Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

Does Law Need an Analyst? Prospects for Lacanian Psychoanalysis in Law

Academic journal article Washington and Lee Law Review

Does Law Need an Analyst? Prospects for Lacanian Psychoanalysis in Law

Article excerpt

LACAN AND THE SUBJECT OF LAW: TOWARD A PSYCHOANALYTIC CRITICAL LEGAL THEORY. By David S. Caudill. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1997. 206 pp. SIS.95 paper, $49.95 cloth. The debate continues over the merits of French psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan - was he a "charlatan"' or an "intellectual hero? "2 Enter David Caudill's book, Lacan and the Subject of Law: Toward a Psychoanalytic Critical Legal Theory.3 In providing practical applications of Lacan to the law, the book will no doubt be seen as an important contribution in resolving the debate. Caudill, a law professor with a Ph.D. in philosophy, demonstrates how, despite its complexity and obfuscatory tendencies, Lacan's psychoanalytic theory can illuminate our understanding of law and public discourse in new and important ways. To be sure, Caudill's project demonstrates that law needs an analyst. From contract interpretation to the role of religion in politics, Caudill employs Lacanian psychoanalysis not only to understand but to mediate the "culture wars" and some current controversies in law and public policy. Caudill sets out to provide the first comprehensive application of Lacan to law, within the tradition of critical legal studies (CLS) scholarship - thus the book's subtitle, "Toward a Psychoanalytic Critical Theory." Applying Lacan's tenets about the socializing power of language, the relation between the subject and others (including the "Otherness" of the law), and the internalization of the law in the Other, Caudill critiques mainstream legal theory and practice.4 Caudill "intends to ally Lacan's approach to critical movements in legal theory, such as critical legal studies, feminism, and critical race studies, each of which represents a challenge to mainstream legal theory. "5 (Though, interestingly, Caudill finds Lacan useful in serving conservative as well as liberal politics.) These approaches view law as ideological and indeterminate, and as marginalizing certain communities by imposing hegemonic doctrines and practices.

Readers will appreciate Caudill's ability to make Lacan accessible, while at the same time writing in an engaging but rigorous style that avoids oversimplification. Caudill is a superb writer, but the book is in no sense an easy read because the subject matter is very complex and every paragraph in the book is packed with ideas. It is largely a compilation and substantial modification of Caudill's previously published essays that have appeared in legal and psychoanalytic journals. Part I, entitled "Coming to Terms with Lacan," discusses the difficulties in applying Lacan, explains the aspects of Lacanian theory most relevant to law and places the theory in the context of Freud and other psychoanalytic traditions, various philosophical schools of epistemology, and postmodern and critical legal theory. It concludes with an analysis of the problem of the self in relation to law, posing "law's need for an analyst." Part II, "Legal Analysis in Lacanian Terms," analyzes some current legal controversies from a Lacanian perspective, the most provocative of which are community and court hysteria surrounding false accusations of child abuse and religion's place in politics.

This review has four goals: (1) after discussing difficulties in applying Lacan, to introduce Lacanian theory and its applications to law; (2) to ascertain whether Lacan is consistent with current psychological theory and research; (3) to place the theory and the book in the context of ongoing controversies in the "culture wars" and postmodern/critical legal studies; and (4) to evaluate the prospects for Lacanian psychoanalysis in law. Obstacles to Lacan [I want] to leave the reader no other way out than the way in, which I prefer to be difficult.6 Chapter 1, "Trafficking in Lacan: The Next Intervention of Psychoanalysis in Law?," begins with the observation that Lacanian theory will be "bruised and beaten" by the time it becomes an established mode of legal analysis. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.