Monday, May 19, 2008
Kaufman, Eleanor. "The Desire Called Mao: Badiou and the Legacy of Libidinal Economy." POSTMODERN CULTURE 18.1 (2007).
This essay addresses the legacy of the synthesis of psychoanalysis and Marxism that reached its apogee in France shortly after the events of May 1968. It attempts to delineate how this synthesis, largely abandoned by the mid-1970s, at least in its libidinal economic dimension (though certainly taken into entirely new registers by later thinkers such as Jameson and Žižek), might be said to be resurrected and reconfigured in the work of Alain Badiou. It is a reconfiguration that is in some sense unrecognizable as such, though Badiou's 1982 Théorie du sujet explicitly addresses the conjunction of Lacan and Mao, and his most recent work returns more forcefully to some of the earlier thematics--especially that of destruction--that to a large extent fell by the wayside in his 1988 opus Being and Event. If the "libidinal economy" theory of the early 1970s might be defined by a certain defiant, even delirious energy--defiant of interpretation, localization, or even of a specific mapping onto Marxism or psychoanalysis per se--then Badiou's reconfiguration of the conjuncture of psychoanalysis and Marxism is spoken in a tone of order and restraint that might be more characteristic of the period Badiou labels the "Restoration," namely the last two decades of the twentieth century. Perhaps such a shift in tonality is above all symptomatic of a shift from the conjucture of Marx and Freud to that of Mao and Lacan, but the claim will be that what has shifted concerns the unconscious itself, that the early 1970s moment of libidinal economy allowed the unconscious full reign, whereas the later moment of the early 1980s and beyond demanded that the unconscious and other wayward desires be brought to full and absolute clarity. If unconscious desires served as a driving motor for libidinal economy theory, they are left aside in Badiou's engagement with psychoanalysis, only to surface in different form around questions of number, counting, and periodization. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.iath.virginia.edu/pmc/current.issue/18.1kaufman.html.