I recently said that I thought that Marx’s conception of Value might be thought of as being the same as Lacan’s subject. That is, the Value form has the same structure as Lacan’s subject and might fruitfully be considered as the subject of Capitalism or the Capitalist subject.
What is Lacan’s Subject?
Bruce Fink presents in The Lacanian Subject his interpretation of Jacques Lacan’s theory of subjectivity. In contrast to the ego (in its many guises: the individual, the conscious subject, the mirror image, the subject of the statement), Fink states that Lacan’s subject—the subject of the “return to Freud,” the true subject of psychoanalysis—is none other than the split subject: the barred S[...]As Fink says, “The [Lacanian] subject is nothing but this very split[...]The two parts/aspects into which the S (the subject) is split are consciousness and the unconscious. Superficially, we can say that the subject is divided between thinking—where the subject functions as a conscious agent (an ego) (as when s/he performs a task alertly)—and the unthinkable—that which is beyond the subject, that which s/he cannot think (in the sense of conceive, reflect, understand, articulate, and thus control) consciously (if anything, the subject is driven by it). Contrary to this, however, Lacan insists that there is thought in the unconscious, that the unconscious, as it were, thinks (for the subject). Thinking, Lacan argues, is not the exclusive activity of consciousness. There is thinking that is not conscious. There is unconscious thought. The split is thus not between thinking and the unconscious.
or, put otherwise:
Lacan is simply restating in the language of structuralist linguistics a claim already made by Sartre, and before him Kojeve and Hegel (and arguably Kant). This is the claim that the subject is not an object capable of being adequately named within a natural language, like other objects can be (“table,” “chair,” or so on). It is no-thing. One of the clearest points of influence of Kojeve’s Heideggerian Hegelianism on Lacan is the emphasis he places on the subject as correlative to a lack of being (manqué-a-etre/want-to-be), especially in the 1950′s. Lacan articulates his position concerning the subject by way of a fundamental distinction between the ego or “moi“/”me” and the subject intimated by the shifter “je“/”I.” The subject is a split subject, Lacan claims, not only insofar as—Freud dixit—it has consciousness and an unconscious.
So if Value is the barred subject what is value’s ego and what is the unconscious? I would say that the ego is the commodity and the unconscious is the productive process and the class division that this process requires. But, it’s significant that for Lacan the subject is really nothing more than the divide or split. This means that, if my ponderous musings have any bearing, rather than simply eliminate the class division in society the producers of this division have to seize it. That is, rather than focusing on getting our hands on the commodities of this world those who would eliminate Capitalism would have to take hold of and alter the productive process and the class division in society.
Now, the fascist approach this is to try to return to pre-Capitalist modes of production and to reinstitute authority based on true and real merit rather than on servicing money.
The Communist approach is weirder, harder, than this. But perhaps more likely to succeed? The aim of Marx is to eliminate the basis of class, but not by eliminating the idea of it but rather by eliminating the conditions that support it. I would argue that Marx aims at subjective destitution as a way to create a new subject where competition and division is put into the service of meeting human needs. For Marx, communism is about emancipating pure drive without desire.
The remainder here that determines the subject’s division we can assume, on the basis of Lacan’s remarks we have already looked at, to be object a. It is this object a then that makes the ‘fall’ of the fantasy and subjective destitution possible. But if the subject “no longer wants to take up” that “option” (the object a), how is it that a position of subjective destitution is even reached? Lacan goes on to boldly declare of psychoanalysis that “Subjective destitution is written on the entry ticket:
“The passage of the psychoanalysand to becoming a psychoanalyst has a door of which this remainder [the object a] that brings about their division is the hinge, for this division is nothing but the division of the subject, of which this remainder is the cause. In this change of tack where the subject sees the assurance he gets from this fantasy, in which each person’s window onto the real is constituted, capsize, what can be perceived is that the foothold of desire is nothing but that of a désêtre, disbeing.”