Being, between two deaths

What, then, is the relation between the Kleinian ‘death instinct’ and drive functioning? In Lacanese, the narcissistic defence is formulated as a perverse structure , so that the ‘death instinct’ becomes an effect of superegoic functioning, not to be confused with the drive, which is for the human subject the relation to the lack. For a Kleinian treatment of this perverse structure, see ‘Psychic Retreats: Pathological organisations in Psychotic, Neurotic and Borderline Patients’, John Steiner, Routledge 1993.

If we understand this perverse structure in terms of a narcissistic organisation of the subject that defends itself against being overwhelmed by the other (i.e. annihilation), then we see how the basic assumption of incohesion:massification/aggregation comes into play as a primitive defence against annihilation (see Earl Hopper on ‘Traumatic Experience in the Unconscious Life of Groups’, Jessca Kingsley, 2003). Massification as a single whole and aggregation of alienated parts are the two ends of the continuum (plenitude vs cynicism). This allows us to understand the question(ing) of ‘faith’ as a being between this Charybdis and Scylla – a relation to drive functioning that remains open to the Otherness of the other. This takes us back to the second order/systemic/‘Kierkegaard’ anxiety spoken of earlier in terms of the ethical challenge facing the leader.

The pleasure principle, then, is the functioning of a particular phantasy formation, with the phantasy formation itself structuring a relation to drive functioning. The aggressivity/destructiveness of the ‘death instinct’ therefore comes from the defence of a particular organisation (economy) of pleasure invested in a perverse relation of phantasy to drive.

We can conclude that the particular challenge of faith is therefore the ethical challenge formulated by Lacan in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960 (Tavistock/Routledge 1992) as being ‘between two deaths’ – accepting having died to a fixing of the relation of phantasy to drive while not yet being dead. The moment that marks this loss of the illusion that the phantasy is the thing itself is referred to in Lacanese as crossing the phantasy.

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