Subtraction

Responding to a question concerning the loss incurred by the sexuation of living beings, Lacan correlates the opening and closing of the gaps of the unconscious to the opening and closing of the orifices of the body. This inter-relation is real because it is in the unconscious the presence of the living being becomes fixed.

The erogenous zones are indissolubly linked to the unconscious, the organ of the libido itself. At the level of the drive, the relation between the drive and a specific action or passion is purely grammatical — a support, an artifice, literally a machine whose functioning coincides with the outward-return movement of the drive. Re-articulating this machine allows Lacan to indicate not only his tension with Freud, but even to raise concerns regarding the — perhaps masochistic — desire for psychoanalysis as such:

“Today I have shown in the most articulated way possible that each of the three stages, a, b, c, with which Freud articulates each drive, must be replaced by the formula of making oneself seen, heard and the rest of the list I have given. This implies fundamentally activity, in which respect I come close to what Freud himself articulates when he distinguishes between the two fields, the field of the drives on the one hand, and the narcissistic field of love on the other, and stresses that at the level of love, there is a reciprocity of loving and being loved, and that, in the other field, it is a question of a pure activity for the subject. Do you follow me? In fact, it is obvious that, even in their supposedly passive phase, the exercise of a drive, a masochistic drive, for example, requires that the masochist give himself, if I may be permitted to put it in this way, a devil of a job.” [Jacques Lacan, "The Deconstruction of the Drive," The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis]

The driven-subject or the field of the drives, or what Lacan claims is pure subjective activity, must be rigorously distinguished from the desiring-subject, the lovers and the field of love produced, characterized by inconsistent reciprocity of loving/being-loved. A dimension of eternal force and a plane of inconsistent passion. The question becomes: what is lost in the passage from the drive to its other side which makes sexuality present in the unconscious itself, and what remains? What, then, is left of the sign — and for whom?


In the world of knowledge, the “real” of the ego, everything exists already — without the need for anything in the way of a subject, which begins in the Other insofar as signification itself emerges there. Subjectivity raises its head from the play of surfaces only when a signifier erects itself within another field entirely; the pure subject of thought is a forgetful distraction: a banality whose laughability pre-empts our censure, or a fool who surpasses his strange lyric and precisely closes off the possibility of interpeting, of making a judgment.

Lacan reminds us repeatedly, forcefully, emphatically — that the sign is always redundant, it refers to another, beyond this field. He distinguishes this formal relation with what is not given, with what magnetizes the field of interpretation — that is, what we desire only enigmatically, and which essentially absolves itself from any claim to relation. Lacan’s gossamer analysis would converge upon reality in precisely a way which prevents the self-satisfaction of liquidated transference.

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 8:08 pm. It’s filed under algebra, desire, force, form, lacan, libido, love, real, signifier, structure, transference. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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