"Sociology Before Linguistics: Lacan's Debt to Durkheim"

In François Raffoul & David Pettigrew (eds.), Disseminating Lacan. Albany, NY, USA: (1996)
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Commentators have long remarked the influence of Lévi-Strauss on Lacan, yet they have largely ignored important philosophical parallels between Lacan and Emile Durkheim, Lévi-Strauss's predecessor in the French anthropological tradition. I suggest that we are better served by understanding Lacan as heir to Durkheim rather than Lévi-Strauss, especially when Lévi-Strauss is seen as the ambassador of a new "scientific" method ("structural anthropology") modeled on structural linguistics. Lacan's reference to linguistics is, I maintain, a red herring that has misled interpreters. Instead, Durkheim's ideas offer a more fruitful interpretive lens to understand the paradigm shift that defines Lacan's mature thought: a renewed understanding of the primacy of collective categories over individual experience and of the importance of the social and "symbolic" status of the human environment as opposed to its grounding in biological or physical reality.
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