"I replaced Freud's energetics with political economy," said Lacan in his Seminar XVII - did he really mean it?

"I replaced Freud's energetics with political economy," said Lacan in his Seminar XVII - did he really mean it? When, in his "critique of political economy," Marx deals with the opposition of the "classical" political economy (Ricardo and his labor-theory of value - the counterpart to philosophical rationalism) and the neo-classic reduction of value to a purely relational entity without substance (Bailey - the counterpart to philosophical empiricism), he resolves this opposition by way of repeating the Kantian breakthrough towards the "parallax" view: he treated it as a Kantian antinomy, i.e., value has to originate outside circulation, in production, AND in circulation. The post-Marx "Marxism" - in both its versions, Social Democratic and Communist - lost this "parallax" perspective and regressed into the unilateral elevation of production as the site of truth against the "illusory" sphere of exchange and consumption. As he emphasizes, even the most sophisticated theory of reification, commodity fetishism, from the young Lukacs through Adorno up to Fredric Jameson, falls into this trap: the way they account for the lack of revolutionary movement is that the consciousness of workers is obfuscated by the seductions of consumerist society and/or the manipulation by the ideological forces of cultural hegemony, which is why the focus of the critical work should shift to "cultural criticism" (the so-called "cultural turn") - the disclosure of ideological (or libidinal - it is here that originates the key role of psychoanalysis in Western Marxism) mechanisms which keep the workers under the spell of bourgeois ideology.

In a close reading of Marx's analysis of the commodity-form, Karatani ground the insurmountable persistence of the parallax gap in the "salto mortale" that a product has to accomplish in order to assert itself as a commodity:

The price /of iron expressed in gold/, while on the one hand indicating the amount of labour-time contained in the iron, namely its value, at the same time signifies the pious wish to convert the iron into gold, that is to give the labour-time contained in the iron the form of universal social labour-time. If this transformation fails to take place, then the ton of iron ceases to be not only a commodity but also a product; since it is a commodity only because it is not a use-value for its owner, that is to say his labour is only really labour if it is useful labour for others, and it is useful for him only if it is abstract general labour. It is therefore the task of the iron or of its owner to find that location in the world of commodities where iron attracts gold. But if the sale actually takes place, as we assume in this analysis of simple circulation, then this difficulty, the salto mortale of the commodity, is surmounted. As a result of this alienation -- that is its transfer from the person for whom it is a non-use-value to the person for whom it is a use-value - the ton of iron proves to be in fact a use-value and its price is simultaneously realised, and merely imaginary gold is converted into real gold.

Karl Marx, "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy," in Collected Works, vol. 29, New York: International Publishers 1976, p. 390.

Slavoj Zizek, The Parallax View

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