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Understanding Jean-François Lyotard’s Economic Philosophy

Lecturer: Sharon Jane Mee

Originally Taught: Summer School 2019

Jean-François Lyotard begins Libidinal Economy with a call to action: “Open the so-called body and spread out all its surfaces” (Lyotard, p. 1). For Lyotard, the opening of the libidinal band/skin is an energetic investment of components. Juxtaposed with the investment of libidinal energies are “structures” that channel and exploit; dispositifs. In this five-seminar intensive course, we will discuss Lyotard’s work to understand his economic philosophy and the force of energetic investment as it relates to exchange (exploitation) and expenditure (jouissance). Each seminar will focus on one text by Lyotard—Libidinal Economy and four essays recently translated in Graham Jones and Ashley Woodward’s Acinemas: Lyotard’s Philosophy of Film.

Course Schedule

Day 1: Libidinal energies and dispositifs

Libidinal Economy will be discussed in terms of investments of desire and the dispositifs that structure them.

Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, Libidinal Economy

Day 2: “Acinema” and the aesthetics of expenditure

“Acinema” describes the economic “form” of experimental and avant-garde cinema, and will be used to explore the political economics of aesthetics.

Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “Acinema” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 33–42.

Day 3: The “scene” of the unconscious; return to dispositifs

We will analyse the investment of the “scene” of the unconscious and the staging of desire in “The Unconscious as Mise-en-scène.”

Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “The Unconscious as Mise-en-scène” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 43–54.

Day 4: Operations of seduction and their economy

Lyotard’s move to linguistic pragmatics in “Two Metamorphoses of the Seductive in Cinema” will allow us to discuss the terms of the operation of seduction: terms such as deception and dissoi logoi (duplicitous speech) that are also found in Lyotard’s Duchamp’s TRANS/formers.

Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “Two Metamorphoses of the Seductive in Cinema” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 55–61.

Day 5: Understanding expenditure and the sovereignty of film

“The Idea of a Sovereign Film” is a provocative work emphasising the development of Lyotard’s thought from the libidinal economy of avant-garde cinema analysed in “Acinema” to the sovereignty informed by Georges Bataille’s economic theory, which will enable a consideration of the breadth of Lyotard’s work on economy.

Reading: Jean-François Lyotard, “The Idea of a Sovereign Film” in Jones and Woodward, Acinemas, pp. 62–70.