Hedonism and revolution

Re “Living labour and the labour of living,” by Darko Suvin. Critical Quarterly 46.1.

Suvin advocates an Epicurian “swerve” into hedonism, a sort of update of Marcuse circa Eros and Civilization.

We typically think of hedonism in terms of excess, but that is a distortion that suits a social system that relies on alienated labor. We reject hedonism and pursue workaholism. Glossing Epicurus, Suvin makes the point that with hedonism, the body itself sets limits, whereas there are no limits with capitalist greed. As Aristotle noted, “There is no limit to the aim of money-making.” Hedonism hence has the potential to demarcate a natural limit to the scope of production. (“To each according to his need.)

David Harvey, in his course on Marx’s Capital, makes a point of highlighting how Marx uses this idea to argue that competition in capitalism drives capitalists to strive for endless accumulation. Capital, by definition, is never enough; always depreciating, never safe. Capitalism therefore requires creative destruction, instability, recurring crises, to facilitate the constant striving.


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