing and co-posing an individual and collective desire, i.e., organising a psychic and collective individuation accelerating a drive-based regression whereby tendencies are unbound, in which case perversion can mutate into decomposition.
There is, then, always this diversion. Marcuse offers a paraphrase of Freud:
The methodical sacrifice of libido, its sternly enforced deflection toward socially useful activities is culture. (ibid. page 3)
In the following, Marcuse quotes Freud:
Society must see to it that the number of their members is restricted and their energy directed away from sexual activity onto their work. (ibid. page 17)
But on this point Marcuse is ambiguous, and suspicious of Freud, and finally (probably) opposed to these points of view, to the point that we may wonder if it is not this diversion which is identified with the fall and with guilt: the guilt of capital, where technics would be the harbinger and the condition, as disposition to control – which would be something like the resurgency or the re-interpretation of what, in religion, has always defined work as a fall, whereas in Greek mythology, it is a matter of divine vengeance among gods, mortals being only the victims, not the authors, of a divine fault due to a divine conflict.
As for what Marcuse describes as the surpassing of the erotic object by erotic energy, i.e., as a generalised erotisation, this implies narcissism as the source of sublimation, and investment, based on the object of self-centered love, toward the objects which have constituted the self as the sedimentation of its processes of identifications, i.e., of the series of its diversions of libido and the successive projections and adoptions, more or less perverse, in which this all consists. And it is in opposition to this movement of sublimitory sublimation, and to the fact that its source be found in narcissism, that Marcuse speaks of “repressive desublimation,” an interesting concept, because it shows how the diversion of libido toward commodities consists in subordinating the criteria of choice to the performance principle, i.e., to a reality principle that itself is totally subservient to the imperatives of yields on industrial investments, that is, tothe best performance possible.
And reciprocally, one can speak of “repressive desublimation,” i.e., of a liberation of sexuality into modes and in forms that diminish and weaken erotic energy. In this process as well, sexuality extends to regions and relations that were once taboo; however, instead of recreating these regions and relations in the image and likeness of the pleasure principle, the opposite tendency predominates: the reality principle extends its dominion over Eros. (ref. Unknown)
This “liberation of sexuality into modes and forms that diminish and weaken erotic energy” is in one respect already – 13 years prior to 1968, and well before the publication of NSC – that which identifies the “recuperation – implementation” of the struggle against the paternal superego to the great advantage of a re-organised capital.
The problem with this very peremptory line of reasoning is its opposition between sublimation and repression, and the concomitant identification of repression and reality principle, with no analysis of the question of a tendency to regression constitutive of the noetic soul, that soul that passes into actuality noetically as well as destructively, i.e., by processes of negative sublimation, which is altogether different from desublimation, although among its worst effects. The tendency to regression is exploited by a logic of libido hi-jacking toward objects with the best possible yields – this is in fact what is taking place: this new process of adoption, commandeered by management and by marketing, consists in choosing objects of libidinal investment chosen not with an eye to the re-enforcement of the process of transindividuation, i.e., to psychic individuation and collective individuation, but only as a function of the best rate of returns on investments (financial ones, but via the libidinal ones thus hijacked) and on a very short term basis, for an international capitalism itself now extensively “free” of its ties to industrial capitalism, i.e., to objects of technical knowledge and know-how.
In other words, EC identifies in capitalism’s evolution and though the organisation of the relation pleasure/reality under the auspices of the performance principle, the problem of a tendential drop in libidinal energy as inherent to the principle. In the same stroke, this principle emerges as the operator of the identification of a singular epoch constitutive of a limit in the history of libido: what I analyse as the hyperindustrial epoch of the decomposition of those tendencies constitutive of desire, and which is concretised as cultural capitalism. The latter unfolds and renders systematic what was identified at the outset of the 20th century as the question of the consumer leading to the destruction of desire itself and likewise, for this very reason, to that of sublimation: to “repressive desublimation.” But the politics advocated by Marcuse in EC is a dead-end because he cannot see the role of the pharmakon in the constitution of desire, nor the dispositif of the constitution of tendencies that results. Which means that after having brilliantly posed the question of what he describes as the automatisation of the superego, he proves incapable of thinking the question of a future for the superego, a future without which no psychic and collective individuation is conceivable.
(translated by Georges Collins, April 2006)

[1] Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, a philosophical inquiry into Freud, Routledge 2005 [1956], p. xxi.