Precise date unknown, 2016

Contemporary life is defined by excess. There must always be more, there is never enough. We need a surplus to what we need to be able to truly enjoy what we have. Slavoj Žižek’s guide to surplus (and why it’s enjoyable) begins by arguing that what is surplus to our needs is by its very nature unsubstantial and unnecessary. But, perversely, without this surplus, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy, what is substantial and necessary. Indeed, without the surplus we wouldn’t be able to identify what was the perfect amount.

Is there any escape from the vicious cycle of surplus enjoyment or are we forever doomed to simply want more? Žižek argues that recognizing the society of enjoyment we live in for what it is can provide an explanation for the political impasses in which we find ourselves today. And if we begin, even a little bit, to recognize that the nuggets of ‘enjoyment’ we find in excess are as flimsy and futile, might we find a way out?

Jacques Lacan located the origin of his key notion of plus-de-jouir (surplus-enjoyment) in Marx’s notion of surplus-value, and it is worth exploring in detail the homology of the two notions, adding a third one, that of surplus-knowledge, a pseudo-knowledge in the guise of which our ignorance appears (“supreme” knowledge of God and other hidden forces, conspiracy theories, etc.). Such an analysis is crucial for resuscitating Marx’s critique of political economy, as well as for properly understanding today’s global capitalism and its ideological effects, up to fundamentalist violence.

Literature:

Slavoj Žižek, ‘The Return of the Critique of Political Economy’ in Living in the End of Times (Verso 2010)
Samo Tomšič, The Capitalist Unconscious (Verso Books 2015)
Slavoj Žižek, Surplus-Enjoyment: A Guide For The Non-Perplexed (Forthcoming at Bloomsbury, 2022)

Slavoj Žižek is a Philosopher and Psychoanalytic social theorist. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana; Professor at the School of Law and Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London; Distinguished Scholar at the Kyung Hee University, Seoul; and Visiting Professor at the German Department, New York University. His field of work comprises Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, dialectical-materialist metaphysical interpretations of German Idealism and Marxian critique of ideology. His more than sixty books in English have been widely translated. His latest publications include ‘Pandemic!’ & ‘Pandemic! 2’, ‘Hegel in a Wired Brain’, ‘Sex and the Failed Absolute’, ‘Like A Thief In Broad Daylight’, ‘Reading Marx’, ‘Incontinence of the Void’, ‘The Day After the Revolution’, ‘Heaven in Disorder’ and ‘Reading Hegel’.

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