The Politics of Psychoanalysis; Samo Tomšič on The Capitalist Unconscious

Samo Tomšič currently works at the interdisciplinary laboratory Bild Wissen Gestaltung at the Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2015, he wrote The Capitalist Unconscious; Marx and Lacan.

Interview by Dennis Schep

Dennis: Why Marx and Lacan?

Samo: The underlying question is: Why Marxism and psychoanalysis? Looking back, one would perhaps conclude that most past attempts to combine these fields of thought ended up in failures. Then there were the years of postmodernism, when Marx was no longer perceived as a key economic thinker and instead became an exotic curiosity in cultural thought. Freud, too, was no longer taken as the founder of an efficient clinical practice and the interest in his work was mostly limited to his cultural writings. However, it is no coincidence that since the crisis of 2007/2008 both made a return, since they essentially are thinkers of crises. They explore the causal link between critical developments in society and the production of what could somewhat pathetically be called “damaged life.”

Marx, on the one hand, thematized the subjective damage caused by capitalism in various ways, exposing the devastating consequences of precarization, exploitation, drive for profit etc. Then there is the political-economic notion of homo oeconomicus, which is less a description of human nature than an ideological tool to reshape the human subject in accordance with liberal and neoliberal fantasies about society, market, and value. In a system proclaiming that “greed is good” – in the first place, of course, the greed of the system – the duty of every individual is to constitute him-or-herself as a narcissistic egomaniac. Although this notion of subjectivity lost its ideological efficacy during the last crisis, the damage its enforcement created remains.