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|French: pulsion de mort|
Here he established a fundamental opposition between life drives (eros), conceived of as a tendency towards cohesion and unity, and the death drives, which operate in the opposite direction, undoing connections and destroying things.
The concept of the death drive was one of the most controversial concepts introduced by Freud, and many of his disciples rejected it, but Freud continued to reaffirm the concept for the rest of his life.
"To ignore the death instinct in his [Freud's] doctrine is to misunderstand that doctrine entirely."
In Lacan's first remarks on the death drive, in 1938, he describes it as a nostalgia for a lost harmony, a desire to return to the preoedipal fusion with the mother's breast, the loss of which is marked on the psyche in the weaning complex.
"The death instinct is only the mask of the symbolic order."
By situating the death drive firmly in the symbolic, Lacan articulates it with culture rather than nature; he states that the death drive "is not a question of biology,", and must be distinguished from the biological instinct to return to the inanimate.
"The distinction between the life drive and the death drive is - true in as much as it manifests two aspects of the drive."
- every drive pursues its own extinction,
- every drive involves the subject in repetition, and
- every drive is an attempt to go beyond the pleasure principle, to the realm of excess jouissance where enjoyment is experienced as suffering.
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 301
- Lacan, Jacques. Les complexes familiaux dans la formation de l'individu. Essai d'analyse d'une fonction en psychologie, Paris: Navarin, 1984 . p. 35
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 186
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p. 326
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 102
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 211-12
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 257
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 844