What Sticks? From Symbolic Power to <i>Jouissance</i>

Yannis Stavrakakis

in The Lacanian Left

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2007 | ISBN: 9780748619801
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672073 | DOI:
What Sticks? From Symbolic Power to Jouissance

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Political analysis cannot be limited to the symbolic dimension of politics. There is also an affective dimension, although this has to be conceptualised in a way which avoids any essentialism of emotions. In this chapter it is argued that the most promising way of conceptualising affect so as to expand the horizon of a poststructuralist style of political analysis is through an engagement with the Lacanian understanding of the relation between the affective and the discursive. In this effort the Lacanian concept of jouissance once more plays a pivotal role, carrying a variety of important implications for political analysis and progressive political critique. Thus, in opposition to post-structuralism – which focuses mostly on the fluidity of identity, and seems as a result unable to account rigorously for the resistances to social change and radical transformation – a Lacan-inspired approach is more adequately equipped to address this crucial problem: when thingsstick it is because, apart from offering a hegemonic symbolic crystallisation, they effectively manipulate an affective, libidinal dimension. Symbolic power and authority finds its real support in the emotional dynamics of fantasy and (partial) enjoyment.

Keywords: Power; Authority; Enjoyment; Affect; Milgram

Chapter.  10808 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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