… Desire is work, which is to say, “desire held in check.” … It is not enjoyment postponed until later, as if it were necessary to await a result, but enjoyment of the very movement that dissolves the fixity of a goal or a possession.
… The work only matters when appropriated by desire. Any other appropriation is desire’s simple and cold exclusion.
This is from the chapter “Desire” in Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative by Jean-Luc Nancy, translated by Jason Smith and Steven Miller (2002; originally published in 1997):
… Desire is … less the tension of lack, and the projection of satisfaction that would annul it, than it is the tension of the coming of the other as the becoming of the self.
… it is precisely to be other, it is alterity as infinite alteration of the self that becomes. Desire is neither aspiration nor demand, nor is it lust or voracity. It demands nothing but the other, and is satisfied with nothing other: but the other as such, the veritable other of the self, is not an object one could demand, an object with which one could take satisfaction.
This is why desire cannot become what it is in an object, in a given determination. It is desire of the other self-consciousness. The subject is desire of the subject, and there is no object of desire. Desire is appropriative becoming in the other.
[ … ]
… That is what desire names: relinquishment as appropriation. But appropriation is the grasp (the “concept”) of this: that the proper happens as letting go. At this point, it becomes necessary to posit that this grasp — the grasp of letting go — cannot be the doing of consciousness as such. If the strictest formulations of the dialectic often inspire perplexity, annoyance, and refusal, it is because they are obstinately understood on the level of consciousness — and, by the same token, as formulas in language, they are received as verbal acrobatics. But these formulations wish to make themselves understood on an entirely other level — or, still more exactly, they wish to make understood that they cannot be, as they are, understood by understanding, but rather demand that understanding relinquish itself.
… The movement of consciousness does not have consciousness for its goal, and the experience of self-consciousness does not have self-consciousness as its outcome. Because its movement is the alteration of the desire of self, it is also the alteration of consciousness — of its unmoving point and its isolation — in desire that is recognized to be desire. Never will an ego recognize itself recognized by an alter ego, as if it were an exchange in the mirror of one and the same consciousness, or the sharing of the same representation. Such an abstract and cold operation can only take place in the abstraction of the “I = I” or the “I = not-I,” which means that it does not take place. I only recognize myself recognized by the other to the extent that this recognition of the other alters me: it is desire, it is what trembles in desire.
To this extent, desire is not simple delectation of self — even though it is itself the sole content both of the ordeal and of enjoyment. Desire is work, which is to say, “desire held in check.” This does not mean that it is inhibited, nor turned away from its movement. But it is desire that really gives itself its other, or that really gives itself to its other. It is not enjoyment postponed until later, as if it were necessary to await a result, but enjoyment of the very movement that dissolves the fixity of a goal or a possession. Work “forms” says Hegel — which is to say that it elaborates the form of desire. The work, in its exterior form (a fabricated object, a formulated thought, a created existence, “the action of the singular individual and of all individuals”), forms the manifestation of desire itself — and it is in infinite formation.
Which formation is not to be confused with indefinite exteriority and with the accumulation of works for themselves. If the work is work, it is precisely not to be deposited as a given, nor to subsist as a possession. Particular fixity and possession — as much as indetermination and pure community — run counter to the recognition of the other. The work only matters when appropriated by desire. Any other appropriation is desire’s simple and cold exclusion.