Libidinal Economy

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Libidinal Economy
Libidinal Economy (French edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorJean-François Lyotard
Original titleÉconomie Libidinale
TranslatorIain Hamilton Grant
SubjectsSex, psychoanalysis, economics
  • 1974 (Les Éditions de Minuit, in French)
  • 1983 (Indiana University Press, in English)
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages275 (English edition)

Libidinal Economy (French: Économie Libidinale) is a 1974 book by the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard.[1] The work has been compared to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's Anti-Oedipus (1972), which, like it, is seen as a key text in the micropolitics of desire. Libidinal Economy has been criticized on numerous grounds, including lack of a moral or political orientation.


The philosopher Douglas Kellner writes that, like Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus (1972), Libidinal Economy is a key text in the micropolitics of desire. Kellner finds it interesting that Lyotard presents the work of Deleuze and Guattari, and that of Baudrillard, as "brother" critiques.[2] It has been suggested that Libidinal Economy is Lyotard's most important early work available in English translation; as of 1993, it was generating increasing interest among critics who have given attention to the work Lyotard produced before becoming interested in postmodernism.[1] Libidinal Economy has also been compared to philosopher Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology (1967), Luce Irigaray's Speculum of the Other Woman (1974), and Baudrillard's Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976), with which it forms part of post-structuralism, a response to the demise of structuralism as a dominant intellectual discourse.[3]

Alan D. Schrift writes that Lyotard's work reflects the passion surrounding the events of May 1968 in France, as well as disappointment with the Marxist response to those events.[4] Anthony Elliott writes that it has a similar theoretical direction to that of Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, though he adds that there are also several significant differences between Deleuze and Guattari on the one hand and Lyotard on the other. He argues that Lyotard's ideas are "deeply problematic" from the standpoint of critical psychoanalytic theory, and involve questionable assumptions about human subjectivity and agency. In his view, Lyotard's "celebration of the energetic component of the unconscious is achieved at the cost of displacing the vital role of representation in psychic life." He also maintains that Lyotard's contention that representation is a local effect of libidinal intensities "erases the fundamental stress upon representation in Freud's interpretation of the self." He concludes that Lyotard's concept of libidinal intensities is "cast so wide as to be effectively fruitless for critical social analysis", endorsing Peter Dews' view that "Lyotard's position is bereft of any moral or political orientation."[5]


  1. ^ a b Malpas 1993. p. 133.
  2. ^ Kellner 1989. p. 223.
  3. ^ Grant 1993. p. xvii.
  4. ^ Schrift 1999. p. 523.
  5. ^ Elliott 2002. p. 163-6.


  • Elliott, Anthony (2002). Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction. New York: Palgrave. ISBN 0-333-91912-2.
  • Grant, Ian Hamilton; Lyotard, Jean-François (1993). Libidinal Economy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-20728-2.
  • Kellner, Douglas (1989). Jean Baudrillard: From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond. Cambridge: Polity Press. ISBN 0-7456-0562-1.
  • Malpas, Simon (1993). Jean-François Lyotard. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25615-1.
  • Schrift, Alan D. (1999). Audi, Robert (ed.). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63722-8.