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In our market economy system, Marx says, money is the pre-eminent criterion to measure the amount of the value that is realized. Within the capitalist system gaining surplus value seems to be the sole aim. Profit-making and the expansion of capital are the motives that drive capitalism. However, gaining surplus value is only possible by selling fetishized commodities for a price that is higher than the value attributed to labor that produced them. If equivalent values are exchanged, no surplus value can be realized. Marx indicates that the realization of this aim depends on a trick, and it is this cunning trick that interests Lacan — , pp.

In the market the capitalist buys labor power in order to produce merchandise. Marx states that the trick put into practice in this process is that the capitalist pays the laborer as much as he has to, but less than the market value of what the laborer actually produced.

This laughter results from the fact that the value that is created during a workday is actually much higher than what the capitalist pays the laborer. Capitalist production implies that one no longer works solely in order to satisfy needs, and stops once they have been met. Lacan — , pp. Yet, despite the appropriation of surplus value, Marx stresses that the capitalist does not personally enjoy what he gains.

The capitalist is only the support that makes the system run. Therefore, what the capitalist system produces are suppositions and phantasies of gratification, while in fact nobody enjoys McGowan, Both systems produce an element of excess, in relation to which a fetishist relation is created.

Homology means that their structure is identical Regnault, : while coming in a different form, the use of discourse and capitalist production obey the same logic. As we use discourse language is produced, in the capitalist system commodities are produced. Yet, through the process of exchange something is lost. Using signifiers to name jouissance confronts the speaker with a dose of corporeal tension that is not inherent to language: a surplus-jouissance that can only be located in phantasy or delusion comes to the fore.

Lacanian Theory of Discourse

It is precisely at this point that the function of laughter can be situated. In Marx's system, laughter refers to the capitalist's gain of surplus value, and to the process of alienation that this entails. In the use of discourse, laughter refers to the surplus-jouissance inherent in our alienation in the signifier. In explaining surplus-jouissance, Lacan points to the joke.

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As we speak we invariably also utter nonsense, and because of this we laugh. Yet, why exactly does the joke provoke laughter? Speech is always a half-saying mi-dire. It misses its point, and this failure coincides with a dose of jouissance, to which laughter bears witness. Furthermore, by connecting the manifestation of surplus-jouissance to laughter and misrepresentation, Lacan situates surplus-jouissance at the level of the unconscious Lacan, , p. In Marx's production system the capitalist laughs with the money the system generates; in Lacan's model the user of discourse laughs to the extent that, at the level of the unconscious, a surplus of jouissance is produced which one fails to get hold of.

The unconscious concerns the combined expression of half-saying and surplus-jouissance.


  • The Constitution of Markets: Essays in Political Economy (Routledge Foundations of the Market Economy).
  • An Introduction to Stochastic Processes.
  • Jacques Lacan and Anarchism!

In the discourse of the master the object a is a component of libidinous corporeality that is delineated by the use of signifiers, but is not represented by means of the signifier. It is what remains leftover after imposing knowledge S2 onto jouissance. Qua element of symbolic nothingness, the object a nonetheless makes itself felt as corporeal tension, gravitating around a gaze, a voice, or in the element of oral nothingness to be taken in, and anal nothingness to be given away.

In the end, this surplus-jouissance is juxtaposed with the master signifier S1 , but, as mentioned previously, it doesn't correspond to the truth that the discourse was initially fueled by. In the end the discourse of the master stresses the fact that there is no hope that subjective division can ever be transcended, or that discontent can be resolved if we address jouissance by means of language, which is what we typically do. It is precisely the failure that coincides with the discourse of the master that, in Lacan's reasoning, makes analytical discourse possible.

Through the exploration of subjective discord via free association, there is a return in the analysis to the signifiers that connote and mark the subject. In most discussions of surplus-jouissance, Lacan starts from the master discourse. In the discourse of the master the object a is the surplus that the semblant is confronted with. Yet, in terms of Lacan's later discussions of the structure of discourse Figure 3 , surplus-jouissance is not identical to the object a , but the end position of each discourse Lacan, — , p.

In the discourse of the university the divided subject occupies this place; in the discourse of the hysteric it is unconscious knowledge that emerges; and in the discourse of the analyst the master signifier makes up the surplus-jouissance. The outcome that discourse creates is always at odds with the truth that first mobilized the turn to the Other. Figure 4. In this view, gravitation is a relationship that can be written: starting from knowledge of the physical properties of an object, like its mass and its density, formulas make it possible to calculate how long it will take to touch the ground when the object falls from a given height.

Applied to sexuality it could be argued that the way male and female animals interact is fairly uniform, and depends only marginally on how two specific specimens behave. Yet as soon as our focus is on humans, the nature of relationships is not a priori given. In this context Lacan — , p.

That's why Lacan qualifies the sexual relationship as a non-rapport. The only things humans are left with are speech and discourse, which for Lacan , pp. The only option individuals are left with is inventing ways of dealing with the non-rapport. As a consequence, in Lacan's view the sexual relationship is Real. This implies that in order to establish a bond between individuals, speech must always be mobilized. This is what constitutes the relation to the other party…one of the essential correlates of this acting-a-man, is to indicate to the girl that one is so.

Only by manifesting oneself as a man or a woman in discourse can a bond between partners take shape. In other words: the sexual relationship is Real and cannot be written; what remains open is the possibility of engaging oneself in a sexual relation. This is only possible through the use of discourse see also Vanheule, From the late s on, Lacan occasionally commented on the particularities of capitalist discourse, highlighting how it differs from the four discourses he first discerned. A systematic discussion or theory on this discourse cannot be found in his work. In this section I provide a reading of Lacan's work on this topic, and aim at formulating a more comprehensive idea on the particularities of the capitalist discourse.

As Bianchi correctly indicates, with his fifth discourse Lacan gives a non-Marxian account of capitalist culture, stressing the logic of consumption rather than the mode of production that capitalism implies. This is also how I interpret Lacan's capitalist discourse. Later interpretations of Lacan's fifth discourse do not focus only on the dynamics of consumerism, but make explicit links with Marxism and explore dynamics of production as well e.

Slavoj Žižek. Object a and The Function of Ideology. 2012

On one occasion, during a lecture at the University of Milan, entitled du discours psychanalytique , Lacan articulated a model on the precise structure of capitalist discourse see Figure 5. This model coheres with Lacan's initial four discourses, but cannot be seen as just another variant in the series of discourses. Indeed, Lacan , p. Yet with regard to the discourse of the master, it contains 3 mutations 7 Lacan, , p. Figure 5. Capitalist discourse based on: Lacan, , p.

The effect of these three changes is that a number of obstructions that are inherent to the four discourses are not characteristic of the fifth discourse. We can circulate within the capitalist discourse like go-carts on a racetrack. Indeed, in the capitalist discourse, the non-rapport is circumvented.

Indeed, what is structurally characteristic of the discourse of the capitalist is that while the four positions remain intact, the pathways made up by the arrows change: in all positions one arrow arrives, such that a closed circuit of arrows is created. The structural lapse that marks the four standard discourses cannot be found at the root of this fifth discourse, which, so to speak, makes it run on wheels.

Lacanian Theory of Discourse

Yet Lacan suggests that in the end the one functioning along the lines of this smoothly running process burns himself out, and gets consumed. One idea that the above quote articulates, is that in the capitalist discourse subjectivity is corrupted. Indeed, the discourse of the capitalist essentially starts from the experience of subjective division. In the discourse of the hysteric the Unbehagen thus obtained results in an address to the other. Indeed, the capitalist discourse directly aims at the root of the problem, which is what the downward arrow on the left indicates.

This discourse does not encapsulate the discomfort of subjective division as structural, but aims to recuperate discontent in its very system. For example, in our contemporary Western consumption culture, discontent is often deemed the upshot of having not yet obtained the right object and suggests that a state of subjective satisfaction will be reached once this object is obtained.

In other words, the semblance of being dissatisfied can be answered with the S1 of a brand name or a product that offers the promise of satisfaction. The market 9 tells us what we need: the merchandise it provides. These are all S1's: they are isolated signifiers that consumers take to be the truth of their discontent.

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Indeed, within the capitalist discourse, the products that make up the market constitute a despotic truth to which the subject is subjected. On the one hand the capitalist discourse starts from subjective division, yet, on the other hand the move toward S1 suggests that subjective division might be overcome through alienation in a master signifier.

In both cases, subjective flaw is believed to be corrigible, which is why the discourse of the capitalist is often described in terms of a generalized perversion Mura, The assumption that an S1 exists for each discomfort is ingrained in this discourse. As a result, capitalist discourse implies a particularization of desire , treated as if it is a demand. Whereas in classic discourse desire is singular in that it cannot be solved by means of the signifier, the capitalist discourse suggests that particular solutions for dealing with subjective division actually exist: the market is there to satisfy customers' demands.

This discourse exploits desire by treating it as a specific question to be answered by means of practical solutions. The superego command characteristic of capitalist times concerns an obligation to satisfy desire via consumption McGowan, The market provides streams of products and services that are there to answer peoples' demands. However, as we will see later, this also happens at the point of subjectivity for a certain price. Within capitalist discourse this implies that merchandise will not so much be preferred for its intrinsic qualities, but in terms of how it is evaluated by the other.

Indeed, this is often how marketing proceeds, products are presented as highly desired by celebrities, which directs the consumer's desire. Obviously, such exploitation of desire only works because the S1 that the capitalist discourse formulates as an answer is not at all random: S1 refers to an entire knowledge apparatus, S2, which guarantees the adequacy of the answer. Indeed, according to Lacan — , there is compatibility between contemporary science and the capitalist discourse. Science ensures 10 the development of S2, through which S1 grows ever more innovative and, as a result, old answers must be constantly replaced by new ones.

Turin Theory of the Subject of the School

Within the capitalist discourse, S1 is not a fixed anchorage, but a solution that is replaced by endlessly better solutions. The fact of the matter is that the innovation of S2 continuously recreates both S1 and the demand. In the discourse of the master, it is a signifier that is taken seriously: an S1 is adopted, and around this signifier a world of semblance is created through which the other and jouissance are addressed, which is what the upper horizontal arrow indicates.