self & society

Patte 39

Lacan is arguably the most astute and extensive theorizer of self and society, in a discipline and practice dedicated to self and society.

Lacan is someone whose theories an architect may be interested in knowing about if they want to know more about how their buildings may have an effect on an individual (a self) and on a group (a society). And also how they may have an effect on their client or their client on them, because to you your client is part of society, and to your client, you are society.

We need to know more about what Lacan means by self and society. Lacan does not say society, but Other. Other with a capital O. Other is not other people per se, that’s others (small o) other people, your significant other, but rather the social, ethical, legal, economic, political, legal codes that regulate other people and organize them as a society, and, known and unbeknownst to you, regulate you too. It is all the codes, laws, regulations, taboos, customs, what Foucault called power relations, whether they be explicitly stated and enforced, like the legal code, or an uncodifed practice, like customs that regulate marriages or care of the body or familial relations. And self has at least two components. There is an ego which is what we usually refer to as sense of self and which in psychoanalysis is regarded as imaginary, because it is something that only you perceive even though you think others do too, and is closely related to self-image. And an unconscious which is subject to the codes that constitute the Other. If the ego is imaginary, the unconscious is symbolic because codes are symbolic and language like, and when explicitly formulated, are formulated as symbols with a form of grammar. The self is therefor an assemblage of ego and unconscious, which Lacan usually refers to as the subject, the human subject. He also calls the subject the speaking being or parletre, which underscores the important role that the symbolic realm – in particular, language (hence a neologism) – plays in human life, but also the fact that psychoanalysis is the talking cure. In psychoanalysis, the subject speaks. In addition to subject and Other, we can speak about the relation of self to Other. Lacan frequently says ‘field of the Other’. The Other is an almost limitless symbolic field that we navigate as our daily lives. We can ask, what relation does the subject have to the field of the Other; how is the subject positioned in this field? The three so-called clinics of psychoanalysis, or broad areas of treatment are the neurotic the psychotic and the pervert.

Pierre Patte, Key Plan of the Monumens eriges en France a la gloire de Louis XV (1765)

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