Enjoyment as a Category of Political Theory

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"All politics relies upon, and even manipulates, a certain economy of enjoyment."[1]

Throughout his work, Žižek draws out the workings of enjoyment (what Jacques Lacan calls jouissance) in racist and ethnic ideological fantasies, in socialism's bureaucratic excesses, and in the cynicism of the narcissistic subjects of late capitalism.

Žižek frequently invokves the seemingly nonsensical ceremonies and redundancies that accompany political institutions.

"Our politics is more and more directly the politics of jouissance, concerned with ways of soliciting, or controlling and regulating, jouissance."[2]

In this chapter Dean introduces the category of enjoyment as the key to understanding Žižek's political thought.

Dean demonstrates the importance of enjoyment as a category of political theory.

It contributes to thinking about our attachment to and investment in violent, destructive, and authoritarian modes of being.

For political theorists, his work is indispensable to understanding the deep libidinal attraction of domination, that is, the passion of our attachments to objects constitutive of our subjectivities.

In considering enjoyment as a category of political theory, Dean begins with a general discussion of the concept in psychoanalysis.

She then turns specifically to Žižek's work, taking up the role of enjoyment and fantasy in his reworking of the theory of ideology.

After attending to the place of enjoyment in ideological interpellation and addressing more specifically Žižek's use of the concept for understanding racism and ethnic nationalism, Dean analyzes some of the specific, formal features of the concept.

Here she emphasizes enjoyment as it fixes the place of the subject, enjoyment and our relation to others, and the superego support of enjoyment.

Then Dean argues for Žižek's account of the challenges of freedomin in communicative capitalism as a compelling alternative to current emphases on multiplicity and pluralization.

Žižek's emphasis on enjoyment enables us to confront the excesses generated by global capitalism as they fix and attach contemporary subjects into relations of domination and exploitation.

What is Enjoyment?

The basic psychoanalytic account of enjoyment tells a story of the infant's primary connection with its mother.

This story begins by positing an ideal oneness that was never fully realized, but whose loss helsps make sense oof human psychic life.

  1. Slavoj Žižek and Glyn Daly. Conversations with Žižek. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2004. p. 114
  2. Žižek, Slavoj. The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006. p. 309