And pairs that cannot absorb one another in meaning effects
Go backward and forward and there is no place
—Lisa Robertson, “Palinodes”
No one lives in the future. No one lives in the past.
The men who own the city make more sense than we do.
Their actions are clear, their lives are their own.
But you, went behind glass.
—Gang of Four, “Is It Love?”
Over the past few decades, it has often been said that we no longer have an addressee for our political demands. But that’s not true. We have each other. What we can no longer get from the state, the party, the union, the boss, we ask for from one another. And we provide. Lacan famously defined love as giving something you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it.1 But love is more than a YouTube link or a URL. This beautiful negative flip of what is commonly considered the most positive force in the universe helps us begin to see love’s fullness and endless bounty, as based in emptiness and lack—in mutual loss. Love’s joy is not to be found in fulfillment, but in recognition: even though I can never return what was taken away from you, I may be the only person alive who knows what it is. I don’t have what it is you’re missing, but knowing its shape already makes a world where you can live without it.
Now it becomes easy to see how love translates to economic terms as a union based in mutual debt. When the debt is paid off or called in, the union dissolves. And now that pretty much everyone is in debt, love abounds! Professionals are moving back in with their parents, people are returning home to their countries to depend on their extended families, contracts are increasingly backed by personal relationships, and even the values of goods and currencies are backed less by bonds and legal tender and more by the trust and intimacy that gives them their character. Shared associations and affinities expressed over communication lines produce pockets of enormous value in an otherwise lonely ocean of random data streams. Musicians record reams of songs without ever thinking about wanting a record contract from major labels that are still struggling to understand how to make money off computer files.
Musicians produce music for pure communication now. Information and communication turns immaterial economy into superstition and affective projections. Capital defers down to pure communication, and what used to be an idea of the collective has become a force of conviviality in the absolute. Information-driven overstimulation and actual impoverishment may have fallen in love with each other as well, and they shack up together on an unemployed person’s Facebook page. Now that we live a constant slump, what used to be called biopolitics has been accelerated to the degree that it starts to line up with older pre-capitalist and pre-mercantile means of stabilizing exchanges. Why, after all, do you think there is so much talk about feudalism these days? And how did you suddenly get so many friends that you don’t even like? Where do you think we got all the bromance films—Hollywood romantic comedies on Platonic love between immature men with nothing in common who are nonetheless forced to improve difficult circumstances by forming bonds of intimacy and solidarity? Neighborhood currencies appear, not only in places like Greece, to keep goods and services moving when the money system breaks down. The currency could be a stone or a handshake—it doesn’t matter and doesn’t even have to be material when it’s backed by bonds of trust, by family love, or by friendship. All that is capital melts into love.
Love is the most recently introduced member in the family of inflation and bloat. It is a burst of fresh air fed straight into the bubble. It gives the Ponzi scheme at least another decade before people start to think about cashing out. Remember when you would run out of time and replace that with energy? Push a little harder and move a little faster and you can trick time, because darling you’re a superhero. But when you run out of time and energy alike, you run into a problem. You need help. You need support. You need love and a bit of tenderness. Now, with the help of others, you can feed the machine again.