Book Review: Žižek’s ‘Surplus-Enjoyment: A Guide for the Non-Perplexed’

Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022

Worst thing to happen to Hegel since the birth of Jesus.

On a more serious note, there is one minor detail about this work I simply don’t understand, and it’s the following:

Žižek here directly equates Lacan’s notion of the objet a with what he calls surplus-enjoyment.

Don’t the two concepts work at entirely different levels? While he makes the usual distinction between enjoyment and pleasure, and then mediates those in a second, Hegelian step, the object petit a and whatever excessive or “surplus”-enjoyment, as developed in this book, shouldn’t simply be equated, that reads as an obscuration of the entire issue for me.

There is desire and its object (or its cause, or the object-cause) and then there is the enjoyment gained in the path of its maintainance. While I agree with Žižek’s key insight here that enjoyment is always excessive, so surplus and enjoyment can be equated in this direct way, the object of desire itself is fundamentally at a different level as the derivation of enjoyment.

The two are connected and related, but not in this equating direct way. While enjoyment is something that can be set in different libidinal schemes, Freud for example at a certain point framed it as directly a hydraulic system, the object itself is the paradoxical element in the machine which, instead of stopping it like a malfunctioning cog in mechanical terms, precisely keeps its going.

In capitalism, the subject-object of capitalism is Capital itself, and unless it crashes (then we call it crisis, recession, depression, stagnation, regression, etc.) which tries to reproduce itself ad infinitum, but the enjoyment derived is the perverse side-effect of the entire movement.


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