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RETHINKING DEISRE: THE OBJET PETIT A IN LACANIAN THEORY KIRSHNER

The objet petit a is a fantasy that functions as the cause of desire; as such, it determines whether desire will be expressed within the limits of the pleasure principle or beyond in pursuit of an unlimited jouissance, an impossible and even deadly enjoyment

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

The ephermeral, unlocalizable property of an object that makes it especially desirable

Desire can be defined by its infantile origins as the remainder when satisfaction of physiological needs is subtracted from the child’s demands for its mother’s attention

Because this promise is not attached to any clearly realizable or realistic goal, desire, perhaps like infantile sexuality itself, cannot be fully satisfied

Although intrinsic to the human condition, the process of desiring can be problematic and even totally blocked for many people

The symbolic order can be briefly defined as the collection of codes and distinctions embodied in language and culture, and Lacan insists that human subjectivity can be sustained only within the limits of this framework

What he calls the real remains outside of symbolization, inaccessible to thought

A symbol after all, refers to an abstract concept, so that language can only allude to a concrete external referent without totally capturing it

Because achievement of this aim is impossible, we substitute fantasies of sexual, romantic, narcissistic or material accomplishment that stitch desire to the fabric of social reality, and we convince our self that we will be satisfied y realizing them

Desire is accepted as a valued aspect of the human condition, provided it remains within the bounds of symbolic reality

Culture, in other words, provides a range of symboli objects, which it legitimizes

Private desire is anchored to share social reality notably by scenarios of romantic love in which narcissistic motivations to create a subjective object are constrained by a culturally organized intersubjective field

Te object petit a connot be concretized as an actual thing

The objet petit a represents an unconscious clinging to an impossible desire that cannot be shared or satisfied

Desire, therefore, derives ultimately from the prolonged helplessness of the human infant, who before it has subjective organization as a self depends entirely on the mother for the satisfaction of vital needs

The problematic involves failure of the paternal function (a failure of what he termed symbolic castration) leaving the subject vulnerable to a kind of slippage toward jouissance

The objet petit a to summarize is a fantasy attempting to bridge the gap between separate symbolic existence and the unmediated biological real of harmonious mix up with the primal order