What Is Libidinal Economy

Libidinal Economy was the product of a key moment in history – where many of us believe humanity took a wrong turn – toward post-modernism rather than trans-modernism or hyper-modernism. Along with Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Symbolic Exchange and Death, Living Currency, and a few other manuals for the new world, this pathway was mapped out. Paradoxically Lyotard would write the primary diagnosis of the Postmodern Condition a few years later and proceed to apologize for Libidinal Economy. Thus the contraction began.

As part of the historical record, this was definitely a – if not the – major influence on myself, John Cussans, Simon Thompson, Nick Land, and others in the 80s and 90s in London when we were developing Proto-Accelerationist theory and practice around such institutes and events as Analytica, CCRU, Orphan Drift, Cabinet Gallery, Virtual Futures, Bughouse, Cyberfeminism, Afrofuturism and related. The focus was – and is – on pragmatic machines of life rather than texts and archives: libidinal machines. DIY pragmatics and bricolage bridged punk to the internet for a moment. Read Semiotexte USA. (Who also published Lyotard’s first translation.) Most of us left the academy and dispersed around the world to become practicing artists, engineers, doctors, analysts, activists, teachers – in the liminal spaces of the free market outside institutional capitalism and communism.

It would seem that in the wake of the total stasis of culture, the time is ripe for a return to this moment. Certain millennial analysands confirm this. The key factor being Libido – or “lust for life.” Just as Lacan had recognized the impasse of Desire – Desire as lack, castration, compromise – and returned to the Drive. Heralded by the penultimate little text of Ecrits, On Freud’s Drive and the Desire of the Analyst, the 70s would be spent on the recovery of Drive and celebration of Jouissance not as symptom but as art of life, through a series of obscure seminars and institutional practices contributing to this lost moment. As I was told by one of Lacan’s last analysands, in the later days of his clinic Lacan was interested not in symptom or signification but in “how the analysand organizes his jouissance – with regard to work, play, family, sex, etc.” Sounds simple. But it resonates with Libidinal Economy and its aim.