Volume 8, Number 3 (2015)

What “Drives” Capitalist Development?

By Ilan Kapoor

This article brings together psychoanalysis and the political economy of international development. It argues for taking social passions seriously — in this case, the Lacanian notions of “drive,” desire and jouissance (enjoyment). The paper focuses on the drive, a compulsion that stems from our ontological loss as linguistic beings, to suggest that capitalist development is propelled by an accumulation drive. Unlike desire, which capitalism manipulates at the level of consumption (eg the enjoyment of shopping), drive involves the more fundamental compulsion to repeat endlessly, which manifests as the circular drive to accumulate for the sake of accumulation. In late capitalism, such a drive has resulted in a crisis of overaccumulation, which as Harvey has pointed out, results in imperialism and “accumulation by dispossession,” especially in the global South. The capitalist development drive thus turns crisis into triumph, generating enjoyment, not from success, but repeated failure. It is this libidinal kick (jouissance) which accompanies drive that helps explain capitalism’s continued obstinacy and endurance. The article concludes by reflecting on the possibilities of disrupting capitalist development through drive.

Keywords: psychoanalysis, political economy of development, drive, enjoyment, overaccumulation, accumulation by dispossession

 

¿Qué es lo que “impulsa” al desarrollo capitalista?

Este articulo vincula el psicoanalisis con la economia politica del desarrollo internacional. Mi argumento es que es necesario considerar seriamente las pasiones sociales – en este caso, las nociones Lacanianas de pulsion, deseo y jouissance (goce). El articulo se concentra en la “pulsion”, un apremio que parte de nuestra perdida ontologica como seres linguisticos, para sugerir que el desarrollo capitalista es impulsado por la pulsion hacia la acumulacion. A diferencia del deseo, al cual el capitalismo manipula al nivel del consumo (por ejemplo disfrutar del ir de shopping), la pulsion incluye el apremio fundamental hacia repetirse interminablemente, lo que se manifiesta en la pulsion circular de acumular por el solo hecho de acumular. En el capitalismo tardio, esa pulsion ha resultado en una crisis de sobreacumulacion que, como asegura Harvey, lleva al imperialismo y a la “acumulacion por desposesion”, en especial en el sur global. La pulsion del desarrollo capitalista convierte a las crisis en triunfos, generando placer, no a partir del exito sino a partir del repetido fracaso. Es este efecto libidinal (jouissance), que acompana a la pulsion, lo que contribuye a explicar la subsistencia obstinada y la duracion del capitalismo. El articulo finaliza proponiendo una reflexion sobre las posibilidades de frenar el desarrollo capitalista a traves de la pulsion.

Palabras clave: psicoanalisis; economia politica del desarrollo; pulsion; goce; sobreacumulacion; acumulacion por desposesion.