Lordon_willing_slaves_of_capital_front_cover_300dpi-max_221 more images image

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

  • [Audio]: Frédéric Lordon and Cédric Durand discuss Internationalism and Democracy after the Eurozone Crisis

    On January 30, Frédéric Lordon and Cédric Durand appeared at the NYU Department of Sociology for a conversation on "Internationalism and Democracy after the Eurozone Crisis," moderated by Jonah Birch. 


    Continue Reading

  • Acting in Concert: a conversation with Judith Butler

    Occasioned by the publication of a French edition of Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, Jean-Philippe Cazier's interview with Judith Butler first appeared in Diacritik


    Judith Butler, November 2015. via Vimeo.

    Your book explicitly draws on texts by numerous philosophers, notably Levinas and in particular Hannah Arendt. But it also seems to have a strong attachment to Spinoza’s work. We can establish numerous specific links between this book and Spinoza’s philosophy, for example its core interest in the notion of relations, its reflection on the "power" of the "mass," the question of the body and what a body can be, the problem — one that runs through several of your books — of the unliveable lives produced by a violent régime, etc. In general terms, what does your philosophical work owe to Spinoza’s writings? And more precisely: why do you think it is interesting to use Spinoza today in order to think through the political and ethical problems you pose in your book?

    It is true that Spinoza remains in the background of my thinking. Perhaps you have detected that his thought is surfacing more explicitly in my own. I am aware, for instance, that his notion of persistence, and his philosophy of life are quite important for my understanding of the political realm. I also consider myself to be close to Etienne Balibar’s early work on Spinoza and politics. It might be important to consider some paths from Spinoza to contemporary politics that does not necessarily move through Deleuze, even though Deleuze brings out a very important dimension of bodily action as rooted in the capacity to be affected. The point is not only that the conatus, that desire to persist in one’s own being, is enhanced or diminished depending on the dynamic interactions with other living beings, but that a desire to live together, a pulsation that belongs to co-habitation, emerges that forms the basis of consensus, and that this political principle and practice follows from the very exercise or actualization of the desire to persist in one’s own being. One desires to persist in one’s own being, but that can only happen if one is affected by the other, and so without that fundamental susceptibility there can be no persistence

    Continue Reading

  • Should we support Mélenchon?

    From the 27 January edition of Daniel Mermet’s Là-bas si j’y suis. Translated by David Broder. Based on French transcript



    Frédéric Lordon:
    Well, the upcoming elections… There is something weird. For me, the prospect of this election awakens very mixed feelings. Very contradictory feelings.

    I should say that as the years have come and gone — and it is a while since I stopped voting — I have truly come to consider the Fifth Republic’s institutions’ electoral pantomime as something empty, a dead end.

    And from a certain point of view, what happened with Nuit Debout was the expression of this same frame of mind. Playing the game within these institutions is either a game lost in advance, or an entirely senseless one. And the only political question…

    Continue Reading