2021-2022 seminar Ghalya Saadawi: Capital as a State of Mind

About Ghalya Saadawi

The seminar from month to month 

Participants: Till Langschied, Orestis Giannoulis, Cornelia Isaksson, Zuzana-Markéta Macková, Dakota Guo, Dylan Spencer Davidson, Lacey Verhalen, Miyoung Chang, Vera Mühlebach, Marika Vandekraats.

Thesis Coaching Matches

INTRODUCTION: Capital as a State of Mind

Asking how capitalism is a state of mind is asking how its abstractions may allegedly be “personal.” With the key pillars of labor / exchange value / commodity (and the corollaries exploitation, alienation, fetish, etc.), it is, as we know, a relation and a social form. How do we address the contradiction of the impersonal nature of capitalism; its forces not so available to individual attribution? Not only how is it an abstract force that subjugates bodies or persons, but how are these latter themselves abstractions? How capital is a kind of “thinking” that has constructed/destroyed the subject, is a question that still haunts critical theory, including psychoanalysis, anthropology, and even transdisciplinary affect theory. What does it mean that capital has a logic (racial, emotional etc.) and what are its reprecussions on how we are constituted? What is the emotional logic of capitalism but also what is the consequence of capitalism on emotion? How does it form and inform desire? How does capital both have and inform the unconscious? How does it construct our “selves,” and are we also not in possession of ourselves? How does it inform and create our desire and love? How are, for example, operations of exchange, debt, risk or austerity, or enjoyment psychic and interpersonal, as well as “real” and “material” abstractions? In a seminar in two parts over this year and next, we will explore these questions and the different forms of answers. This will include film and fiction, and student writing and presentations. 


Preliminary bibliography:

Adorno, Theodor. Minima Moralia: Refllections on a Damaged Life. London: Verso, 2020. 

Berlant, Lauren. Love/Desire. Brooklyn: punctum books, 2012; or Berlant. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.

Biss, Eula. Having and Being Had. London: Faber, 2020.

Bradely, Rizvana and Denise Ferreira da Silva. “Four theses on Aesthetics,” e-flux Journal 120, (September 2021), https://www.e-flux.com/journal/120/416146/four-theses-on-aesthetics/

Brown, Alfie. Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism. Winchester: Zero Books, 2015.

Buck-Morss, Susan. “Envisioning Capital: Political Economy on Display,” Critical Inquiry 21, nr.  2 (Winter, 1995): 434-467.

Chakravartty, Paula and Denise Ferreira da Silva. “Accumulation, Dispossession, and Debt: The Racial Logic of Global Capitalism—An Introduction,” American Quarterly 64, nr. 3 (Sep 2021): 361-385.

Clastres, Pierre. Society against the State: Essays in Political Anthropology. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004. (read with help, Aidan Tynan. “The Marx of Anti-Oedipus,” Deleuze and Guattari Studies, Volume 3 (Issue supplement Deleuze and Marx) (2009): 28-52; and Nicholas Thoburn. Deleuze, Marx and Politics. London: Routledge, 2003).

Dufourmantelle, Anne. In Praise of Risk. Translated by Steve Miller. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012.

Goux, Jean-Joseph. Symbolic Economies After Marx and Freud. Translated by Jennifer Curtiss Gage. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Harney, Stefano and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. London: Minor Compositions, 2013.

Konings, Martijn. The Emotional Logic of Capitalism: What Progressives Have Missed. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015.

Tomsic, Samo “Psychoanalysis, Capitalism and Critique of Political Economy: Toward a Marxist Lacan,” In Jacques Lacan: Between Psychoanalysis and Politics. Edited by Samo Tomsic and Andreja Zevnik. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.  

Toscano, Alberto. “Seeing It Whole: Staging Totality in Social Theory and Art,” The Sociological Review 60 (2021): 64-83; and Toscano and Jeff Kinkle. “Filming the Crisis: A Survey,” Film Quarterly 65, nr. 1 (2011): 39-51.


Seminar 1 (13+14 Nov)

Comme Commodity 

We begin to consider the commodity form within the relation and motion that is capital. We start to learn about this form as “fetishistic” and what this says about capital, and means for the subject and the “self.” We begin to see how this commodity / in motion/ as form / as relation relates to the unconscious. And with time we begin our coming exploration of the human commodity as/in slavery, and its key relation to capital abstraction in the rise of finance.


Böhm, Steffe and Aanka Batta. “Just doing it: enjoying commodity fetishism with Lacan.” Organization 17, nr. 3 (2010): 345–361.

Marx, Karl. “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof.” Capital Volume 1: A Critique of the Political Economy. Translated by Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin, 1990. 163-178.

Amariglio, Jack & Antonio Callari. “Marxian Value Theory and the Problem of the Subject: The Role of Commodity Fetishism.” Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society 2, nr. 3 (1989): 31-60.

Reading Marx's Capital Vol. I with David Harvey, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBazR59SZXk

Adam Curtis, “The Century of the Self” (2002), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ3RzGoQC4s