Delusions of an Imploding Civilization

By Fabio Vighi

Subjects: Philosophy, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Hegel, Critical Theory
Series: SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Hardcover : 9781438487250, 206 pages, March 2022
Paperback : 9781438487267, 206 pages, September 2022

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Prologue: Loss of Gravity in the Capitalist Galaxy

1. Labor, Value, and Other Capitalist Delusions
Dialectical Totalities
Brief Encounters
Setzung der Voraussetzungen
Hegel after Marx
The Fantasy of Surplus-Value
Hegel in and out of Political Economy

2. Implosion of the Work Society
Modernity's Self-deployment
Self-caused and Self-realized Reason
Real Work and Labor-time
Calling the Bluff
André Gorz's Critique of Work
Disaster Economics
The Difficulty of Letting Go

3. The Missing Cause
Chronic Constipation
A Worldless Discourse
The New Master
Colonization of the Productive Mind
Clouds of Impotence
Labor as Vanishing Presupposition
Marx's Teleology
The Transcendental Schema of Capitalist Time
Beyond Exploitation

4. Dialectical Short Circuits
The Catastrophe of Liberation
Blindness of the Automatic Subject
Hegel: Being as Self-mediated Groundlessness
The Speculative Breakthrough
The Labor Decoy
Big Data and the Fanaticism of Breathing

5. The Financial Demon
Shackled by Nostalgia
Capitalist Bulimia
The Anatomy of Finance Is the Key to the Anatomy of the Real Economy
Genie out of the Capitalist Bottle
Neoliberal Perversions
Populist Symptoms
Viral Simulations

Epilogue: Emergency Capitalism and the Exhaustion of a Form of Life

Works Cited

Explores the slow but inevitable implosion of our civilization by considering the correlation between capital, work, and ideology.


Unworkable discusses the ongoing implosion of our globalized world from three distinct angles: the capitalist elimination of labor through technological automation, the dissolution of our shared social narratives, and the subtle imposition of an increasingly pervasive ideological order. Aiming to root out the lost cause of this implosion, Fabio Vighi returns to Marx by way of Hegel, Lacan, Gorz, Baudrillard, and other thinkers who, in different ways, have reflected on the complex dialectical structure of modernity and its hidden conditions of possibility. Capitalism, Vighi argues, fundamentally redefined the meaning of work and prevented the emergence of alternative forms of life. In our own time, the delusions of work and the values that propel life under capitalism have become, in Vighi's analysis, unworkable. And yet, even as we become an increasingly "workless" society, we continue to abide by the same laws of productivity and profit.

Fabio Vighi is Professor of Italian and Critical Theory at Cardiff University. He is the coauthor (with Heiko Feldner) of Critical Theory and the Crisis of Contemporary Capitalism.