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Enjoyment Right & Left

Todd McGowan

While understanding the psychological structure of pleasure and desire might seem to be unrelated to understanding our current political crisis, Todd McGowan argues that the intrinsically excessive nature of what Lacan would call jouissance, what McGowan calls Enjoyment, is critically important to understand as we try to overcome the contradictions and conflicts that arise in a world that appears to split between right and left. 


Todd McGowan’s previous books include Emancipation After Hegel, Capitalism and Desire, and The Impossible David Lynch amongst others. You can watch him discuss enjoyment as a sublated video, or listen to him on the Diet Soap podcast.

The discursive analysis of ideology fails to capture the mode of enjoyment an ideology mobilizes. In his new path-breaking book, Todd McGowan elaborates on the formal structure of enjoyment which distinguishes the Left from the Right. The enjoyment mobilized by the Left is not sustained by envy and resentment, it leaves behind the motifs of the theft of enjoyment that permeates racism and sexism. Enjoyment Right & Left deserves to become an instant classic – it cuts into the very heart of what is wrong in today’s fundamentalism and its apparent opposite, permissive liberalism.classic – it cuts into the very heart of what is wrong in today’s fundamentalism
and its apparent opposite, permissive liberalism.

—Slavoj Žižek
Author of Less Than Nothing

McGowan’s game-changing book compellingly answers one of the most vexing questions of our time: why do our best-intentioned leftist political projects continually fail? Against the contemporary progressive zeitgeist of championing the particular over the universal and insisting on inclusivity over nonbelonging, McGowan shows that emancipatory politics requires that we commit ourselves to accept our universal nonbelonging. Through his characteristically novel analyses of wide-ranging cultural and political phenomena—including the Black Lives Matter movement, sports fandom, the Christmas movie genre, the Haitian Revolution, and falling in love—Mc-Gowan obliges us to recognize that a truly egalitarian society is not possible without radical enjoyment.

—Jennifer Friedlander
Author of Real Deceptions

Forget political “opinions,” to say nothing of “considered” opinions. In what deserves to be a game-changer, Todd McGowan convincingly shows how political postures are founded on forms of “enjoyment,” unconscious gratifications paradoxically closer to suffering than to pleasure, closer to sacrifice than to satisfaction. A real adventure of insight.

—Richard Boothby
Author of Embracing the Void: Rethinking the Origin of the Sacred

McGowan’s readability…is traceable to his ability to relate abstruse ideas to aspects of everyday life and common experiences. His style of writing when offering explanations for difficult terms and ideas results in an admirable lucidity.

—Sean Sheehan
Reviewing Emancipation After Hegel in Marx and Philosophy

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