chapter  7
A Svelte Appendix to the Postmodern Question
(1982)
Pages 6

Capitalism is one of the names of modernity. It presupposes the investment of the desire for the infinite in an instance already designated by Descartes (and perhaps by Augustine, the first modern), that of the will. Literary and artistic romanticism believed in struggling against this realist, bourgeois, shopkeeper’s interpretation of will as infinite enrichment. But capitalism has been able to subordinate to itself the infinite desire for knowledge that animates the sciences, and to submit its achievements to its own criterion of technicity: the rule of performance that requires the endless optimalization of the cost/benefit (input/output) ratio. And romanticism was thrown back, still alive, into the culture of nostalgia (Baudelaire’s “the world is going to end,” and Benjamin’s commentaries) while capitalism became, has become, a figure that is not “economic,” not “sociological,” but metaphysical. In capitalism, infinity is posed as that which is not yet determined, as that which the will must indefinitely dominate and appropriate. It bears the names of cosmos, of energy. It gives rise to research and development. It has to be conquered, to be turned into the means to an end, and this end is the glory of the will, a glory that is itself infinite. In this sense, capital is the real romanticism.