Although there have been many attempts to apply the ideas of psychoanalysis to political thought, this book is the first to identify the political project inherent in the fundamental tenets of psychoanalysis. And this political project, Todd McGowan contends, provides an avenue for emancipatory politics after the failure of Marxism in the twentieth century.
Where others seeking the political import of psychoanalysis have looked to Freud’s early work on sexuality, McGowan focuses on Freud’s discovery of the death drive and Jacques Lacan’s elaboration of this concept. He argues that the self-destruction occurring as a result of the death drive is the foundational act of emancipation around which we should construct our political philosophy. Psychoanalysis offers the possibility for thinking about emancipation not as an act of overcoming loss but as the embrace of loss. It is only through the embrace of loss, McGowan suggests, that we find the path to enjoyment, and enjoyment is the determinative factor in all political struggles—and only in a political project that embraces the centrality of loss will we find a viable alternative to global capitalism.
“Psychoanalysis does not provide new positive political programs; it just discerns the contours of a ‘negativity,’ of a disruptive force—the death drive—which poses a threat to every stable collective link. Based on this insight, different psychoanalysts advocated views which were revolutionary, liberal, or conservative. But is this all that is to be said? McGowan’s book introduces order into this mess by way of drawing a radically new line of separation: the true lesson of psychoanalysis is that emancipatory politics should not be based on any notion of the common Good, but on the negativity of the death drive itself. The consequences of this idea are shattering, taking us far beyond all the standard versions of Freudo-Marxism—nothing remains the same along the axis psychoanalysis-politics after Enjoying What We Don’t Have.” —Slavoj Zizek, author of Living in the End Times
About the Author:
Todd McGowan is an associate professor of film studies at the University of Vermont. He is the author of several books, most recently The Fictional Christopher Nolan and Out of Time: Desire in Atemporal Cinema.