Book launch of Toda la obra de Sade puesta sobre sus pies by Jorge Veraza at the International Book Fair of the Palacio de Minería, Mexico City, Sunday, February 23, 2020
Translated by Agustín Palmieri
Citar esta entrada como / Cite this entry as:
David Pavón-Cuéllar, "Marquis de Sade, Critic of Capitalism", En lugar de la psicología
, 23/02/2020, https://sujeto.hypotheses.org/1150
In his book All the work of Sade placed on his feet, Jorge Veraza defends the Marquis de Sade. He defends him against judges and policemen who persecute and imprison him, against his ruthless mother-in-law, against Napoleon, against his victims who accuse him, against the society that slanders him, against his time. He defends him against his persecutors and detractors, but also against many of his defenders and admirers who did not know how to read it, who distorted his word, who misinterpreted it, who continue to misinterpret it.
to Veraza, Sade is misinterpreted when his thought is identified with
that of his characters, when it is thought that it is Sade himself
who speaks through the mouth of such cruel beings who parade in his
works. Veraza insists that Sade is not like them, he is not
justifying them and he is not justifying himself through them either.
On the contrary, he is criticizing them, but criticizing them in his
own way, through the satire of their personal
his actions and his «pseudo-philosophical discourses»1.
problem is that many readers do not realize that it is a satire and
suppose that Sade professes the same ideas that he is satirizing. The
result, regretted by Veraza, is that «the specific Sadean
message is annulled»2.
message is the radical critique raiced by Sade, his “integral
critique of modernity”, a “social, political, ethical, and
psychosocial critique of modernity in the form of a satirical
as Veraza himself masterfully demonstrates.
book recovers Sadean critique. It rebuilds it and systematizes it.
The way it operates in all of Sade’s work is elucidated. It also
shows us his deep affinity with Marxism. He uses it to criticize our
own society, as well. This is how he convinces us of the validity of
does not hesitate to place Sade in the same tradition of criticism of
modernity in which we also find Gabriel Bonnot de Mably with his
desire to return to primitive communism, the revolutionary Jean-Paul
Marat with his radical democratic aspirations, the utopian socialist
Charles Fourier with his formidable project of transformation of
subjectivity, the old Marx of the ethnological notebooks and Engels
origin of the family, private property and the State4.
is the same tradition that will continue later in Surrealism, in
Freudomarxism, in Vera Schmidt and Wilhelm Reich, in sexual
liberation movements, in the spirit of ’68, in the New Left and in
what Bruce Brown, Christopher Lasch and others have been described as
the «cultural revolution» of the West5.
characteristic of this long tradition of criticism of modernity is
that its questioning is not only directed specifically at a political
or economic regime, but globally at all capitalist society, modern
culture and even human civilization. What is criticized here, in
general, is the very existence of the State and social classes, but
also the private property and the bourgeois forms of family,
sexuality, morality and religion, as well as submission, pettiness,
hypocrisy and other subjective orientations of modernity. As Veraza
shows us, all this was already criticized by Sade between the 18th
and 19th centuries.
recapitulates how Sade critically addresses, through satire,
everything in his world: the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy,
Christianity and atheistic cynicism, feudalism and capitalism, the
monarchy of the Old Regime and the revolutionary governments and the
following counterrevolutionaries ones, and French society, as in
and the European and world one, as in Juliette7.
Sadean criticism, as Veraza also emphasizes, goes beyond any
particularity and presents itself as an «integral criticism»
that address the most diverse dimensions of the modern world, «from
economic to cultural»8.
Certainly, by entering these dimensions, Sade concentrates on the
sexual sphere, but sexuality is here a scene in which everything else
unfolds. This means that the sexual crimes reported by Sade are seen
by Veraza as «allegories of social and economic crimes»9.
violence of capitalism, for example, is what is symbolically
represented in the violence inflicted on the bodies in Justine,
and especially in 120
days of Sodom.
In this latest novel, the SillingCastle
with its torment machines and its young women operated by
executioners, as Veraza well notes, is an eloquent satire of the
“capitalist factory as a place of corporal torture for unilateral
It is then the economic violence of capitalism that is criticized in
the Sadean satire of sexual violence.
Now, if the Marquis
de Sade resorted to sexuality to criticize the vices and abuses of
the modern capitalist world, it is not only because the sexual sphere
was at the center of his own contradictory experience of modernity.
It is also because sexuality, as Sade knew well before Marx, Engels,
Freud and feminists, is a sphere in which the contradictions of our
civilization are condensed and exposed. These contradictions, in
fact, are the same as in
shows us how Sade does not reject or hide the cultural contradictions
that tear his existence apart. Thanks to the theatrical skills that
he has developed since he was a child, Sade learns to “externalize”
these contradictions, to “stage them”, to “theatricalize them”
and “satirize them”11.
This theatrical and satirical staging of the contradictions of
culture and of himself allows Sade to cope with them, but also to
unfold them before us, to reveal and criticize them through his
novels that are not truly erotic novels then, but satires of erotic
novels, or rather satires of eroticism in the modern world, satires
of that terrible and horrendous thing that sexuality has become in
the patriarchal and class society in which we live, and also, of
course, in general, satires of our modernity and of civilization as a
is the most critical method used by Sade. As Veraza explains, this
method is a «form of extreme criticism that leads to the absurd
the argument of the opposite», the libertine despot in the case
of Sade, «but as if it were positive»12.
This makes the argument of the opposite reveal itself in its
aberrant, illogical, unsustainable, inadmissible, intolerable
character. One can suppose, with reason, that satire is an extreme
form of immanent criticism, in the Althusserian sense of the
that is especially effective in situations so absurd, so unjust, that
it is enough to make them visible to criticize them. This is the
case, for Veraza, of «the monstrosities and injustices of
modernity» satirized by Sade14.
satirical criticism is directed primarily at the repression of
sexuality in the modern bourgeois world. It is to this repression
that Sade points out, for example, in his questioning of
«misunderstood family ethics» with his «repressive
sexual morality» in Émilie
In the same year, as a counterpoint to the criticism of that
repressive logic, Sade offers in the poem The
the image of nature that pushes human beings to develop to the point
of transgressing and overcoming repression.
discovers here the thesis of the historical materialism of the
«productive forces of humanity» that «demonstrate
their natural vitality at every historical moment» and that «by
growing under the yoke of certain relations of production» they
end up making them collapse «when repression is already
The productive forces are represented in Sade, once again, by natural
and sexual forces that are in contradiction with interhuman
repressive relations. This contradiction can be exacerbated to the
point of provoking a sexual revolution like the one that was
foreshadowed by Sade and that happened only partially until the 20th
criticism of the repression of sexuality leads in Sade, curiously, to
the criticism of sexual debauchery. This is so because the Sadean
idea of debauchery, an idea as pervasive as it is paradoxical,
is not that of a free sexuality, but that of a perverse effect of
sexual repression. Veraza understands this very well and that is why
he describes libertine sexuality as “irritated, previously
repressed, upset” sexuality17.
It is for the same reason that he characterizes Sade’s libertine
monsters, the ruthless rapists and torturers of their victims, as
“recalcitrant prudish characters who pretend to be moral and
virtuous, who repress sexuality in others and in themselves, but who
are continually willing to transgress this sexual repression”18.
is in the criticism of debauchery that the Sadean satirical method
becomes more powerful, sharp and original. Already in the poem The
of 1782, after questioning sexual repression, there is a criticism of
that supposed sexual liberation that the masters use to «affirm
their particular freedom and establish generalized oppression»19.
The best illustration of this is found in The
120 Days of Sodom
of 1785, where the pleasure released is oppressive and tyrannical,
suffering» for the victims, and «only enjoyable» for
four libertines, an aristocrat, an ecclesiastic, a banker and a
judge, representatives of the dominant sectors in French society at
The same is confirmed in Aline
in 1787, where «sexual pleasure is a means of submission»,
and in Philosophy
in the boudoir
of 1795, where it is Eugénie’s own sexual liberation that serves as
a means to subdue the neighbor and «justify perversion”21.
all the cases mentioned and in others, all of them meticulously
analyzed by Veraza, we appreciate the paradox of an oppressive
freedom that Marcuse will discover one hundred and fifty years later
in advanced societies and that he will associate with his famous
concept of «repressive sublimation»22.
Both Marcuse and Sade understand that there may be an alleged sexual
liberation, such as that of the old libertine despotism and that
existing in advanced capitalist societies, which is actually an
effect of repression and an effective means to oppress and repress.
This seems to occur, both in Sade and in Marcuse, due to the complex
direct or indirect determination of the capitalist system, and, more
specifically, due to a decisive factor that Veraza reveals in the
satirical criticism of Sade, that of the intervention of money and
its avatars, like power and religion.
insists here that the oppressive aspect of the sexual debauchery of
Sade’s characters lies in money and not in the relationship of
sexuality with violence. It is true that the Sadean idea of human
nature links violent forces with sexual instincts, but violence and
sexuality also require the mediation of a third term, money, to enter
the «vicious circle» characteristic of the sexual scenes of
Sade, the «infernal spiral» of increasing violence, of
humiliation, mistreatment, harassment, abuse and murder, which is
repeated over and over again and which Veraza, with great sharpness,
compares with «expanded reproduction» in Marx23.
Just as in Marx destructive intensification and expansion is driven
by the very logic of reproduction of a capital that can only be
reproduced by expanding, so in Sade it is motivated by a pleasure
that needs more and more violence to stay on the same level because
it is dominated by money and its corresponding power, «the
selfish and subjugating
that nurtures «ambition and envy»25.
can intervene directly as in the 1788 novel Oxtiern.
However, for Veraza, the same money can also have an indirect,
deviant, elaborate and somehow sublimated intervention, as in the
scene of Justine’s
rapist monks. Here money with its power is unfolded in the figure of
God as an embodiment of the omnipotence of money and its «practical
social cruelty» in bourgeois society26.
transformed through religion and politics or gross through economic
ambition, money is the cause with which Sade explains the
perversions, cruelties and injustices that he narrates in his novels.
It is also what must be controlled to prevent such excesses. This
allows Veraza to propose the following formula: when «money is a
servant», when «it is submitted under human design»,
then crime loses the battle and «virtue prevails», as
happens in Oxtiern;
on the contrary, when «money is lord» as in capitalism,
then crime is «rewarded» as in Juliette
and virtue is «subdued» as in Justine27.
reveal to us respectively the defeat of virtue and the victory of
vice in capitalism. Justine’s character is particularly revealing
here. As Veraza explains, Justine symbolizes defeated justice, but
also symbolizes in some way Sade and the people of France28.
And most importantly: Justine seems to symbolically represent the
condition of the entire humanity «humiliated» in modernity,
that is, the «proletarian condition» in which all human
beings participate, including the bourgeois, who, personifying
capital, they are equally «submitted» to him, «alienated»
How can you not agree
with Veraza? We all see ourselves reflected in Justine. Like her, we
are all exploited, cheated, mistreated, and abused by money. We are
all proletarianized by capital. This capital does not stop torturing,
raping and sodomizing us at every moment.
the games in which we are objects of capital and in which Veraza
discovers the expanded reproduction studied by Marx, violence and
death continue to increase at the expense of pleasure and life30.
Why does this happen? Following Marx, we discover here the vampire of
capital who devours our life and that of the world, transforming it
into more and more inert money. This is how fortunes grow as nature
and our stocks are destroyed. This is how we are annihilated and the
planet is devastated. The result is in deforestation and
dehumanization, planetary pollution and widespread human alienation,
in the masses of trash and zombies that fill everything.
The dead gains ground
over the living. Inspired by Freudian theory, we can conjecture here
a progressive advance of the death drive over the life drive. Eros
recedes as Thanatos invades everything. The result is the
generalization of a jouissance
we can understand lacanianly as the possession for the typically
capitalist possession, the having for the having that absorbs any
being, the immediate satisfaction of the death drive through a
short-circuit that avoids us the vital detour of the life drive and
that thus extinguishes desire.
Freudian conception of the death drive is understandably rejected by
Veraza because it “naturalizes” a historical process31
and because it “dualizes” the relationship between sexuality and
violence, petrifying it into an essential life / death duality and
omitting the decisive function of the third element historical,
money, which is what makes us enter the devastating spiral that
favors violence at the expense of sexuality32.
Like Wilhelm Reich, Otto Fenichel, Erich Fromm and other exponents of
the Freudian left, Veraza rejects the Freudian idea of the
death drive, distinguishing himself from those who decided to keep
this idea to use it in the critique of capitalism, even knowing the
risks that it implies, among them, the naturalization and the
metapsychological justification of the capitalist devastation.
Knowing such risks, Veraza only uses the term «Thanatos» to
designate what Eros’s vital impulse becomes when he is «twisted»
The Thanatos of
Veraza is still Eros, but inverted, twisted, perverted. This idea is
not very different from that of those of us who assume a drive monism
with Lacan and who also consider that there is a single drive that
forks at the vital detour or on the mortal line. Paradoxically, to go
the straight path, the drive must be perverted. Perverted why? For
the capitalist system. It is by subsuming into capitalism that our
life drive is transmuted into a death drive.
Even if we believe in
the death drive as something more basic and original than that of
life, we will have to admit that capitalism does something to our
vital impulse, by exploiting it as a labor force, impoverishes it,
makes it flat, stops it surround the abyss and abandon itself to the
straight line, that is, to the deadly inertia of return towards the
inanimate. Fortunately, it is always possible to escape such
determination by drifting into life rather than simply letting
ourselves fall into death. We have here the clinamen,
the random and possible deviation, always still possible, in which
Epicurus places his hope in our freedom.
materialistic philosophy of Epicurus, unlike the deterministic
materialism inaugurated by Democritus, leaves a margin for chance,
for uncertainty and indeterminacy, for possible deviation and for the
random encounter between the elements that deviate from their path.
It is not by chance that this libertarian materialism, is
as «random» and «of the encounter», is precisely
the one chosen by Marx and by the Marquis de Sade. Veraza is right to
insist on this coincidence between the two critical thinkers. Both
believe in a certain notion of freedom that has been bequeathed to
them by Epicurus. Rather, as Veraza explains, the libertine monsters
criticized by Sade tend to profess a ruthlessly deterministic
materialism that is passed down to them through the French
materialist philosophers Holbach and La Mettrie34.
principle satirized by Sade is that of the pervert who must repeat
incessantly, in a ritualized way, the same phantasmatic games. It is
that of the uncompromising psychopath who must realize the same
phantom in each of his victims, coldly, without mercy, as Kant’s
categorical imperative is realized. It is the same deterministic
principle that rules so conscientious officials like Adolf Eichmann
and those who think that the experiment must continue simply because
it must continue, as the sexual torments continue in Sade’s novels,
as the operation of capitalism, automatically extending itself until
the total annihilation of our planet, continues today.
satirized by Sade is also that of the capitalist who must accumulate
capital at all costs simply because he must accumulate it. It is the
determinism of those who have the strange conviction that no other
world is possible. Just as this deterministic thinking was once the
spontaneous philosophy of the bureaucrats of real socialism, now it
is the tacit philosophical doctrine of the technocrats, of the
practitioners of real politics, of the realists, of the cynics, and
of the resigned.
1 Jorge Veraza, Toda la obra de Sade puesta sobre sus pies, Ciudad de México, Itaca, 2019, pp. 295-296.
2 Ibid., p. 126.
3 Ibid., p. 47.
4 Ibid., p. 382.
5 Bruce Brown, Marx, Freud, and the critique of everyday life: Toward a permanent cultural revolution (1973), Nueva York, Monthly Review Press, 2009. Cristopher Lasch, The Freudian Left and the Theory of Cultural Revolution (1981), en J. Sandler & J. Bowlby (Eds.), Dimensions of psychoanalysis (pp. 123-138), Londres, Inglaterra: Karnac, 1989, pp. 123-138.
6 Veraza, Op. Cit., p. 183.
7 Ibid., p. 186.
8 Ibid., p. 300.
9 Ibid., p. 196.
10 Ibid., p. 125.
11 Ibid., pp. 322-323.
12 Ibid., p. 176.
13 Louis Althusser, Pour Marx (1965), París, Découverte, 2005, pp. 142-145.
14 Veraza, Op. Cit., p. 176.
15 Ibid., p. 128.
16 Ibid., p. 157.
17 Ibid., p. 39.
18 Ibid., p. 298.
19 Ibid., p. 138.
20 Ibid., p 124.
21 Ibid., p. 184.
22 Herbert Marcuse, El hombre unidimensional (1964), Barcelona, Ariel, 2014, pp. 46-47, 68, 89-111.
23 Veraza, Op. Cit., pp. 18-19.
24 Ibid., pp. 20-21.
25 Ibid., p. 22.
26 Ibid., p. 23.
27 Ibid., p. 174.
28 Ibid., p. 181.
29 Ibid., p. 46.
30 Ibid., p. 24.
31 Ibid., p. 43.
32 Ibid., p. 22.
33 Ibid., p. 421.
34 Ibid., p. 36.