Lacan

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Lacan

  1. 1. Paper submitted to the AoM CMS research workshopStream: Using psychoanalysis to reconceptualise organisation studies University of Southern California 7-8 August 2008 LACAN AND THE ‘WOMAN QUESTION’: IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANISATION STUDIES Nancy Harding, Bradford University School of Management, UK. n.h.harding@bradford.ac.ukOverviewThis is very much ‘work in progress’. It has been written too quickly, has majoromissions, skates over arguments too lightly, ignores complexity, etc., etc., etc. Ihave not yet provided a summary of the expanding literature that uses Lacan inanalysing organisations. However, its arguments have been circulating in my mind(wherever that is) and emerging to bother me in all sorts of places, all sorts of times,over the last few years. This is the first attempt to put them on paper.Introduction: Lacan and the ‘Woman Question’One particularly troubling aspect of Lacan’s work remains largely ignored in thenewly-flourishing Lacanian management and organisation studies (MOS): theapparent misogyny of an author who could state that ‘there is no such thing aswoman’. There is, to date, only one reference in Lacanian MOS to Lacan’sexploration of gender, found in a warning given by Jones and Spicer (2005). Theycomment on the need for caution in using Lacan due to the ‘patriarchal stain’ ofFreud’s heritage in his work, and ‘his troubled relationship with questions of gender’(p.229). They note that ‘Anyone hoping to engage with Lacan must face up to thisstain’ (op cit), although they ‘do not think that a stained carpet is necessarily a uselessone’ (ibid). Their warning has gone largely unheeded and, indeed, untested. Thereis, further, a curious absence in MOS of reference to the phallus, defined by Lacan asthe master signifier so of huge importance in his work. An admittedly brief search,and one I must follow up as I develop this paper, reveals that in Organization Studiesthe phallus has been mentioned only four times, once in a non-Lacanian paper and theremaining three occurrences are in book reviews. There is no mention of the phalluswhatsoever in Organization, and only two in Human Relations, one in a book reviewand one in a bibliography. (I count my own work similarly guilty of such ignorance[Harding, 2007]). 1
  2. 2. Given the fervour with which Lacan’s position on gender has been debated in otherdisciplines, especially gender, cultural and psychoanalytical studies, this coyness, thisabsence, is perhaps surprising. Those debates show that the sort of stain in Lacan isopen to contestation: his theories have been not only abhorred but also celebrated byfeminist writers: he can be seen as either phallocrat or feminist (Gallop, 1985, p. 133).It is this contradiction in interpretations of Lacan that, I suggest, are particularlyimportant to understanding organisations through a Lacanian lens. To remain inignorance of the potential misogyny in a Lacanian interpretation is to perpetuatemisogyny in MOS, whilst to remain in ignorance of Lacan’s arguments regardinggender are to ignore an extremely important way of understanding organisations, inwhich must be included the academy. These two positions are not incompatible, Iwill argue, but should be held in tension.The ‘stain’ arises because dotted throughout Lacan’s works are statements thatannounce ‘there is no such thing as woman’ and, furthermore, that sexualrelationships are impossible. This is in a context where the master signifier thatmakes all signification possible is called the phallus. Lacan states, very clearly, thatthe phallus is not reducible to the penis, so it is ostensibly very different from thepenis that underpinned Freud’s opus. However, his use of the term ‘phallus’ furtheropens his work to charges of misogyny. Man, for Lacan, desires the phallus whilstwoman is the phallus. The woman, it would seem, is reduced to the status of nothingmore than a male member, an object denied speech, agency, subjectivity and, indeed,the possibility of being.Such statements led to a radical challenge by feminists, notably Kristeva whoestablished a body of theory in direct opposition to Lacan’s interpretations. For thepurpose of this paper, however I am drawing upon Judith Butler as an example of afeminist critique of Lacan. Butler is somewhat ambivalent in her relationship toLacan, drawing upon his ideas to assist her interpretation in some parts of her work,preferring to return to Freud in other parts (for example, in The Psychic Life of Power,1997), and developing powerful critiques of Lacan in other aspects, such as in thechapter entitled ‘The Lesbian Phallus and the Morphological Imaginary’ in Bodiesthat Matter (1993), an argument I am drawing upon in this paper. I am using Butler’scritique of Lacan’s theory of the phallus because, firstly, to understand Lacan’stheories regarding women it is necessary to explore the role of the phallus in his work,and Butler’s interpretation is a powerful interrogation of that role. Secondly twoincidents inspired the writing of this paper, and Butler provides a theoretical lensthrough which to start reading them.The first of these occurred at the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead, England in January2008, when I was gripped by a particular exhibit. The sculpture that fascinated melooked like a shop window full of a miscellany of white objects. There werestatuettes of Jesus Christ, a garden gnome, ET, the Starship Enterprise, a knight onhorseback; there was a model of a virus and numerous other white objects on whiteshelves. Peering short-sightedly at them, I found myself in a game of recognisingwhat each object might represent until, that is, an object out of place in each littleexhibit filtered through the myopia. Each object had attached to it a phallus – erectand not really shaped like a penis, but undoubtedly a phallic attachment. Goodness, Ithought, this is Lacan in three-dimensional form: everything is phallicised, nothingcan be signified outside a phallicised language. There was no information about the 2
  3. 3. sculpture so I asked about it at the information desk on the ground floor. I describedthe exhibit in the detail I have given above. The two young women took to searchingthe computer – failure. They phoned the (male) curator on the second floor anddescribed the exhibit but without using the words ‘phallus’ or ‘penis’. But – success.They printed some details for me. When I checked the details later I found that thetwo very efficient assistants had given me details of the wrong exhibit 1. They had, itseemed, been unable to repeat the word ‘phallus’ when they’d been describing theexhibit to the curator and their tongue-tiedness led to them accepting a title that hadno mention of the words ‘phallus’ or ‘penis’ in it.That incident seemed to me to capture powerfully the notion that everything isphallicised and that the phallicisation of all objects serves to silence the women whocannot possess even the metaphor that is the spoken word ‘phallus’. It led to thequestions: is it possible for female MOS theorists to write or speak about Lacan?Does not the position of the phallus in Lacan’s work silence us? Indeed, why is thereso much focus on lack and desire in Lacanian MOS that the phallus is present onlythrough its absence? An earlier incident, and one I will return to below, confirmedthe necessity of asking these questions. This occurred in the psychoanalytical streamat the Critical Management Conference in 2007. Because of stream organiser duties Icould attend only one session, in which Lacanian ideas featured prominently. In thatsession women sat silently while men debated passionately, angrily, testily eachother’s interpretation of Lacanian terms. The Lacanian phallus seemed to hover in theair. My immediate thought was that the Lacanian turn signified a continuing silencingof women in MOS. In this paper I will suggest that that thought was too simplistic.Rather, I will argue that the very name ‘Lacan’ is phallicised and has thus becomeperformative of the masculine and feminine within the academy. This hasimplications for how we theorise organisations and teach our students.To reach such a conclusion I am drawing firstly on Judith Butler’s (1993) ‘LesbianPhallus and Morphological Imaginary’ as an example of a feminist critique of Lacan.I will then contrast this with the celebratory feminist interpretation of Seminar XXoffered by Jacqueline Rose and Juliet Mitchell (1982). Teresa Brennan’s (1993)interpretation offers a way of reconciling these two conflicting approaches, so in thefourth part of the paper I turn to her work. In the conclusion I bring all four authors’work together, to explore how the name, Lacan, has become phallicised in MOS. Isuggest the need to keep the critical and celebratory interpretations of Lacan intension if those of us in the academy who see an emancipatory potential in our workare not to pollute our ideas with an anti-emancipatory inflection.Butler on Lacan and the PhallusFor Lacan (2006), the phallus is the privileged signifier, that is, that which originatesor generates significations. It is neither a fantasy, nor an object nor ‘the organ – penisor clitoris – that it symbolizes’ (2006, p. 579) but is ‘the signifier that is destined todesignate meaning effects as a whole, insofar as the signifier conditions them by itspresence as signifier’ (op cit). The phallus is therefore that which makes meaningpossible. Always veiled, the phallus is, furthermore, conjoined with desire. Througha dialectic of demand and desire, man has the phallus, while woman is the phallus.1 The artist is Terence Koh. I have since found a book that explores his work but unfortunately thisparticular sculpture was not included. 3
  4. 4. Butler’s critique of this position is that Lacan sustains the hegemonic imaginary which privileges a masculinist and heteronormative regime in his thesis of the phallus as privileged signifier. Although Lacan specifically states that the phallus is not the penis, she shows, in ‘The Lesbian Phallus and the Morphological Imaginary, that he slips from this position throughout his work, conflating phallus and penis. ‘It is not enough’, she writes (p. 90) ‘to claim that the signifier is not the same as the signified (phallus/penis), if both terms are nevertheless bound to each other by an essential relation in which that difference is contained’. However, as would be expected in Butler’s work, this observation is only a minor part of her account. Rather than allowing the phallus to be Lacan’s master, or privileged, signifier, Butler shows that the phallus itself has to be subject to ‘a process of being signified and resignified’ (p. 89). It can therefore be resignified and its meaning can change. This requires that we contest and interrupt the reiteration (and reveal the performative structure of its make-up) by which the phallus as privileged signifier has its power. Butler achieves this through exploring how anatomy, embodiment, and sexual difference tbecome ‘site[s] of proliferating resignification’ (p. 89). Through a careful reading of Freud and Lacan she shows that any body part could have done similar justice in symbolising the privileged signifier; she thus renders unstable the phallus as signifier.Her thesis begins with Freud’s claim “The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it isnot merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface” (Butler, 1993, p.59). Tracing Freud’s ideas of embodiment through his essay ‘On Narcissim: AnIntroduction’ (1914) and The Ego and the Id (1923), she shows that Freud’s accountof the development of the ego inadvertently establishes the conditions for thearticulation of the body as morphology. Anatomy is not therefore a stable referent butis dependent on an imaginary schema (Butler, 1993, p. 65). It is psychic projectionwhich confers boundaries and, hence, unity between the psychic and the material (p.66). The body is thus not an ontological in-itself that becomes available only througha psyche that allows the appearancae of the body as an epistemological object (p. 66).Rather, psyche and morphology are mutually formative, for the body is the‘constitutive demand that mobilizes psychic action from the start’ and which, in ‘thatvery mobilization, and, in its transmuted and projected bodily form, remains thatpsyche’ (p. 69).She finds in Freud a concentration on a ‘singular genital organ’ that does not reside inone particular place but ‘proliferate(s) in unexpected locations’ (p. 60). The wholebody is originally libidinal and a source of pleasure but eventually that pleasurebecomes concentrated in the genitalia. However, she detects a logical problem inFreud in that he installs the (male) genitals as both the prototype and the substitutionof other body parts. According to Butler this could be read as “an originatingidealization” of these genitals ‘as the symbolically encoded phallus’ (p. 60). Whatlater becomes the privileged signifier in Lacan is therefore ‘itself generated by a stringof examples of erotogenic body parts’ (p. 61). The phallus itself therefore becomesthe tool of suppression of this ambivalence. Butler reveals that Freud’s conflation ofthe phallus and the penis produces the genitals as on the one hand a symbolic idealand on the other an imaginary anatomy. Butler is able to show that Freud’s attempt torepair this lost phallic property for the penis at the same time establishes the 4
  5. 5. “fundamental transferability of that property” (p. 62). For Butler this becomes thegrounds for establishing the lesbian phallus because the distinction between “beingand having the phallus” (p. 63) is destabilized.Turning to the question of how bodies assume ‘the morphe, the shape by which theirmaterial discreteness is marked’ (op cit), Butler now explores Lacan’s account of themirror stage. Here, the infant held in front of the mirror suddenly recognises its selfin its image, and in ignoring the hands that hold it upright, imagines its self as wholeand fully formed. Lacan, Butler suggests (p. 71), shows here that the body isachieved through processes of psychic projection and elaboration. Lacan goes on toelaborate how this body must now submit to language and to the marking of sexualdifference if it is to sustain is phantasmatic integrity. It is here that the Significationof the Phallus (Lacan, 2006) must be incorporated into the analysis, for this lecturefollows the differential accession of bodies to sexed positions within the symbolic.This allows Butler to argue that it is at the mirror stage that the organs are installed asprivileged signifiers (p. 77). In other words, she writes, ‘it is the narcissisticallyimbued organ which is then elevated to a structuring principle which forms and givesaccess to all knowable objects’ (p. 78). But Lacan’s account implies that all knowableobjects will have an anthropomorphic and androcentric character, and thisandrocentric character will be phallic (p. 78). However, Butler’s reading of Freud andLacan allow her to argue that the phallus does not require the penis to symboliseitself, and that it can operate through symbolising other body parts (p. 84). For Butler, Lacan’s theory is problematic on the one hand because the morphological scheme is masculine and on the other hand because he equates the body as an idealized centre of control with the phallus as the controller of signification. The lesbian phallus challenges the possibility of such a centre. In challenging the link of the phallus to masculine morphology, it becomes possible to allow for properties that ‘no longer belong properly to any anatomy (p. 64). Masculine and feminine are shown to be arbitrary morphologies, the “imaginary boundaries of sex” (88) are destabilised.Lacan, in Butler’s reading, uses a symbol to represent the privileged, or master,signifier that is inescapably linked with the penis. Despite his assertions otherwise,that connection is retained in Lacan’s own work. From Freud, she is able to show thepossibility of any body part being able to do the work of the phallus in representingthe privileged signifier. Butler’s critique of Lacan is therefore that he sustains thehegemonic imaginary that allows for nothing but a sharp divide between heterosexualand homosexual, male and female. I turn now to the work of Juliet Mitchell andJacqueline Rose, who argue just the opposite.Mitchell and Rose and Seminar XXThe first translation into English of Lacan’s important seminar on sex and sexuality,Seminar XX, was undertaken by Jacqueline Rose. In her introduction to this text,Juliet Mitchell outlines the history of Freud’s development of the castration complexas the inaugurator of sex and sexuality. Lacan, she writes, remains true to Freud’sperspective of the ‘fragmented subject of shifting and uncertain sexual identity’(1982, p. 26). He follows Freud in understanding that ‘[t]o be human is to besubjected to a law which decentres and divides: sexuality is created in a division, the 5
  6. 6. subject is split; but an ideological world conceals this from the conscious subject whois supposed to feel whole and certain of a sexual identity’ (ibid). ‘Sexual identity’here refers to one’s place as male and female, and to one’s object of sexual choice.The fragility of sexual identity is reinforced a few pages later by Jacqueline Rose,who writes that for Freud, as for Lacan, ‘sexual difference is constructed at a price …that .. involves subjection to a law which exceeds any natural or biological division’(Rose, 2002, p. 28) . The phallus, in Rose’s understanding, becomes a ‘concept’which ‘stands for that subjection, and for the way in which women are very preciselyimplicated in its process’ (ibid).With Mitchell and Rose’s interpretation of Freud’s, and later Lacan’s, theses on sexand sexuality we thus see immediately that sexuality, and subjectivity itself, is afragile accomplishment rather than a given position, but an accomplishment that isnecessary for recognition of the self as a subject. In Lacan, Rose writes (p. 29) wesee an account of ‘the fictional nature of the sexual category to which every humansubject is … assigned’. Indeed, sexual identity operates as a law in Lacan’s thesis:subjects are ‘enjoined’ to take up a sexed position, lining up according to whetherthey have or do not have the phallus. Thus ‘male’ and ‘female’ are notions emergingout of fantasy (p. 33).Rose defends Lacan against the charge of phallocentrism. Rather than being an‘unproblematic assertion of male privilege’ (p. 40), the phallus is a function of asymbolic order that is androcentric and which requires that the subject relate itself to aphallus whose status is fraudulent, and a castration complex that is necessary for theinauguration of sexual identity. (With regard to castration, Barzilai, 1999, p. 37 notesthat Lacan’s use of the term ‘castration’ in 1938 clearly had a less-than-literalsignification. It eventually comes to represent in his work a noncorporeal cut,absence, or void that marks all human experience.) Sexual difference is, however, a‘legislative divide which creates and reproduces its categories’ (p. 41). Where sexualdifference appears to be assigned according to whether a subject does or does notpossess the phallus, anatomical difference is only a figure of sexual difference. Thecomplexity of the polymorphous perversity of the subject’s early life, where sex isutterly fluid, is reduced to a ‘crude opposition’ (p. 42). But it is an opposition whichfails, because sexuality’s location in the symbolic means that it works in twodirections, towards the fixing of meaning and away from that fixing to a point ofconstant slippage.It follows that, with anatomy shown to be a sham, the claim to male privilege isunfounded because the male, like the woman, is subjected within the symbolic order.Woman however is placed within the symbolic order as an object. Further, Roseargues that Lacan’s statement that ‘The woman does not exist’, with the ‘The’ undererasure, should not be interpreted literally. Rather, what Lacan does in this statementis show that woman as ‘an absolute category and guarantor of fantasy’ (p. 48) doesnot exist. It is the phallic function that excludes the woman: she is excluded ‘by’ andnot ‘from´ the nature of words – in Rose’s reading of Lacan, therefore, the woman isnecessary for man’s ability to know his own self-knowledge and truth. But the notionof ‘woman’ is a fantasy, and so it would follow that ‘man’ must be too, for eachsubject must line up behind a door marked ‘male’ or ‘female’, and in choosing whichdoor their biology is not implicated. Lacan refuses the possibility of any pre-discursive reality and so there can be no feminine outside language. The ‘feminine’, 6
  7. 7. it follows ‘is constituted as a division in language, a division which produces thefeminine as its negative term. If woman is defined as other it is because the definitionproduces her as other’ (Rose, 1982, p. 55/56).The Lacanian notion of phallic difference is designed, Rose concludes, to expose thearbitrary and symbolic nature of sexual difference. It is not psychoanalysis that hasproduced that difference: its role is to give an account of how that difference isproduced. Lacan’s work is important to a feminist interpretation, in Rose’s view,because it exposes the ‘fundamental imposture’ used in the subordination of thefemale and the homosexual.Teresa Brennan and Lacan as Historian of the Ego’s EraI have summarised Butler’s critique of Lacan’s theory of the phallus that is at theheart of his work, in which she argues that in using a term that is closely related to themale sexual member he perpetuates masculine, heterosexual hegemony. Mitchell andRose’s analysis of Lacan’s Seminar XX, on the other hand, celebrates Lacan’sdevelopment of Freud’s theories of sex as it shows the arbitrary and fictional basis inwhich female subordination is accomplished. I turn now to Teresa Brennan, whosework reconciles somewhat these two conflicting perspectives.Brennan (1993) is puzzled that few reviewers of Lacan’s work have noticed theinfluence of history in the development of his theses, but acknowledges that tounderstand history in his work requires identifying in remarks that are apparentlydisconnected a common thread of reasoning. Indeed, she argues that Lacan’s claimthat he writes in ‘free association’, as if the unconscious were speaking, permits thesearch for underlying connections in the arguments of an author who tried, she argues,to ‘subvert his ego’ (p. 51). To read Lacan therefore, for Brennan, is ‘to follow thepath of implication’(p. 51) in which the reader’s own ego is implicated.Her exploration of the references to history in Ecrits leads her to conclude that Lacanis the historian of an ego’s era. This era began in the seventeenth century, in theWest, with the advent of capitalism. It began, more specifically, with the publicationof Pascal’s Pensées in 1670 (Brennan, 1993, p. 39). This is the era of the monad, ofthe Cartesian individual whose mind is located in a body whose purpose is solely thatof housing the mind. It is the era when spatiality shifts, when the world is opened upfor surveying and conquering – spatiality and the imaginary ego each influence theother. She reads Lacan as saying that the ego in this era is psychotic, for it has anaggressive imperative that desires to make the other into a slave (a perspectivederived from Hegel) and which leads to spatial expansion and an aggressive territorialimperative. As capitalism expands, the majority of subjects are subjected tocontinuous economic insecurity and anxiety over their survival, rendering themdependent on ‘the dominant ego’s standpoint’ (Brennan, 1993, p. 44).Lacan’s five theses ‘On Aggressivity’ are, Brennan suggests, fundamental to thisargument. An aggression founded in capitalist expansion increases in the Victorianimperialist decades, where the ego’s need for fixity and control is reflected in anenvironment that is constructed so as to be controllable This reinforces paranoia,because the damage done to nature makes the ego fear for its own survival. 7
  8. 8. The ego of the modernist era is therefore one that is aggressively expansive andparanoically defensive. The ‘rudimentary theory’ (Brennan, 1993, p. 50) to bedisinterred from Lacan’s work is that of a paranoia which produces more anxiety thancan be released through further aggression. Psychical space, techno-spatialdomination, physical pressure, competitive rivalry and anxiety form a spiral ofaggression. This ‘totalizing imaginary fixation’ (p. 50) is where the woman, or ratherthe psychical fantasy of woman, is located, for the ‘aggression is contained by thepsychic fantasy of woman’ who is ‘the losing side in the ego’s master-slave rivalry,which Lacan neglects to note’ (Brennan, 1993, p. 49). The spiral of aggression is the‘cause’ of psychosis, and the fantasy of the woman an apparent way of preventing it. Lacan’s subject is always sexed. The entry to the paternal symbolic requires that thesubject differentiate between the (m)other and itself and between the sexes, assubjects must line up behind the doors marked ‘female’ and ‘male’. Thedifferentiation between the sexes is visual, tied to the absence of the penis in women,but sexual difference is imaginary. The subject’s assumption of the position of ‘I’thus requires a positioning in relation to the phallus. This positioning, Brennanindicates (p. 53) occurs both linguistically and visually, for the mirror stage is bothspatial (standing in front of the mirror) and specular (seeing the reflection that isjubilantly mis-identified as the self). But this nascent, not yet emergent ‘I’ who canonly appear following resolution of the Oedipal complex, is then objectified and lostin the aggressive master-slave dialectic of the Oedipal transition that involves a shaperwho has the power to afford recognition, and the shaped, who is always subordinate.The emergent boy identifies with his father, who is masculine and so is a shaper, anamer, who possesses the ability to recognise and into whose ‘dominating kingdom’the boy will one day come (p. 56). The girl child however has little option but toconform to ‘the passified side of the capitation fix’ (p. 57), a cul-de-sac where shefinds her mother in occupation. She has little option because man requires her thereto secure his self-image and his entry into the symbolic (p. 59).This is an important part of Brennan’s reading of Lacan: the shaper requires that theshaped is passified so that the shaper can be recognised as a self. However, the onefixed in the passifying position is regarded negatively because the shaper projectsanything that threatens its superior position onto the shaped. In being the repositoryfor this negativity the shaped frees the shaper to act. This is an inherently aggressiveinteraction. Brennan writes ‘It is the aggressive projection of the position it does notwant to occupy, and that it fears losing; a positioning founded in its image of itself’(p. 60). There are several ways of interpreting this. The shaper does not want tooccupy the position of the shaped but also fears losing the possibility of being in thatposition; or that the shaper does not want to be in that dominant position yet fears itsloss; or perhaps both, in interaction. This makes clear Lacan’s statement that therecan be no sexual relation, for that would involve two subjects. There is only a relationbetween master-subject and slave-object. Her illumination of the multiple positionsheld by the master/shaper show how precarious is the position of dominance, andsupports Brennan’s case of the aggressiveness of the dialectic of recognition. Thisreading of the master-slave dialectic, Brennan argues, is there in the shadows andellipses of Lacan’s earlier work, waiting for ‘an older man with a meaner gaze’ todevelop it more fully in his maturity (p. 60). 8
  9. 9. Further, the subject most likely to enjoy the privileged side of this relationship, in theego’s era, is the white, Western male. This is a male who both denigrates andidealizes the woman, for it is woman who has come to occupy, Lacan argues, theposition once taken up by God. The denigration involves passification, Brennanargues (p. 62). The result, for man, is that he ‘has secured the position from which hecan think, indeed speculate. He can turn outward’ (p. 63) for he is not trapped in the‘absolute self-referentiality of the ego’. In other words, the psychic economy of themodern era’s ego rests upon woman’s being passified. This argument can be locatedin Lacan’s exploration of the need by symbolic subjectivity for an imaginary anchor,the objet petit a, an object that is separable from the subject, engages its desire and isfoundational to the subject. Objet petit a carries the surplus energy of that traumatickernel that cannot be symbolised. Not only does Lacan concede that a woman can besuch an object, throughout his work he uses the woman as an example of objet petit a.As woman has come to take the place in the symbolic once held by God, the big A,the Other, then man in the ego’s era ‘has made both his objet petit a and his way out,his symbolic Other, into the same object. Far from being a way out, the symbolicOther is now something he believes he controls’ (Brennan, 193, p. 67). This feeds intofurther aggression, for in passifying the woman man fears retaliation, experiencesanxiety, and hence must continue in his aggression.In Brennan’s interpretation of Lacan, therefore, the woman is necessary in modernityfor man’s psychic existence. The conquest and passification of woman is anenactment at the individual level of the conquest and passification of other peoples,other (non-Western) lands, and of nature and space. The ego of the modern era is onebent on ever greater control that comes at the expense of the fear of loss of thatcontrol.Synthesis and DiscussionIn Butler’s reading of Lacan I showed an author who lines up to accuse Lacan ofphallocentricism and who shows the flaws in his seeming elevation of the masculine.In Mitchell and Rose’s readings I discussed two authors who recognise in Lacan afeminist stance, for he shows that there is nothing inevitable about being the man orthe woman – they are positions required by the symbolic and thus can be changed.In Brennan’s interpretation of Lacan we see the stances of both Butler and Mitchelland Rose. There is nothing given about being a woman – the masculine and thefeminine are both shown in Lacan to be required for identity in the symbolic, and sothere is the possibility to work for change to a different identity. However, the womanin the modern era is of necessity controlled, subordinated, passified – rendered abject,in Butler’s terms. Brennan draws on Lacan to show the manner by which suchpassification takes places, opening the possibility for better understanding of howwomen continue to be rendered abject in a paternalistic culture, and thus thepossibility of bringing about change.Lacan, I suggest, is both phallocentric and a feminist. His notoriously difficult stylemeans that his choice of the phallus to symbolise the master signifier allows forslippage (as happens in his own work) so that the penis is seen as the phallus and itspossessor, the man, is rendered powerful. Meanwhile, he also shows that there is nosuch thing as woman, for woman is a placeholder territorialised, controlled, passified 9
  10. 10. and subordinated by that half of Western humanity born with a penis. To be a manrequires that there can be no such thing as woman, only a passified placeholder. Itfollows that there can be no such thing as man, only an aggressive, paranoidplaceholder rent through with anxiety and trauma. But as soon as we begin to graspthis in Lacanian theory, we are thrown back into the phallus/penis slippage, and thewhole struggle begins again. To get out of this endless dialectic we need to radicallyseparate the phallus and the penis.It is remarkably difficult to explore the workings of the psyche using methods offieldwork currently available in the social sciences (refs.) Some have used novelsinstead (Patient, ref) and there is at least one example of a student’s diary beinganalysed through a Lacanian lens (ref). To take this argument forward I therefore willdraw on vignettes I referred to above, and introduce another one.At the Critical Management Studies conference in July 2007 I witnessed a discussionabout Lacan, as I noted above, in which debate became irritable, if not angry.Definitions about how to interpret the real were thrown about. The women in theroom sat quietly, as woman often do at conferences (Ford and Harding, 2008; Fordand Harding, forthcoming). A few months later, as noted above, I saw an art exhibitthat brought Lacan’s ideas to life, for it attached a phallus to all sorts of culturalobjects. Insserting that second vignette into the first suggests that the name of Lacanis now a phallicised object that, in its uttering or writing, allows the author to claimthat he possesses the phallus. This phallus is movable and transferable, as Butlershows is possible, so it becomes an object whose possession is sought. The womanhas great difficulty in participating in this battle, for the specular logic revealed inLacanian and Freudian theory casts her as castrated and not therefore equipped(literally) for such a battle. Women are however publishing papers that draw on Lacanin MOS. This may be because the author remains invisible, her name denied to peerreviewers, and so outside the specular realm she can masquerade as if she were a manand endowed with a penis. When in company, however, woman is not allowed tospeak Lacan’s name, to possess its phallic resonance, but she can write it. (Indeed, itwill be interesting to see how reviewers respond to this statement).This has resonance for how we analyse organisations and teach our students. If thephallocentric Lacan dominates in academia, with women passified and subordinated,is it not possible that we pollute our research and our teaching with this ego’s strugglefor recognition?The second vignette dates from a long time ago. I got married a week after myeighteenth birthday. At the time I was working on the machines in a factory in asmall town in South Wales making condensers for transistor radios (which shows howlong ago this was.) Apart from the more senior managers, the workers in this factorywere all women. The last working day before I was to get married I was given twowedding presents, the first the set of saucepans I had asked for. The second was ashoebox stuffed with straw, and nestling in the straw was a turgid penis, somewhatlarger than usual in size but otherwise very realistic. It looked as if its arrival in thebox had been somewhat violent, as if it had been wrenched from its moorings with amighty tug. All women were given such a wedding present, to much giggles andribald jokes. Recalling this incident as I write this paper I am reminded of Taussig’s(1993) observation that the women of an aboriginal Australian tribe concurred in the 1
  11. 11. men of the tribe having rendered taboo any woman’s seeing the totems of the tribe.The totem was for male eyes only: any woman who saw it would bring disaster onherself and the tribe. The women were not concerned with this seeming denial ofprivilege, a lack of concern that arose, Taussig ponders, because they knew the secretof the totem: that there was no secret.The gift of the phallus made to brides by the women of the factory in South Walesseems to me to say something similar (and I draw also on Henrietta Moore’s recent[2007] psychoanalytic analysis of originary stories in other cultures to suggest this].This is that: women have seen through the power of the phallus. They see that it isnothing but a somewhat delicate organ whose importance has been elevated out of allproportion. The laughter of the women in the factory signified this: what a hoot thatthis organ, even when larger than life and hard as nails, such a ridiculous object, couldbe regarded as of such significance. Indeed, is this not an aspect of the fearedretaliation from the slave/woman that Brennan speaks of?Which renders it vital that rather than critiquing Lacan’s statement that ‘there is nosuch thing as woman’ we use it as a rallying call. There is no such thing as woman,and there is no such thing as man. What there is are psychic pressures to construct andsustain a mirage. As the era of the ego fades into another era, these pressures aremoving from the unconscious to the conscious, where they can be identified andtackled. By bringing the woman into our Lacanian interpretations of organisations, bygetting to grips with those aspects of Lacan that may betray our desires, agenderedLacanian theorists may be able to draw on the emancipatory potential of his workrather than perpetuate a patriarchal pessimism that informs much current Lacanianinterpretation.ReferencesBarzilai, Shuli (1999) Lacan and the Matter of Origins. Stanford:StanfordUniversity Press.Brennan, Teresa. (1993) History after Lacan. London: Routledge.Butler, J. 1993. Bodies that Matter: on the discursive limits of “sex", New York:Routledge.Butler, J. (1997) The Psychic Life of Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Jones, C. and A. Spicer (2005). "The Sublime Object of Entrepreneurship." Organization 12(2): 223-246.Lacan, Jacques. (2002). The Signification of the Phallus. In Lacan, Jacques. Écrits.New York: Norton. Trans. Bruce Fink.Mitchell, Juliet. (1982). Introduction – l. In Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose(Eds.) Feminine Sexuality. Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne. London:Norton. Pp. 1-26. 1
  12. 12. Moore, Henrietta (2007). Subject of Anthropology: Gender, Symbolism andPsychoanalysis. Cambridge: Polity Press.Rose, Jacqueline. (1982). Introduction – ll. In Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose(Eds.) Feminine Sexuality. Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne. London:Norton. Pp. 27–58..Taussig, Michael. (1993) Mimesis and Alterity. A Particular History of the Senses.New York: Routledge 1

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