Neo-liberalism, compared to a prior stage of capitalism, does not repress desire as such but uses desire to increase the productivity of its workers. Herbert Marcuse called this phenomenon, in Eros and Civilization, the “performance principle,” which is the capitalist equivalent of Freud’s reality principle. As long as a desire is productive, as long as it pushes the worker to work even more, and sometimes without even being paid, desire is “good.” Efficiency is a personal virtue. One has to be productive and harness his desire to his work in order to produce more. In this sense, the very affirmation of one’s desire becomes the affirmation of the desire of the Other, which is to say the affirmation of the values defended by the current dominant discourse. This reduction of desire to the form of the desire of the Other is what Marcuse called “sur-plus repression,” and what Lacan called, in his Seminar XVII, “surplus-jouissance.” This sur-plus involves a kind of manipulation of jouissance, a way to put it at the service of the neoliberal machine.

While sexuality has been considered, for example, a highly transgressive site for more than three decades, the democratization of the porno industry has turned it into a host of new markets. With neo-liberalism, it is libido itself, with its polymorphous perversity that is used to fuel new porno markets. Every sexual fantasy becomes a “niche” to create new products. We are ordered to enjoy, order to express our desire, ordered to explore fantastically our sexuality. This is why today, as Jacques-Alain Miller points in “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body,” the paradigm is no longer the one of repression, but the one of enjoyment. The transgression that is praised in pornography is not a transgression that aims at liberating the individual from the grip of the Other, but a transgression that is linked to perversion. And the truth that this transgression reveals, as a symptom, is nothing but what Lacan called, at the end of his teaching, the fundamental absence of sexual relationships between the sexes. Everyone is alone in his fantasy.

In such a perverse world, governed by the super-ego of pornography, the body that were supposed to be entirely liberated, and thus free to attain satisfaction is, in reality, reduced to be an imaginary body, a fetish fixated to images, regulated by the Other. This is why the worst enemy of the real body are these images. While the image is fixed and flat, the real body is continually changing and has affective depth. It is, however, most commonly through the false mastery of the imaginary tha contemporary discourses about well-being, but also about the construction of identity, contend that a true return to the body is possible. Éric Laurent, in L’envers de la Biopolitique writes: “What hides the paradox of the current discourse about a “return to the body,” is that it evokes the image of the body in order to make the real of jouissance disappear. The shape of the body and its inner functioning, as well as the multiplication of its images, always presented as the only real dimension of the body, fascinates most people, and presents itself as being all the more a good remedy to the contemporary anxiety that this images are relying on innovative technologies. The body as a machine functions in couple with the body as an image. But let’s not be fooled by it. The power of the techno-scientific discourse, as well as the products that it produces only aims at ruling over jouissance through a scopic control of the body.”[1]

There is thus, on one side, the fragile and fragmented body of jouissance. And on the other, the imaginary unified body, linked to the narcissistic image that a subject has of itself. This unity, however, is not a unity that is anchored in the jouissance of the body, but it is an external image that aims at controlling through a scopic regulation, the body and its jouissance. This is why it is a unity that “troubles” the functioning of the real body, as Judith Butler would have it.[2] To put it in a formula: the more we use modern technology to gain an imaginary control over our body, the more we are becoming the very instrument of these technologies, and through them, the very instrument of the dominant discourse.



[1] Laurent, Éric. L’envers de la biopolitique: une écriture pour la jouissance. 2016. [My translation]

[2] Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter. Routledge, New York, 2015.

This is Part I of “A Noble Trait of Bastardy. A Series of Articles on the Late Lacan and the Posthuman”