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Muller, J.P. (1992). Lacan in Contexts: By David Macey. New York/London: Verso, 1988. 322 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:109-114.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:109-114

Lacan in Contexts: By David Macey. New York/London: Verso, 1988. 322 pp.

Review by:
John P. Muller

This book examines in great detail the many contexts in which Lacan's thinking developed: historical, literary, philosophical, linguistic, and, to a limited extent, psychoanalytic. The book is written clearly, if at times pedantically, and begins with a brief preface and an introduction in which Macey states his guiding thesis: that Lacan, his followers, and many commentators present Lacan as if the final state of his thought were present from the beginning, with no changes and no indebtedness to the currents of ideas moving around him. Macey sees this tendency as "one of the more curious features of the psychoanalytic movement as a whole: its marked tendency to forget or repress its own history" (p. 1), as typified in Freud's gesture of destroying his manuscripts, correspondence, and private diaries in 1885 and 1907. In Lacan's case, Macey argues, the suppression of context and the presentation of Lacan's thought as a monolithic block to be accepted or rejected in full are the work of "a virulent intellectual terrorism" whose arcane writing rests on "a haughty presumption of knowledge on the part of the reader" (p. 24).

Macey's aim is to counter such tactics with detailed information about the formative influences on Lacan's thought, indicating from whom he gets many of his ideas as well as how he alters them. The specific "contexts" Macey examines constitute the five meaty chapters of his book, which concludes with a detailed curriculum vitae of Jacques Lacan's long life (1901-1981), an extensive set of notes, a long bibliography, and a name index. This book is essential reading for anyone doing historical or textual research on Lacan's thought, but it gives no indication of what Lacan's clinical relevance might be.

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