In late fall of 2022, an article titled “Du lässt immer das Licht an!” [You always leave the lights on!] was published by Austrian newspaper[1]. The author writes in a humorous way about dynamics between family members, partners, and flatmates regarding the contemporary topic of energy saving within the household[2].

When she leaves the room for even a brief moment, her husband secretly turns down the heat, one of the women interviewed says. The author also mentions her husband, who allusively asks her not to turn on the stove for a only single meal; instead she should consider whether other meals could be prepared simultaneously.

The Austrian minister of climate action (from the Green party, Die Grünen) and the Austrian minister of Labour (nominated by the conservative Austrian People’s party, ÖVP) called upon the Austrian citizens in their “Mission 11[3]. They suggested, among other things, to use cold instead of hot water for brushing teeth and hand washing. Cold water would be just as good.

Saving gas in order to get Austria out of its dependence on Russian oil companies, to still be able to pay the sudden skyrocketing prices, and saving energy to take your part in saving the environment are, by all means, venerable and justified motives. But still, I can’t shake the uncanny feeling from all these “saving-paroles”, these best practice models, and the enthusiasm when a new savings-concept catches on. Since getting flooded with new tips and tricks on how to save more, we once again experience the return of penuriousness, of stinginess, and narrowness.

Savings and Austria go hand in hand. In 2021, approximately every 2.5 Austrian citizens[4] signed a home savings contract [Bausparvertrag] with their bank[5]. In Austria, to save money is a valuable act in itself.

Also noteworthy is the mascot Sparefroh [SaveGlady], which originated in Germany in the fifties and achieved astounding popularity in Austria in the sixties and seventies. Make savings, gladly: a symbol of the Austrian ethos. Especially appealing to children, the mascot highlights the benefits of sacrifice in the present, along with the prospect of a joyful and happy future[6]. It’s not the external circumstances that force the individual to sacrifice something, but rather it is a matter of deliberate choice: make savings, gladly!

Today in Austria, the ground is well laid for this contemporary cult of savings and sacrifice.

In Character and Anal Erotism, Freud mentions, as one of the three main characteristics of the anal erotic, a certain parsimony, which may develop to an exaggerated form of avarice[7]. This is not a case of frugality born out of difficult circumstances, but rather the impact of the drive. Savings, sacrifice, and constant deprivation become acts of jouissance. Typical of the drive, it’s never enough!

When talking about one’s own recent savings achievements, the complaint is accompanied by a certain satisfaction. In the background one can hear the aspiration to put others under the same regime as well.

This comes as no surprise. Even if one’s own sacrifices are libidinous, and therefore provide satisfaction, it nonetheless has never been a zero-sum situation. These sacrifices are never going to be fully compensated and may get converted into envy. An enviousness that addresses the one who does not follow a strict savings regime may be expressed by the demand for social justice. Precisely as Freud mentions, “Social justice means that we deny ourselves many things so that others may have to do without them as well”[8].

A joyless, constricted existence, independent of any external hardship, will be the consequence if, under the course of the new salon-worthy parsimony, drive fueled stowaways take the helm.

[1] Redl, B., “Du lässt immer das Licht an“, in: DER STANDARD, Printausgabe vom 1./2. Oktober 2022;

[2] In his article, “Krise der Energie oder Krise der Libido – Energiekrise oder Libido“ (unpublished), Avi Rybnicki points out the ambiguousness of the term “Energy Crisis”. In this context he also mentions a dampening effect on the libido and desire – exemplified in countries like Austria and Germany, where the so-called “safety nets” and guarantees of the big Other are especially well established.



[5] Bausparvertrag: One of the most common ways to save money in Austria. Over a span of several years, money is saved in order to receive a government bonus. Originally this savings option was intended to later reinvest the money into a cheaper housing loan. In fact, this is so common that, to this day, infants even get money for this specific contract right after birth.


[7] Freud, S., Character and anal eroticism, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IX: 169.

[8] Freud, S., Group psychology and the analysis of the ego, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII: 121.