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Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy

Justin Clemens

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Love, hate, slavery, torture, addiction and death – as this book shows, only psychoanalysis can speak well of such matters

Psychoanalysis was the most important intellectual development of the 20th century, which left no practice from psychiatry to philosophy to politics untouched. Yet it was also in many ways an untouchable project, caught between science and poetry, medicine and hermeneutics. This unsettled, unsettling status has recently induced the philosopher Alain Badiou to characterise psychoanalysis as an ‘antiphilosophy’, that is, as a practice that issues the strongest possible challenges to thought. Justin Clemens takes up the challenge of this denomination here, by re-examining a series of crucial psychoanalytic themes: addiction, fanaticism, love, slavery and torture.

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Introduction: Psychoanalysis is an antiphilosophy
1. Listening or Dispensing? Sigmund Freud on Drugs
2. Love as ontology
3. Revolution or Subversion? Jacques Lacan on Slavery
4. Messianism or Melancholia? Giorgio Agamben on Inaction
5. The Slave, The Fable
6. Torture, psychoanalysis, and beyond
7. Man is a swarm animal

About the Author

Justin Clemens is Associate Professor in English and Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne.


Justin Clemens’ Psychoanalysis is an Antiphilosophy is a fascinating journey into the emergence and convergence of the discourses of psychoanalysis and philosophy, and analyses how their identity is inextricably linked to science and literature in similar and dissimilar ways. Their shared obsession for slavery, alienation and above all else, love, is captured among the seven carefully crafted essays.

- The Age

Justin Clemens makes new and radical links between psychoanalysis, addiction, torture and slavery. He has a gift for illuminating often overlooked moments and details of psychoanalytic history which he skilfully persuades us are of key significance. Not everyone will agree with his over-riding thesis on psychoanalysis and philosophy, but this book will take up its place in the important and continuing debate on the complex relationship between the two.

- Jacqueline Rose, Professor of English, Queen Mary, University of London

Many years ago, I proposed the Lacanian opposition between philosophy and antiphilosophy as a key to understanding the movement of contemporary French thinking. Using this key with amazing virtuosity Justin Clemens illuminates, in a completely new manner, the difficult relationship between philosophy and psychoanalysis.

- Alain Badiou

Despite some dreadful puns, this is a stimulating, thought-provoking and important book, creating a real dialogue between different themes, traditions and styles in both psychoanalysis and philosophy.

- Darian Leader

Justin Clemens is one of the smartest theorists around; his new book is inventive, learned, passionate, and meticulous about the entanglements between literature, psychoanalysis, philosophy, slavery, sexuality, and torture.

- John Frow, University of Sydney

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