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The Lacanian Left

Psychoanalysis, Theory, Politics

Yannis Stavrakakis

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In recent years psychoanalysis - especially Lacanian theory - has been gradually acknowledged as a vital resource in the ongoing re-orientation of contemporary political theory and analysis. Of particular note is that the work of Jacques Lacan is increasingly being used by major political philosophers associated with the Left. This indicates the dynamic emergence of a new theoretico-political horizon: that of the 'Lacanian Left'. However, this has yet to be properly conceived and structured as a field. The Lacanian Left is the first book to bring it into academic consciousness and to draw its implications for concrete political analysis in a systematic way.

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Contents

Introduction: Locating the Lacanian Left
PART I
Theory: Dialectics of Disavowal
Chapter 1. Antinomies of Creativity: Lacan and Castoriadis on Social Construction and the Political
Chapter 2. Laclau with Lacan: Negotiating the Affective Limits of Discourse
Chapter 3. Zizek's 'Perversion': The Lure of Antigone and the Fetishism of the Act
Excursus on Badiou
PART II
Analysis: Dialectics of Enjoyment
Chapter 4. What Sticks? From Symbolic Power to Jouissance
Chapter 5. Enjoying the Nation: A Success Story?
Chapter 6. Lack of Passion: European Identity Revisited
Chapter 7. The Consumerist 'Politics' of Jouissance and the Fantasy of Advertising
Chapter 8. Democracy in Post-Democratic Times.

About the Author

Yannis Stavrakakis is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Theoretical Studies in the Humanities and the Social Sciences at the University of Essex. He is the author of Lacan and the Political (1999) and co-editor of Discourse Theory and Political Analysis (2000) and Lacan and Science (2002).

Reviews

This insightful, compelling book grapples with some of the most urgent political concerns facing us today. Stavrakakis writes, however, with unshakeable optimism, arguing forcefully that ethics and psychoanalysis can reinvigorate and partly redefine democratic alliances.
- Christopher Lane, Professor of English, Northwestern University
This book is an extraordinary tour de force. After a panoramic view of the Lacanian streams that cut through the intellectual landscape of contemporary political analysis, Stavrakakis develops his own interpretation of how a Lacanian political theory can shed light on fundamental social issues such as national identity, consumerism and advertising. Impeccably researched, invariably stimulating and madly original, this book will appeal to everyone interested in cutting-edge political theory and social analysis. As a bonus, many of Lacan’s most difficult concepts and formulations are elucidated and elaborated in accessible terms.
- Dany Nobus, Professor of Psychology and Psychoanalysis, Brunel University
Yannis Stavrakakis contends that the Lacanian rotation around the unsymbolizable element of experience provides the components of modesty and energy upon which to rebuild the Left. He makes an excellent case. While we must also address allied, yet different sources of modesty and energy identified by other traditions, this lucid and impassioned text provides an indispensable contribution to the empowerment of the Left.
- William E. Connolly, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University
Stavrakakis has done some of the best writing there is on the relation between the real and the symbolic in Lacanian theory.
- Ed Pluth, California State University, Chico, Philosophy in Review
In this readable and enlightening book, Stavrakakis deftly explores the affective limits of discourse analysis while revealing the transformative potential of Lacanian political theory. A "must read" for anyone looking for novel approaches to nationalism, consumerism and the other political and social conundrums of our day.
- J.K. Gibson-Graham, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Australian National University
Stavrakakis' The Lacanian Left is a virtual diatribe on the necessity and perhaps the impossibility of anti-utopian radicalism. It is outstanding in its scope and breadth of analysis and by far the best and most learned of what has been written in terms of polemical defence and reflexive reconstruction of post-Marxist politics.
- The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Studies
The Lacanian Left is a well-researched, thought-provoking book, which makes a refreshing contribution to contemporary discussions in political theory... a must read for all those engaged in critical reflection on democratic politics.
- Paulina Tambakaki, Political Studies Review
Stavrakakis sets himself a truly daunting task: to draw the political implications, in the current era of global turbulence and ‘post-political’ ideology, of Lacan’s intractable concept of ‘the real’. This means moving from the comfort-zone of cultural studies out into a dangerous theoretical minefield. It is the great merit of this book to have steered a successful course, combining critical readings of such influential thinkers as Laclau,
- Luke Thurston, University of Wales, Aberystwyth
The Lacanian Left is characterized by the same strengths as this earlier text [Stavrakakis's Lacan and the Political, 1999]: fluency with the Lacanian vernacular; a flair for exemplification; and an admirable accessibility of style… Here, writ-large, is perhaps the most obvious contribution The Lacanian Left makes to critical psychology: it provides a model of how one might go about conducting analyses of power that are alive to the effects of the real, to those passionate investments and intensities of identification that go beyond the horizons of pleasure and symbolic mediation alike.
- Derek Hook, London School of Economics, Annual Review of Critical Psychology