David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Topoi 15 (2):189-210 (1996)
Anti-capitalist thinkers in the West have long argued that the expansion of markets creates new wants faster than it can satisfy them, and that consumption under capitalism is a form of addictive behavior. Recently, however, the relentless expansion of desire has come to be seen as a strength rather than a weakness of capitalist regimes. To understand this change socialists must consider whether there is a point to consumer spending that goes beyond satisfaction with what one gets. Freud's notion of instinctual ambivalence illuminates the ways in which spending itself is a fusion of the desires to lose and to gain. This helps to explain how the socialist distinction between satisfying and addictive consumption misses the mark. Broadening this insight, we can see that Western thought about justice, originating in Judeo-Christian theology, conceals a fundamental ambivalence about both domination and gain by suggesting that inequality (beginning with that between God and man) is justified when the dominating party loses and the gainer submits. Ironically, however, the new post-utilitarian rationale for capitalism undermines this putative justification of social inequality in consumer-oriented capitalist societies by bringing our internal ambivalence about gain and dominance to the surface. This development creates an opportunity for a new beginning in Marxian social theory. The final sections of the essay suggest that social theory has been trapped in a debate over whether predators (and their human counterparts) kill in order to eat or eat in order to kill (Marx vs. Nietzsche). To break this trap we must shift the basis of social criticism from the metaphor of predation to the metaphor of parasitism. This changes the focus of critical analysis from unmasking the predator in every situation to identifying in every social structure the mechanisms of incorporation, mutual subversion, asymmetrical exchange, and surplus-creation (as distinct from equilibrium). If neither the desire for gain nor the desire for dominance are self-explanatory, then the Marxian critique of Nietzsche and the Nietzschean critique of Marxism both have valid points. The essay concludes with reflections about the importance of addressing the post-utilitarian rationale of capitalism with the same depth and comprehensiveness that we find in Marx's critique of its utilitarian rationale.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Juliet Schor (1996). What's Wrong with Consumer Capitalism?The Joyless Economyafter Twenty Years. Critical Review 10 (4):495-508.
Donald W. Bruckner (2011). Subjective Well-Being and Desire Satisfaction. Philosophical Papers 39 (1):1-28.
Allen W. Wood (1972). The Marxian Critique of Justice. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):244-282.
Melissa A. Orlie (2002). The Desire for Freedom and the Consumption of Politics. Philosophy and Social Criticism 28 (4):395-417.
Donovan Miyasaki (2004). Freud or Nietzsche: The Drives, Pleasure, and Social Happiness. Dissertation, University of Toronto
Bradford Skow (2009). Preferentism and the Paradox of Desire. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 2009.
David Gordon (1988). Projectivist Utilitarianism and the Satisfaction of Desire. Erkenntnis 29 (3):437 - 443.
Steven Arkonovich (2012). Conflicts of Desire. Journal of Value Inquiry 46 (1):51-63.
Richard Schmitt (1973). The Desire for Private Gain Capitalism and the Theory of Motives. Inquiry 16 (1-4):149 – 167.
Thomas S. Torrance (1974). Capitalism and the Desire for Private Gain. Inquiry 17 (1-4):241 – 245.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads15 ( #105,835 of 1,098,129 )
Recent downloads (6 months)7 ( #33,031 of 1,098,129 )
How can I increase my downloads?