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Chapter 3 Toward a Unified Theory of Four Discourses and Sexual Difference Chapter 3 Toward a Unified Theory of Four Discourses and Sexual Difference 3.1 Formulas of Sexuation One of the crucial differences between psychoanalysis and philosophy concerns the status of sexual difference: for philosophy, the subject is not inherently sexualized, sexualization occurs only at the contingent, empirical level; whereas psychoanalysis promulgates sexuation into a kind of formal, a priori condition of the very emergence of the subject. (It is homologous with the notion of desire: in Kant’s philosophy, the faculty of desire is “pathological,” dependent on contingent objects, so there can be no “pure faculty of desiring ,” no “critique of pure desire,” while for Lacan, psychoanalysis precisely is a kind of “critique of pure desire.” In other words, desire does have a nonpathological (“a priori”) object-cause: the objet petit a, the object which overlaps with its own lack.) For that precise reason, the Lacanian problematic of sexual difference—of the unavoidability of sexuation for human beings (“beings of language”)—has to be strictly distinguished from the (de)constructionist problematic of the “social construction of gender,” of the contingent discursive formation of gender identities which emerge by being performatively enacted. In order to grasp this crucial distinction, the analogy with class antagonism may be of some help: class antagonism (the unavoidability of the individual’s “class inscription” in a class society, the impossibility of staying beyond, remaining unmarked by class antagonism) also cannot be reduced to the notion of the“social construction of class identity,” since every determinate “construction of class identity” is already a “reactive ” or “defense” formation, an attempt to “cope with” (to come to terms with, to pacify) the trauma of class antagonism. Every symbolic “class identity ” already displaces class antagonism by translating it into a positive set of symbolic features: the conservative organicist notion of society as a collective Body, with different classes as bodily organs (the ruling class as the benevolent and wiser “head,” workers as “hands,” etc.) is only the most obvious T o w a r d a U n i f i e d T h e ory of Fou r Di scou rses a n d S exual Di f f erence 88 case of it.And, for Lacan, things are the same with sexuation: it is impossible to “stay outside,” the subject is always-already marked by it, it always-already “takes sides,” it is always-already “partial” with regard to it. The paradox of the problematic of the “social construction of gender” is that, although it presents itself as a break out of “metaphysical” and/or essentialist constraints , it implicitly accomplishes the return to the pre-Freudian philosophical (i.e., nonsexualized) subject: the problematic of the “social construction of gender” presupposes the subject as given, it presupposes the space of contingent symbolization, while for Lacan, “sexuation” is the price to be paid for the very constitution of the subject, for its entry into the space of symbolization. One should insist here on the adequate reading of Freud’s infamous statement concerning the status of sexual difference: “Anatomy is destiny.” This statement should be read as a Hegelian “speculative judgment” in which the predicate“passes over” into the subject.That is to say: its true meaning is not the obvious one, the standard target of the feminist critique (“the anatomical difference between the sexes directly founds, is directly responsible for, the different sociosymbolic roles of men and women”), but rather the opposite one: the “truth” of anatomy is “destiny,” i.e., a symbolic formation. In the case of sexual identity, an anatomical difference is“sublated,” turned into the medium of appearance/expression—more precisely, into the material support—of a certain symbolic formation. So, in Hegelese, we should read Freud’s“anatomy is destiny” as a speculative judgment in which it is not only a predicate (being-destiny) that is added to the same subject (anatomy)—it is the predicate (destiny) which becomes subject of the process, and subordinates to itself as its predicate what was previously the subject. In short, what sustains the difference between the two sexes is not the direct reference to the series of symbolic oppositions (masculine Reason versus feminine Emotion, masculine Activity versus feminine Passivity, etc.), but a different way of coping with the necessary inconsistency involved in the act of assuming one and the same universal symbolic feature (ultimately that of “castration”). It is not that man stands for Logos as...


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