14 How Did Marx Invent the Symptom?

Slavoj Žižek


Marx, Freud: The Analysis of Form

According to Lacan, it was none other than Karl Marx who invented the notion of symptom. Is this Lacanian thesis just a sally of wit, a vague analogy, or does it possess a pertinent theoretical foundation? If Marx really articulated the notion of the symptom as it is also at work in the Freudian field, then we must ask ourselves the Kantian question concerning the epistemological 'conditions of possibility' of such an encounter: how was it possible for Marx, in his analysis of the world of commodities, to produce a notion which applies also to the analysis of dreams, hysterical phenomena, and so on?

The answer is that there is a fundamental homology between the interpretative procedure of Marx and Freud -- more precisely, between their analysis of commodity and of dreams. In both cases the point is to avoid the properly fetishistic fascination of the 'content' supposedly hidden behind the form: the 'secret' to be unveiled through analysis is not the content hidden by the form (the form of commodities, the form of dreams) but, on the contrary, the 'secret' of this form itself. The theoretical intelligence of the form of dreams does not consist in penetrating from the manifest content to its 'hidden kernel', to the latent dream-thoughts; it consists in the answer to the question: why have the latent dream-thoughts assumed such a form, why were they transposed into the form of a dream? It is the same with commodities: the real problem is not to penetrate to the 'hidden kernel' of the commodity -- the determination of its value by the quantity of the work consumed in its production -- but to explain why work assumed the form of the value of a commodity, why it can affirm its social character only in the commodity-form of its product.

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Mapping Ideology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction: The Spectre of Ideology 1
  • Notes 30
  • 1: Messages in a Bottle 34
  • 2: Adorno, Post-Structuralism and the Critique of Identity 46
  • Notes 64
  • 3: The Critique of Instrumental Reason 66
  • Notes 88
  • 4: The Mirror-phase as Formative of the Function of the I 93
  • Notes 99
  • 5: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation) 100
  • Notes 138
  • 6: The Mechanism of Ideological (Mis)recognition 141
  • Notes 150
  • 7: Determinacy and Indeterminacy in the Theory of Ideology 152
  • Notes 165
  • 8: The New Questions of Subjectivity 167
  • Notes 178
  • 9: Ideology and its Vicissitudes in Western Marxism 179
  • Notes 224
  • 10: Feminism, Ideology, and Deconstruction: A Pragmatist View 227
  • Notes 233
  • 11: Ideology, Politics, Hegemony 235
  • Notes 262
  • 12: Doxa and Common Life: An Interview 265
  • Note 277
  • 13: Postmodernism and the Market 278
  • Notes 295
  • 14: How Did Marx Invent the Symptom? 296
  • Notes 331
  • List of Sources 332
  • Index 333
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