Althusser and Lacan

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Mon Dec 25 11:53:24 MST 2000

George Snedeker wrote:

> Lacan's concept of the mirror stage plays a central role in Althusser's
> theory of Ideology. for Althusser, ideology is the misrecognition of ones
> relation to society. it is eternal, since no one can ever truly recognize
> her/his true relation to society. even socialism would require such
> misrecognitions. well, they would be different misrecognitions?

I have never read Lacan except for one bizarre paragraph quoted
by Zizek, but everything I have ever read about him, both by his
defenders and his opponents, leads me to think him an utter fraud.
(A fraud in the sense that he bases arguments, for example, on
one or another supposed historical fact about which he quite
obviously is not only utterly ignorant but is depending on a source
equally ignorant.) And I strongly suspect (Larsen's arguments in
the article I cited earlier tend to support this) that fraudulent features
of Lacan enter into Althusser's ISAs. But again, Althusser was really
neither a fool nor a mere intellectual: he had risked his life many
times in the Resistance. And I think his ISAs are worth thinking
about. They lead Jameson to nonsense I believe but they are not
entirely nonsense.

Incidentally, ref. Althusser & bipolar affective disorder. I finally
figured out a couple weeks ago while conversing with a friend
who is bipolar how those who do not suffer it can, if they want
to, get an imaginative grasp of it. Take a maximum dose of some
sort of speed (e.g., dexadrine), then engage in an activity which
requires judgment of the future -- e.g., go out driving on a
busy two-lane highway and pass as many cars as you can,
trying your best (which may not be good enough) to guage
accurately whether there is enough time to pass the car
in front of you before you reach the next curve. You may not
survive the experiment of course.  :-)


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