Forming the individual
castoriadis and lacan on the socio-symbolic function of violence
This chapter explores the ways in which Jacques Lacan and Cornelius Castoriadis understand the role(s) that violence plays in the formation of the individual. While the majority of the literature tends to focus on their accounts of the symbolic and imaginary to highlight the differences between them, this chapter claims that a different and more harmonious relationship appears once we focus on their respective claims regarding the roles that violence plays in relation to the formation of the individual. For Lacan, violence appears via the process through which the child enters the symbolic realm by learning to talk and use language. Far from being a negative occurrence, however, such violent imposition serves to create a fully functioning (adult) individual. Castoriadis comes to a similar conclusion, albeit from a different ontological background. Whereas Lacan affirms the primary importance of symbolic differential relations, Castoriadis claims that the psyche is structured from and around a monadic core. Lacan and Castoriadis agree therefore that violence is fundamental to the formation of the individual, but they seem to disagree on whether it entails a symbolic or social form of violence. By way of conclusion, however, I undermine this apparent binary opposition by showing that, for Lacan, the symbolic is inherently social and, for Castoriadis, the social is linked to symbolic relations. As a consequence, both agree that violence is key to the formation of the individual and is socio-symbolic in nature.
Rae, G. (2019)., Forming the individual: castoriadis and lacan on the socio-symbolic function of violence, in L. Lauwaert, L. K. Smith & C. Sternad (eds.), Violence and meaning, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 239-265.
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