This lecture will follow a trajectory of anti-vitalism from Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy and Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death in the 1970s through to Nick Land’s extraordinary theory-fictional texts of the 1990s. The lecture will argue that – despite Land’s avowed anti-leftism and the ambivalent political orientation of Baudrillard and Lyotard’s books – a contemporary leftist politics of desire has much to learn from these texts, all of which centrally involve the figure of the death drive that introduced Freud in Beyond The Pleasure Principle. The lecture will maintain that the anti-capitalist left is compromised by its commitment to a vitalist metaphysics. However, Lyotard, Baudrillard and Land’s texts only provide a limited alternative to this metaphysics, because their ostensible negativity amounts to an inverted vitalism. In place of the fevered energetics of this cosmic libertarianism, the lecture will argue for a cooler vision of desire – in which libido is not assumed to be some force inimical to all structuration, but something that can be designed, manipulated and engineered.
Mark Fisher is the author of Capitalist Realism (2009) and Ghosts Of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (2014). He was a founder member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru). His writing has appeared in many publications, including The Wire, Frieze, The Guardian and Film Quarterly. He is Programme Leader of the MA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and a lecturer at the University of East London. He has also produced two acclaimed audio-essays in collaboration with Justin Barton: londonunderlondon (2005) and On Vanishing Land (2013).
Jean-François Lyotard, ‘The Desire Named Marx’, in Libidinal Economy (Indiana University Press, 1993); Nick Land ‘Meltdown’, in Fanged Noumena (Urbanomic, 2011).
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