Difference between revisions of "Structure"

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Structure (Structure)                  When Lacan uses the term 'structure' in his early
+
Structure (Structure)                   
  
work of the 1930s, it is to refer to 'social structures', by which he means a
+
When Lacan uses the term 'structure' in his early work of the 1930s, it is to refer to 'social structures', by which he means a specific set of affective relations between family members. The child perceives these relations much more profoundly than the adult, and internalises them in the [[complex]] (Ec, 89). The term serves as a peg upon which Lacan can hang his own views of the 'relational' nature of the psyche, in opposition to the atomistic theories then current in psychology (Lacan, 1936). From this point on, the term 'structure' retains this sense of something both intersubjective and intrasubjective, the internal representation of interpersonal relations. This remains    a key point throughout Lacan's work, in which the emphasis            on structure is a constant reminder that what determines the subject is not some supposed 'essence' but simply his position with respect to other subjects and other signifiers. Already in 1938, we find Lacan arguing that 'the most notable defect of analytic doctrine' at that time was that it tended 'to ignore structure in favour of a dynamic approach' (Lacan, 1938: 58). This anticipates his later emphasis on the symbolic order as the realm of structure which analysts have ignored in favour of the imaginary; 'social structures are symbolic' (Ec, 132).
  
specific set of affective relations between family members. The child perceives
+
In the mid-1950s, when Lacan begins to reformulate his ideas in terms borrowed from Saussurean structural linguistics, the term 'structure' comes to be increasingly associated with Saussure's model of [[language]]. Saussure analysed language (la langue) as a system in which there are no positive terms, only differences (Saussure, 1916: 120). It is this concept of a system in which each unit is constituted purely by virtue of its differences from the other units which comes to constitute the core meaning of the term 'structure' in Lacan's work from this point on. Language is the paradigmatic structure, and Lacan's famous dictum, 'the unconscious is structured like a language', is therefore tautologous, since 'to be structured' and 'to be like a language' mean the same thing.
  
these relations much more profoundly than the adult, and internalises them in
+
Saussure's structural approach to linguistics was developed further by Roman Jakobson, who developed phoneme theory; Jakobson's work was then taken up by the French anthropologist, Claude LÈvi-Strauss, who used the structural phonemic model to analyse non-linguistic cultural data such as kinship relations and myth. This application of structural analysis to anthropology launched the structuralist movement by showing how the Saussurean concept of structure could be applied to an object of enquiry other than language. Lacan was heavily influenced by all three of these thinkers, and in this sense he can be seen as part of the structuralist movement. However, Lacan prefers to dissociate himself from this movement, arguing that his approach differs in important ways from the structuralist approach (S20, 93).
  
the COMPLEX (Ec, 89). The term serves as a peg upon which Lacan can hang his
+
Alongside the references to language, Lacan also refers the concept of structure to [[mathematics]], principally to set theory and [[topology]] In 1956, for example, he states that 'a structure is in the first place a group of elements forming a covariant set' (S3, 183). Two years later he again links the concept of structure with mathematical set theory, and adds a reference to topology (Ec, 648-9). By the 1970s, topology has replaced language as the principal paradigm of structure for Lacan. He now argues that topology is not a mere metaphor for structure; it is that structure itself (Lacan, 1973b).
  
  own views of the 'relational'         nature of the psyche, in opposition to the
+
The concept of structure is often taken to imply an opposition between surface and depth, between directly observable phenomena and 'deep structures' which are not the object of immediate experience. Such would seem to be the opposition implied in the distinction Lacan draws between [[symptoms]] (surface) and structures (depth). However, Lacan does not in fact agree that such an opposition is implicit in the concept of structure (Ec, 649). On the one hand, he rejects the concept of 'directly observable phenomena', arguing that observation is always already theoretical. On the other hand, he also rejects the idea that structures are somehow 'deep' or distant from experience, arguing that they are present in the field of experience itself; the unconscious is on the surface, and looking for it in 'the depths' is to miss it. As with many other binary oppositions, the model Lacan prefers is that of the moebius strip; just as the two sides of the strip are in fact continuous, so structure is continuous with phenomena.
  
atomistic theories then current in psychology (Lacan, 1936). From this point
+
The most important feature of structural analysis is not, then, any supposed distinction between surface and depth, but, as LÈvi-Strauss shows in his structural analysis of myth, the discovery of fixed relations between loci which are themselves empty (LÈvi-Strauss, 1955). In other words, whatever elements may be placed in the positions specified by a given structure, the relations between the positions themselves remain the same. Thus the elements interact not on the basis of any inherent or intrinsic properties they possess, but simply on the basis of the positions which they occupy in the structure.
  
 +
In line with many other psychoanalysts, Lacan distinguishes three principal nosographic categories; [[neurosis]], [[psychosis]] and [[perversion]]. His originality lies in the fact that he regards these categories as structures rather than simply as collections of symptoms. (N.B. Lacan prefers to speak in terms of 'Freudian structures' rather than 'clinical structures', but the latter term is the one which predominates in the writings of Lacanian psychoanalysts today.)
  
 +
Lacanian nosography is a categorical classification system based on  a discrete series, rather than a dimensional system based on a continuum. The three major clinical structures        are therefore mutually exclusive;  a subject cannot be both neurotic and psychotic, for example. The three major clinical structures together constitute all the three possible positions of the subject in relation to the Other; every subject encountered in psychoanalytic treatment can therefore be diagnosed as either neurotic, or psychotic, or perverse. Each structure is distinguished by a different operation: neurosis by the operation of repression, perversion by the operation of disavowal, and psychosis by the operation of foreclosure. Lacan follows Freud in arguing that the classical method of psychoanalytic treatment (involving free association and the use of the couch) is only appropriate for neurotic subjects and perverse subjects, and not for psychotics. Thus when Lacanian analysts work with psychotic patients, they use a substantially modified method of treatment.
  
 
+
One of the most fundamental axioms of psychoanalysis is that the subject's clinical structure is determined by his experiences in the nrst years of life. In this sense, psychoanalysis is based on a 'critical period hypothesis'; the first years of life are the critical period in which the subject's structure is determined. Although it is not clear how long this critical period lasts, it is held that after this critical period the clinical structure is fixed for ever and cannot be changed. Neither psychoanalytic treatment nor anything else can, for example, turn  a psychotic into    a neurotic.Within each of the three major clinical structures Lacan distinguishes various subdivisions. For example within the clinical structure of neurosis, he distinguishes two kinds of neurosis (obsessional neurosis and hysteria), and within the clinical structure of psychosis he distinguishes between paranoia, schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis.
 
 
on, the term 'structure' retains this sense of something both intersubjective and
 
 
 
intrasubjective, the internal representation of interpersonal relations. This
 
 
 
remains    a key point throughout Lacan's work, in which the emphasis            on
 
 
 
structure is a constant reminder that what determines the subject is not some
 
 
 
supposed 'essence' but simply his position with respect to other subjects and
 
 
 
other signifiers. Already in 1938, we find Lacan arguing that 'the most notable
 
 
 
defect of analytic doctrine' at that time was that it tended 'to ignore structure
 
 
 
in favour of a dynamic approach' (Lacan, 1938: 58). This anticipates his later
 
 
 
emphasis on the symbolic order as the realm of structure which analysts have
 
 
 
ignored in favour of the imaginary; 'social structures are symbolic' (Ec, 132).
 
 
 
    In the mid-1950s, when Lacan begins to reformulate his ideas in terms
 
 
 
borrowed from Saussurean structural linguistics, the term 'structure'              comes
 
 
 
to be increasingly associated with Saussure's model of LANGUAGE. Saussure
 
 
 
analysed language (la langue) as a system in which there are no positive terms,
 
 
 
only differences (Saussure, 1916: 120). It is this concept of a system in which
 
 
 
each unit is constituted purely by virtue of its differences from the other units
 
 
 
which comes to constitute the core meaning of the term 'structure' in Lacan's
 
 
 
work from this point on. Language is the paradigmatic structure, and Lacan's
 
 
 
famous dictum, 'the unconscious is structured like a language', is therefore
 
 
 
tautologous, since 'to be structured' and 'to be like a language' mean the same
 
 
 
thing.
 
 
 
      Saussure's structural approach to linguistics          was developed further by
 
 
 
Roman Jakobson, who developed phoneme theory; Jakobson's work                was
 
 
 
then taken up by the French anthropologist, Claude LÈvi-Strauss, who used
 
 
 
the structural phonemic model to analyse non-linguistic cultural data such as
 
 
 
kinship relations and myth. This application of structural analysis to anthro-
 
 
 
pology launched the structuralist movement by showing how the Saussurean
 
 
 
concept of structure could be applied to            an object of enquiry other than
 
 
 
language. Lacan was heavily influenced by all three of these thinkers, and in
 
 
 
this sense he can be seen as part of the structuralist movement. However,
 
 
 
Lacan prefers to dissociate himself from this movement, arguing that his
 
 
 
approach differs in important ways from the structuralist approach (S20, 93).
 
 
 
      Alongside the references to language, Lacan also refers the concept of
 
 
 
structure tO MATHEMATICS, principally to set theory and TOPOLOGY. In 1956,
 
 
 
for example, he states that 'a structure is in the first place a group of elements
 
 
 
forming a covariant set' (S3, 183). Two years later he again links the concept
 
 
 
of structure with mathematical set theory, and adds a reference to topology
 
 
 
(Ec, 648-9). By the 1970s, topology has replaced language as the principal
 
 
 
paradigm of structure for Lacan. He now argues that topology is not a mere
 
 
 
metaphor for structure; it is that structure itself (Lacan, 1973b).
 
 
 
      The concept of structure is often taken to imply        an opposition between
 
 
 
surface and depth, between directly observable phenomena and 'deep struc-
 
 
 
tures' which are not the object of immediate experience. Such would seem to
 
 
 
be the opposition implied in the distinction Lacan draws between SYMPTOMS
 
 
 
(surface) and structures (depth). However, Lacan does not in fact agree that
 
 
 
such an opposition is implicit in the concept of structure (Ec, 649). On the one
 
 
 
hand, he rejects the concept of 'directly observable phenomena', arguing that
 
 
 
observation is always already theoretical. On the other hand, he also rejects the
 
 
 
idea that structures are somehow 'deep' or distant from experience, arguing
 
 
 
that they are present in the field of experience itself; the unconscious is on the
 
 
 
surface, and looking for it in 'the depths' is to miss it. As with many other
 
 
 
binary oppositions, the model Lacan prefers is that of the moebius strip; just as
 
 
 
the two sides of the strip are in fact continuous, so structure is continuous with
 
 
 
phenomena.
 
 
 
    The most important feature of structural analysis is not, then, any supposed
 
 
 
distinction between surface and depth, but,          as LÈvi-Strauss shows in his
 
 
 
structural analysis of myth, the discovery of fixed relations between loci
 
 
 
which are themselves empty (LÈvi-Strauss, 1955). In other words, whatever
 
 
 
elements may be placed in the positions specified by a given structure, the
 
 
 
relations between the positions themselves remain the same. Thus the ele-
 
 
 
ments interact not on the basis of any inherent or intrinsic properties they
 
 
 
possess, but simply on the basis of the positions which they occupy in the
 
 
 
structure.
 
 
 
    In line with many other psychoanalysts, Lacan distinguishes three principal
 
 
 
nosographic categories; NEUROSIS, PSYCHOSIs and PERVERSION. His originality lies
 
 
 
in the fact that he regards these categories as structures rather than simply as
 
 
 
collections of symptoms. (N.B. Lacan prefers to speak in terms of 'Freudian
 
 
 
structures' rather than 'clinical structures', but the latter term is the one which
 
 
 
predominates in the writings of Lacanian psychoanalysts today.)
 
 
 
    Lacanian nosography is      a categorical classification system based        on  a
 
 
 
discrete series, rather than a dimensional system based on a continuum. The
 
 
 
three major clinical structures        are therefore mutually exclusive;      a subject
 
 
 
cannot be both neurotic and psychotic, for example. The three major clinical
 
 
 
structures together constitute all the three possible positions of the subject in
 
 
 
relation to the Other; every subject encountered in psychoanalytic treatment
 
 
 
can therefore be diagnosed as either neurotic, or psychotic, or perverse. Each
 
 
 
structure is distinguished by a different operation: neurosis by the operation of
 
 
 
repression, perversion by the operation of disavowal, and psychosis by the
 
 
 
operation of foreclosure. Lacan follows Freud in arguing that the classical
 
 
 
method of psychoanalytic treatment (involving free association and the use of
 
 
 
the couch) is only appropriate for neurotic subjects and perverse subjects, and
 
 
 
not for psychotics. Thus when Lacanian analysts work with psychotic patients,
 
 
 
they use a substantially modified method of treatment.
 
 
 
    One of the most fundamental axioms of psychoanalysis is that the subject's
 
 
 
clinical structure is determined by his experiences in the nrst years of life. In
 
 
 
this sense, psychoanalysis is based on a 'critical period hypothesis'; the first
 
 
 
years of life are the critical period in which the subject's structure is deter-
 
 
 
mined. Although it is not clear how long this critical period lasts, it is held that
 
 
 
after this critical period the clinical structure is fixed for ever and cannot be
 
 
 
changed. Neither psychoanalytic treatment nor anything else can, for example,
 
 
 
  turn  a psychotic into    a neurotic.Within each of the three major clinical
 
 
 
  structures Lacan distinguishes various subdivisions. For example within the
 
 
 
clinical structure of neurosis, he distinguishes two kinds of neurosis (obses-
 
 
 
sional neurosis and hysteria), and within the clinical structure of psychosis he
 
 
 
distinguishes between paranoia, schizophrenia and manic-depressive psycho-
 
 
 
  SlS.
 
  
  

Revision as of 23:05, 2 May 2006

Structure (Structure)

When Lacan uses the term 'structure' in his early work of the 1930s, it is to refer to 'social structures', by which he means a specific set of affective relations between family members. The child perceives these relations much more profoundly than the adult, and internalises them in the complex (Ec, 89). The term serves as a peg upon which Lacan can hang his own views of the 'relational' nature of the psyche, in opposition to the atomistic theories then current in psychology (Lacan, 1936). From this point on, the term 'structure' retains this sense of something both intersubjective and intrasubjective, the internal representation of interpersonal relations. This remains a key point throughout Lacan's work, in which the emphasis on structure is a constant reminder that what determines the subject is not some supposed 'essence' but simply his position with respect to other subjects and other signifiers. Already in 1938, we find Lacan arguing that 'the most notable defect of analytic doctrine' at that time was that it tended 'to ignore structure in favour of a dynamic approach' (Lacan, 1938: 58). This anticipates his later emphasis on the symbolic order as the realm of structure which analysts have ignored in favour of the imaginary; 'social structures are symbolic' (Ec, 132).

In the mid-1950s, when Lacan begins to reformulate his ideas in terms borrowed from Saussurean structural linguistics, the term 'structure' comes to be increasingly associated with Saussure's model of language. Saussure analysed language (la langue) as a system in which there are no positive terms, only differences (Saussure, 1916: 120). It is this concept of a system in which each unit is constituted purely by virtue of its differences from the other units which comes to constitute the core meaning of the term 'structure' in Lacan's work from this point on. Language is the paradigmatic structure, and Lacan's famous dictum, 'the unconscious is structured like a language', is therefore tautologous, since 'to be structured' and 'to be like a language' mean the same thing.

Saussure's structural approach to linguistics was developed further by Roman Jakobson, who developed phoneme theory; Jakobson's work was then taken up by the French anthropologist, Claude LÈvi-Strauss, who used the structural phonemic model to analyse non-linguistic cultural data such as kinship relations and myth. This application of structural analysis to anthropology launched the structuralist movement by showing how the Saussurean concept of structure could be applied to an object of enquiry other than language. Lacan was heavily influenced by all three of these thinkers, and in this sense he can be seen as part of the structuralist movement. However, Lacan prefers to dissociate himself from this movement, arguing that his approach differs in important ways from the structuralist approach (S20, 93).

Alongside the references to language, Lacan also refers the concept of structure to mathematics, principally to set theory and topology In 1956, for example, he states that 'a structure is in the first place a group of elements forming a covariant set' (S3, 183). Two years later he again links the concept of structure with mathematical set theory, and adds a reference to topology (Ec, 648-9). By the 1970s, topology has replaced language as the principal paradigm of structure for Lacan. He now argues that topology is not a mere metaphor for structure; it is that structure itself (Lacan, 1973b).

The concept of structure is often taken to imply an opposition between surface and depth, between directly observable phenomena and 'deep structures' which are not the object of immediate experience. Such would seem to be the opposition implied in the distinction Lacan draws between symptoms (surface) and structures (depth). However, Lacan does not in fact agree that such an opposition is implicit in the concept of structure (Ec, 649). On the one hand, he rejects the concept of 'directly observable phenomena', arguing that observation is always already theoretical. On the other hand, he also rejects the idea that structures are somehow 'deep' or distant from experience, arguing that they are present in the field of experience itself; the unconscious is on the surface, and looking for it in 'the depths' is to miss it. As with many other binary oppositions, the model Lacan prefers is that of the moebius strip; just as the two sides of the strip are in fact continuous, so structure is continuous with phenomena.

The most important feature of structural analysis is not, then, any supposed distinction between surface and depth, but, as LÈvi-Strauss shows in his structural analysis of myth, the discovery of fixed relations between loci which are themselves empty (LÈvi-Strauss, 1955). In other words, whatever elements may be placed in the positions specified by a given structure, the relations between the positions themselves remain the same. Thus the elements interact not on the basis of any inherent or intrinsic properties they possess, but simply on the basis of the positions which they occupy in the structure.

In line with many other psychoanalysts, Lacan distinguishes three principal nosographic categories; neurosis, psychosis and perversion. His originality lies in the fact that he regards these categories as structures rather than simply as collections of symptoms. (N.B. Lacan prefers to speak in terms of 'Freudian structures' rather than 'clinical structures', but the latter term is the one which predominates in the writings of Lacanian psychoanalysts today.)

Lacanian nosography is a categorical classification system based on a discrete series, rather than a dimensional system based on a continuum. The three major clinical structures are therefore mutually exclusive; a subject cannot be both neurotic and psychotic, for example. The three major clinical structures together constitute all the three possible positions of the subject in relation to the Other; every subject encountered in psychoanalytic treatment can therefore be diagnosed as either neurotic, or psychotic, or perverse. Each structure is distinguished by a different operation: neurosis by the operation of repression, perversion by the operation of disavowal, and psychosis by the operation of foreclosure. Lacan follows Freud in arguing that the classical method of psychoanalytic treatment (involving free association and the use of the couch) is only appropriate for neurotic subjects and perverse subjects, and not for psychotics. Thus when Lacanian analysts work with psychotic patients, they use a substantially modified method of treatment.

One of the most fundamental axioms of psychoanalysis is that the subject's clinical structure is determined by his experiences in the nrst years of life. In this sense, psychoanalysis is based on a 'critical period hypothesis'; the first years of life are the critical period in which the subject's structure is determined. Although it is not clear how long this critical period lasts, it is held that after this critical period the clinical structure is fixed for ever and cannot be changed. Neither psychoanalytic treatment nor anything else can, for example, turn a psychotic into a neurotic.Within each of the three major clinical structures Lacan distinguishes various subdivisions. For example within the clinical structure of neurosis, he distinguishes two kinds of neurosis (obsessional neurosis and hysteria), and within the clinical structure of psychosis he distinguishes between paranoia, schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis.



References