Capital is the real Real/Capitalism is the symbolic Real!?

April 8, 2008

In the section on Primitive Accumulation, in Capital, Marx says, “the accumulation of capital presupposes surplus-value; surplus-value presupposes capitalist production” (Ben Fowkes translation, Penguin Classics version, page 873). Isn’t the difference between capitalism and capital that between the relations of capitalist production and the extraction of surplus-value? Capitalism is a “capital-relation” which “divorces the worker from ownership of the conditions of his own labour” (874). So the question I have is: according to Zizek, which is Real, capitalism or capital?

I want to repeat and broaden the first quote: “We have seen how money is transformed into capital; how surplus-value is made through capital, and how more capital is made from surplus-value. But the accumulation of capital presupposes surplus-value; surplus-value presupposes capitalist production; capitalist production presupposes the availability of considerable masses of capital and labour-power in the hands of commodity producers. The whole movement, therefore, seems to turn around in a never-ending circle, which we can only get out of by assuming a primitive accumulation… which precedes capitalist accumulation; an accumulation which is not the result of the capitalist mode of production but its point of departure” (873). It seems to me that the idea of primitive accumulation represents Capital as Real.

In Ticklish Subject, Zizek says that “the Real is the inexorable ‘abstract’ spectral logic of Capital which determines what goes on in social reality” (1999: 276). He also says, on the same page, that capital is “‘real’ in the precise sense of determining the structure of the material social processes themselves…” Then he explains the difference between ‘reality’ and Real. The use of ‘real’/Real (Capital is “‘real’ in the precise sense of determining the structure of the material social processes themselves”/”Real is the inexorable ‘abstract’ spectral logic of Capital”) on the same page confuses me! Let’s see if I can figure this out. The difference seems to be that between the ‘material social processes’ (reality) and the ‘abstract spectral logic’ (Real). In this sense, it seems that he is, in fact, saying that Capital (and not capitalism… just to alleviate any earlier confusion) is Real in the sense of primitive accumulation.

Marx says, “so-called primitive accumulation… is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as ‘primitive’ because it forms the pre-history of capital, and of the mode of production corresponding to capital” (Capital, 874-5). Appearing as ‘primitive’ seems to relate to what Zizek refers to as the ‘spectral logic’ of Capital.

Jodi Dean claims that to assert that Capital is Real is “to embrace neoliberal ideology, to accept its premises without a struggle”. I’m not sure I entirely agree. I think that asserting that Capital is Real actually locates the point or object of struggle (“The limit of Capital is Capital itself”). She refers to Zizek’s differentiation between the imaginary Real, the symbolic Real, and the real Real, pointing out that for Zizek, Capital is the symbolic Real. I think she means that capitalism is the symbolic Real, or ‘real’, because Zizek clearly says that “[Capitalism] is not global at the level of meaning… its global dimension can only be formulated at the level of truth-without-meaning, as the ‘real’ of the global market mechanism” (In Zizek’s rejoinder to Laclau in Critical Inquiry, p. 196). This, to me, sounds like the material social processes that he refers to in Ticklish.

[imaginary Real: “the Thing beyond representation in its monstrosity… the primordial abyss that swallows everything” – think of the triangle and the balloon of jouissance.]

[symbolic Real: “the real as consistency, with the signifier reduced to a senseless formula”… Zizek says that the difference between the imaginary Real and the symbolic Real depends on the starting point: “if we start with the Imaginary… we get the Real in its imaginary dimension… if we start with the Symbolic… we get language deprived of the wealth of its human sense transformed into the Real of meaningless formula.”]

[real Real: “(to which Laclau reduces the notion of Real), the purely formal gap/limitation that thwarts or dislocates every symblic identity. The Real is thus effectively all three dimensions at the same time: the abyssal vortex of the Thing, the mathematized consistent structure of reality, the purely formal limit of every objectivity.”]

(Zizek talks about the differences between imaginary Real, symbolic Real and real Real in the rejoinder to Laclau, pp. 195-196)

Laclau’s issue with saying that Capital is Real, from what I gather, is that he too is confusing capitalism with Capital… and this is where he criticizes Zizek by suggesting that the difference between reality/Real, for Zizek, is nothing more than code for base/superstructure (Laclau’s Critical Inquiry article, p. 658).

So the way I see it, Capital is the real Real and capitalism (relations of production/means of production; the material social processes) is the symbolic Real… So what’s the imaginary Real? A man made of orange rock?

– D

Critical Inquiry References:

Laclau, E. 2006. “Why Constructing a People Is the Main Task of Radical Politics.” Critical Inquiry 32: 646-680.

Zizek, S. 2006. “Schlagend, aber nicht Treffend!Critical Inquiry 33: 185-211.


11 Responses to “Capital is the real Real/Capitalism is the symbolic Real!?”

  1. sonnyburnett said

    Just reading the first paragraph of this immediately puts me in mind that the Marxian ‘Primitive Accumulation’ is a myth & how one can read it as being strictly analogous to the Freudian myth of the primordial father that Lacan yaks about in the Other Side seminar. That is, the necessity of this myth of a primordial father as the agent of castration. So I would say I agree with you, Primitive Accummulation is a representation of Capital as Real.

    The similarity of Marx’s full quote you give with the Logic of the Signifier (cf. Zizek’s For They…) is striking. If the Primitive Accumulation myth is not assumed, the process ‘turns around in a never-ending circle’, just as if a transcendental S1 is not assumed, all the other signifiers likewise turn in a circle in a never-ending effort to signify themselves.

    I haven’t done any work on Marx since ’95, but if memory serves be correctly, Marx explicitly says that this Primitive Accumulation is indeed a myth. Something like, in order for capitalism to get off the ground, you need some rich guy with lots of extra (surplus) money-capital lying around to be willing to kick off the capitalist revolution; but of course this guy could never have this surplus without there being capitalism in the first place.

    Nevertheless, he & his accumulated capital must be presupposed if we are going to talk intelligently about ‘capitalism’. This is Marx’s S1. It could have been anything, really. He could have said ‘God shit gold down from heaven.’ But Marx chose this signifier & immediately everything happened – the endless circle stopped, a surplus was created & hence a ‘Real of capital/capitalsim’ could be discussed, like we are doing now. All thru (Marx’s) contingency of ennuciation. I think Zizek’s chapter in Sublime Object is something like How Marx Created the Symptom?

    In addressing your question, I’m thinking in terms of a movement, a pulse maybe, between the University discourse, Ud (capitalism) and the Master’s discourse, Md (which strictly speaking is needed for the surplus to be created, so the surplus can occupy the Other’s position in Ud). So capitalism hums along, understood as an attempt directly to deal with its Other, its very form, surplus value, but the ‘repressed’ truth of the Ud is that it is only via the Md that surplus value is produced in the first place. This is just the problem stated in a more purely symbolic way.

    It’s a transcendental problem & Marx I think gives us a necessary first step at mythologizing it, just like Freud did with his Primodial (Real) Father myth as agent of castration & likewise, with Zizek, who beautifully strips things down to bare-bones (ie, signifier) logic. He says things like ‘the void that the signifiers spin around, endeavoring to close, is the VERY SAME void in which they do their spinning’. Not a direct quote, see Indivisible Remainder for some great Zizekian aphoristic phrasings that say essentially the same thing, that the real Real involves ‘two’ voids, in a sense, which must be thought of as the same, at the same time. Impossible of coure to do. But we can get a sense of it.

    So maybe to understand a ‘symbolic Real of Capital’, one must try to put things into some formula like I just tried (failingly, no doubt) to do. One that throws up a few mathemes on the screen, talks about moving around Lacan’s algebra & says ‘That’s Capital!’ & leaves things like that.

    The ‘imaginary Real of Capital’ is whatever one synthesizes in one’s imagination to fill out those symbolic, matheme-ladden equations that one pompuously labels ‘That’s Capital!’

    The ‘real Real of Capital’ is, as you quote, the ‘purely formal gap/limitation’ that forms the empty shell in which one’s imagination fills in & it is also that which ‘dislocates every symbolic identity’ from within. I get a sense of this by picturing what I wrote above regarding the interaction of Ud/Md, or by simply picturing a Ud directly dealing with its Other (objet a) while understanding that the very form that Ud takes is objet a itself (ie, the product of Ud is $, with Lacan teaches us to understand as always aready determined as an object. This follows if we simply see that the Other position in any discourse is also the very FORM in which the discourse takes).

    I know I said ‘picturing’; from my reading of Kant, Lacan, I’m learning you can’t avoid a ‘picture’ of the transcendental if you want any kind of understanding of it. And after all, Lacan does tell us that object a is both imaginary as well as real (but never symbolic).

    Just rereading what I wrote, I don’t think I added anything to what you said. And I know I haven’t addressed your specific question, for I can’t seem to come to a distinction between ‘capitalism’ and ‘Capital’, altho I’m trying, but in doing so in my mind, I’m procrustes, you know? lopping & stretching without regard until things fit & I end up in a mass of confusion. I think for me so far, ‘capitalism’ is best understood as empirical, while ‘Capital’ can only be understood in a transcendental sense (I’m reading tons of Kant, as you can see). But these understands change daily, almost, no doubt.

    Great site, very stimulating, thanks to Charles for tipping me off to it with an email just now in my inbox. By the way, I’m Bill Urban, the guy you met at Future Bakery this past Monday, now known as sonnyburnett.

  2. sonnyburnett said


  3. dystopier said

    Actually, the distinction you make between capitalism as empirical and Capital as transcendental does help!

    On the other hand, would it make sense to make the distinction as one between phenomena and noumena? I’m not as familiar with Kant, so you might have to help me here.

  4. sonnyburnett said

    As you know, Zizek takes great pains to ensure we don’t err in thinking that the noumenal is substantive, as Kant (and almost all other Kantian commentators) sees it.

    I’m thinking an analogy can be made between Zizek’s take on Kant’s practical philosophy regarding these Kantian terms & capitalism/Capital.

    Maybe we can say something like, ‘capitalism’ is our empirical ‘fact of life’ & thus is phenomenal,
    while capitalism’s ‘disposition’ (Gesinnung) is noumenal
    & that empty place from which capitalism’s disposition is ‘choosen’ would be an transcendental act of sponteneity, an act of Capital, if you will.

    I think I might have just said ‘Capital’ must be conceived as that elusive object which preserves that empty place of sponteneity, ultimately revealing that behind it, capitalism is a nothing, that it has no meta-foundation, no substantive ground.

  5. The Thing said

    Disjointed Thoughts:

    In one of the lectures (,
    I think probably one of the Lacan Masterclass ones, Z talks about intervening in the Real of capital, I think precisely in response to this critique of Jodi Dean’s. He says that the whole point of psychoanalysis is that you CAN intervene in the Real. I can’t remember exactly whether this meant the Real as the eternally repressed fundamental fantasy, or the Real as the fundamental structure of the subject (this seems more likely to me at the moment), or what.

    1) “Capitalism is a “capital-relation” which “divorces the worker from ownership of the conditions of his own labour” (874)”
    2) “Capital (and not capitalism… just to alleviate any earlier confusion) is Real in the sense of primitive accumulation.”
    3) “Marx says, “so-called primitive accumulation… is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production.”
    …All seems to me evidence that between Marx and Zizek, the distinction isn’t there (or at least isn’t clear). Which is not to say that we shouldn’t assert it (like Lacan developing the difference between ego ideal and ideal ego).

    Capital as the Real abstract spectral logic sounds to me like it might be the place where capital connects to subjectivity: the subject as an effect which retroactively (and it seems to me cumulatively) chooses which causes it will be the effect of (from Parallax – damn. I haven’t typed my notes on that chap apparently. I’ll try to find a page ref later)

    And any chance the Imaginary Real of capitalism is it’s fundamental fantasy? “There is… a third level to be added to the simple of subejctive experience (of capital as a simple means of efficiently satisfying people’s needs) and objective social reality (of exploitation): the ‘objective deception,’ the disavowed ‘unconscious’ fantasy (of the mysterious self-generating movement of capital), which is the truth (although not the reality) of the capitalist process.” (Parallax p60)


  6. battleofthegiants said

    Here’s my crack at yer pitch:

    Jodi Dean

    I think she’s correct in that it’s the thing at the centre of our universe that people don’t want to talk about anymore – the whole ‘capitalism is here to stay’ (The “resistance is futile” LRB article) business, which Zizek rejects. That is, the end of capitalism has been dropped as a topic of discussion. And what’s the thing you never want to talk about in analysis, the one you ignore or fail to mention? – the real that sustains your desire.

    Primitive accumulation

    If I remember correctly, the answer to where the initial wealth came from was colonialism. McNally notes that France and Spain were trading goods overseas long before capitalism occurred, and I assume that Colonialism was happening then too. That is, colonialist exploitation started before capital did. The shift to capital occurred only when England actively dispossessed its own populations to work their ill-gained wealth – i.e. they created a people who could survive no other way than by selling their labour as a commodity. In this light, the comparison with the Master’s(/slave) Discourse isn’t far off: “Give me your wealth, (African) slave!”

    So, perhaps it is correct to say that primitive accumulation is the Real of Capital: I seem to remember that that last section of capital is also about how ‘apologists’ of capitalism didn’t want to admit that it was from the rape and pillage of foreign lands that got their fortunes started – because what they really did was worked hard and saved, dammit!… (Please, dear Analyst, don’t make me talk about all that killing and raping I was part of to get where I am!)

    But Primitive accumulation as the ‘Real of Capital’ is different than saying that “Capital itself is the Real of our age”… which I guess is what you guys were saying anyway…

    Capital as the Real (‘of our age’)

    The first thing I’d like to note is that the quote from The Tick is (I know it’s annoying guys, but it’s not untrue) one of Zizek’s many temptations. Although, he felt the need to distance himself from it, writing that “one is tempted to claim that Capital itself is the Real of our age” (The Tick, 276) . I think it’s also important to note that this discussion takes up a mere paragraph here, though maybe he picks it up again later in this section (I haven’t read this chapter of the book). A major part of Mathew Sharpe’s critique of Zizek is that he can’t decide what status capital has in his theoretical apparatus. I haven’t read Sharpe’s book all the way through, however, so maybe I’ll ‘report’ on it another time… Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this points to the possibility that Zizek hasn’t fully worked it out, which is why we’re having such a hard time with it.

    But here’s a stab:

    Right after the part in Schlagend, Aber… that you quoted (Which, by the way, is also the place I mentioned on Monday, where Z describes the modalities of the Real in terms of Freud’s dream about Irma), he starts talking about Badiou and how ‘capitalism’ is worldless, just as he does in Parallax (they were written around the same time, after all). And this ‘worldlessness’ comes from capitalism as symbolic-Real, a formula that brings with it no meaning, only formulae. That’s why he talks about ‘financial speculation’ in The Tick: it’s just number manipulation that engenders profit. And it is a bunch of numbers that has a material effect on the world – the East-Asia crises, for example, where people yanked out all the money with which they had been speculating, and the economy collapsed. This points us back to the Real and reality, and base and superstructure. You’ll notice that Z doesn’t respond to Laclau’s charge that he’s fallen into a base/superstructure model, because it looks like he has fallen into it: ‘Lacan’s notion of reality’ is of course fantasy, which for Z means ideology. And ideology is the ‘fundamental fantasy’ of capitalism, and ‘material’ in the sense of action (i.e. commodity fetishism/exchange): “Ahhh! All the investment-money is gone! Nothing is worth anything! No one will take my cash in exchange for food!”

    Then again, if ‘reality’ doesn’t mean civil society, the state, law, etc, then maybe it isn’t a base/superstructure division. Then question then, I guess, is what status does Z give to civil society and the state?

    What I guess this means is that another look at that chapter in Parallax is probably in order…

    Capital vs Capitalism

    I buy that ‘capitalism’ is capital + the mode of production, i.e. workers alienated from the means of production. This would make ‘capital’ merely the conglomeration of wealth, potentially owned in common with the surplus distributed in accordance with the decision of the workers… but that’s just guess work. I’m not even sure that Marx fully thought through what economic organization would look like after the means of production were seized…

    I’m not sure about the empirical/transcendental split, however. Immediately after Z’s ‘temptation’ paragraph he writes that Lacan can’t be taken as a Kantian because the Real undermines the transcendental as a priori. That is, actual bodies are what sustain the ‘transcendental’ – which Z no longer thinks of as transcendental, moving from saying “Kantian formalism” to “transcendental-formalism” to just plain “formal frame” as he finishes his argument. Instead, it is the ‘pathological’ (i.e. real-world stuff) that is a priori, and the form comes after, maintained by the stuff (footnote 38 is a good add-on to that argument). This may not be in Lacan…my guess is that it’s the product of ‘Hegel buggery’ – i.e. there is no transcendental: like in the last 2 chapters of Sublime Object, Zizek argues that Hegel (before Nietzsche) says that ‘the appearance is the thing’, and there’s nothing behind it…

    Imaginary-Real and Capitalism

    No clue. It would have to be come enormous body that would take your breath away. My initial reaction is to say ‘favela’ (i.e. monster size slum), but Zizek wants to follow Badiou and say that the slums are an ‘evental-site’. Maybe the two aren’t exclusive – I don’t know. Maybe capital as the imaginary-real is the exact opposite – i.e. a mega-city like Dubai or Tokyo that is uber-wealthy, as opposed to a mess of destitution…


    So, is what we’re saying that current stage of capital is finance capital as ‘formula’ (symbolic-Real) and primitive-accumulation is the ‘Real’-Real?


  7. battleofthegiants said

    Quick note on the symbolic-Real – do you think that those spam e-mails that have nonsense-paragraphs in them could be considered ‘symbolic-Real’?

    One signifier (some e-mail address) sending messages to another signifier (my e-mail address) with a message I can’t decode…

    Well, I guess it’s more like the meaningless message carries with it a question of desire…it’s meaninglessness enables it to slip under the radar of ‘the law’ (i.e. spam filter):”You want to fuck. Buy Viagra!” What an obscene ‘supplement’! (ha!)

    And I can’t even respond to the address!

    goddamn big Other.

  8. sonnyburnett said

    Great responses, wild stuff… I’m curious about the references to ‘The Tick’ & Z’s ‘temptation’? Where is this from?

    I’d like to look up what is said about the ‘transcendental’ in this context. I had some trouble following the last post. I suspect that there might be a confusion over the terms ‘transcendental’ and the ‘transcendent?’ They are quite different, the former designating a logic discovered by Kant that lead to his ‘copernican revolution’. The latter is precisely what Kant’s entire philosophy is against: that of being able to occupy a meta-position. You can see this in many places where he takes great pains to label every philosophy that came before him as ‘transcendental realism’.

    If it’s true that Zizek says something similar to “Instead, it is the ‘pathological’ (i.e. real-world stuff) that is a priori, and the form comes after, maintained by the stuff (footnote 38 is a good add-on to that argument)”, I have a serious problem!

    My entire understanding of Zizekian logic begins with the idea that in order to posit our presuppositions, we must presuppose ourselves as positing (as he lays out the logic in Sublime Object, final few pages). To me, that’s form ‘first’, content ‘later’; that also is a transcendental activity. Despite Kant not working this out completely & getting caught up in logical contradictions because he still held onto a substantive Thing, there are many places you can read him as ‘knowing’ this without being able to acknowlege the full ramifications of his philosophical breakthru – Zizek makes a point about this in many places & of course says Hegel picks up the ball & brings it to its logical end.

  9. dystopier said

    Just a thought on fantasy and ideology. I was re-reading the first chapter of SOI the other day and I had a thought regarding the idea that ‘fantasy supports reality’.

    Starting on page 45, when Zizek is talking about the ‘father, don’t you see I’m burning’ dream. He says that, in opposition to the usual reading of this dream – the thesis that the functions of the dream is to enable the dreamer to prolong his sleep – the Lacanian reading is that the thing he encounters is the reality of his desire (the Real), which is what wakes him. Thus, “‘reality’ is a fantasy-construction which enables us to mask the Real of our desire” (45). Ideology is, therefore, a fantasy-construction which enables us to escape from “some traumatic, real kernel” (45)… Elementary stuff, I know…

    He then goes on to talk about the Zhuang Zi butterfly dream and how the dream/fantasy is the support of reality. On page 47 he says that, “for Lacan, the only point at which we approach this hard kernel of the Real is indeed in the dream. When we awaken into reality after a dream, we usually say to ourselves ‘it was just a dream’, thereby blinding ourselves to the fact that in our everyday, wakening reality we are nothing but a consciousness of this dream… It is the same with the ideological dream, with the determination of ideology as a dreamlike construction hindering us from seeing the real state of things, reality as such” (47-48).

    If we agree that Capital is the real Real, and that capitalism is the symbolic Real (and I agree that, even if this distinction isn’t made in Marx or Zizek, it IS, in fact, worth making), perhaps this IS just code for the base/superstructure model.

    However, before we go all sour on Zizek, I think this can be connected, in some way, to the idea of the Pascalian ‘wager’. The way I see it, the ‘wager’ has something to do with the primordial forced choice: it is an irrational choice that sets in place the master-signifier (S1).

    What I’m suggesting is that the traumatic kernel of the Real is the irrationality of this primordial forced choice. In this sense, it could have something to do with the fundamental fantasy, and traversing the fantasy is a way of intervening in the Real.

    I just finished reading the first beyond Oedipus chapter in Other Side, and I noticed that Lacan mentions something about the Pascalian ‘wager’, saying that he referred to it in his last seminar… I wonder how much of that Zizek stole!

    But this stuff about ‘wager’ leads me towards Zizek’s stuff on belief. When he says that there’s more belief today, maybe it has to do with the irrationality of this ‘wager’. Reality, in other words, only works if it is set in motion by some initial (although irrational) ‘wager’. Could this ‘wager’ also have something to do with the existence of the big Other?

    When Lacan says that ‘a’ is only worth the effort if A (or O) is not barred (Other Side, p. 100), could this mean that, in order for desire to function, the existence of the big Other has to be assumed? What does this mean if Lacan modeled his formula for surplus-jouissance on surplus-value? What is the relation between the Thing and objet a? If Capital is the real Real, then is objet a/Thing the imaginary Real (thing-in-itself)? Perhaps the real trauma is that there is nothing and materialism, for Zizek has to do with making something out of nothing, like the conscript joke… I’m gonna stop before I start to ramble.

  10. sonnyburnett said

    In response to the final paragraph to the post immediately prior to this one…..

    The key to that quote on p. 100 is Lacan’s final few words: “…ie, if its everything at once.” This immediately brings to mind Z’s “A is a” section in Indivisible Remainder.

    For Lacan, the act is an object. And its thru the act that one presupposes the big Other. Thus, ‘A is a.’ There’s a time element here. The conscript is engaged in frenetic activity & its THRU this activity that he presupposes the big Other that supposedly has his desired object. We get the punchline after a beat or two of intervening time, a reflective moment, after which he (or we) retroactively understand that he/we ‘chose’ this activity, an activity which now becomes a thought-object in our mind; and the empty place ($) from which we can ‘see’ that we chose this object as well as the very object itself reach an ambiguous status. THIS (now merely particular) big Other reveals itself to be non-existent (we immediately get another universal one of course) & also consubstantial with the very activity itself, and the empty place as well can only be thought thru this logic. The conjunction point of this entire process, the very form in which all these objects meet, is a singularity – Lacan’s objet a.

    The upshot is that all four main Lacanian algebraic terms are ultimately equated with each other: A (or S2), a, $ and even S1 (in Indivisible, Z endeavors to show how S1 should be conceived as an object as objet a is, using notions of being/becoming).

    This all is only understandable if one conceives the Real as the Symbolic in the mode of feminine not-all logic. This is controversal for many Lacanians, but I think Z is quite explicit in a few places that this is the ‘proper’ understanding of Lacan & it does go a long way in explaining many Lacanian paradoxes.

    So regarding the relation bet. the Thing & objet a, I always felt the line that stands out in Z’s Tarrying with the Negative is this: ‘All there is is the phenomenal world & its limitation; and das Ding is a phantasm that merely fills out the empty shell of the transcendental object (objet a)”.

    I absolutely agree with your idea that “the real trauma is that there is nothing and materialism, for Zizek has to do with making something out of nothing”. I personally suspect (from my own experience), that for the subject with a masculine sexuated logic, that the first initial encounters with fem not-all logic can be a definite trauma. That is, it’s a touching of the real, of a realization that the object only comes to be thru its very loss. In terms of Hegel’s Logic of Reflection, the masculine (external reflective) logic may touch the feminine (positing reflective) logic in such a way that a traumatic determinate reflective logic is encountered. Repeat enough times, give yourself some practice at it & the traumas begin to dissipate & one begins to punch thru their own fundamental fantasy.

    Sorry for the inexact quotes/references. My only internet connection is the public library, which separates me from most of the texts I use.

  11. battleofthegiants said


    I always bring up Zizek’s temptations, ’cause he’s always writing “I’m tempted to…” “we should risk…” “we should avoid the temptation too”…. I think it’s closely tied to the whole “wager” thing. That is, he allows himself his temptations when the pay-off is high enough, and denies them when the pay-off is no good.

    Freud seems to have a similar relation to temptations: In _Beyond the pleasure principle_ he’s ‘tempted’(that’s the translation given of the word he uses) to follow through on his idea of the death drive, without having any real proof for it. He follows thorough to the extent that 10 years later, in _Civ and Dis_ he writes that he still has no reason to stick with the death drive, other than that he can’t seem to shake it. And the death drive is, of course, huge for Lacan and Zizek…

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