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Nobus, D. (2002). Symptom and Society: A Clinical Challenge for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. Mod. Psychoanal., 27(2):179-203.

(2002). Modern Psychoanalysis, 27(2):179-203

Symptom and Society: A Clinical Challenge for Contemporary Psychoanalysis

Dany Nobus, Ph.D.

The decline of the paternal function has often been used by social scientists and health professionals as an explanation for the occurrence of crippling psychosocial symptoms such as juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, racism and vandalism. Emboldened by Jacques Lacan's emphasis on the Name-of-the-Father as the stabilizing principle of the symbolic order, psychoanalysts in Europe have recently resurrected this theme in order to take issue with explicit changes in public policy making and more insidious modifications in social living conditions. In arguing for the maintenance of the symbolic father function, against alternative kinship patterns, psychoanalysts have thereby echoed the voices of neo-conservative, right-wing ideologists in their campaign for the restoration of the nuclear family. Yet the history of fatherlessness within twentieth century discursive practices shows that there is no evidence whatsoever for the causal link between the paternal function and psychosocial stability. Drawing on Derrida's deconstruction of Fukuyama's social optimism in The End of History it is demonstrated that the spectre of fatherlessness, whether conjured up within social theory or within psychoanalysis, reflects a severe crisis in knowledge within existing ideologies of meaning and serves the purpose of securing an epistemological status quo.

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