The Constitution of the Subject: Primary Repression After Kristeva and Laplanche

European Journal of Social Theory 8 (1):25-42 (2005)
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Abstract

This article traces recent developments in European social theory and psychoanalysis on the theory of the human subject. Critically examining the recent psychoanalytic departures of Julia Kristeva and Jean Laplanche on the status of primary repression as a condition for the constitution of subjectivity, an analysis is presented of the state of the subject in its unconscious relational world. The article suggests ways in which the analyses set out by Kristeva and Laplanche can be further refined and developed, partly through a reconsideration of the intertwining of unconscious representation and repression as developed in the writings of Cornelius Castoriadis, Thomas Ogden and others. For existing psychoanalytical accounts the article suggests we should substitute the concept of ‘rolling identification’, the psychical basis of the shift from self-referential representational activity to an elementary form of inter-subjectivity. Rolling identifications are defined as a representational flux that permits human subjects to create a relation to the self-as-object and pre-object relations. Such primal identification, the article suggests, operates through a ‘representational wrapping of self and others’. The article concludes with a consideration of the cultural significance of primary repression, and the politicization of identification.

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