Elder brother of Balthus, adolescent secretary to Gide, collaborator of Raoul Ruiz, and fawned-over penpal of Michel Foucault, Pierre Klossowski wrote a trilogy of erotic novels – collected as The Laws of Hospitality – bookended by bracingly original studies of Sade and Nietzsche (Sade, mon prochain and Nietzsche et le cercle vicieux, respectively). His last novel, Le Baphomet (1965), stylistically infuriated the aging Collège de Sociologie pedant Roger Caillois enough that he resigned from the Prix des Critiques jury after it awarded Klossowski its eponymous prize. After 1970, Klossowski focused increasingly on his work as a visual artist, supplementing the scenes in his novels with large-scale pencil (and eventually colored-pencil) illustrations, produced in his apartment at 69, rue de la Glacière. His freestanding prose volumes from the 70s and 80s, beginning with La Monnaie Vivante, have yet to be translated into English.

A magisterially paranoiac and prescient investigation of libidinal economy and economies of affect, Living Currency updates Fourier for a post-Fordist era: a para-cybernetic flowchart by Sade's "neighbor" linking the processes and products of art and industry through their human, all too human medium of exchange. From the trade in bathos to spot-priced simulacra and the orgasms they unfailingly blow out like O-rings: enjoying your symptom means pricing your fantasm. Raise a glass with Juliette, to the open market – may it never close its legs.

This is the first appearance of Living Currency in English: the sections of the book here presented are the two last. The full text is coming soon from Reena Spaulings Fine Art.


Excursus

	But to really grasp in what way currency can take on this unique role of equivalent without ever confusing itself with the things whose value it indicates, we need to return to Sade. 
	Abolishing bodily ownership, of one’s own body as of any other person’s, is one of the perverse imagination’s essential procedures. The pervert inhabits the bodies of others as his own and confers his own onto others. Which means that the “own body” is recuperated as a phantasmatic domain: it thus becomes only the equivalent of the phantasm of which it is the simulacrum.
	Between the phantasm and its market valuation, currency as sign of the inestimable value of the phantasm forms an integral part of the representational mode of perversion. The pervert’s phantasm is in itself unintelligible and inexchangeable; this is why denumerable currency, in its abstract character, constitutes its universally intelligible equivalent. Here we must distinguish, on the one hand the phantasmatic function of money – that is, buying or selling – in so far as currency exteriorizes and reveals the perversity between different associates; and on the other hand, the mediating function of money, between the closed system of anomalies and the system of institutional norms.
	Money, the token of rare opulence, the sign of effort and struggle in the institutional sense, ought to signify the inversion of these riches for the profit of the perverse phantasm: if the phantasm demands an expenditure specified in denumerated currency, that currency will manifest the equivalence of the phantasm, thus concretized, with as much opulence as the buying-power of the currency represents. Thus so much effort, so much striving, is frustrated at the outset. Money, the equivalent for opulence, signifies thereby the destruction of that opulence, while preserving its worth: just as language, the sign of what exists (in so far as having a meaning), becomes in the style of Sade the sign of the non-existent, even simply of the possible (deprived of meaning with respect to the institutional norms of language). Money, at the same time that it represents and guarantees what exists, becomes just as much the sign of what doesn’t exist, of the phantasm, which the transgression of norms, in total monstrosity, represents as the progressive conquest of the non-existent: that is, the possible.
	The act of transgressing existent norms in the name of an always non-existent possibility, suggested by the phantasm, is immanently represented by the very nature of an abstract currency: in the freedom to select or reject this or that good among others that exist. In the option to select or reject, the transgressive act indicts the value of what exists in favor of what does not. That which does not exist in the language of norms – negatively enunciated anomalies – enunciates itself positively by a reserve of currency not expended, thereby withheld from that which exists. The closed system of perversion, by means of currency, sanctions the very incommunicability between beings; and that is the only intelligible way in which the system of anomalies positively reacts to the system of norms. To make itself understood to the institutional world, total monstrosity borrows from it the abstract sign of exchangeable goods. Which comes down to affirming that there is only one authentic and universal communication: the exchange of bodies through the secret language of bodily signs. The argument [made by Sade] is more or less the following: institutions presume to safeguard personal liberty, thus the integrality of persons, by substituting for the exchange of bodies the exchange of goods in accordance with the neutral, and therefore equivocal, sign of a countable currency; but, under the guise of circulating wealth, that countable currency covertly ensures the exchange of bodies in the name and interest of institutions. The disavowal of total monstrosity by institutions returns as a de facto prostitution, material and moral. And the entire point of the secret societies imagined by Sade is to make this dilemma manifest: either the communication of beings by the exchange of their bodies – or prostitution under the sign of countable currency. In relation to the exterior, the candidates for total monstrosity can only assert themselves, morally, by the language of logic, and, materially, by currency. Morally, they recruit accomplices among normal beings; materially, they hire their experimental victims at the highest rate and thereby compete with the rate that institutions grant for a survival below the “normal.”
	In the closed system of total monstrosity, the phantasm, not evaluable in itself, ungraspable, useless and arbitrary, once it passes the level of corporeal prestige, constitutes itself as a scarcity: already here we witness the rise of the modern commodification of arousal, with the slight difference that industrial exploitation will be able to standardize the low price of suggestion, and thereby to render priceless the living object of emotion, while in the time of Sade, an epoch still shaped by manufacturing, suggestion and the living object of emotion merge. In the closed circuit of Sadean monstrosity, the living simulacrum of the phantasm is price-less: the statutes of the Society of the Friends of Crime stipulate that the society receive as members only those “worth at least 25 thousand pounds in rents, given that the annual expenses come to ten thousand francs per person.” Beyond this condition, no discrimination by rank or birth is permitted. Instead, “twenty artists or men of letters will be accepted at the modest price of one thousand pounds per year. The Society, as a patron of the arts, awards them this deference; it only regrets that its means do not permit it to admit at this mediocre price a much larger number of the sort of men it will always hold in the highest esteem.”
	Ultimately, it’s the man of letters [Sade] who furnishes the substance of this society he imagines; the Society of the Friends of Crime is above all that of his own readers; therefore, as Sade conceives it, a space of spirits; that is, a secret society only justifying itself on a spiritual level. But this spiritual level emerges from the manufacture of the simulacrum; the manufacturer of simulacra relies on the demand of a clientele; the presence of the artist or writer in the Society of the Friends of Crime indicates here the role of the creator within society in general, and this role is closely linked to the problem of the production of goods and of their value in the economic circuit, and, in particular, linked to the manufacture of objects related to psychic life (in itself not evaluable). As the clients increasingly run up against the constraint of their own phantasm, the offer of a corresponding simulacrum increases in price. According to Sade, the Society of the Friends of Crime shamefully exploits the manufacturer of simulacra: it presumes “to pride itself” on his inventions, but declares itself incapable of paying him in an equitable fashion. A similar disproportion is inscribed in the very nature of the enterprise: the more the phantasm demands the simulacrum, the better the simulacrum acts and reacts on the phantasm, the more it elaborates the phantasm, the more steeply the phantasm rises in price – and takes on the serious aspect of everything that requires expenditure.
	Now, the very representation of venality becomes an increased valorization of the phantasm: not at all from the fact that poverty drives people to sell themselves, but exactly the opposite: that their own wealth obliges them to. So in The New Justine, Verneuil registers in d’Esterval an anatomical singularity that guarantees a lecherous propensity, invaluable in his eyes. But he does not wish to deliver himself to this promising experiment unless his partner consents to be paid: to be objectified by having her price set, which induces an immediate orgasm. Numerated sums of currency exercise here an evident function of transubstantiation – with no other utility than this very function: thus, a purely ludic transaction. And so Juliette variously rates the charms that make up her body, when she is not or is no longer a professional courtesan, but a settled woman, a widow (by choice) of the count of Lorsange, thus an adventuress in moral corruption – all this comes into the subtlety of the phantasm that Juliette devotes herself to concretizing. And yet the fortune accumulated in this way drives Juliette to an endlessly renewed expropriation of her body; she remains always below the phantasm and her sole satisfaction is to have never lessened human poverty by even a farthing. And this because Juliette, in effect, herself represents human poverty. How to assess in countable currency the inassessable phantasm? Whence its value in denumerable currency if not from the privation it simultaneously signifies?
	Supreme degree of appraisal: the equivalent of the phantasm (the payed-out sum) represents not only emotion in itself, but also the exclusion of thousands of human lives. The value increases even further from this scandal, from the herd’s point of view.
    Thus money expended in this way signifies: exclusive arousal = famine = annihilation = supreme value of the phantasm. In other words: the more this money represents thousands of mouths, the more it upholds the value of the expropriated body: the more this very body represents the value of thousands of human lives; so: a phantasm = an entire population. If the misappropriation [détournement] didn’t exist, if there wasn’t the weight of poverty, this appraisal would immediately disappear into the void. Thus there must be on one hand the positive signification of money insofar as it represents the equivalent of uncountable human lives; and on the other, its negative signification insofar as it arbitrarily compensates the insignificance of a phantasm: now, this very destination for money is in itself arbitrary, because the value of money itself is always arbitrary: in itself, it is nothing but a phantasm corresponding to a phantasm.
	Henceforth the precarious position of the artist or man of letters (of the fabricator of simulacra) within the Society of the Friends of Crime is absolutely clear and comprehensible; the fabricator of simulacra includes himself as an intermediary between two different systems of appraisal. On one side, he represents the intrinsic value of the fabricated simulacrum in accordance with institutional norms, which are those of sublimation. On the other, he is in the service of the valorization of the phantasm in accordance with the obsessive constraint of perversion. On both sides, the fabricator of simulacra is honored for his spiritual disinterestedness and treated practically as a purveyor/supplier. Such is the personal position of Sade, the day after the Revolution. No one can serve two masters. But on either side is only the same master, who hides himself behind institutions: in the Society of the Friends of Crime, he shows himself in his true colors. This master is yet again total monstrosity: and the denominations of currency, the shameful mark of his own wealth, becomes the mark of his glory in the Society of the Friends of Crime. It’s by way of the currency expended for the phantasm that the clandestine society imagined by Sade holds the world of institutional sublimations for ransom. Do away with countable currency and you will have universal communication between beings. By this sort of dare, Sade demonstrates precisely that the notion of value and of price is inscribed on the very plinth of arousal, and that nothing is more contrary to enjoyment than free-dom [gratuité].


*

Living Currency
    
	Imagine, for a moment, an apparently impossible regression – to a phase in industrial production where producers are able to demand objects of sensation, as a form of payment, from consumers. These objects would be living beings.
	According to this example, based on bartering, producers and consumers would constitute collections of “persons” apparently destined for pleasure, emotion, sensation. How can the human “person” fulfill the function of currency? How would producers pay themselves “with women” instead of paying “for women”? How would entrepreneurs or industrialists pay their engineers or workers in this way, “with women”? Who would manage this living currency? Other women. Which assumes the inverse: working women would be paid “in boys.” Who would manage, that is, sustain, this virile currency? Those who use the feminine currency. What we are describing here, in fact, already exists. Without relying on a literal barter economy, all modern industry is founded on bartering mediated by the sign of inert currency, which neutralizes the nature of the objects exchanged. This simulacrum of bartering exists in the guise of available labor, a living currency disavowed as such.
	If the perfecting of the production of instruments of production results in a reduction of labor, and if the time saved in producing saved time means more time available to sensation, to competitions of pleasure (Fourier), then sensation itself would have a value. But the simulacrum of bartering (created first by the monetary system and then by the conditions of industrial society) insists that time is only to be saved for further production.
	Paying the worker in living objects of sensation instead of wages in currency is only practical if the living object itself is evaluated as a quantity of work and its material existence already assured. As soon as it is accounted for, possession of a living object or objects becomes, for the worker, purely symbolic and thus convertible into currency. In order for an object of sensation to be worth a quantity of work, this (living) object must, from the outset, already constitute a value equal to if not greater than the product of work. There is no common measure between the sensation that this living object might elicit by itself and the quantity of work provided in exchange for the resources required to maintain it. What is the relationship between the value of a tool, of a plot of land valued according to its probable yield, and the price attributed to the existence of a living being, source of a rare emotion? None, if the unique living object, source of emotion, is not fortunate enough to have the rare quality of being worth more than the cost of sustaining it.
	A tool yields a certain amount; the living object elicits a certain emotion. The value of the tool should compensate for the cost of its maintenance; the value of a living object, source of emotion, is arbitrarily fixed, such that the cost of sustaining it can never be deduced from this value. Some will protest that we are reducing the living object, source of emotion, to the level of the stud farm, or comparing it to a work of art, or simply a diamond. Because we’re talking about an emotion that is sufficient unto itself, inseparable from the fortuitous and useless existence of an object that is now “cashable,” and for this reason appreciated arbitrarily.
	In order for the living object, singular source of emotion, to prevail as currency, we assume that a universal state of mind would have to take hold, this state being expressed in the form of uncontested practices and customs. Is this to say that we would need as large a quantity of living objects as there is inert currency in circulation? Not if such customs meant the very disappearance of monetary practice. But even as a market parallel to that of inert currency, living currency would be liable to substitute its role for that of the gold standard, habitually implanted and institutionalized within economic norms. Furthermore, these customs would profoundly modify exchanges and their meaning. Rare, inert objects – works of art, for example – are never modified through their exchange. But a living object, source of voluptuous sensations, would either be a currency that suppresses the neutralizing functions of money, or else it would found exchange value upon the emotion it elicits.
	Gold – whose arbitrary value and particular inutility are the seemingly universal metaphor for any emotion procured within a luxurious environment – is a regime as inhuman as it is practical. Standards of value measured in quantities of work, while apparently more “legitimate” from an economic point of view, continue to retain a punitive character. Considered from the angle of exchange, the living object, source of emotion, is worth its own maintenance costs. The effort or sacrifices undertaken by its obsessed owner represent the price of this rare and useless object. No number would be able to express this demand. But before even considering the living object as an exchangeable good, we must examine it as currency. If, in so far as it is living, the object must represent a certain amount expressed in wages, it must also be fixed as a standard (although at first sight, barter in kind would forestall the possibility of buying inferior goods, if these are goods we can't do without). Under modern economic conditions, however, there is an increasing disproportion between the notions of quantity of work (considered as standard of value) and the living object as a form of currency.
	If any tool whatsoever represents invested capital, then all the more so, in a domain supposedly outside commerce, for an object of sensation. A human creature representing a possible source of emotion can also become, on the basis of this possibility, the object of an investment. In the commercial sphere, it’s not the creature itself that counts but the emotion that it elicits in potential consumers. A false and also banal example that will allow us to make this understood: the movie star, who represents nothing but a factor of production. When the newspapers, the day after her tragic death, set about adding up the visual qualities of Sharon Tate in terms of dollars, or calculate the management costs or expenses of any other woman on screen, industrialism itself is expressing the source of emotion in numbers, in terms of profitability or management costs, thus quantitatively. This is only possible because these ladies are not designated as “living currency” but treated as industrial slaves. And on that account, they are regarded neither as actresses nor as celebrities nor even as illustrious people. If what we are here calling the industrial slave – an abstraction including all the disadvantages this sort of institution entails – were valued not only as capital but as living currency, she would assume the quality of a sign of value while at the same time integrally constituting value, the quality of the goods corresponding to the “immediate” satisfaction, not of a need but of the initial perversion.
	As “living currency,” the industrial slave is at once a sign of wealth and wealth itself. As a sign, she is exchangeable for all other kinds of material wealth; as wealth itself, she excludes all other demands besides those whose satisfaction she represents. But satisfaction, properly speaking, is also what her quality as sign excludes. This is how living currency differs in an essential way from the condition of the industrial slave (movie star, advertising model, waitress, etc.) The industrial slave can only claim the title of sign by creating a difference between what she agrees to receive, in inert currency, and what she believes herself to be worth.
	This explicit difference, which derives (here, as elsewhere) from morality, nevertheless only serves to mask a fundamental confusion. One wouldn't dream of defining this category of producers as “slaves,” since the term “slave” expresses only an availability to a demand which underlies limited needs. Separated from the living object, which is its source, and turned into a “factor of production,” emotion is dispersed between multiple fabricated objects which divert the unspeakable demand through a limited set of needs: this is how it is rendered valueless within “serious” labor conditions. In this way, the industrial slave is available only in the same way as any other workforce, since, far from constituting herself as a sign, as currency, she must be paid for “honestly” in inert currency. As soon as she is free to accept her wages or not, the term “slave” becomes excessive, misplaced and insulting. Human dignity remains unscathed and money retains all its value. This is to say that the possibility of choice implied by the abstract function of money means that evaluation will never compromise the integrity of the person, because it applies only to her productive yield, in an “impartial” way which ensures the neutrality of the object. But this is a vicious circle, since the industrial logic can only conceive the integrity of the person in and through its yield, evaluated in terms of currency.
	From the moment the bodily presence of the industrial slave is systematically collapsed with the surplus value she can produce – her physiognomy being inseparable from her work – any distinction between the person and her activity becomes false. Bodily presence is already a commodity, independently and in excess of the commodities this presence is involved with producing. Either the industrial slave enforces a strict calculation between bodily presence and money earned, or else she substitutes herself for the function of money, since she is already money herself, at once equivalent to wealth and wealth itself.


(1970)
PIERRE KLOSSOWSKI
FROM LIVING CURRENCY (TRANS. REENA SPAULINGS)
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