Subject in a state of disintegration: A Lacanian reading of Lasch’s “The Culture of Narcissism”

In “The Culture of Narcissism” (1979), American social critic Christopher Lasch shows how the disintegration of traditional patriarchal authority and the rise of neo-capitalism has spawned a new, narcissistic form of subjectivity. In the current article, the author tries to relate Lasch’s work to the postmodern problematic of the non-existence of the big Other, as described by a number of authors inspired by Lacan. It is argued that the demise of symbolic influence has given rise to a proliferation of narcissistic ideals and the emergence of a “permissive” but extremely cruel superego. The imaginary identity of the narcissistic individual is no longer fixed in the symbolic, but is permanently refashioned and restyled for commercial purposes. On the basis of an interpretation of Lacan’s discours du capitaliste, this thesis is further developed and applied to a number of contemporary pathologies. The author states that these pathologies can be listened to as a complaint directed against the capitalist Other. The response of psychoanalysis to the non-existence of the big Other consists therefore of an ethic of good listening, listening that invites speech that does not leave the subject undivided.