Drives and culture seem to stand at opposite ends. The common assumption has it that drives are indomitable instinctual forces and that culture is called upon to mold them, restrict them and channel them, and since this conflict can never be happily resolved, we seem to be doomed to a perpetual discontent in civilization. This is the point that seems to be implied in the very title of Freud’s Civilization and its discontents (1930). The aim of the present paper is to dismantle this common understanding, for in psychoanalysis everything depends on doing away with its presuppositions. The paper will follow Freud’s argument and scrutinize six distinguishing traits of culture that he spells out, and then try to show that each of them is closely entangled with the nature of the drives such as pinpointed by Freud. The paradoxical outcome would be that drives and culture share the same basic structures, and that if there is conflict it would have to be conceived in very different terms. Freud himself proposed a conflict between two kinds of drives, libido and death drive, rather than a conflict between drives and culture, but his solutions entails many problems. The paper will in conclusion consider the placement of psychoanalysis in the rift between sciences of nature and humanities/social sciences, hence the very divide between nature and culture and the paradoxical ways in which psychoanalysis envisages that divide.
Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana since 1982 and has served as the Advising Researcher in Theory at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands. He is also Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His principal areas of research are Psychoanalysis, Modern French Philosophy (Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Badiou, et. al.), German Idealism, and Art Theory, especially Musicology. With Žižek and others, Dolar was the co-founder of the Ljubljana Society of Theoretical Psychoanalysis, whose main aim is to read late 18th cent. and early 19th cent. German Classical Philosophy through the frame of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. His main field of expertise is the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel, on whom he has written several papers, including a two-volume interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit first published in Slovene between 1990 and 1991. Dolar has lectured extensively across many different Universities in Europe and the United States and is author of hundreds of papers in different scholarly journals and in various collected volumes. Apart from over twelve monograph publications in Slovene, his books published in English most notably include A Voice and Nothing More and Opera’s Second Death, both of which were translated into several languages. His new book The Riskiest Moment is forthcoming with Duke University Press.
A public lecture by Professor Mladen Dolar
The Center for Arts and Humanities
October 13, 2016 at 4:00 pm, CAH seminar room
Bldg. 37, American University of Beirut (AUB)