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The Capitalist Unconscious
Samo Tomsic

Here the second essential feature of the drive enters the picture, which clarifies that Marx’s opposition between bare hunger and cultivated hunger indeed highlights two immanent aspects of the drive and not the opposition between nature and culture. Under constant pressure, Freud understands the ‘amount of force or the measure of the demand for labor [Arbeitsanforderung] that it represents.’ At the very core of the drive stands a permanent demand for labor, representation of labor-power, hence the Freudian attempt to elaborate an energetics of the drive.

This demand for labor explains the simultaneous sameness and difference between pleasure and unpleasure in unconscious satisfaction. At this point, Freud’s early analogy with capitalism finds another repetition. Because the unconscious is split between the capitalist and the laborer, the process of satisfaction is necessarily experienced on both ends, pleasure and unpleasure. Yet the one enjoying is not the subject, for as Freud’s analyses demonstrate again and again, there is no subject of jouissance. There is only the subject of labor, the addressee of the demand for labor.

Consequently, 'Labor!’ is the true meaning of the superego’s injunction 'Enjoy!’ The critical kernel of Freud’s labor theory of the unconscious again becomes striking, since Marx’s reformulation of the political-economic labor theory of value into a materialist theory of the subject was the first one to establish this interdependency of the two demands that can be associated with capital: the constant demand for surplus-value and the constant demand for labor.

The difference between need and demand is finally reflected at the level of the object. Unlike need, the drive appears to be without an object:
'The object of a drive is the thing in regard to which or through which the drive is able to achieve its aim.’ It is what is most variable about a drive and is not originally connected with it, but becomes assigned to it only in consequence of being peculiarly fitted to make satisfaction possible.’

Lacan later draws attention to this passage in order to explain how the object a relates to the montage of the drive. However, we cannot overlook the fact that Freud - prior to Lacan’s developments - again hints at the difference between the content and the form, which already backed the mechanism of desire. The drive reaches its satisfaction in the object-form, which corresponds to the autonomy of differences, and based on this displacement the demand for satisfaction can become imperative.

The drive becomes a symbolic machine without end, consuming objects for the sake of consumption (i.e. extraction of surplus), and designating the permanent Entstellung, deformation and displacement of the need.

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