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Jealousy, and: Desire is always a desire of the desire of the other
Jealousy, and: Desire is always a desire of the desire of the other.

Most people in the world desire something if and only if it is what others desire. They desire the cheerleader because everybody desires cheerleaders. They desire a Porsche because when they sit in the Porsche everybody will be envious. They desire the beauty queen because everybody will be jealous of them. They desire, at some points, big breasts, because that’s what the others desire, Etc.

The basic structure of desire, or so psychologists say, is that I desire what I understand others to desire.
Why is that?

Why don’t people simply want what they want? Why does the basic structure always go through other people? (For most, but not all people).

Much of the structure of jealousy in the world revolves around this notion. People want to succeed, and succeeding means to get what other people desire. You are constantly in search of what others desire. But how do you know you have it – by people being jealous of you. And so people try to create that effect, to create people being jealous of them.

But what if you don’t want to play that game? What if you desire what you desire without caring about what others desire? You don’t care to have people jealous of you? What then? Can you be successful? Can you be successful without using such a basic tool in the a game of power ?
Desire is real to the INDIVIDUAL who has kept his soul and individuality intact.

People who are lost and need something external to grab onto look onto others for guidance.

At the roots of all this nasty phsycology are in relativism, which is the pet of industry and advertising.

Only by removing the identity and desire of the individual can you tell people what they need and want.... to buy or do
I'd say the opposite: in order for its images to have their intended effect, advertising usually tries to convince people that their desire springs from their intact, authentic self.  It sometimes enlists jealousy (though that's seldom the primary technique), but it won't play psychologist and tell people that they're desiring products because of jealousy.  One also finds meta-advertisements where the theme is that the other company is just trying to make you a conformist who desires what your peers have, but our company of course lets you express your authentic self.

The psychoanalytic and linguistic theories in question--like Lacan's, which I guess is mainly what Mike may have been thinking of--critique this integrated identity (and the ideologies surrounding it): not just the false identities proffered by advertisements, but the assumption that personality is a unified thing at all.  In place of this identity they find a self that is always constituted partly by the other.  At a minimum, they argue that through language and culture we are never separate from social relations.  Though Lacan's theory isn't primarily aimed at advertising or consumer capitalism, it certainly has been used as a critique of these.

What an "authentic" self or desire would mean in the context of these theories is a good question.  I avoid this particular word, but if we take any psychological theory like this seriously, it's bound to raise some kind of question about how best to live or to cultivate oneself.

I'm not sure that Lacan's "desire of the desire of the other" means a "desire for what the other desires," though, which is how Mike has interpreted the phrase from the present discussion's title.  But he does take jealousy as one of the first ways that we see that an individual's desire and ego are bound up inextricably with other people.  He also distinguishes between what he calls envy, in which the object is of no use to the person, and another jealousy with a different kind of psychological and ethical value.


N.B. Some American journalism during the so-called culture wars attacked Lacan and other French poststructuralists as if they were nihilists who denied that there was any meaning (Totroc's "relativism," maybe), giving rise to a lot of talk about "free play" of interpretation.  If this were true, then of course such a theory would be very congenial to consumer capitalism.  But I would claim emphatically that it was a willful misreading, and that ethics is a motivating concern for this psychology.

Postscript (March 18, 2010 at 8:19 PM):
It occurs to me to add a note about the word 'psychology.'  People with degrees in this field might balk at calling Lacan a psychologist, since the methods and goals of contemporary psychology and Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalysis are not at all the same.  I've followed this discussion in adopting a very general use of the word, though, since Mike referred directly (if not by name) to Lacan.
Jeremy, that makes sense but I have a feeling that there is a definite push in the direction of removing identity from people, in general.

The phrase 'our company lets you express your authentic self' is to me a perfect example of looking towards external sources to know what or who you are.

What do they know about expressing myself?

The whole game of marketing and sales is based on convincing consumers that they want and/or need your product or your client's products.

There are many ways to get around this, of course.

In the old days of Mom&Pop stores and privately-owned manufacturing, much of the sales were determined by the quality of the goods.

As Phsycology began to be applied, manufacturers realized that through manipulation of people's perceptions they no longer had to be preoccupied with quality and could focus on marketing, which is more powerful.

The tabacco industry is a good example of this latter kind of approach, I believe.
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