THE LETTER 31 (Summer 2004) pages 9-23
Law and desire – these are two terms that have been taken together in ethics and in the moral tradition. They have been usually considered as opposites, even in some psychoanalytical orientations where law is understood as a prohibition, as a limit, as a regulation or repression of desire. In fact, this a limited understanding of a very complex articulation. We come across some paradoxes very soon if we hold this point of view, especially in the perspective of psychoanalytical clinics, where desire is very frequently founded in prohibition itself. In addition, prohibition itself can be desired. Therefore, law and desire are not two separate or disjointed fields but two terms that must be considered in a very complex articulation.
Our first approach to this articulation between law and desire is a clinical approach. If we follow Lacan’s teaching of the fifties, we would have to say that the diagnosis is founded on the relation of the subject with the object cause of his desire and his relation to the symbolic law. We make therefore a differential diagnosis between neurosis, psychosis and perversion regarding the inscription of the law in the unconscious and regarding the figures of desire in the subject’s discourse.
How do we conduct this differential diagnosis from a structural point of view?
In the obsessional neuroses we find, firstly, the known figure of desire as the impossible to attain; desire as powerlessness or desire as that which is denied. The subject denies his own desire because he refuses to pay the price for it. Secondly, the law becomes an obligation always…