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Rendon, M. (2018). Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Price of Free Markets, by Todd McGowan, Columbia University Press, New York, 2016, 292pp.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 78(4):491-492.

(2018). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 78(4):491-492

Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Price of Free Markets, by Todd McGowan, Columbia University Press, New York, 2016, 292pp.

Review by:
Mario Rendon, M.D.

This book undertakes the exploration of capitalism from a psychoanalytical perspective, a most timely and urgent task. Its toolbox is expanded to a much wider cultural spectrum that includes Marxism, Postmodernism, and Lacanian psycho-analysis, adroitly using cultural phenomena and notably films, in its illustrations. The book is well written and pleasant, being particularly intriguing and adept in its handling of paradox. The author explicitly endeavors to place psychoanalytic objectivity above critical theory. It avoids passing unnecessary judgments, and may even outline positive aspects of the capitalist phenomenon. Highly controversial issues such as exploitation, social class, alienation, etc. that in the past have been the ground of analysis and criticism, are for the most part skirted. The author originally chooses the structural similarity between capitalism and desire as his main perspective, the parameters of promise and future in particular. Arguably these are the main reason capitalism continues to appear resilient, because it has the capacity to create its own reiterative needs. The paradoxes of satisfaction thus become obvious, particularly the fact that with objectified desire, capitalist satisfaction only breeds more desire because the real longing, the recovery of the universally lost object, remains impossible to satisfy. Political repression and inequality that have been central in past critiques of capitalism are substituted here for the new perspective of dissatisfaction and personal sacrifice.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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