Zero Squared #129: Value, Crisis, and the Writing on the Wall

Anselm Jappe is the author of several major works of critical theory, most famously a book entitled simply “Guy Debord” which is a critical biography of the famous leader of the Situationist International, and is a contributor to the German ‘critique of value’ journal Krisis. In 2015 Jappe was listed by Le Magazine littéraire as one of ‘Thirty Names in French Thought to Watch Out For’ and in 2014 he was the subject of a thirty-minute radio interview on France Culture. His books have received international interest and been translated into a number of languages, including English, and his most recent book is The Writing on the Wall for Zero Books.

If you’re a current member of the Zero Books club I want to remind you that we’re moving the Inside Zero Books podcast from the Zero Books blog to Patreon. This will make it easier to get the member’s only podcast.

I want to urge you to pick up Anselm Jappe’s The Writing on the Wall, and you might also get ahold of Philip Cunliffe’s Lenin Lives, and, of course, if you haven’t read it already get yourself a copy of Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies. It’s guaranteed to transform any leftist get together into a struggle session.

18 Feb 2013, 1:15am


Why did Lacan draw his subject like a dollar sign?

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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.

moneyfranklinsSo 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.

KULTUR-24s04-zizekNY-866_368The 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.”

Diet Soap Podcast #170: Money without Value?

The guest this week is the podcaster Tom O’Brien. O’Brien grew up in Athboy, Ireland and is now living in London and his From Alpha to Omega podcast was apparently partially inspired by this one. Being a regular listener to his show I’m glad to have had some claim to it. Tom O’Brien and I discuss Kliman’s value theory and the monetary theory of Mathew Forstater.

The next Talkshoe after party will occur this Sunday the 27th at 1pm PST or 4pm EST and I encourage everyone who is listening to participate. If you don’t want to talk you could just listen to the live stream and use the chat function to interject questions.

This week Andrew M made a generous donation and I’ve rebooted the original podomatic page for the podcast. So you can now find Diet Soap at and The podcast is also available via iTunes and I urge you to subscribe there and to consider donating to the podcast if you can.

In this episode O’Brien and I focus on a fairly narrow point about value and money, but I believe it is a question that has fairly far reaching implications. If one believes, as Forstater does, that the current economic crisis could be mitigated or even solved if we were to allow ourselves to live with ballooning deficits then a political project to unshackled the wallet of Washington, one demanding more social spending and job creation, would be adequate. If, on the other hand, you believe that the realm of production has to be changed if we’re to avoid recessions and depressions and that there are limits on what government intervention can accomplish then something more radical, even unthinkable, is required.

The music you’re listening to right now is a George Antheil’s Jazz Symphony, but in just a moment you’ll be listening to Tom O’Brien and I discuss money and value.


Diet Soap Podcast #158: Are Abstractions Necessary?

The guest this week is the youtube star and Marxist Brendan Cooney and we discuss Marx and Hegel. This is the second half of our conversation, slightly edited. You can find more from Cooney on his Kapitalism101 blog.

I am still planning on canceling the Podomatic feed for Diet Soap and moving the podcast to If you subscribe to podcast through podomatic you’ll need to change over to the new feed by the end of the month, that means that this podcast will be the last podcast on the podomatic website and next week you’ll find instructions on how to switch the feeds instead. When I make the switch I’m also going to restart the Diet Soap philosophy workshop and that workshop will continue weekly, or at least it will be a part of every episode. That means that while I’ll continue on discussing Hegel once a month, I’ve decided to expand the workshop to a weekly format. After each Diet Soap episode subscribers to the podcast will get a chance to participate in a conversation about that episode. So, yes, there will be regular Hegel episodes, but subscribers will also get a chance to discuss all the different subjects that we cover or bring up their own ideas. Finally, I am also going to start a monthly podcast with C. Derick Varn called Pop the Left. We’ll take a critical look at the politics of the Left from a Leftist perspective and, at first, that’ll be hosted through the same RSS feed as Diet Soap, but if a few more people donate or subscribe I’ll start a second feed for Pop the Left on its own. So, you can help me start a new podcast by donating today.