At Salon.com, Cary Tenis, in his advice column of sorts, he responds to a letter by a woman complaining that her and her boyfriend, while they both make good money, have radically different relationships with money. She spends what she implies is a “normal” amount, while he lives “frugally” and in something of a vow of miserly poverty. Miserly, because he “earns a decent income as a teacher and has investment income.”
In other words, he takes the oldest and most central rules of the Capitalist game so seriously—above all, save and work hard—to the detriment of the Superego injunction to enjoy (i.e. consume). What’s more is he, in a certain sense, wins the game according to the given rules, but not according to the unspoken ones of late Capitalist ideology. More amazingly is the way he gets criticized for being a miser, when what really bothers everyone complaining on the Letter Writer’s behalf is that he himself takes on the poverty that they need someone else to take on for them. It also doesn’t help that the guy seems to be satisfied with his way of life. In other words, there is an other way to experience jouissance.
Here it seems to be an Otherly jouissance, because the discipline with which he lives his life is focused on holding back the pleasure of consuming. It is this holding back, but especially in the dimension that he can tap into this comparatively (though not actually) infinite source of pleasure (i.e. consumption), that he has mastered in order to enjoy bearably. In other words, his enjoyment is not genital at all, but in a certain sense psychotically grounded in an anal pre-genital phase of development. To this end, inasmuch as he always risks being consumed by the Other’s jouissance should he partake in it as others do, he probably doesn’t know how to consume without being over-whelmed, which is why his life depends as much on not spending as it does making money. Money being the fiat of all commodities, which is to say obscured social relations of stolen surplus labor/jouissance, in a Capitalist society money (qua capital) is a libidinal and economic intensification. Only through the Symbolic mediation of the consuming practices of ideological identities are members of Capitalist society normally able to handle the intensity of social labour/desire. For the boyfriend, he doesn’t ascribe to the ideological identity of the age, the all-enjoying consumer, and therefore don’t know the first thing about what to do with money.
This identity is only commanded from off-the-scenes, as it were, while the official line of the Capitalist subject is: save and work hard. The guy is successful not because he hears the obscene superego injunction to consume, which creates an ambiguous meaning to money, commodities and things of consumer enjoyment; he’s successful because in the absence of such an external injunction telling him what to do with his money, and in the world of an otherwise operating Symbolic order, he knows how to take literally what others take metaphorically.
His impulse to save is really an impulse to hold off the unbearable pleasure he risks in consuming it should he let it invade him the way Cary Tenis and his commenters seem to endorse. The difference between him and the CEO or the more traditional miser, is that he has no ideological supplement to make his practices coherent to him, which directs a mode of consumption. Not having been installed in the Symbolic order properly, so it seems, which makes itself clear here in the absence of a (capitalist) subjectivity, his lack of a consumer-identity means he lacks the ability to consume except directly through work.
What’s also interesting is vis-a-vis this psychotic relationship to money, there is a certain kind of feminization insofar as the female sexuation has been reproduced as a literal character of poverty as well as having access to the Other’s jouissance, normally under the care of a male’s endorsement. The LW is more typical of the sort of masculine subject that enjoys her much jouissance in this mediated way, and feels threatened by not only the Other’s jouissance, but the one who knows how to deal with it directly. If her enjoyment is, as it were, achieved through a certain kind of will to Nothingness, then the boyfriend enjoys by not-willing. If only the LW talked more about what was so great about the actual sex!