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Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire

“This ambitious but always lucid book aims to reopen the conceptual framework of capitalism.” – Le Monde

Why do people work for other people? This seemingly naïve question is more difficult to answer than one might at first imagine, and it lies at the heart of Lordon's Willing Slaves of Capital.

To complement Marx's partial answers, especially in the face of the disconcerting spectacle of the engaged, enthusiastic employee, Lordon brings to bear a "Spinozist anthropology" that reveals the fundamental role of affects and passions in the employment relationship, reconceptualizing capitalist exploitation as the capture and remoulding of desire.

A thoroughly materialist reading of Spinoza's Ethics allows Lordon to debunk notions of individual autonomy and selfdetermination while simultaneously saving the ideas of political freedom and liberation from capitalist exploitation. Willing Slaves of Capital is a bold proposal to rethink capitalism and its transcendence on the basis of the contemporary experience of work.

Reviews

  • “This ambitious but always lucid book aims to reopen the conceptual framework of capitalism.”
  • “This work is an initiatory voyage towards communism.”
  • “Frédéric Lordon is one of the most audacious contemporary left-wing economists.”
  • “At a time when all workers are required to show 'passion' for their jobs, Willing Slaves of Capital is a crucial re-affirmation of the importance of Spinoza’s philosophy for understanding contemporary forms of servitude. Lordon persuasively and elegantly shows that the only way to break free is to hold onto a cold and exceptionless determinism: hope is pointless, regret is meaningless, yet change can still be made to happen”
  • “Lordon effectively and brilliantly demonstrates that Spinoza is less a precursor to Marx than a necessary complement. Only Spinoza’s examination of the production of desire can answer the question that is at the core of Marxism: Why do workers work for capital rather than their own liberation?’”

Blog

  • The Beating Heart of Macronism

    Logically enough, everything is proceeding in concert. At the very moment of Macron’s election, we discover that La Poste [French post office] is enriching its range of services with a "Check in on my parents" offer, starting at €19.90 a month (there’sseveral options: 1, 2, 4 or 6 visits a week). The person tasked with this will doubtless no longer be called an "agent" (so impersonal and bureaucratic, they’ll say); we will see if La Poste goes as far as calling them "the family friend." They will pop round, have a coffee, and send a little text message to keep the relatives updated. In short — as the prospectus itself says — it "maintains the social bond." In summary: just to maintain the social bond alone costs €19.90 a month. And for a concrete social bond (6 visits a week) it’s €139.90. Even so, ultimately the same also holds for living together.

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  • MAY DAY FLASH SALE: 50% OFF

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    May 1st marks International Workers' Day, a festival of working-class self-organization stretching back over 130 years. It was originally inaugurated to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker's strike kicked off a period of anti-labor hysteria.

    To mark this significant date, we have 50% off a selection of books looking at policing, riots, Rosa Luxemburg, neoliberalism, revolution and rebellion. Click here to activate your discount.

    Plus, see all our May Day Reading from the Verso Archive covering care work, sex work, black liberation & more; from Angela Davis, Gail Lewis, Melissa Gira Grant, Isabell Lorey, and Kristin Ross. Read all the essays here

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  • Emmanuel Macron, spasm of the system

    First published in Le Monde Diplomatique. Translated by David Broder.



    "I'm going to be very clear..." Probably ignorant of the basic logics of the symptom, Emmanuel Macron seems unable to see how this repetitive way of starting each of his answers betrays the deep desire to cover things up — or rather, to recover them — that animates his whole campaign. "Keep on bathing between vagueness and nothingness" — that is what we should take from each of his promises of clarity. In his defence, we will admit that deferring to the obligation to speak when one's intention is to say nothing at all is one of the curses of this "democracy" that we have still found no satisfactory antidote for. Some will object that most of the candidates end up accommodating to this long and difficult moment — a moment one simply has to go through — and that the campaign-season fib is a well-established genre which should no longer be able to surprise anyone. For Macron, however, the problem takes on unprecedented proportions: not just a matter of slipping across a couple of whoppers, even of the calibre of "my enemy is finance" [as François Hollande claimed before his election in 2012]: rather, his entire campaign, and even his very persona as a candidate, constitute an essentially fraudulent enterprise.

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