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The Symbolic Orther, Ideology, and the Problem of the Subject : Lacan and Althusser

Publication Date
  • 이데올로기
  • Ideology
  • 라캉
  • Lacan
  • 주체
  • Subject
  • 알튀세르
  • Althusser
  • 상징질서
  • Symbolic Order
  • 호명
  • Interpellation
  • 재현
  • Representation
  • Design
  • Linguistics


This essay is an attempt to define in Lacanian terms the Althusserian concept of "imaginary" when the latter says that ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence. Admittedly, this term "imaginary" derives from Lacan's theory of the mirror-stage describing the speculary, narcissistic identification based on méconnaissance. But it occupies a much more complex place within Althusser's writings. Arguably, when he uses that term, he means identifications which have been symbolically mediated and culturally initiated. In other words, Althusserian imaginary is "always, already" defined by the symbolic. This imaginary/symbolic implication regarding ideological identification is further investigated by the way in which "all ideology hails or intepellates concrete individuals as concrete subjects." As is evidenced by the verbal metaphor, "Hey, you there!" the process of ideological interpellation inevitably involves the symbolic dimension as well as the proposed imaginary mirror-structure. It might be said that what Althusser calls "interpellation" designates an admixture of imaginary and symbolic transactions which results in individual's insertion into an already existing discourse, thus securing a subject position. Lacanian frame of reference implies a paradoxical economy in which the subject, which has come into being through the access to the symbolic, freed from the imaginary captivity of the mirror-structure, relapses once again into the imaginary order, culminating in the alienation of the subject in the ego. This imaginary objectification/appropriation of the symbolic occurs when the symbolic axis is "purloined" by the imaginary axis, as is well demonstrated in the schema L. This Lacanian theory of the subject accounts effectively for the Althusserian ideological subject in which both the imaginary and the symbolic are implicated.

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