Alienation

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alienation (aliÈnation) The term 'alienation' does not constitute part

of Freud's theoretical vocabulary. In Lacan's work the term implies both

psychiatric and philosophical references:

 . Psychiatry         French psychiatry in the nineteenth century (e.g. Pinel)

conceived of mental illness as aliÈnation mentale, and a common term in

French for 'madman' is aliÈnÈ (a term which Lacan himself uses; Ec, 154).


 . Philosophy        The term 'alienation' is the usual translation for the German
  term Entfremdung which features in the philosophy of Hegel and Marx.

However, the Lacanian concept of alienation differs greatly from the ways

that the term is employed in the Hegelian and Marxist tradition (as Jacques-

Alain Miller points out; Sll, 215). For Lacan, alienation is not an accident that

befalls the subject and which can be transcended, but an essential constitutive

feature of the subject. The subject is fundamentally SPLIT, alienated from

himself, and there is no escape from this division, no possibility of 'whole-

ness' or synthesis.

     Alienation is an inevitable consequence of the process by which the ego is

constituted by identification with the counterpart: 'the initial synthesis of the

ego is essentially an alter ego, it is alienated' (S3, 39). In Rimbaud's words, 'I

is an other' (E, 23). Thus alienation belongs to the imaginary order: 'Alien-

ation is constitutive of the imaginary order. Alienation is the imaginary as

such' (S3, 146). Although alienation is an essential characteristic of all

subjectivity, psychosis represents a more extreme form of alienation.

     Lacan coined the term EXTIMACY ÕO designate the nature of this alienation, in

which alterity inhabits the innermost core of the subject. Lacan devotes the

whole of chapter 16 of The Seminar, Book XI, The Four Fundamental

Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1964a) to a discussion of alienation and the

related concept of separation.


References