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Dahl, G. (1995). The third as the illusion and the necessary mediator of authority: sociological and psychoanalytical reflections.. Free Associations, 5(1):47-65.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(1):47-65

The third as the illusion and the necessary mediator of authority: sociological and psychoanalytical reflections.

Göran Dahl

“The third” is a central category in religious and philosophical thinking. Two well-known examples are the three-fold highest unity in Christian belief and the synthesis in dialectical philosophy. My point here is to emphasize the centrality of the third in language and thinking in general and that this centrality is deeply rooted in the nature of social life. As a consequence I think that it becomes possible to criticize social relations and events that do not recognize the third. The centrality of the third in social life is especially visible in the image of authority which I understand as perhaps the most important social bond and as the subjective mediation of power. First I want to mention and discuss two different texts that both contribute to an understanding of how private images of authority are linked to subjective understandings of public power.

I

The first text consists of an observation made by Sigmund Freud (Freud, 1949b). On one of his daily walks in the streets of Vienna during the early twentieth century he sees one of his teachers from the Gymnasium. He greets him and stands looking after him asking if that really was him or just someone looking like him. Freud thinks that the former teacher is so young and that he himself is so old.

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