Posts tagged ‘lacan’

26 January 2009

CfP: Politics and the unconscious

I’ll be watching out for the special issue of Subjectivity with guest editors Jason Glynos (University of Essex, UK) & Yannis Stavrakakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece). Deadline for proposals is 16 March 2009. Email contact below.

The special issue aims to explore the unconscious dimension in politics, whether in the context of political practice or political theory. Of particular interest is the question of how to conceptualise the relationship between the unconscious and political subjectivity.

It is often remarked that in politics much of importance takes place below the radar. ‘Dog whistle politics’, ‘tacit knowledge’, ‘complicity’, and ‘surmise’ are just some of the terms used to capture such silent or unofficial processes which, however, are central to our understanding of official political practices.

The concept of the ‘unconscious’ registers this dimension of politics and there are many ways it can be understood, theorised, and operationalised for purposes of empirical analysis.

The special issue will include an extended interview with Professor Ernesto Laclau, whose aim is to probe the role that Lacanian psychoanalysis plays in his recent work in political theory. But we strongly encourage the submission of papers which explore the unconscious dimension of politics from alternative psychoanalytic perspectives, as well as social-psychological and other perspectives.

Possible themes include:

  • the unconscious and its relation to political subjectivity
  • the role the unconscious and cognate concepts can or should play in political theory and analysisreflection on the historical and/or contemporary use of psychoanalysis in the study of politics
  • the unconscious in critical social and political psychology
  • the role of stereotypes in relation to the unconscious
  • ideological critique
  • hegemony and post-hegemony
  • theories of freedom and emancipation
  • theories of justice and principles of distribution
  • the political economy
  • processes of policy formulation and implementation
  • economic policy, wealth, and happiness
  • utopian thought
  • theories of democracy and post-democracy
  • the politics of consumption
  • general methodological and epistemological issues concerning the use of the unconscious (or cognate terms) to political studies, e.g., what can or should qualify as evidence of the unconscious in social and political life
  • the unconscious at the intersection of media and politics
  • the tenability and significance of drawing a distinction between the individual and collective unconscious
  • different perspectives on the unconscious and their comparative/contrastive significance for understanding political processes
  • the differential implications for political theory and analysis of subscribing to different psychoanalytic frameworks
  • the character and modalities of political discourse
  • discourse and affect in processes of identification
  • fantasy and political subjectivity
  • the political constitution of groups and institutions
  • social and political identification in organizations

We encourage papers which explore any of these or other politically-inflected themes from the point of view of the unconscious or related concepts. Theoretically-informed empirical studies are particularly welcome.

Send expressions of interest with short proposal for possible contributions to by 16 March 2009. Once a proposal is accepted authors will be asked to submit full papers by 20 July 2009. Full papers will then go through the standard peer-review process. Author guidelines can be found at:

The call for papers can also be found at:

…via Rikowski’s weblog

31 December 2008

Totality as a horizon

The most recent issue of World Picture includes an interview with Ernesto Laclau. He says, inter alia:

I don’t think that the notion of totality should be repudiated but, rather, that its theoretical status has to be redefined: totality is not for me a ground but a horizon; it is a type of closure which is not incompatible with the heterogeneity of its internal elements.

Laclau also clarifies once more that where deconstruction is a theory of undecidability, hegemony is a theory of decision (the decisions taken in an undecidable terrain). What interests me most — given my current grappling with the fruitfulness of Lacan for discourse analysis — is his next comment:

In my work I have argued that the logic of the objet a in Lacan’s conception and the hegemonic logic show a profound homology, even if in one case that logic has been established through a psychoanalytic reflection and, in the other, through a politico-theoretical field.

World Picture appears twice annually,
edited by Brian Price, John David Rhodes
and Meghan Sutherland.

30 December 2008

Žižek and the subject

I’ve recently had a great deal of Žižekianism imported into my home (initially most adamantly not invited by me). Yesterday, a moment of illumination appeared for me in Ernesto Laclau’s preface to one of Slavoj Žižek‘s earliest books, The Sublime Object of Ideology. The main thesis of this book (and, one could add, of his copious later writings) is, according to Laclau:

that the category of ‘subject’ cannot be reduced to the ‘positions of subject’, since before subjectivation the subject is the subject of lack (p. xii)

This assumption (the subject of lack) forms one of the fundamental differences between a Laclauian approach to discourse analysis, and approaches developing from Foucault or (critical) discourse analysis. Could we say it is the “why” question? Žižek later in the same book criticises those analyses which do not ask the why question. Althusser, for instance ‘never succeeeded in thinking out the link between Ideological State Apapratuses and ideological interpellation’ (p. 43). Why does the ISA produce subjectivation effects, why does it interpellate (hail/call) its subject into being, why does it produce the recognition of one’s subject position?

As a friend of mine said recently, if we knew the answer to the “why” question, we could control the world. So, first, perhaps it is not possible to answer it, and second, perhaps it is not necessary to ask it. But it is very tempting to speculate, and Lacanian psychoanalysis does offer one line of approach (as long as we are clear about its set of presuppositions) to exploring it. I think I’m softening towards the master…

Slavoj Žižek (1989) The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso (review)

Also on the houshold Christmas reading list: