. . . . . . • Connections of the Freudian Field to Philosophy and Popular Culture •
I would like to begin with an almost narcissistic reflection. Why do I resort so often to examples from popular culture? The simple answer is in order to avoid a kind of jargon, and to achieve the greatest possible clarity, not only for my readers but also for myself. That is to say, the idiot for whom I endeavor to formulate a theoretical point as clearly as possible is ultimately myself: I am not patronizing my readers. An example from popular culture has for me the same fundamental role as the Lacanian procedure of the passe - the passage of analysand into the analyst; the same role as the two mediators, the two passeurs. I think it's not an accident that the Lacanian popular quarterly in France, as you probably know, is called L'Âne - the Donkey. The idea is that in a way you must accept a total externalization: you must renounce even the last bit of any kind of initiated closed circuit of knowledge. And precisely this is for me the role of my reference to popular culture. In this full acceptance of the externalization in an imbecilic medium, in this radical refusal of any initiated secrecy, this is how I, at least, understand the Lacanian ethics of finding a proper worth.
I think that the way I refer to popular culture, this necessity that I feel that we must go through this radical, if you want, imbecilic, external medium, is a version of what Lacan, in his last phase at least, referred to as the 'subjective destitution' that is involved in the position of the analyst, of the analyst as occupying the place of the objet petit a. This position, I think, is far more radical and paradoxical than it may appear.
Let me illustrate it by an example in rather bad taste, a story from the American South before the Civil War. I read in some novel by James Baldwin, I think, that in the whore houses of the old South, of the old New Orleans before the Civil War, the African-American, the black servant, was not perceived as a person, so that, for example, the white couple - the prostitute and her client - were not at all disturbed when the servant entered the room to deliver drinks. They simply went on doing their job, with copulation and so on, since the servant's gaze did not count as the gaze of another person. And in a sense, I think, it is the same with that black servant as with the analyst.
We rid ourselves of all our shame when we talk to the analyst. We are able to confide the innermost secrets of our loves, our hatreds, etc., although our relationship to them is entirely impersonal, lacking the intimacy of true friendship. This is absolutely crucial, I think. The relationship with the analyst, as you probably know, is not an inter-subjective relationship precisely because the analyst in the analytic disposition is not another subject. In this sense, the analyst occupies the role of an object. We can confide ourselves in them without any intimate relationship of friendship.
Another aspect of this subjective destitution can be grasped via a reference to the recently published autobiography, already translated into English, of Louis Althusser.  Althusser writes that he was beset all his adult life with the notion that he did not exist: by the fear that others would become aware of his non-existence, that others, for example readers of his books, would become aware of the fact that he is an impostor who only feigns to exist. For example, his great anxiety after the publication of Lire Capital was that some critic would reveal the scandalous fact that the main author of this book doesn't exist.  I think, in a sense, that this is what psycho-analysis is about. The psychoanalytic cure is effectively over when the subject loses this anxiety, as it were, and freely assumes their own non-existence.
And I think that here, if you want to put it in a slightly funny, cynical way, resides the difference between psychoanalysis and, let's say, the standard English empiricist-subjectivist solipsism. The standard empiricist-solipsist notion is that we can only be absolutely certain of ideas in our mind, whereas the existence of reality outside is already an inconclusive inference. I think that psychoanalysis claims that reality outside myself definitely exists. The problem is that I myself do not exist.
Now, my next point, of course, is that Lacan arrived at this paradoxical position only towards the end of his teaching. Before this last phase, in the 1950s and 1960s, the end of the psychoanalytic process for Lacan involved almost exactly the opposite movement - the subjectivization, subjective realization, subjective accomplishment, the subjectivizing of one's destiny, etc. So we have this radical shift: one of the series of shifts in Lacan.
So, in this subjective destitution, in accepting my non-existence as subject, I have to renounce the fetish of the hidden treasure responsible for my unique worth. I have to accept my radical externalization in the symbolic medium. As is well known, the ultimate support of what I experience as the uniqueness of my personality is provided by my fundamental fantasy, by this absolutely particular, non-universalizable formation.
Now, what's the problem with fantasy? I think that the key point, usually overlooked, is the way that Lacan articulated the notion of fantasy which is, 'OK, fantasy stages a desire, but whose desire?' My point is: not the subject's desire, not their own desire. What we encounter in the very core of the fantasy formation is the relationship to the desire of the Other: to the opacity of the Other's desire. The desire staged in fantasy, in my fantasy, is precisely not my own, not mine, but the desire of the Other. Fantasy is a way for the subject to answer the question of what object they are for the Other, in the eyes of the Other, for the Other's desire. That is to say, what does the Other see in them? What role do they play in the Other's desire?
A child, for example, endeavors to dissolve, by way of their fantasy, the enigma of the role they play as the medium of interactions between their mother, their father, all their relatives, etc.: the enigma of how mother, father and others fight their battles, settle their accounts through them. This is, I think, the crucial point that, for example, a child experiences their situation as a series of obvious ; investments in them. Parents fight their battles through them, but it is I not clear to them what their role is in this complex, intersubjective ' network into which they are thrown. And precisely through fantasy they try to clarify this point. Not, 'What is their desire?' but, 'What is their role in the desire of the Other?' This is, I think, absolutely crucial, which is why, as you probably know, in Lacan's graph of desire, fantasy comes as an answer to that question beyond the level of meaning, 'What do you want?', precisely as an answer to the enigma of the Other's desire.  Here, again, I think we must be very precise.
Everybody knows this phrase, repeated again and again, 'Desire is the desire of the Other.' But I think that to each crucial stage of Lacan's teaching a different reading of this well-known formula corresponds. First, already in the 1940s, "Desire is the desire of the Other' alludes simply to the paranoiac structure of desire, to the structure of envy, to put it simply. Here, the desire of the subject is the desire of the Other; it is simply this kind of transitive, imaginary relationship. It's basically the structure of envy - I desire an object only insofar as it is desired by the Other, and so on. This is the first level, let us say the imaginary level.
Then we have the symbolic level where 'Desire is the desire of the Other' involves this dialectic of the recognition and, at the same time, the fact that what I desire is determined by the symbolic network within which I articulate my subjective position, and so on. So it is simply the determination of my desire: the way my desire is structured through the order of the big Other. This is well known.
But I think Lacan's crucial final formulation arrives only when the position of the analyst is no longer defined as starting from the place of the big Other (A), that is to say, the analyst as embodiment of symbolic order, but when the analyst is identified with the small other (a), with the fantasmatic object. In other words, when the analyst gives body to the enigma of the impenetrability of the Other's desire. Here, 'Desire is the desire of the Other' means I can arrive at my desire only through the complication of the Other's desire precisely insofar as this desire is impenetrable, enigmatic for me. I think this is the first crucial point, usually forgotten, about fantasy: how true fantasy is an attempt to resolve the enigma of the Other's desire. That's the desire that is staged in fantasy. It's not simply that I desire something, that I make a fantasy. No.
Another point seems to me crucial, apropos of the notion of fantasy. A very naive, almost, I'm tempted to say, pre-theoretical observation - but I found it interesting enough - is how not only in Lacan but generally in psychoanalysis (as is the case, by the way, with the whole series of Lacanian notions) the concept of fantasy is a nice case of the dialectical coincidence of opposites: namely, does not the notion of fantasy designate almost two opposites?
On the one hand, it is, let's call it naively, the blissful, beatific aspect of fantasy. You know, fantasy, as, let's say, some kind of idea of an idealized state without disturbances, etc. For example, in politics, the corporatist, usually totalitarian fantasy of society as an organic body in which all members collaborate, etc. This is a kind of beatific, harmonious site of fantasy. Or, to put it naively, in private life, fantasy as fantasy of the successful sexual relationship, etc.
But, on the other hand, there is another aspect no less radical and original: the notion of fantasy which is the exact opposite, which is precisely fantasy whose fundamental form is jealousy. Not beatific, blissful fantasy but the dirty fantasy. For example, when you are jealous you are all the time bothered by, 'How is the other treating me?', 'How are they enjoying themselves?', etc. My point being that if there is something to be learned from the so-called (and I'm developing here notions at a very elementary level) totalitarian ideologies, it is precisely that these two notions of fantasy are two sides of the same coin. That the price you must pay for sticking, clinging to the first fantasy is the second, dirty fantasy.
It's not an accident that (and I'm reasoning in a very naive way here) those political systems that cling to the fantasy in the sense of some harmonious society - for example, in Nazism, of a 'community ; of the people', etc., or, in Stalinism, building 'new men', a new harmonious socialist society - in order to maintain this fantasy, had, at | the same time, to develop to the extreme the other fantasy: obsession with the Jewish blood, obsession with traitors, with what the other is doing, etc. So what is crucial, I think, is that the fantasy is necessarily split in this way. I am tempted to say that with fantasy it is almost the way it is with ideology: there are always two fantasies.
What do I mean by this reference to ideology? What is absolutely crucial is that ideology is always double. OK, I know that today the notion of ideology is somehow out of fashion, proclaimed naive, etc., but I will try to explain at the end why, how, precisely as Lacanians, We not only have to stick to the notion of ideology but can develop further this notion in a very useful way. My good American Marxist friend, Fredric Jameson, whom I'm in the process of brainwashing into a good Lacanian, with some success, I hope, gave me a very good example of how ideology is at work.
Do you remember up to, let us say, 20 years ago, what we usually call in the standard philosophical and anthropological terminology, the relationship of man with nature, the complex of production, exploitation of nature, etc.? This was perceived as a kind of constant. Nobody doubted that this could go on and on. Work production will go on; the human species will somehow continue to exploit nature, etc. Where possibilities were perceived as open was at the level of social organization itself. Will capitalism prevail? Will fascism? Will there be socialism? So social imagination was active at the level of different possibilities of social organization. The idea was maybe we would have fascism, totalitarianism, maybe some Orwellian closed society, maybe the Huxleyan 'Brave New World', maybe liberal capitalism, state capitalism, whatever. Here it was possible to imagine a change. Somehow production would go on, it would continue to exploit nature - this was conceived as a constant.
Whereas today, 20 or 30 years later, it is, I claim, exactly the opposite. It's very easy to imagine, everybody's doing it, that somehow all of nature will disintegrate, there will be ecological catastrophe, or whatever: the human race will not go on. What is no longer possible to imagine is that there will be no liberal capitalism: there is no change at that level. So the dream is that maybe there will be no nature, maybe there will be a total catastrophe, but liberal capitalism will still somehow exist even if the Earth no longer exists. So precisely scenes like this, where you can see how what is visible, what is invisible, what can be imagined, what cannot be imagined, change. This is, I think, to put it in very naive terms, a kind of, if you want, empirical proof that ideology is at work.
And again, my claim is that in the same way as the notion of fantasy, the notion of ideology is also always a two-level notion. My point is that the way to recognize ideology at work is always through a denunciation of another ideology. There is never pure, naive ideology. Ideology is always a gesture of denouncing another position as being naive ideology. Again, I'm speaking from my own political experience. For example, how did we experience the moment of the disintegration of communism when finally we got rid of this totalitarian ideological indoctrination and returned to some 'natural' state of things? What was this natural state of things? The free market, multi-party elections, etc.? Precisely, this most spontaneous self-experience of how you are getting rid of some imposed artificial order and returning to some kind of, let us say, non-ideological natural state of things, I think, is the basic, as it were, gesture of ideology. OK, so that I don't get lost, maybe I'll return to this later.
Now, as to this notion of fantasy, I'm not playing the easy game of saying, yes, we can also traverse the fantasy in the political field, etc., but I nonetheless think that one of the lessons of psychoanalysis is that even in politics it is necessary to at least acquire some distance towards the fantasmatic frame. To exemplify this I would like to mention a very simple and, for me, very nice example.
Aldous Huxley's book. The Grey Eminence, as you maybe know, is a biography of Père Joseph, who was the political advisor to Cardinal Richelieu. I think this book should be on the reading list for anyone who wants to shed some light on the obscure relationship between ethics and fantasy. Why is this figure - Père Joseph - so interesting? If, in the fictional reconstruction (let's play this game) of modern European history, one wishes to isolate the episode that derailed the so-called normal course of events, the episode that introduced the imbalance the final consequence of which was the two world wars in our century, what could it be? Of course, the main candidate for this crucial disturbance, derailment, is the partitioning of the German kingdom - Reich - in the Thirty Years War, from 1618 to 1648, I think - in the first half of the seventeenth century, that is to say. As you probably know, on account of this partitioning of the German empire, the assertion of Germany as a nation state was delayed, and so on. This is, then, the course of the fundamental imbalance in European history. Let's take this fictional, retroactive reconstruction a step further. If there is a person who within this fictitious reconstruction can be made responsible for these catastrophic results, the main candidate for this role was precisely this unfortunate Pere Joseph who, as an advisor to Richelieu, through his phenomenal capacity for intrigue, succeeded in introducing - what was his big achievement? - a rupture, a splitting, into the Protestant camp, concluding in a pact between Catholic France and Protestant Sweden against Austria, thus shifting the centre of war to German territory. So, Père Joseph is the ultimate embodiment of the plotting. Machiavellian politician, ready to sacrifice thousands of lives, ready to resort to spying, lies, murder, extortion. OK, nothing new. But, and this was the feature that fascinated Aldous Huxley, there is another side to this same Père Joseph. He was, OK, during the day, horrible, a plotter, the worst politician; but after doing the dirty job during the day, every evening he was not only a priest but a mystic of the most authentic kind. Every evening, after a day full of painful diplomatic intrigue, he plunged into deep meditations. His mystical visions bear witness to an authenticity worthy of St Teresa, St John of the Cross, and so on. He corresponded regularly with the sisters of a small French convent, giving them advice as to their spiritual distress, and so on. This was the enigma for Huxley. How are we to reconcile these two sides?
At this crucial point, I think, Huxley himself avoids the true paradox and opts for an easy way out: by putting the blame on the alleged weak points of Pere Joseph's mystical experience. According to Huxley, the excessive centering on Jesus Christ - Père Joseph's obsession with Christ's suffering on the Way of the Cross - is made responsible for rendering possible the reckless manipulation of other people's suffering, and so on.
As you probably know, for that reason, Huxley turned away from Christianity. He sought spiritual salvation in Eastern wisdom, and so on. But I think one of the lessons of psychoanalysis is precisely that we must fully accept this paradox. Yes, you can be, at the same time, an absolutely authentic mystic - that is, of course, not a reproach - and the most horrible plotting politician. There is no guarantee, in your authentic private experience, what the political effects will be. I think this is the illusion we must renounce. There is no guarantee what the political effects of your subjective experience will be.
Let me return now to my main point, which is fantasy. Of course, as we know from Lacan, the ultimate fantasy is the fantasy of sexual relationship. So, of course, the way to traverse the fantasy is to elaborate what Lacan means by saying there is no sexual relationship, that is to say, via Lacan's theorization of sexual difference, the so-called formulae of sexuation. What's my point here? My point is the following one. What is usually not perceived here is that Lacan's assertion, La femme n'existe pas - 'Woman does not exist', in no way refers to some kind of ineffable feminine essence outside the symbolic order, non-integrated into the symbolic order, beyond the domain of discourse.
You know, what I like very much about Lacan is, I don't know if you notice this, he is very much a Leninist in his style. What do I mean? Something very precise. How do you recognize a true Leninist? The typical Leninist twist is that, for example, when somebody says 'freedom', the Leninist question is 'Freedom for whom? To do what?' That is to say, for example, freedom for the bourgeoisie to exploit workers, etc. Do you notice in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan has almost the same twist apropos of 'the good'? Yes, supreme good, but whose good, to do what, etc? So here, I think, when Lacan says 'Woman does not exist' we must also do this Leninist tow, and ask ourselves, 'Which woman?', 'For whom does woman not exist?' And, again, the point is that it is not the way woman is usually conceived, which is that woman does not exist within the symbolic order, that woman somehow resists being integrated within the symbolic order. I am tempted to say it is almost the opposite.
To simplify things, I will first present my thesis. A lot of popular introductions, especially feminist introductions to Lacan, usually center only on this formula and say, 'Yes, not all of woman is integrated into the phallic order, so there is something in woman as if woman is with one leg within the phallic order, and with the other one in some kind of mystical feminine enjoyment, I don't know what'. My thesis, to simplify very much, is that the whole point of Lacan is precisely that since we cannot totalize woman there is no exception. So, in other words, I think that the ultimate example of male logic is precisely this notion of some feminine essence, eternally feminine, excluded outside the symbolic order, beyond. This is the ultimate male fantasy. And when Lacan says, 'Woman does not exist', I think precisely this ineffable, mysterious 'beyond', excluded from the symbolic order, is what does not exist. What do I mean by this?
Let me elaborate a little bit, first, in a rather popular way, and then I will slowly approach philosophy. To put my cards on the table, I have already developed my final thesis in my last published book, Tarrying with the Negative. The same work is done by my friend from the United States, Joan Copjec, in her book Read my Desire, which is probably already in the bookstores in the United States - I think the subtitle is 'Lacan against the New Historicism'.
I don't know how well acquainted you are with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Kant's idea is that human reason, applied beyond experience to the domain of the infinite, gets necessarily involved in antinomies. And, as you may know, Kant speaks about two kinds of antinomies of pure reason. On the one hand, so-called mathematical antinomies. On the other hand, so-called dynamic antinomies. To simplify a little bit, we can say that mathematical antinomies correspond to the paradoxes of infinite divisibility, indivisibility, and so on. Whereas dynamic antinomies correspond in their structure to the other set of paradoxes because mainly, as you probably know in logic, we have two matrixes, two sets of paradoxes. On the one hand, the paradoxes of infinite divisibility, indivisibility; on the other hand, the paradoxes of this kind of abnormal set, you know, the kind of famous Russellian paradoxes, 'Can an element be a class of itself?' You know the boring examples like the barber in Seville shaving himself or not. This kind of abnormal element, this kind of self-referential paradox.
Now, my idea, to put it very simply, as has Joan Copjec and others, is that on the feminine side we have precisely the structure of the mathematical antinomies - infinite divisibility versus indivisibility. Here on the masculine side, we have precisely the structure of a Kantian dynamic antinomy. Why is this so important? Because, as you maybe know, the official Kantian theory of sexual difference is elaborated in his early essay on the beautiful and the sublime, the idea being, to put it somewhat simply, that women are beautiful, men are sublime. No? My thesis, and Joan Copjec's also, is that we must read here Kant against Kant himself. That is to say that when Kant is speaking about two modes of the sublime - mathematical sublime when we are dealing with this kind of quantitative infinity, and on the other hand dynamic sublime - that there already with these two modes of the sublime we encounter sexual difference. But I will return to this later. Let me first explain things the way I understand them at least.
So, first we have the feminine position. The feminine division consists in assuming the inconsistency of desire. It's Lacan's famous, 'I demand you to refuse my demand since this is not that', Ce n'est pas, ça. That is to say, the male dread of woman which so deeply branded the spirit of the times, the Zeitgeist, of the turn of the century, from Edvard Munch, August Strindberg, up to Franz Kafka - what is this horror of woman? It is precisely the horror of feminine inconsistency: horror at what was called, at that time, feminine hysteria -hysteria which traumatized these men, and which also, as you know, marked the birthplace of psychoanalysis - and which confronted them with an inconsistent multitude of masks. A hysterical woman immediately moves from desperate pleas to cruel virago, derision, and so on. What causes such uneasiness is the impossibility of discerning behind these masks a consistent subject manipulating them.
Let me mention here, briefly, Edvard Munch's encounter with hysteria, which left such a deep mark upon him. In 1893, Munch was in love with the beautiful daughter of an Oslo wine merchant. She clung to him but he was afraid of such a tie and anxious about his work, and so he left her. One stormy night, a sailing boat came to fetch him. The report was that the young woman was on the point of death and wanted to speak to him for the last time. Munch was deeply moved and without question went to her place where he found her lying on a bed between two lit candles. But when he approached her bed, she rose and started to laugh. The whole scene was nothing but a hoax. Munch turned, started to leave. At that point, she threatened to shoot herself if he left her and, drawing a revolver, she pointed it at her breast. When Munch bent to wrench the weapon away, convinced that this, too, was only part of the game, the gun went off, wounded him in the hand, and so on. So here we encounter hysterical theatre at its purest. The subject is caught in a masquerade in which what appears to be deadly serious reveals itself as fraud, and what appears to be an empty gesture reveals itself as deadly serious. The panic that seizes the male subject confronted with this theatre expresses a dread that behind the many masks which fall away from each other like the layers of an onion there is nothing - no ultimate feminine secret.
Here, however, we must avoid a fatal misunderstanding. Insofar as these hysterical masks are the way for a woman to captivate the male gaze, the inevitable conclusion seems to be that the feminine secret inaccessible to the male phallic economy - the famous eternally feminine, and so on - consists of a feminine subject that eludes the reign of what is usually referred to as phallogocentric reason, phallic function, and so on. The complementary conclusion is that, insofar as there is nothing behind the masks, woman is wholly subordinated to the phallic function. But according to Lacan, the exact opposite is true. This is how I read the feminine side of the formulae of sexuation. The presymbolic, eternally feminine is a retroactive, patriarchal fantasy. It is the exception which grounds the reign of the phallus. The same, by the way, as with the anthropological notion of an original, matriarchal paradise. I think that this construction that originally there was a matriarchal paradise gradually replaced by patriarchy is strictly a patriarchal myth. I think the first gesture of true, radical feminism must be to renounce this myth, which from the very beginning served as the support of retroactive legitimization of the male rule.
It is thus the very lack of any exception to the phallus that renders the feminine libidinal economy inconsistent and thus in a way undermines the reign of the phallic function. That's my central point. When Lacan says there is something beyond phallus, feminine jouissance, etc., this doesn't mean that on the one hand we get part of the woman caught in what Lacan calls, I hope I don't offend anybody listening, the phallic function, and part of it outside. Let me put it this way, this is the ultimate paradox that I'm trying to get to. It is precisely because there is no exception, precisely because woman is entirely within the phallic function that paradoxically the rule of the phallic function is undermined, that we are caught in inconsistency. What do I mean by this? I will try to explain it further.
As you probably know, Lacan's most famous écrit, 'The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire', ends with the ambiguous, 'I won't go any further here.'  It's ambiguous since it can be taken to imply that later, somewhere else, Lacan will go further, and this lure enticed some feminist critics of Lacan to reproach him with coming to a halt at the very point at which he should have accomplished the crucial step beyond Freud's phallocentrism. Although Lacan does talk about feminine jouissance that eludes the phallic domain, he conceives of it as an ineffable dark continent, separated from male discourse by a frontier impossible to trespass.
Now, for feminists like Irigaray or Kristeva, this refusal to trespass the frontier, this, as Lacan puts it, 'I won't go any further here', signals the continued tabooing of women. What they want, this kind of feminist, is precisely to go further, to deploy the contours of a feminine discourse beyond the phallic order. Now, why does this operation that from the standpoint of common sense cannot but appear fully justified miss its mark?
In traditional philosophical terms, the limit that defines woman is not epistemological, but ontological. That is to say, yes, there is a limit but beyond it there is nothing. That is to say, woman is not-all, yes, but this means precisely that woman is not-all caught in the phallic function. This does not mean that there is part of her which is not caught in the phallic function. It means precisely that there is nothing beyond. In other words, the feminine is this structure of the limit as such, a limit that precedes what may or may not lie in its beyond. All that we perceive in this beyond, the eternal feminine, for example, or, in more modern terms, semiotic, feminine discourse, whatever, are, basically, male fantasy projections.
In other words, we should not oppose woman as she is for the other, for man, woman as male narcissistic projection, male image of woman, and, on the other hand, the true woman in herself, beyond male discourse. I'm almost tempted to assert the exact opposite. Woman in herself is ultimately a male fantasy, whereas we get much closer to, let's call it the true woman, by simply following to their end the inherent deadlocks of the male discourse on woman. I think that, again, precisely when we are aiming at woman as that ineffable beyond the male symbolic order as opposed to the semiotic, etc., precisely this notion of a beyond is the ultimate male fantasy, if you want. Now let me pass to the other side. In the case of man, on the male side, the split is, at it were, externalized. Man escapes the inconsistency of his desire by establishing a line of separation between the phallic domain - let's call it simply the domain of sexual enjoyment, the relationship to a sexual partner - and the non-phallic - let's say the domain of non-sexual public activity. What we encounter here, I think, are the paradoxes of what is called, in the theory of rational choice, states that are essentially by-products. Man subordinates his relationship to a woman to the domain of ethical goals: when forced to choose between woman and ethical duty, profession, his mission, whatever, man immediately opts for duty; yet he is simultaneously aware that only a relationship to a woman can bring him genuine happiness, personal fulfillment, and so on. So I think, to put it somewhat simply, the dirty trick of the male economy is to say, what? I think you encounter it in every good Hollywood melodrama. What is the basic trick of melodrama? I could go on with numerous examples, but I don't want to take too much of your time. The logic is the following one: the man sacrifices his love for the woman for some superior cause -revolution, job, something allegedly non-sexual - but the message between the lines is precisely that sacrificing his love is the supreme proof of his love for her, of how she is everything to him, so that the sublime moment in melodrama (and they're crucial, I think, to learn about the male sexual position) is the sublime moment of recognition when the woman finally realizes that the man betrayed her, that he has left, but precisely his sacrificing her is the ultimate proof of his love for her. The ultimate melodramatic phrase is 'I really did it for you', precisely when you drop her. I think this is the male trick: woman is your supreme good, but precisely in order to be worthy of her you must betray her. I believe in melodramas. My basic motto is that melodramas structure our lives, I mean, you find your structure in them. So, again, I think it's precisely man who posits an exception that is far more according to the phallic structure, and so on.
Let me further explain, in a more abstract way, this rather pre-theoretical description that I gave you. What is meant by this non-all which then cannot be universalized? Let me give you a very orthodox and maybe surprising example, as an old-fashioned Marxist. I think that - this is the provocation that I usually try to sell in Paris, but Jacques-Alain Miller usually buys it because he himself is an old Maoist, etc. - the perfect example of what Lacan means by not-all, no exception but precisely for this reason you cannot totalize it is, OK, the Marxist notion of class struggle. What does class struggle mean? Every position we assume towards the class struggle, even a theoretical one, is already a moment of the class struggle. It involves taking sides in the class struggle, which is why there is no impartial objective standpoint enabling us to delineate class struggle. In this precise sense, we can say the same as with woman, class struggle doesn't exist since there is no exception, no element eluding it. We cannot conceive or apprehend class struggle as such, since what we are dealing with are always partial effects whose accent gros is the class struggle.
I think that's the structure precisely when you say nothing is out, every position that you take is already part of the class struggle, which is precisely why you cannot totalize it. Or, to give you a less dogmatic, more abstract philosophical example, a quick glance at every manual of philosophy makes it clear how every universal or all-embracing notion of philosophy is rooted in a particular philosophy, how it involves the standpoint of a particular philosophy. There is no neutral notion of philosophy to be then sub-divided into analytical philosophy, hermeneutic philosophy, structuralist philosophy, etc. This is the crucial thing to grasp. Every particular philosophy encompasses itself and all other philosophies, that is to say, its view on all other philosophies. Or, as Hegel put it in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, every crucial epochal philosophy is, in a way, the whole of philosophy. It is not a sub-division of the whole, but the whole itself apprehended in a specific modality.
What we have here is thus not a simple reduction of the universal to the particular, but a kind of surplus of the universal. No single universal encompasses the entire particular content, since each particular has its own universal, each contains a specific perspective on the entire field.
The point is thus rather refined. It's not a kind of primitive nominalism in the sense that there are only particular philosophies. There are only particular universals. Every universal is a universal attached to a certain particularity. For example, the feminine not-all and the masculine position designate precisely an attempt to resolve this deadlock of too many universals by way of excluding one paradoxical particular. This exceptional particular then immediately gives body to the universal, as such.
What do I mean by this? Let's think about an exemplary case of, I think, this precise male logic of exception - the figure of the lady in courtly love. In the figure of the lady, this inaccessible absolute other, woman as sexual object, reaches existence. There woman exists, yet at the price of being posited as an inaccessible thing. Sexualized, she is transformed into an object that precisely insofar as it gives body to sexuality as such renders the masculine subject impotent.
Or another example: a reference to Eurocentrism. It's very fashionable today in the name of multiculturalism to criticize Eurocentrism, etc. I think the situation is rather more complicated. Actual multiculturalism can only emerge in a culture within which its own tradition, the tradition of this culture, its own communal heritage, appears as contingent. That is to say, in a culture that is indifferent towards itself, towards its own specifications. Multiculturalism is for that reason - my radical thesis - always strictly Eurocentric. Only within modern-age Cartesian subjectivity is it possible to experience one's own tradition as a contingent ingredient to be methodologically bracketed. Here resides the paradox of the universal and its constitutive exception. The universal notion of the multiplicity of peoples, each of them embedded in each particular tradition, presupposes an exception, a tradition that experiences itself as contingent.
Again, I think that the crucial point is that this multiculturalism is possible only if you experience your own tradition as radically contingent: if you relate to your own tradition as contingent. And I don't believe this is possible outside this empty point of reference which is the Cartesian subject.
Or to put it differently, at a different level: the catch, as it were, the trap, of the universal resides in what it secretly excludes. As you know, the classical example, the 'man' of universal human rights, excludes those who are - what is the catch of universal human rights? - of course, they are universal, every man has rights to them, but the catch is, then, who are those who are considered not fully human? First, you exclude, for example, savages. You exclude madmen. You exclude non-civilized barbarians. And you can go on: you exclude criminals, you exclude children, you exclude women, you exclude poor people, and so on.
So human rights belong to everybody: the catch is purely tautological usually, no? Human rights are the rights of everybody, but of everybody who is really fully human. And then you can build the trick which can go up to the end so that everybody is an exception to this set. The nicest case - my favorite one, old leftist terrorist that I am - is the Jacobinical terror in the French Revolution. Practically every concrete individual is potentially excluded, is potentially conceived as an egotist, can be executed by guillotine, etc. So, rights are universal but every concrete individual somehow doesn't fit the universal. My heart is here, but let's go on.
Another nice example of this tension between universal and particular, I think, is precisely the antinomy of the liberal democratic project. This antinomy concerns the relationship between universal and particular. The liberal democratic universalist right to difference encounters its limit the moment it stumbles against an actual difference. Let me go again to my tasteless level, and recall, how do you call it, clitoridectomy, the cutting out of the clitoris to mark a woman's sexual maturity, a practice, as you probably know, that holds out in parts of Eastern Africa. Or, a less extreme case, the insistence of Muslim women in France, for example, to wear the veil in public schools, and so on. Now, this seems a very clear-cut case, but how should we as good liberals approach this problem?
I think there is a dilemma which simply cannot be solved. Namely, what if - and this is not a fiction, this does happen - what if a minority group claims that this difference, their right to clitoridectomy, to forcing women to wear veils in public, etc., that this difference, their specific custom is an indispensable part of the cultural identity of this group and consequently what if this group denounces opposition to, for example, cutting out the clitoris as an exercise in cultural imperialism, as the violent imposition of Eurocentric standards? What would you say, for example, if not only men but even women themselves, if you tried to teach them, to explain to them how this is part of their primitive patriarchal character, if they say, 'No, this is part of my very cultural identity'? How are we to decide between the competing claims of an individual's rights and group identity when, this is the catch, the group identity accounts for a substantial part of the individual's self identity?
The standard liberal answer is, what? Let the woman choose whatever she wants. If she wants her clitoris cut out, let it be done, on condition that she has been properly informed, acquainted with the span of alternative choices, so that she's fully aware of the wider context other choice. That's the standard liberal answer, no? We must just inform her objectively - let's put it naively - of the global situation. But delusion resides here in the underlying implication that there is a neutral, non-violent way of informing the individual, of acquainting him or her with the full range of alternatives.
The threatened, particular community necessarily experiences the concrete mode of this acquisition of knowledge about alternative lifestyles, for example, through obligatory education, state education, as a violent intervention that disrupts its identity. So that's the catch. Here, I think, the usual liberal approach is a little bit naive. The whole point is that there is no neutral medium, no neutral way to inform the individual. How will you attempt, for example, to inform the poor woman in a so-called primitive (not my view) African society that cutting out the clitoris is barbaric, etc.? The very form of informing her is already experienced by that community as a certain minimal violence.
By the way, don't misunderstand me. My point is not this kind of false, western neutrality: OK, so let them do whatever they want, etc. My point is simply more pessimistic and (gesturing to the formulae of sexuation) I think this is the truth of this male side that there is no neutral non-exclusive universality. That whatever you do, you must accept a certain degree, a certain level, of violence. Now, my final part, which is more philosophical: what is Lacan really trying to achieve with these formulae of sexuation? I think something very radical, almost unheard of, which is usually misrecognized, misunderstood. I think that Lacan was the only one, at least as far as I know, who tried to elaborate a notion of sexual difference that would be at the level of the Cartesian subject, the subject of modern science.
That is to say, the Cartesian subject, the abstract subject of 'I think, therefore I am', this abstract, empty subject emerges, as you probably know, of the radical desexualization of man's relationship to the universe. That is to say, traditional wisdom was always anthropomorphic and sexualized. The traditional, pre-modern comprehension of the universe was structured by oppositions which bear an indelible sexual connotation: yin/yang; light/dark; active/passive. There is a kind of anthropomorphic universalization of sexual opposition. This anthropomorphic foundation makes possible the metaphoric correspondence, the mirror relationship, between microcosm and macrocosm: the establishment of structural cosmologies between man, society and the universe. Society as an organism with a monarch at its head, and so on. The birth of the universe through the coupling of earth and sun, etc.
In the modern world, on the contrary, reality confronts us as inherently non-anthropomorphic, as a blind mechanism that, as we usually say, speaks the language of mathematics, and can consequently only be expressed in meaningless formulae. Every search for a deeper meaning of the phenomena is now experienced as the left-over of traditional anthropomorphism. This is the modern approach: the universe does not have meaning.
Now, it is against this background that we can measure Lacan's achievement. He was the first, as far as I know even the only, to outline the contours of a, let's say, non-imaginary, non-naturalized - I'm even tempted to say, non-anthropomorphic, non-human - theory of sexual difference. That is to say, a theory that radically breaks with any kind of anthropomorphic sexualization: male/female as the two cosmic principles, yin/yang, active/passive, and so on.
The problem that confronted Lacan was the following: how do we pass from animal coupling led by instinctual knowledge, regulated by natural rhythms, to human sexuality possessed by an eternalized desire for the very reason it cannot be satisfied - it is inherently perturbed, doomed to failure, and so on? So, again, how do we pass from natural coupling to human sexuality? Lacan's answer is, I think, we enter human sexuality through the intervention, of course, of the symbolic order as a kind of heterogeneous parasite that derails the natural rhythm of coupling. OK, everybody seems to know this, but what does this mean?
Apropos of these two asymmetric antinomies of symbolization - we have the masculine side: universality with exception; the feminine side: a not-all field which precisely for that reason has no exception - a question imposes itself, the most naive question. What we have here is simply a certain inherent deadlock of symbolization which is also expressed in two main sets of logical paradoxes, and so on. Now, you are fully justified in asking yourself a very simple, naive question. What constitutes the link that connects these two purely logical antinomies with the opposition of female and male which, however symbolically mediated, however culturally conditioned, remains ultimately an obvious biological fact? What's the link between this [gesturing toward the formulae] and the still almost experiential fact that there is something biological about male, female, and so on?
I think Lacan's answer to this question is, there is none. There is precisely no link. That is to say, what we experience as a sexuality - human sexuality perturbed, there is no sexual relation, and so on - is precisely the effect of the contingent act of, let's say, grafting the fundamental deadlock of symbolization on to the biological opposition of male and female. So, the answer to the question, 'Isn't this link between the two logical paradoxes of universalization and sexuality illicit?' is, therefore, that that's precisely Lacan's point. What Lacan does is simply to transpose this illicit character from, let us say, the epistemological to the ontological level. Sexuality itself, what we experience as the highest, most intense assertion of our being, is, let me put it this way, a bricolage - a montage of two totally heterogeneous elements. So this parasitic grafting of the symbolic deadlock on to animal coupling is what undermines the instinctual rhythm of animal coupling, and so on.
Now what Lacan does here is something very precise. In Lacan, masculine and feminine as defined by these formulae of sexuation are not predicates providing positive information about the subject, designating some positive properties. I don't know how well you know Kant's philosophy, but my thesis is that they are a case of what Cant conceives as a purely negative determination, a determination which merely designates, registers, a certain deadlock, a certain limit, a specific modality of how the subject fails in their bid for an identity that would constitute them as an object fully constituted, fully realized, and so on. So, here Lacan is again far more subversive than may appear.
As you probably know, the whole point of Kantian ethics and philosophy is the search for so-called formal, a priori structures independent of empirical, contingent entities, entities that are encountered within our sensible experience. I think that those who try to suggest that what Lacan did is, in a way, to elaborate in a Kantian mode a critique of pure desire, the a priori conditions of desire, do something like this.
What Lacan calls objet petit a is precisely a kind of non-pathological a priori object-cause of desire, precisely a kind of quasi-transcendental object. The problem - I cannot elaborate this, just give you a hint - as Lacan points out again and again, where it goes wrong with Kant, is the following one. Here it would be productive, I think, to read Kant's philosophy with Edgar Allan Poe. For example, in his two stories, "Black Cat' and 'Imp of the Perverse', Poe refers to a so-called 'imp of the perverse', which is what? Let me return to Kant. For Kant, we have, on the one hand, pathological acts, acts which are caused by our pathological desires, that is to say, by desires whose object is some sensible, contingent, empirical object; and then we have ethical activity, which is defined as non-pathological, that is to say, as an activity whose mobile motive is some a priori, purely formal, empty rule. Now, the nice paradox where things get complicated and here, I think, is one of Lacan's critiques of Kant, is that, of course, Kant aimed at purifying ethical activity of every pathological element, of defining pure ethical activity. But what he inadvertently did was to open up a new kind of evil, which is what Kant himself referred to as diabolical evil, which is a far more radical evil, that is a paradoxical evil that perfectly fits the Kantian conditions of good, of a good act. That is to say, of a non-pathological act, of an act unconditioned by any empirical, contingent object. Let's now briefly go to Edgar Allan Poe's 'Imp of the Perverse'.
As you probably know, in these two stories, "Black Cat" and "Imp of the Perverse", Poe speaks about a strange impulse in every man to accomplish an act for no positive reason but, simply, the formula is you must do it precisely because it is prohibited. It is pure negative motivation. Now think about it and you will see that this purely negative motivation is a priori formal in the purest Kantian sense. It's purely grounded in itself with no empirical reference. That's the problem, that a new domain of evil opened up ... OK, but that's a further development.
My point here is that what Lacan tries with his formulae of sexuation is precisely at the same level to provide a kind of non- empirical, but purely formal, transcendental, a priori in Kantian terms, logic of sexual difference. In a very precise, paradoxical way, Kant says that there are two main types of antinomies in which human reason necessarily a priori gets involved. And I think, to simplify it a little bit, according to Lacan, they correspond to the two forms of the sublime, etc. These two types of antinomies precisely designate, structure the two sexual positions. So, let me again be very precise here. For that reason, Lacan is as far as possible from the notion of sexual difference as the relationship of two opposite poles which supplement each other, which together form the whole of man. You know, this mythology of masculine, feminine, as the two poles, the two opposites, which together form the fullness of the genus of man, and so on. On this point, according to Lacan, we cannot say that with this and this together [referring to parts of the formulae on the board] we have the full totality of man, if we put man and woman together. Why not? Because we only get two failures. Each of these two attempts is precisely already in itself a failure. These are precisely two attempts to arrive at the universality but which fail.
Here, I think, we can draw a distinction in a very clear way. I always like, as an old Stalinist, to draw the line of distinction between 's and them, the enemies, the enemy here being the Foucauldian constructionists who say, you know, sexual difference is not something naturally given. Sex - you know Foucault developed this in the first volume of his History of Sexuality - is a bricolage, an artificial unification of heterogeneous discursive practices, etc. Lacan rejects this. For Am, sex, sexual positions, is not something simply discursively constructed. But for all that, Lacan, of course, does not return to a naive position of sex as something substantially pre-discursively given. Sex is not a symbolic discursive construction. What is it? It emerges precisely where symbolization fails. That's Lacan's point. That, in other words, we are sexed beings precisely because symbolization necessarily fails. And sexuality means two versions of this failure.
In other words, to put it very precisely, if it were possible to symbolize sexual difference, we would not have two sexes, but only one. There are two sexes precisely because each of them is, if you want, its own kind of failure. I think that I would advise you to read, to grasp the logic of this, one of the best articles/essays of Levi-Strauss. It's a marvelous one. There he is, really, I think, a Lacanian (although he rather hated Lacan). In his Structural Anthropology, he reports on an experiment. He noticed that the members of some tribe, I think in Brazil, the Amazon, were divided into two groups. He asked each of the members of the two groups a very simple question: could you draw me, on paper, the map of the houses of your village? The paradox was that each of the two groups, although they were depicting the same village, drew a totally different map. One of them drew houses around some center. This is how they saw the disposition, the map of the village. The other group drew a series of houses with a divide in the middle. Now, of course, you would say, not a problem: we rent a helicopter, we take a photo from above, and we get the true picture. But that's not the point: we miss the point this way. The whole point, as Levi-Strauss points out very nicely, is that the problem was there was some fundamental deadlock, some structural imbalance, and that each of the groups perceived in its own way this imbalance and tried to symbolize it, to mend it ... And that's how we have to comprehend the logic of sexual difference. Again, it's not (referring to formulae) half here, half there. It's one failed way to grasp the whole of man; another way to grasp the whole, the entire man.
In other words, my next point is that, for example, what we must avoid apropos of sexual difference is the formulation of sexual difference as a kind of complementary polarity of opposites. I think this is the ultimate ideological operation.
For example, and here I am against a certain kind of feminism which tries to oppose to male discourse another special, separate feminine discourse. I think that they are repeating the same mistake that is usually denounced, that was usually made in the good old times of Stalinism by the most radical Stalinist who claims that, as you know, we have bourgeois science and proletarian science. We all laugh at them as primitive but I think they are making the same mistake. The same as, precisely insofar as we stick to class struggle, we must say, yes, there is no neutral position, but precisely because there is only one science, and this science is split from within. I think it's absolutely crucial that we stick to the same point with regard to discourse. I'm not saying discourse is simply sex-neutral, not gendered. It's not neutral but it is discourse which is, as it were, split from within.
Let me put it another way. Again, if you'll pardon me my last reference to Louis Althusser, I think that everything hinges on the status of the word 'and' as a category. If you've read Althusser - he is still worth reading, I think - in a whole series of his texts, of his essays, in the title this word 'and' appears. For example, you have one title, 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses', or you have, for example, 'Contradiction and Overdetermination'. What is the logic of this 'and'? The first term before this 'and' is some general ideological notion: the notion of ideology, the notion of contradiction. Then, the second term, 'ideological state apparatuses' or 'overdetermination', provides the concrete material conditions so that this notion begins to function as non-ideological. If you want to avoid idealist dialectics, and stick to materialist dialectics, you must conceive of contradiction as part of a concrete, overdetermining, complex totality, and so on. So, again, this 'and' is in a sense tautological. It conjoins the same content in its two modalities. First, in its ideological evidence the abstract universal notion, and then, the extra-ideological, the concrete, material conditions of its existence. Ideology exists only in ideological state apparatuses. Contradiction exists materially only in overdetermination. So, no first term is needed here to mediate between the two points of the end because the second term is already the concrete existence of the first term.
Here, by the way - and now you'll say, what has this to do with psychoanalysis? - is one of the ways to grasp the difference between Freud and Jung, because what Jung does is, precisely, in opposition to Freud For example, apropos of the notion of libido, for Jung libido is precisely a kind of neutral universal notion and then you have the concrete forms of libido - different metamorphoses, as he says. You have sexual, creative, destructive libido, and so on. Whereas Freud insists that libido, in its concrete existence, is irreducibly sexual. So, the AlIthusserian title of Freud would be 'Libido and its Sexual Existence', or whatever. My point is what, here? My point is that with Lacan, sexual difference, man and woman, has to be conceived precisely in terms of this Althusserian 'and'. Man is this universal, woman is the concrete existence, to put it this way. There are two ways. Either we do it this way: man and woman as ideology and ideological state apparatuses. Or we do it in this abstract, obscurantist way: man and woman, two polarities, complementing each other, etc., and we are very quickly in some kind of New Age obscurantism.
Let me finish very quickly now. To put this paradox in another way: when Lacan says woman doesn't exist, this is another consequence of what I was saying. We must absolutely not grasp this as following the logic according to which no empirical element fully corresponds to its symbolic place. It's clear that this is the basic thesis of Lacan. For example, father - the empirical, the real as part of reality, the empirical person of father - never lives up to, never fully fits its symbolic mandate. There is always a gap between the symbolic place of the father and the empirical father. The empirical person is somebody who refers to, literally acts in the name of, his paternal authority. He is not immediately the authority. Now, you would say, but what if he is? OK, I hope you don't have this kind of father because then you have a psychotic father. I mean, the father of Schreber was fully a father: there was no gap of this kind. So my point is that you must grasp the difference, must avoid another trap, here. And this is, by the way, what the notion of castration means, I think. The notion of castration means precisely that for you to exert, let us say, paternal authority, you must undergo a kind of transubstantiation and you must accept that you no longer act as fully yourself but as an embodiment, as an agent, of some transcendent symbolic agency. That you are not fully yourself. It's the big Other, as it were, that speaks through you. Precisely insofar as you are an agent of authority you are always decentered, you are not immediately the authority. You are a stand-in for the absent symbolic authority. This would be how the father pays the price for his authority, precisely by this castration as the gap between his empirical existence and his symbolic place.
Now my point is that when Lacan says woman doesn't exist, this absolutely does not mean the same gap. It doesn't mean that, in the same way as no empirical father fully fits the symbolic place of the father, no empirical woman fully fits the capitalized Woman. I think it's not the same logic. Why? In what sense not?
Let me make the last quick detour. It's the same as the Jew. You know, in anti-Semitism you also have this kind of gap. You have what is usually referred to as the so-called conceptual Jew, that is to say, the fantasmatic image of the Jew as the plotter, etc. Of course, no empirical Jew that you encounter fully fits the image of this horrible, plotting Jew, but the point is that this gap between the empirical Jew and the notional Jew, this gap is not the same as the gap that separates the father from the Name-of-the-Father. The logic is different because I think that with the father we have the structure of castration. With the Jew, it's the opposite. The paradox with the way the Jew functions is that the more they are empirically destroyed, humiliated, the more they are all-powerful.
That's the basic paradox of the Jew and I can give you an example of the same logic from my own country, where now the right-wing populists are attacking communists, even though the communists have lost power. The way they construct the communist danger is they claim that although the communists have lost power, the more invisible they are, the more they are the all-powerful, secret power who really have all the power in their hands, etc. So this is the logic of the Jew: the more you ruin him empirically, the more they are killed, the more they acquire some kind of spectral, fantasmatic presence which is all-powerful. In other words, precisely the more you kill them, the less they can be castrated. So, in opposition to paternal castration, the Jew precisely, and that's the horror of the Jew within Nazi anti-Semitism, the Jew precisely, in a way, cannot be castrated. So, in what does this difference consist? I think it can be formulated in a very precise way. The name-of-the-father is a symbolic fiction. Here we are in the order of what was called in a very nice way yesterday, 'the noble lie'. It's the symbolic fiction. Whereas the Jew is not a symbolic fiction but a fantasmatic specter, a spectral apparition. And this is absolutely crucial if we are to grasp Lacanian theory. The spectral apparitions - these fantastic horrors, like the living dead, father's ghost in Hamlet, and so on - they are not of the order of the symbolic fiction, but quite the contrary. What do I mean by 'quite the contrary"? The point is, what does Lacan mean when he insists again and again that truth has the structure of a fiction, etc.? I mean this is already a commonplace from every stupid sociological manual. There are books written about the symbolic social construction of reality, etc. The point being that there is always - just think about the example from Levi-Strauss - the failure of the symbolic fiction which tries to patch up a certain fundamental deadlock: the failure of the fiction to cope with some fundamental social antagonism, either sexual difference or class struggle, or whatever. This failure is then posited in spectral apparitions, in ghosts, in living dead. They are always here as the embodiment of what Lacan would have called a certain symbolic deadlock.
To conclude, my point is that if we approach Lacan in this way we can really, I think, elaborate a whole theory of ideology based on Lacan. The basic constituents of this theory of ideology being that what this spectral, fantasmatic apparition conceals is not reality, social reality. Here we must leave behind this naive Marxist approach - ideological construction simply conceals some social reality. No. The whole point of Lacan is that in order for social reality to establish itself - by social reality I mean social order, social symbolic reality - something must be primordially repressed. Something cannot be symbolized, and the spectral apparition emerges to fill up the gap of what cannot be symbolized. So, again, the specter conceals not social reality but what must be primordially repressed in order for social reality to emerge.
So I think that the Lacanian notion of the Real as that rock which resists symbolization is extremely useful for a non-naive notion of ideology. By non-naive notion of ideology I mean a notion of ideology which avoids the usual traps of, if you say ideology, false consciousness, then you automatically imply some kind of natural direct approach to what reality truly is, etc. You don't need this. What you need is precisely the notion that reality itself is never fully constituted, and that this is what ideological spectral fantasies try to mask. Not some positive reality but precisely the fact that what we usually call in sociology the 'social construction of reality' always fails.
 Louis Althusser, The Future Lasts Forever: A Memoir, ed. Olivier Corpet and Yann Moulier Boutang, trans. Richard Veasey, London, Chatto and Windus, 1993.
 Ibid., pp. 147-8.
 Jacques Lacan, "The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious", in Écrits: A Selection, trans. Bruce Fink, New York and London, W. W. Norton, 2002, pp. 300-1. See Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, New York, Verso, 1989, pp. 110-14.
 Lacan, "The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire", p. 311.
This is an edited transcript of the second of Zizek's series of public lectures delivered at the Eighth Annual Conference of the Australian Center for Psychoanalysis in the Freudian Field, Melbourne, 13 August 1994. It was originally published in Agenda: Australian Contemporary Art 44, 1995.
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