Global Libidinal Economy

By Ilan Kapoor, Gavin Fridell, Maureen Sioh, and Pieter de Vries

Subjects: Political Theory, Political Economy, Psychoanalysis, Sociology Of Work, Cultural Anthropology
Hardcover : 9781438493398, 220 pages, May 2023
Paperback : 9781438493381, 220 pages, November 2023

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Table of contents


1. Global Libidinal Economy

2. Production: The Drive toward Capitalist Globalization

3. Consumption: Desire and Commodity Fetishism

4. Informal Economy: The Unconscious of Global Capitalism

5. Trade: Emotional Labor and Psychological “Bowing” in the US-China Trade War

6. Financialization: The Psychopathologies of Fictitious Capital

7. Ecology: Toward a Psychoanalytic Political Ecology

8. The State: How China’s Belt and Road Initiative Breaks the Cycle of Race and Trauma


Claims unconscious desire plays a constitutive role in global political economy.


This is the first book to examine global political economy from a psychoanalytic perspective. It claims that the libidinal—the site of unconscious desire—plays not a supplementary or trivial, but a constitutive role in global political economy. Consumption, for example, is not simply a way of satisfying a material or biological need but a doomed attempt at soothing our deeply held sense of loss; and capital is not just a means to material growth and prosperity but is invested with "drive" that seduces, beguiles, and manipulates in the service of unending accumulation. Thus, in contrast to political economy, which assumes a rational subject, libidinal economy is founded on the notion of a desiring subject, who obeys a logic not of good sense or self-interest but profligacy and irrationality. By applying a psychoanalytic lens, Global Libidinal Economy thereby seeks to uncover the unconscious excesses and antagonisms emergent in such key political economy categories as "production," "trade," and "ecology," while also bringing out significant contemporary themes relating to "gender" and "race."

Ilan Kapoor is Professor of Critical Development Studies at the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University, Toronto. Gavin Fridell is Professor of Global Development Studies at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada. Maureen Sioh is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at DePaul University, Chicago. Pieter de Vries is presently the International Development Research Liaison for Wageningen University (The Netherlands) and the Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia).


"Global Libidinal Economy is a game changer. This highly innovative and accessible book deserves to be read widely and carefully by scholars of global political economy and global development to better understand the role of unconscious desire in shaping our world." — Susanne Soederberg, author of Urban Displacements: Governing Surplus and Survival in Global Capitalism

"This book is groundbreaking, the first full-length volume to employ a psychoanalytic approach to global political economy. Providing concrete empirical cases and written in an accessible manner, it marks a significant advancement over previous efforts at developing a libidinal political economy perspective." — Earl Gammon, Senior Lecturer in Global Political Economy, University of Sussex

Global Libidinal Economy provides a synoptic account of the desires and drives that animate contemporary capitalism. By crossing the coordinates of Lacanian-Marxism with key categories in the field of International Political Economy, the authors expose the seedy underside of economic life in a range of everyday settings that span the globe. The results are illuminating, unsettling, irresistible." — Amin Samman, author of History in Financial Times