I have been reading again Spurious's great posts on Fink's A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis. What strikes me about the Lacanian universe, as I re-read those posts again, is that, although it speaks openly and often of the unconscious, it seems to almost disavow that specifically Freudian notion, abandoning, as it were, the core apparatus of psychoanalysis, the unconscious as a kind of zoo in which wild beats prowl about. I do not want to suggest that there is no unconscious in Lacan, but that it is radically different than in Freud. Lacan is differently ill, we might say. We are all familiar with the notion that the unconscious is "structured like a language", but I wonder what we are to make, specifically, of this disavowal of Freud? What, specifically, of that textual relation? And what are the politics that motor it?
A post is no place for this kind of rumination, but I'll have a quick stab at it: there are two distinct approaches to Lacan's theory of the unconscious that characterise recent scholarship. The first is a textually conservative one which seeks to read Lacan closely and to elaborate the body of work on its own terms and within its particular milieu as a kind of system. The second is an appropriative modality that takes Lacan up and moves him onto ground his work only intimates. It is here, I suggest, that the most productive approaches to Lacan are found. This second modality is critical and open-ended, playful and radicalising.
In refusing the coherence of Lacan, we are, as it were, replaying the Lacanian disavowal of Freud: what motors that disavowal is the desire not just for a new space (not just for an Oedipal shudder) but for an engagement. This is how Lacan seems to want to work with Freud...
In an interesting and challenging short chat in the pub with L yesterday, we got talking to a certain book, written by someone we know. We both think it a very fine book, but L seems to think that the kind of modality I am outlining here - that of critical reopening and engagement - is always doomed to being, in the end, a kind of parasitism (I am deliberately over-characterising his much more nuanced point here).
L wants originality, I think, or perhaps he wants a mode of engagement that is less concerned with citation than current practices in philosophy. It may be that his concerns about our friend's book are specific to a philosophy-related crisis, or it may be that his critique is actually in the end the soundest and the most damning: you have written a very interesting book in which you apply someone else's ideas. ouch!
Lacan's unconscious is certainly no re-run of Freud's; his 'take' on Freud, his engagement, is open-ended, meaningful but, crucially, it goes beyond application and builds something else without complete abandonment; critiques without obliteration, works without violence. If that is what L wants, then I am with him...
Is there a kind of struggle with the master that is not Oedipal?