Jacques Lacan


Jacques Lacan : biography

13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981

While it is widely recognised that "Lacan was an intellectual magpie",Philip Hill, Lacan for Beginners (London 1997) p. 8 this was not simply a matter of borrowing from others. Instead, "Lacan was so zealous in invoking other men’s work and claiming to base his own arguments on them, when in reality he was departing from their teachings, leaving behind mere skeletons".Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 1997) p. 46 Even with Freud, it is seldom clearly signposted when Lacan is expounding Freud, when he is reinterpreting Freud, or when he is proposing a completely new theory in Freudian guise. The result was "a complete pattern of dissenting assent to the ideas of Freud Lacan’s argument is conducted on Freud’s behalf and, at the same time, against him",Malcolm Bowie, Lacan (London 1991) pp. 6–7 so as to leave Lacan himself the "master" of his (and everyone’s) thought. "Castoriadis maintained that Lacan had gradually come to prevent anyone else from thinking because of the way he tried to make all thought dependent on himself".Roudinesco, p. 386

More personal criticism of his intellectual style is that it depended on a kind of teasing lure—"fundamental truths to be revealed but always at some further point".Didier Anzieu, in Sherry Tuckle, Psychoanalytic Politics: Freud’s French Revolution (London 1978) p. 131 In such a (feminist) perspective, "Lacan’s sadistic capriciousness reveals the prick behind the Phallus a narcissistic tease who persuades by means of attraction and resistance, not by orderly systematic discourse".Jane Gallup, Feminism and Psychoanalysis: The Daughter’s Seduction (London 1982) p. 120 and p. 37 To intimates like Dolto, "Lacan was like a narcissistic and wayward child All he thought about was himself and his work".Roudinesco, p. 242 and p. 137

One author contends that, even if you concede, firstly, that Lacan was a narcissist and, secondly, that his writings are essentially "the confessions of a self-justifying megalomaniac", fuelled by a "craving for recognition—his almost demonic hunger"Adam Phillip, Promises, Promises (London 2002) pp. 108–110—and reveal "a narcissistic enjoyment of mystification as a form of omnipotent power phantasies of narcissistic omnipotence",Rosalind Minsky, Psychoanalysis and Gender (London 1996) pp. 175–6 the Frenchman remains an example of "what Maccoby calls ‘productive narcissists’ [who] get others to buy into their vision and help to make it a reality the narcissists who change our world".Simon Crompton, All about Me: Loving a Narcissist (London 1997) p. 157

Major concepts

Return to Freud

Lacan’s "return to Freud" emphasizes a renewed attention to the original texts of Freud, and included a radical critique of Ego psychology, whereas "Lacan’s quarrel with Object Relations psychoanalysis"Mary Jacobus, The Poetics of Psychoanalysis: In the Wake of Klein (Oxford 2005) p. 25 was a more muted affair. Here he attempted "to restore to the notion of the Object Relation… the capital of experience that legitimately belongs to it",Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection (London 1997) p. 197 building upon what he termed "the hesitant, but controlled work of Melanie Klein… Through her we know the function of the imaginary primordial enclosure formed by the imago of the mother’s body",Lacan, Ecrits p. 197 and p. 20 as well as upon "the notion of the transitional object, introduced by D. W. Winnicott… a key-point for the explanation of the genesis of fetishism".Lacan, Ecrits p. 250 Nevertheless, "Lacan systematically questioned those psychoanalytic developments from the 1930s to the 1970s, which were increasingly and almost exclusively focused on the child’s early relations with the mother… the pre-Oedipal or Kleinian mother";Lisa Appignanesi/John Forrester, Freud’s Women (London 2005) p. 462 and Lacan’s rereading of Freud—"characteristically, Lacan insists that his return to Freud supplies the only valid model"David Macey, "Introduction", Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (London 1994) p. xxii—formed a basic conceptual starting-point in that oppositional strategy.