Fantasies and Illusions: On Liberty, Order, and Free Market

26 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2012

See all articles by Bernard E. Harcourt

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University; Columbia University

Date Written: March 12, 2012


Critical thinkers have used various terms to describe the collective imaginary that has real effects on individuals, society, and politics. Freud used the term “einer Illusion” to characterize religious belief in his work, The Future of an Illusion, though many others in the psychoanalytic tradition would turn to the notion of fantasy. Marx sometimes used the term illusion and he notoriously deployed the optical illusion and the phantasmagoria in his famous discussion of commodity fetishism. (And Marx, of course, is the father of Ideologiekritic). Foucault at times used the language of fantasy and phantasms, in an early period deployed the term illusion, and in later works adamantly rejected the word illusion. (He would always resist the term ideology). What is the difference between an illusion, a fantasy, and ideology? What is the right term to describe these collective imaginaries that have real effects on social and political conditions? In this essay, the first of a triptych, I explore the relation between two of these notions, namely illusions and fantasies, in the concrete context of the myth of the “free market.”

Keywords: illusion, fantasy, ideology, Freud, Marx, Foucault, free markets, neoliberalism

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, Bernard E., Fantasies and Illusions: On Liberty, Order, and Free Market (March 12, 2012). Cardozo Law Review, Forthcoming; University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 591; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 378. Available at SSRN:

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

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Columbia University ( email )

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