Desire is a human trait, and has a deep and lasting impression on political activity in general. Whether it is restricted or liberated, desire as inherently human plays a crucial part in how individuals and collectives express themselves through various political institutions. The understanding of desire and how it is structured can aid in the way one understands how to create a new political alternative. Unfortunately desire has previously been limited to a psychological discussion, and usually depicted as a wild and violent side to human nature that must be repressed or reconditioned. What is vital is to demonstrate how desire can be the basis of real and at times revolutionary political action, exemplified in the current context with the Green Party and its presentation of itself as a real choice beyond the two-party system.
To understand desire requires understanding how it is structured in the development of human life. When humans develop, their sense of self and the world is mediated by an external structure of meaning. Human language is the best example of such a structure of meaning. Jacques Lacan referred to this as the Mirror Stage, where it is through the “reflection” that an infant realizes that they have a unified identity. However, since this identity is formed externally to the human mind and then internalized through a learning and discovery process, there is a blind spot caused by the limited perspective of the individual human. Therefore, not only does the internalized identity contain an intrinsic lack, but something so ingrained and personal is presented to the human by way of a foreign structure. In other words, this mediation of the self through a structure of meaning is a primal type of alienation, defined as structural alienation. Lacan also posited that human desire was based on this lack, and that one sought outside objects to fill that lack. These objects were defined as “object petit a” and stood in for the whole of reality that could not be grasped without being filtered by structures. The “object petit a” can be classified as a small partial object of desire, the piece of reality within structures that can fill the lack within the self. However, compared to Gilles Deleuze’s formulation of desire as a fullness that expresses itself in creation, Lacan’s idea of desire can be considered as more descriptive while Deleuze is more normative. For a political application of desire, it is vital to make this distinction in order to move from a descriptive condition of desire as lack to a normative condition of desire as full creation.
Structural alienation allows the formation of small partial objects of desire and the drive to consume those objects. Drive is something that is very different from desire, and can be characterized by the constant need to consume for its own sake. In fact, the goal of drive is the perpetuation of drive regardless of the object in question. The small partial objects of desire are a containment and mediation of the conscious interaction with others that occurs in the social field. This containment and mediation of the social develops into the political, the cultural, and the economic sphere, and these compartmentalizations limits any possibility of resistance. Capitalism is the epitome of this process, and is in fact the smoothest functioning of such a process that is the result of structural alienation. While the specific economic alienation of products from producers documented by Marx is very specific to capitalism, and is very real in the present time, the late modern economic form of capitalism also points to a more general structural alienation that has existed beyond and before this particular historical stage. Capitalism efficiently allows the particular products of a general creation to appear as separate from each other. Consequently, the social is broken up into contracts and precluded choices that have a very limited scope. There is then the formation of the transcendent category of the market, which unites these various contracts and precluded choices in a structure that dominates through the partial objects of desire.
Humans are unable to access this structure, but must consume these partial objects of desire that are a way to channel and control the inherent desire that all humans have. These objects in the present tense can be known as commodities within capitalism, and if all of social of life is made into commodities then authentic active resistance can also be turned into a passive commodity that does not make any substantial overall change. Its revolutionary force is redirected. But it is possible to point out the contradictions within capitalism and how appearance covers over what is actually occuring, and through this realize that drive and the small partial objects of desire are not the same as desire as a full creative power. The first contradiction between production and consumption is formed by the exchange system of capitalism. As individual workers are subsumed under collective labor, the collective consumption of resources is broken up into individual choices. The equivalence of exchange obscures the difference of products created by specific indivudals and collectives. At the same time, the difference of acts of consumption within capitalism obscures the equivalence of the actual choices presented to consumers. The capitalist system requires the appearance of diversity in commodities in order to maintain a uniform mode of production, which in turn allows the economic alienation of modern labor through the appearance of a free market. This process is made possible by the preexisting psychological effects of structural alienation that occured before the modern incarnation of capitalism. Authentic desire, though unique to each human, is a trait shared by all humans. The unique experience of desire obscures the commonality ofdesiring-production, which is the productive power instigated by desire. In the structurally alienated form, almost in inverse proportion, the unique appearance of small partial objects of desire obscures the standardization of commodities.
The process whereby there is a movement from desire to drive requires first a comparison of the two terms. Drive is a need without a desire for any one object and is a continuation of this need regardless of what is consumed. Each expression of drive is a perpetuation of structures by individuals since the eternal act of consumption for its own sake reproduces the structures that form objects to be consumed. Drive is predictable and finite, making it easy to calculate how to regulate the dependency on structures that is an effect of drive. In contrast, desire is a replacement of drive in the event that disrupts structures. As there is the opportunity to be free with the removal or dissipation of structures, desire is how that freedom is expressed. Desire is also unpredictable and infinite, an overflowing from individual humans that attempts to inscribe itself on the void of reality through the creation of various things and ideas. When desire becomes drive, it is structured and channeled in a way that only consumes the small partial objects of desire and prevents the true creative potential of full desire. Drive is the transformation of desire on the principle of limitation in order to control human action through specific acts of consumption.
Structural alienation is the separation of the self from one’s own desire so that it can be altered into drive and presented as the only way for humans to fulfill needs. Desire is contained by the systems of production through drive, but production can be contained by desire as an act of free agency. Free agency, as freedom that begins by being surrounded by structures, can claim the act of production for its own sake and use this creative force to amplify freedom. Even though humans are presented with the small partial objects of desire as a product of the structuring of desire, humans can still reverse this process and oppose it in order to begin a process of invention that escapes the overall structural alienation. In this case, invention can be defined as the creation of novelty as well as the incorporation of the possibility of the event within structures. Invention acts as an obstacle to the smooth flowing of drive attempting to fulfill itself through the small partial objects of desire. In other words, invention is the prevention of the static reproduction of structures and can also be referred to as desiring-production.
The transition from desire to drive allows the consumption of small partial objects of desire that in turn perpetuates systems of power, meaning, and production. The implementation of drive redirects the human trait of desire in such a way as to prevent a greater understanding of the self and the world, and especially how structures can be used to dominate humans. This domination is not necessarily the deprivation of needs or imposition of scarcity, but rather drive is an unconscious consumption that is never fulfilled with the accompanying appearance of a conscious choice. Humans are told to enjoy through specific limited channels, and this is presented to humans as a way to freedom. But the exercise of drive denies a productive and authentic expression of desire where new and unexpected things or ideas are created within the context of structures, and therefore desire is a primal act of resistance. Drive, however, is never an act of resistance and only serves the preexisting structures. A side effect of drive is the transformation of humans into beings who are both useful to the larger structure yet docile to its demands. Thedisjunction between desire and drive allows the formation of psychological symptoms that isolate individuals from the social, keeping them separate from any collective action and forever revolving around the small partial objects of desire in an obsessive manner. A full understanding of drive and how it functions allows for the discovery of desire and the relationship it has with the social. For desire, as inherently productive, can preserve the social as an arena where issues of inequality or injustice can be addressed and solved with human creations.
Desiring-production as the authentic practice of desire is the organized resistance to power. Desiring-production has characteristics that distinguish it from what is normally defined as desire in a capitalist system or other structure. It always occurs within the context of the social and is unique to each individual human, whereas drive is always similar to all humans. The results of desiring-production precede the usefulness of the subsequent creations. Desiring-production transforms the relationship between drive and pleasure by revealing how drive is used to subjugate desire into predetermined goals. Pleasure is redefined as true enjoyment where human desire inscribes itself on to reality like a blank canvas or page. There is also a shift in what is usually perceived as the part of desire in the law. In the United States and other representative democracies, it is assumed that the external freedom of natural rights are ordered and limited by internal law. But it can be said that the external order and limit of drive is liberated by internal desiring-production. Desiring-production is a recombination of parts within the structural entropy of the law, where what is limited by law is placed through a process of invention and novelty in order to sustain the social and continue it. Since the event is considered a disruption of structures, the event can be a recognition of the virtual possibility within actualized structures. Particular events can also be a space for general change, where the clearing away of structures that appear universal allows desiring-production to be fully expressed.
The event is the new relationship between the figure of the individual and the social background. It is an attempt to replace the structures of power, meaning, and production that limit desire, especially in how it can contribute to the social field. It must be emphasized that desire is not self interest or hedonism that is anti-social or that looks inward. Desiring-production always creates objects and ideas that serve to enrich humanity in order to enact an authentic enjoyment that is not defined by limited drives and small partial objects of desire. Therefore, there is an intrinsic connection between individual desire and support of the social field that is bridged by desiring-production as an expresison of freedom. In this regard, the social field is the common background of both determining structures and free individuals. Society is the ordered and static structuring of the social, how structures bring together the social background to control its parameters. But the social can also be the latent space of possibilities for both individuals and collectives, and can benefit from a true expression of desire.
The true expression of desire can also call into question the structures that try to channel desire into ways that make humans easier to control. It can make structures more apparent in order to pose a radical critique of all structures. As the particular pleasure of drive points to a general structure, the particular enjoyment of desire points to a general reality that lies outside of structures but that can not be experienced in itself. Moral law, that can only allow drives to be expressed in specific acts of guilt, is an example of a structure that redefines desire and prevents a larger evaluation of the structure. Through the demand to obey of moral law, guilt in pleasure may seem like a transgressive form of desire. But the demand also sets the stage for a pleasure in only safe ways that prevents any revolutionary potential. The allure of drive is such that the guilt of moral law is an escape from the anxiety of desire where it is up to humans to create the satisfaction of desire as an expression of desire. In other words, the confinement of structures presents a sense of safety and predictability but at the same time limits freedom through precluded choices. Trying to escape structures in order to get to reality can be a difficult thing. The attempt to experience reality is always redirected toward small partial objects of desire as the products of structures. The tension between the undefined nature of reality and the restriction of structures that shape meaning illustrate how the small partial objects of desire are a limited form of pleasure and a substantial method of discipline.
Structures begin as products of humans but eventually surround humans in ways that mediate reality and make reality understandable. This is done through a process of universalization where this connection of the various parts of reality is presented as absolute truth. A transcendent category, that appears as the real source of a structure, is in fact a product of structures. For humans, the transcendent category is the full enjoyment of desire and the basis of law that subjugates the desire of all others. It is the authority that stands in for reality and appears as reality. Under this authority drive is able to pretend that it is authentic desire, and that the small partial objects of desire are the only way to satisfy it. The mobility of these small partial objects of desire, commodities in the specific structure of capitalism, depend on the consistency of structures. But a universal structure will have contradictions within it, and the consistency of structures actually requires the incompleteness of structures. This means that structures must be immanent creations of humans instead of being transcendent absolute truth. This is where desiring-production can be a type of resistance to structures, using limited and incomplete forms as tools.
Resistance begins within structures, and resistance is expressed initially in the terms of the structures of power, meaning, and production. It can also be a resource for the perpetuation of structures of power, meaning, and production where the purpose of these structures is to deal with and neutralize these disturbances. But desire can reorient this resistance as the creation of novelty and an organization independent of structures. Desire can break away from the predetermined channels of drive and do unpredictable things with immanent structures that do not try to be universal truth. Immanent production begins with the material context and ends with the expression of ideas. It is the infinite connections of finite parts that is the foundation of novelty. As desire is unique to each individual, immanent production can be a common collective attempt at truth when desiring-production is the individual creation and collective use of objects and ideas. Desiring-production is resistance to the transcendent category and small partial objects of desire by being an oppositional stance against both the domination of power and the taming of human desire. Therefore, the project of desire is intertwined with issues of the social, creativity, and freedom.
In the discussion of revolutionary change, it has been said that there is a need for sacrifice and discipline where desire is denied in order to achieve the final goal. For a substantial type of revolution, there must be a full expression of the human condition. This requires a new understanding and acceptance of desire, and how desire can be a productive force for the good of the social field. The active mode of desire as desiring-production creates objects and ideas that can be put to a political use that is outside of the restrictions of the nation-state, ideology, and capitalism. The Green Party can make much use of this conceptualization of desire in order to elaborate on issues of freedom, justice, and equality and therefore form innovative policy positions and techniques that can truly liberate individuals and collectives. It can be a new type of revolution with a greater possibility of independent progressive change.