Fort/LAD, or, LAD beyond the pleasure principle


How does LAD work? First of all by assigning the name:

“In these beings everything was double: thus, they had four hands and four feet, two faces, two genital parts, and so on. Then Zeus allowed himself to be persuaded to cut these beings in two, as one divides pears to stew them….” #originalLAD

“There can be no doubt that the bisexuality, which is present […] in the innate disposition of human beings, comes to the fore much more clearly in women than in men….” #oedipalLAD

What all LADs show is a repetition compulsion, to say the name. The satisfaction of this compulsion, superficially, is in mirth: “Take a step back for a second and ask yourself, ‘Is this article serious?’ The humour is in how absolutely inappropriate and outrageous the ‘advice’ is”. There is nothing LAD in the defensive tone of this Uni Lad editorial: LAD has to come with a laugh. Criticism would usually be no obstruction to its cathexis, and often only intensifies the pleasure LAD takes in laughter, but in this case the social requirement that LAD address itself to those who don’t practice it gets in the way of LAD satisfaction. #pofacedLAD

LAD can only be satisfied when it excludes everything except itself from its concern, and in this sense is a morbid form of onanism. The superficial desire of LAD for mirth covers over this more fundamental desire to masturbate among friends. Most LADs would, no doubt, be thrilled by this analysis, or at least would gladly recognise it: it is good to know that LAD is another soggy biscuit. The incipient homophobia of LAD, on the other hand, given these circumstances, is a topic of some interest which will have to be dealt with another time.

But it is false to say that LAD is about satisfaction. The most basic practice of LAD, we repeat, is to assign the name. It is in this gesture that the analysis of LAD finds its object. We follow Jacqueline Rose in asserting that “Language can only operate by designating an object in its absence.” Naming starts only when the child “gets its first sense that something could be missing.” A compulsion to repeat is characteristic of the way that the subject comes to function in language: it is a repetition of this moment in which the loss, which is also a division of the self, is recognised. The recognition of loss is constitutive of desire, which, according to Jacques Lacan, always “bears on something other than the satisfaction which it calls for.” In other words, satisfaction is not what desire wants. Through Rose, we may trace this back to Freud, at his most compelling: “we must reckon with the possibility that something in the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavourable to the realisation of complete satisfaction.” Despite this, as Rose goes on to demonstrate in her reading of Lacan, subjects persistently (repetitiously) fantasise a place of satisfaction, certainty or wholeness.

LAD is one such fantasisation. Its tendency to pack-mentality, the invigorating pleasure it gets from identity (and conversely its red-cheeked and truculent response to encounters with difference), is played out in a compulsion to say the name, again and again.

This basic gesture of LAD corresponds to what Freud calls the death drive: an urge towards the reinstatement of an earlier condition which, in the end, means a condition of lifelessness. Freud’s most famous account of repetition compulsion, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, concerns the child who throws its toy out of the pram — saying, at the same time, fort (“go away”) — in the knowledge it can bring it back by way of a string attached — saying, when it reappears, with a tone of satisfaction, da (“there”).

The pleasure with which the lad says LAD is of the same order, accompanied by the same satisfied gesture of identification as the one that accompanies da. LAD throws itself willingly and morbidly into a repetition compulsion, like certain hysterics. “Say my name,” LAD insists; its devotees gladly comply.


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