The psychoanalytic critique of capitalism

Elements for an overview

Keywords: alienation, death drive, hedonism, money, consumption, economics


This article provides a preliminary overview of the psychoanalytic critique of capitalism. It aims to fortify the recent psychoanalytic turn in—or return to—the study of capitalism and its alternatives. After identifying the main approaches to the psychoanalytic study of the economy, I present some of the key critical contributions along four broad thematic streams: libidinal repression (‘Eros’), repetition compulsion (‘Thanatos’), hedonistic will to power (‘Ahriman’), and narcissistic rationalising (‘Lucifer’). The Ahriman/Lucifer pair is proposed here as a new coupling able to capture wide-ranging trends in this literature. Over time, debates have changed in emphases and concepts, but a large part of the core questions has remained the same and as relevant as ever. While there have been complementarities as well as disagreements between the different contributions, the psychoanalytic study of the economy has regrettably never formed a self-conscious field of inquiry, something that this article seeks to remedy.


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How to Cite
Gerber, J.-F. (2022). The psychoanalytic critique of capitalism: Elements for an overview. Psychotherapy & Politics International, 20(1 & 2).