Sublimation

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In Freud's work, sublimation is a process in which the libido is channelled into apparently non-sexual activities such as artistic creation and intellectual work.

Sublimation thus functions as a socially acceptable escape valve for excess sexual energy which would otherwise have to be discharged in socially unacceptable forms (perverse behavior) or in neurotic symptoms.

The logical conclusion of such a view is that complete sublimation would mean the end of all perversion and all neurosis.

However, many points remain unclear in Freud's account of sublimation.

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Lacans takes up the concept of sublimation in his seminar of 1959-60.

He follows Freud in emphasizing the fact that the element of social recognition is central to the concept, since it is only insofar as the drives are diverted towards this dimension of shared social values that they can be said to be sublimated.[1]

It is this dimension of shared social values which allows Lacan to tie in the concept of sublimation with his discussion of ethics.[2]

However, Lacan's account of sublimation also differes from Freud's on a number of points.

One

Freud's account implies that perverse sexuality as a form of direct satisfaction of the drive is possible, and that sublimation is only necessary because this direct form in prohibited by society.

Lacan however rejects the cocnept of a zero degree of satisfaction, arguing that perversion is not simply a brute natural means of discharging the libido, but a highly structured relation to the drives which are already, in themselves, linguistic rather than biological forces.

  1. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p.144
  2. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p.144