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Laplanche, J. (2004). The So-Called ‘Death Drive’: A Sexual Drive. Brit. J. Psychother., 20(4):455-471.

(2004). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 20(4):455-471

The So-Called ‘Death Drive’: A Sexual Drive1 Related Papers

Jean Laplanche

This article will develop three successive perspectives:

I.   A historical or historico-critical perspective; that is, my interpretation of the appearance of the death drive and its function in the development of Freudian thought.

II.  A metapsychological perspective. What position are we to assign, in a metapsychology of the human being and the unconscious, to those forces which Freud described in an inappropriate manner as ‘death’ and ‘life’ drives?

III. A third section will concern some remarks on a question of general psychology: by what factors are we to explain the crucial affective phenomena of love and hate, without a strict adherence to Freud's conception of them?

Since 1967 I have been able, at numerous moments, to develop these ideas. I will mention three books of mine which have been translated into English: The Language of Psychoanalysis (1967), Life and Death in Psychoanalysis (1970), New Foundations for Psychoanalysis (1987).

For those readers who have little knowledge of my ideas, I will clarify my position in advance with some general statements. These proposals are expressed here in a somewhat radical form.

1.   The supposed originary conflict between life and death drives is absolutely not a biological opposition which exists in the living being, and consequently it has no pertinence to the science of biology.

2.   This opposition is uniquely and wholly located in the domain of the human being - and not as a difference between sexuality and a non-sexual aggressivity, but in the heart of sexuality itself. If the Freudian terminology is to be retained, one should insert the adjective ‘sexual’, talking of the sexual death drives versus the sexual life drives.

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