The Lacanian Subject: Subject of Desire or the Subject of Drive?

  • Christopher R. Bell University


This article reviews the concepts of Alienation and Separation as two distinct “logical moments” constitutive of subjectivity as theorized by Jacques Lacan. These logical moments, mediated by the materiality of language and enabling subjective orientations to the Other, are to be regarded as distinct psychical events that fundamentally structure a person's relation to the dimension of the Other, and without which linguistic subjectivity – becoming a subject of language – would not be possible. It is emphasized here that these events are by no means an inevitable sequence in a natural developmental teleology but are rather contingent occurrences related to both the underlying cognitive capacities of a young child and to the specific nature of the child – caregiver relationship. That is to say, there may be underlying cognitive-developmental issues at stake impeding the occurrence of Alienation and Separation as subjective psychical events in a caregiving environment where they would normally occur, just as much as there may be a disturbance in the child-caregiver relationship that objectively disrupts these occurrences from ever taking place. It should also be noted that Lacanian Psychoanalysis is a culturally specific discourse, responding to and intervening within specific cultural configurations – those of Western modernity in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The clinical practice of Lacanian Psychoanalysis advocates the production of a third moment of subjectivity, beyond Alienation and Separation, wherein subjectivity is finally construed with regard to objects of drive / jouissance, rather than the Other's demand or the Other's desire. This article limits itself to an overview of the first two moments of subjectivity, Alienation and Separation. The concept of Alienation in the Other's demand will be used as a way to clarify the clinical intervention made by Melanie Klein with the developmentally disordered Little Dick, described in her 1930 article, “The Importance of Symbol Formation in The Development of the Ego”. 


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How to Cite
Bell, C. (2014). The Lacanian Subject: Subject of Desire or the Subject of Drive?. Language and Psychoanalysis, 3(1), 39-65.
Original Articles