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In [[Lacan]]ian [[psychoanalysis]], the "[[symbolic]]" is one of three [[order]]s that [[structure]] [[human]] [[existence]], the others being the [[imaginary]] and the [[real]].
The term "[[symbolic]]" appears in adjectival form in Lacan's earliest psychoanalytic writings.
The adjectival "[[symbolic]]" is often used by [[Lacan]] in a fairly conventional sense, but in the 1950s he begins to use the word as a substantive, and it rapidly becomes the cornerstone of his theory: the [[subject]]'s relationship with the [[symbolic]] is the heart of [[psychoanalysis]].
It now becomes one of the three [[orders]] that remain central throughout the rest of Lacan's work. Of these three orders, the symbolic is the most crucial one for psychoanalysis; psychoanalysts are essentially 'practitioners of the symbolic function'.<ref>{{E}} p. 72</ref>
[[Lacan]]'s concept of the [[symbolic|symbolic order]] owes much to the anthropological work of [[Claude Lévi-Strauss]].<ref>[[Claude Lévi-Strauss|Lévi-Strauss, Claude]]. 1949a: 203</ref>
In particular, [[Lacan]] takes from [[Claude Lévi-Strauss|Lévi-Strauss]] the idea that the social world is structured by certain [[law]]s which regulate kinship relations and the exchange of gifts.
The concept of the gift, and that of a circuit of exchange, are thus fundamental to Lacan's concept of the [[symbolic]]. <ref>{{S4}} pp. 153-4, 182</ref>
The change in usage reflects his incorporation into [[psychoanalysis]] of the [[linguistics]] of [[Saussure]] and the [[anthropology]] of [[Mauss]] and [[Lévi-Strauss]].
The term has acquired anthropological overtones, as when Lacan praises Marcel Mauss for having shown that "the structures of society are symbolic".<ref>{{Ec}} p. 132</ref>
In his work on kinship [[Lévi-Strauss]] argues that any culture can be seen as a set of [[symbolic]] [[structure]]s such as the rules governing kinship and alliance, [[language]] and [[art]].

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