Is Lacan Borderline?

  • Judith Feher-Gurewich




The author begins the paper by pointing to the undeniable “dialogue de sourds” among the various psychoanalytic traditions. More specifically, she has in mind the radical cleft that has grown ever deeper between the French Lacanian School and the American psychoanalytic tradition. While the Lacanians continue to adhere to an Oedipal model thereby revealing their allegiance to classical Freudianism, their American counterparts no longer consider the centrality of the incestuous wish and the accompanying prohibition. For American psychoanalysis, the author explains, anxiety and narcissistic wounds have taken the place of the incestuous conflict and compromise formation. This has had crucial effects on the way diagnostic categories are conceptualized. For instance, Kohut’s insistence on shame over and above neurotic guilt has led to borderline and narcissistic disorders replacing hysteria and perversion. In this paper, the author attempts to bring about a rapprochement between these two long divided traditions. With this aim in view, she puts forward the radical thesis according to which the aforementioned novelties of American psychoanalysis may be aligned with some of “Lacan’s most apparently abstract contributions to psychoanalysis”, namely the formulae of sexuation and the bizarre adage stipulating that “woman is not-all”. The author hopes that the borderline and narcissistic disorders may lose something of their depiction as “antisocial” and “evil” if “their peculiar behavior could be understood within the Lacanian cartography, as a certain inability to rely fully on an unconscious fantasy.” Concomitantly, this seemingly paradoxical wedding of the French and American traditions could also bring “Lacan’s mysterious and quasi-mystical notion of feminine jouissance down to the painful reality of psychic suffering”.