Lacan, Jacques


Lacan, Jacques
(1901-81)
  ---- by Alison Ross
  Jacques Lacan was a French psychoanalyst most famous for his structuralist interpretation of Freudian psychoanalysis. Despite his 'structuralist' fame his work can be divided into many different phases, including an early fascination with surrealism and the avant-garde, an interest in the 1950s and 1960s with Saussurian linguistics and structuralism, as well as his late preoccupation with Borromean knots and his attempt to mathematise his ideas. It is only in this final 'phase' that Lacan poses for the first time the question of what the hitherto distinct elements of the system, real/imaginary/ symbolic (RSI) have in common.
  Deleuze's relationship with Lacan is complex. There are places in Deleuze's work, such as his essay on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, that demonstrate expert familiarity with Lacanian psychoanalysis. Despite this essay's critique of the Freudian category of 'sado-masochism', Deleuze uses elements of Lacanian psychoanalysis as an operative framework for his own analysis of 'masochism'. Similarly, in the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Lacan is occasionally a target of the authors' anti-psychiatric polemics, but he can also be cited as an influence on their own attempt to liberate desire from its Oedipal ordering in classical, Freudian psychoanalysis. In this respect the important features of Lacan's thought include his uneven verdicts on the different layers of the subject (RSI) and his interest in psychotic speech.
  On the other hand, Lacanian psychoanalysis gives a superb illustration of the general complaint against psychoanalysis in Anti-Oedipus, concerning the errors of desire. Lacan exemplifies the 'error' that desire is 'lack'. For Lacan desire is the product of the split between demand and need. Demand is the alienation of 'need' in language. It is the failure of language (demand) adequately to represent 'need' that produces an impotent desire figured around 'lack'. Although Deleuze and Guattari criticise 'lack' as one of the errors of desire they applaud the fact that desire is continuous in Lacan, despite contesting the way it earns this status only on account of its definition as a 'lack' regulated by the law of the symbolic.
  The complexity of Lacan's place in the thought of Deleuze and Guattari can be described in relation to the genesis and explanatory scope of their concept of the Body without Organs (BwO). In psychoanalytic doctrine the development of the individual is described in the normative terms of a gradual shift away from the polymorphous perversity of the infant's body to the hierarchical ordering or coding of the body's erogenous zones in an ascending scale from pathways of fore-pleasure (such as kissing) to endpleasure (genital). According to this model, the subject and its sexual identity are not given, but these emerge by ordering the drives that are in turn regulated by Oedipal relations. In the paper Lacan wrote on the 'mirror stage', this process is described as the movement from organs without a clearly defined sense of a body, to the (tenuous and fictional) hold of socio-sexual identity.
  In contrast to the 'organs without a body' that precedes the process of acquisition of socio-sexual identity in Lacan, the BwO, a term that Deleuze and Guattari take from Antonin Artaud, is deployed to denaturalise the process of development defined by psychoanalysis. Against the coding of the body's parts according to 'natural' functions and the conception of the organism as a functioning hierarchy of parts on which it depends, this concept aims to explain and to maximise possible connections between the different parts of the body and its 'outside'. In particular, the authors use this concept to de-Oedipalise the description of such connections in classical psychoanalysis. Instead of framing breast-feeding in terms of a primary anaclitic relationship between mother and infant that will need to be broken by the secondary identification with the authority of the father, this connection is described as an assemblage of desire in which 'mouth' and 'breast' replace the terms 'infant' and 'mother'. Despite the genesis of this concept in Anti-Oedipus in a polemic against psychoanalysis, a strategic alliance with aspects of Lacanian theory can be discerned in their use of this concept.
  According to Lacan the infant's state of physiological fragmentation (the real) is sealed into an illusory formation of unity in the mirror stage. Here the child founds its sense of integrated identity through a visual perception of unity that divides it from its 'real' state of physiological fragmentation. This perception of unity, designated by Lacan as the 'imaginary', establishes the basis of socio-sexual identity as a unity. This unity is paradoxical however, given that the agency of its unity is external. For Lacan, unity only becomes functional when the subject relinquishes its relation with the (M)Other in order to occupy a place in the symbolic order as a speaking subject. The primary sense of unity developed by the subject in the mirror stage, is divided in the subject's secondary identification with the Law of the Father. Deleuze and Guattari disengage the Oedipal narrative that regulates the organisation of socio-sexual unity in psychoanalysis. It is interesting to note that Lacan occasionally sides with the imaginary field of connections prior to symbolic law and sometimes emphasises the unsurpassable force of the real in psychic life. Thus, despite the limitations of his framework, the work of Lacan differs from his precursors in classical psychoanalysis in that he proposes a porous relation between the body and its 'outside'.
  Connectives
   § desire

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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