‘Avatars of Avarice‘ by Mladen Dolar

Video recording of a paper delivered by Mladen Dolar on 16th December 2016 in Mumbai, India as part of “Fantasies of Capital: Alienation, Enjoyment, Psychoanalysis” Conference.

Inspired by Karl Marx’s critique of political economy and Jacques Lacan’s late theory linking surplus enjoyment to surplus value, the conference aimed to introduce a Lacanian interpretation of Marx’s analysis of capital and to propose ways of traversing the fantasies of capitalist society.

The specter of avarice has always haunted capitalism. Traditionally seen as one of the seven deadly sins it was forcefully rejected by religion and morals in all pre-modern societies, particularly when linked with the figure of usury. Capitalism paradoxically instituted this anti-social sin par excellence as the very lever of sociality and the motor force of its development. The paper briefly scrutinizes Marx’s and Freud’s take on avarice, with Marx providing a genealogy of contemporary capitalism from the pre-modern miser accumulating his treasure to the forms of consumerism as the developed and universalized forms of avarice, where avarice itself has become invisible; and with Freud’s take on the ‘anal character’ as the libidinal basis of accumulation and its modern ramifications and forms of subjectivity. However, the recent development of capitalism, its neoliberal turn, its ‘debt-drive’ etc., requires a different and reflexively more complicated model which will have to consider the figure of mercy, traditionally the very opposite of avarice, as a key to these developments, the forms of subjectivity and the injunctions of the superego that form the libidinal basis of the present state.


Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana since 1982 and has served as the Advising Researcher in Theory at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands. He is also Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His principal areas of research are Psychoanalysis, Modern French Philosophy (Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Badiou, et. al.), German Idealism, and Art Theory, especially Musicology. With Žižek and others, Dolar was the co-founder of the Ljubljana Society of Theoretical Psychoanalysis, whose main aim is to read late 18th cent. and early 19th cent. German Classical Philosophy through the frame of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. His main field of expertise is the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel, on whom he has written several papers, including a two-volume interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit first published in Slovene between 1990 and 1991. Dolar has lectured extensively across many different Universities in Europe and the United States and is author of hundreds of papers in different scholarly journals and in various collected volumes. Apart from over twelve monograph publications in Slovene, his books published in English most notably include A Voice and Nothing More and Opera’s Second Death, both of which were translated into several languages. His new book The Riskiest Moment is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

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