Can Lacan’s conception of the subject cast light on addiction?

  • Bert Olivier
Keywords: addiction, Lacan, jouissance, repetition, masochism


The present article attempts to demonstrate that Jacques Lacan’s notion of the human subject provides the conceptual resources to come to a better understanding of addiction—a particularly intractable phenomenon, judging by the number of theoretical approaches to it. The structure of the subject in terms of the three ‘orders’ of the ‘real’, the ‘imaginary’, and the ‘symbolic’, according to Lacan, is briefly discussed as a necessary backdrop to the discussion that follows. It is argued that, because the ego is for Lacan an imaginary construct, one would look in vain to it for ‘ego stability’ to overcome addiction, and that it is to the ‘je’ (‘I’) of the symbolic that one should turn instead. The function of desire, and its relation to excess, are noted, before exploring the latter concept in relation to jouissance in two contexts. The first relates to jouissance, trauma, the ‘real’, prohibition, and transgression, and the second to jouissance, repetition, masochism, and the death instinct. These articulations of jouissance are subsequently employed to arrive at formulating possible therapeutic interventions, which are then, in turn, related to the role of the ‘talking cure’ in the symbolic register. To conclude, the question of power relations in political terms, and the implications of living in a capitalist society are briefly indicated.


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How to Cite
Olivier, B. (2023). Can Lacan’s conception of the subject cast light on addiction?. Psychotherapy & Politics International, 21(3 & 4), 1-11.