Discourse of the Other
The unconscious is the "discourse of the Other", the effect on the subject of speech that is addressed to that subject from elsewhere, by another subject (who has been forgotten), by an other scene or psychic locality.
These "four discourses" are
- the discourse of the master,
- the discourse of the university,
- the discourse of the hysteric, and
- the discourse of the analyst.
The names of these four symbols are shown to the right.
The names of the four positions are shown to the right.
Discourse of the Master
The discourse of the master is the basic discourse from which the other three discourses are derived.
The dominant position is occupied by the master signifier (), which represents the subject (S) for another signifier or, more precisely, for all other signifiers (); however, in this signifying operation there is always a surplus, namely, objet petit a.
The point is that all attempts at totalization are doomed to failure.
Discourse of the University
This illustrates the fact that behind all attempts to impart an apparently "neutral" knowledge to the other can always be located an attempt at mastery (mastery of knowledge, and domination of the other to whom this knowledge is imparted).
Discourse of the Hysteric
It is not simply "that which is uttered by a hysteric", but a certain kind of social bond in which any subject may be inscribed.
Psychoanalytic treatment involves "the structural introduction of the discourse of the hysteric by means of artificial conditions"; in other words, the analyst "hystericises" the patient's discourse.
Discourse of the Analyst
The discourse of the analyst is produced by a quarter turn of the discourse of the hysteric (in the same way as Freud developed psychoanalysis by giving an interpretative turn to the discourse of his hysterical patients).
The position of the agent, which is the position occupied by the analyst in the treatment, is occupied by objet petit a; this illustrates the fact that the analyst must, in the course of the treatment, become the cause of the analysand's desire.
The fact that this discourse is the inverse of the discourse of the master emphasises that, for Lacan, psychoanalysis is an essentially subversive practice which undermines all attempts at domination and mastery.
Discourse of the Capitalist
In a few parts of his teaching (notably in his discourse in Milano), Lacan talked about a new kind of discourse which caracterizes our post-modern society: the discourse of the capitalist. The position of the agent, is occupied by the subject (S), who does not address the other, but the truth (this position is now occupied by the master signifier (), the Market). Through the Market, the subject (S) can ask the knowledge (savoir), (), Science and Technology to produce objects to be consumed (objet petit a). This objects are made to never feed completely the subject's desire. This discourse is not part of the social bond theory. We notice that, in this discourse (contrary to the four discourses), an arrow hits the position of the truth. With the Discourse of the Capitalist, Lacan tried to account for a new kind of social bonds in which the subject become more and more individualistic, egoistic. The Market is here the new Truth which cannot be contradicted.
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 21
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 19669-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 118
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 19669-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 23
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 19669-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 35
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 19669-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 41