As potent new cultures of desire take shape around the intersection of digital technology and finance, this very site is beginning to take on the qualities of a fantasy, structuring ever more lives around recursive forms of emotional capture and release, while at the same time fuelling a lucrative game of anticipating and capitalising on such cycles. The result is a kind of runaway abstraction that applies not only to money and technology, but also perhaps to desire itself. What if the libidinal economies of digital and financial capitalism run best when detached from definite aims, ends, objects?
The fundamental wager of libidinal economy is that contemporary capitalism can be fruitfully engaged through the lens of desire or ‘libido’. This introductory chapter develops a preliminary account of the relations between libidinal economy and capitalism in three ways. First, it positions libidinal economy at the intersection of economic and psychological thought. Second, it relates the development of libidinal-economic thought to the historical development of capitalism. Third, it emphasises the role of libidinal dynamics in the social reproduction of contemporary capitalism.
The notion of ‘clickbait’ speaks to the intersection of money, technology, and desire, suggesting a cunning ruse to profit from unsavoury inclinations of one kind or another. Clickbait capitalism pursues the idea that the entire contemporary economy is just such a ruse, an elaborate exercise in psychological capture and release. Pushing beyond rationalist accounts of economic life, this volume puts psychoanalysis and political economy into conversation with the cutting edges of capitalist development. Perennial questions of death, sex, aggression, enjoyment, despair, hope, and revenge are followed onto the terrain of the contemporary, with chapters devoted to social media, online dating apps, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and meme stocks. The result is a unique and compelling portrait of the latest institutions to stage, channel, or reconfigure the psychic energies of political and economic life.
This chapter interprets the GameStop saga of 2021 as the surface expression of an underlying libidinal economy of leverage. Building on post-Keynesian accounts of money and finance, it argues that the current financial system operates on the basis of a ‘rolling apocalypse’, turning the destructive nihilism of petty investors into fuel for the levered-up trading strategies of professional money managers.