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Kristeva, J. (1999). Psychoanalysis and Freedom. Canadian J. Psychoanal., 7(1):1-21.

(1999). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 7(1):1-21

Psychoanalysis and Freedom1

Julia Kristeva

1. Some History: Freud and Lacan

Freedom is not a psychoanalytic concept. If we are to believe the Index to the Standard Edition, Freud employs the word very rarely—in The Uncanny (1919), and especially in Civilization and Its Discontents (1929)—to convey the sense of an instinctual urge shackled by the necessity for humans to live in communities. This libidinal urge proves to be profoundly ambivalent, always more or less taken up, or dominated, by the death instinct which civilization refuses to accept. In resuming and deepening the propositions in Totem and Taboo (1913) on the founding myth of the “murder of the father,” Freud specifies the two conditions inherent in being human, which limit the absolute freedom Freud attributes to the individual: namely, the realization of his desires.

1.   On one hand, there is the need to share satisfactions with the other members of the community on whom the individual depends, given his physical weakness and the inadequacy of his technological mastery of nature.

2.   On the other hand—and this is radical, since no technological or even moral progress can undo what is best described as the tragic essence of human life—there is consciousness itself (or conscience2), which is constituted at the origin, precisely through a limitation on the freedom of the drives imposed by repression and censorship, or, in other words, “civilization.”

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