Lacanian struck-turalism and the desire of withdrawal — Işık Barış Fidaner

It is generally accepted that Lacan himself was not a structuralist although he relied on the work of structuralists. Nor is Lacan a poststructuralist, as already explained by Slavoj Žižek in The Most Sublime Hysteric

The failure to position Lacan on either side of this opposition is mainly due to his notion of the real which negates symbolic structures but only does so partially. The real strikes the symbolic but it cannot take it down. Lacanian structures are struck by the real. So let us call Lacan a struck-turalist. What Lacan produces are con-struck-tions.

On the one hand: The real of fantasy strikes the symbolic. Our symbolic reality is struck-tured by the real of our fantasies. That’s why the world is so fragile against the force of surplus-enjoyment. “The truth” about the world can (and does) disintegrate at any moment, if or when the gradient of surplus-enjoyment changes direction. This fragility is labeled as “post-truth”.

On the other hand: The real of desire is on strike against the symbolic. This is the formula for the borderline subject as the (post)modern hysteric according to Kotsko and Žižek:

women are expected to excel in professional life while still meeting traditional requirements of motherhood… Hence the contemporary manifestation of hysteria is not the psychosomatic intrusion of the body into the social order – in the face of the impossible demand to ‘have it all’, the hysteric effectively goes on strike, refusing desire altogether. (Kotsko in Creepiness quoted by Žižek in Disparities)

The borderline subject is thus a hysteric without a Master, a hysteric who is not oppressed by the Master but solicited by some expert-advisor figure to realize all his/her potential and ‘have it all’, leading a full life. Such a solicitation, of course, immediately acquires the superego-dimension of an inexorable pressure to which the subject can only respond by withdrawing from desire. Is this ‘desire on strike’ not a perfect formula for ‘borderline’ as the contemporary form of hysteria? (Žižek in Disparities)

The withdrawal from desire in the borderline subject also characterizes the melancholic subject who clings to his/her lost object. However, just as the renunciation of enjoyment would fuel a specific enjoyment of renunciation, so too the withdrawal from desire can fuel a specific desire of withdrawal [1]. 

The withdrawal from desire (or alternatively withdrawal of desire) still clings to the lost object as something that is supposed to have “always existed”, e.g. the individuality of the lost person: what (s)he was supposed to be like. This attachment is the nostalgic essence of “symbolic mourning” which erects monuments as phallic fetish objects. But the supposed individuality of the lost object is false, it is really inconsistent and not-whole. 

What was truly lost in fact “never existed”, e.g. the dividual aspects of the lost person that would transpire if (s)he weren’t lost: what (s)he would be like. This additional awareness is the refined essence of “real mourning” as the desire of withdrawal that “loses the loss” of the object and just keeps the loss itself as its object. This is why it’s also a drive of withdrawal [2].

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “Melancholy is a failure to desire”

[2] See “Always Existed and Never Existed” 


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