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New Reflections on the Theory of Power: A Lacanian Perspective

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The aim of this paper is to explore, through key Lacanian psychoanalytic concepts, the theoretical dimensions of a post-Foucauldian understanding of power. It is argued that while Foucault's treatment of power freed it from its foundations in sovereignty and essentialist subjectivity, it nevertheless lacked a specific psychic dimension that would explain the mechanism by which we become subjects — that is, how we become both attached to our own subjection and, at various times, resist it. It is here that Lacan's theory of subjectivity vis-à-vis the lack in the Symbolic Order is relevant. I suggest that the Lacanian Real — as the name given to this lack — allows us to arrive at a more coherent theory of power, as well as explain its fundamental instability. It also allows us to extend the analysis of power — through categories such as fantasy and jouissance — to its symbolic and ideological dimensions, as well as account for contemporary forms of resistance to power.Contemporary Political Theory (2004) 3, 148–167. doi:10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300105

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1Department of Political Science, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia., Email:

Publication date: August 1, 2004

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