Lacanian Criticism Of Psychoanalysis; Paradigm Shift

Jacques Lacan (19011981)

  • French psychoanalyst and cultural theorist.
  • Lacan was born in Paris, the eldest of Emilie and Alfred Lacan’s three children
  • His mother was ardently


  • His father was successful soap and oils salesman,.
  • His younger brother went to a monastery in 1929.
  • Lacan had become dissatisfied with religion and became an atheist by the mid-1920s and quarreled.
  • Lacan’s return to Freud “emphasizes a renewed attention to the original texts of Freud, and included a radical critique of ego psychology
  • Lacan thought that Freud’ ideas f “slips of the tongue”, jokes, and the interpretation of dreams all emphasizes the agency of language in subjective constitution,

Unconscious is the foundation of all being and structured like language

  • Our unconscious is made up of wishes, desires, images that are always the signifier and never the signified.
  • There is an endless chain of signifier without an anchor.
  • Unconscious is not a primitive or archetypal part of the mind separate from the conscious.
  • Formation of unconsciousness is as complex and structurally sophisticated as consciousness itself Lacanian-self.
  • Criticism based on Jacques Lacan’s view that the unconscious, and our perception of ourselves, is shaped in the “symbolic” order of language rather than in the imaginary” order of pre-linguistic thought.
  • self is an illusion, the product of the unconscious.
  • “self” is the process of creating an illusion of an anchor, a stable reference point for all the signified.

Words and Non-linguistic things

  • Lacan talks about Signifier he is often referring to what others would call simply “words”, the two terms are not equivalent.
  • Not only can units of language smaller than words (morphemes and phonemes) or larger than words (phrases and sentences) also function as Signifier, but so also can non-linguistics things such as objects, relationships and symptomatic acts.
  • Lacan takes the term Signifier from the work of Ferdinand de Sassure.
  • According to Saussure, the Signifier is the phonological element of the sign
  • In Saussure’s terms, the Signifier is the “acoustic image” which signifies a signified.
  • Signifier is prominent.
  • Saussure argues that the Signifier and the signified are mutually interdependent, Lacan states that the signifier is primary and produces the signified
  • Differential nature of signifier:- Value of signifier is purely by virtue of its difference from the other elements in the system
  • Unstable meaning because of polysemy
  • Differential nature of the signifier means it can never have a fixed meaning or its meaning varies according to the position which it occupies in the structure.
  • Signifier is first of all the meaningless material elements in a closed differential system;
  • Signifier without signified is called the “pure signifier” by Lacan
  • Every real signifier is a signifier that signifies nothing. The more the signifier signifies nothing, the more indestructible it is
  • Signifiers determine subject; the affect of the signifier on the subject constitute the unconscious and hence also constitute the whole of the field of psychoanalysis.