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#1 (1991) On The Drive
Managing Editor:
Editorial Committee:
Facultlj Advisor
Cover Art:
Special Thanks:
Daniel G. Collins
Cal Clements
Charlie Blal"emore
Kevin Costa.
Sue Feldman
Bradley Greenburg
Susan Varney
Andres Zlotsky
Joan Copjec
Sam Gillespie
UMBR(a) #1,1997
The Graduate Student Association, Sub Board 1, Inc.,
The English Graduate Student Association, The Comparative
Literature Graduate Student Association, The Center for the
Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture (Joan Copjec), The English
Department (Ken Dauber), The Buffalo Theory Group (Andrew
Hewitt), The Samuel Clemens Chair (Leslie Fiedler), The Melodia
Jones Chair (Raymond Federman), The Eugenio Donato Chair
(Rodolphe Gasche), The Group for Discussion of the Freudian
Field, Ellie Ragland, Stephanie Collins, and Kirsten Stolte
Address for editorial and subscription enquiries:
Umbr(a) 1997
Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture
409 Clements Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-4610
ISSN 1087-0830
"Did anyone say anything new about the drive?"
Montage of the Drives
Joan Copjec
The Drive is Speech
Jacques-Alain Miller
Desire and the Drives
Bruce Fink
UMBR(a) #1, 1997
.Remark Concerning the Drive 53
James Glogowski
Juliet Flower McCannell
On the Drive 67
Daniel G. Collins
For a Political and Libidinal Economy on the Edge of the Second Millennium 81
Sexuation and the Drives 89
David Metzger
The Drives
Ellie Rag1and
The Satisfaction of Drives
Renata Saled
Drives ... The Narrative
Stuart Schneiderman
Lacan and Ethics and Adam and Eve
Robert Samuels
Freud's Concepts of Drive, Desire, and Nirvana
Raul Moncayo
The Elements of the Drvie
Charles Shepherdson
Desire: Drive Truth: Knowledge
Slavoj Zitek
The J ouissance of Justice
Jane B. Malmo
Dualism and the Drive
Russell Grigg
Necessity is the Drive
Jacques Derrida
the drive
something nw
"Did anyone say anything new about the drive?"
"Did anyone say anything new about the drive?"
This is the question we were asked by an interested party as we completed work
on this special issue devoted to that very topic.
What could we say? Did anyone say anything revolutionary or groundbreaking?
Did anyone say anything that would liberate the concept of the drive from the state of
desuetude into which it has fallen?
No one said anything new about the drive.
But then again, our joint effort in bringing this publication into being is in itself
something new. This is, as far as we have been able to ascertain, the first collection of
papers on the drive.
We must wonder at the reasons for this neglect. The drive has always been with
us. We speak of driving cattle, driving cars, and driving wind and rain. And yet,
somehow, whenever the word is applied to human beings, it is assumed to be a
metaphor. Thus the dictionary can offer us only the weakest synonyms-'tendency',
'inclination', 'impetus', etc.
As the century began, this vague, metaphorical notion of drive entered the
vocabulary of psychology-and psychoanalysis. This introduction of a new term was
easy enough to achieve. Any behavior, X, could be described as the result of a "drive
to X." Under this generous system of nomenclature, drives multiplied.
And Freud saw that this was not good. In 1915, he published "Triebe und
Triebschicksale" to put an end to the seemingly infinite proliferation of drives. The drive,
UMBR(a) 7
he insisted, must be a concept.
All, perhaps, might have been well. This was not the first time that Freud had
brought order to the confused thinking of his followers. But then, in 1920, he linked the
concept of the drive to death.
His audacious connection of death and drives, his concept of a drive to death,
fell victim to opposition and rejection-and eventually the indignity of indifference.
Freud's followers did not forget the drive. They just had other uses for it. It seemed, for a
time, that what Freud had first announced as a borderland concept linking body and
mind could be deployed so as to earn psychoanalysis the dignity of a genuine science.
Read Fenichel. Read Brenner. Read any of an entire generation of analysts who saw in the
drive the hope of a firm biological basis for psychoanalysis. Meanwhile the drive
continued, as always, to work in silence. Freud and his concept of a death drive were
vindicated by the events of a horrific century.
"Did anyone say anything new about the drive?"
It might be more appropriate to ask whether anyone in the psychoanalytic tribe
heeded the warning contained in the first paragraph of "Triebe und Triebschicksale." Was
not the attempt to chain psychoanalysis to science the very mistake Freud cautioned
against? Would we not make the same mistake if we were to assume that the drive exists
beyond language as a brute fact waiting to be grasped by ever more precise methods of
empirical investigation? Our task is rather to give a voice and a hearing to the drive in the
very act of speaking about it, for the drive is never closer than it is when someone asks
the question, "Did anyone say anything new about the drive?"
Who speaks ofthe drive today? None but a few patient readers who strive to free
Freud's concept from the pop-psychological notion with which it shares a name. We are
pleased to present the work of a few of those few.
"Did anyone say anything new about the drive?"
Yes. Each of our contributors has said something new about the drive, in the
sense that their "saying" makes a circuit around the drive-each trip around a saying
something new. Which is what happens when we make the drive itself our object.
8 UMBR(a)
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U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
Montage of the Drives
Joan Copjec
A body is thrown forward with such force that head smashes into windshield,
shattering it. Shards of glass embed themselves in face; clumps of hair, sticky, torn from
scalp, are grasped in splintered mirror; steering wheel pierces flesh, chest wall A
commingling of blood, semen, oit and coolant. Crash is the violent montage of human
body and technology, soft, vulnerable flesh and cold, hard, inert materials. The image of a
metal leg brace encasing and seeming to penetrate through skin into bone beneath
describes the very terrain of the novel! film.
What exactly is this terrain? It is difficult to avoid recognizing it as that of the
drive. In an interview about the film, director David Cronenberg speaks about "biological
addiction": I/[TJhere's a sense in which addiction merges with evolution-when you
incorporate some other ... process into your body ... it becomes a natural and necessary
part of your body ... something is incorporated into your development as an animal that
becomes necessary-which before was perhaps not even part of your metabolism-and
now you're a different animal." Cronenberg's weird sci-fi speculation, "What if you were
born with lysergic acid as part of your metabolism?/' is no weirder than our actual
circumstances: as humans, we are all born with the signifier as part of our metabolism.
Duen} addiction flows from this fact. In "Instincts and their Vicissitudes," Freud is already
Cronenbergian: "[T]he assumption that the sexual function differs from other bodily
processes in virtue of special chemical processes is, I understand, also a postulate of the
Erlich school of biological research [and not, therefore, mine alone]." Lacan examines
Freud's proposition carefully and finds he agrees, "Yes, we are all 'on' LSD/little letters."
UMBR(a) 11
Crash is only the most recent installment of a cultural crusade to drag the body
out of retirement. For the last several years we have been bombarded with essays and
books on corporeal subjects. Volumes have been written and compiled on the body
zoned, fragmented, pierced, tattooed, peeled open layer by layer, annored, fitted up with
prostheses, weighted down by adornments and protective gear, scarred by accident or
war, ravaged by disease, withered by age, pumped up by steroids, emaciated by hunger,
anorexic, bulimic-and above all, sexed. This revenge of the body, of interest in the body,
is conceived either as a novel extension of the territory of the signifier, an unforeseen
development on the theme of its power, or as an attempt to snatch power from it. That is,
we are treated either to analyses of the construction of the body (in which case the body
invariably loses out to representation) or to insistences on the recalcitrant 11Ulteriality of
the body (in which case representation loses out to biology). In either \Case, the underlying
argument is that a theoretical focus on the signifier has led us to decorporealize our
existence; it has obscured the basic fact that bodies 11Ultter.
This observation, that bodies matter, is, however, trivial. I do not mean that it is
insignificant, but that it says too little. Or, put more strongly, to state-as though one
need only revenge or answer their neglect-that bodies matter risks losing sight of the
crucial question: What's the matter with bodies? Why do they seem to suppurate (for
that's the word for it) so much trouble for themselves? How do we account for the fact
that they seem to be either fatally disinclined to seek propel' nourishment 01' hellbent on
gobbling up everything in sight? Why are they more often inhibited 01' compulsive in
their actions than creative 01' productive?
These are the questions Freud pursues in his theory of the drives. It is a theory
that sacrifices neither the signifier nor the flesh, but unites them through a transforming
montage. Drive is a kind of demand that awakens us to our bodily existence. Because this
awakening takes place in us through drive, rather than as in animals through instinct, our
bodily being is out of whack with our physical environment. Our bodies battle biology. 111-
adapted, we are thus often the victims of our biology and our physical environment, but
we are also sometimes victors; we control, even exploit them. Victims and holocaust at
once, and rarely, problematically saviours, we act in accordance with the vicissitudes of
the drive ... not in accordance with social or physical imperatives.
Let us look at Crash once again in this light..1f the novel! film can easily be
viewed as a schematization of the death drive, novel and film, however close they may
appear to be, end up accenting different aspects of this destructiveness. Within the novel,
J.C. Ballard has constructed a character named James Ballard, whose relation to his
l2 UMBR(a)
creator is extremely interesting, since James is not exactly J.G. J.G seems not to identify
with James, not to recognize him as himself, though he designates him with a name that
is almost his own. Between the two, then, there is no simple difference, which would
allow us to distinguish them, but a kind of gap, which prohibits their collapse. Though
the world J.G. creates is totally devoid of affect (so much so, in fact, that the novel is
impossible to read for more than a few pages at a stretch), this one bit of wit, this
opening, manages to infuse our reading with an exquisite enjoyment. Though the created
world is dead, we are saved from destruction by the act of creation, which is made
palpable by means of the gap.
The situation is different in the film. Cronenberg does not, and cannot, assume
the samerelation to James as J.G. does; instead, the director identifies with the character
Vaughn, who is obsessed with, reenacts, and sometimes films car crashes. That he
identifies with Vaughn is important, for in the film it is not separation but surrogacy that
defines the relation between creator and character. We can detect the alteration of this
relation in its effects. Crash, the film, is less about the drive than it is about sexual
relation: it is not the drive that is satisfied, but the sexual relation; the coupling of flesh
and chrome is merely the mise-en-scene for the coupling of the man and the woman.
Whereas Crash, the novel is a sublimation, Crash, the film is a symptom; the drive has
been repressed and returns in this false representation of satisfaction.
The barrage of books on embodiment has evidenced almost total ignorance of the
body and its self-inhibited destinies, of the distinctions among the different vicissitudes of
its drives. This issue of Umbr(a) was planned as an attempt to help reattach the body to
that which generates it-the drive-and thus to give life back to the body. In order to
enlist as many people as possible in this important project, we chose to solicit only short
essays. We sought by this means to assemble some preliminary definitions of the drive, to
differentiate it from other concepts with which it has a close relation: desire, jouissance,
the object a, and so on. Out of this montage of essays we hope to forge a new path to the
UMBR(a) 13
Jacques-Alain Miller
The subject exiled from the Other sex.
There is relation of sex to the phallus.
louissance is a solitary prey.
Two forms of libido, circulating and stagnant.
Language signifies out of habit.
Last time, I summarized the path that I covered and that I hope you have
covered, on the relation to failure.
In order for this formula of the relation to failure to make sense, it was necessary
to isolate in the teaching of Lacan the concept of the relation to the work Woeuvrel, which
marks its presence throughout, in diverse forms, and so constantly that it is not even
explained, thematized, until it is understood as a sort of break down* at a specifically
sexual level. And what's more, when Lacan perceived it, a time for understanding was
necessary for him even before making of this break down a new departure from his
deduction. This is one of the things that I wil1 try to show today.
I said the trpecifically sexuallC'oel. I believe I explained last time that it is necessary
to understand this specifically sexual as contrary to what Freud understood by sexuality,
to which he gave a conception that one could call generalized. This is what created the
most obvious scandal in his discoveries/ that sexuality extends much further than the
domain to which it was confined before him.
* The ninth lecture of Miller's series L'orientation lacanienne for 1995-1996, delivered on
14 February 1996. The French text was published in Quarto: Revue de de la cause freudiennc-
ACF en Belgique (vol. 60, July 1996). Translated with permission.
* In English in the original.
UMBR(a) 15
Tn his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, he showed an already present and
easily found sexuality-in the behavior of the child for example--infiltrating discourse,
work [oeuvres ], art, culture. It extends very far.
When Laean devotes himself to reformulating it, to structuring it in a new way,
he offers, to the contrary, a limited conception of what is specifically sexual. Last time I
underlined that which, properly speaking, concerns for him the relation to the Other sex,
to the Other body in so far as it is sexuated, and in particular, sexuated differently. It is in
limiting thus the scope of sexuality, in focusing the sexual on the body to body, the
sexuated body to the sexuated body, that he demonstrates--and as well, in taking Freud
up from this ang.le--that the relationship that governs elsewhere, in speech and language,
in communication as in articulation, comes undone or doesn't constitute itself at this
level. At the level of sexual jouissance, the defered relation, the relation that he would
have to have there, is replaced by failure, or takes on the form of failure.
It is an approach, a translation, which seems legitimate to me, of the formula
"There is no sexual relation" to say that "There is sexual failure" -in the sense that the
object is never the good, more precisely in the sense that the subject as incarnated never
accedes to the level of the Oiher sex. It is there as an exile, a barrier.
At the level of jouissance, as a preliminary approximation-a sort of p o ~ t of
departure--the Other doesn't exist.
Lacan had already perceived and formalized it-at least formulated it-in the
Freudian language of the drives. This is depicted in a text known to a certain number of
you, Seminar II, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, which, treating the
Freudian concept of the drive, underlines that fundamentally the drive is only a partial
This formula is already a sketch of a what is touched on in the axiom: "There is
no sexual relation." If the drive, insofar as it would represent sexuality in the
unconscious, is only a partial drive, then this is to say that access to the Other of the
opposite sex doesn't succeed by any universal, global pathway, which is inexistent at the
level of the drive. This access is only possible through this path of partial drives.
That is to say, in the Freudian terms maintained by Lacan, that the drive doesn't
permit accedance to the Other as such. It is only reached by making the object a partial
1'6 UMBR(a)
drive. It is, therefore, only ever an tissue sample [prelevementj.
To explain what he calls object a, Lacan somewhere uses the expression Ilpiece of
flesh" [pre1evernent corporel]. This is to devalorize the Other, to forfeit his status as Other,
as such, to demote him from the drive to the rank of object a. It is this path that Lacan
expresses in the title of his seminar Jj From one Other to the other." It is already to that
there is no sexual relation, by establishing it as a modification of the Freudian theory of
the drives, that is to say, by reducing the drives to being never anything more than partial
drives. There is no sexual relation to the Other, but always only a relation to the object.
Moreover-this moreover connects to this articulation another pathway of
approach-this is the Lacanian meaning of castration. Much of what Lacan has brought to
these themes insists on an shrewd combination on his part of the Freudian castration
complex with the theory of the drives.
Before advancing into the obscure zone that we are surrounding and crossing
with precaution, Lacan elaborated in an entire section of his teaching a mix between the
castration complex and the theory of the drives,
This is what is summarized by the upper line of his big graph, where he draws a
large vector which runs from jouissarrce to castration.
Jouissance Castration
But the difficult zone where we are advancing supposes that one tears oneself
away, that one gives up this conceptual captation that Lacan realized, that always
connects jouissa/1ce and castration-that is to say, a phallic function-and that in every .
case gives this connedion a completely different value.
Let's take a level where there is relation.
In the Lacanian sense, in what one usually speaks of as the mother-child
relationship, there is a relation. He demonstrates it in his way in Seminar 4, The relation to
the object. This seminar, which establishes a number of developments in this mother-
infant relation, reminds us that the mother is a woman, that she therefore suffers from
castration, that she experiences an imaginary nostalgia for the phallus, a nostalgia in
which she implicates her child, whom she finds, conforming to the teaching of Freud, to
UMBR(a) 17
be a substitute for the phallus. In this, the woman, this mother, is under the sign of
Lacan varies, according to the whim of his elaborations, on what can be
permitted to her, under the sign of castration, as satisfactions.
In his famous work, ''The Signification of the Phallus," for example, he
underlines that she finds her satisfaction searching for the phallus as a signifier of her
desire in the body of the man, the man she loves. In Seminar 4, on the other hand,
without a doubt she fulfills what is lacking in her by the body of her child. It is notable
that at the beginning of Seminar Encore I Lacan speaks again, conforming to the argument
developed in Seminar 4, that in the sexual relation, woman is the mother. Although in
Seminar 4, he puts emphasis on the fact that the mother is a woman, in the beginning of
Seminar Encore, he underlines that a woman is always the mother, and that essentially
she has a relation to the object in the form of the child. The child is truly the cork that fits
what is named there by a term that evidently displaces something, the notall [pas tout}
of her joui.<;sal1ce.
I put this vacillation to the side in order to underline that we will find affirmation
that a woman has a relation with the phallus, that she has relation with the child, but
what we will not find is that she has a relation of this type with man. Everything but the
man. And, as is well knownj the man, the male, in the sexual relatio", has a privileged
relation with the phallus. It is this that I recalled last time, as his fundamental idiocy. This
recalls the figure in Seminar Encore, "In the sexual relation, man does not enter under the
sign of castration, as long as he has a relation to the phallus,"
Instead of the sexual relation, there is a relation to the phallus. It is the existence
of this relation that Lacan wrote by making the phallus a function in which the subject
becomes registered as variable.
It is writing, in the form of afundion and variable, that Lacan calls a relation. As
you know, in his work, LI L'etourdit/' he demonstrates in such a fashion, that each from its
own side, each of the sexes has a relation to the phallic function, and has a biased relation
from one side to the other
in both cases marked by castration.
What is revealed by castration is that the sexua1 is always marked by a structural
negativity. This structural negativity is split by the fact that the relation poses itself,
installs itself, in a subject of one sex to the phallus, and doesn't register itself in a relation
18 UMBR(a)
to the otherwise sexuated partner. This is the universal value that Lacan attributes to the
castration complex. While in the sCl'iptures one can read: "Man will have Sod om and
woman will have Gomorra," in Lacan, reading Freud, one can read: "Man will have the
. phallus and then Woman wilJ also have the phallus" in the two cases-as ful1ness, as
loss-what one calls their sexuality still be conditioned, determined. To have it, the organ,
is to fear losing it, to not have it is to seek to obtain it. To have it or not to have it, in any
case, is not to be it. Therefore, from all sides, one finds structural negativities. To note that
it is not to be it-to be the phallus-indicates that each time we are interested in desire we
find identifications. Desire is as such full of identifications.
Imaginary phenomena, he could find in it a symbolic structure, but in every case
this structure concerns desire. It is a completely different thing that one finds when one
makes the effort to approach directly jouissance. This is what Lacan attempts in Seminar
Encore, the twentieth. There, there is only the phallus, absent of references, but when
taken into consideration, it enters this perspective as far as phallic jouissance. To define
the phallus first by phallic jouissance changes many things.
Look, as a reference, refer to the work that I just quoted, "The Significance of the
Phallus," that has done so much to establish a certain reading of Lacan's teaching. liThe
Significance of the Phallus" essentially discovers, posits, that the phallus is a signifier, and
at the same time, a functionary of identification. The signifying phallus is essentially
phallic identification.
When we read in this perspective, with this reference, what Lacan brings about in
Seminar Encore, the essential thing is not that the phallus is a signifier, but that it is a
jouissance-and even the model of jouissance. The phallus is the model of jouissartce
insofar as, taken in the idiocy of the praxis that relates to it, it embodies the non-relation
to the Other-this non-relation to the Other that I sketched last time, by tracing the
curved vector, marking there that the vector of this jouissance does not go beyond, does
not achieve relationship with the Other .

In this sense, Lacan can say in this seminar that jouissance as much as the sexual
UMBR(a) 19
is phallic. This is to say that the primary status of jouissance is not sexual. Its status is
phallic, that is to say that-and I quote-"it does not relate to the Other as such."
It is for this reason that, in this seminar, Lacan places right away, at the side of
jouissr11lcc, its Other, namely, love-which, on the contrary, is itself representable, by a
vector that goes from one point to the other. And, we won't even hesitate to bring the
vector of return, which we find in a fundamental cell on Lacan's graph:
His entire graph is constructed on these departures and returns. That's quite
appropriate with respect to love, You understand the Witz of Lacan saying that "love is
always reciprocal" -a formula which must be taken with a grain of salt.
Lacan doesn't force the paradox to the point of saying: If I love you, you love me,
which would be denied by the facts t ... ]* to say "love is always reciprocal" v.ithout ever
explaining it, one is :reduced to having to do it, to imagine trying it. Rather, I think it
would be better to say-insofar as it is reciprocat but not necessarily crowned with
success-if 1 love you, it is because you are 10lJable. At this level, it is unquestionable.
Evidently, -if you are lovable, you are a bit responsible for my love for you, this can create
duties for you. But this pathway isn't necessarily convincing.
This is why we have, at the beginning of Seminar Encore, this couple, which
might seem strange, of jauissance and love.
To say that jouissance is fundamentally phallic is to say that it is that of the idiot,
that is to say, as we have always named it-it is solitary. At the base of this perspective is
the solitary status of jauissance. This is why this accentuates, this same formula implies,
or is implied by the axiom: "There is no sexual relation." At the level of jouissance, as
long as it is fundamentally solitary, one takes one's model in the phallic jouissance of the
idiot, there is no sexual relation, which would imply a jouissance that would not be
solitary, but, if I can say it, solidary.
This would be a good slogan-Solidarity of jouissance.
Anyway, one seeks it on occasion. There are subjects that seek it passionately,
A line is missing from the text.
20 UMBR(a)
believing that a simultaneity assures solidarity. This is to push it to the limit, to radicalize
what one knows, that the demand of jouissance creates difficulties in the relation to the
This opens itself up, for example, to protestations that it gives rise to the
reduction of Other to a sexual object. A contribution of contemporary feminism was to
accentuate-Women are against the reduction to a sex'ual object. This is an ideal that makes it
an the more difficult when the fantasy is not in perfect agreement with it-or even
contradicting it.
Someone, a woman, who is not taking this course, remarked this week that:
"what I say and what I enjoy are two different things." She remarked that she shares the
contempOrary ideal that I just evoked, but it so happens that in her fantasies it required
her, in revenge, rather to imagine herself poorly treated in order to achieve jouissance,
Therefore, this jouissance creates a small difficulty in the relation to the Other and
in the assumption of a status that one imagines must be what prevails in the
intersubjective relationship between two subjects.
This difficulty that jouissance creates in the relation to the Other we have already
marked at the beginning of Lacan's teaching.
As I pointed out last time, in the first definition of the libido, what helps construct
the "mirror stage" for Lacan is the relationship. The imaginary relationship a-a 'in
which the libido circulates, we present, resting on Freud's "Introduction to Narcissism,"
as a perfectly constituted relationship [ ... J* in a harmful manner, it harms the true
intersubjective relationship. You see here the elements, not all, that I am picking up again
from Lacan's schema of the four corners.
If one looks at if from this perspective, one notices that the axis where the libido
is inscribed begins to interfere with the actual symbolic relationship of the subject and the
Other, and even begins to interrupt it. It is already there, as a sketch of the difficulty that
A line is missing from the text
UMBR(a) 21
jouissance creates in the truly authentic relationship to the Other. Already, it begins as a
difficulty. And, it is necessary, in analytic experience, to surmount the relationship of
jouissanee, the libidinal relationship, to leave space for the true relationship to the Other.
Apart from an extraordinary optimism, Lucan considers that if t,he direction of
the cure is well oriented, finally it doesn't matter, and that in the existence of the subject,
in fact, it obeys. Certainly, this imaginary jouissallce is always trolling, it is slow, it has
weight, it is relatively inert, but finally, the supply troops will follow.
The extraordinary first page on JlThe Purloined Letter" opens the Ecrits. This
fixes the orientation of the reading of Lacan. I refer myself to it often: "We realize, of
course, the importance of the imaginary impregnations in those partializations of the
symbolic alternative which give the signifying chain its aUure." Therefore, we recognize
that the imaginary libidinal impregnations have their importance, but we suggest that it
is proper to these signifying chains, the symbolic relation S-A, that governs the
determinant psychoanalytic effects, such as denegation, represseioll, foreclosure, etc, so
faithfully following the movement of the signifier, that is to say, obeying the logic of the
symbolic relationship to the Other, that the imaginary foctors-among which, therefore, of
the first rank, are the libido, which is for Lacan to this date imaginary "in spite of their
inertia, there they only figure as shadows and reflections in the process."
I indicated it by saying that there jouissance finally doesn't matter, but it obeys.
And even if it is trolling, it finally follows the symbolic movement that intervenes in the
authentic relationship to the Other. But I understand here, in what I emphasize about this
schema, the sketch of what we find developed in Encore to mean that between man and
woman, there is a wall and this wan is phallic jouissance.
There, it is not trolling, it does not obey at all, and sometimes the blablabla that
intervenes is only shadows and refJections. In a striking manner, between this first page
of Ecrits and Seminar 20, Encore, there is an inversion that indicates the reduction of
speech to blablabla.
22 UMBR(a)
What is posed at the beginning by Lacan as shadows and reflections, are the
imaginary libidinal factors, the fixation of jouissance, etc, and evidently, the perspective is
absolutely contrary, to the degree of considering that one can gather the symbolic
relationship to the Other to blablabla, with regard to this curve of jouis8ance, closed in on
itself, between quotation marks, "auto-erotic."
There is an American novel called TIle Heart is a Lonely .Hunter. It's a great title, it
says it well-One seeks the Other, and one seeks all alone. Here, in this zone that we are
exploring, one could offer a contrary is a solitary prey. There, one
does not hunt, it is there, and at the same time this solitude is not resolved by a hunt.
\'Vhat is striking-l was sufficiently struck by it to have already sketched it last
time-is that Lacan, while making progress in the obscure zone, still abandons the
Freudian language of the drives. From the Freudian drive he extracts jouissance.
Why does he abandon the Freudian language of the drive? In my opinion, he
abandons it because he, Lacan, elaborated the drive as a demand. This is what is present
in the most classic texts of Lacan's teaching, to which one refers by priority-and with
good reason-like "The direction of the cure" or "The Subversion of the Subject and the
Dialectic of Desire," where we find Lacan's big graph.
What are the stages, of the construction of this big graph, which we use as
reference? It is a deduction-Lacan uses this word somewhere in this text-which goes
from the unconscious, defined as a signifying chain, that repeats itself and that insists, in
spite of desires, desiderata as one says, on the subject. It is in the framework of this
deduction that Lacan forces things as far as to define the drive as a demand, certainly a
limited form of the demand.
r have often noted what he proposes as an algorithm, a matheme of the drive,
that is a definite relation between the subject of the Signifier and demand ($ D).
Certainly, he clarifies-lilt is not a demand like the others." It is a demand in
which the subject disappears, in which the demand also disappears, where only the
signifying cut remains-this cut that one finds present in the Freudian concept of the
erogenous zone as in the concept of the partial drive. Certainly, it is a modified demand,
but most important, it seems to me, is that is is still thought of starting from demand and
as a form of demand. And it is conditioned by the same style of deduction.
As a consequence of the unconscious, and the unconscious as discourse, the
UMBR(a) 23
central question which animates this big graph and an of its very shrewd machinery, is
who speaks? and precisely who speaks when one speaks of the unconscious. Lacan's
response, with which he takes away the whole Freudian conceptuality, is that the subject
speaks in dillerse modes, there are different modes of the message.
It can be essentially the Other who speaks, and the subject is only the path of
return of the speech of the Other, etc. From this panoramic viewpoint where we are, I am
not covering every detai1" but this leads to what, in this vein, is as good, that the drive is
speech. This is where Lacan directs us without throwing out this formula, which is my
invention-the drive is speech.
How does this deduction of the concept of the drive evolve in this framework
here? The deduction,. as I put it, evolves from who s1Jeaks?
Who speaks when one speaks of the unconscious? It is the subject of the
unconscious that speake:;. Simply, this subject of the unconscious, one cannot point it out
at the level of the utterance, one cannot say it is there in the utteral1.ce as the subject that
speaks. It is Lacan's deduction, that one points out from an organic location, pinpointing,
from the oral, from the anal, etc. On page 816 from which I have already quoted, I now
quote a bit more cavalierly -One points out in an organic anal, oral, location, etc. the
subject of the unconscious. And he says: "That is the drive." It is the designation of the
subject of the unconscious. When one no longer finds who speaks, and one has recourse
to the drive to speak-It speaks, it continues to speak.
Put otherwise, giving privilege to a schema of communication, giving a place to
the symbolic relationship to the Other, the drive is defined-I barely accentuate these
terms-as an enunciation of the unconscious. As he explains-it is not very clear if it is
the location or the concept of the drive-/jt is all the further from speaking the more it
speaks." I think I faithfully simplify the slightly entangled formula in this phrase, by
saying, finally, the lesson is that the drive is speech.
Look at what he has done with the Freudian language of the drives, the Freudian
theory of the drives, he has brought it back to being speech. And I say that it follows, it
leaves this concept of the drive to the side, and extracts jouissance from it.
Look how far Lacan forces things. It is not simply a sketch. It strictly c.onstructs
the drive as a signifying chain.
24" UMBR(a)
8 ------------1liii0> 8
There is here the scene of vocabulary of lexicon, there is the signifying chain,
with its path of return, there is even its signified, that runs below, and is called desire.
And to complete it all, 80 that one has a well constituted signifying chain, he even adds a
quilting point in its place.
Put otherwise, he completely integrates the drive into the schema of
communication, to the point of having a sort of second big' Other, the big Other of the
drive, with its reserve of driven signifiers [signiftants pulsionels ]. He does not develop it
too much, because, in being too precise, it is very extreme ,to make the objects of the drive
the equivalent of signifiers. He calls it the upper signifying chain of the graph, in which
the constituent signifiers are the terms of the drive. He says: "It evolves in terms of the
drive, and exactly, unconscious desire becomes the signified of the driven signifying
chain f la chafne signiftante pulsionelle ]."
I don't know any other possible reading of this graph. Lacan schematized this,
something in the facts, something resists this radicality, and he catches sight of it after.
It is at the level of the drive that he considers that there is a question and
response, a question concerned with the Other as a treasury of signifiers, a question about
the value of the signifiers, and a response which will be the response of the drive.
S( fA) I am not going over this in detail, I am trying to show just where one finds
the total assimilation of the drive to a signifying chain. There is tlle chain, the treasury of
signifiers, the quilting point, and the signified. An of which is a complex construction.
The drive is completely constructed like an unconscious message.
At one of the points of the points of Lacan's teaching so well identified as a
crossroads that one learns in classes, we can ask the question_Need, demand, desire. Where
is the drive? This construction of Lacan's certainly makes desire into the vector of the
signified and all that is signified is demand.
There are severa] types of demands that are distinguished by Lacan. There are
three at least.
UMBR(a) ., 25
There is the demand of need, by which the quest for the object of need must pass
through the apparatus of language. 'This is developed in Seminar 4, for example, and one
sees there the vector of desire as a derived effect.
Secondly, there is the demand of lover and already there, love is the function that
introduces the Other as such. Not simply the object that it can give, but nothing other
than the sign of love. And we have Lacan's Ecrits where he registers desire between
these two forms of demand. As he says, "Desire overextends itself on this side and
beyond." One sees desire between the demand of need and the demand of love.
But there is a third. There is the demand of jouissance, and that is the drive that
Lacan does not cease to assimilate as well to a form of demand.
I have asked myself for a long time about this text, "The Subversion of the
Subject/' on the marked discontinuity that there is between the construction of the graph
and the development at the end, where the little pegs are not entered into their little
holes. Another perspective is inscribed in the foUowing five or six pages. It is made of a
sensibly contradictory development ,a development on jouissance as such.
Indeed, the constructed drive, the drive in the schema of communication satisfied
so few of the requirements to justify that this extraction from the concept of jouissance is
already necessary there. And Lacan makes an addition concerning jouissanc.e as such,
jouissance insofar as it is completely different from what is in this concept of the drive. He
does not speak at all of jouissance as a message, having a treasury of signifiers, its
quilting point, etc. We have a development about jouissance as such. Certainly, it is
arranged by connecting specifically to this 5(.$.), this quilting point.
This introduces a new question. The whole graph is constructed on the question
of d.esire--elsewhere it is called the graph of desire-the question What do you want ? as
question of desire. And Lacan articulates the end of his text around the question of
jouissance that is: What am I? , and it is not the same.
What is jouissance in this ecrit, "The Subversion of the Subject"?
These few pages, from page 810 to 827, are without doubt the text that best
communicates the constructions of Seminar Encore, in any case, it is necessary to
articulate them.
One already finds there a reflection on jouissance centred on the phallus, and as a
sketch of the concept of phallic jouissance, certainly fun because it also treats the phallus
26" UMBR(a)
as a signifier, but one imagines developing beside it, with extremely shrewd efforts to
articulate both,-a reflection on phalIie jouissance as such, as much as it is predestined to
give body to jouissance. This sentence already announces the notion that the model of
jouissance is phallic jouissance. And this picks up original elements in the seminars.
Lacan opposes the splitting of the libido, the circulating libido, that runs from me
to the external world, according to the rule of narcissism, this libido which is
communicable, and a fixed, stagnant libido, the libido of phallic auto-eroticism. I quote:
"the imaginary function is the one that Freud formulated, presided over by the
investment of the object as narridssistk." This is Lacan's classic reference to liThe
Introduction to Narcissism" which. he explained by saying, "The libido is before
everything at the imaginary level, at the mirror-stage level. It is there that we returned to
ourselves by demonstrating that the specular image, the image in the mirror, is the
channel that takes the transfusion of the libido of the hody towards the object." But he
. adds-" A part remains preserved by this immersion, concentrating in it the most intimate
of auto-eroticism/' et<:. This preserved part of this circulation is the specifically phaJlic
part. By opposing these two forms of the libido-the libido that transfuses and the libido
that remains fixed-there is already a sketch of what he will develop later by saying-
"The model properly called jouissance is this stagnant and phallic part of the libido."
It is there that one understands what otherwise remains rather enigmatic-in the
. diverse obse.rvations in these pages that I can offer in the course of these years, I have
circumvented it a hit, for want of seeing exactly where to place it-it is there that Lacan
develops the prohibition of jouissance.
He privileges this approach, jouis8ance as prohibited, as guilt. This is not the
prevalent value in Seminar Encore , where jouissance is introduced at first as useless.
This is a response to what?
And then, from this panoramic point of view where we are, one grasps that to
which this responds. The You will not enjoy at all like aft idiot is the canonical formula that
imposes the requirement to go towards the Other for pleasure. It is a paradoxical
approach that makes it unnecessary to remain-it is taken in the imperative, injunctive
mood-at the level of phallic jouissallce. Therefore, by treating the prohibition and the
guilt, it is concerned with the opposition between the solitary status of pha.Uic jouissance
and then the relationship to the Other, that Lacan will treat as such in Seminar Encore, by
stripping it of its tawdry rags of guilt and prohibitions. But, in this text, beginning to treat
as such phallic jouissance, he approaches it by prohibition and by guilt, that is to say, by .
the opposition that there is between the auto-erotic status of jouissance and the
UMBR(a) 27
relationship to the Other. There, sorting out where he is, this can be translated as the
necessary castration of rhaHic jouissallce. It is what leads him to draw the upper vector,
between jouissance and castration.
Jouissance Castration
This vector of jouissance to castration conveys the path that, in Encore I comes
from phallic jOJlissance in its opposition to love, that is to say in relation to the Other. But
it was not to be grasped today from the angle that one can think of as the love's
seduction, to be grasped as castration.
It is there that one understands the last sentence of this passage, which has the
sense of a major saying of Lacan'sf worthy of King Soloman-to which he refers
somewhere in Encore by saying that it is an archetype in its genre, a senti-master [senti-
maftre]. It is truly a sentence of senti-master, this. Perhaps you have it memorized. For
me, it has been on my mind for quite a while, I have given different versions of it:
"Castration," he says, "means that it is necessa:ry that jouissal1ce be refused so that it can
attain the opposite side of the law of desire."
How can this be translated?-not into good French, the French is excellent-but
how has it been tranBlated schematically. This says that castration is the refusal of phallic
jouissance. It would help if he had said it. It is necessary that phallic jouissance be
refused, it is castration-so that the jouissance of the Other, her, can be attained.
--------i ....... 0
28 UMBR(a)
Conforming to the law of desire-the law of desire is the law of the desire of the
what imposes the renunciation of solitary jouissa11.ce, in the relationship to the
Other, in order to recapture another form of jouissance, and in order to capture what
could be sexual jouissance, in so far as it is opposed to phallic jouissance, the jouissance of
the sexuated Other,
This introduces a whole that has, at its centre, what happens on this
side here, at the base of the vector, depending on whether one accentuates the jouissance
of the Other, or depending on whether one accentuates what is necessary in order for it to
take place, namely the castration of the subject.
In other words, beginning from this schema, two clinical forms are essentially
deducible. '
First, one can put the accent on the pleasure of the Other, in the sense that the
Other wants pleasure. Lacan develops this as the perverse version of the renunciation of
phallic jouissance, in the sense that where the Other wants pleasure, I therefore give
jouissance to the Other, I make myself an instrument of jouissallce for the Other.
The second version is the neurotic version, which puts the accent on the
castration of the same subject. At this moment, it is not first The Other wants pleasure, it is
The Other demtlnds my castration. This is to say that, for the neurotic, the Law is never
more than a demand from the Other. It is this position that might put into question his
structure. Lacan can be translated as saying-lithe neurotic imagines that the Other
demands his castration," Where the acknowledged pervert admits thejouissance of the
Other, the neuroticis, if I can say, perceptively directed before everything by what would
be, on the part of the Other, the demand for his castration, that reduces the law of desire
to a demand for castration.
This is why Lacan can develop what plays out at the end of the analysis as the
refusal, by the neurotic subject, to sacrifice his castration to the jouissance of the Other. It
is even what explains in the paradoxical formula, by saying, "The Other does not exist for
him." One can't understand more. This means-the Other does not exist for him, in the
sense where only phallic jouissance matters fully. At this moment there, he refuses the
sacrifice that is necessary for the Other to exist. As Lacan says-"If he existed, he would
be pleasured by my castration."
The schema, just as I have ordered it here, justifies, for those whose heads have
split over these passages, the greater part of these formulas, and for the others, it can
clarify their first reading, if they really want to do it
"Beyond the demand of the Other," says Lacan, "there is the experience of the
UMBR(a) 29
Other's will." I have already, as have others, commented on this passage. Here, Lacan
treats the different modes of submission to castration, the different modes of renunciation
of phallic jouissance, and he distinguishes two forms that are ordered in the folloWing
fashion, by evoking on one side, Buddhism, and on the other side, the lost Cause, the
struggle for the narcissism of the lost Cause.
On one side, he opposes the will of the aU powerful Other, requiring the
suppression of phallic jouissance, and reducing the subject to being only what pleasures
the Other-therefore, to a masochistic position, except that it is not a masquerade, except
that to this Other, one believes it. This is the position of the and the object a. The
second version, that of the lost Cause, is that of one who admits, who knows that the
Other is a sham, that the Other is screwed up, does not exist, and who nevertheless
devotes himself to it until death, by attaching himself to his image.
By indication this, Lacan puts in question the incarnation of the ethics of
psychoanalysis in the narcissism of Antigone. There is an echo of this pomt-I will point
it out, I don't have the time to deveiop it-in Seminar Encore, page 104, where Lacan
evokes once more later the Buddhism and the relation between jouissance and
knowledge. I won't develop it.
In this quick but nevertheless articulated journey that I am beginning to make,
one sees a connection between phallic jouissance and the jouissmlCe of the Other forming.
The last pages of "The Subversion of the Subject" are already founded on a dialectic
between phallic jouissance and the jouissance of the Other, taken from the angle of
castration. One is there, at certain limits, because what is presented to us, in effect, is the
figure of an especially present and weighty Other, the intentions of which, in any case,
are not good. Through the approach that one takes this schema, the law of desire passes
by a renunciation, an uprooting, a sacrifice, to which one can cheerfully {gaiement]
consent, or which one can refuse, but this erects an image of the especiaUy horrible,
demandinSt cruel, Other.
This figure here is completely absent from Seminar Encore. There is no question
at all of this pathology, this romanticism of the Other, who, there, spreads out in order to
articulate phallic jouissance and the jouissance of the Other.
If there is what 1 call here a romanticism, it is because the crux of the connection
between phallic jouissance and the jottissance of the Other is castration. When he offers
this connection, it is very far from this business of communication. It is already a
completely other fLmctioning that is added to this context. But, starting from the moment
where it is centred on castration, one can say that what follows is an awful discourse on
30 UMBR(a)
jouissance, a terrifying discourse, and there it is the great organs that are made to listen.
This greatly contrasts with the spontaneous side of Encore, where we do not see this
terrifying figure at all. On the contrary, it is a question of God in Seminar Encore, a God
that has a relation to the jouissance of The woman, that is rather the God close to what is
present in Dante's Beatrice, and after, one has an evocation of the baroque oeuvre. All of
this drama disappears absolutely, and the connection of the phallic jouissance and of the
jouissance of the Other is played in a completely different key.
It is necessary to say, in the meantime, that Lacan nonetheless generalizes the
castration that lost all its dramatic character. On the contrary, it is restituted to a level
where there is a loss of jouissance due to the effects as such of language on the body.
Therefore one does not need to erect for us the appearance of the agent of castration that
would take us completely. In the drama that is present in the final pages of "The
Subversion of the Subject," there is also something of a dramatic sense with which this
can be lived by the subject. But in theory, one is not obliged to immediately make the
echo of all awful phenomenology that this brings in, and that is eventually legitimate at
the level of the analysand. But in Encore, one no longer needs the figure of the agent of
castration, it is rendered to its status as seeming. It begins from a loss, from a loss of
jouissl1llce, that castration is not the dramatic figure, as jf it is necessary to have the figure
of an Other who accompanies it, then this accompanies it in the real and without any
more drama than the universal laws of gravity. One is not speaking of castration here at
the moment one says, There is no sexual relation, a formula that says the same thing, but in
a sober and quiet mannerm, and that that tries at some point to adopt in order to treat it
the allure of science.
Love is also a figure, certainly a happier one, that Lacan brings in to incarnate the
relation to the Other.
What, in a more basic manner, represents to us this relation to the Other, which
we cannot understand very well? We are not a population of idiots. We organize, we do
things together. What realizes this relationship to the Other, at the moment when Lacan
calmly introduces phallic jouissance and realigns the things above? In my opinion, it is
simply a concept of discourse that became essential to him. It was summoned by this fact
to isolate the auto-level, the curved level. And there is no sexual relation-this leaves us
to separate the sexual level from the Other -but instead there is discourse, and in this
discourse there are relations regulated in the Other. It is as essential that there be
discourse. This is why Lacan brings this concept in at the same time that it always goes
further to isolate the subject in his jouissance. At the same time that he isola,tes it, it is
UMBR(a) 31
compensated for by the concept of discourse. It is particularly essential that, in the
destruction of the relationship, this break down in the relationship-that I already qUickly
indicated-this works up until the dislocation of the signifier and the signified.
When Lacan says, "There is no sexual relation" he is not only saying that, he
throws away his schema of communication. He says, No dialogue , therefore one has a bit
of difficulty understanding him.
No dialogue, that means, at the basis of there being no sexual relation, there is no
signifier-signified relation. All that Lacan indicated before-on the contrary-was to try
to found a signifier-signified relation. He even thought that he had it, that he had isolated
the two principal forms, rules, of this signifier-signified relation, metaphor and
metonymy. As I recalled,he wrote-always in the form of function-that the signified is
a function of the signifier. It is a certain articulation of the signifiers in a certain signified.
f (8) -----'j!>;. s
But Seminar Encore puts, to the contrary! the famous wall that I just drew
between the signifier and the signified.
It is not simply the arbitrariness of the sign-as Saussure says-it is truly a sort of
dependence of the signified on the relation to the signifier.
It is thus that Lacan could say, on page 34 of Seminar Encore, "the signified has
nothing to do with the ears-it has nothing to do with the signifier that we hear-, but
only to do with reading." He places a semantic non-relation next to the sexual non-
relation. There is no semantic relation. And he promises from the beginning, this concept
of reading, which is a radical form of interpretation-namely, it what that can mean
doesn't matter. The only thing that can limit the reading that you give to the signifier is
the discourse to which you refer. It is the relationship that you have to the Other! and that
is established, that directs you towards one reading or another.
n is very radical if the wall remains between the signifier and the signified. This
would mean that what a signifier can mean is not important-Lacan develops this on
32 UMBR(a)
The only thing that puts order back into this absolute semantic solitude is the
parallel to the solitude of jouissance that is made in discourse-as Lacan says, in a sodal
If he disengages from the sodal connection, this is nothing other than the typical
relation to the Other typified, a.nd at this moment, the relationship of the signifier and the
signified-that cannot be completely founded at the mechanical level of metaphor and
metonymy-can only establish itself by reference to this relationship to the Other as a
typical relationship that Lacan calls discourse. This is why they are contemporaneous,
this isolation of jouissance, this independence of the signified. This only radicalizes the
requirement of the social connection, that is to say, of typical forms of the relationship to
the Other. This is why Lacan can say, in a surprising manner, on page 51 of Seminar
Encore, "There is only this, the social connection." You have not had any chance to re-
find yourself in the sodal connection. This is why certain of his students could make
brilliant developments on non-identification, on the height of analysis as non-
identification. It seems rather dangerous in this perspective, to the extent that it is on the
contrary only by a typical sodal connection that one has a chance to be able to read, to be
able to interpret, to be able to put a limit to the non-dialogue (pas-de-dialogue). It is by the
social connection that the signified is finally susceptible to keeping the same sense.
Language signifies out of habit.
Good enough. According to our habit, we will return next time.
Translated by Kirsten Stolte
UMBR(a) .. 33
Bruce Fink
Only love allows jouissance to condescend to desire.
~ L a c a n Seminar 10, March 13, 1963
The emphasis Lacan gives to desire may leave readers with the impression that
the ultimate goaJ of analysis is to dialectize the analysand's desire and then free it from
the death-grip of the Other's desire. It is true that, in the early stages of analysis, the
dialectization of the subject's desire has certain salutary effects: a lessening of fixation and
a decrease in anxiety (IJDesire is a remedy for anxiety," as he says in Seminar 8, 430). And
it is true that for many years-throughout the 1950s and into the early '60s-Lacan
himself viewed desire as the key to the successful resolution of analysis. 2
This early stage of Lacan's work was marked by the belief that an analysis could
be brought toa successful end via the symbolic order; desire being a phenomenon of
language and there being no such thing as human desire, strictly speaking, without
language. Lacan discusses at great length the way in which desire is displaced and moves
as a function of the symbolic order, that is, as a function of language. His well-known
essay on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter" details how the desire of the different
characters in Poe's story is determined by their position within a certain symbolic or
signifying structure. He emphasizes there the fact that patients' lives are determined by
their "purloined letters" -the snatches of their parents' conversation (that is, of the
Other's discourse), often not intended for their ears, that were indelibly etched in their
memories and sealed their fate; patients bring those letters to analysis and analysts
attempt to render them legible, to uncover the hidden determinants of their patients'
UMBR(a) 35
This is the Lacan who reminds us constantly to pay attention to the letter of what
our analysands say, not to what they mean to say, not to their intended meaning, for they
know not what they say-they are spoken by the signifiers that inhabit them, that is, by
the Other's discourse. This is the Lacan who returns to Freud's insistence on the
importance in the formation of symptoms of the nonsensica1 concatenation of letters that
Freud refers to as "verbal bridges" (SE X, 213). In the case of the Rat Man, for example,
Freud tens us that the "rat complex" evolves from elements-Ratten (rats), Raten
(installments), and Spielratten (gamblers)-that are linked, not because of their meanings,
but because of the literal relations among the letters of the words themselves. This is the
Lacan who demonstrates the extent to which we are subjugafed by signifiers, by the
discourse of our parents that determines our fate, and maintains that it is through
analysis that we must come to accept that we are mortified by language, and thus, in a
sense, the living dead-our bodies are overwritten, and we are inhabited by language,
which lives through us.
We must subjectify that mortal fate, make it our own; we must
assume responsibility for the roll of the dice at the beginning of our universe-our
parents' desire that brought us into being-bringing ourselves into being where their
desire had served as cause of our own.
This is the Lacan who formulates the process of analysis as untying the knots in
the analysand's desire, the goal of analysis as "no other than bringing to the light of day
manifestations of the subject's desire" (Seminar 8, 234), and the successful end of analysis
as the development of a "decided desire" or "determined desire": a desire that does not
allow itself to be put off by obstacles or swayed by the Other, a once unconscious desire
that is no longer subject to inhibition, the kind of desire that-after an admittedly long
period of analysis----can say "No" to the analyst's request that the analysand come back
the next day for still more analysis, the kind of desire that no longer cares what the Other
wants or
This is the Lacan who formulates that the analysand must learn not lito give up
on his or her desire," not "to give in when it comes to his or her desire/' not to let the
Other's desire take precedence over his or her own-for guilt results when we give in (see
Seminar 7, 368/319). This is the stage of Lacan's work where desire is endowed with a
certain utopian edge. It can take us where we want to go-beyond neurosis.
36 UMBR(a)
From the Subject of Desire to the Subject of Jouissance
Desire comes from the Other, and jouissance is on the side of the Thing.
-Lacan, Ecrits, 853
[There is] a certain link between the acephalous and the transmission of life as
such-that is, the passage of the flame of one individual to another in a signified
eternity of the species-namely, that Cellist [craving] does not involve the head.
In the later stage of Lacan's work, it is not so much the general idea of what
analysis wishes to achieve that changes, but the terms in which those goals are expressed.
The goal remains the same: to enable the subject to separate from the Other and act
without being inhibited or influenced by concrete others or the values and judgments of
the internalized Other.
What Lacan comes to see in the later stage of his work is that unconscious desire
is not the radical, revolutionary force he once believed it to be. Desire is subservient to the
law! What the law prohibits, desire seeks. It seeks only transgression, and that makes
desire entirely dependent on the law (that is, the Other) that brings it into being. Thus
desire can never free itself completely of the Other, as the Other is responsible for desire's
very being. Using figures Lacan provides in Seminar 9 (and that Jacques-Alain Miller has
extensively developed) to represent the subject'S relation to the Other, we can say that
desire remains inscribed, on the right-hand side, within the Other, while the subject is
someThing else.
Subject Other
Figure 1
UrvlBR(a) 37
What is that someThing else? If the subject is no longer to be conceptualized as
the pure lack that gives rise to desire, as we see in Lacan's early work, what then is the
subject? What is it that we can speak of as existing outside of the Other, as independent of
the Other? In Freudian terms, it is the id, the id that is the seat or locus of the drives
the Freudian drives seem to be unsocialized, uneducated, and ungoverned, at least at the
outset. 7 They pursue their own course without any regard for what is appropriate or
approved of. In the words of Jacques-Alain !vlil1er, to whom lowe this formulation of the
early and later stages in Lacan's work:
The drive couldn't care less about prohibition; it knows nothing of prohibition
and certainly doesn't dream of transgressing it. The drive follows its own bent
and always obtains satisfaction. Desire weighs itself down with considerations
like "They want me to do it,so I won't" or "I'm not supposed to go that way, so
that's the way I want to go, but perhaps at the last second I won't be able to do it
anyway./I [ ... J
During a whole period of his theoretical Lacan tries to prop
up the life functions on desire. But once he distinguishes the drive from desire, a
devaluation of desire occurs, as he emphasizes above all the "not" on which
desire is based. What then becomes essential, on the contrary, is the drive as an
activity related to the lost object which produces jouissance . ...
What is essential to desire is its impasse. Its crux, says Lacan
is found in
impossibilities, and we can say that its action essential1y reaches a dea<,t-end. That
is more or less what Lacan says in his II Proposition de 1967"8: "Our impasse [is J
that of the subject of the unconscious." One might say: our impasse is that of the
subject of desire. The crux of the drive is not found in impossibilities, l ... J The
drive never comes to an impasse. (JlCommentary on Lacan's text/' 425-426)
In a word, we can say that Lacan shifts in his thinking from identifying the
suhject-and when he says "subject" he means what is most essential-with unconscious
desire to identifying the subject with the drive. What is most important about the human
subject is no longer, in his view, the multifarious
metonymical movements of desire, but
satisfaction itself. The Lacanian subject here is the headless subject-Lacan uses the term
"acephalous" in this context-that pursues satisfaction, a sort of nonsubject when
thought of in traditional philosophical or psychological terms. That subject is, prior to
analysis, hemmed in, kept down, and silenced as much as possible by the ego and the
38 UMBR(a)
superego, by desire as it forms in language on the basis of the Other's discourse, the
discourse that transmits the Other's desires, values, and ideals. In Lacan's earlier work,
the subject was precisely the defensive stance that hemmed in, kept down, and silenced
the drives' clamoring for satisfaction, the defensive stance adopted with respect to an
overpowering experience of jouissance. Now, on the other hand, the subject is viewed as
drive, and the aim of analysis in clinical work with neurotics (not psychotics or perverts) 9
is to transform the fantasy that props up the analysand's desire, for that desire impedes
his or her pursuit of satisfaction. 1
The analysand must reconstitute him or herself, not in
relation to the Other's demands or desires, but in relation to the partial object that brings
satisfaction: object a.
That implies that the drives themselves undergo a kind of transformation in the
course of analysis, for the drives form as our needs are addressed to those around us
(usually our parents) and as a function of the demands made upon us by those people (to
eat, excrete, and so on). That is why Lacan, in his early work, provides a matheme for the
drive that includes liD" for the demands we make on the Other and the demands the
Other makes on us: ($ D). I meet the Other's demand for me to eat with my own
demand that the Other demand that I eat. 11 Demand answers demand, demand counters
demand in a vicious cycle.
By Seminar 11 (1964), however, Lacan's formulation of the drive changes: the
drive goes around the object and encircles it, isolating it in a sense (that is, separating it).
The drive is thus correlated with object a, not with the Other's demands or demands
addressed to the Other. The drive, thus conceptualized, continues to be grammatically
structured-flip-flopping from the active to the passive voice, from the impulse to eat to
the impulse to be eaten, from the urge to beat to the urge to be beaten) 12-and thus it is
not totally divorced from the symbolic register, from the Other as language; but it appeals
to no one, to no Other for guidance or permission. This might be understood as a change
in Lacan's theorization of the drive itself-that is, one might think that by 1964 he
believes that the drive is never related to the Other's demand, neither before nor after
analysis-but I think it is better understood as the transformation the drive undergoes in
the course of analysis. Subjugated first by the Other's demands and then by the Other's
desire, the drive is finally freed to pursue object a.
Note that this chronology of the drive's transformations corresponds precisely to
Lacan's three logical moments-alienation, separation, and the traversing of fantasy-
which can be presented in the form of three metaphors:
UIVIBR(a) 39
object a
$ object a
If we take $ to designate the subject as drive or the subject as satisfaction, we see that the
subject is first dominated by the Other (which we can here take to be the Other as/ of
demand, D) and then by object a as the Other's desire (which is the same as the subject's
desire). Only at the end does the subject as drive come into its own, so to speak, in
relation, not to the Other, but to object a. The three metaphors or substitutions can then
be written'as follows:
Subject as Drive
Subject as Drive
Subject as Drive
object a
Alternatively, or even contemporaneously, we could talk about these three moments as
three statuses of the subject: 1) the subject as constituted in relation to demand or the
subject as demand, 2) the subject as desire, and 3) the subject as drive. The neurotic often
comes to analysis stuck on the Other's demands, asking the analyst to teU him or her
what to do, that is, to make demands; by refusing to do so, the analyst seeks to open up a
space of desire in which the analysand's desire comes to the fore in its subservience to the
Other's desire; and by playing the role of object a, the analyst seeks to throw into
question the analysand's interpretation of the Other's desire in the fundamental fantasy
and bring about its transformation such that it no longer inhibits the pursuit of
satisfaction. We could say that the subject is these different modalities at each stage of the
analytic process: as demand, the subject is essentially stuck in the imaginary register; as
desire, the subject is essentially a stance with respect to the symbolic Other; and as drive,
there is a"subject in the real.,,14 In that sense, the subject would have an imaginary, a
symbolic, and a real face, each of which predominates at a certain point in the analytic
process, and the aim of analysis would be to bring the analysand through these different
moments to the point at which the subject as drive-that is, the subject as real-comes to
the fore.
40 UMBR(a)
Furthering the Analysand's Eros
How can a subject who has traversed his most basic fantasy live out the drive
[vivre la pulsion]7 That is the beyond of analysis and has never been touched
Lacan does not imply here that the "fully analyzed" subject becomes a kind of
non-stop pleasure-seeking machine, but rather that desire stops inhibiting the subject
from obtaining satisfaction. One of my analysands expressed the neurotic's predicament
quite nicely by saying that he could not "enjoy his enjoyment/' implying that his
satisfaction was, in some sense, ruined or tainted by simultaneous feelings of
dissatisfaction or displeasure. Perhaps one way of stating the aim of analysis is this: to
allow the analysand finally to be able to enjoy his or her enjoyment.
Lacan's point is not that the neurotic must be brought to the point of jettisoning
altogether the symbolic constraints on the drives, jettisoning the ego and superego
entirely, but to the point of a new kind of acceptance of the drives and the type of satisfaction
they seek.1
As Miller says, that does not mean that satisfaction is mandatory or
commanded (for that would be .tantamount to a return to the superego that commands
one to enjoy, to satisfy the drives), but possible or permitted. One "gives permission" to
the drives to go their own way, to pursue their own course.
One "permits their
perversion," insofar as the drives always seek a form of satisfaction that, from a Freudian
or traditional moralistic standpoint, is considered perverse--it is not heterosexual genital
reproductive sexuality that is sought by the drives, but a partial object that provides
In this sense, we can fiH in the blank spaces in Figure 1 as follows:
Subject Other
Figure 2
UMBR(a) 41
From the revolutionary character of unconscious desire, Lacan turns elsewhere.
The revolutionary was, in fact, no more than a rebel against a very specific law, and as
such utterly and completely dependent upon that which he or she rebelled against. The
new configuration he seeks is one involving a kind of "harmony" (though one hesitates to
use such a term in talking about Lacan) between desire and the drives. Desire learns how
to keep its mouth shut and let enjoyment prevail.
In a sense, this evolution in Lacan's theorization does not represent a radical
change in his general orientation, for in Seminar 8 (1960-1961) he had already stressed
that analysis aims at furthering the analysand's Eros.18 What we can say is that from
viewing Eros in terms of desire, Lacan comes to view it more in terms of jouissa11.ce.
This distinction between desire and jouissance, or between the signifier (since
desire is only articulated in signifiers) and jouissance, parallels the important Freudian
distinction between representation and affect. The subject of representation can be
associated here with the unconscious, and thus with the articulation and development of
unconscious desire-Lacan's subject of desire or desiring subject-while the subject of
affect or "emotive" subject is the subject of jouissance or "enjoying suDject."19 For as one
quickly learns as a clinician, where there is affect, there is jouissance.
Technique Beyond Desire
It is insofar as the analyst'S desire, which remains an XI tends in a direction that
is the exact opposite of identification, that it is possible to go beyond the level of
identification, via the subject's separation [ ... J. The subject's experience is
thereby brought back to the level at which [ ... J the drive can present itself.
-Lac an, Seminar 11,305/274
In the early 1950s, at an early stage in his work, Lacan theorizes that the
analysand must work through the imaginary interference in his or her symbolic relation
to the Other. By the early to mid-1960s, Lacan proposes that the analysand's symbolic
relation itself-the relation in which desire is deployed-must be worked through. In this
latter perspective, the subject of (or as) unconscious desire has to be worked through,
interfering, as it does, in the analysand's relation to object a, interfering thus with the
subject as satisfaction (see figure 3).
42 UMBR(a)
subject as drive Other
subject as desire object a
Figure 3: Modified L Schema
Desire here is a defense against satisfaction, and the subject as desire is thus a defense
against the subject as drive, the former meddling and interfering with the laUer's
When analysis is theorized in tenns of desire a l o n ~ the analysand is likely to end
up modeling his or her desire on the analyst's, even if that is not what the analyst is
deliberately aiming at. That is likely to be tantamount to certain analysts' goal of having
the patient's "weak ego" identify with the analyst's "strong ego"-it is a solution via
identification. But once Lacan formulates the notion of separation from the stranglehold
of the Other's desire, desire is seen to be associated with language (the signifier),
identification (which is based on language), and interpretation, while jouissance is
outside of language, has no ties to identification, and requires tools beyond
Deciphering and interpreting the unconscious can be made into an endless
process. They remain crucial in Lacan's latest conceptualization of analysis, but are not
enough. They are not considered adequate for the kind of transformation Lacan is looking
for. Analysis should not, according to Lacan, be an infinite process; instead it should
involve a concrete move, a shift in subjective pOSition-what he calls the traversing of the
fundamental fantasy.
That positional shift is attested to in the institutional procedure known as the
"pass," a procedure Lacan developed in the late 1960s for his psychoanalytic institute, the
Ecole freudienne de Paris, and that is still implemented by the institute he founded shortly
before rus death, the de la Cause freudienne. Lacan dec.ided to implement such a
UMBR(a) 43
procedure-which involves having an analysand extensively discuss his or her analysis
with two other analysands, who in turn communicate what they have heard to a group of
experienced analysts-to gather information on what Lacan refers to as "the beyond of
analysis" that has never been theorized or studied in any other context. Analysands
willing to bear witness to their experience in analysis by going through the pass
contribute to the greater understanding of the results of analysis-how "a subject who
has traversed his most basic fantasy can live out the drive" (Seminar 11, 304/273), how he
or she experiences the drive after his or her fantasy has, in the best of cases, been radically
transformed or removed, or how and why analysis has been unable to bring the
analysand to such a pass, so to speak. In that sense, the pass is a kind of verification
procedure, a way of checking whether Lacan's wager-that analysand!> can be taken
beyond the "bedrock of castration"20-is being confirmed through use of the techniques
he developed or not.
Many of those techniques were developed early on by Lacan, above all the
nonverbal interventions known as punctuation and scansion (that is, the variable-length
session), and the verbal intervention known as "oracular speech." The latter is obviously
a form of interpretation, but aims at something beyond meaning effects. Like the
variable-length session, it confronts the analysand with the question of the analyst'S
enigmatic desire (the Other's desire), and continually demonstrates to the analysand that
the Other's desire is not what he or she always assumes it to be. Insofar as the Other's
desire plays the role of object a in the analysand's fundamental fantasy, it is by calling
into question the Other's desire that it becomes possible to take the analysand to the next
step: from the second to the third metaphor, as I have been presenting them here, from a
situation in which the subject is subjugated by (his or her interpretation of) the Other's
desire to a situation in which the subject as drive is no longer subjugated:
Other's Desire
Subject as Drive
Su bject as Drive
object a
Jouissance and the Analyst's Desire
[The analyst's desire] is to lay bare the subject's jouissance, whereas the subject's
desire is sustained only by the rnisrecognition of the drive known as fantasy.
-Miller, "Commentary on Lacan's Text," 426
44 UMBR(a)
This next step requires a constant bringing into play of the analyst's desire-not
just now and then but constantly, at the end of every session in the analyst's repeated "1'11
see you tomorrow," and perhaps during every session as well-not just to encourage the
analysand to talk about what is important, but to "lay bare" the analysand's jouissance.
When we focus on what the analysand wants, the analysand's "deepest desires"-which
are responses to (even if refusals of) the Others desire-we allO\v the analysand to gloss
over the question of satisfaction. Very often, the analysand tells us about activities that
bring satisfaction, but is quick to tell us of his or her own disgust or dissatisfaction with
them. "There was only one lover 1 ever really got excited with, but I couldn't stand what
she did for a living." "I got really turned on by the character in the movie, but that's not
the kind of relationship 1 want for myself." If we focus on what the analysand says he or
she wants and doesn't want, we unwittingly confine our attention to the defense, to the
stance adopted by the desiring subject with respect to jouissance.
Instead, we must punctuate and emphasize the excitement, the turn on, the
disguised or systematically unrecognized / rnisrecogruzed pleasure. Even if the analysand
is disgusted by his or her enjoyment, it must still be highlighted-not in such a way, of
course, that the analysand feels that he or she is being accused of getting off in a
particularly weird, perverse, or disgusting way. The analyst must stress those places in
the analysand's discourse where jouissal1ce is expressed, and yet avoid disapproving
(and "clear up" any misapprehension on the analysand's part that the analyst
disapproves). The analysand's natural tendency-"natural" in the sense that fantasy
blinds us to jouissallce -is to forget or misrecognize satisfaction: to explain it away or not
take responsibility for it. The analysand does not spontaneously proclaim, "Where there
is jouissallce (where it-the id-gets off), I must come into being as the subject of that
. enjoyment/,,22 By no means. The analysand spontaneously tries to pass that enjoyment off
as something else-anxiety, for example. As Freud tells us, anxiety is the universal
currency of affect in the sense that every emotion can be converted into it. It signals an
emotion-that is, a satisfaction-that is unwanted or disturbing at some level. 23
When the analysand says that" A strange feeling overcame me," there the subject
is relating a kind of unrecognized satisfaction. Where the analysand reports suffering or
great sadness, it is there that there is a disguised enjoyment. There is a kind of basic
equivalence between affect and jouissal1ce (in Freud's terms, between affect and libido or
libidinal discharge) that is systematically misrecognized because of fantasy, 24 or the ways
in which we would like to see ourselves, and the analyst must not miss the occasion to
point towards the satisfaction in what the analysand characterizes as "painful" affect.
UMBR(a) 45
This involves overcoming the patient's resistance to seeing where jouissance really comes
from, what it is that really turns him or her on; and it is only by overcoming that
resistance that the analysand can then adopt a different position-a different subject
position-with respect to that jouissance, with respect to the drives that provide
satisfaction. It is only then that the analysand can stop inhibiting his or her "own" pursuit
of satisfaction at the level of the id.
In a case of hysteria I have discussed elsewhere! an analysand-whom I refer to
as Jeanne-manifested dissatisfaction with her lack of sexual satisfaction, and seemed, in
a dream related to the movie Indecent Proposal (in the dream she felt she could not refuse
to help her husband by doing something sexual with someone else because the sum of
money offered was so great), to be looking for a reason to overcome her inhibitions. The
goal in such a case would be to give voice to whatever sexual drive might be seeking
fulfillment in the dream (not to the sodal stigmas attached thereto), in the hope of
bringing the analysand to the point of affirming, "I am fhat1f ...., .. J'I am that drive, that
Were the analyst to emphasize only the prostitution image of receiving money
for sex, and the moral "indecency" surrounding it, that would be tantamount to
suggesting to the analysand that she is the prohibition and its transgression-in other
words, that she is desire and desire alone. This is what Lacan refers to as "analyzing the
defense before the drive" (Ecrits, 599/238). For her to recognize the drives as her own, on
the other hand, is what Lacan calls subjectification, the coming into being of the subject
where it was, where the drives (considered not to be hers) were. To subjectify them is to
give them a place, and perhaps an importance, otherwise refused them. To see them as
one's own is already a step towards allowing them and this must be
combined with the progressive interpretation of the why and wherefore of the symbolic
constraints placed upon satisfaction-in Jeanne!s case, the sense in which sex always
implied betrayal of one of her parents or the other. Betrayal was a meaning grafted onto
sex by Jeanne's interpretation of her parents' desire, and it was only by calling into
question that interpretation (something that was only partially achieved in the course of
her analysis) that sex could be experienced differently by her.
A patient comes to analysis in the first place with a Sisatisfaction crisis/, and we
must keep our sights set throughout the analytic process on the problem of satisfaction.
The patient's Sisatisfaction crisis," means that the satisfaction being obtained is waning or
is considered to be of the Siwrong kind." The question of satisfaction was always foremost
in Freud's mind, and Lacan summarizes Freud!s position by saying that "the subject is
46" UMBR(a)
always happy.fl
In some respect, the subject is always getting off on something, even if
it is on his or her own dissatisfaction. He or she is, in the words of Jacques-Alain Miller,
"always happy at the level of the drive ... so happy that the subject repeats that
satisfaction, even if it seems to bring dissatisfaction" (DOI1C, May 18, 1994). The subject
always enjoys him or herself even as he or she defends against enjoyment. Even though
Lacan tells us that "Jouissance is prohibited to whoever speaks" (ferits, 821/319), he is
referring there to a kind of immediate, "oceanic" pleasure before the letter, before
language, before triangulation;26 for we all obtain certain satisfactions, as counterintuitive
as they may seem: from our symptoms, from criticizing ourselves, and so on. The subject
of desire comes into being as a stance 'with respect to the satisfaction of the drive, as a
defense against it. That subject sees him or herself in desire, not in the jouissance of the
drive. Lacan's approach, insofar as it can be characterized as a "handling," "interfering"
in, or even as a "rectification of desire" (Seminar 1 ~ May 22, 1963), involves bringing
about a modification in the relationship between satisfaction and desire, that is, between
the drives and their inhibition, between the subject of jouissance and the subject of
Rather than untying the knots in the analysand's desire so that he or she can
pursue his or her own "true desire," we must untie the knots in the analysand's
jouissal1ce, the knots that fonn in the interrelationship between desire and jouissance.
1. This article is based on an earlier draft of a chapter from my A Clinicallntroductioll to
Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997), .
2 See, in this regard, Jacques-Alain Miller's fine periodization of Lacan's work in his
1993"":1994 seminar, Done (unpublished), upon which much of my discussion in this article is based;
a short extract from that seminar is included as "Cornmentary on Lacan's Text," translated by Bruce
Fink, in Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's Return to Freud, edited by Bruce. Fink, Richard Feldstein,
and Maire Jaanus (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996), 422-427.
3. See, in this context, Freud's remarks in a letter to Flless: "I was able to trace back, with
certainty, a hysteria that developed in the context of a periodiC mild depression [ ... J which
occurred for the first time at 11 months and [I could] hear again the words that were exchanged
between two adu.lts at that time! It is as though it comes from a phonograph"; see The Complete
Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 226 (letter
dated January 24, 1897). Freud was thus quite aware that words are recorded or etched in our
memories long before we can understand them (see also page 234, letter dated April 6, 1897, where
UMBR(a) 47
Freud mentions "hysterical fantasies which regularly [ ... J go back to things that children overhear
at an early age and understand only subsequentlyfl). That is why Lacan tells us it is so important
"to watch what we say" around children: "Words remain," in other words, they are recorded
(Seminar 2,2321198). See, in this connection, chapter 2 of my The Lacanian Subject:
Language and Jouissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
4. As Miller says, desire concerns the body as dead, as mortified or overwritten by the
signifier (Donc).ln Lacan's words, lithe body constitutes the Other's bed due to the operation of the
signifier" (Scilicet 1 [1968]: 58), in other words, the signifier turns the body into the Other's terrain,
domain, or medium.
5. The consequence to be drawn here is that termination is not an "issue" in
psychoanalysis: the analyst continues to ask the analysand to come back, come what may. TI,e
analysand, when his or her desire is sufficiently decided, terminates analysis all by him or herself,
without spending weeks or months talking about how he or she will miss the analyst or
summarizing the work they have done together!
6. See my translation of "On Freud's 'Trieb' and the Psychoanalyst'S Desire" in
Seminars I and II,419.
7. Oddly enough, the drives are what the analysand often characterizes as most foreign,
most Other, when he or she first comes to analysis: "That's not what I want, but I find myself
enjoying it anyway."
In Freudian terms, the desiring subject can, in some sense, be thought of as the ego (partly
conscious and partly unconscious) that defends against the kind of satisfaction the id strives for.
The ego finds objectionable and threatening the id's, pursuit of satisfaction, for the id pays no heed
to social norms and ideals in its selection of objects and orifices, partners and practices.
8. In Scilicet 1 (1968): 14-30.
9. Psychosis is characterized by little control over the drives; the usual internal inhibiting
forces-that is, the symbolically-structured agencies such as the ego and superego (or ego-ideaJ)-
have not formed to any great extent, and cannot brake the drives' automatic expression. In
neurosis, the opposite is the case: the cannot achieve satisfaction of the drives because of
excessive inhibition, and only obtains satisfaction in dissatisfaction or in torturing him or herself,
that is, only in the jouissance of the symptom. Indeed, part ofthe problem is that, unlike the
pervert, the neurotic does not want to know what it is he or she actually gets off on because it does
not fit in vvith his or her Metaphorically speaking, desire does not' wish to know where
true satisfaction comes from and systematically misrecogni.zes it.
10 Miller uses the expression "lever Ie jantasme" like the better known expression "lever Ie
.Q1Jrr1tltnrn,p.ff a lifting or removal of fantasy that is like the removal of the symptom. See his
"Commentary on Lacan's Text" in Reading Seminars J and II, 426.
11. As Lacan says, inverting the order of demands here, the Other "demands that we allow
ourselves to be fed [thatis, that we stop fidgeting, open our mouths, and so on] in response to our
demand to be fed" (Seminar 8, 238).
48 UMBR(a)
12 As Lacan says, "there is no devouring fantasy that we cannot consider to result, at some
moment in its own inversion from [ ... J the fantasy of being devoured" (Seminar 12, January 20,
13. Miller characterizes object a in this context as satisfaction itself: the object as
satisfaction is discerned or isolated by the drive. As he says, liThe object that corresponds to the
drive is satisfaction as object. That is what I would like to propose today, as a definition of Lacan's
object a: object a is satisfaction as an object. Just as we distinguish between instinct and drive, we
have to distinguish between the chosen object [the sexual partner, for example] and the libido
object, the latter being satisfaction qua object" (liOn Perversion," Reading Seminars I and II, 313).
14. [crits, 835; in English see "Position of the Unconscious," translated by Bruce Fink, in
Reading Seminar XI: Lacrm's "Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis," edited by Bruce Fink,
Richard Feldstein, and Maire Jaanus (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995), 265.
15. One of the few examples Lacan gives us of someone who acts as one might after having
traversed the fundamental fantasy and freed the drives from their inhibitions is the main character
of Jean Paulhan's novella, Le guerrier applique (Paris: Ga1limard, 1930).
16. Jacques-Alain Miller, "On Perversion," Reading'Seminars I and II, 314.
17. Viewed in terms of separation, we can suggest that the drive takes the object with it,
separating from the Other as desire.
Subject Other
Figure 4
18. Not at his or her "good" (see, for example, Seminar 8, ]8).
19. Desire can also be associated with the pleasure principle, the drive with that which lies
beyond the pleasure principle. In the words of Miller, the drive Jlis an activity that is carried out as
a transgression [infraction] of the pleasure principle and that always ends in satisfaction-
satisfaction of the drive-whereas the subject may suffer thereby, be unhappy about it, besieged by
it and want to get rid of it" (Done, May 18, 1994). Desire, on the other hand, "is inscribed within the
limits of the pleasure principle, in other words, desire remains the captive of the pleasure principle"
("Commentary on Lacan's Text," 423).
20. Castration is, after all, the imposition of a loss of satisfaction (for example, for a boy at
the end of the Oedipal conflict, the loss of his mother or mother substitute as primary libidinal
object); that loss is ever regretted by the neurotic, the subject being unable to focus on the remaining
possibilities of satisfaction. Instead, he or she "loves" his or her castration, obstinately clinging to
UMBR(a) 49
that loss, refusing to find satisfaction elsewhere.
21. Lacan's wager that psychoanalysis can take the analysand further than is often thought
possible should, in my view, be taken up at many levels. I often hear therapists say, for example,
that they felt that certain patients were not good candidates for therapy, and that their work with
them thus took the form of social work or career/marriage counseling. How can we ever know in
until we have brought to bear our desire as analysts, whether or not someone can "do
analYSiS"? Lacan's wager is, in my view, that we can never presume that someone is incapable of
undergOing analysis or can go no further in his or her analysis.
22. Cf. Ecrits, 524/171.
23. As Freud tells us in his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, anxiety in a dream is
often generated as a last ditch attempt by the censorship to disguise the satisfaction the dreamer is
obtaining from an activity or situation the dreamer's "higher faculties" would deem unacceptable.
When I asked a new analysand if she recalled any sexual fantasies, she said "Not really," but went
on to describe a repetitive dream in which she felt the floor was giving way before her and would
anxiously try to reach firm ground. Her anxiety in this repetitive dream, mentioned in the context
of sexuality, was in itself a kind of lOU!ssl:mce.
Let me simply recall here the intimate relation between anxiety and orgasm mentioned by
both Freud and Lacan (see, for example, Seminar 10, March 13, 1963). Freud often noted that certain
anxiety attacks seem to take on an quality, the person getting all worked up in a way that
is reminiscent of a kind of sexual excitement Anxiety attacks, "fits," and "panic attacks" thus
provide satisfaction in a form that is often unrecognizabJe to the untrained eye.
24. Due to the blinders fantasy imposes upon us, as Lacan suggests, we all see the world
through the lenses of our fantasies.
25. Scilicet 1 (1968).
26. This is one of the senses in which the Lacanian subject is "between language and
jouissance": the subject can "have" either some sort of primordial pleasure or language, but not
both (it is a "vel," that of the "forced choice" the infant has to be "seduced," enticed, or encouraged
into making in favor of language). As Lacan says, the subject "corresponds to the opposition reality
principle/ pleasure principle" (Seminar 7, 43), in other words, the opposition between language and
some sort of primordial, "easy" jouissance "before the letter." Fantasy is the attempt to bring the
two elements of the choice-the subject of language and jouissance -together in such a way that
they are "compossihle" (to borrow a term from Alain Badiou's Conditions [Paris: Seuil, 1992]).
Fantasy thus attempts to overcome the either! or, the choice responsible for the advent of the
subject and for a loss of satisfaction; it stages the attempt to reverse that loss.
The subject is also "between language and jouissance" in the sense that the subject is the
link between a powerful affective experience and the thought (Freud's term here is
"representation") that accompanies it. That link is often dissolved in obsession; for example, as an
adult the Rat Man can Ree no relation between his anger and his father until Freud allows him to
express his anger-in the analytic setting and then interprets it as having something to do with his
father. With that interpretation, Freud allows the Rat Man to come into being as the link between
50 UMBR(a)
his affect (jouissance) and his thoughts (articulated in language) about his father. The powerful
affective experience is, in Lacanian terminologYI an 81 while thought is an The subject is the
flash between them that constitutes a link or connection.
27. This later approach on Lacan's part might be understood
in certain respects, as a
return to a quasi-Freudian economic model-where satisfaction takes precedence-but it is
simultaneously a synthesis of the economic and the dynamic models. In order for satisfaction to
prevail, a new configuration of desire (as related to the ego and the unconscious) with respect to the ,
drives (the id, and perhaps the superego insofar as the latter cOlmnands satisfaction of the drives) is
required. The defenses against satisfaction might be considered to form one agency (Instanz)-the
subject as desire-in a new topography, where the other agency is the subject as drive. These
agendes do not allow for a one-to-one correspondence with Freud's.
UMBR(a) 51
James Glogowski
It is evident that psychoanalysis has been subject to increasing discredit-
particularly in the USA. Over a century after Studies on Hysteria (1895) any hope of
establiShing it as a science-behavioraL human, etc.-has aU but vanished here. This
fading is evidenced by the publication of "studies" like Frederick Crews's The Memory
Wars and the ascendancy of biD-behavioral sciences and is abetted by the inherently
inhibiting material structure of psychoanalysis itself (years on a couch, high-priced talk, a
"theory" of the unknown if not unknowable, the excluSionary nature of the
psychoanalytic establishment). It is difficult to identify any central or peripheral
contributions of psychoanalysis that would be acknowledged, let alone embraced, by
mainstream American clinicians. But the greatest Joss that results from the effacement of
psychoanalysis as a legitimate clinical theory is to the dinic itself. Arguably more than
any other discourse, psychoanalysis is poised to battle against the catastrophic effects of
an objectivity devoid of any place for the human being as subject. This brief remark will
sketch Lacan's concept of subjectivity in terms of the drive. This concept will, in turn, be
set in the context of clinica1 factors associated with subjectivity-the erosion of which
finds its representation in the eclipse of psychoanalysis in the USA.
UMBR(a) 53
Topas of the Drive
To speak of the "drive" is to seek to appropriate an object through language. It is
to enact the paradoxical potential inherent in the signifier-and the structure of the
signified-through the function of the name
"drive." It introduces the fundamental
paradox of the concept of the drive-it is a word that suggests a biological base to a
mental phenomenon, as in "sex d.rive." The paradoxical nature of the term telescopes
systematically. The concept of the drive sets a functional limit on the biological
paramelers of subjectivity. There is always something Jeft over from the effort to
"somatize" the drive-to reduce it to a biological base. There is always a residue. This
'1eft over" or surplus is the drive and its representation. The subject may be understood
as appended to this residue.
In "Instincts and Their Freud articulates this paradox:
If now we apply ourselves to considering mental life from a biological
point of view, an 'instinct' appears to us as a concept on the frontier between the
mental and the somatic, as the psychical representative of the stimuli originating
from within the organism and reaching the mind, as a measure of the demand
made upon the mind for work in consequence of its connection with the body. 1
in his paper "The Unconscious," he states, paradoxica11y,
I am in fact of the opinion that the antithesis of conscious and
unconscious is not applicable to instincts. An instinct can neVer become an object
of consciousness-only the idea that represents the instinct can. Even in the
unconscious, moreover, an instinct cannot be represented otherwise than by an
idea. Jf the instinct did not attach itself to. an idea or manifest itself as a affective
state, we would know nothing about it. 2
So, an instinct must be understood as a psychical representative existing as a concept on
the frontier between the mental and the somatic, but qua instinct, can never reach
conscious objectivity except by way of "representation." This "frontier," it may be noted,
is determined by a structure of representation of the subject-a structure of
representation that functions, for Lacan, IIIike" a language.
One may ask, what sort of "object" is this instinct that cannot be an "object of
54 UMBR(a)
except by way of an "idea." \Vhat sort of "idea" is this that represents it?
Furthermore, since it is always "my II drive, who or what is the subject of such an idea or
representation? How, in fact, does such a representation function-what is represented
for whom or for what? For Lacan, the representative of the instinct (German, Trieb;
French, pulsion) as object, is the "object little a" (objet petit a). The "idea" is the fantasm
<fontasme)-always found in its "ready-to-wear" costume that Lacan calls reality (as
opposed to the category of the real), In his 1966-1967 seminar on the fantasm,
Lacan makes the object a the primary "Bedeutung," the primary "referent, the primary
reality, the Bedeutung that remains, because it is after all what remains of thought at the
end of every discourse, namely, what the poet can write without knowing what he
says." 3 This object, the representative of the drive, introduces an unusual concept of
objectivity into Western discourse. It is an objectivity constructed around a lack, like a
knot or torus. The subject's position in relation to this lack is what determines the
subject's relation to the signifier. This relation is of vital importance in Lacan's account of
subjectivity, and especially critical for the clinician.
Structure of the Subject/Signifier Relation
Lacan's concept of the subject is multifactorial. That is, the set of factors
associated with this concept are varied and they function according to highly complex
algorithms and rules. Many (perhaps, for analysts, most) rules are rules of the
unconscious. One factor is the notion that the subject is a subject of the unconscious. As
such, it is a product, or result, of a function-the function of the signifier. One illustration
of the manner in which Lacanian subjectivity is produced may be found in Lacan's
treatment of the clinical relation of the unconscious to the drive: "The unconscious, this is
the effects of the spoken word [Ia parole] on the subject, this is the dimension where the
subject determines himself in the development of the effects of the spoken word
according to which the unconscious is structured like a language.,,4 The subject, then, is a
residue or "effect" of language in the dimension of speech: the spoken word, la parole.
For Lacan, this is the essential dimension of the clinic.
Earlier, he gives a dear variant formula: "it is necessary to see in the unconscious
the effects of the spoken word [Ia parole) on the subject-in the sense that these effects are
so radically primary that they are properly what determine the status of the subject as
subject."S Again, the subject the resultant, the residue, the product. Lacan considers
UMBR(a) 55
this more fundamental than the temporal pulsation of the unconscious that is an effect of
the very presence of the analyst. For him, the signifier initiates the entire process of what
one might want to call "subject formation," without which no analysis is possible. The
signifier precedes the analyst.
Clinically, this has great diagnostic and technical importance, particularly as one
may seek to address a discourse such as the "a-subjective" discourse of the psychotic, the
category that is arguably the closest to a fully biologically determined status of the
subject, i.e. a dimension in which the subject is constituted by his inscription in a purely
biological discourse-a subject of the pure barred Other of science. Yet even with
psychosis, it is not that there is nothing there where a subject should come to be. There
may be moments in which the subject has no significant representation and cannot be
"engendered." But still there is a subject-if only in relation to others.
The Function of the object a
In Seminar 11 Lacan is at pains to differentiate the subject of the unconscious and
the body. Lacan continually links the concept of the unconscious itself to the signifier:
The unconscious is the sum of the effects of the spoken word on a subject, at the
level at which the subject constitutes himself out of the effects of the signifier.
This marks well that, in the term subject ... we do not designate the living
substratum [le substrat vivant] necessary for the subjective phenomenon, nor any
kind of substance ... but the Cartesian subject, which appears at the moment
where doubt recognizes itself as certitude .... 6
Here again the subject and the process of subject formation is in the dimension of surplus
or residue. The subject thus resides in what Lacan may designate as a dimension of lack.
The object that the subject encounters there is an object primordially missing. It is the
object of any drive, the object that "causes" desire, the object a.
In this manner, Lacan sets the groundwork for removing the drive from the
purely empirical (quantitative) realm of the subject, and folds the concept of the drive
into the (qualitative) dimension of signification. He determines the clinical logic of the
drive through the function of its representative, the object a, in a logical space structured
by the logic of the signifier. In the end, it may be shown that the drive is a partial drive,
56 UMBR(a)
that is, a drive for which satisfaction is never complete. Yet its "push" remains constant
across a gap or lack of satisfaction. His representation for this inherent lack of satisfaction
to the drive is the object a.
The object a-often abbreviated by Lacan as a-arises out of and marks an
essential lack. Thus, like the function of the signifier itself, the drive, through its
representative object, a, serves to inscribe the function of the lack in the discourse of the
subject-itself, always already inscribed in the discourse of the barred Other, lA. In other
words, the function of the lack is synchronic and leaves its trace across the dimension of
the subject (S) and the Other (A). It is "realized" in the production of a. The relation of S
and A produces the residual object a:
f(a): (5 A)
Furthermore, dinical access to the dimension of the drive derives from the
production of the a. A quotidian example of the function of the drive may be found in
polite conversation in which friends talk about food over dinner, even after dinner. If it
were simply a matter of satisfaction, there would be no need to talk. Lacan puts it this
way: "The objet petit a is not the origin of the oral drive. It is not introduced under the
category of primitive nourishment, it is introduced by the fact that any nourishment
never satisfies the oral drive [pulsion1, unless it gives the contour [conioumer 1 of the
object eternally lacking.,,7 What is primordially lacking is the full satisfaction of the drive,
or, on the contrary, the incomplete nature of this satisfaction enacts the lack of the subject
from the very beginning of subjective experience.
One finds Lacan concerned with this same issue two years later in his seminar on
the fantasm in which he uses language remarkably similar to that used in Seminar XI. He
says that the a results from
... a logical operation .. , not in vivo, not even for the living person .... [Nor
does a result], properly speaking, from any confused sense the body has. It is not
necessarily the living flesh, though it may be and after all, when it is, it does not
organize things so badly. But after all, it appears that, in this entity of the body so
little understood, there is something which is ready for that operation of logical
structure that it remains for us to determine. It is ... the look [Ie regard], the
voice: these detachable pieces nevertheless reconnected to the body, here you
have what is involved in the object a [l'ol'jet al, in order to deal with the a, then,
UMBR(a) 57
let us limit ourselves, since we are obliged by some rigor of logic to signal that
something ready to present it is needed. In itself/ this does not get us anywhere
along the way of dealing with the fantasm: a 'ready-to-wear-it' is needed. 8
The "something ready to present it" is, of course, the object a. Other illustrations of
Lacan's "object small ti' are the bobbin in the fort-da game and the various bodily
products and parts which are raised to the status of signification by the child. Indeed, the
very function of Winnicott's transitional object can be related to this category. To
paraphrase a Kantian formula, one may speak of a transitional object = a. That is, any
object which traverses the boundary between the subject and the real world, functions
like the object a.
The Border of Theory and Practice
For Lacan, then, the concept of the object a is central to the function of the drive,
for Lacan. This marks a location of something in discourse-an object that represents a
partial drive-beyond the satisfaction of a need. The drive never finds satisfaction in the
completion of a biological cycle. Indeed, like the function of the signifier itself, the
object a marks a split (coupure) between the body and discourse. Something is missing
there where, for example, bio-behavioral and neuroscientific research would wish to find
something-namely! a link or continuity between t ~ signifier and the neuron. Some
American analysts have missed an opportunity here, it would seem" in that the function
ofa could guide neuroscience into the dimension of signification.
Returning to Lacan's seminar on the fantasm, one discovers that the signifier
plays a role more fundamental than many analysts would accept. Lacan argues there that
the signifier actually "engenders" the subject; it does not simply "designate" the subject
He says that the subject is what is "from the origin not there." The subject is not there, not
there until the signifier engenders it. Again! this is a matter of the logic of signifier for
Lacan. There is room here only to indicate how this might affect the question of clinical
intervention. If a patient comes to us in conflict or paint is it perhaps because, as subject,
he or she does not Hex-ist"? That is! the subject has no relation to a signifier there where it
is a question of desire. The subject is Hsufering" from being nothing more than an object
or, like Lear's fool, a mere thing.
The central problem for bio-behavioral researchers is an inability to tolerate a
58 " UMBR(a)
gap, split or disjunction between different dimensions of human subjectivity. The
discontinuity between the dimension of the signifier and the dimension of the neuron
seems unacceptable to neuroscience. It is as if the Signifier itself has some material link to
the neuron in the evanescence of the beauty of the human voice or written letter.
Perhaps, paradoxically, this is as it should be. That is, in Lacanian terms, this
discontinuity or disjunction introduces the place of the subject and the subject is not the
object of neuroscience or bio-behavioral research. The object of these studies is the
function of the neuron, not signification. And signification introduces the subject of the
signifier-a subject represented by a signifier for another signifier. The Signifier does not
represent the subject for a researcher. Lacan would agree with the separation of the
"living substratum" from the dimension of signification. We do not expect to find
something missing, or lacking, in the neurological system of any creature, unless as a
dysfunctional lesion.
The subject is not a lesion in the brain. The subject is displaced by the function of
the Signifier from the brain into a symbolic dimension of language. Nevertheless, in the
context of contemporary neuroscience, one may wish to say that the Signifier is a product
of specific neural networking: from the neuron to the signifier. Since the space between
the neuron and the signifier is not continuous or even lineal, one must tolerate that there
is a "jump" from the neuron to the signifier akin to the function of a hysteresis. There is a
change of state of the subject from the biological to the symbolic. In this change of state, it
may be said that the neuron is elevated to the function of Signification. It carries the
subject along only to be shed-or to fade-at the threshold of meaning. The more the
subject makes sense in discourse, the less one thinks about the brain itself-unless one is
seeking to represent the brain. To be sure: no signifier without the neuron-and
dialectically, no neuron without the signifier. Such is one of the fundamental paradoxes
of the scientific endeavor-no science without a scientist.
The relation between the neuroscientific findings and the signification of
language in subjectivity is well beyond the scope of this remark. There is only space here
to suggest that the evolution of analytic theory has a dearly marked and highly fruitful
potential in the relation established between the neuron and the signifier by the function
of the object a. There is a radical disjunction between them which forms the basis of a
functional relation. This relation is one that has yet to find adequate inscription. The lack
of this inscription ought not be taken for it being nonsense-even though to many in the
US it has yet to make sense.
What is at stake in establishing a relation between the Signifier and the neuron is
the very of the subject. This subject is the subject that is produced-
"engendered" -in the course of treatment through the spoken words of the patient in the
therapeutic discourse of analysis. This is the subject of the signifier. Subjects come into
treatment captured by relationships which have lost their sense and have become
symptoms. The primary sense of the symptom, of course, is some form of pain. While
psychiatric treatment seeks to address this pain on a neuronal level, analytic work is
poised to receive the residue, the subject. This is why a somatic treatment cannot cure an
analytic symptom. That the analytic symptom does not exist in the living substratum
of the neuron. Whenever somatic treatment does cure the symptom, it was never an
analytic symptom. It was never a matter of a subject for another signifier.
It is not evident that Lacan's theory has the power to address the catastrophic
effacement of subjectivity in American clinical or, more generally, cultural discourse.
What is evident is that this catastrophe is not a denegation of a further unconscious
evolution or re-structuring, but is rather a painful and often tragic eruption of a kind of
"objective" meaning devoid of a place for the subject. This could be a place-a SDlllce--
from which a subject might be engendered through the agency of a clinical intervention
whose aim is to link the subject with a signifier. From there, the subject might be poised
for another, a second, signifier. The subject would then be no thing. The subject is
1. Sigmund Freud, "Instincts and Their Vicissitudeslf (1915) in The Standard Edition of the
Complete Psychological Works Freud (New York: Norton, 1953-1974), voL XlV, 121-122.
2 Sigmund "The Unconscious" (1915), SE, vol. XIV, 177.
3. Jacques Lacan, Seminar 14: La Logique du fantasme (unpublished transcript, 1966-1967),
lecture of 16 November 1966. My translation.
4. Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. jacques-Alain
Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977),149. Translation modified.
5. Ibid., 126. Translation modified.
6. Ibid. Translation modified.
7. Ibid., 180. Translation modified.
8. La du fantasme, lecture of '16 November 1966. My translation.
60 UMBR(a)
Juliet Flower MacCannell
Lacan read Freud's work on instinct, or drive, to the letter, drawing out the
points least acceptable to Freud's-and his own-contemporaries. Only very recently
have both their theories been themselves penetrated with fresh insight-notably by Slavoj
Zitek, who places drive squarely in the camp of an ethic of challenge, and Joan Copjec,
who uses drive descriptively to index a new and critical moment in cultural and social
stagings. Here I would like to examine the features of Freud's work that Lacan
developed, features that have permitted these new openings.
The first thing that Lacan drew from Freud was the latter's comprehension that
the "big" drives-life force and death drive-were essentially one with respect to their
aim. The aim of all life is, quite simply, death. But mind and psyche stand in tension in
this cycle, gripped fully by neither. Freud said that drive is "a demand made on the mind
for work"; it is what urges us to do mental labor. 1 The effort of fending off libido, or that
part of sexuality which ultimately joins with death, is complex.
drive energizes us in its
role as "representative,,3 of a constant excitation from within. Mind seeks to shelter us
from this overwhelming jouissance by discharging it-not upon the real, the site of
unmediated life and death, but upon mentated or hallucinatory objects.
Drive-sexual drive-is thus what leads us to mental life, to conceptualization, to
the original substitution of the word and the image for the Thing. Lest we confuse sexual
drive with genital drive, however, we must disabuse ourselves of the idea that sexual
drive afms to (re)unite the sexes. Instead, sexual drive is, Freud says, a set of components,
an "amalgamation" that Lacan would later re-name a "montage." 5 This montage displays
the partialness of drives.
UMBR(a) 61
Such "partial drives" already appear in Freud, in the form of what he calls "the
perversions" (not to be confused with Lacan's later designation of the perverse
structure}.6 They reveal how the sexual drive finds a weak spot in the totalizing
construction that mind attempts to erect against the real. "Perversions" are the attempt of
drives to override the barriers of shame, modesty, and disgust that mind has erected
against them? Lacan's partial drives differ from Freud's only insofar as Lacan will
disengage them from a lingering moral tinge still present in Freud's terminology, which
links them firmly to perversity, polymorphous or otherwise. Lacan finds partial
drives/ perversions the only truly human moment in drive. And insofar as partial drives
circulate around a hallucinated object, the object a, which is taken by mind as a
representative of the life force, and which also thereby retains some particle of the real of
jouissance, they represent the first moments of human mentalhfe, both ontogenetically
and phylogenetically.
Today, the stakes of this Lacanian nuancing of Freud are great. Though he does
not oppose Freud at the most basic level, Lacan brings to the fore the "obscene" core of
our mental-and cultural--elaborations. Slavoj Zizek pointed this out
when he called
for contesting the ethics of the hysteric, the obsessional, and the pervert with a new ethics
of drive, which would work as a constant reminder of the traul1Ul of jouissance and its
necessary loss of the real object. Enjoyment/ satisfaction in the real is not only impossible
but terrifying. When it makes its unexpected or sudden appearance before the psyche
(trauma) it is a new spur to mental labor.
The various ethics described by Lacan-hystericaI- obsessionaI- perverse-are all
built around circumventing the encounter vvith the Thing by circling the object a. These
missed encounters have generated all our social discourses-the discourses of the master,
university, analyst, and hysteric. In one sense, the discourses are plainly different forms
of extracting and utilizing the mental energy generated by the object a at the center of the
partial drive.1
Zitek calls for a new, purified ethics of drive
-partly because of the
way that the other ethics have played their hand and partly because the dominant ethic
today is an "ethics of perversion" which undercuts the original, and crucial, disruptions
of mental elaborations that Freud's "perversions" once stood for. A renewed anxiety,
based on a renewed appreciation of trauma! is called for. This is another way of saying
that even our libertine, perverse ethics are modes of exploitation of our creative energies,
our partial drives. 12
This is hardly how drive is usually depicted. The usual sequence goes something
like this-Drive and its !!objecf' are produced by the Other's demand. Drive is
subsequently displaced by desire, which separates and shields the subject from this
62 UMBR(a)
unbarred Other of demand. Drive, with its object attenuated, veiled or transformed is
then integrated, more or less happily, into an Oedipally shaped symbolic order, regulated
by a masier signifier, the phallus, and the Name-of-the-Father.
A master's discourse
then deals w.ith the precipitate of demand-jouissance in the form of the object a at the
center of drive-by absorbing its excess for the benefit of the whole through sublimation
and / or "normal" repression. The object a-the excess of jouissance created out of the cut
made by language-is to be held in abeyance, so to speak. Drive is to be kept in check, to
be dealt with privately by the individual in tension and conflict with social regulation-
i.e., with the Father. Or so the story goes.
From the standpoint of the decline of Oedipus, however, quite a different picture
of drive emerges. Our sociocultural order-the symbolic-is no longer based on a "reality
principle" endlessly cycling ,.v:ith a "pleasure principle" to achieve equilibrium. Today, no
paternal symbolic can perform the necessary balanCing act with aplomb. The deepest
contradictions of the symbolic are today laid bare-especially the central contradiction
between the being or jouissance of subjects and what the symbolic proffers to them as
their meaning or sens. Drive is responSible for this exposure, this revelation that what
was once a master's voice is instead the voice of the superego, regulating and over-
regulating-permitting its obscene side 10 be shown. Drive has now made itself seen and
heard, showing that superego has become a fresh source of demand, and therefore of a
renewed imbalance with respect to the object. Will it again a be a new source of partial
For once jouissance has become, as it has, a p u l ~ c f political factor rather than a
private remainder left after its absorption by a master discourse, drive becomes a central
ethical problem. What was once considered the individual's portion-whatever
jouissance had not been absorbed or desiccated by symbolic language-now shows up in
a variety of ways, ranging from symptom to sinthome, from parapraxis to paraphrenia,
from paraphilia to the work of art. These slips-through-the-cracks made themselves seen
or heard despite the dominance of the symbolic order they obliquely contested.
Here is where Joan Copjec's insights are most illuminating. 15 She says drive has
shifted its topological position, and has now been made manifestly audible and visible in
today's climate of a "duty" to enjoy. Instead of disrupting speech, it sits enthroned beside
it. This contemporary "staging" of drive-as-being voids in advance the promise of the
symbolic, the promise of meaning. It was an empty promise, to be sure, but it could be,
from time to time, fruitfully undone by the partial drive. As staged, drive may thus be in
the process of losing its edge as "the only other of culture." Where are the last vestiges of
UMBR(a) 63
a strictly human struggle for life against death, or being? Failure of drive to disrupt
superegoic cultural demands indexes their excessive power-not vice versa.
t Drive<translated "instinct" by Strachey> is "a measure of the demand made on the mind
for work./I "Three Essays on Sexuality" (1905), in The Standard Edition Of The Complete Psychological
Worles Of Sigmund Freud, trans. James Strachey, (Lond on: The Hogarth Press, 1953--1974), voL '7, 168.
2. Lacan places genital sex and reproduction-the whole field of Oedipu.s--in the register
of death: "Two become one." SeeThe Faur Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, trans. Alan
Sheridan, (New York: Norton, 1977), 150-1. See also Juliet Flower MacCannell, Figuring Lacan:
Criticism and the Cultural Unconscious (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 1986), 158-63.
3. "rDrive is] provisionally understood as the psychical representative of an endosomatic,
continuously flowing source ofstimulation." SE VII: 168.
4. Freud calls it the "removal of an organic stimulus," SE VII: 168.
5. Lacan, liThe Deconstruction of the Drive" in Foul' Fundamental Concepts, 169-70.
6. The perverse structure is central today. Its subject, denying its subjection to the Signifier,
claims to be in touch ,vith it" being, without having to go through lack, or desire in the Other (the
condition of speech and the social contract). Such claims are not limited to the fetishist or sadist, but
instead extend to the scientist, according to Lacan. They constitute an acceleration of the process of
"idealization of the drive" Freud pointed out in "Three Essays" (SE V11:161).
7. SE VII: 151; 157; 161.
8. For Lacan, in Four Fundamental Concepts, the object a, is always the object of a drive;
objects a are subjects of the unconscious (242) and are all representatives of the life force; drives are
always death drives. (198). The Freudian source for Lacan's object a is the "pleasure ego"
supplemented and supplanted by the "reality ego," in Freud's "Formulations on The Two
Principles of Mental Functioning" in SE XII.: 218-20, and n. 4.
9. For They Know Not Wlwt The'f Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor (London: Verso, 1991),
10. Master discourses, for example, legislate by purveying a (false) distinction between
knowing and being, so that for his labor a slave is rewarded with a jouissance of being that excludes
knowledge of it. Knowledge (samir) is given over to the master. While the discourse of the hysteriC
and the discourse of the analyst contest the discourse of the master, it seems that the Master himself
is no longer fully in charge. The perversion known as "science," for example, retains some of the
legislative, imperative features of the discourse of the master. But in this perversion, its subject does
not reaUy retain either his meaning or his knowledge and jouissance are conflated. The
sadistic superego, vie might say, wants your jouissance as its savoir. A look at the final graph of
desire where castration is on the side of the Other, unbarred, tells the tale in brief and pictorial
fom1. See Lacan, Seminar 17: L'EnZ)ers de 111 psychul1alyse(Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1991), 119-21 and
64 .. UMBR(a)
faits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan, (New York: Norton, 1977), 315.
11. For They /(no'U) Not What They Do, 272.
12. See Dean MacCannell (with Juliet Flower MacCannell), 'Social Class in Postmodernity:
Simulacrum? Or Return of the Real?" in Chris Rojek, ed., (Kew York: Routledge,
13. For clinicians, it is crucial to take a moderating stance, so that the haunting of the
subject-and the symbolic-by drive and objects a are attenuated by the introduction of a new
signifier in their place. See Marie Hel?me Brousse, "Drive (I)," in Seminar XI: Lacan's 'Four
Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis', eds. Richard Feldstein, Bruce Fink, and Maire Jaanus,
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995),109-11.
14. Juliet Flower MacCannell, The Regime of the Brother: the Patriarchy, (New York,
Routledge, 1991), Chapter 1, "The Primal Scene of Modernity."
15. Read My Desire: LClean Against the Historicists, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1994), 181-
209. Copjec writes that we live in a society that "commandsjouissance as a cure"; it is a "duty"
which has disrupted our attempts to "safeguard the empty 'private' space" produced as the residue
of culture.
UrvlBR(a) 65
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U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
Daniel G. Collins
According to the accepted history of psychoanalysis, it is by no means con-
troversial to assert that it was Freud who introduced the drive into psychoanalytic theory,
nor to say that of his followers only Lacan took seriously Freud's dri7.Je and developed it.
Yet this assertion requires some defense. It may come as a surprise to most
Freudians that it was Alfred Adler who first spoke of an aggressive drive-and in 1908,
twelve years before Freud's theorization of the the death drive in Beyond the Pleasure
Principle. Adler also introduced the notion of the transformation of the drives-including
the transformation of a drive into its opposite, the displacement of a drive towards
another goal, and the direction of a drive onto one's own person-and all this seven years
berore Freud's "Drives and Their Vicissitudes."
Likewise, it may surprise most Lacanians to learn that Adler listed among the
drives a drive to see and a drive to hear. Or to learn that according to Tung, human
beings' biological instincts never act directly upon the psyche, but only through the
mediation of symbols.
Why not, then, credit Adler and Jung with the discovery and development of the
. Because Adler later repudiated his drive theory when he split with Freud.
Because his drive theory was stm biological. And because his drive theory was
descriptive rather than conceptual.
As for Jung, his theory of the mediation of instinct by the symbolic-the
"canalization of energy" -is actually quite different from Lacan's. For Jung's "symbolic"
is a representational order based on analogy and semblance---thus much doser to Lacan's
UMBR(a) .. 67
imaginary-and not a linguistic order. Jung, then, asserted that biological instincts are
symbolically mediated only to turn around and make symbols a function of biology.
In short, Adler used the term, but did not advance the concept, while Jung
applied the term to a concept that was not sound.
There is no doubt that the term "drive" was used in psychoanalysis prior to
Freud's promuJgation of his mature drive theory. Freud's achievement was to introduce
the concept of the drive. Freud's "Drives and Their Vicissitudes," published in 1915, is
Freud's definitive statement of his position in the wake of a long period of psychoanalytic
research. And it is no accident that Freud begins his essay with an otherwise incongruous
paragraph on the development of concepts in science. Implicit in this paragraph is
Freud's contention that the psychoanalytic theory of the drive must be conceptual, not
merely descriptive or empirical. But to introduce a distinction between "term" and
"concept" requires that we return to the word.
The Word "Orive"
The controversy is wen known. For Freud's German word, 'Trieb', James
Strachey-general editor and major translator of the Standard Edition of Freud in
English-rejected the English cognate 'drive' and chose instead 'instinct'. Strachey argued
that the word 'drive' in the psychological sense does not exist as an English substantive.
Ever since, commentators have been telling us that drive is not instinct and that Freud,
when he refers to animal instinct, uses the German word 'Instinkt'.
Now, it seems to me that if this were simply a matter of a mistranslated word, we
could all get over it fairly quickly. For example, twenty years after the fact, no one
believes that the title that Sheridan trans1ates as trrhe Deconstruction of the Drive"
contains a Derridean reference. We all accept that Sheridan made a mistake and we move
on. But Strachey's mistranslation of ' Trieb' haunts psychoanalysis. There is something
more going on here.
To begin with, Strachey had some right on his side. The word 'drive' as a
substantive in the psychological sense does not, in fact, appear in the first edition of the
OED, nor in the 1933 Supplement. But in the 1971 Supplement, the seventh definition of
'drive' as a substantive is given the usage label "psychological." The first citation given
under this definition is taken from page 165 of the eighth number of the journal Mind,
published in l8S8-note that the date is pre-Freud. The citation reads, simply, "Trieb, for
68 ., UMBR(a)
which there is no good single equivalent in English." Also included under this definition
is a citation from Charles Brenner's Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis, in which
Brenner states that a drive "is a genetically determined, psychic constituent." This
definition is quite simply wrong, but it was published-the word 'drive'
1955, only two years after Strachey began publication of the Standard Edition. During the
same period, Anna Freud and the ego"psychologists were referring to "instinctual
drives," as if the conflation of the two terms solved the translation problem. All of this-
and a reference to Cecil M. Baines, 1925-should serve to indicate that the waters were
muddy long before Strachey came along.
The problem of the translation of 'Trieb' into English has led many to take
recourse to the German. I have always been suspicious of this approach, and its imp1icit
assumption that the word, obscure in English, is perfectly dear in Freud's own
language-as if we would all understand Freud perfectly if only we spoke German. My
German-English dictionary of 1877-again, pre-Freud-defines 'Trieb' with the usual
and expected list of synonyms-'impetus', 'motive', 'impulse', 'indination'-but gives no
indication that Freud's term Trieh' would be immediately clear to any native speaker of
German at the time Freud introduces it.
The term 'drive' is problematic not simply because of difficulties of translation,
but because the concept is new at the time Freud introduces it. There is a break between
Freud's Trieb and any previous usage or definition of the word. Strachey is not wrong to
say that the term didn't exist in English prior to Freud. He is wrong only because he
failed to introduce the right term to designate the new concept. And the concept of the
drive begins with Freud.
Freud's Drive ...
It is a striking fact that psychoanalysis got along quite well for the first fifteen
years without a concept of the drive. We can find in the Project and in the Three Essays
the mdiments of a drive theory, but it is fair to say that in the beginning psychoanalysis
was about the interpretation of desire. Psychoanalysis began by interpreting wishes,
mistakes, jokes, dreams. For fifteen years psychoanalysis dealt with the repression of
wishes. Then, in 1915, another formula is advanced-the defense against the drive. These
two fonnulae are never integrated. It is almost as if there are two psychoanalyses---one of
desire and one of the drive.
The drive enters psychoanalysis quite late and seems to be awkwardly tacked on
UMBR(a) 69
to an already existing theory. The question, then, is why introduce it at all? The drive
seems to violate Ockham's razor.
If Freud felt compelled to introduce a theory of the drives into psychoanalysis, it
is because the drive insisted, imposed itself. It is as if the interpretation of desire cleared a
space in which the drive could emerge.
The drive finally emerges in Freud's "Triebe und Triebschicksale ," the title of
which should, of course, be translated as "Drives and Their Vicissitudes." Although
5trachey got 'Triche' wrong, the translation 'Vicissitudes' for '-schicksale' is actually quite
good. The word comes from the Latin 'vicis', meaning 'change' or 'alteration' And while
the German' Schiclcsal' can mean 'fate' or 'destiny', it is related to the verb 'schiclcen',
meaning 'to send', and ultimately to 'geschehen', meaning 'to happen' or 'to occur'
'Schicksal', then, is not 'destiny' in the sense of 'the predestined'; it is rather 'destiny' in
the sense of "going out to find one's destiny." The meaning of Freud's title, then, is
"Drives, and all the things that can happen to them, all the changes and alterations they
may undergo, as they are sent on their way."
After his introductory paragraph on the philosophy of science Freud tells us that
he will take up this fundamental concept drive and "attempt to fill it with content from
all sides." Freud says "sides," 'Seite'. Lacan would say "levels/' 'niveaux'.
First, the level of physiology, which gives us the reflex arc, the stimulus-response
model. This is nothing more complicated than withdrawing your hand from a hot stove.
Motor action removes your hand from the external source of excitation. Freud tells us that
an external stimulus has the feature that it "acts as a single impact." A drive, however,
does not fit the model of the reflex arc because it acts "always as a constant force." Also,
since it acts internally, "it follows that no flight can avail against it." A better word for
such a drive-stimulus, Freud says, would be "need." Freud is building very carefully here
at the level of physiology. What he has established so far allows him to say that "drive-
stimuli oblige the nervous system to renounce its ideal Intention of warding off [all]
stimuli, for they maintain an incessant and unavoidable afflux of stimulation."
Next, at the level of biology-Freud tells us that the drive is a "borderland
concept between the mental and the physical." It is a demand made upon the mind and a
mental representative of the stimuli making that demand. Conceptually, this is quite
different from the physiological modeL At the level of biology, Freud introduces four
aspects, four moments of the drive-pressure, source, aim, and object. Each of these terms
should give us pause.
First pressure. It is conceptually easy to reduce the drive to the the pressure of a
70 UMBR(a)
need, and the beginning of Freud's essay aUows us to confuse the two terms. But Freud
tells us that the extinction of a need is its satisfaction, while the pressure of a drive is
constant. Freud, then, makes a distinction between need and drive, and through this
breach Lacan wiU enter.
Second SOU1t:e. If we think, for example, of the qualities that Freud attributes to
the so-called anal character-parsimony, stubbornness, orderliness-it is difficult to see
how they have their source in the anus. Why not say simply that all drives are mental?
Further, Freud tells us that Dora's tussis nervosa is nothing but genital excitation
displaced upwards. In faei, the distinguishing feature of conversion hysteria is the
eroticization of supposedly non-erogenous areas of the body. How do we say, then,
which erogenous zones are primary and which are secondary?
If source is surprisingly variable, aim is even more so. The aim of a drive, Freud
says, "is in every instance satisfaction." But, he goes on, "there may yet be different ways
leading to the same goal." Freud's German words for "aim" and "goa}" are 'Ziel' and
'Endziel'-another distinction Lacan will capitalize on. What Freud is saying is that it
makes not a bit of difference how this satisfaction is achieved. To make an example of
Dante-if I can't have Beatrice, 111 write the Divine Comedy. It's all the same.
And finally, there is the object of the drive, that through which the drive will
obtain its satisfaction. Freud says rather laconically that the object is "the most variable
thing about a drive." That is to say, when it is two o'clock and the bar's about to dose,
you're not very choosy.
So, we have a pressure that remains constant is spite of satisfaction, a source that
is displaceable to any part of the body, an aim that is 100% accurate no matter where it
points, and an object that is fla matter of total indifference." The question is, how does this
contradictory, paradoxical list of non-properties define the drive?
If this isn't enough, we are about to enter the final stage of the essay. After his
treatment of the physiological and biological levels; Freud tens us that because we can
learn very little of the drive at the level of consciousness, "psycho-analytic inves-
tigation ... remains the principle source of our knowledge." And we are finally
introduced to the famous four vicissitudes-reversal into the opposite, turning around on
the subject, repression, and sublimation. Lacan suspects that this list might be re1ated to
the biological list of the four aspects. Both lists taken together should convince one that
almost anything can happen with the drive. And yet it still remains the drive. What then,
is this drive that remains constant through so many changes?
UIVIBR(a) 71
, . and lacon's
In 1958, as Miller reminds us, Lacan had stm not yet distinguished between
desire and drive. But in the early sixties, Lacan begins to rethink the drive. He retheorizes
it, and in doing so shifts from a Freudian to a Lacanian conceptualization of the drive.
11'lat is to say, he goes a long way towards rectifying Freud's confused formulations. In
saying this I do not intend a facile criticism, for Freud's confusion was productive. In his
thinking on the drive, Freud was at his best when he was confused. The period from 1915
to the early twenties saw the production of an entirely new concept. And then Freud's
theory of the drive stabilized into an opposition between Eros and Thanatos-a rather
unsatisfactory conceptualization that satisfied Freud to the end of his life.
"The Subversion of the Subject" 2 distills much of Lacan's teaching on the drive
up to 1960. And, famously, the graphs of desire take their final form there. Let us trace the
drive through these graphs. First the lower level (Figure 1)-
Here we have the chain of signifiers pierced twice by a loop that goes from some illusory
pre-linguistic intention on the right (A) to the barred subject on the left. It is important to
remember that the chain of signifiers must be taken here in its simple materiality. It is,
prior to this looping, nothing but a phonemic stream. The vector that goes from S to S' is
not a line that accomplishes something as it comes out the other side. In factI we can see
in the second graph that far from accomplishing something, it loses something. The loop
that runs from A to $ both creates the effect of meaning in the signifying chain and in the
process evacuates that chain of meaning, leaving nothing but pure remainder, pure voice.
72 UMBR(a)
Signifiant Voix
I(A) $
Figure 2
In the second form of the graph (Figure 2), the two points of intersection are now
identified as the place of the code, A, and the place of the message, s(A). The synchrOnic
code delivers up a diachronic signification. According to Lacan, then, we may think of the
two intersections as a place and a pulse.
What is to be learned here is that the upper level of the completed graph (see
Figure 3, below) operates in exactly the same way. Here too we have a looping which, at
this level, reduces an arc of jouissance to nothing but castration. This is the evacuation of
jauissance 1rom the body.
At this level, the first intersection of the loop is at the point of the drive, ($ (> D).
The formula means, "the barred subject in relation to symbolic demand." It is important
to recognize that the matheme for the drive is not a single letter or symboIr but a relation.
The drive is not simple, but articulated. It is not a biological need or "genetically
determined psychic constituent" finding expression at the psychical level that constitutes
the drive, but rather the fact that biological need cannot be directly represented at the
psychical level.
In recognizing that the drive is the relation of the subject to symbolic demand, I
would say that it is possible to formulate, on the model of Lacan's four discourses, a
"discourse of demand."3 First there is biological need, 11, which is represented by
symbolic demand, D-
UMBR(a) 73
This demand is, in turn, addressed to the Other-
----l>l1> A
And what is signified by the Other, as the product of this discourse, is desire, d-
-----l> A
f.. 1/ d
The truth of this discourse is biological need, but we should recognize that it cannot enter
discourse as a real term-only as an unknown x. And for that unknown x to become
signified in discourse, a signifier must be introduced-
r s
X J / / d
This is the function of theVorstellungsreprasentanz-the signifier comes to represent the
(lacking) representation, x.
To continue reading the graph of desire, we should note that Lacan uses exactly
the same terminology to refer to the first intersection at the upper level of the graph,
($ <> D), as he did to refer to the corresponding point in the lower level-it is the "treasury
of the signifiers." 4 This is what Lacan means when he says that it is possible, with the
neurotic, to draw up a catalogue of the drives.
And what is the signification at this level? It is the signifier of the lack in the
Other, 8(.4\). We can say, then, that the subject's relation to symbolic demand signifies a
lack in the Other. Or, more completely, we can say-starting from the lower right of the
completed graph-that the subject, $, finds itself alienated in and by the Other, A, and
must express its needs symbolically as demand, ($ (> D). The message that comes back in
answer to this symbolization is the Signifier of the lack in the Other, 8(.4\). This lack is
Signified to the subject, 5(A), and precipitates an identification with the Other, l(A), as
. lacking.
In other words, it is the subject's alienation in language that evacuates jouissance
from the body and leads to an identification with the Other as desiring. We begin to see,
74 UMBR(a)
then, how Lacan formulates desire as dependent upon the law, dependent upon the
Other, dependent upon castration.
I(A) $
Figure 3
In 1964, Lacan will elaborate on the relation between drive and desire in an
address called "Freud's 'Trieb' and the Psychoanalyst's Desire:,5 Lacan begins by saying
that it is specifically psychological thinking that reduces the drive to instinct. Here we
begin to see an impedinlent to the understanding of the drive that is not merely an effect
of translation or terminology. Lacan calls this psychological equation of drive and instinct
lithe supposition of morals in nature." Why morals? Because if drive were instinct, then
UMBR(a) 75
goods, as objects of satisfaction, would be naturally determined. There would be an
appropriate object for every drive. "A.nyone familiar with therapy knows how important
this word "appropriate" is to psychological thinking. Just think of its use in the phrases
"appropriate behavior," "appropriate response," "appropriate outlet for aggression,"
"appropriate relationship" -it all does smack of moralism.
But the drive is not instinct. Lacan gives u.s another definition. He states that the
drive is that which "divides the subject and desire." Here, finally, we have a relation
between the desire and drive, but what does this mean? This is a definition that one must
be willing to take time to understand before rushing to a conclusion. It is very difficult.
Desire is on the side of the other, the other side from the subject. It is difficult to
see how drive intervenes between the two, how it effects their division, so let us imagine
what would happen if the two were undivided, if the subject and desire were on the same
side. In that case, the psychologists would be right and desire would be reduced to pure
need. Wishes, Wunschgedenken, would be pure representations of need. Language would
be a system of signs, a tool for the expression of need. Psychologism of the crudest sort
would be valid-You feel insecure because you'were brought up poor, and this is the cause of
your desire for wealth. But Lacan teaches that it is because biological need takes a detour
through the Other, through symbolic demand, that the gap of desire opens up.
Now let us take the next part of the sentence. Lacan says that desire "sustain[s]
itself only in the relation that it misrecognizes between that division [the division of the
subject and desire] and an object which causes it. Such is the structure of fantasy." The
subject, in other words, confuses its division from desire with its division from the object
of satisfaction. Now Lacan has said earlier in this same paper that "desire is desire of
desire." This is pure desire, primordial desire, in the sense that it is logically prior
(though not temporally prior). The question is-How does this pure desire come to be
directed towards objects? It is because symbolic demand is directed towards the attainment
of an object of satisfaction that the subject sustains its desire in a fantasy that desire can be
satisfied by an object. This is the result of the subject's misrecognition of its division from
desire as a division from the object a. And this, finally, is why the drive can be defined as
the division between the subject and desire.
($0 D)
d --------;..) ($ (> a)
76 UMBR(a)
An Ethics of the Drive
The only thing one is guilty of, from the psychoanalytic point of view, is to have
given up on one's own desire or drive (on this occasion one may use both).6
-Jacques-Alain Miller
I tell you, J am the wanderer who has come
To offer you the image of a humble example.
-Antonin Artaud
Paradoxically, Lacan's success in relating desire and drive reveals the two
concepts ever more clearly in their purified non-relation. At the end of Seminar 11, Lacan
says of desire that it is "not necessarily agitated in the drive. There are empty desires or
mad desires that are based on nothing more than the fact that the thing in question is
forbidden to you.,,7 And regarding the drive, J'y[iUer 'will later say, "there is within the
subject a type of demand that has nothing to do with the demand for love ... a demand
that does not aim at the Other."S
Armed, then, with clarified, independent concepts of desire and drive, we must
ask what kept the drive hidden for so long in desire's shadow. What is the impediment to
the understanding of the drive that is only made manifest by Strachey's mistranslation?
This is a project of historical speculation, but Lacan gives us the answer, at least for our
own era, when he explains why it is that psychologists have an interest in confusing drive
and instinct. lt is, Lacan says, because psychologists are "on the whole and per se ... in
the service of technocratic exploitation.,,9 In our age it is the ideology of capitalism that
covers over the drive. Capitalism requires a mass of workers who believe that it is
natural, that it is within their nature, to march off to work, to perform repetitive tasks, to
purchase advertised products, to return home, and to do the same day after day-to the
point of their own destruction. In "Subversion of the Subject," Lacan says that the
neurotic subject confuses the demand of the Other with its own desire, that the neurotic
substitutes the Other's demand for the object of satisfaction in the formula for fantasy,
thereby reducing desire to drive. It is clear that this is the means by which the subject of
capitalism will participate in its own exploitation.
Here we can begin to formulate an ethics of the dri ve. It is an ethics of the
liberation of the drive from the service of capitalism. The corresponding fear, that a
liberated drive would lead to anarchy, actually has less to do with the drive than it does
UfVlBR(a) 77
with the relation of desire and the law-and only serves to submit the drive to further
exploitation. A liberated drive would remove itself from the ideology that masks this
exploitation as natural.
We must remember that Seminar 7 takes place during the year in which Lacan
clarifies for himself the relation of desire and drive. His Ethics, therefore, is stated first in
terms of desire. But later, on Television, he will spell out the elements of an ethics of the
drive. It is the ethics of the saint. The business of a saint, he says, is to be trash-"So as to
embody what the structure entails, namely allowing the subject, the subject of the
unconscious, to take him as the cause of the subject's own desire." 10
What Lacan is telling us is this-Within the master discourse <,If capitalism, do not
strive to be the truth ($). As the barred subject, you already are the sad truth of capitalism.
Strive rather to be the object a, the leftover product, the waste. "That's my principle,"
says Lacan, lithe way out of capitalist discourse."ll But-and there is always a but-lest
we take the ethics of the drive to be merely a program for revolution, let us take note of
Lacan's warning-the way out of capitalist discourse "will not constitute progress, if it
happens only for some."12
To be a saint, to be ethical, in no way implies that one be a revolutionary. One has
only to look at the sad history of Marxist revolution to realize the unfortunate fact that
revolution too soon becomes a nine-to-five job. And the superegoic imperative to enjoy,
which causes us to cede our desire and our drive, can readily enough take the form of a
revolutionary leader's exhortation. This exhortation is enshrined in the notion of
. "permanent revolution," which stands for nothing more than infinite deferral of the
revolutionaries' jouissance.
Rather than being revolutionary or collective, then, the ethics of psychoanalysis is
strictly individual and seemingly always formulated around a paradoxical one-two
punch-I) "Enjoy!" but 2) the jouissance is only implied.
Or again, 1) "You always have
the right to rebel," but 2) "you also have to know that no rebellion will ever make the
superego disappear." Or finally, 1) "jouissance has already been renounced," but 2) "do
not abdicate the poor remainder you have not discarded."14
The ethics of the drive--no less than the ethics of desire-is trapped in paradox.
But it is not an impossible ethics. We have only to remember the drive, for to forget it is to
give it up, to give it over to the Other, along with our jouissance. In the history of
psychoanalysis, it seems that the drive has undergone the vicissitude of repression. It has
been forgotten. Only Lacan responded to the challenge of Freud's concept. But we too can
take up that challenge. Do not cede your desire. Do not forget your drive. Speak well of it.
78 UMBR(a)
1. "Instincts and Their Vicissitudes" in Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers vol. 4 (New York:
Basic Books, 1959), 60-83.
2. "The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious"
in Ecrits: A Selection (New York,: Norton, 1977), 292-325. The graphs of desire as given here are
drawn from" Subversion du sujet et dialectique du desir dans l'inconscient freudian" in the complete
French edition of fcrits (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1966), 793-827.
3. It must be noted, however, that that the use of this discourse is purely pedagogical and
does not represent an attempt to introduce a "fifth discourse" in addition to Lacan's four-which
operate at quite a different leveL
4. "Subversion," 314/817.
5. Translated by Bruce Fink in Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's Return to Freud, eds.
Ri.chard Feldstein, Bruce Fink, and Maire Jaanus, (New York: SUNY Press, 1996), 417-421.
6. Jacques-Alain Mitler, "A Reading of Some Details in Television in Dialogue with the
Audience," Newsletter of the Freudiau Field 4.1 & 2 (Spring/Fall 1990), 15.
7. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis, ed. JacqueS-Alain Miller, trans. Alan
Sheridan, (New York: Norton, 1977), 243.
8. "Love's Labyrinths," lacanian ink 8 (Spring 1994),12.
9. "Frued's'Trieb,''' 417.
10. Jacques Lacan, Television: A Challange to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. Joan
Copjec, trans. Denis Hollier, et al., (New York: Norton, 1990), 15.
11. Ibid., 16.
12. Ibid.
13. See "Subversion/' 319/821.
14. See Jacques-Alain Miller, "Duty and the Drives," Newsletter of the Freudian Field 6.1
& 2 (Spring/Fa111992), 15.
UMBR(a) 79
Jean-Fram;;ois Lyotard
The words "pulsional" and "apparatus" are born of the lexicon of Freudian
metapsychology. Freud writes in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexualittj that "the simplest
and most obvious assumption concerning the nature of instincts would be that in
themselves they possess no quality but manifest themselves as a measure of laborious
effort in the psychic life." 1 This is a hypothesis directly out of the physics of dynamics.
The human body is stimulated by "sporadic and external excitations" such as a
smell, a taste, colors, sound, a touch. The organism transforms the energy thus introduced
into a nervous influx causing it to flow into actions aimed at suppressing the excitation
when the stimulation is painful-and repeating it when it is pleasurable. It is a stimulus-
response system modeled upon the psycho-physics of Weber and Fechner, but with
feedback. This in turn will be the founding principle of Wiener's cybernetics. The living
dimension is considered a machine programmed to transform energy in order to
maximize its relations with the environment.
With his "pulsional" hypothesis, Freud makes things slightly more complex for a
"too dry" mechanistic conception. First, the pulsion does not spring from outside, as in
the case of stimulation through excitation. On the contrary, it is "endosomatic/' "within
an organ." Second, the stimulation via pulsion is constant, whereas excitation issuing
from the milieu are "sporadic" The pulsional source "flows continually." Finally the
existence of pulsions cannot be proven except as a result of their psychic effects. The
pulsion "is" its own "psychic representing (Reprdsentanz) form." The reflex :t;IlodeI cannot
UMBR(a) 81
be applied here. The liquefaction of pulsional energy, of endosomatic origin always
demands the psyche work hard. Short of identifying the quality of the pulsion, one can
measure its quantity as a result of the psychic work that it requires for its transformation.
What Freud names "psychic apparatus" (our "apparatus") is still thought to be an energy
transformer, but its pulsional energy is internal. It exercises pressure in a continuous
manner. It cannot be "liquefied" without activating representation. Given these
conditions, the L<;sue appears precarious.
You cast away a flower wilting on your table. But what if a rotten odor emanates
from your very lungs and lingers over the world around you? Or from your liver a
melancholia? You will be asthmatic; or you will have hepatitis. But, also, you may
produce a musical work, which may be of heavenly inspiration, or poems out-of-breath
or diaphanous watercolors, or xenophobia, or iremsm. The pulsion cannot be eliminated
as a stimulation originating outside because it does not have its own efferent channels
ready to be used. The physiology of the organic body is not sufficient to regulate the
discharge of the pulsion.
According to Freud, the pulsional dimension is a "river" in search of its "mouth."
It does not have, at least for a certain time, any "natural course." It can find an estuary
anywhere on the map of the body. It is the work of representations. The psychic
dimension is, from that perspective, but the urge to channel the erratic flow, pressed by
the fear of flooding.
Such is in each of us, unknown to us, the strange trial of childhood: the
uncertainty as to where the swollen waters must be directed causes meandering. The
exteranl excitations which affect the body of the infans only help to mark out for the
pulsion the outlet of discharge randomly. Becoming adult is learning to channel the
pulsional flow towards certain outcomes by barring access to the others. The disposition
conforms to the sodal Jaw and is conquered by this II Army Corps of Engineer" sort of
work. The same is true of the Pharaoh's glory and ancient Egypt's power relative to flood
control. The psychic apparatus is reinforced by this very containment of threatening
Freud calls this flow "the sexua!/' I'the infantile/' or libido. It finds its normal
"mouths" in the physiological and sodal meaning relatively late, after puberty, during
the genital stage. Similar to the rise of waters and the opening of floodgates, or the
tension and relaxation alternative
the pu]sional throbbing of pleasure exists. The
Germans call it Lust and it is actualized by coitus. It corresponds at once to the
phylogenetic destingy (i.e., the perpetuation of the species), to the physiological
82 UMBR(a)
organization of the individual (i.e., the sexual function born with puberty), and, given the
condition of a "good object choice," to the role distribution between the two sexes as
detennined by parental structure.
However, the infamous fluid has found many other splays over the body zones
and in representations before Jetting itself channel, willy-nilly, towards the genital
estuary. Considered from the point of view of its so-called nonnalfinality, the erratic and
erotic pulsion is named perversion. The infantile dimension spens out all the possible
declensions of Lust.
The Freudian "sexual" is the power of the all; to enjoy everything: the original
sin, the consumption of the divine fruit, which is an innocent defiance to the Almighty.
The fear of the overflow spon summons its punishment, chastity, and castration. It is
Paradise Lost (loss of innocent love). In terms of hydrodynamics, the perverse river
commands its refulation by dams, sluice-gates and dikes. A part of thie energy without
quality is enslaved to build the safety control system. It is a rule common to all systems
that a part of the overall forces inherent to the system is used to maintain the internaJ
differences which constitute it, and if possible, to increase its differentiation, to optimize
its performances toward the external world. So goes the peyce, body and thought, a
fragile entity at pennanent attention internally, and upon occasion, externaIly.
By modeling the representation of the "psychic apparatus" onto the energetic
system model, Freud was accomplishing more than using mere analogy. He directly
grafted the dynamics which affect souls onto the one of "inert" bodies, might they be
individual or social. All matter is energy concretized into systems. Certain systems are
enormous, like galaxies; others, the terrestrial unicellular ones are miniscule. Their
complexity varies from the "probable enough" to the "very probable" (the brain of the
terrestrial biped is always born premature), But all are subject to the entropy principle:
when afferent energy comes to lack, the internal differentiation cannot be maintained,
and the system disappears into the "soup" of the "most probable": chaos. In 1920, Freud
took into account the principle of thermodynamics: the pulsionaI flood, after all, perfectly
soothes the tension system of the damming work, and of anxiety: it annihilates it. Eros, as
complexity, only delays the moment of the sinking. The river brings life to the apparatus;
it carries it towards death.
Applied to the living, the systemic hypothesis came to Freud through Darwin
and Spencer. They borrowed it from sociologists and liberal economists such as Malthus,
Smith, and Ricardo. Human communities are, as any systems, in danger of perishing by
lack of exploitable energy, whatever the motive may be. The superiority of liberal
UMBR(a) 83
capitalism over all other collective organizations is its irreversible advantage of being able
to raise without Hmit its performance level, and to increase its competitiveness.
Capitalism is programmed to harness new natural energies and to mobilize the forces of
human production to its fuUest potential.
The system must, however, consent to regulate its deficits and profits by the use
of operators to apportion energy. The law of the market must remain the principal
regulator since competition pushes the entire system to increase its performance level.
Moderation must be used to restrain ferocious competition to render the system tolerable.
The Great Crisis of 1929 had been simmering for more than a decade. It dearly showed
the necessity of preventive management (planned economy) of these disorders, on a
global, worldwide scale.
It then seemed obvious that worldwide capitalism had to find other remedies to
the so-called over-production, than speculation, unemployment, totalitarianism, and
finally, the massacre of more than 60 million people. After its reconstruction, the system
functioned in teh euphoria of its growth and the oblivion of its crimes. But here is our
system which, while negotiating the turn into the second millennium, bumps into a
doubly mortal threat which will perdure a long time. It consists, on the one hand, of the
necessity of integrating and employing the potential energies localized in the Third
World, and in what remains of the Second after the implosion of the Soviet Empire. On
the other, there is an urgency to solve the problem (external this time) of the employment
in the so-called developed regions of the world where technosdentific progress renders
useless an ever larger part of the traditional human work force. Progress only requires
brains and keyboard fingers.
We meet here again, the anxiety arising from the unfurling of undifferentiated
energy; a "sex" having broken its chains on an international human sca1e. It is the deluge
of pulsions without outlets and the submersion of the system. All the dams built to
restrain the rising tide bear the mark of this anxiety. Foreigners, strangers, pariahs, all
those who have neither home nor steady job, all that proliferate, seek a means to settle
within the crevices and adjust to the pace of the system to find peace and a future. All
that throng and palpitate in the sidelines of the system, are subjectd to filtration,
expulsion, sometimes foreclosure, or even rejection into the olJscme of the erring pulsion.
What is at stake for the next century and beyond, appears fixed: to reorganize the
apparatus of forces channeling, to lift the inhibitions, and to prepare the system for
admission of newer fOrolS of energy than those presently at its disposal. In order to reach
this goal, the system must be willing to spend a portion of the incumbent energy in order
to add the others. It is once more a question of education but on a grand scale this time,
84 UMBR(a)
because it concerns the whole human species. It is also a question of political and cultural
economy. The system will have to destroy what is left of non-capitalist cultures which it
considers "infantile theories" or savage and barbaric practices by incorporating the
disinherited peoples into a generalized mass market. Inside, the system wil1 have to
redistribute employment by dimishing the workweek and also slowing down
everywhere the pressure of population growth. Who can predict how such a chaHenge
will be met? Will other massacres and genocides be avoided? Will the concept of an
international right not appear as outmoded in regards to the necessary "good"
conduction of flux?
Let us suppose that the problems of political economy of forces are resolved on a
global scale. Consequently, the problems caused by the libidinal economy of the a11-
triumphant system will then appear the most clear. If there is a Third World and a
Second, it infers a First has been formed. The Occident (Japan included) is bent to
knowing, daring, and having it all. It wants to be all. The Occident gradually lifts up all
taboos and limits and lets the pulsional waters run by releasing their flow in all possible
channels. The only "law" this complex hydraulics knows is very simple. By the waYI it is
a consensual, "democratic," law and the sine qua non condition of the free circulation of
flux. The law is that flux must operate the system. Its work must increase its performance
levels. The pulsional spending is good only if it can be exchanged, i.e. ffproductionist"
and if its jouissance can be reinvested. Baudelaire and Marx called prostitution this
capitalist condition. A century later, we, the haves, have accommodated ourselves the
perverse profusion of the law of supply side economics. We accept the ceaseless call of
the imperative to act on demand an immediately (what Virilio calls "in real time"). This is
exemplified by the" Call rlOw!"2 which punctuates, implicitly or explicitly, the written,
audio, visual or telematic screens of the mass media. It accentuates the whole institution.
We have compromised, but we are worried. Is the madness of the system
paranoia or is it perversion? It is the system "demanding" to have everything and be
everything. Natura naturans, but that is God. Liberal capitalism "liberates" any
erogenous zones from taboos and opens wide the floodgates. Everything is
everything the Tree of Knowledge told us,is. It will be effectuated
given as jouissancc,
but under the exclusive condition that it be exchangeable. Simultaneously, the system
pretends to give free reign to "the sexual," to actualize it and even to be it, although it
feigns to know nothing of it. The law of excflange value which forces the reinvestment of
spending permits jouissance only as consumption which drives production.
By shifting the argument, one can say this: the system does not want to
UMBR(a) 85
acknowledge castration. All that has been written or said for the past two hund red years
about the death of God means nothing except this deniaL The destruction of symbols, the
crisis of values, nihilism, are inherent to a totalitarianism which is in no way political.
Contrarily, it is inherent to the "want all" implied by the regulation of increased
production of the capitalist machine. For instance, the obsession to restore any "event" (in
the media use of the term) in real time depends on the same "want an" symptom. It is the
obsession to blot out the delay, to have the the present before it fades away, to conquer
time. Similarly the future: it has to be forecast. And, of course, it is a question of going
beyond the figure of castration par excellence, of the not-all, of death. By wanting
everything, the system wants the death of death itself; as Adorno wrote about the final
solution. But the Endlosung (the endlessness) is also the dissolution of the end. One does
not have a right to his OV,,'11 death. This is expressed, for instance, as the medical frenzy to
keep the terminally ill alive.
By the same token, it is also the dissolution of the "infantile," i.e. the final
solution of the initium. As Big Brother, the system deliriously produces humans without
infancy. Reportedly, it is for the purpose of maximizing their capacities for the greater
benefit of "production." It does not stop there. The system wants to have and also be the
infanim. It wants to make it speak. It wants to question The Silent, Perverse, Horrified
One. The "Infantile" is the ultimate proof that one is not born "human," i.e., ready made
for use and abuse, change and exchange. It implies that one is not able to control the
initial wanderings of flux and torment, the pulsional flux by displacement, repression,
condensation, and sublimation, in order to set the required, normative pace for the "little
monster." Liberal ca:Fritalism has taken from the family, from the Church, and even from
the School, the stern function of exercising discipline and taming, with the consequence
that the child will grow up without a Master. The irony is that the child will nevertheless
end up, one day or the other, bumping into a master of some sort. But it will be too late
for this child to really believe in him. The master will be impersonated in the figure of the
Boss, the empirical incarnation of the System at work in all its fullness and bluntness. The
law of the Boss appears to us, ex-chi1dren, but as an unwarranted rule, worthy of liUle
respect. We used to demonstrate, during the 1968 cultural revolution, against the very
notion of our being employable and exploitable. Today, they, youm children,
demonstrate against the fact that they are jobless and unexploited. In both cases, the
demonstrations are made against the "law of value, of exchange-value," whose beautiful
flowery superlatives barely succeed in stifling the silence of a truer Law. In both cases,
these demonstrations express indignation which can be summed up by the question: "IS
86. UM8R(a)
THAT ALL THAT YOU WANT FROM US?" They scream at the Law: "WHY HAST
One wants everything. One "frees" everything. Symbols are wilting away.
AlLxiety verges on agony. And it will not be attenuated by the fact that the System will
have met the double challenge mentioned above.
Who has neither Master nor god, but God? God is this "infantile," this "sex." God
is the very excess of pulsional power. From which Other, could God, in [its] infinite
solitude receive a law? The pressure of distress caused by the explosion of God's
jouissance randomly. The "perverse" chaos issued from this grand conflagration is named
the world. This infantile spending of energy was adored, historically, as the gift, made to
the human condition, by the model of order. By telling the story of the Big Bang, the
grand earthly Monad purports to explain rationally and secularly the how and where of
its origin. It becomes the symptom of its own divine inadequacy and vanity. It conjures
up the fright of the Almighty in its total, absolute and irresolute solitude, without any
t h e r ~
Translated by lvlichel Valentin
Text edited by Patricia Blandford
1. Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality(New York: Basic Books, 1962),34.
2. In English in the text.
UMBR(a) 87
David Metzger
At the beginning of Seminar 23 (Le Sinthome), Lacan instructs his audience to pay
careful attention to hi.s particular ordering of the real, symbolic, and imaginary, what he
calls his heresie: RSI, SIR, IRS. He feared that without such an orientation of these three
orders his carefully delineated conceptions of "desire" and "drive" would become
muddled. The first part of this essay will illustrate how even a limited consideration of
Lacan's heresie will help us to understand how drive and desire emerge and will allow us
to see how La can' s use of such terms as the object a, the Other, the phallus are defined in
light of drive and desire. The second part of this essay will show how Lacan's
conceptualization of these terms develops into a theory of sexuation. The third part of this
essay will discuss how Lacan's theory of sexuation extends into the clinical structures of
neuroses, psychosis, and perversion.
Part P
s ~ ; . R
The drives take on the symbolic structure of language. But this symbolic structure
takes hold of something that is not symbolic, the object a. How can the symbolic take
hold of such an object? By necessity. There is no room for this object in the symbolic order
because this object is not a signifier. So, the symbolic order suspends object a in the place
UMBR(a) 89
of the Other. Object a, then, serves to support two propos.itions. It is proof that 1) there is
nothing of the Other outside of the symbolic order because the object a can do without the
Other, and 2) there is something of the Other outside of the symbolic order because the object
a is all there is in this world (outside of the real) that is not a signifier. Thus, the only
place for this object is at the join of the symbolic and the real because this object a is not
of the real as long as there is a symbolic order and it is not of the symbolic order as long
as there is an Other. Notice, however, what would have happened if had first considered
the relationship between the real and the imaginary. The object a would not be in place
of the Other because, in terms of the real and the imaginary, there would have been no
symbolic order of which the object a would not be a part. In these terms, "some signifier"
would function in the position that Lacan's writing of (R5) assigns to the object a-as
some signifier (5]), does in the discourse of hysteria. This is not to say the hysteric's
positioning of the master signifier in place of the Other is wrong. In fact, hysterics are
quite right: once the Other has given up not-all (a) of its claims to the symbolic order, the
drives sJ:.ow that, by working around the object a, the symbolic order becomes enough of
the Other to sustain a human subject's jouissance.
5 ~ )
I----.,.." S
Although this presumption of jouissance is on account of the Other, it is not
possible for the human subject to be "satisfied" in the Other. The Other then becomes the
locus of a particular kind of human speech (5) that cannot satisfy (.If;..) the conditions for
considering the Other's existence outside of the symbolic: S ~ ) . At this point, the human
subject learns or does not Jearn to bear the burden of being subject to a signifier (the
phallus) that is neither not-all-the-Other-is nor all-that-the-Other-does-not-have.
What does it mean to be subject to a signifier, the phallus? It means that there are
no rea1 or imaginary substitutes for the Other, leaving the subject to find his or her
enjoyment by means of the phallus. The phallus is understood here as something other
90 UMBR(a)
than the object a. The real has committed the Other to the "laws of interpretation" (a),
and the symbolic order has only made claim to the Other as a potential subject, S ~ ) . We
can also see here that the imaginary order is incapable of representing the Other as
such-there is no Other of the Other. A signifier of difference is required for the
representation of the Other, a signifier (can't be the object a) from the Other (can't be .!f..)
understood as itself (can't be S). This work of representation is left to the drives. In fact,
this work of representation is the satisfaction of the drive. The drive may seem to invite
the subject to take up or release the object a, but this is only because the presence or
absence of the Other doesn't matter from the perspective of the drives. The drives are
satisfied (w) whatever the existential or evidentiary status of the Other might be. The
satisfaction of the drive is not a form of embodiment, then, a way of coming to the Other
by relating the object a to the phaUus. Rather, the drives detach the phallus from the
Other conceived as a demand, "May I?" Lacan says as much when he writes the matheme
of drive as follows: ($ D). We begin with the subject that is barred and lacks a signifier
for what it is for the Other, but in place of the object a that one finds in the matheme for
fantasy ($ a) there is a big fat D, demand.
One might explain the relation of the drives and demand in the following
mamler. Imagine that you are trying to draw a picture of a room without lifting the pencil '
from the page (this, I would suggest, is 1ike the movement of the drives). At some point
(l:p) you will need to let your pencil jump from one point on the page to another; that
point, a.k.a. castration, allows us to theorize the real. What is more, at that real point the
human subject makes a demand, "May 1? Am 1 able?" The Other replies with a yes or a
no. In fact, the Big-O Other, which we are so fond of talking about, emerges (a) as the gap
or jump (-l:p) that only the Other enables. The Other, one might say, allows us to embody
the room (the thing) less partially at the level-in the flatland-of the drives. The curiosity
with which Jackson Pollock's "technique" has been received might be described in
precisely these terms: a painting that refuses to be the Other (an orientable space) outside
of the jump (the dribble of paint) which cries to the Other for assistance (1 can't represent
it!) without running the risk that the Other might ex-ist in the real.
UMBR(a) 91
Part II. The Sexuation Graph
Out of this little illustration of the relationship of drive and demand, we might
start to understand Lacan's interest in topology and knot theory. We need only to
substitute pieces of string for pencil and paper. However, I would like to take a different
direction and ask a related question-"How might we then relate Lacan's elaboration of
the drive with his understanding of sexuation?" Of course, sexuation isn't unrelated to
topology. In fact, Lacan often talked about the two in the same breath. Let it suffice for the
present discussion that we discover why Lacan might have identified the object a-
rather than "demand" -as the "mystery date" for the masculine subject. Before
attempting to answer that question let's take a look at Lacan's sexuation graph as it
appears in Seminar 20:
3x <I>x <Px
<px Q)X
What should we make of this graph? From the so-caUed "masculine" position
($), the object a takes the place of the Other (sex). From a so-called "feminine" position,
either the signifier for the missing Other, S(,?), or the signifier for something absent (<1 in
92 UMBR(a)
the real takes the place of the Other (sex). Above the sexuation graph, a set of four logical
propositions helps Lacan to further specify the relationship of human are
either men or women-with their absent yet presumed Other.
Prop 1. 3 X <I>x Prop 2. 3x <I>X
Prop 3. '\Ix <I>x Prop 4. 'VX <I>x
On the "masculine side" there are two contradictory propositions: on the bottom
left (proposition 3), we see that all x's (all signifiers whose subjecthood is represented by
another signifier) have something to do with that which is absent (the phallus) in the .real.
On the top left (proposition 1), we observe that there is at least one x (a signifier whose
subjecthood is represented by another signifier) that does not have something to do with
that which is absent (the phallus) in the real. Likewise, on the "feminine side," there are
two contradictory propositions: on the bottom right (proposition 4), not a11 signifiers have
nothing to do with the real; on the top right (proposition 2), there does not exist at least
one signifier (one potential subject) that has anything to do with the real.
The top-right (2) and bottom-left (3) are materially equivalent propositions, as are
the propositions on the top-left (1) and bottom-right (4). Significantly, the top-right (2)
and the top-left (1) propositions are contraries; both cannot be truth but both may be
false. Thus, in order to determine the truth-value of all four one of the
following logical alternatives must be the case: either (1) or (2), (3) or (4) must be true;
neither (1) or (2), (3) or (4) must be true. 3 Seen, in these terms, La can' s graph of sexuation
demarcates nothing less than the relationship between alienation (either a
signifier / subject unto itself or a signifier/subject unto the Other), separation (neither a
signifier I subject unto itself nor a signifier/subject unto the Other), leading to truth,
which Lacan called in Seminar 17 the "little sister" of jouissance: that is, the only thing
anyone enjoys is his or her symptom. For, when seen in the light of sexuation, alienation
might be understood as the necessary choice of being either a man or a woman, and
separation might be understood as the choice of one's symptom insofar as what one
enjoys is separated from the Other (sex), neither a man nor a woman (but one's
symptom-one's guarantee that a man or woman might exist-as Other-in addition to
having a body).4
This final point concerning the Other is essential to understanding Lacan's
UMBR(a) 93
development of the sexuation graphs. Over and over, Lacanians write that Lacan is not
concerned with biologically determined gender. But does this mean that Lacanis
concerned with socially constructed gender in these graphs? I would say no. From a
Lacanian perspective, biological definitions of gender assume that the Other (sex) is both
. embodied and extant-while theories of "socially-constructed gender" assume that the
Other exists but is not embodied. Lacan's point is quite different: the Other is embodied
but the fact that the Other has a body does not mean, of necessity, that the Other exists.
Part III. Sexuafion, Drive, and Embodiment
What embodies the Other? The Phallus. What supports the Phallus? The drives.
What supports the drives? the sexual non-relation. In this light, Lacan's sexuation graph
shows us the effects of the drives. Unlike desire, the drives do not require the presence of
the Other. The drives might make a demand on the Other, but what they ask for (the
phallus, a doing without the Other) is not something the Other can give. We can see this
quite clearly in the discourse of the hysteric which is based on the presumption of the
Other's phallus. How do we know that they hysteric presumes that the Other has the
phallus? The hysteric asks for it: "You've had your fun, Mr. Other, now pay up." Of
course, hysteria, as with all the clinical structures, is a structure of desire-making the
hysteric's "structure," the desire to desire, an attempt to do without the drives. "There is
no logical necessity (or the drives," the hysteric suggests, "since my desire will support
the phallus; my desire will support the logic of sexuation (there exists or doesn't exist an
x that <I)' s )."
The psychotic shows another dimension to the relationship between desire, drive,
and sexuation: "there is no phallus because the Other bears the burden of embodying
satisfaction; thereforet there are no drives which presumably support this nonexistent
phallus." Psychotics do not need a gender certificate of authenticity; they encounter (All
in the real or Nothing in the symbolic) Man, so that they presume to be (AU of Nothing)
Woman. That is, (AU of Nothing) Woman experiences herself as such only because of an
encounter with (All or Nothing) Man. In this regard, (AU or Nothing) Woman is not a
mark of being biologically female but an affect of being psychotic. 5
Why would Lacan be interested in the psychotic's certainty about her gender?
And why do I say "her gender" instead of "his or her gender" when making reference to
psychosis? Because psychosis is one way of creating an IJ all or nothing woman."
94 UMBR(a)
Perversion (or pere-version) is another way to create an "all or nothing woman." Except
that while the pervert might have indications of certainty about "all or nothing woman,"
the psychotic is "certain" because the psychotic's "all of nothing woman" is all in the real
and nothing in the symbolic. In pere-version one has certain indications about all (in the
symbolic) of nothing (in the real) woman because one assumes that "all of nothing
woman" is nothing but an invention or representation devoid of outside reference. That
is, the pere-vert is so frightened that the Other might not exist that he or she orchestrates
a stand-in for her-a stand-in determined by a particular meeting place or time or the
presence of some object or attitude. The Other, however, must be forced to speak-must
be castrated, must be brought under the bar of sexuation-in such a way that she does
not fall under the dictates of castration. For the pere-vert, the Other does this by allowing
the phallus to be its representative-guaranteeing for the pere-vert that the Other has an
identity and a desire that is best interpreted by the Other's representatives on this earth.
The drives, as they work to support the phallus, seek to embody the fantasy,
rendered here in its propositional form: "I know you've got One (and therefore are the
Other's representative) because I can take it away" or "I know I've got One (I know I'm
the Other's representative) because you can't take it away." Again, this is not the way of
the psychotic who hooks up with the sinthome (not the phallus/ fetish) as the father long
enough to be told "yes, you are my I all or nothing woman."'6
In these terms, psychosis and pere-version are, for Lacan, the limits to sexuation
(All in the symbolic or Nothing in the real man in pere-version; All in the real or Nothing
in the symbolic woman in psychosis). By "limits to sexuation," I mean that one can go no
further in explicating how the "Other" might be used as a way to imprint jouissance
(wholeness, "all-ness or nothing-ness" on the biological body). The participation of the
drives in this process is quite important, since the drives help one to feel satisfied with the
representation (<I of the Other afforded by sexuation.
UMBR(a) 95
Works Consulted
Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (Seminar 11). Edited by
Jacques-Alain Miller. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Norton, 1977.
__ . Le Seminaire XX: Encore. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975.
__ . Le Seminaire XXIII: Le Sinthome (unpublished).
__ . Le Seminaire XXVI: La. Topologie et Le Temps (unpublished).
Miller, Jacques-Alain. "La Relation d'objet." La Letire mensuelle (Ecole de la Cause
freudienne) 129 (mal 94): 3-5.
__ . "On Perversion." In Reading Seminars land II: Lacan's Return to Freud, eds. Richard
Feldstein, et. al., 306-320. New York: SUNY, 1996.
Soler, Colette. "Transference." In Reading Seminars I and I1, eds. Richard Feldstein,,
56-60. New York: SUNY, 1996.
1. The section headings from part one reflect my re-orientation of a schema from
Seminar 20 in light of Seminar 23:
Symbolic -----------......... Real
2. So, where does this "not-all" come from? Imagine that you are comparing apples with
oranges, x's with y's, what you know with what you don't know. Lacan suggests that t.hese
comparisons and contrasts may lead you to the creation of a category of the not-all. How so?
One might say, for example, "All apples and oranges are fruits; some fruits are oranges
and apples; no oranges and apples are not fruits; some fruits are not apples and oranges." Now,
how does the not-all fit into all ofthis? It doesn't. If the not-all fit into these logical categories, then
syllogisms wouldn't work; syllogisms, after all, are based on two assumptions: 1) that one signifier
96 UfVlBR(a)
might be translated for another ponens), 2) that there isn't anything that is "not-all in the
world of the signifier" (law of the excluded middle).
3. If (1) is assumed to be true, then (2) is false, (3)is false, (4) is true.
If (2) is assumed to be true! then (1) is false, (3) is true, (4) is false.
If (3) is assumed to be true, then (1) is false, (2) is true, (4) is false.
If (4) is assumed to be true, then (1) is true, (2) is false, (3) is false.
If (1) is assumed to be false, (2) is undetermined, (3) is undetermined, (4) is false.
If (2) is assumed to be false, (1) is undeter.mined, (3) is false, (4) is undetermined.
If (3) is assumed to be false, (1) is undetermined, (2) is false, (4) is undetermined.
4. In other words, alienation and separaration teU us something about how the not-all (a)
helps us to fulfill the promise of the Other's ex-istence-also known as fantasy.
First of all, consider Lacan's specification of fantasy as something constructed out of two
"not-alls in the world of the signifier": $ <:; a. These two not-ails ($, a) are held together (0) by the
logical operations of alienation (V) and separation (A).
In alienation, the human subject ($) finds itself situated (Sl) in the field of the Other (as
knowledge, S2). The human subject as a signifier (as something of the Other) finds itself a subject
only for another Signifier, not a subject-for-itself nor a subject-in-itself.
[n separation, the human subject finds that some part of itself is not Other. The subject (as
something not simply of the Other) finds itself an object but only for nothing and for no one.
Alienation and separation hold the barred-subject and the object a together in fantasy. One
might say that the barred.s and the object a are demonstrations of the Other's absence. But when
they are held together by alienation (either this signifier or that signifier or this other one ... will do
for the Other) and separation (neither this Signifier nor all the rest will do for the Other), the
barred-S and the object a become the means by which we can work with/in the impossible
presence of the Other. One might also speak of this working with/ in the Other as castration or
It is certainly reasonable to wonder what is so awful about an impossible presence; the
answer is that "impossible presence" has something of the real about it. For two reasons. l)There is
no Other of the real, and when conceived in tenns of fantasy, the absence (or IIno Other of") of the
Other unfolds it5eif as the sinthome (that which guarantees there is an Other). 2)There is no phaUus
in the real. In other words, the Other is not what we desire, although it seems to be what people are
always driving at. The impossible presence of the Other simply allows us to see that what we want
is not on the menu at Lacan's Chinese Restaurant of Love. We don't want to love; we want to be
loved; we want to be the Other.
So, it will not do to order II All that is on the menu/' or "some that is on the menu"; it will
not do to order "nothing that is on the menu/' nor will "some is not on the menu" be of help. What
we might order is not-all that we want: not-all of the Other. And what is that? It's not fantasy. It's
something that takes the real of the Other, the sinthome.
5. "All or Nothing" is a way of making the Other's stand-in (the object a) be the Other. If
there is nothing Real about this Other, then the Other is inseparable from the rules of the game that
UMBR(a) 97
evokes it. If there is nothing symbolic about this Other, then it is inseperable from those actions
which are understood as a "picture" of the law.
6. The perc-version addressed here is easily developed into what one might caU lithe logic
of sadism" and "the logic of masochism." Lynch's Blue Velvet may, in be used as an
illustration. Clearly, for Dennis Hopper's character, taking a child away puts the Other's
representative to "work" (speaking its Otherness) hut taking an ear away "doesn't." Why? A film
isn't able to answer that question-except in a most predicatable way (let's say, in a flash-back),
which Lynch carefuHy avoids. The made-for-TV-movie, "Sybil," to the contrary, is grounded in
flashbacks. The moral: abuse is awful; people are crazy because they've been abused. But what do
we learn from this movie except that making the Other speaksells (whether on TV or in a circus or
in some kind of social or public psychoanalysis)?
98 UMBR(a)
Ellie Ragland
In "On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis" (1957-
, 1958), Lacan the rhetorical question-
Must we recall once more the profoundly dissident character of the
notion of drive in Freud, the disjunction of principle between the tendency, its
direction, and its object, and not only its original 'perversion', but its implication
in a conceptual systematic, a systematic whose place Freud indicated, from the
very beginning of his work, under the heading of the sexual theories of
childhood? 1
And in 1960, in "The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian
unconscious," commenting on his definition of the drive as "the treasure of the
signifiers," Lacan
It is that which proceeds from demand when the subject disappears in it
It is obvious enough that the demand also disappears, with the single exception
that the cut remains
for this cut remains present in that which distinguishes the
drive from the organic function it inhabits: namely, its grammatical artifice, so
manifest in the reversions of its articulation toboth source and object. ... 2
1 Jacques Lacan, NOn a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis,"
A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977),189-190.
2 Jacques Lacan, "The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the
Freudian unconscious/' refits: A Selection, 314.
UMBR(a) 99
What can we deduce from these two early statements? In re-examining Freud's
description of the drive as dissident and perverse, not only in experience-in its
tendency, direction and object-but also in its conceptualization, Lacan stresses that
Freud found the roots of the drive in childhood sexuality. When he puts forth his own
conceptualization, Lacan designates two aspects of the drive. Just before he locates it in
the "treasure of the signifiers," he says that the subject of the unconscious cannot be
designated at the level of the statement. The subject of the unconscious articulates
something, in other words, when it does not know it is speaking. The subject of the
unconscious is designated in the drive by an organic mapping "that satisfies the
requirement of being all the farther away from speaking the more [the subject]
So we have a three-part contradiction. 1) The subject of the unconscious as
lacking-that is, as desiring-is not the same as the subject of the drives, a subject that
demands jouissance. 2) The demand for jouissance does not negotiate the lack implicit in
the dual function of lack and desire. And 3) the subject of the drive is cancelled by
speaking, yet Lacan says the drive designates an "organic" -that is oral, anal, etc.-
mapping in speech. Although he never says this in so many words, I understand him to
mean that the (partial) drives materialize speech in a function of jouissance which implies
desire. But to deduce this, one must consider two dimensions-the technical and the
material. How can the drives materialize language if language silences the drives? And
how can one formalize a logic of the partial drives that can be proved, beyond analogy,
allegory or metaphor or fiction?
Lacan tried to overcome these problems in Seminar 11: TIIe Four Fundamental
Concepts of Psycho-Analysis by describing the drive in terms of the four vicissitudes
identified by Freud. 4 Calling the real the obstacle to the pleasure principle, he already
begins to place it on the side of the Freudian death drive. That "beyond the pleasure
principle" which has the quality of repetitiveness and attests to a certain impossibility in
will power and conscious intentionality. The pleasure principle does not satisfy, even by
hallucination as Melanie Klein claimed, if one attends to the dialectic of the drive. That is,
one must distinguish need from pleasure because no object of need can ever satisfy the
drive. In the oral drive, for instance, we speak of the mouth, the teeth, and the lips as
delimiting the erogenous zone. We do not include the stomach or esophagus, organs that
4 Jacques Lacan, Seminar Xl (1964): The Foul' Fundamental Concepts oj Psycho-Analysis,
ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: NortQn, 1977), 167.
100 UrvlBR(a)
are equally involved in nutrition and supposedly "satisfied" in the act of eating. 5
Lacan's explanation is a topological one. It is because erogenous zones are
differentiated from the rest of the organism by their rim-like structure. At the rim or edge,
something can be exchanged with the void, put into a hole. The hole can be bound or
delimited by a unary trait, by some effect of image, substance or sound as it goes into, or
comes out of, a hole: knit one, pearl two. Something is made, is stitched up, in the action
of the cut which marks the hole of space, insuring that the void not be empty-
Observe that this mark of the cut is no less obviously present in the object
described by analytic theory: the mamilla, faeces, the phallus (imaginary object),
the urinary How. (An unthinkable list list, if one adds, as I do, the phoneme, the
gaze, the voice-the nothing). For is it not obvious that this feature, this partial
feature, rightly emphasized in objects, is applicable not because these objects are
part of a total object, the body, but because they represent only partially the
function that produces them?
These objects have one common feature in my elaboration of them-they
have no specular image, OT, in other words, alterity. It is what enables them to be
the 'stuff', or rather the lining, though not in any sense the reverse, of the very
subject that one takes to be the subject of consciousness. For this subject, who
thinks he can accede to himself by designating himself in the statement, is no
more than such an object.
Linguist Charles Pyle gives the logic of what Lacan describes poetically as the
"object that cannot be grasped in the mirror to which the specular image lends its
dothes.,,7 The effect of the word on the thing, or the image on the object, is caused by
this general principle: Whenever a second thing takes the place of a first thing, they are in
conflict, so tlte existence of tlte second is contingent upon the nonexistence of the first, Lacan
continues with the problem caused by the effort to make non-existent something that
existed by calling it "a substance caught in the net of the shadow, and which, robbed of
its shadow-swelling volume, holds out once again the tired lure of the shadow as if it
were substance/'S In Seminar 20: Encore (1972-1973), Lacan will say the only Substallce
6 "The subversion of the subject/' 315.
7 Ibid" 316,
8 Ibid.
UMBR(a) ill 101
of which he will admit is jouissance. Subsequently, Lacan formalizes the logic of the
jouissances, calling it a system as well-developed and complex as is the one of
representation which is seemingly more visible and empirically graspable.
Pyle elaborates the general principle of conflict by pointing out that as soon as the
second thing is established, the first is on the slope of nonexistence. Referring to the
Fort/Da instance,9 Pyle writes that although the underlying thing-the bobbin reel in
the case of Freud's grandson-is not necessarily annihilated, the process of displacement
inclines in that direction. In other words, language is duplicitous, an agent of repression.
The subject does not learn language while creating it. Rather, language creates
the subject, reversing any simple notion of creation. The word has a temporal
dimension-a point of materiality, of unary trait-insofar as something of the drive
pierces it. In this sense, the word comes before writing, the word retaining a zero-degree
dimension of discontinuity, of something of the real-a bout du reel the later Lacan
says-which inhabits it in a confJictual, contradictory way. This tension within a word is
what the topological Lacan called torsion. And this aspect of the word comes together
with the first objects-cause-of-desire insofar as the objects place a temporal dimension of
lack or wanting in the word, long before anticipation and retroaction function in
grammar to buckle the meaning of a sentence.
When Jeanne Granon-Lafont says that the dimension of the "one"-the unary
trait-and the mistake or lapsus form the hole in the word, she opens the way for this
consideration-The conflict between communicative meaning and the drive, the presence
of the demand in the word, is that which places a torsion in the word, making something
of reality by the edge or limit and the hole it surrounds. In bringing the drives into
language as an affective materialization of it, we open onto the level of the concrete
nature of the drives, as well as the incommensurability between, or torsion within, the
presence of a drive in a word and the word itself.
This dimension of "one" where the drives enter language concerns the closed
surface of the body, without edges, while the holes create the surface in a material way
and make it erotogenic. First the hole of discontinuity, of loss, then the doth or hedge of a
surface against which to see the holes. This idea, at the very least, connects unconscious
desire to the drivel which Lacan equated with a demand made in language. Having
ended up in an impasse of how one connects a lack-in-bein& the treasury of the signifiers
and the demand, in Seminar 20 he indirectly offered a solution. Speaking itself becomes
9 Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure (1920) in The Standard Edition of the
Complete Works of Sigmund Freud (New York: Norton, 1953-1974), vol. XVIII, 14-17.
102 '" UMBR(a)
sexual enjoyment: "Speech is also a jouissance." Perhaps such a statement caused Derrida
to allege that Lacan's teaching was phonocentric, that he privileged speaking over
writing. From the Freudian drives, Lacan takes only the concept of jouissance, then, and
drops the prob1ematic of the drives.
Jacques-Alain Miller has addressed this impasse, offering the theory that the
drive is the spoken word, an unconscious message that responds to the denumd of need,
the demand for love and the demand for jouissance.1
Yet, Lacan argued,from the time
he put forward the idea of a lack-in-being as a structural scaffolding of
the human subject who is not psychotic, that demand is on the side of jouissance, of
immediacy, of the lack of lack. Desire, by contrast makes room for the sodal link, for the
social law, because it works from the place of a lack-in-being.
10 jacques-Alain Miller, U La est parole:' No. 60 Guly 1996), 14-15.
UMBR(a) 103
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U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a ) U M B R(a )
Renata Saleel
Drive first needs to be understood as a leftover of the operation by which the
subject becomes the subject of the signifier and is incorporated into the symbolic
structure. When the subject becomes a speaking being, he or she will no longer be able to
have sex in an animal's instinctive way. Instead of a sheer loss, however, we encounter a
force that essentially marks the subject by imposing a constant pressure on him or her.
This force is what Lacan named variously: libido, drive or lamella. Through this naming,
Lacan offers another angle on Freudian theory.
For Freud, libido primarily concerns the subject's ability to find sexual
satisfaction in different ways. Aside from having sex, the subject can find this satisfaction
through eating, shitting, looking, speaking, writing, etc. Libido is always linked to a
libidinal object, which is not simply a material object, but what Lacan names object a.
It is crucial for the subject that only partial drives exist, and no genital drive as
such. The subject is determined on the one hand by these partial drives, and on the other
by the field of the Other, the social symbolic structure. Already for Freud, love, for
example, is not to be found on the side of the drives, but on the side of the Other. And it
is in this field of the Other that anything which might resemble some kind of genital drive
finds its form.
The paradox of drive is, therefore, that it is what is left out in the process of
symbolization, but this does not mean that it has no link with the field of the Other. Let us
exemplify this with the scopic drive. In the scopic drive, the subject is not simply
someone who looks or gazes at objects: the subject causes him- or herself to be gazed at.
The voyeur thus secretly observes something, but the whole point is that the subject
UMBR(a) 105
wants to be gazed at by the Other. In the scopic drive the subject makes himself the object
that complements the Other, who is supposed to enjoy gazing at this subject. In the case
of the scopic drive, therefore, the subject necessarily needs the Other. in order to set in
motion the drive and obtain satisfaction. Lacan gives here examples of the exhibitionist
for whom the victim has meaning only as long as the Other is looking at the exposed
exhibitionist: the victim's horror or uncomfortable reaction would thus have a value for
the exhibitionist as long as he knows that he has been gazed at in his act. The same goes
for the sadist. The pain he imposes on the victim has to be looked at by the Other.
Lacan says that "the course of the drive is the only form of transgression that is
permitted to the subject in relation to the pleasure principle." 1 The pleasure principle is
to be understood here as the symbolic law, a safeguard, a homeostasis which tries to
prevent the irruption of the jouissance that is linked to the satisfaction of drive. Already
for Freud drive is what lies beyond the pleasure principle, but Lacan adds to this the
notion that the transgression linked to drive is in some way permitted by the symbolic
Jaw itself. As long as drive involves the Other, the subject receives from the Other a
certain permission for the transgression.
Drive and desire each have a different relation to the symbolic structure. Desire is
essentially linked to the law, since it always searches for something that is prohibited or
unavailable. The logic of desire would be: "It is prohibited to do this, but I will
nonetheless do it." Drive, in contrast, does not care about prohibition: it is not concerned
about overcoming the law. Drive's logic is: "I do not want to do this, but I am nonetheless
doing it." Thus, we have a contrary logic in drive since the subject does not desire to do
something, but nonetheless enjoys doing exactly that.
For Lacan, drive paradoxically always finds satisfaction, while desire has to
remain unsatisfied, endlessly going from one object to another, positing new limits and
prohibitjons. Drive is thus a constant pressure, a circulation around the object a, which
produces jouissance-a painful satisfaction.
Jacques-Alain Miller points out that in the later seminars of Lacan, the object a,
the object around which the drive circulates, needs to be understood as a special kind of
satisfaction: "The object that corresponds to the drive is satisfaction as object." 2 As
Miller points out, drive in this search for a satisfaction resembles perversion.
For perverts, it is essential that they search for sexual satisfaction outside simple
1 Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, (New York: Norton,
2 Jacques-Alain Miller, "On Perversion," in Reading Seminars J and 1I: Lacan's Return to
Freud, Eds. Bruce Fink, Richard Feldstein, Maire Jaanus, (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995),313.
106 .. UMBR(a)
copulation. But perverts differ from neurotics who are always lacking satisfaction and are
thus going from one object to another, not knowing what they want, endlessly
questioning the nature of their desire. Perverts, in contrast, are satisfied: they find the
object and thus also sexual satisfaction. That is why perverts rarely demand analysis, or
demand it only when they are perplexed as to whether or not the satisfaction that they
found is the proper one (see Fink). In the same way as the perversion does not seek sexual
satisfaction with the opposite sex, drive also is not directed towards the opposite sex:
there is only drive towards the libidinal object, towards "a partial satisfaction as the
object."3 Drive thus circulates around the partial object, the object at and this
circu lation precisely constitutes the satisfaction.
If desire constantly questions, drive presents an inertia where questioning stops.
Here the dynamic of drive resembles perversion because the pervert also does not ask for
any permission.
For Lacan, drive is in the final instance always the death drive, a destructive
force, which endlessly undermines the points of support that the subject has found in the
symbolic universe. In regard to drive, desire plays a paradoxical role of protection, since
desire, by being subordinated to the law,pacifies the lawless drive and the horrible
jouissance that is linked to it. The subject of desire is the subject of identification: this is
the subject who constantly searches for points of support in the symbolic universe, the
ego ideals with which he or she can identify and thus achieve an identity. Such a point of
identification can be a teacher, lover, analyst, etc. But on the level of drive, there is no
longer any identification, there is only jouissal1ce.
What desire does is to open the fantasy, a scenario, which for the subject masks
the jouissance of the drive. Desire is therefore trapped within the pleasure principle,
while drive goes beyond this principle. Paradoxically, for Miller, the subject is always
happy at the level of drive: although because of drive, the subject can actually suffer
terribly and tries to get rid of its enormous pressure, in this suffering there is at work
jouissance, which means precisely this painful satisfaction that is the highest happiness
on which the subject can count.
The major issue in Lacan's late work is how the subject in analysis can be brought
to abandon the endless perturbations of the Other's desire in order to begin dealing with
his or her drive. The essential question that perturbs the subject and encourages him or
her to seek analysis is: What am I for the desire of the Other? And the whole process of
3 Ibid.
4Jacques-Alain Miller, Done (unpublished seminar 1993-4), 5/18/94.
UMBR(a) 107
analysis is devoted to answering this question. Lacan's thesis is that at the end of analysis,
the subject finds the answer, which is that the desire of the Other is actually the subject's
own desire. But how does the subject come to this answer? As Colette Soler has pointed
out, neither the Other nor the subject can give this answer. The Other cannot provide the
answer because we find with the Other
on the one hand a series of signifiers, which can
never fully represent the subject, but can only represent him or her for another signifier.
On the other hand, there is a lack in the Other, which. for Lacan is supposed to be
understood as an interval between the signifiers. Meanwhile, at the site of the subject of
speech, there is a split between the series of signifiers that represents the subject and a
radical lack; that is why the subject also cannot give the answer to the question.
Therefore, something else is required to arrive at the answer, and this something else is
drive. As Colette Soler says: ''The answer to the question 'what is the subject beyond the
signifier?' is the drive. Thus the interval, intersection, or void between the subject and the
Other is not as empty as all that, but .it is an emptiness into which something comes. It is
object a, insofar as object a is not only a logical, but also a bodily consistency, and also
insofar as object a is a plus de jouir, as Lacan says-surplus jouissance." 5 Drives,
however, answer the question in silence, they do not speak but satisfy themselves
silently, in action.
For Lacan, drive is essentially what splits the subject, what is his or her "true
will" (but not a conscious one); as such "drive is something the subject can't help or stop
in him or herself."6 But drive is paradoxically also what attracts us to the other, what
makes another person the object of our love. However, here we have to invoke again the
partial character of drive. When we take a whole person as our object we are not at the
level of drive but love. So, in our perception we always love the other as a whole. When
deeply in love, we are usually not clear about what attracts us to some person, everything
about him or her seems fascinating, even odd habits at first seem to be endearing. This is
because in love our fascination makes the other person complete, ideaL Our perception of
love, therefore, masks the fact that we actually feU in love with the object a, with what
the other does not have.
S Colette Soler, "The Subject and the Other (II)," in Reading Seminar Xl: LaGan's "Four
Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis," Eds. Bruce Fink, Richard Feldstein! Maire Jaanus, (Albany:
SUNY Press, 1995), p. 52. Linked to this silence of drives is also the fact that the drives are not in
time: 'The temporal structure of the drive's satisfaction is the instant. It is a glimpse. In a glimpse
the subject wants something that allows him or her to obtain a speCific satisfaction" (ibid.). The
neurotic subject would thus need only a glimpse to satisfy the scopic drive.
6rbid., 53.
108 UMBR(a)
According to the distinction between drive and desire developed above, this
object a has to be understood as a paradoxical object which is at the same time the never
attainable object of desire and the attained object of drive. We can thus agree with Lacan's
thesis from the seminar on transference: we love the other because he or she is a split,
desiring subject. But by taking into account Lacan's later work on drive, one needs to add
here that what makes the other the object of love is actually the very jouissance that is
linked to the way the other satisfies his or her drive.
There is thus a paradoxical attraction that obtains between the subject and the
drive and the desire in the other. On the one hand, the loving subject is attracted because
the other is also a desiring subject, which means both that the loved subject is perturbed
by the question: What does the other desire? And also that the loved subject hopes to
become the object of the other's desire. On the other hand, the Joving subject is also
perturbed and attracted to the jouissance of the other. It is well known that in. the case of
hatred (which is always a counterpart of love), as with racism or nationalism, the subject
primarily objects to the other because of the very way he or she enjoys. This ungraspable
jouissance of the other then incites all kinds of fantasies when people object to how the
others enjoy their food, music, etc. On another level, in the case of love, we encounter this
kind of attraction (which can easily turn into repulsion) to the jouissance of the other. This
jouissance gets inscribed in the gaze of the other, his or her voice, smelt smile, laughter,
Lacan in his seminar on anxiety mysteriously says that it is only love that allows
jouissance to condescend to desire.
If desire has to be understood as fundamentally
dependent on the Other in the sense that "desire is desire of the Other", one has to add
that what is behind the Other's desire, what in the final instance keeps our desire in
motion, is the unbearable jouissance of the Other. What attracts us in the Other is thus not
, simply his or her desire, but drive-which forces the other into some activity, regardless
of how painful. this activity might be.
7,lacques Lacan, Seminar 10 (unpublished, 1962-3),3/13/63.
UMBR(a) 109
Stuart Schneiderman
Rare is the new father who looks at his nursing son with any but feelings of
benign contentment. His parental pride flows easily into a scene where instinctive
behavior is fulfilling a biological imperative.
Occasionally, clinical work reveals a father .who observes his nursing child with
envy, jealousy, and rage. Doubtless, onlya peculiar warp of mind can turn breastfeeding
into an excuse for dramatic confrontation. And yet, this father is the invisible and unsung
hero of Freud's drive theory.
Freudian theory ignores the psychological ramifications of breastfeeding because
these must be gleaned by inductive science. Refusing to acknowldege an objective
observer collecting data, psychoanalysis denounces him (or her) as an unanalyzed breast
fetishist with latent sadistic tendencies.
Psychoanalysis never offers testable hypotheses; nor does it allow itself to be
judged by its curative prowess. Instead of curing it acculturates. Freudians rarely debate
whether the patient got better; their primary concern is whether the treatment was really
The origins of psychoanalysis do not lie in raw experience of reality-these terms
have been radically probJematized by its culture-but in queries and doubts about how
we and the world are created by cultural symbols.
Freud may have pretended that drive theory began with the simple observation
of an infant at the breast
but, in fact, it emerges from an unacknowledged reflection on
the greatest female icon in Western civilization, the Virgin Mother.
Theologically, the Virgin Mother is unique in Western civilization because she is
UMBR(a) 111
utterly free of desire. Never having sinned, she was never wanting and never bore the
flaw that would have consigned her to death.
The Madonna's uniqueness was produced by a double catharsis. Neither she nor
her son were conceived in sin. No sin in her parents' coitus because that act was
retroactively rendered immaculate by her divine son. And no sin in her son's conception
because she was impregnated aurally.
This brilliant exercise in logical deduction has caused people to visit unspeakable
torments on women. It the Other does not desire, then neither does the man whose desire
depends on hers. Unfortunatelym the Madonna is not the only woman who satisfies the
predicate; witches also have an emasculating effect on male desire. How do you know
that a woman prod ucing such an effect is a saint or a witch?
Freudian drive theory originates at the instant that an otherwise normal father,
observing no desire in breastfeeding, is seized with envy.:His envy proves that she really
desires, and is hiding her desire behind what is supposed to be an instinct.
Thus he rejects as a perverse fiction the presumption of innocence imposed by the
cultural icon and cuts to the true narrative. In the most instinctive human activity he sees
a starkly sexual psychodrama.
The father's gaze covers the scene with an invisible membrane of libidinous
longing. Thus, Lacan's lameUa, a warmer metaphor than the proverbial wet blanket. Of
course, when his wife noticies his envious (or invidious) gaze, she is more likely to
experience' it as the latter, not the former.
Freud was at pains to explain why he saw hreastfeeding and other vital functions
as eroticized. His argument, commonly used to refer to ducks, has a rhetorical charm that
compensates the flaws in its reasoning. Describing the infant at the breast Freud might
have opined: If it looks like sex, sounds like sex, then it must be sex.
This sleight-of-hand fails at the modality of the last verb: Freud should have said
that what looks, sounds, and feels like sex might be sex, but need not be. Thus, Freud, like
an envious father, took a fiction for the truth and sought to impose it on reality.
No series of predicates can determine a referent necessarily. Something that looks
like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, might very well be a decoy.
Perhaps the true moment of Freudian insight concerns the man who exclaims: But she
couldn't be faking it!
Even within the logic of the fiction, all is not well. Perhaps it looks like mother
and infant are engaging in something sexual, but this requires some strange tenns in the
game of organs and orifices. Is her phallic breast, nipple erect, penetrating her baby's
central facial orifice? (In the paradigm, as in the icon, the infant is male.)
112 UMBR(a)
Do you believe that the infant is fellating his mother's phallic appendage?
Doesn't this grant this newborn a higher level of social skill than we can rightfully
Freud also argued that breastfeeding was like sex because it provided a
specifically sexual satisfaction to the infant. How did Freud know this? By observing that
the experience produces a soporific effect. But has he not thereby identified satisfaction
with the notably soporific effects of the male orgasm? Do you really believe that anything
that puts you to sleep is like a phallic orgasm?
And what if the infant does not fall asleep; but spits up. If this makes him a
phallic appendage in his own right, then we have one phallus sucking on another. Does
this fulf-ill Lacan's wish that psychoanalysis invent a new perversion? Or is it simply the
Freudian description of a kiss?
Some will retort that surely breastfeeding is an erotic experience for mothers.
Admit at once, to avoid argument, that the experience is as pleasurable as you want it to
be, do we really want to reduce all experiences of pleasure to orgasmic frissons?
Let us return to the hapless hero of the Freudian parable. He has just experienced
an epiphany revealing that something suspiciously sexual is going on under his roof-
and something sexual from which he has been excluded. (Note in germinal form the
outlines of the theory of the primal scene!)
Would this new father accept a rational argument demonstrating the contrary?
Would he allow reality to contradict his vision? Not a chance. His
aesthetic, not an ethic-declares: 1 I see it, it must be there, but if it isn't there, so much
the better, because then my feelings are more ineluctably mine.
Convinced of what he sees and of how he feels about it, this man knows that he
must intervene. First, by speaking. He cannot allow himself- to be dispossessed of his wife
without, as ethologists say, marking rus territory.
Thus, he protests; pacing around the room he marks its perimeter with his new
understanding. Better to talk to the walls than to face someone whose response might
make him feel that his new paternal responsibilities have addled his brains.
But perhaps his wife respects his feelings and attempts to reason with him. She
may retort, in Freudian fashion, that her needy infant is far too small to consummate
what the man fears.
Our heroic father-fast becoming mock-heroic-quickly brushes aside such
pragmatic cavilling. The child's relative youth and his small size do not prevent him from
desiring. On the contrary, don't we feel more desire for what we cannot have. The little
UMBR(a) 113
man is getting a taste, perhaps a lust, for more. Anyway, breastfeeding can be part of an
extended foreplay. Doesn't she remember ... ?
What he dares not say, and what he dreads most, is that from a Freudian
perspective eighteen inches is anything but small.
Now our hero has refined his theoretical position. The in (ant is like a thief who
wants to enjoy living in your home, but is willing to settle for less: he absconds, first, with
your Ming vase, next, with your Nikon, then with your family jewels. If he keeps it up,
before you know it there will be nothing left.
Father knows best, and what he knows is that this little (or not-50-little) object,
this lactating breast is provoking a desire for unspeakable pleasures.
Since his wife is enjoying it too much to do anything about it, he has to intervene
to break up the mother-infant dyad.
You might imagine--as many cultures do-that weaning a child from the breast
is a normal occurrence, contingent only on timing. No matter what you believe about
nature and nurture, breastfeeding cannot go on forever. We do not need exotic erotic
explanations to understand it. Nor do we need such explanations to understand why
child does not accept it with a smile.
Breaking any routinized habitual pattern of behavior always produces some
degree of protest, and here that is compounded by the daunting task of learning a new
skill-table manners.
The {ather believes, however, that nothing less than an outside force can separate
two parties to an incestuous activity that is too pleasurable for words. He has seen the
infant attack the breast with a sadistic glee. And he knows that all women have
masochistic tendencies. athen-vise why would she continue breastfeeding her infant?
There he stands, like the warrior angel at the gate of Eden, brandishing his
flaming sword. Despite his redoubtable presence, his fearless child is not going to accept
weaning without putting up a fight. The infant sucks his thumb, throws tantrums,
pretends to be needy, and in a clear demonstration of hostility, flings the spinach puree at
his parents.
Why would the child fight if he does not want to commit incest with his mother?
Sharpening his critical acumen the father cuts to the meaning: these are aU demands; they
show how badly he wants her; he will go to any end for a mere touch of her breast, a
caress of her hand. This infant is driven to return to paradise and wants everyone to
believe that the breast would soothe his fears, calm his frenetic energy, and cure his
compulsive grasping.
114 UMBR(a)
You may believe it is all innocent; in fact, he lusts after his mother like a budding
Oedipus. Before you know it he will start planning to assassinate his father.
But now an unforeseen development interferes with the paternal reverie. His wife
has developed an intractable resistance to the truth of his interpretation. She even resents
his unwanted and unwarranted intrusion into a domain where she trusts her oWn
instincts and wishes to exercise her own authority. And besides, shouldn't this august
paterfamilia be off somewhere earning a living? Doesn't he have anything better to do
than hang around a nursery?
Now our hero has a problem. If she is right, then he has been making a fool of
himself. Thus, he concludes, she must be hystericaL She is sexually repressed-how long
has it been since she was intimate with him-and does not know that she has been
colluding in a seduction. Incestuous wishes have not sprung from the head of his infant
son-after all, where would a newborn conjure an idea of copulation-therefore, they
must be coming from his wife. Her sexual frustration finds partial satisfaction in
breasfeeding ... without the inconvenience of dealing with a husband who will not be so
easily satisfied.
Of course, his glory in discovering the truth is short lived. The inexorable force of
the dialectic is, like a boomerang, about the thrust at the heart of his smug certainty. In
the void left by the absence of objective standards of judgment, a disquieting thought
emerges: I too was once an infant blissfully sucking away at my mother's breast.
Thus he makes the ultimate sacrifice, the one gesture guaranteed to persuade the
greatest number of people, he confesses that he lusted in his heart after his own young
mother. Perhaps he still does. For his pains, and to control his lust, he maintains a
permanent castration anxiety.
How elegant a solution. Far better that his overpowering desire make him a
martyr to the cause than to discover that he is not wearing new clothes.
UMBR(a) 115
Robert Samuels
Central to Lacan's theOlY of ethics is the insight that the drive exemplifies the
way in which speaking beings replace real things with symbolic representations. 1 Yet the
subject of the unconscious feels guilty about this destruction of the natural realm. This
primordial guilt, which Heidegger explores at the end of Being and Time, is not due to a
particular action or intention, but is a result of the structural relation between the real and
the symbolic. This ethical argument is outlined in Lacan's seminar entitled The Ethics of
Psychoanalysis.2 I believe that this text has been consistently misread in that readers have
failed to recognize the foundations of Lacan's ethics in one of the oldest myths of the
Judeo-Christian tradition-the story of the garden of Eden.3
Lacan's Ethics seminar focuses on the dialectical relation between the realm of
the Thing (das Ding) and that of language. Lacan locates the death drive in realm of
language since language is responsible for the negation or death of the original, natural
Thing. Like Hegel, Lacan believes that symbolic representation alienates human beings
from the real of nature. In this sense, both repeat myth of the garden of Eden in which
Adam and Eve are forced out of their natural state as punishment for eating of the Tree of
This myth is clearly structured by the antinomic relationship between life
and symbolic knowledge, just as Lacan's theory is structured by the opposition between
the Thing and language, and later on in his work, between life and meaning.
In order to connect his theory of linguistic alienation to Freud's theory of the
Oedipus complex, Lacan argues that for every subject the original Thing is the mother,
who is forbidden to the subject by the law of the father, also known as the incest taboo.
"What we find in the incest law is located as such at the level of the unconscious in
UMBR(a) 117
relation to dos Ding, the Thing."6 According to Lacan, then, the real mother-Thing is
negated or transcended by the symbolic law of the father, and the desire of the mother is
Just as language continues to circle the absent referent of the real, the subject that
passes through the Oedipus complex continues to desire the lost mother. In this sense,
Lacan equates the lost referent of language to the lost object of desire. Moreover, since
Freud's reality principle is dependent on the subject'S ability to refind a lost object, Lacan
insists that every attempt at re-presenting something must be be based upon the structure
of desire: liThe world of our experience, the Freudian world, assumes that it is this object,
das Ding, as the absolute Other of the subject, that one is supposed to find again. It is to
be found at the most as something missed." 7 Following Freud, Lacan argues that one can
never refind the original thing that one is looking for. One can only find the absence of
the Thing. Thus Lacan is not only saying that U absence makes the heart grow fonder"; he
is also affirming that the cause of every subject's desire is an object that presents the
original loss of the Thing (das Ding).
Since every ethical theory is tied to the possibility of discotlrse, law,
representation, and language, Lacan argues that if one would discuss ethics in general,
one has to take into account the way that these different symbolic processes function. In
fact, he goes so far as to say that the taboo against incest provides for the distance
between the subject and the real that makes the very existence of speech and morality
For Lacan, Freud's concept of the death drive is an attempt to explain the power
of language to efface the forces of life. In other words, the death drive is a myth that
accounts for the way that subjects are civilized and transformed into speaking beings.
One of the problems with the process of symbolization, however, is that there is always a
part of the real that cannot be consumed by language.
In Adam's case, there is a residue of the apple that sticks in his throat--:the
Adam's apple. Lacan compares this piece of the apple to the object a-the piece of the
real that escapes symbolization-when he Claims in Seminar 11 that the object a cannot
be swallowed in the throat of the symbolic.
As a reminder or remainder of the real that
has resisted the death drive and the process of symbolic representation, object a becomes
the cause of unconscious desire.
118 UMBR(a)
1. For a discussion of Lacan's interpretation of Freud's theory of the death drive,
see my Between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (New York: Routledge, 1993), pp.
120-121, 151 n. 3 and n. 4.
2. Jacques Laran, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII: The Ethics of Psycho-
analysis, 1959-1960 (New York: Norton, 1992).
3. Two recent attempts at reading Lacan's Ethics seminar can be found in John
Rajchman's Truth and Eros (New York: Routledge, 1991) and Tobin Siebers's The Ethics of
Criticism (Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1988). I believe that because both Rajchman and
Seibers miss the radical nature of Lacan's theory of the death drive, they misconstrue
Lacan's ethical theory.
4. It would be interesting to compare my re-reading of the myth of the garden of
Eden with the theory of eschatological history outlined in M. H. Abrams's Natuml
Supernaturalism (New York: Norton, 1971).
5. Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (New York:
Norton, 1977),210-213.
6. Lacan, Seminar 7, 68.
7. Ibid., 52.
8. Ibid., 69.
9. TIle Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 270.
UMBR(a) 119
Raul Moncayo
Fr'eud defines the sexual dr.ive as a borderline concept situated on the frontier
between the psychical and the somatic. His concept of the drive can thus be regarded as
an attempt to the classical mind-body dualism of Western metaphysics.
Dualistic views of the sexual drive are characterized by either a psychologistic rejection of
its bodily biolog.ical source or a contrary biologjstic blindness to its psychical symbolic
dimensions. Freud views the concept of drjve from both sides of the body-mind
relationship. In hjs Three Essays on the Theory Of Sexuality, Freud writes that the source of
a drive is in the body but that when it' reaches, its aim of satisfaction via the object, it
becomes psyc1lical. In his rnetapsychology, Freud describes the drive as knowable only
through psychical representations
borrowing this concept of representation from
classical philosophy where it refers to the internal re-presentation of an external
perceptual object. Thus, the psychical nature of the drive is intrinsical1y related to both
the object and a symbolic representational order. To re-present is the reproduction of an
anterior perception.
Lacan points out that perceptions are interpreted and assimilated in terms of
language and an equjvalence between the concept of representation and the
linguistic concept of the signifier. Our biology is always articulated within symbolic
cultural and linguistic structures. For LClcan, this explains why Freud never uses the
German word for instinct, Instinkt, and instead uses the term drive, Trieb. The difference
between the two words represents a conceptual leap from a biological concept of
instincts in animals to the cultural! symbolic phenomena of the drive in human beings.
UMBR(a) 121
Within this framework, the bio1ogical concept of a neuronal chain as a material cause for
the transmissjon of nervous impuJses is superseded by the signifying chain or the
transmission of meaning and' signification within a symbolic network.
Freud also says that a drive is the psychical representative of
tensions or stimuli reaching the mind from their source within the organism. This
explanation seems to stress that endosomahc needs constitute the material cause of the
drive. From physiology, Freud borrows lithe concept of 'stimulus' and the pattern of a
reflex arc, according to which a stimu]u5 applied to a Jiving tissue from the outside is
dischClrged by action to the ou.tside."l However, there is a difference between a
stimulus and a drive. A drive as an internaJ stimulus does not arise from the external
world but from the organism itself. Moreover, a stimulus "operates with a single impact,
so that it can be disposed of by a single expedient action. A typical Instance of this is
motor flight from the source of stimulation.,,2 A drive, instead, paradigmatically
operates as a force wjth a constant impact. :tvloreover, since it impinges not from without
but from within, no flight can avail against it.
As a result of the impossibility of flight from an internal stimuJus, the body
imposes on the mind a certain demand for work or activity. This notion parallels the
definition of energy in physics as the capacity to produce wo.rk. Stimulation pressures the
mind for some form of discharge, which takes the form of a thought process, a fantasy, an
image, a symbol, an uncontrollable stream of thoughts, feelings and sensations. Thus the
mind responds to the organism's demand for work by producing thinking, defined as
mnemic representational circuits. The content of thoughts are combinations of
perceptions, memories and desires, all of which are organized within a representational
system. The capture of physiological e1ements and their articulation and configuration'
within symbolic structuraJ elelnents (perceptions, memories, desires), constitutes the
fonnaJ psychicaJ cause of the drjve.
Freud defjnes the aim of the drive as seeking plensure and avoiding displeasure.
But if the drive becomes psychical once it reac.hes its aim of satisfaction via the object,
then it becomes plausible to argue that the object mediates the very nature of the
drive for a human subject. In addition, Freud also defines the drive as constituting a
constant pressure (thrust) upon the mind.
Bu1 if the constant impetus towards satisfaction becomes so.metrung impossible to
reconcile with the availability of objects in the external environment, then desires can
1 Sigmund Freud, "lnstincts and Their Vicjssitu des" (1915) in The Standard Edition of the
Complete Psyrhological Works oj S(\?mund Freud (New York: Norton, J953-1974), vol. XIV, 118.
l22 UMBR (a)
only be realized in dreams and the imaginilly. Moreover, the impossibility of satisfaction
is not only a function of the constant pressure of the drive but also a result of the fact that
the object mayor may not be there in reality. Even when the object of desire is found,
such satisfaction produces a new displacement, a devaluation of the object, and a
renewed search for the virtual and ideal object and so on ad infinitum. Ricoeur has called
this state of affairs the evil infinitude of desire. Desire always returns in the form of
wishful thinking, day dreaming and renewed attempts at finding the virtual object.
Similarly, Lacan points out that the satisfaction of the drive is paradoxical
because the path of the subject runs directly into the wall and category of the impossible.
"It is in this form that the real, namely, the obstacle to the pleasure principle, appears. The
real is the impact with the obstacle; it is the fact that things do not turn out all right
straight away, as the hand that is held out to external objects wishes."3 Lacan says that
the drive moves around the object before returning to its source within the rims of the
erogenous zones, and that the object conforms to the gap-like structure of the
unconscious. The object "is in fact simply the presence of a hollow, a void, which can be
occupied, Freud tells us, by any object, and whose agency we know only in the form of
the lost object, the petit a." 4 The fact that any object of the drive can occupy the place of
the absent object of desire, generates a continual parade of drive-objects which will never
be the actual object of desire.
In his drive theory, Freud used the concept of "anaclisis" to account for how the
drive is derived from a biological self-preservation instinct. But just as with the somatic
source of the drive, this concept acquires a significant indep'endence once it becomes
established within a symbolic! psychical order. The notion of a psychical drive develops
out of the prototype of the experience of satisfaction whereby in the process of satisfying
biological needs for nutrition and growth, the infant develops a psychical desire for the
satisfaction itself, independent from the needs of the biological organism, Now this
satisfaction remains inextricably linked to the other as object a. The relationship to
another subject is more satisfying than autoerotism, for example, because sexuality not
only comes from the Other, but is quahfied and mediated by the desire of the Other,
Sexuality becomes inextricably linked with the object a a's a remainder of the other
within the subject once the other is lost through separation.
For Lacan, the contingency and expendable nature of the object is due to the
3 Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, : ~ d . Jacques-Alain
Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977), 167.
4fbid., 180,
UMBR(a) 123
demand that the divided subject may place upon the various objects of the drive ($ 0 0),
but behind and beyond these objects lies the object a as the cause of desire ($ 0 a). Thus,
we have two terms, the object of the drive which refers to the manifold and contingent
objects of desire in its usual sense, and the object a as the underlying cause of the
subject's desire. This distinction is not always clear in Lacan and has led to semantic
confusion in the use of the terminology.
Strictly speaking, within Freudian theory, the experience of satisfaction with the
mother occurs within the context of the child having a symbolic significance for the
mother and vice versa. Memories and representations are derived from the experience of
satisfaction with the mother, from the words and desire of the other. The mother sculpts
the erogenous zones of the subject, as Harari has pointed out. In this sense, Lacan's
statement that desire is the desire of the other coincides with Fairbain's thesis that the
drive is object seeking rather than pleasure seeking. This formal psychical causality of the
drive coincides with the formal object of psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline. Thus,
the difference between a dualistic reading of Freud and Lacan's dialectical reading of
Freud, is that the former focuses exclusively on the biological or the psychological in
order to reject the totality of Freud's concept, whereas the latter interprets and
coordinates the structure of the theory by subordinating the biology of instinct (the
material cause of the drive) to the psychical/ symbolic intersubjective causality of the
drive concept.
Freud first classified drives by introducing a distinction and a dynamic conflict
between a self-preservation ego instinct and a libidinal sexual drive. He based this
distinction on a larger difference between ego-libido, or interest in generat and object
libido, or erotic desire. However, with the introduction of the concept of narcissism, ego
libido became a vicissitude of the sexual drive. Thus in the end, Freud appealed to a
distinction between a life drive and a death drive. Eros he defined as the tendency for
self-preservation and combination into ever larger units. Thanatos he defined as the
tendency to return to a lifeless state.
In Beyond the Pleasure Principle,Freud attempted to revise his prior definition of
the pleasure principle as constituting the aim of the sexual drive. In my view Freud, in
seeking a beyond of the pleasure principle, is seeking both for a new definition of
pleasure and for a function more bnsic and fundamental than the pleasure principle. He
had defined the pleasure principle as the tendency to seek pleasure and avoid
displeasure. Moreover, he identified the trend towards pleasure with a trend towards
inertia or the lowering and elimination of excitations. Pleasure was the subjective
124 UMBR(a)
experience of an objective decrease in the tension or excitation of the nervous system.
Conversely, displeasure was the subjective experience of the objective increase of tension.
However, he was forced to abandon this formula when he realized that there can be
pleasurable increases of tension and unpleasant decreases of tension. Since human beings
find sexual excitation rather enjoyable, it seems more reasonable to attribute pleasure to a
tendency to establish an optimal level of tension and keep it constant. Thus, Freud comes
to regard the pleasure principle as a function of the constancy principle.
However, there are two problems with this definition. First, Freud had opposed
the pleasure principle to the reality principle, aligning the latter with the constancy
principle and the fonner as with the principle of inertia. Now constancy is being called to
explain the pleasure principle and not the reality principle. Second, Freud defines the
constancy principle as the correlate of the more radical tendency of inertia to completely
evacuate all mental excitation. Constancy constitutes the second-best option of keeping
tension at the lowest possible level.
What, then, is beyond the pleasure principle, if the constancy principle is the
correlate of a renamed inertia principle? Freud returns full circle to his earlier definition
but gives the old principle a new name. Following a suggestion by Barbara Low, Freud
adopts a tenn borrowed it from Buddhism-Nirvana. How can the constancy principle,
be the beyond the pleasure principle, if Freud ends up defining the constancy principle in
tenns of the Nirvana principle?
Throughout the development of his work, Freud appears to be confused and
perplexed by the similarity and difference between two principles. These two largely
correspond to lhe classical Greek definitions of psyche, 'soul' and IWUS, 'mind'. For the
Greeks, psyche represented an active animating force or spirit, and nous the more
passive function of receiving, regulating and recording impressions. Freud defines drive
(pS1jche) as the active or animating/ stimulating force, and the nervous system or
"psychical apparatus" (nous) as mastering and reducing stimuli. However, in organizing
and coordinating these principles, he ends up either reducing both of them to the
function of the pleasure principle or distinguishing between a pleasure principle and a
constancy principle onJy to then place them on the same rather than opposite sides of the
problem. In my opinion, Freud was unable to establish a dialectical view of how these
dual terms could be simultaneously similar and different.
One possible solution is to postulate that the pleasure principle implies the
pursuit of pleasure, whereas Nirvana implies not only reducing or eliminating tensions,
but more importantly, mastering excitation, as well as calming the mind. In this
UMBR(a) 125
redehnition, Nirvana would be both before and beyond the pleasure principle. The
pleasure principle arises from the Nirvana principle because in seeking imaginary objects
for the drive, the psyche atte,mpts to fulfill the Nirvana principle. Freud says this much
while attemptlng to c.Iarify the problem in the follOwing way:
Let us make a sharper distinction that we have hitherto made between
function and tendency. Tne pleasure principle, theI\ is a tendency operating in
the service of a function whose business it is to free the mental apparatus entirely
from excitation or to keep the amount in it constant or to keep it as low as
possible. 5
The distinction between pS1Jcl1e or drive and rwus or mind, between pleasure
principle and Nirvana principle, has now become one between tendency and function.
Desire as a tendency knocks on the wrong door and fails to achieve the function of
Nirvana, which is something impossible to do through the pursuit of pleasure. It becomes
necessary for another desire to arise, which will master the unpleasant anxiety and worry
prod uced by the pleasure principle and, therefore, help it reach saHsfaction (Nirvana).
Freud attributes this task of mastering excitation to the constancy principle.
I agree with RicoeuT, who, in struggling with the paradoxes that perplexed,
_ concludes that the task of binding or transforming free energy into quiescent
energy is more primitive and fundamental than the p]easure principle. Th:is relates to ci
distinction between love and sexual desire. Sexual desire, ruled by the pleasure principle,
increases tension and confJjct, thus leading to the disruption of unions and connections,
whereas love or, Eros connects with the binding function of quiescent energy under the
constancy principle.
The paradox in the confusion between the pleasure and Nirvana principJes
and in defining the former in terms of the Jatter and vice versa. Nirvana js not the search
for absolute pleasure, the hjgh of a drug, of pleasure of sex, or the escape from the
problems of the wor1d-a misunderstanding ot the Buddhist concept. More than
ecstasy, Nirvana represents quiescence or equanimity, the calmness and serenity of the
mind. Freud confused the Nirvana principle with its hedonistic interpretation-his
concept of free energy implies a definition of freedom as that of the libertine, the
um:estrained, frenetic circulation of desire. Nirvana, thus defined, represents an impulse
5 Sigmund Freud, Beyond the PLeasure Principle (1920), SE vol. XV III, 56.
126 UrvIBR(a)
. ,
, ,
to discharge energy and achieve satisfaction in the shortest and most immediate and
direct route. Rather, I postulate that Nirvana, as a primary or original principle, points to
constancy, quiescent energy and the secondary process, not the pleasure principle.
In line with a new definition of the Nirvana principle, the primary process
remains associated with the pleasure principle and with what Freud calls free energy. I
propose that the difference between the secondary process and the primary process
would be equal to the transformation of the Nirvana principle into the pleasure principle
but in reverse. When Nirvana is transformed into the pursuit of pleasure, the latter takes
precedence over tne reduction of anxiety under the Nirvana principle. Consequently, the
secondary process reverses the psychical priorities by re-establishing the principle of
quiescence as the function ruling over the tendency to seek pleasure and avoid
displeasure. The production of quiescent energy might require the bad medicine of the
temporary tolerance of displeasure and pain. Finally, such a structural fonnulation does
not require that the two movements-from Nirvana to pleasure and back-be pitted one
against the other. Both may be necessary in different places and moments of time.
The paradoxical question of the similarity or difference between the two
principles in question is also reflected in the notion of the repetition compulsion. In
Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud also introduces the tendency to repeat problematic or
traumatic situations as evidence of phenomena which would constitute an exception to
the pleasure principle. But is this repetition the obsessiveness of a desire leading to
destructive consequences or the obsessiveness of an anti-libidinal ritual? Is the repetition
compulsion the compulsion to repeat a past experience of satisfaction, a renewed attempt
at pleasure? Or is it an attempt to bind mental excitations? Are we going around in a
circle of suffering, the wheel of samsara? Or are we turning the wheel of Nirvana, the
hermeneutic circle of meaning and enlightenment? As a solution to this dilemma, I
postulate a distinction between two types of binding and unbinding, one type of
attachment and detachment linked to the primary process and another to the secondary
The unjfying ties, which produce lasting connections between people, need to be
distinguished from the binding or attachment of desire under the pleasure principle. The
latter produces temporary unions which turn into divorces and separations, once tne tie
turns from one of love to one of hate or aversion. Thus, the only Eros that would be
beyond the pleasure principle is the Eros linked to the binding function of quiescent
energy. The pleasure principle needs to be placed on the side of the unbinding and
disruptive force of sexual pleasure and not on the side of the constancy of quiescent
UMBR(a) 127
energy. The constancy or Nirvana principle is more fundamental than the pleasure
principle although both can be considered as going beyond one another.
Thus, it is possible to conceive both sexuality and aggression as working under
the pleasure principle. This principle is characterized by a tendency towards satisfaction
which may be expressed in either binding or unbinding, loving or hating. Nirvana, in
contrast, becomes indistinguishable from an Eros that produces more lasting bonds and
attachments by unbinding or detaching the libido from archaic love and hate objects and
thus transforming free energy into a bound or quiescent kind(ness). Pleasure, in this
instance, is defined more by a principle of constancy, of lasting connections, of seeing
things through to the end, of balance, harmony and stability.
Finally, such framework also offers a plausible solution to Freud's difficulties
with the concept of sublimation. Throughout the length of his work, Freud struggled with
the concept of sublimation as an independent vicissitude of the drive. He oscillated
between linking sublimation ,"lith the vicissitudes of aim-inhibited drives (and with
defenses such as reaction formation) and thinking of sublimation as a way of producing a
direct satisfaction of the drive without involving repression.
Postulating Nirvana as a primary principle, before and beyond the pleasure
principle, is consistent with a definition of sublimatIon as a way of producing a direct
satisfaction without involving repression. The secondary process and sublimation, as
functions of constancy and Nirvana, are not secondary and artificial defensive reactive
formations, or lukewarm substitutions for the pleasure principle. Freud could not realize
this because he was diverted by his misapplication of the energic terminology of Breuer
and Helmholtz.
For Breuer, constancy constitutes the homeostasis of a specialized central nervous
system. Constancy regulates the optimal level of tonic energy and tension, unlike Freud's
circulation of free energy. Breuer distinguished between a quiescent energy and a kinetic
energy, which circulates throughout the nervous system. The purpose of the optimal level
of tension is the free circulation of kinetic energy, which is equivalent to an easy
functioning of thought, and the existence of unblocked or unhindered associations. Such
a base level coincides with a state of heaJth. Clarity, corresponds to an optimal level of
tonic energy in which energy circulates proportionally from representation to
representation. For Breuer, the energy of dreams and the primary process would not be
free because of a decline of a basic tonic potential.
Freud reversed the primary and secondary functions of Breuer's two energies:
"again it is easy to identify the primary psychical process with Breuer's freely mobile
l28 UMBR(a)
cathexis and the secondary process with changes in his bound or tonic cathexis." 6 To
Breuer, the free (mobile) circulation of kinetic energy is a secondary function of the
primary need to establish an optimum base level of quiescent energy. One encounters
Freud's kind of primary process when the primary function of obtaining a basic tonic
level fails. Freud inverts the relationship that Breuer established between quiescent tonic
energy and the free circulation of kinetic energy. H;0wever, the critical point for our
discussions is that quiescence to Breuer is a primary form of energy. Thus because of the
confusion between what is primary and secondary, sublimation is often, confused, even
by Freud, with the secondary vicissitude of aim-inhibited social drives and the defense
mechanism of reaction formation. I argue that sublimation, as a direct satisfaction of the
drive, needs to be understood as a function of the sublime and magnanimous original
nature of quiescent energy under the Nirvana principle.
6 Sigmund Freud, Project for a Scientific PSlJchology (1895), 5E voL 1,28,
UMBR(a) 129
Charles Shepherdson
In no region of psychology were we groping mOTe in the dark. Everyone
assumed the existence of as many instincts or "basic instincts" as he chose, and
juggled with them like the ancient Greek n ~ t u r l philosophers with their four
elements-earth, air, fire and water. 1
The fundamental features of Freud's concept of the dnve are now well known. To
begin with, we may recall the distinction between the instinct and the drive. Insofar as the
instinct is governed by the laws of na,ture (survival and reproduction), while the drive is
open to symbolic displacement and substitution, Freud argues that sexuality is detached
from :its biological foundations and subject to representation-placed, as Lacan would
say, in the field of the Other. And yet, the particular character of the relation between the
drjve and representation (and consequently the meaning of Jlsexuality" as such) remains
obscure and open to debate. 2 For even jf it is detached from nature, this does not mean
that sexuality is entirely inscribed withinn the circuit of representation. The Other is
lacking, as Lacan says-it is JJnot all" and "not the whole truth" (f 3). This "lack in the
Other" has decisive consequences for the theory of the drive, which will bring into play
not only the imaginary and symbolic, but above all the category of the reaL and the
object a, which mark the place of a certain defect in the law, a point of incompleteness in
the structure of representation. The question is how we aTe to understand this
Jlremainder/, this element beyond representation, and why it has a privileged link to
JI sexuality. fI
UMBR(a) 131
At least three points may therefore be stressed at the outset. First, although
contemporary accounts of psychoanalysis often speak of Freud'snon-biologicaJ
conception of the drive as if it coincided with historical accounts of the cultural formation
of sexuality (the subject in relation to lithe symbolic order"), Freud's theory remains
distinct from historical and sociological arguments in several decisive respects. The
"economic," "dynamic," and "topographical" points of view that Freud developed all
sought to account for the logic or structure that links representation to the body-
elaborating the various techniques that might allow their relations to be reconfigured,
and exploring the "mechanisms" and "causes" that would account for anxiety,
symptoms, affective shifts and other somatic effects. Freud's work is thus quite different
from historical accounts of subjectivity, although it remains clear that psychoanalysis will
always require a sensitivity to the fact that in each case the "logic" of the subject unfolds
within a concrete, socio-historical milieu. It is therefore insufficient to say that for Freud,
"sexuaHty" is not a biological phenomenon, but rather an effect of the symbolic order, if
this means that we can regard it as purely conventional or as the product of cultural
conditions. In the face of current debates between biological determinism and cultural
construction, psychoanalysis introduces the following difficulty: "sexuality" cannot be
reduced to a biological fact, but neither is it a social effect. Like the incest taboo, it violates
the distinction between nature and culture, not because it belongs partly to each, but
because this very distinction avoids the concept of sexua1ity, replacing it with a choice
between "biology" and "social convention"-an alternative that Freudian theory
contested from the start.
At the broadest theoretical level, therefore, the importance of Freud's account of
the drive for contemporary discussions of subjectivity and embodiment is that it breaks
with biomedical accounts of mental and bodily existence, while also refusing
explanations which suggest that the "subject," having been detached from nature, is in
any way a simple "product" or "effect" of contingent social conditions. This apparently
obvious point is often effaced by the reception of psychoanalysis: it is sometimes
supposed that Freud's work consists in exploring the relation between the "impulses" of
the organism (the id) and the repressive forces of culture (the superego), and Freud
himself often uses this language, as if the ego were a compromise between biological
instinct and moral law. Such a view, however, collapses the distinction between the
instinct and the drive, and misconstrues psychoanalysis as a confused combination of
biomedical pretension and social psychology, when it wouJd be more accurate to regard
it as a distinct theoretical formation-not an attempt to patch together the forces of nature
and history, but a theory with its own logic and structure. In this respect, psychoanalysis
132 UMBR(a)
shares with phenomenology a profound commonality: both begin with a twin critique of
naturalism aJ1d historicism. To consider the drive is thus to insist that Freud's account of
the body and of psychic life is irreducible to both biological and socio-historical models,
however dialectically intertwined one may take these two domains to be.
If the first point bears on the general theoretical arena occupied by
psychoanalysis, the second point about the relation between the drive and representation
bears more directly on the clinical dimension of psychoanalysis, for the concept of the
"dr.ive" always has a bodily significance in Freud's work. This is evident from the
specification of the drive in terms of its corporeal location, an argument elaborated
through the "oral," "anal," "scopic," and other so-called "stages" of the drive, and also in
terms of the "erotogenic zones," whlch are understood not as biological parts of the
organism, but as anatomical regions which serve as the locus for representation-regions
that are not determined in advance by nature, but subject to symbolic displacement and
substitution (SE 7:183-4r The geography of the body is thereby distinguished from the
anatomy of the organism. This is why, in one of his earliest accounts of the symptom-"A
Comparative Study of Organic and Hysterical Paralysis" (1888)-Freud writes that
"hysteria behaves as though anatomy did not exist" (SE 1:169). Freud's purpose is not to
dismiss the bodily character of the symptom in favor of a "psychological" theory of
neurosis grounded in subjective "fantasies," but rather to isolate the specific character of
the symptom in psychoanalyhc theory, as distinct from its counterpart in organic
medicine. Thus, if Freud goes on to say, five years later, that the hysteric "suffers mainly
from reminiscences" (SE 2:7), this does not mean that the hysteric is only imagining
things, or that corporeality has been circumvented for the sake of an abstract discourse on
"representation" and "the symbolic order." On the contrary, it means that the body must
be distinguished from the orgal1ism, and understood in terms of its susceptibility to the
signifier-its peculiar porousness and vulnerability with respect to the order of meaning.
'Pfhe symptom," in Lacan's words, is "a metaphor in which flesh or function is taken as a
signifying element." 3
Starting from the concept of the drive, we are thus led not only to insist on the
theoretical specificity of psychoanalysis (in relation to biological and historical models),
but also to recognize that this specificity has two distinct but closely related aspects,
which we can designate with the tenns "subject" and "body": it is a matter of recognizing
that, for psychoanalysis, the problem of "the subject" will be approached neither through
the neurological, biochemical, materialist discourse of Helmholtz, Btiicke, and Fechner (a
tradition still very much alive in psychopharmacology), nor through arguments for the
UMBR(a) 133
"social construction of subjectivity," which are often presented as the only alternative to
naturaJism. But at the same time, we must acknowledge that the question of the "subject"
in psychoanalysis will never be clarified unless the concept of the body is also addressed,
as a concrete, materiaJ domain which cannot be reduced to the level of organic life.
Lacan's formula for the drive makes this point explicit. The matheme $ 0 D
designates a relation between the subject ($) and the demand of the Other CD), but as a
formula specifically intended to define the drive, it indicates that we are dealing, not with
"subjectivity" (or with an IIjntersubjective" relation between the subject and the Other),
but with a corporeal phenomenon. The formula thus indicates that in the drive, some part
of the body has been elected as the locus of symbohc demand, the privileged place where
the force of representation has had material effects. This is why, as Slavoj Ziiek points
out, there is a close connection between the formula for the drive and the "erotogenic
zone": "certain parts of the body's surface are erotically privileged not because of their
anatomical position but because of the way the body is caught up in the symbolic
network. This symbolic dimension is designated in the matheme as D, i.e., symbolic
demand."4 In short, the matheme for the drive ($ 0 D), in designating a relation between
the "subject" and the "demand of the Other," is neither an intersubjective nor even a
linguistic matter, but is intended to address the bodily organization of libido, beyond all
instinctuaJ regularity.
One might object that Lacan's vocabulary is far removed from Freud's, and that
an enormous theoretical shift takes place with the introduction of the words "subject,"
"demand" and the "Other." This is no doubt true, arid each of these terms carries a heavy
philosophical load that requires detailed examination. But Freud's own discourse
provides at least some basis for Lacan's terminology. For although Freud does not speak
of "the demand of the Other," we may note that in describing the ego ideal-that
complex formation which is both a fertile point of identification for the subject, an
opening toward the future and toward the possibilities of desire, and yet also the initial
form of conscience, a foothold for gujlt and for the punitive agency of the superego-
Freud writes that it
is the heir to the original narcissism in which the child ish ego enjoyed self-
sufficiency; it gradually gathers up from the influences of the environment the
demands which that environment makes upon the ego and which the ego cannot
always rise to; so that a man, when he cannot be satisfied with his ego itself, may
134 UMBR(a)
nevertheless be able to find satisfaction in the ego ideal which has been
differentiated out of the ego (SE 18:110, emphasis added).
The ego-ideal is this strange "product," this effect of symbolic identification, this
gathering up of demands which come from the Other and are incorporated (though not
entirely integrated) within the psychic economy of the subject, where they serve as a
source of both satisfaction and suffering, as the "heir" to the subject's narcissism, but also
as the means by which the subject will "find satisfaction" precisely when his own ego
proves deficient-in a movement of identification whose masochistic character Lacan
repeatedly emphasized, while also acknowledging that desire itself only unfolds in
radical dependence on this ideal, the formation of which is the mark, for Lacan, of the
subject's submission to the law, understood as the law of symbolic identification (as
distinct from biological identity). The ego ideal, and with it the very possibility of desire,
would therefore seem to emerge only with this surplus effect, whereby the subject is
submitted to the demand of the Other, so that enjoyment is constitutively marked by a
masochistic or pathological element. Such is the tangled economy of desire and
jouissance-that "pleasure in suffering" that Freud developed under the heading of the
"death drive."
The ego ideal is not yet the drive, of course, and we shall have to see why this is
so; buhn Freud's reference to this "gathering up of demands" it is clear that the body is
already at stake, and that even at the level of "symbolic identification" we cannot be
content with a purely "symbolic" model, in which the unconscious would remain
completely disembodied. In fact, given the peculiar economy of pleasure and suffering
that organizes itself in the ego ideal (such that the ego will "find satisfaction" at the very
moment when it "cannot be satisfied with ... itself"), we should be able to provide a
more adequate account of the register of "affect" that is so often said to be missing from
Lacan's work-all the "moods" which characterize our bodily existence, such as guilt,
anxiety, boredom (taking only the most favorite of Heidegger's terms, and leaving aside
the spirits of vengeance, resentment, slavishness, and all the other modes of physiological
morality that Nietzsche would have us consider). "What is the affect of ex-isting?" Lacan
asks in 1975. "What is it, of the unconscious, which makes for ex-istence? It is what I
underline with the support of the symptom" (FS 166). Thus, forged jn the fire of the
Other's demand, the ego ideal presents us, not with an abstract meditation on "the
subject," but with an effort to understand the unnatural modes of "satisfaction" which
permeate bodily existence.
UMBR(a) 135
Our second point is therefore clear: if psychoanalysis begins with a critique of
naturalistic accounts of the symptom, it does not follow thC'lt the body is simply
abandoned in favor of "imaginary" or JJsymbohc" matters, as if it were only a question of
urepresentation." Rather, as Freud writes in 1888, "the material conditions" of the
symptom "are profoundly altered" (1:170). Hysteria proves to be "jgnorant and
independent of any notion of the anatomy of the nervous system," and we are led to
conclude that hysterical (as opposed to organic) paralysis entails a different form of
causality (a law that is not a law of nature) in which .has somatic effects.
Hysterical paralysis is thus located, not at the level of the organism, but at the level of the
body, which has jts own phenomenal specificity, its own logic and structure: jn hysterical
paralYSis, som,e concrete part of the body is inaccessible, or paralysed, or Ibses its function
(or conversely becomes hbidinally invested beyond what "nature" would dictate),
according to Freud, but "without its material substratum ... being damaged," as it would
be in organic paralysis (SE 1: 170). As a result, if we wish to retain the medical language
of "lesions" so forcefully analyzed by Foucault in The Birth of the Clinic, we have only one
conclusion: "the lesion in hysterical paralysis," Freud says, llwin therefore be an alteration
of the conception, the idea, of the arm, for instance ... The ann behaves as though it did
not exist for the play of associations" (SE 1:170). "Hysterical paralYSiS," he concludes, lIis
a lso a representation paralysis, but with a special kind of represen tatio n whose
characteristics remain to be discovered" (SE 1:163, emphasis added).5
It should come as no surprise that Heidegger drew a similar condusion about the
difference between the organism and the body. Speaking of language and the physicaJ
production of sounds, Heidegger insists on the transformation which marks the human
body when jt is inhabHed by the possibility of speech: NSpeaking implies the articulate
vocal production of sound. Language manifests itself as the activation of the organs of
speech-mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, lClrynx."6 One migh1 suppose that language is
therefore a product of human nature, a tool that is used to express internal thoughts, and
not an irremediably Other domain. One mjght think, Heidegger says, that "we ourselves .
. . have the ability to speak and therefore already possess language" (OWL 111-12). And
yet, such a view not onJy conceals the nature of language, but also our own nature, and
Heidegger immediately adds that these "organs" of speech are profoundly
mjsunderstood jf they are regarded from a biological standpOint, as organic structures
performing natural functions of life (expressing, designating, or reasoning, which would
thus be natural to the human animal): lIThe sounding of the voice," Heidegger writes, Jlis
no longer only of the order of physical organs. It is released now from the perspective of
136 UMBR(a)
the physiological-physical explanation" (OWL 101); indeed "the mouth is not merely a
kind of organ of the body understood as an organism" (OWL 98). These remarks, written
in commemoration of Rilke's death, were made the same year that Lacan delivered his
"Proposal on Psychic Causality," which begins with a critique of Henri Ey's "organicist
theory of madness," and cites Paul Elouard in the process (E 151-93). We cannot enter
here into a proper treatment of Heidegger and Lacan, but it should be stressed that
already in Being and Time, as Derrida has pointed out, Heidegger recognized that the
"matter" of the body could not be understood as a natural thing, on the model of
"extended substance," because the ecstatic structure of Dasein's being already entailed a
"body" beyond nature. The analytic of Dasein is not an abstract or purely "spiritual"
theory of "subjective" existence, but opens a corporeal "space" beyond the space of
Euclidean geometry (just as it entails a death beyond all natural death). Thus, in Of
Spirit, Derrida recalls these words from Being altd Time: "Neither can the spatiality of
Dasein be inte1preted as an impe1fection which would be inherent to existence by virtue
of the fatal 'union of spirit with a body.' On the contrary, because Dasein is 'spiritual,'
altd only because of this, it can be spatial in a way which remains essentially impossible for
any extended corporeal thing.,,7
This brings us to our third point. For if the distinction between the instinct and
the drive allows us to insist upon the theoretical specificity of psychoanalysis, in relation
to both biological and historical analysis, and if it allows us to distingrush between the
organism and the body, stressing not only the question of the symptom, but also the
corporeal effects of identification (the peculiar mixture of pleasure and suffering that we
find in the ego ideal), we have said little about the notorious "object relation," and
nothing about the Lacanian category of the "real," which is crucial to the concept of the
drive. Jt is not yet clear, moreover, why the drive should be understood as "sexual," and
whether this means anything more than the platitude that because human sexuality is not
strictly bound by the biological mandates of survival and procreation, it can therefore be
said to "go everywhere." This is where the classic example of orality in Freud is still
At first glance, the question of "sexuality" would seem to present no difficulty.
Have we not already been led to expect a certain symbolic or imaginary displacement at
the heart of human embodiment? Is this passage through the field of representation not
what the distinction between the instinct and the dlive asserted at the start? This is the
lesson of ''Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality" (1905), repeated in "The Instincts and
their Vicissitudes" (1915), in both of which Freud elaborates the drive in terms of four
UrvlBR(a) 137
aspects-its force, aim, object and source (Orang, Ziel, Objekt, and Quelle). With this
analysis we are again on fantiliar ground, for in each case, the drive is revealed in its
relation to representation, and thus in its fundamental difference from instinct: its power
does not lie in a natural reserve of energy waiting to be expended, but in the force of
psychic inscription, the force of an "idea" or an unconscious "thought" (a thesis which
Lacan elaborates through the concept of the signifier); its aim is not survival or
reproduction, as in the case of a natural instinct
but is rather a certain "pleasure," which
is given not by the satisfaction of an organic need
but as a satisfaction obtained by the
ego (a thesis which Lacan elaborates in terms of narcissism and the imaginary body); the
object of the drive is not deterntined in advance as a "genHal" object, in accordance the
biologiC'allaws of procreation
but is subject to displacement and substitution, as Freud
suggests when he speaks of thumb-sucking, as an example of the oral drive in its
detachment from organic need; and the source of the drive, its bodily locust is developed
in terms of the erotogenic zone, which allows us to see not only a difference between the
organism and the bodYt but-in certain cases-a fundamental opposition and conflict
between them. In the case of the oral drive, for example, we may find a "demand for
food" that goes well beyond organic need
an "oral demand" that may even threaten and
contradict the biological requirements of organic life.
Between anorexia and overeating,
we may find that the drive is no longer governed by any natural equilibrium, any natural
"relation to the object," and that this is so not only in the exceptional or pathological case,
but in the very character of the drive as such. This would be the "story of genesis"
according to Freud: as soon as the human animal departs from the state of nature
it can
only eat "too much" or "too little," the "proper object" having always already been lost.
The best one can do is establish a "golden mean," a symbolic measure that allows the
primordially lost object to be "refound" in another form
where it is regulated not by
nature, but by the rule of a moral law. Taken from nature
the subject, and the entire
domain of sexualityt would be placed in the field of the Other.
Such a view is not altogether mistaken
and in Beyond the Pleasure Principlet
Freud recalls this argument from his earlier work. Speaking of the child's relation to the
breast in the oral phase, an example discussed at length by Jean Laplanche, Freud makes
two distinctions: first, with respect to the "subjective" correlate (to put the point
phenomenologically), he observes that the child's appetite may be satisfied by the
nourishment it receives, but that oral satisfaction is a different phenomenon. Freud notes
that the satisfaction of the oral drive can be attained through a substitute (as in the case of
thumb-sucking), which is not possible in the case of hunger. This shows at one and the
138 UMBR(a)
same time the distinction between the oral drive and the instinct of hunger, and also the
propping or leaning of the former on the latter. Detached from the domain of "hunger,"
the oral drive is nevertheless located in a physical way that departs from this organic
function (in a similar way, the scopic drive will depart from the function of sight).
"Sexuality" itself, in the Freudian sense, originates in this departure.
Second, with respect to the "objective" correlate, Freud distinguishes between the
milk which the child seeks at the breast, and the breast itself, as an "object" that is
propped on the organic function of feeding, but nevertheless distinguished from it. Lacan
formulates this point by distinguishing the object of need froin the object of demand, the
first being necessary to biological life, the second designating an object that belongs to the,
field of the Other. Propped on an organic function, the symbolic mobility of demand (as
in the case of thumb-sucking) nevertheless thus separates it from the "unsubstitutable"
aspect of need. In this example, we find a formulation of the fact that "sexuality" emerges
in the difference behveen need and demand, and that its object and its modes of satisfaction,
are distinct from the satisfaction of biological need. At the same time, it is clear the Freud
insists on the bodily inscription of demand, at the level of the oral drive. Thus, while we
may justly assert that sexuality "goes everywhere" in Freud, it should be added that if it
goes everywhere in principle, it does not do so in fact, in the case of a particular subject.
This is where the distinction between demand and desire comes into play: if anorexia, as
Lacan suggests, is a form of the oral drive in which the subject "eats the nothing," it is
because lack has not been adequately established. That lack, on the basis of which the
body is given, has not yet arrived, and in this respect the anorexic does not have her
body. We thus have a correlation between demand and the drive: bound by the "demand
for the nothing" that repeats itself mechanically at the level of the oral drive, the desire of
the subject is compromised.
Thus, if it is true in one sense that sexuality "goes everywhere," and that having
been detached from nature, it can appear at any point in the imaginary and symbolic
network, there is also a more precise sense in which Freud speaks of "sexuality,"
particularly when it comes to the drive, as a particular bodily formation, a particular
modality of libido. This is why we must say that "sexuality," in being detached from
nature, is "not all inscribed" in the order of representation. Something remains beyond
the circuit of the law, and it is here, at this limit of the law, that "sexuality" may be given
a more precise meaning.
Again, it would be tempting to overlook this fact. One might think that Lacanian
theory regards the subject, and indeed the unconscious jtself, as a matter of the symbolic
UMBR(a) 139
order-a "linguistic" matter, in accordance with the purely fonnal economy derived from
Saussure and so that the unconscious (which is "structured like a
language") would therefore be explained by symbolic means. Is this not the classic
explanation of 'lunconscious desire," which emerges in the slgnifyjng chain, disrupting
the sequence of signifiers that articulate the ego's narrative with the nonsensical
"materjaJ" of the lapsus, the dream, and the forgotten word-or the sudden, unexpected
free association that shows where }lit speaks" beyond what "I want" to say? Is not the
symptom itself regarded as a JJsymbolic" the unconscious "reminiscence"
or the "meiaphor" jn which "Hesh or function is taken as a signifying elem,ent" (E
518/ 166)? Such js the familiar Lacanian formula, according to which lithe unconscious of
the subject is the discourse of the Other," a formula which allows us to distinguish
between the discourse of the ego and disruptive appearance of unconscious desire. In
Seminar 11, however, Lacan insists that this symbolic debris-the "discourse of the
Othey"-is not the whole truth, and that the 'Iunconscious" itself must be redefined,
linked in turn to "sexual reality/' which is irreducible to language. Neither the demand of
the ego nor the discourse of the Other wilJ be suffic.ient now: IJthe point by which
the unconscious is hnked to sexual reality must be revealed. This nodal point is called
desire" (SXI, 154). Lacan explicitly marks this development at the very start of
Seminar 11, the first sentence of which reads: uWhen t'he space of a lapsus no longer
carries any meaning (or interpretation), then only is one sure that one is in the
unconscious" (vii). 9
Thus, in 1964, Laciln breaks with the received Lacanian wisdom. NT find myself in
a problematic position/' he writes, ufor what have I taught about the unconscious?" (SXI,
149). "The unconscious is constitu ted by the effects of speech/' he says, and "the
unconscious is structured like a language" (J49). Nevertheless, he now insists on a new
formulation: lIthe reality of the unconscious is sexual reality" (SXI 150). We are thus
confronted with an aspect of the unconscious that cannot be presented in ilnages or words,
and it will lead Lacan to insist that Freud was dght in claiming that the drive is always a
Ifparhal ddve/, "its object a "partial object/-not because it jnvolves a "part" of the
subject'S body (the erotogenic zone, or the anal, scopic, and other "stages"), but because it
Honly Pa1'tly representsfl: "This feature, this partial feature, rightly emphasized in objects,
is applicable not because these objects are part of a total object the body, but becuuse they
represent only partially the function that produces them" (E 315, emphasis added). The
same point is made in l'The Subjective Import of the Castration Complexlf: "The drives
represent the cause of sexunl1ty in the psychic; they do so only partially and yet they
140 UMBR(a)
constitute the only link of sexuality to our experience" (FS 119). In short, while the drive
is distinguished from instinct and detached from its natural foundations, it is not entirely
inscribed in the circuit of the signifier. One might say that the drive thus poses the
problem of a third aJienation-beyond imaginary and symbolic alienation-insofar as it
introduces the lack in the Other, and tries to grasp the bodily consequences of this lack.
Thus, if we begin with a "symbolic" conception of the unconscious, understood
as the "discourse of the Other," we will have to recognize that something of the
unconscious remains essentially unspeakable. As he says in "The Direction of the
Treatment," "I can aJready hear the apprentices murmuring that I intellectualize analysis:
though I am in the very act, I believe, of preserving the unsayable aspect of it" (E 253).
This "impossibility," this defect in the order of representation, leads Lacan to formulate
the object a as a point that cannot be presented in imaginary or symbolic form (though
"it is to this object that cannot be grasped in the mirror that the specular image lends its
clothes" E 316). So decisive is this development that Lacan will even begin to define the
subject in terms of this "impossibility." In "Subversion of the Subject" he writes: ''This cut
in the signifying chain alone verifies the structure of the subject as discontinuity in the
real" (E 299).
Starting from this unspeakable point, this moment of aporia in which the Other
malfunctions, we must then try to see how this "cut" or "discontinuity" of the real is able
to give rise to particular bodily effects. For the "rea}," however lacking or "impossible" it
may be (as the "phallus," a signifier of lack, as the "breast," a lost object, as the "gaze,"
what is missing from the visual field, etc.), can nevertheless make a difference in the
structure of the body. The lack in the Other is not just an abstract "impossibility," but an
"embodied aporia" (E 265). For if the body is "untimely ripped" from nature and
"gathered up" into the field of the Other, it is also here that the surplus effect of lack
comes into being, giving rise to a debt that can be paid in different currency. As Lacan
puts it in ''The Direction of the Treatment": 'This moment of cut is haunted by the form
of a bloody scrap-the pound of flesh that life pays in order to turn it into the signifier of
signifiers, which it is impossible to restore, as such, to the imaginary body" (E 629-
30/265). To speak of this "bloody scrap" is thus to speak of the object a, where we find a
sacrifice of the subject, a sacrifice of desire whereby the subject throws itself into the fire,
in a sacred effort to answer the Other's lack, or in movements which, though less
spectacular, still leave a "mark of iron of the signifier on the shoulder of the speaking
subject" (E 265). As he says in Seminar 11, where he is concerned once again with the
subject as a "discontinuity in the real," and not with symbolic "identity": "At this level,
UMBR(a) 141
we are not even forced to take into account any subjectification of the subject. The subject
is an apparatus. This apparatus is something lacuna'ry, and it is in the lacuna that the
subject establishes the function of a certain object, qua lost object. It is the status of the
objet a in so far as it is present in the drive" (SXI 185).
Let us conclude with Freud's own formulation, For Freud, the drive may initially
seem to be defined at the level of psychic inscription. Like anything that belongs to the
order of the "subject," even the most elementary "perception," so also the drive must be
presented through the network of preconscious or
unconscious. The difference between the instinct and the drive would thus be nothing
other than the difference between the sphere of immediate presence and biological
energy, and the sphere of mediation and re-presentation. In "Instincts and their
Vicissitudes" [Triebe und Triebschicksale, "The Drives and their Destiny"\, Freud thus
offers the following definition: "an 'instinct' [Trieb, drivel appears to us as a concept on
the frontier between the mental and the somatic, as the psychical representative of the
stimuli originating from within the organism and reaching the mind" (SE 14:121-2). But in
the article on "Repression" written at the same time, Freud complicates this account: "In
our discussion so far we have dealt with the repression of an instinctual representative,
and by the latter we have understood an idea or group of ideas which is cathected with a
definite quota of psychical energy (libido or interest) coming from an instinct" (SE
14:152). At this point in the discussion of repression, we would seem to be concerned with
a division, v.nthin the order of representation, between "instinctual representatives" that
are repressed and those that are not. But Freud now adds that "some other element" has
to be accounted for:
Clinical observation now obliges us to divide up what we have hitherto
regarded as a single entity; for it shows us that besides the idea, some other
element representing the instinct has to be taken into account, and that this
element undergoes vicissitudes of repression which may be quite different from
those lindergone by the idea. For this other element of the psychical
representative the term quota of affect has generally been adopted. It corresponds
to the instinct insofar as the latter has become detached from the idea and finds
expression, proportionate to its quantity, in processes which are sensed as affects.
From this point on, in describing a case of repression, we shall have to follow up
separately what, as the result of repression, becomes of the idea, and what
becomes of the encrglj linked to it (SE 14:152, emphasis added),
l42 UMBR(a)
Thus, besides the ideas which ilre "cathected with a definite quota of psychical
energy," we must now confront a "quota ofaftect," an element that is "detached from the
idea" and given a different destiny ("this element undergoes vicissitudes of repression
which may be quite different from those undergone by the idea").
This new division between the Held of representation and the "quota of affect" is
not easy to grasp. We cannot simply speak of a difference between the "idea" and
"energy" -as if it were a matter of separating the "psychic" domain of representation
from that of "bodily" experience or affective "energy." For one thing, the "psychic"
domain already entails a certain appeal to "energy" or "libido" [Freud thus speaks of "an
idea or group of ideas which is cathected with a definite quota of psychical energy (libido
or interest)"]; for another thing, this new "element," in being distinguished from the
"idea," is not a bodily "experience" that would be altogether unrelated to the sphere of
representation (Freud thus writes that "some other element representing the instinct has to
be taken into account," and goes on to offer the following definition: "For this other
element of the psychical representative the term quota of affect has generally been adopted"
[emphasis added]). On the side of the "psychic representation" there is "energy," and on
the side of the affect there is "representation." Nevertheless, if this new development is
serious, we cannot simply obliterate the distinction Freud seeks to make. This much is
clear: instead of a simple division between the "psychic" sphere of mediation and re-
presentation, and the "bodily" sphere of immediate presence and natural energy, we are
concerned with a more complex and tangled relation, but one in which it is still possible
and necessary to differentiate, and "to follow up separately," what Freud here calls-in a
tentative and no doubt problematic way-the "idea" and the "instinctual energy linked to
it." One might say that he seeks to isolate, not an "outside" to representation, a domain of
natural immediacy that no representation would affect (the familiar notion of "instinct"),
but rather a point within the domain of representation that remains essentiillly foreign,
excluded, and impossible to present. Such is the relation between the symbolic and the
real-the latter understood not as a "prelinguistic reality," but as an effect of the symbolic
law that is nevertheless not reducible to a symbolic phenomenon. In Lacanian terms, we
are concerned here with the difference between the Other and the object a, and it is above
all the theory of the drive that forces us to acknowledge this distinction.
UMBR(a) 143
1. Sigmund Freud, "I nstincts and their Vicissitud es," The Standard Edition oj the Complete
Psychological Works ojSigmund Freud, trans. James Strachey, ed. James Strachey et. al. (London: The
Hogarth Press, 1953-1974), vol. 18, p. 51. Freud's works will be cited by volume and page number,
preceded by SE. Other abbreviations used in the text are as follows: E = Jacques Lacan, ferits
(Paris: SeuiI, 1966). A portion of this volume has appeared in English as Ecrits: A Selection, trans.
Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977). References will be given to both volumes, whenever
possible, French pagination first, English second. FS = Jacques Lucan and the ecole freudienne,
Feminine Sexllality eds. Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, trans. Jacqueline Rose (New York:
Norton, 1985). SXI = Le Scminaire, livre XI: quatres concepts jondamentallx .de la psychanalyse, ed.
Jacques-Alain Miller (Paris: Seuil, 1973), and The FOllr Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis
(Seminar 11), trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, ]978). References wiII be given to both
volumes, French pagination first, English second; translations are occasionally modified. T =
"Television," trans. Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, and Annette. Michelson in Television: A
Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. Joan Copjec (New York: Norton, 1990).
2. Although the difference between "instinct" and "drive" (lnstinkt and Trieb) is
commonly cited in secondary literature on Lacan, where it is understood as distinguishing
biological models of animal behavior from human sexuality in its relation to the symbolic order, it
should be stressed that this common and obvious pOint of departure is not shared by other
psychoanalytic schools. One has only to look at the dictionary of the American Psychoanalytic
Association to find "instinct" defined as "a term introduced by biologists, mainly students of
animal behavior, which has been widely applied to the behavior ofhumans"-a definition which is
later linked to "species-typical patterns of behavior, presumed to be rooted in innate, gene-
determined equipment," and that instinct theory consequently addresses "those aspects of
humanness directly continuous with related speCies." The dictionary goes on to acknowledge that
Freud's German tenn "Trieb" cannot be altogether integrated with the Latin "instinct," and that
"English-speaking readers were thrown into confusion by Strachey's decision to translate Trieb as
'instinct'," since Trieh does not designate, as instinct does, "a motivational force that always results
in a specific pattern of behavior," but rather a "sum total of the mental representations that might
be associated with a given somatic process." Nevertheless, this acknowledgement of a difference
between instinct and drive is not decisive, and in their definition of "instinctual driven-a term
which seems to collapse the distinction, or at least loses the decisive theoretical decision which
Lacan insists upon-the editors explain that for Freud, "Triebe are based on innate givens, gene-
determined potentials present from birth." See Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts, ed. Burness E.
Moore, MD., and Bernard D. Fine, M.D. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990),99-101.
3. Jacques Lacan, ferits (Paris: Seuil, 1966), p. 518. tcrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan
144 UMBR(a)
(New York: Norton, 1977), p. 166. References will henceforth appear in the text preceded by E,
French pagination first, English (wherever possible) second. Translations are occasionally modified.
4. Slavoj ZiZek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture
(Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1991),21.
5. Adaequat-io Sexualis
6. Martin Hcidegger, On the Way to L.anguage, trans. P. Hertz and ]. Stambaugh (New
York: Harper and Row, 1971), 114. Further references will appear in the text preceded by OWL.
7: Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New
York: Harper and Row, 1962), 368. I have cited the German pagination given marginally in the
English text. For Derricta's remarks on this passage, see Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the
Question, trans. Geoff Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,
1989),25. My citation of Heidegger combines the translation of Macquarrie and Robinson with that
of Bennington and Bowlby.
8. First developed in "Three Essays" (SE 7:130-243), where one finds sections on the
constitutive deviations with respect to the "object," "aim" and "source," together with a section on
"the libido theory" in which "quantitatively variable force" is considered; these four terms are
elaborated in "lnstincts and their Vicissitudes" (SE 14:122-25).
9. This sentence is found only in the English edition of the seminar, in a preface written in
UMBR(a) 145
Slavoj Zitek
As Jacques-Alain Miller has pointed out, the concept of "constructions in
analysis" does not rely on the (dubious) daim that the analyst is always right (if the
patient accepts the analyst'S proposed construction, that's straightforward confirmation
of its correctness; if the patient rejects it, this is a sign of resistance which, consequently,
again confirms that the construction has touched on the truth); the point, rather, is the
obverse-the analysand is always, by definition, in the wrong. In order to get this point, one
should focus on the crucial distinction between construction and its counterpart,
interpretation, correlative to the couple knowledge/ truth. That is to say, an interpretation
is a gesture that is always embedded in the intersubjective dialectic of recognition
between the analysand and the analyst, it aims at bringing about the effect of truth
apropos of some particular formation of the unconscious (a dream, a symptom, a slip of
tongue). The subject is expected to "recognize" himself in the signification proposed by
the interpreter, precisely to subjectivize it, to assume the proposed signification as "his
own" ("Yes, my God, that's me, I really wanted this"). The very success of interpretation
is measured by this "efect of truth," by the extent to which it affects the subjective
position of the analysand (stirring up memories of the hitherto deeply repressed
traumatic encounters, provoking violent resistance). In dear contrast to it, a construction
(exempiarily, that of a fundamental fantasy) has the status of a knowledge which can
never be subjectivized, assumed by the subject as the truth about himself, the truth in
which he recognizes the innermost kernel of his being. A construction is a purely logical
explanatory presupposition, like the second stage ("I am being beaten by my father") of
the child's fantasy "A child is being beaten" which, as Freud emphasizes, is so radically
unconscious that it cannot ever be remembered:
UMBR(a) 147
This second phase is the most important and the most momentous of all. But we
may say that in a certain sense it has never had a rea] existence. It is never
remembered, it has never succeeded in becoming conscious. It is a construction of
analysis, but it is no less a necessity on that account.!
The fact that this phase "never had a real existence," of course, indexes the status of the
Lacanian real; the knowledge we have of this phase is a "knowledge in the real/' Le., it is
an "acephalic/' non-subjectivized knowledge. Although (or, rather, for the very reason
that) it is a kind of "Thou art thalt" which articu]a-tes the very kernel of the subject's
being, its assumption desubjectivizes me, i.e., J. can only assume my fundamental fantasy
insofar as 1 undergo what Lacan calls J/subjective destitution." Or, to put jt in yet another
way, interpretation and construc1:ion stand to each other like symptom and fantasy:
symptoms are to be interpreted, the fundamental fantasy is to be (re)constructed. This
notion of knowledge emerges Tather late in Lacan's teaching, after the
relationship between knowledge and tru th underwent a profound shift in the early
1 n the if early" phase, _fro m the 1940 s to the 19605, Laca n mo ves wi thin the
coordinates of the standard philosophical opposition between 'Jillauthentk" objectifying
knowJedge whlch disregards the subject's position of enunciation, and the JJauthentic
truth by which one is existentially engaged, affected. In the psychoanalytic cJinic, this
opposition is perhaps best exemplified by the clear contrast between obsessional neurosis
and hysteria. The obsessional neurotlc lies in the guise of truth. At the level of {"ctual
aC,curacy, his statements are as a rule true, yet he uses factuaL accuracy to dissimulate the
truth about his desire. When, for example, my enemy has a car accident because of a
brake malfunction, r go to great lengths to expl3in to everyone that I was never near his
car and am therefore not -responsible for the'malfunction. While this is true, this "truth" is
propagated by me to conceal the fact that the accident realized my desire. On the
contrary, the hysteric tells the truth in the guise of a lie; the truth of my desire articulates
itself in the very distortions of the "factual accuracy" of my speech. When, instead of "I
hereby open this session," I say "J hereby close this session," m.y desire clearly reveals
itself. The aim of the psychoanalytic treatment is thus to (re)focus attention from factual
accuracy to hysterical lies which unknowingJy ClrticuJate the truth, and then to progress to
a new knowledge which dwells at the place of truth, to a knowledge which, instead of
dissimulating truth, gives rise to truth-effects, i.e. to what the Lacan of the fifties caned
"1 Sigmund Freud, JJ A Chil d Is Being Beaten," Standard Edilion, vol. 10-, p. 185.
148 UMBR(a)
IJfull speech," the speech in which subjective truth reverberates. This notion of t u t ~ of
course, belongs to a long tradjtion, from Kierkegaard to H,eidegger, of despising .mere
"factuaJ truth."
Beginning in the late sixties, however, Lacan focuses his attention more and more
on drive as a kind of "acephalic" knowledge which brlngs about satisfaction. This
knowledge invo1ves no inherent relation to truth, no subjective position of enunciation-
not because jt dissimulates the subjective position of enunc.iation, but because it js in itself
nonsubjectivjzed, or ontologically prior to the very dimension of truth (0 course, the
term ontologkal becomes thereby problematic, since ontology is by definition a discourse
on truth). Truth and knowledge are thus related as desire and drive: interpretation aims
at the truth'of the subject's desire (the truth of desire is the desire for truth, as one is
tem-pted to put it in a pseudo-Heideggerian way), while construction provides know-
ledge about drive. Is not the paradigmatic case of such an "acepha.lic" knowledge
provided by modern science
wruch exemplifies the "blind insistence" of the (death)
drive? Modern science fol1ows Hs path (in microbiology, in manipulating genes, in
particle physics) heedless of cost-satisfaction is here provided by knowledge itself, not
by any moral or communal goals scientHic knowledge is supposed to serve. All the
"ethical comlnittees" which ab,ound today and attempt to establish rules for the proper
conduct of gene-manipulation, of lnedical experiments, etc.-are they ultimately not
desperate attempts to reinscribe this inexorable drive-progress of science which knows of
no .inherent limitation (in short: this inherent ethic of the scientific attitude) within the
confines of goals, to provide it with a "human face," a limitation?, The
commonplace wisdom today is that "our extraordinary power to manipulate nature
thiough scientific devices has run ahead of OUf faculty to lead a meaningful existence, to
make human use of this immense power." Thus, the properly modern ethics of
"following the drive" clashes with traditional ethics whereby one is instructed to live
one's hfe according to standards of proper measure and to subordinate aU its aspects to
some all-encompassing notion of the Good. The problem is, of course, that no balance
between these two notions of ethics can ever be achieved. The notion of reinscribing
scientific drive into the constraints of the life-wor1d is fantasy at its purest-perhaps the
fundamental fascist fantasy. Any limitation of .this kind is utterly foreign to the inherent
logjc of science-science belongs to the real and, as a mode of the real of jouissance, it is
indifferent to the modalities of its symbolization, to the way it will affect sociallJie.
Of course, the concrete organization of the scientific apparatus, up to its most
abstract conceptual, is social1y "mediated/' but the whole game of discerning a
2 See Jacques-Alain MH1er, "Savoir et satisfaction ," in La Cause jreudienne 33, Paris 1996.
UMBR(a) 149
patriarchal, Eurocentric, mechanistic, nature-exploiting bias to modern science does not
really concern science, the drive which effectuates itseH in the operation of the scientific
machine. Heidegger's position seems here utterly ambiguous; perhaps, it is all too easy to
dismiss him as the most sophisticated proponent of the thesis that science a priori misses
the dimension of truth. Didn't he claim that "science doesn't think," i.e. that it is by
definition unable to reflect its m-vn philosophical foundation, the hermeneutic horizon of
its functioning, and, furthermore, that this incapacity, far from playing the role of an
impediment, is a positive condition of possibility of its smooth functioning? His crucial
point is rather that modem science, as such, cannot be reduced to some limited, ontical,
"socially conditioned" option (expressing the interests of a certain social group, etc.), but
is rather the real of our historical moment, that which "remains the same" in all possible
("progressive" and "reactionary," "technocratic" and "ecological," "patriarchal" and
"feminist") symbolic universes. Heidegger is thus well aware that all fashionable
"critiques of science" according to which sdence is a tool of Western capitalist
domination, of patriarchal oppression, etc., fall short and thus leave unquestioned the
"hard kernel" of the scientific drive. Lacan obliges us to add that science is perhaps "real"
in an even moretadical sense: it is the first (and probably unique) case of a discourse that
is strictly nonhistorical even in the Heideggerian sense of the historicity of the epochs of
Being, i.e. epochs whose functioning is inherently indifferent to the historically
determined horizons of the disclosure of Being. Precisely insofar as science "doesn't
think," it knows, ignoring the dimension of truth, and is as such drive at its purest.
Lacan's supplement to Heidegger would thus be: why should this utter "forgetting of
Being" at work in modern science be perceived only as the greatest "danger"? Does it not
contain also a "hberahng" dimension? Is not the suspension of ontological Truth in the
unfettered functioning of science already a kind of "passing through" and !'getting over"
the metaphysical closure?
Within psychoanalysis, this knowledge of drive which can never be subjectivized
assumes the form of knowledge of the subject's "fundamental fantasy," the specific
formula which regulates his or her access to jouissance. That is to say, desire and
jouissance are inherently antagonistic, exclusive even: desire's raison d'etre (or "utility
function," to use Richard Dawkins's term) is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction,
but to reproduce itself as desire. How is it possible nonetheless to couple desire and
jouissance, to guarantee a minimum of jouissance within the space of desire? This is made
possible by the famous Lacanian object a that mediates between the incompatible
domains of desire and jouissance. In what precise sense is object a the object-cause of
150 UMBR(a)
desire? Object a is not what we desire, what we are after, but rather that which sets our
desire in motion, the formal frame that confers consistency on our desire. Desire is of
course metonymical, it shifts from one object to another; through all its displacements,
however, desire nonetheless retains a minimum of formal consistency, a set of
fantasmatic features which, when encountered in a positive object, insures that we will
come to desire this object. Object a, as the cause of desire, is nothing but this formal
frame of consistency. In a slightly different way, the same mechanism regulates the
subject's falling in love: the automatism of love is set in motion when some contingent,
ultimately indifferent (libidinal) object finds itself occupying a pre-given fantasy place.
This role of fantasy in the automatic emergence of love hinges on the fact that "there is no
sexual relationship," no universal formula or matrix guaranteeing a harmonious sexual
relationship with the partner. Because of the lack of this universal formula, every
individual has to invent a fantasy of his own, a "private" formula for the sexual
relationship; for a man, a relationship vvith a woman is possible only inasmuch as she fits
his formula. The formula of the Wolfman, Freud's famous patient, consisted of "a
woman, viewed from behind, on her hands and knees, and washing or cleaning
something on the ground in front of her"; the view of a woman in this position
automatically gave rise to love. John Ruskin's formula, which followed the model of old
Greek and Roman statues, led to a tragicomic disappointment when, in the course of his.
wedding night, Ruskin caught sight of pubic hair not found on the statues. Thjs discovery
made him totally impotent, since he was convinced that his wife was a monster.
Recently, Slovene femimsts reacted vvith outrage at the publicity poster for a sun
lotion, depicting a series of well-tanned women's behinds in tight bathing suits,
accompanied by the slogan "Each has her own factor." Of course, this ad campaign was
based on a rather vulgar double entendre: the slogan ostensibly refers to the sun lotion
which is offered to customers with different sun factors to fit dHferent kinds of skin;
however, its effect is based on the obvious male-chauvinist reading: "Each woman can be
had, if only the man knows her factor, her specHic catCllyst, what arouses her!" The
Freudian point about fundamental fantasy would be that each subject, female or male,
possesses such a "fador" which regulates her or his desire: "a woman, viewed from
behind, on her hands Clnd knees" was the Wolfman's faclor; a statue-uke woman without
pubic hair was Ruskin's factor; etc., etc. There is nothing uplifting about our awareness of
this "fador": this awareness can never be subjectivized, it is uncanny, horrifying even,
since it somehow "depossesses" the subject, reducing her or him to a puppet-like level
"beyond dignity and freedom."
UMBR(a) 151
Jane B. Malmo
Why does the figure of Justitia-that long-robed woman, holding aloft scales and
a sword--so often appear blindfolded? According to tradition, the blindfold suggests that
just judges are impartiat undistracted by evidence of the senses, unswayed by signs of
wealth, rank, or favor. Just judges are also independent, blind to the influence of the
powers that put them on the bench.
Impartiality, independence, incorruptibility: all three depend upon the blindfold
keeping Justice from seeing something with her eyes. But what if the blindfold served
another purpose? What if the blindfold keeps us from seeing something in her eyes? We
blindfold Justice not because we want her gaze to avoid certain objects; we blindfold
Justice because we want to avoid the object of her gaze.
What lies under the blindfold? Such a fantastic question reminds us that the
blindfold is like a mask; it marks an absence with a presence. Behind the blindfold we
could well discover that Justice really is blind. Her eyes are clear, her gaze opaque. The
gaze of the blind is uncanny and "unsightly" precisely because it provokes anxiety. Thus,
we cover the blind eyes of Justice much in the same way that those who are blind wear
dark glasses to avoid unnerving those who are sighted.
But if Justice really is blind, how did she get that way? Perhaps she became blind
by being forced to bear witness to the atrocities done in her name, under the cover of law.
From the recent killing fields of Cambodia and from Freud come concrete cases and an
explanation of such blindness. Doctors in California have reported cases of women,
refugees from Pol Pot's reign of terror, who are completely or intermittently blind, for no
physiological reason. Having witnessed massive, systematic killing and torture, these
UMBR(a) 153
women lost their sight. Theirs was a trauma so severe that blindness became what Freud
has called a conversion reaction: a bodily defense against some enormous anxiety, a
shield against an unbearable witnessing.
Traumatized by the violence of the law, Justice goes blind; the law refuses to
confront this truth, so it ties on the blindfold.
''Trauma'' comes from the Greek word for wound. Now imagine that under the
blindfold we discover that the eyes of Justice have been gouged out. From this grim
visage emerges our memory of Oedipus, who took the law into his own self-maiming
hands. In Oedipus, the accused and the judge, the condemned and the executioner,
collapse into the same figure, as the order of the Jaw collapses before the violence of
divine justice. Or we remember Samson, who avenged himself against the Philistines for
the loss of his two eyes, thunderously bringing down their temple upon thousands of
heads, including his own. Like Oedipus, Samson stands above and beyond the law,
shaking its foundations, challenging its exclusive claim to violence, confounding its
definition of outlaw with the vision of the terrorist, the saint.
The blindfold thus presents a hard question. Which is more profoundly
disturbing: the knowledge that the law, which supposedly stands between us and
violence, can turn itself into a machine of systematic savagery, or the l<nowledge that
justice, which supposedly legitimates and limits the law's violence, can dismantle the law
to unleash a terrifying violence of its own?
We can begin to answer this question if we remember that Justice comes before
the law. It is the Law of law, the ground upon which the law emerges. Justice comes from
Dike. In the clear and open eyes of Justice that we also hide beneath the blindfold, we
find the image of this Greek goddess staring us in the face.
As the female deity who orders the life of the world, Dike is the way of aU nature,
the pulse and rhythm of the universe. The Jaw of Dike is the law of destiny, coming
before even the law of the gods. Like that law, Dike's law is unwritten, eternal, certain. It
lives in deeds, not proclamations. Divine in provenance, Dike is private in operation. Her
commands are specific, individual. Those who receive them are obliged to respond with
immediate, obedient action that does not calculate the consequences.
Dike is, in short, an invincible force of reckoning. Her high priestess is Antigone;
her deputies are the Furies. These female figures of tragic, subJjme power confront us
with the source of violence that makes the law shudder-the desire of Justice, which
turns on love, and the drive of Justice, which turns on death.
Philia and eros, kinship and love, are the ground on which Sophocles's great
drama rises. In Antigone, these forces remind us that Antigone is not a woman who acts
154 UMBR(a)
only out of kinship, nor is she a woman who answers only a demand of the gods. She is a
woman in love with her brother, and she gives up her life to this love. As Lacan so
persuasively argued, Antigone abandons the universal and unqualified validity of divine
law to invoke instead as a principle of ethical action her passionate devotion to the
uniqueness ofthe dead brother.
It is this incarnate uniqueness that Antigone addresses when she calls Polynices,
"Kasigneton kara"-"beloved head, beloved face of my brother." In its cherished
physicality, its one-and-only-ness of bone, skin, and expression, the body, but most of all
the face, confronts us '"'lith the truth of how the ethical demand, the inescapable summons
of Dike, comes not from some law of universality or logos, but from the call of a unique
other and from the law of desire.}
If Antigone eroticizes the Justice of Dike, the Furies sexualize it. In Aeschylus's
great trilogy, The Oresteia, the Furies move us from the rights of the dead to the rites of
Death, from the call of the other to the caU of a more radical alterity.
The fundamental plot caJJs for Woman, in the figure of Clytemestra, to rise up
against male authority in a patriarchal state. By slaying her husband and choosing her
own sexual partner, she pol1utes the polis and shatters al] social norms. Son Orestes then
slays mother, and the mother's Erinyes, or Furies, pursue Orestes in blood vengeance.
Apono intervenes on Orestes' behalf, defending him at a public trial where Athena
uLtimately determines his innocence and subdues the wrath of the Furies.
According to the vision of Aeschylus, the maternal, infernal Furies represent a
justice that is blind, vindictive, regressive, a justice to be suppressed by the new
institution of the law court. Thus, the blood-cursing Furies are transformed from hideous,
sterile figures of the night, shunned even by the gods, into the hearth-blessing
Eumenides. Wild justice becomes due process of law.
The Furies find their source in the goddess, Praxidike, and her representatives,
the Praxidikai, or "goddess heads," who have the ritual task of exacting vengeance and
guaranteeing, through sacred terror, the inviolability of certain oaths. Called mother of
the Eumenides, Praxidike is closely associated with the mask of Gorgo, whose most
prominent feature is the frontal view of her face. Even when her body and'legs appear in
profile, as was customary, Gorgo's staring countenance is always presented full face to
the beholder.
The Gorgo marks the boundary of the world of the dead. And on this border the
Furies arise in their terrible, formless monstrosity. Before their staring eyes we come face
to face with the radical "other" of divine Justice. This other is represented as a
UMBR(a) 155
monstrosity beyond the other as a social being and beyond the beloved other of Antigone.
For the Greeks, the "other" in a social sense was whoever departed from the model of the
Greek male citizen: stranger, woman, slave. But extreme aJterity does not involve a
departure from a model; extreme alterity m.arks something other than a difference in kind
or degree. Instead, the absohite other emerges from what is revealed as radical difference:
in place of another person, the other-of the person: deatl\ night, nothingness.
In place of'
the call of the other as a social being emerges the demand of the Other as real, especially
that compelling Other stranded in the domain between the two deaths, murdered and
still unavenged, whose cry for "Justice!1I arouses the Furies from their infernal abode.
"For sheer white robes/' ad.mjt the Fudes, J'We have no right or portion" (352).3
Wearing the robes of dripping blood, these black Daughters of the Night are stern and
strajght; no persuasion bends them. They bear witness tc) the truth of men's guilt and no
one's guilt escapes their \VTath. They sing a simple/ terrible song:
We drive through our duties, spurned QJ1d outcast from the gods,
Drl'l)en apart to stand in light not of the sun.
Over the beast doomed to the fire
TIlis is our chant:
Scatter of wits,
Frenzy and fear,
Hurting the heart.
Binding brain and blighting blood,
I},'! its stringless melody,
This is the power and tlte tenor
Of our 5011g.
(382 -85;328-334)
. Driven apartl the Furies drive ani driving frOlTI ho,me those thai shed family
blood. JJWe are the Angry Ones,o they warn, JJBut we s h ~ l watch no more over works/
Of men. So; we act" (499-501). When AthenCl tries to mo.Uify their wrath, these un-godly
ones curse the younger generation that would tear asunder the ancient law of Dike.
Mortified by their Joss of power, the Furies threaten to ,let drip iron) their hearts a
vindictive poison that will /'drag its smear of mortal infectio'n over the ground" (787).
In their relentless pursu it of blood vengeance, the Furies confront us with the
death drive in its most potent form, a repetition compulsion 4 cycling visciously around
156 UMBR(a)
the terrifying possibility of the second death. J/Let Justice be done, though I should
perish." So speaks Antigone. "Let Justice be done, though perish the world!" So speak the
Love, Lacan reminds us, is not on the side of drive. Tndeed, the drive of Justice
horrHies us in its implacable force, Clnd yet, is it not this very drive that inspiTes our love
and desire for Justice? As in any love relationship, desire is the desire of the Other, and
we forget at our peril that what lies behind the Other's desire, what keeps our desire in
perpetual motion, j5 the Others unbearable jouissance. In short, what inspires and
sustains OUf desire for Justice is drive, that force that impels Justice to act, regardless of
pain or consequences, and calls upon us to do the same.
Who answers the ethical summons of such Otherness, the summons of Antigone
and the Furies? Fugitives from Justice, in that they come from Justice, those whom
Simone Weil called "deserters from the camp of the conguerors"-the outlaw, the
terrorist, the revolutionary, the saint They keep haunting the law, the Jaw keeps hunting
them down.
A nation like that of Creon's polis and Apollo's city state, must refuse Dike, l.ove
and the can of the dead. But it js love alone, Locan declares, that "alJO\.VS jouissance to
condescend to desire." 5 As love comes to stand between desire and drive, so the law
must come to stand between Antigone and the Furies, for the simple reason that what
"keeps us in love-and in life-is the perpetual motion of desire coming up against the
ruthless force of that one blind iln-partiaZ
dr.ive which finds its satisfaction. in death. This
then is the fate of law, to balance the frustration of desire against the satisfadion of drive:
the pitiable pursuit o[ unattainable justice vs the pitiless re]ease of jouissance. The
terrifying irruption of state violence testifies-to the law's forgetting that Justice is a drive,
but drive is not just.
Of course, a necessa,ry aspect of a1J rationalist politics is a politics of refusal as
forgetting. Under such an order, repetihon and -memory serve therapeutic ends; their aim
is to forget what is alien to the law and the state; their aim is to write out what is alien to
the person.
But the violent justice of Dike/ the Law that COlnes before the law/ lears a hole in
the social fabric that monuments to order and orders of forgetting cannot cover over.
What was never fully present to the logos cannot be fully represented, but neither can it
be foreclosed and forgotten. Dike impresses on us the forgotten bu t un forgettable
jouissance of Justice, the call of the other of both love and d e t h ~ s the gaze of Antigone
and the Furies remind us, as a blindfolded Jushce would have us forget.
UMBR(a) 157
1. For an elegant, convincing development of this theme, see Costas Douzinas and Ronnie
Warrington, Justice Miscarried (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994),51-57.
2. For this argument about the other of the person, I am indebted to Jean-Pierre Vernant,
Mortals and Immortals (Princeton: Princteton UP, 1991), ] 11-114.
3. This quotation and those that follow in the Furies' "song" are taken, with slight
modification in line-break and pronouns, from Richmond Lattimore's translation of Aeschylus's
The Eumenides, in Greek Tragedies, vol. 3, eds. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, (Chicago: U
of Chicago P, 1960).
4. Testifying to their repetition compulsion through their own words, the Furies repeat,
verbatim, entire sections of their most furious speeches during the climax of the play, when Orestes
is tried and acqUitted, and when Athena begins her great work of persuading the Furies to accept
transformation into the hearth-blessing Eumenides. See, for example, lines 328-333 and 341-346;
778-792 and 808-822; 837-847 and 8 7 0 ~ 8 8 0 No other speaker in the play restates any of his or her
lines; only the Furies repeat in this unwavering fashion.
5. Jacques Lacan, Angoisse, Seminar 10 (unpublished, 1962-3),3/13/63. For the brief
discussion here about the relation between desire and drive, lowe a great deal to Renata Salecl. See
especially her article, "Love Between Desire and Drive," in The Journal for the Psychoanalysis of
Culture and Society 2, no. 1 (1997). [See also the abbreviated version of that article published in this
collection.] .
6. As Lacan explains in Seminar 11, all drives are partial drives, except for one: the partial
drives circle endlessly around the object a, drawing and then deeping the rims of the erogenous
zones; the only drive that attains its object, and thus the only non-partial drive, is the death drive.
The death drive and the drive of the Furies are thus equally blind, equally unerring in their goali in
their im-partiality, both are lethally just.
158 UMBR(a)
Russell Grigg
Descartes's dualism caused him a few problems. In 1643 his correspondent
Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia wrote to him asking how it was possible for the soul, being
only a thinking substance, to cause the body to perform voluntary actions. Descartes had
to have more than one go at an answer. His first, which he spelt out in a response to
Elizabeth dated 21 May 1643, faiJed to satisfy his correspondent-a fact which Descartes
perhaps anticipated since his long and somewhat unsatisfactory reply ends with the
words, "I would be too presumptuous if I dared think that my reply should entirely
satisfy her."1 He was right as it turned out; Princess Elizabeth was less than satisfied-
she appears to have found his account "obscure." But she was not alone, and this
obscurity is a part of the Cartesian legacy. Many, including Descartes's followers, have
found that it is very difficuJt indeed even to begin to conceive how pure intellect could
move matter.
Freud discovered the unconscious in his work with hysterics. He discovered that
their somatic symptoms could not be accounted for purely in terms of the anatomy and
physiology of the human body, and that. the functional disorders typical of hysteria
affected the body along the lines of common and everyday conceptions of parts of the
body and its functions, enshrined in ordinary language. Moreover, these disorders
occurred in such a way that hysterical symptoms make little sense anatomically. In
1. See Descartes's letter to Princess Elizabeth, 21 May 1643, The Philosophical Writings of
Descartes, vol. 3, The Correspondence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 219.
2. In his New System of Nature and of the Communication of Substances Leibniz wrote, "How
the body causes something to happen in the soul or vice-versa Descartes had given up the game on
that point, so far as we can know from his writings." Quoted by Bernard Williams, Descartes: The
Project of Pure Enquiry (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978),287.
UfVlBR(a) 159
coming to the realization that the cause of these symptoms was not physical but mental,
Freud was led to the discovery of the unconscious and the mapping of its structure.
If there is something mystifying and in need of explanation in this discovery, it
does not in any way stem from the old Cartesian problem of interaction. Freud was in fact
a materialist, although at one time apparently declaring an allegiance to a form of
epiphenomenalism. And the fact that he did not have particularly sophisticated
philosophical grounds for his views is irrelevant, since it would not appear to make a
whole lot of difference to psychoanalytic theory what the answer to the philosophical
mind-body question is.
Or does it make a difference? As a matter of fact, it would seem that this dualism,
or something very much like it, does generate a conceptual difficulty for Freud's
metapsychology when he discusses his theory of the drives. This difficulty is expressed in
Freud's we]]-known observation that a drive "appears to us as a concept on the frontier
between the mental and the somatic."4 It is a difficulty that pervades most of Freud's
thinking about the drive, since he appears to slide significantly in his characterization of
the concept of the drive, at times apparently identifying the drive with its "psychical
representative" and at times regarding it as something non-psychical. James Strachey,
who makes this observation in his editorial comments on Freud's "Instincts and their
Vicissitudes," suggests that the solution is to be found in Freud's own remarks in this
same paper on the drive-remarks which he echoes: ''The contradiction is more apparent
than reaJ, and ... its solution lies precisely in the ambiguity of the concept itself-a
frontier-concept between the physical and the mental." 5 This is not a satisfactory
solution, however. The difficulty remains, since what we are given is merely a nominal
solution to the dualism; this purported "frontier" between the mind and body is nowhere
and the problem is left entirely in place.
The problem is insoluble so long as it is
construed in dualist terms; just as the Cartesian problem is insoluble for dualists.
3. For Freud's epiphenomenalism, see Sigmund Freud, Project for a Scientific Psychology
(1895) in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (New York:
Norton, 1953-]974), vol.1, 311.
4. "Instincts and their Vicissitudes," SE 14, 121-2.
5. James Strachey, "Editor's Note," SE 14, 113.
6. Why is this frontier nowhere? It's the same problem that besets Descartes-how to
conceive an interface between something that is extended and non-thinking and something that is
thinking and not extended. Either a frontier has spatial properties, in which case one cannot speak
of the mind having a frontier, or it is a figurative frontier,in which case we are left with the original
problem, namely, how something mental interacts with something physical.
7. Descartes refers to Princess Elizabeth's highly pertinent remark: "Your tJighness
160 UMBR(a)
Thus, when Descartes says that "people who never philosophise and use only their senses
have no doubt th.tlt the soul moves the body and that the body acts on the soul/'S it is
not so much that non-philosophers do not see the philosophical problem of interaction, as
Descartes in1plies, but fClther that it is only a problem for dualists. It is a non-jssue for
materialists, and others, who reject the view that mind and body are separate substances.
There is a further difficulty with the concept of drive, one that stems .from the fact
that psychoanalysis espouses a dualism of another, quite different, kind. And, as it
happens, a diHiculty similar to that of Cartesian dualism arises. The dualism in Hs
Lacaruan form is that of signifier and dr.ive, or symbolic and real, and the difficulty,
similar to that of interaction between mind and body, is understanding how the
articulation of signifiers can. affect the mode of satisfaction of something radicaUy other, a
different "substance."
The dualism is not the Cartesian one of mind and body, because the drive is not
somatic; it is real. In Seminar 11 Lacan emphasises this point in relation to Freud's
"Instincts and their Vicissitudes," but this is already apparent in 1905 in Th.ree Essays, in
the first; quite astonishin& example Freud chooses to illustrate the presence of the sexual
drive in children-that of thumb-sucking. Why thumb-sucking? It is, after alL an
extremely odd example with which to illustrate the presence of childhood sexuality,
when one thinks of all the overtly infantile sexual behaviour that he could have chosen
instead. So why thumb-sucking? The point about it is that it invokes precisely the
moment at which satisfaction of need and the satisfaction of a non-somatic function-i.e.,
the drive-appear distinct for the first time. It js a moment at which the drive appears in
its connection with fantasy, desire and jouissance rather than with need, fulfilmen.t and
Th.e jouissance of the drive is important. It is what lies behind Lacan's remark in
"Position of the Unconscious" that u every drive is virtua]]y (j.e. potentially J a death
That is to say, every drive has a tendency to go beyond the pleasure principl.e.
Should we see this as chaUengjng another of Freud's dualisms, that between tibjdo and
the death drive? The short answer is, yes, because it indicates the ,presence of a lethal,
"mortiferolls" element in every drive. Lacan believes that there is not an opposition, a
observes that it is ea<;ier to attribute matter and extension to the soul than to attribute to it the
CapaCity to mOVQ and be moved by the body without having such matter and extension."
(Corresponde11ce, 228)
8. Corresponcience, 227.
9. "Position of the Unconscious," trasns. Bruce Fink in Richard Feldstein, Bruce Fink and
Maire Jaanus, eds. Reading Semil1ar Xl (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995), 275.
UMBR(a) 161
conHict between two warring forces. On the contrary, there is the most intimate, obscure
link between libido and death, which the concept of jouissance is intended to capture.
The concept of jouissance also complicates the apparently straightforward
opposition between pleasure and reality. This opposition runs very deep in Freud.
Regarding the pleasure principle and the reality principle as in constant conflict in the
human psyche, Freud argues that repression, which is at the root of mental illness,
involves the renunciation of truth for the sake of pleasure. In the main the struggle
between the two is a grossly unequal one, the big battalions being on the side of pleasure.
And he also holds the converse of this: that the pursuit of truth invariably entails the
renunciation of pleasure, and that this renunciation of pleasure takes different forms and
is not restricted to the task of psychoanalysis.
The most powerful expression of this opposition between pleasure and truth, at
least for Freud, is science. Freud believes that scientific enquiry, with its "submission to
the truth," implies the renunciation of pleasure through the "rejection of illusions," a fact
which gives science a special dignity.ll "Science is ... the most complete renunciation of
the pleasure principle of which our mental activity is capable."12 I think it is fair to say
that Lacan also considers that the discourse of science promotes the abandonment of the
pleasure principle, emphasising as he does the fact that throughout its history modern
science has steadily emptied reality of all sexual references and allusions. According to
Jacques-Alain Miller, for Lacan "the scientific approach assumes a desexualisation of the
view of the world, ... a desexualisation of being in the world."B It is worth noting that
the irony of this is that it places science on the side of the death drive.1
However, this last point is not a consequence drawn by Freud, who, as we know,
positions psychoanalysis squarely on the side of science. He holds that what is true in
psychoanalytic theory has been gained through the renunciation of the pleasure derived
from illusions of essentially three kinds: the illusions of religion, illusions surrounding
the perfectibility of humankind, and illusions concerning the attairunent of social ideals.
And he comments that psychoanalysis, in showjng that the ego is not master in jts own
10. This is made quite explicit in Lacan's myth of lamella. See "Position of the
Unconscious," 273-4.
1]. New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, SE 22, 182.
12. "A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men," SE 11, 165.
13. "EJements of Epistemology," A1lalysis (Melbourne: Australian Centre for
Psychoanalysis), 1 (1989),29.
14. J.-A. Miller, who remarks, "Science is the death drive", has apparently commented on
this in his semjnar. See "Retour de Grenade," La Cause jreudiel1ne, 110. 33 (May 1996), 15.
162 UMBR(a)
house, delivers the third great "narcissistic blow" to humankind, following Copernicus,
who challenged the earth's central place in the universe, and Darwin, who challenged
humankind's presumption of superiority to other animals.
However, this stark contrast between truth and the pleasure principle is perhaps
not so cut and dried. I will illustrate with a dream from The Interpretation of Dreams
whjch Lacan has given prominence to in his Seminar 11. This is Freud's account of the
A father had been watching beside his child's sick-bed for days and nights on
end. After the child had died, he went into the next room to lie down, but left the
door open so that he could see from his bedroom into the room in which his
child's body was laid out, with tall candles standing round it. An old man had
been engaged to watch over it, and sat beside the body murmuring prayers. After
a few hours sleep, the father had a dream that his child was standing beside his bed,
caught him by the arm and whispered to him reproachfully: 'Father, don't you see I'm
burning?' He woke up, notked a bright glare of light from the next room,
hurried into it and found that the old watchman had dropped off to sleep and
that the wrappings and one of the arms of his beloved child's dead body had
been burned by a lighted candle that had fallen on them.
Freud quotes this dream to illustmte his thesis that dreams are motivated by the desire to
remain asleep. When something-the sound of an alarm clock, the smell of smoke, or the
glare of light from the adjoining room-that would normally wake up the sleeper
intrudes from reality the person incorporates the intrusion into a dream which enables
them to remain asleep for a brief moment longer. This is Freud's claim that dreams act as
the guardians of sleep.
Clearly, though, there is more to this dream than this-and it is this something
more that interests Lacan.
Tn pursuing this, Lacan's reading of this dream more or less
turns Freud's reading on its head. He claims that the dreamer does not wake up simply
because the intrusion from reality has become too forceful for him to ignore it any longer.
What actually happens is different. Yes, he says, it is true that the dreamer constructs the
15. The interpretation of Dreams, SE 5, 509.
16. This something more is aJready dearly suggested in Freud's own account; the desire to
sleep on appears inSignificant In comparison with the other desire mentioned, namely the father's
desire that he have his son alive again.
UMBR(a) 163
dream around his (sleeping) perception of external reality. But then what wakes him is
not this external reality but something within the dream itself-something conveyed by
the expression, "Father, don't you see I'm burning?", something about the reality of his
desire as father, something about what it would be no exaggeration to call the sins of the
father. This reality of his desire is far more traumatic than anything he will encounter in
external reahty, and in walGng up he lees the disturbing confrontation with his desire.
Rather than claiming that the dream is the guardian of sleep, Lacan's thesis is that the
dreamer wakes up in order to continue to sleep, in order to elude the traumatic reality of
his desire. It was, after all, just a dream .... 17
As Lacan suys, the drive puts in question what is meant by satisfaction.1S This
dream illustrates the essential ambiguity of the notion of satisfaction of the drive in
Lacan's approach to this fundamental concept. Everything a subject does or experiences
involves satisfaction of the drive, yet psychoanalytic experience also shows the extent to
which for the subject there is ultimately no satisfaction. The notion of a traumatic kernel
simply illustrates in dramatic form the point that the satisfaction of the drive-
satisfaction that passes via the fantasy structuring desire-is the ultimate obstacle to the
pleasure principle's ever attaining complete satisfaction.
17. For. a more detailed discussion of this and further pOints see Slavoj ZJiek, The Sublime
Object of Jdealagy (London: Verso, 1989), 44ff.
lR. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977),
164 UMBR(a)
Jacques Derrida
I often ask myself the gueshon-"Why, why insist .on deconstructing something
which is so good?" And the only answer I have is that there is something that contradicts
in ourselves or in myself the desire for this good. But where does this contradiction come
from? First I give it a name, which sometimes I write with a capital letter, that is,
Necessity. And I write this word with a capital letter just to emphasize that it's a
singular-Necessity, as a personal, as a single person. I have to do with Necessity itself,
thilt is, something or someone, some x, which compels me to admit that my desire for
good, for presence, my own metaphysics of presence, not only cannot be accomplished,
meets its limit, but should not be accomplished-because the accomplishment or the
fulfillment of this desire for presence would be Death itself. The good, the absolute good,
would be identical with Death. And at the same time, Necessity-the one whom I call
me, teaches me in a very violent way, to admit thatmy desire cannot
be fulfilJed,that there is no presence-presence is always divided, and split, and marked
by difference, by spacing, etc., etc. So this is on the one hand a bad limit, something which
"m'empeche de jouir pleinement." 2 But at the same time, this limit is the condition of my
desire, and if such limit were erased then this would be Death. This will be Death. It will.
At the end, all this would end very badly. You know, at the end "tout r:;a finira ires mal, de
toute !Ufon." 3 So, Necessity is the drive.
1 A slightly modified transcription of an intervention recorded on the album Minutes to
Go (1979). Reprinted by permission ofJacCfues Derridu.
2 "keeps me from enjoying fully"
3 "all this will finish very badly anyway"
UMBR(a) 165