Paul Verhaeghe – Remarks on the Theory and Treatment of (Pathological) Administrations of Enjoyment

THE LETTER 25 (Summer 2002) pages 17-20

Addiction, like prostitution, is a phenomenon as old as the human race. Evidently they have something in common – their relationship to desire and enjoyment – and both pose a problem for the society in which they occur. It is not too difficult to find a reason for this. A society is a perfect example of an institution consisting of a collection of people held together by a number of commonly shared rules and conventions. This applies to every institution, be this a family, a school, an association, or a psychiatric institution. The rules and conventions that we find in these institutions, no matter how private they may be, always have the same aim: the regulation of enjoyment on the basis of a number of collectively developed and often legally binding agreements. Hence, every institution also presents an ideal, precisely through which that regulation is articulated.

Like prostitution, addiction has escaped these conventions, and this is exactly why each poses a problem for society as an institution. This does not detract from the fact that they are fundamentally different. Prostitution evades conventional solutions concerning the sexual relationship (and its impossibility), but in doing so it manages to maintain the convention. Both ordinary regulation – the one subject to the norm -and prostitution, emphasize phallic enjoyment and the exchange between partners. This is not the case with addiction. Lacan’s reflections on this…


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