Oedipus is So Bourgeois: ŽIžek and the Mediating Subject

Oxford Left Review 14:84-91 (2015)
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This paper is a review of R.C. Smith's "The Ticklish Subject? A Critique of Žižek’s Lacanian Theory of Subjectivity, with Emphasis on an Alternative". Whereas Lacan places central importance on the Oedipal phase as a necessary step on the road to the acquisition of subjectivity, R.C. Smith views it as a fundamentally authoritarian moment in early child development. This disagreement, in turn, puts Smith at odds with Žižek’s rupture between the Real and the Symbolic, leading him to advance instead an understanding of the subject as engaged in constant mediation in concert with others. The political ramifications of a notion of mediating subjectivity are intensely gripping, for they disclose nothing less than the promise to recover a sense of effective agency – the possibility of making a difference to one’s sociohistorical conditions – from the ruins of the neoliberal deformation of the subject.

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