Pope Francis and the Capitalist Order

‘Capitalism is terrorism against all of humanity’ says Pope Francis.[1] How are we to understand this unprecedented and scathing critique of capitalism from the head of the Catholic Church? His holiness names the excesses of the global capitalism as ‘the dung of the devil’.[2]  Maybe someone might describe Pope Francis as an anti-Oedipus. He does not seem to fit the mould of a Popes of old.  He has brought in fresh life in the Catholic Church. There is a discernable Francis effect that is sweeping the catholic world and beyond like a storm.  In this short study, an attempt is made to understand this strong teaching on capitalism through the prism of the work French thinkers, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Gauttari.[3] These thinkers offer us different modes of thinking. We cannot apply them entirely but have to modify their findings. This means their thought stands in need of evangelization.  Perhaps, using the conceptual apparatus of these thinkers, we may be enabled to understand  the evils of contemporary capitalism that has teamed up with race, caste, patriarchy, consumerism, anthropocentrism and religions and unearth how it  is reproducing a dehumanising world order.  Several scholars have already celebrated the unbound and free character of the thought of Deleuze and Gauttari. Their thought is said to be free from the burdens of representation, primacy of cogito, of intentional consciousness of phenomenology as well as pathology of the Oedipus-complex.[4] This does not mean other critical ideas of Freud and Lacan within the field of Psychoanalysis are of no use to understand the earth shattering critique of Pope Francis. We shall also travel the road of the thinking pursued by these thinkers and critically follow their analysis of desire to understand how it is manipulated by capitalist world order.   Capitalist driven world is profoundly unequal. It debases both its victims as well as its perpetrators[5]and has a devastating impact on our common home.[6]   It continuously produces and maintains its unequal power hierarchies.  The pope rightly teaches that trickle-down economics fails as it only keeps the poor waiting.[7]  Pope Francis has rightly put our focus at the centre of its reproductive power by naming it as the worship God of money. This worship of money is driven by our desire. This is why the analysis of desire[8] that drives the worship of God of money can open several windows on the ruthless manner in which capitalism reproduces and grows. Staying within this analysis of desire, we have to analyse our dynamic becomings. The capitalist society drives our becoming human that is unbecoming of all Humans. Having studied our becoming, we shall try to manifest Christic becomings that can become catholic responses to the dehumanising capitalist order.

Cartographies of Desire

Surrogating the Desire  

Desire is viewed as the root of all suffering by Buddha. Desire for wealth and power is certainly the cause of misery of humanity. Desire is studied with profound depth by Psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud resolves the restlessness of our desire through the Oedipus complex.  Persuaded by castration phobia, the child has to oediepalise (let go its desire) and desire the desire (sublimate) of the father. This means child has to become the father. There is no other choice for the poor child. The law of the father becomes the only model of living an adult life.  Though, the theory of Freud has it merits.  We can see how its oedipal solution of the desire is reproducing the desire of the father. [9] That is why one who owns the phallus in a society sets the desire of that society. Maybe our caste laden society can be seen as trapped into a desire of the Brahmins. Everyone seems to mimic (sorrogate) the desire of the Brahmin.  It just demonstrates that somehow caste castrates us in our country. It rates and ranks us and we fail to be ourselves as we chase the desire to become a Brahmin. Following this line of thought, we may be enabled to understand the phyllo-centrism of the capitalist society. In a capitalist society everyone has to chase the Phallus of the big Other. This mimicking of the desire of the big Other of the capitalist Other is one that reproduces and maintains the fertility of capitalism and is at the heart of the worship of the God of Money. In some way, the Big Other of the capitalist order becomes the God of money. Pope seems to put this teaching with Gospel-centric wisdom when he says, ‘money must serve and not rule’.[10]


The Insatiable Desire  

Freudian resolution of the desire only reproduces the desire of the one who owns the Phallus in the society. In a capitalist society, the Phallus is owned by the big Other. This is why capitalism keeps on reproducing itself by surrogating its desire in its subjects.  Hence, French Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan attempts to revisit the Oedipal tangle of Freud. Lacan views human desire as insatiable. He asserts that it can never be satisfied. This means our desire is poised to fail.[11] Caste castrates us in India. We cannot become Brahmins. We are simply surrogates.  Similarly, those subjected to the desire of the big Other in a capitalist society cannot reach the fulfilment of their desire.  But this frustration of our desire produces a lack. This sense of lack produces further desire. Thus, a capitalist driven society entangles its subjects into a chain of unlimited desires that can never reach fulfilment. This is why lack that drives the desire for more drives our consumerist and materialist society.  Hence, Pope Francis is right. Capitalism is terrorising all humanity. The dynamism of capitalism is based on circulation and accumulation of wealth that always gets attracted to the rich and the powerful.  Capitalist driven world is a stereotypical and boring. There are no real choices. We enjoy   only those freedoms that are allowed by the capitalist order of things.

Anti-Oedipal Desire

Deleuze and Gauttari do  not accept the oedipal resolution of our restless desire. They do not view desire as lacking as Lacan would want us to believe. They suggest that desire is anti-oedipal. It refuses to surrender to the law of the father. It does not have to mimic the phyllo-centrism of the dominant big Other. One can choose to ride one’s unique desires or even try several other waves of desire.[12] This means desire is productive. It lacks nothing and does not have to oedipalize.  It is a positive force. This opening of desire to a wild ride cannot be fully reconciled with the position of Pope Francis. But the fact that desire does not have to surrender to the desire of the dominant other already opens the possibility of choice that can reject the worship of God of money and prepare room for an effective response to the terror unleashed by capitalism on all humanity. This means somehow the work of Deleuze and Gauttari set us free from the phallic logic that chains us to the Oedipus complex. Phallic logic prohibits what one desires. One cannot have ones desire. One has to mimic the desire of the dominant big Other. Deleuze and Gauttari open the way of breaking this bondage to the desire of the big Other, the worship of the God of money.  Thus, desire as productive can be channelled to contest as well as seek an emancipative and Christian response to the heartless capitalism solely driven by a heartless profit making market principle.

Cartographies of Human Becoming

Libidinal Becomings

Freud stays within the realm of anthropocentrism when he teaches that human beings are afflicted by an unconscious. He seems to teach that the unconscious is biological and is embedded in each person. It is like an iceberg and we cannot fully know it. It rules our conscious life. We are all moved by the unconscious in search of the satisfaction of our drive for pleasure (libido).[13] This pleasure is chiefly physical. The capitalist society is a libidinal society. It provides unlimited ways of exciting the libido of a person. Freud provides us with the developmental theory of an individual that is based on the libido. We may find how consumerism that is embedded within a capitalist order often reinforces our fixations in the developmental stages identified by Freud. The personality structures that Freud presents can also drive this imprisonment to the capitalist driven consumerism. Freud says that a human person is composed of three structures which he calls Id, ego and superego. We can notice how from the Freudian point of view, a capitalist society is condemned to the unlimited satisfaction of the id. It means the capitalist society keeps us perpetual children who cry for the satisfaction of their thirst for libido. Hence, the worship of the God of money is oppressive and promotes the infantalization of humanity but stays within the bondages of anthropocentrism.

Lack driven Becomings

Lacan liberates Freud from his biological reductionisms of libido. He expands the operation of libido. It is not merely biological pleasure. It is more. He calls is jouissance. With Lacan pleasure drive becomes unlimited enjoyment. It can be derived from anything. If my rival fails in a project, it brings me pleasure. With this expansion of the domain of pleasure, we can also understand Lacan’s transformation of nature of unconscious. He teaches that the unconscious is not within us but is between us. He teaches that it is the discourse of the other.  It triggers in us mimetic desire. We imitate the desire of the other. This is foundational to the race of competition which is the driving force of capitalism. He views the self as a lacking self. It is the lack that is constantly born in relation to the desire of the other that is driving the capitalist society. To understand this thirst irrupting from a lack, we will have to enter his teaching about the unconscious. He says that the unconscious is structured like a language.[14] It is by becoming a speaker that the self that is struck by a relationship of lack is thrown into a world of unconscious. Capitalist order also works like a signification system (language) and therefore merges with the unconscious that afflicts each individual placed within it. Thus, Lacanian analysis also stays within the limitation of anthropocentrism and does not seem to provide enough resources to reject the worship of the God of money.

Machine like Becomings

The biological unconscious of Freud and the language structured unconscious of Lacan is replaced by Deleuze and Gauttari. They teach that the unconscious is constructed by us in relationship with our society and the world. They do not represent the unconscious but are interested in what it does.  Our unconscious is a productive machine which drives our desire.[15]  It simply connects and disconnects us to people and things. The desireing production that connects the pen to the paper with the help of the hands and the mind of the author in the course of writing is an example of desiring machine. Writing transforms the pen, paper, mind and hands of the author into a machine. Several such connections are possible. We have many such machines operating within our bodies. Besides these, our bodies connect to other bodies and things and become desiring machines. Capitalism is one gigantic desiring machine that connects several other smaller desiring machines. We humans connect ourselves to these machines and drive our becomings. But we are not condemned to the desiring machines of capitalism. I do not have to take a MacDonald sandwich and connect it to my mouth and become a desiring machine. The moment mouth connects to the sandwich it disconnects to another desiring machine that makes me a speaker. Thus, it is within these limitless possibilities of connections and disconnections that Deleuze and Gauttari finds the emancipative potentials for human becomings free from the limitations of racism, casteism, patriarchy, anthropocentrism etc. From among these limitless becomings, they propose three types of becomings: becoming women, becoming animal, becoming child.[16] These becomings lead us to become a minoritarian. We may find resources within these kind of teachings of Deleuze and Gauttari to reject the God of money and abandon the becomings that are forced on us by the capitalist order. Similarly, we will have resources within this mode of thinking to embrace Christic becomings.

Cartographies of our Response to Capitalist Order   

Christic becomings   

Deleuze and Gauttari are radicals. They need to be modified and adapted and within this modified perspective, we can find a catholic response to the exploitative capitalist order. Pope Francis has rightly called it a terrorist order because the inequalities that it creates also creates the terrorist violence. Terrorist violence is a reactive violence to the invisible violence of the capitalist order. Deleuze and Gauttari teach that becomings do not mimic. They imitate no one.  It is here we have problems with the work of Deleuze and Gauttari. We require the imitating of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is fundamental to Christianity. How are we to remove this blockade? Is it possible to adept their doctrine of becoming? Maybe there is a way. They teach that all becomings are molecular.  Becomings cannot be molar.  Molar  becomings are logocentric and fixed into sameness. In fact no authentic becomings can be molar.  Molecular becomings  are dynamic and not static and fixed. They are never the same.  Now that there is no one way but several catholic ways of imitating Christ who is God and saviour, it is possible to molecularize in our  imitation of Christ. There are limitless Christic becomings for  us to choose. Hence, becoming Christic is a way of rejecting the God of money that is promoted by the capitalist order. Becoming Christic is both plural as well as minoritarian. It is an option for the minority as well as a choice to be a minority like Jesus Christ. It is choice to stay on the margins of society. It can be a great antidote to the call to stay in the lime light which is a temptation to become the majoritarian. Becoming a majoritarian is call to follow the crowd and become faceless.

Becoming the body-of-Christ

I buy therefore I AM is the subject of the capitalist order. Capitalist order is signification system wherein one becomes what one has.  Deleuze and Gauttari can illumine this kind becomings for us. We connect and disconnect in any form of becoming. We connect to capitalist mode of becoming by disconnecting to other forms of becomings.  Let us take an example.  The capitalist order has destroyed our ecology. But to save our planet earth they suggest that we have to down size our demography. This means to connect to what they describe as planet saving capitalist order, we have to delink and plug human fertility. In a similar manner, we connect to the capitalist God of money we have to disconnect from the triune God  and the catholic community in several ways. Pope Francis reading the signs of the time reinterprets the fifth commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill’ as ‘Thou shall not do an economy of exclusion and inequality’.[17]  Hence, if we ride our desire and direct it to connect to the living body of Christ, we can become the vibrant body-of-Christ. Pope exhorts us to overcome what he calls globalization of indifference and  invites us to resist the new tyranny of the market.[18] But to link to Christ and his living body, one has to disconnect in several ways one’s linkages to the capitalist order and completely delink ones connections with the God of money. Pope Francis being the Vicar of Christ becomes the nodal point for us to bring about this communion.  This becoming of the Body-of-Christ is not inward looking but is one that is leading us to connect with God’s creation and other humans so that we can together becomes God’s family saved in Christ.

Becomings of the Kingdom

Catholic becomings animated by the Christ and His Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church can open up several forms of becomings to serve the Kingdom. We can imagine these various forms of becomings as waves. We can ride these different waves depending on our aptitude, charisms as well as our likings (aesthetic orientations) and work to build God’s kingdom in our world. It will again require us to be a minority unto the image and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ. The becomings of the kingdom are profoundly marked by the call to become a minority for the sake of Christ and his Gospel. This would require us to be both mystical and prophetic. As mystics, we will have to discover and discern in the power of catholic faith the presence of Christ amidst us and then join him in building his kingdom. This requires faith and courage. Faith takes us into the mystical realm to see Christ in our world and courage gives us the prophetic spirit to choose what it takes to join Christ and become an active servant of the Kingdom. This choice of the servant-hood of Kingdom will enable us to determine the kind of gospel becomings or the becomings of the Kingdom that we can choose and live our life in the Church. Thus, strengthening our links with Christ, Church and his mission, we shall delink and dismantle our links with capitalist order and it’s God of money. In this context, we need to be cautious about the fact that the ruthless capitalist order often destroys our links with tradition, culture and religion. We seem to get uprooted as we cling to the capitalist world order. In such situations, we often find people becoming fanatic holding on to the last straws of the culture, tradition and religion. The becomings of the Gospel are not those that sprung forth from the fear of the loss of the original or the fundamental. They are authentic becomings of love that follow from the call of Christ.


Pope Francis has waged a relentless war on capitalism and its Gods of money. This humble effort is join this battle. We think that capitalism succeeds by manipulating our desire. Hence, we have chosen the path of psychoanalysis in the context of this study to understand how we can interrupt, disrupt and dismantle the worship of the God of Money and open ways that we can continue the war against terror unleashed by capitalism.



[1] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/08/02/pope-francis-capitalism-terrorism-against-all-humanity accessed on 29/09/2017.

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/world/americas/in-fiery-speeches-francis-excoriates-global-capitalism.html?mcubz=3 accessed on 29/09/2017.

[3] See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Gauttari, Anti-oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophernia, trans. Robert Hurley,Mark Seem and Helene R. Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983) and See Gilles Deleuze and Felix Gauttari, A Thousand PlateausCapitalism and Schizophernia, trans. Brain Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

[4]  See Leen De Bolle, ‘ Preface: Desire and Schizophrenia’ in Leen De Bolle, Ed. (Leuven : Lueven University Press, 2010), 7.

[5] https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/pope-franciss-challenge-to-global-capitalism accessed on 29/09/2017.

[6] See encyclical Laudato Si. Also see ‘why Pope Francis wants us to stop worshiping capitalism’ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/pope-francis-wants-us-stop-worshipping-capitalism/ accessed on 29/09/2017.

[7] Ibid.

[8] See Kristyn Gorton, Theorising Desire: From Freud to Feminism to Film ( New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 8. Ibid., 11-13.

[10] https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/pope-franciss-challenge-to-global-capitalism. accessed on 29/09/2017.

[11] See Kristyn Gorton, Theorising Desire, 16-18.

[12] Ibid., 22-24.

[13] See Ibid.,  14-15.

[14] See Kristyn Gorton, Theorising Desire, 17.

[15] See Leen De Bolle, ‘Preface: Desire and Schizophrenia’, 8-18.

[16] Becoming-women contests man/woman binary of psychoanalysis. There is no becoming-man as it cannot become-molecular. Just because women is positioned as oppositional to man/phallus/ masculine, the absolute  representative of standard or norm, all becomings have to come through becoming-woman. They further teach that becoming-woman is not limited to man but women also have to become-woman. Woman also has a molar identity. It concerns what is expected from a normal woman. This is imitative while becoming-woman cannot be mimetic. No one can become a woman by wearing a dress or makeup. Becoming-woman is molecular transformation and is different to every person.  Becoming-woman involves dismantling of molar identities, like wife, mother, sister, virgin, prostitute etc. It involves staying in a continues process of transformation, always changing. All becoming is becoming a minoritrain. Hence, becoming-child as well as becoming-animal contest the privileged binaries of adult/child and human/animal respectively.  By these becomings Deleuze and Gauttari try to dismantle the imposition of molar identities of man and woman. See Kathryn M Blake, A Contemporary feminist Critique of Psychoanalysis through Gilles Deleuze and Felix Gauttari ,  A thesis submitted to the graduate school-New Brunswick, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in partial fulfilment of degree of Masters of Art, 38-46.


[17] https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/pope-franciss-challenge-to-global-capitalism accessed on 29/09/2017.

[18] Ibid.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao