The Cambridge Companion to Lacan

The Cambridge Companion to Lacan

The Cambridge Companion to Lacan

The Cambridge Companion to Lacan

Synopsis

Jacques Lacan is renowned as a theoretician of psychoanalysis whose work is still influential in many countries. He refashioned psychoanalysis in the name of philosophy and linguistics at a time when it faced certain intellectual decline. Focusing on key terms in Lacan's often difficult, idiosyncratic development of psychoanalysis, this volume brings new perspectives to the work of an intimidating influential thinker.

Excerpt

After Freud, Lacan is arguably the most important theoretician of psychoanalysis. Like Freud, he has been endlessly discussed, and his controversial personality, his arcane style, and his huge claims on culture, ethics, philosophy, and sexuality, not to mention his unorthodox methods of teaching and of carrying out treatment, have elicited emphatic rejections as well as adulatory commendations. The controversy has not abated since his death in 1981 at the age of eighty. This may be due to the fact that his influence has not been limited to France, his native country, a country in which, thanks to his relentless efforts at pedagogy, the number of psychoanalysts per capita is the highest in the world. His teachings and philosophy have spread worldwide, first to Latin countries like Italy, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, then to North America, before reaching Asian countries, especially China. This has happened precisely at a time when one can observe a general decline in traditional psychoanalytic practice throughout the world.

Lacan was one of the first theoreticians of psychoanalysis to take note of what Herbert Marcuse has called the “obsolescence” of psychoanalysis, an obsolescence that was perceptible by the middle of last century and undeniable by the end of the century, when psychoanalysis had been incorporated and trivialized by popular culture on the one hand, while caught between incompatible scientific claims and aims on the other, tempted either by biological neuro-scientism or adaptive psychological meliorism. Lacan's originality consisted in refusing to “modernize” psychoanalysis by updating medical treatment or relying on new chemical drugs or even using a simplified therapy, allegedly more adapted to the needs of modern society. Instead, he raised the stakes, firmly positing post-Freudian psychoanalysis first as a therapy based on a particular use of language in which the analyst's measured silence would call up radical otherness, then as a rigorous discourse that could only find true conceptual bearings in the writings of its inventor and that would benefit from new scientific advances in domains like linguistics, mathematics, or symbolic logics. He saw the unconscious not as a dark . . .

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