Work proper: A psychoanalytic "reinvention" of Marxist labor



Purdy, Nick

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University of Guelph


This paper argues that Marx's analysis of political economy in 'Capital' and the 'Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844' implies both a conception of the subject as desiring and a concern for the worker's enjoyment. Because psychoanalysis conceives the subject as desiring in an explicit way and since "enjoyment is the only substance acknowledged by psychoanalysis", I utilize Slavoj Zi?ze?k's interpretation of Lacanian psychoanalysis as the framework within which a concept of communist labor can be "reinvented" with the worker's enjoyment explicitly in mind. To do this, I distinguish between three forms of enjoyment ("pleasure", 'desire-enjoyment', and 'drive-enjoyment'), arguing that capitalism promotes 'desire-enjoyment', which leads to the alienation Marx finds in capitalism. I then argue that the third form of enjoyment, 'drive-enjoyment', can serve as a basis for a concept of the labor relation that is more conducive to the worker than the capitalist relation; a relation that I therefore call 'work proper'.



Marx, political economy, psychoanalysis, communist labour, work proper