Desire and Collective Identities : Decomposing Ernesto Laclau's Notion of Demand
1 - 11 p.
Populism, Psychoanalysis, Ernesto Laclau, Jacques Lacan
This article argues that Ernesto Laclau’s notion of demand is problematic. By converting a demand into the basic unit of analysis, Laclau inadvertently distances himself from the post-foundational approach that defined his discourse theory. Therefore, for it to be coherent with a discursive approach to social reality, the idea of demand should be decomposed and reevaluated from a psychoanalytic perspective. The article defends the view that Jacques Lacan’s dismissal of demands as a symbolic articulation that conceals desire leads to a fruitful rectification of Laclau’s theory on the construction of collective identities. It shows that the main category present in identificatory processes is desire, not demand. The article concludes that a study focused on desire could analyze a broader set of empirical cases and also provide the basis for a normative and ethical analysis. Moreover, it allows for a reading of Laclau’s references to the psychoanalytic concept of sublimation as a democratic answer to the fantasmatic metonymy of desire.