The Logic of Discourse and the Logic of the Market
At the very moment that Lacan begins to speak about the logic of discourse, he is also speaking of an economics of jouissance. One only need realize that Lacanian structuralism and economics are the same thing. Every discourse-structure is a mode of production. Markets are situated in relation to the real—they are the means by which, through various contingencies and instantiations, the real stops not writing itself. They are enjoyment in its pure, raw state of impossibility, from which a surplus of enjoyment may be extracted as plus-de-jouir (Mehrlust).
“Modern societies are marked by the raising to the social zenith of the object a, the absolutization of the market (everything can be bought or sold), the disjunction of knowledge and power. In this context, the analytic discourse is no longer the reverse of the dominating discourse.”
This is fundamentally correct. As Lacan claims in ‘La psychanalyse dans sa reference au rapport sexuel,’ there is a correlation—not an opposition—between the age of capitalism and the extension of analytic discourse.
Capitalism has nothing to do with ‘greed’ in the pejorative sense, and is not even essentially about money, which after all is only a number assigned to a value. The denunciation of capitalist greed is an archaism, taking the discursive form of the hysteric criticizing the moral failures of the master, when in fact there are no masters of capitalism. The essence of capitalism is rather enjoyment—enjoyment in its movement from impossibility to contingency.
The second session of Seminar 16 must be read on this matter. When Lacan refers to Marx, he refers to Marx as the structuralist and the economist. We must be very careful, however, in being too quick to affirm the Marxian labour theory of value. There is no doubt that labour-markets, for instance the labour-markets in developing countries, are used to produce surplus-value. But labour-markets are not the only kind of markets, and the essence of the market is not necessarily exploitation. Rather, the essence of the market is the impossibility, or as Lacan says, the renunciation of jouissance. Lacan remarks that the malaise of civilization is that surplus enjoyment is only obtained through the renunciation of enjoyment. Enjoyment doesn’t stop not writing itself, but once in awhile, under certain conditions, it stops not writing itself—the former is the precondition of the latter.
In the capitalist’s discourse, knowledge is in the place of enjoyment (S2 in the upper right-hand corner of structure). This is reflected in the fact that the majority of wealth in the world-economy today takes the form of intellectual property. There is a strange kind of satisfaction enclosed in trademarks or other such intangible assets. The very intangibility of knowledge-satisfaction is what leads Lacan to assert that, like the sexual rapport, there is no such thing as intellectual property. Yet although such intangibility is by definition non-monetary, Lacan does claim that knowledge, at the extreme, is what is called ‘the price’—it is worth money, and more and more money, insofar as it produces—it is the price of renunciation of jouissance. Deals are made in this manner in the world of mergers and acquisitions today: certain things are given up and cut down, but a profit is expected. This does not necessarily imply exploitation of labour, although there are countless examples where exploitation is the mechanism. It is not a question of exploitation but one of failure of jouissance, and failure of jouissance is not unique to capitalism nor is it something that can be overcome.
The problem of capitalism is that it is not the subject that enjoys. In capitalism the subject is dominant and in the place of desire, but it is knowledge itself that enjoys. This is one crucial point of distinction between the capitalist’s discourse and analytic discourse. In analytic discourse the subject enters the place of impossible enjoyment, the place of the real. This occurs at the moment when knowledge becomes unconscious and enters the place of truth. The fundamental question, then, is one of what steps can be taken to effectuate this movement of knowledge out of the real into truth—out of impossibility into possibility.