parts of a thought about hoarding / dissipation

Accumulation is damaging but also already pitched toward dissipation.

Damaging in its appropriative overdrive – most intense, perhaps, when “dead labor” sucks the life out of every possible hour.[1] Marx elsewhere in the first volume of Capital (1867) sketches a theory of hoarding that would distinguish that vampiric lust for flesh from “lusts of the flesh,” which, he points out, the hoarder must “sacrifice … to his gold fetish.” To hoard is to feel the prick of an “antagonism” between gold’s two propositions:

1. “qualitative boundlessness”: money, “because it is directly convertible into any             other commodity,” seems to have “no bounds to its efficacy.”

2. “quantitative limits”: money always takes the form of a discrete “sum,” and so “has only a limited efficacy.”

Lust sacrificed to this antagonism yields to its drive to accumulate “quantitative limits” endlessly, as if thereby to catch up (and, of course, perpetually fail to catch up) with “qualitative boundlessness.” What distinguishes lust for flesh from lusts of the flesh lies in how each takes sensation. If the latter takes flesh as the “means of enjoyment” through which sensation circulates, the former enjoys it as a raw material that, once rendered into money, may convert any sensation into any other whatsoever.

But indulging a fetish for gold does not just mean restraining lust, nor does it simply displace it onto the gleam of pure exchange-value.[2] That displacement serves, rather, the abstract (or dead) lust of capital itself, which uses hoards as “conduits for the supply or withdrawal of money to or from the circulation.”[3]

Dissipative as it lets attention rove objectlessly, along currents of air, as in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Not to say air can’t build pressures of its own; an “imposthume” full of reading squirts out prose gushing (sometimes as if from the mouth of Democritus Jr.) with self-effacements and hyperbolic malice. Satirical masking – effervescent, chatty, but still cutting with ridicule – makes writing a therapeutic apparatus, almost confessional were it not squeezed from archival performances (nothing deeply referential about assembling oneself through quotation).

Seventeenth-century hoarding – as figured by Harpagon in Moliére’s L’Avare (1688) – poses as a site of dissipation insofar as his autoaffective split into both guardian of and threat to his own hoard makes him laughably mechanical. “Rends-moi mon argent, coquin… (Il se prend lui-même le bras.) Ah, c’est moi.”

Some two centuries after the Anatomy, another scholar, Thomas De Quincey will assert a “project of living with ruin,” as Rei Terada calls it – or in an “abyss of divine enjoyment … bought for a penny,” as De Quincey calls it in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) – that, in Terada’s reading, admits neither of repression (as trauma) nor repair (as defense).[4]


It’s worth noting here that in requiring support from the elements, the subject also lays a claim on their reliable ability to resist pressure from it or damage by it. In Barbara Johnson’s paraphrase of Winnicott, “The object becomes real because it survives, because it is outside the subject’s range of omnipotent control.”17 Elsewhere in his book Balint uses air and even fire, in addition to water and earth, to exemplify the “friendly substances” for this purpose. “It is difficult to say,” for ex- ample, “whether the air in our lungs or in our guts is us, or not us; and it does not even matter. We inhale the air, take out of it what we need, and after putting into it what we do not want to have, we exhale it, and we do not care at all whether the air likes it or not. It has to be there for us in adequate quantity and quality”—adequate, Balint would empha- size, as opposed to infinite.18


[1] “Capital is dead labour that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” – page 85 in this —

[2] contra Renu Bora’s argument in “Outing Texture,” I think.

[3] At this point it’s worth noting, but not yet worth dilating on, a potentially enormous network of discourses about the hydraulics of desire / appetite in proximity to Marx’s hydraulic figure for capital’s desire. One resource is Kyla Wazana Tompkin’s work on Sylvester Graham in Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century (2012).

[4] Rei Terada, “Living a Ruined Life: De Quincey Beyond the Worst”


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