Needs and desire, continued

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Thu Jan 27 17:54:59 MST 2000


Note that when Phil responded to this he changed the heading
(correctly I think) to "needs and desireS." Part of my reason for
that is contained in my response on lbo to Charles's last post.
I copy it here.

I don't think this reopens the subject on which Nestor and I
disagree, Freud, because the psychoanalyst at issue here is
immediately Lacan rather than Freud.


Charles Brown wrote:

> When people find their basic "needs" fulfilled
> - and these themselves are very plastic - do they want less or more?
> &&&&&&&
> CB: First on the plasticity of needs: the idea of "need" is to refer
something that is relatively unplastic. It is a necessity, it is a limit

within which we must live such as enough food not to starve. "Want" or
"desire" is intended to refer to those things which are 'plastic".
is intended to refer to more rigid requirements.

Charles, you're being sucked in and led where you do not need, and ought

desire, to go. "Needs," "necessities," whatever form part of the
the value of labor power, and the term is thus implicitly at the very
Marx's entire critique of political economy -- and Marx quite sensibly
let himself be drawn into any endless haggling over definition. There
says at one point in *Capital* (Vol. 1) a "moral or historical" element
value of labor power, and it is defined by the stuggle between capital
labor -- we are back again, then, to what are perhaps the single two
important propositions in Marx: His quotation from Faust (Im Anfang war
die That) and his answer to the reporter's question, What Is?: Struggle.

(Marx does note that it is in fact impossible to say what the minimum
biological necessities for survival are. Attempting to define that would
a mug's game, and serious people should not concern themselves with

There is a fine point here of some importance: Do we want to talk about
"desire" or "desires"?  The latter would be an empirical and historical
investigation of some interest though not great theoretical importance.
The former should be left to the theologians. The only respectable
intellectual I know of who had any truck with it was William Blake,
and it produced some good poetry. But then anti-semitism produced
some good poetry.


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