This contribution presents a reconstruction of the way the concept of sadism was introduced and anchored in psychoanalytic metapsychology. It focusses on the first two editions (1905 and 1910) of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Freud’s singular indebtedness to Krafft-Ebing is emphasized. Subsequently, it is argued that Freud’s selective reading of Krafft-Ebing is determined by his model of hysteria. Freud seems unable to give an adequate account of sadism in his Three Essays and in his later work, sadism remains a conceptual “problem child” becoming an oversimplified passe-partout concept used to discuss the theme of human aggressiveness.
Where do we find the link between the Freudian death drive and the Lacanian Real? In this theoretical enquiry we trace the relationship between the growing pains of the death drive and the Real in the writings of Freud and Lacan. With Freud we examine the place of the death drive in a theoretical framework. This search inevitably leads to the constitution of the pleasure experience which is very hard to understand in relation to the death drive. We run into the trauma, which is the pleasurable encounter with the Real. Next we concentrate on the Lacanian elaboration of the death drive in the coming into being of the subject. Through this, we stumble upon the Real as that enigmatic category which escapes any elaboration. This Real is then examined in combination with the death drive in an attempt to formulate their relationship. The Borromean Knot of the Real-Symbolic-Imaginary in masochism concludes this paper.
This contribution focuses on Freud’s elaboration of the genesis of sadism and masochism in “Instincts and their Vicissitudes” (1915c). We first briefly recap the standard reading of this text by Jean Laplanche which relies on Freud’s concept of “anaclisis”. In our opinion, Laplanche’s reading implicitly presupposes that Freud’s discussion of sadism and masochism questions the sexualisation of an originally non-sexual aggressivity. In contrast, we argue that Freud’s argumentation starts from the question how the aggressivity that is inherent in sexuality relates to sadism and masochism qua perversion. The matrix of obsessional neurosis and the development of the ego discussed in the same context are of crucial importance for the systematic development of Freud’s answer to this last question.