In the recent most recent instalment of the series RSA Animate Slovenian philosopher Renata Salecl discusses her recent research into the anxiety of choice in capitalist society. Following the argument of her new book The Tyranny of Choice Salecl argues that capitalism pacifies and prevents social change through its promotion of an ideology of choice and self-making.
In a lively discussion, which ranges over the reading habits of Yugoslavian communist party members and the sex lives of British journalists, Salecl develops a Lacanian critique of choice which is argued to generate anxiety in three ways:
1. We choose what other people are choosing because we are obsessed with the way the choices we make will be judged and validated by society, the 'big Other'.
2. We try to make an ideal choice which leads to dissatisfaction when what we have chosen does not match the ideal we imagined.
3. Choice always involves a loss which we seek to avoid even when this is not possible.
The result implied by Salecl is a society of subjects either totally overwhelmed by choice, or else busily labouring away, in both their leisure as much as their work, to satisfy and manage the unending and impossibly competing demands of the Other.
In order to accept the analysis as presented here the viewer would have to be quite charitable. As such the presentation is bset taken as an invitation to engage with the psychoanalytic (Lacanian) and Marxist (Althussarian) background that inform it. Without doing so it would be extremely easy to be reductive. For those interested in learning more a video of the complete lecture on which this RSA Animate episode was based can be found here.