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Penot, B. (2017). The So-Called Death Drive, an Indispensable Force for Any Subjective Life. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(2):299-321.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(2):299-321

Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique

The So-Called Death Drive, an Indispensable Force for Any Subjective Life

Bernard Penot

(Accepted for publication 3 October 2016)

The psychoanalytic movement has difficulty in overcoming the malaise bequeathed by what Freud wanted to call the ‘death drive’. This term remains doubly problematic: first because the indispensable antagonist of Eros-binding cannot be reduced to a particular drive; and secondly because this Anteros plays a vital role in subjectivization. The Freudian idea of the ‘death drive’ has in addition the drawback of confusing dissociative thrust (unbinding) with the aggressive component of libidinal cathexis. Now it is precisely the lack of articulation between them that leads to deconstructing it. For it is constantly observed that in the psychic register aggression is much more fixing than unbinding. The essential role of Anteros/unbinding in the process of subjectivization can be illustrated through several key operations in subjective development: sublimatory activity and its renunciation of pleasure-discharge, the work of mourning opposed to melancholic fixation, the intricating-unbinding parental function, and finally the psychoanalytic treatment and its work of analysis. This means we should cease to anathematize the dynamic component of unbinding as ‘of death’ and seek to explain the concept of subjectivization better.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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