The Young-Girl is not always young; more and more frequently, she is not even female. She is the figure of total integration in a disintegrating social totality. --from Theory of the Young-Girl
First published in France in 1999, Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl dissects the impossibility of love under Empire. The Young-Girl is consumer society’s total product and model citizen: whatever “type” of Young-Girl she may embody, whether by whim or concerted performance, she can only seduce by consuming. Filled with the language of French women’s magazines, rooted in Proust’s figure of Albertine and the amusing misery of (teenage) romance in Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke, and informed by Pierre Klossowski’s notion of “living currency” and libidinal economy, Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl diagnoses—and makes visible—a phenomenon that is so ubiquitous as to have become transparent.
In the years since the book’s first publication in French, the worlds of fashion, shopping, seduction plans, makeover projects, and eating disorders have moved beyond the comparatively tame domain of paper magazines into the perpetual accessibility of Internet culture. Here the Young-Girl can seek her own reflection in corporate universals and social media exchanges of “personalities” within the impersonal realm of the marketplace. Tracing consumer society’s colonization of youth and sexuality through the Young-Girl’s “freedom” (in magazine terms) to do whatever she wants with her body, Tiqqun exposes the rapaciously competitive and psychically ruinous landscape of modern love.