Drive

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French: pulsion
German: Trieb


Drive and Instinct[edit | edit source]

Sigmund Freud[edit | edit source]

Freud's concept of the drive is central to his theory of human sexuality; it lies at the heart of his theory of sexuality.

For Freud, the distinctive feature of human sexuality -- as opposed to the sexual life of other animals -- is that it is not regulated by any instinct -- a concept which implies a relatively fixed and innate relationship to an object -- but by the drives -- which differ from instincts in that they are extremely variable, and develop in ways which are contingent on the life history of the subject.

Jacques Lacan[edit | edit source]

Lacan insists on maintaining the Freudian distinction between drive and instinct.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.301</ref>

Whereas instinct denotes a mythical pre-linguistic need, the drive is completely removed from the realm of biology.

Aim of the Drive[edit | edit source]

The drives differ from biological needs in that they can never be satisfied, and do not aim at an object but rather circle perpetually round it.

Lacan argues that the purpose of the drive (Triebziel) is not to reach a goal (a final destination) but to follow its aim (the way itself), which is to circle round the object.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p.168</ref>

Thus the real purpose of the drive is not some mythical goal of full satisfaction, but to return to its circular path, and the real source of enjoyment is the repetitive movement of this closed circuit.

Drive as Cultural and Symbolic Construct[edit | edit source]

Lacan reminds his readers that Freud defined the drive as a montage composed of four discontinuous elements: the pressure, the end, the object and the source.

The drive cannot therefore be conceived of as "some ultimate given, something archaic, primordial."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p.162</ref>

It is a thoroughly cultural and symbolic construct.

Lacan thus empties the concept of the drive of the lingering references in Freud's work to energetics and hydraulics.


The Circuit of the Drive[edit | edit source]

Lacan incorporates the four elements of the drive in his theory of the drive's circuit.

In this circut, the drive originates in an erogenous zone.

This circuit is structured by the three grammatical voices.

  1. The active voice (e.g. to see)
  1. The reflexive voice (e.g. to see oneself)
  1. The passive voice (e.g. to be seen)

Activity and Passivity[edit | edit source]

The first of these two times (active and reflexive voices) are autoerotic; they lack a subject.

Only in the third time (the passive voice), when the drive completes its circuit, does "a new subject" appear (which is to say that before this time, there was no subject).

Although the third time is the passive voice, the drive is always essentially active, which is why Lacan writes that the third time not as "to be seen" but as "to make oneself be seen."

Even supposedly "passive" phases of the drive such as masochism involve activity.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p.200</ref>

The circuit of the drive is the only way for the subject to transgress the pleasure principle.


The Partial Nature of the Drives[edit | edit source]

Freud argued that sexuality is composed of a number of partial drives (Ger. Partieltrieb) such as the oral drive and the anal drive, each specified by a different source (a different erotogenic zone).

At first these component drives function anarchically and independently (viz. the "polymorphous perversity" of children), but in puberty they become organized and fused together under the priamcy of the genital organs.<ref>Freud, Sigmund. p.1905d.</ref>

Differences between Freud and Lacan[edit | edit source]

Lacan emphasizes the partial nature of all drives, but differs from Freud on two points:

  1. Lacan rejects the idea that the partial drives can ever attain any complete organization or fusion, aruging that the priamcy of the genital zone, if achieved, is always a highly precarious affair.
He thus challenges the notion, put forward by some psychoanalysts after Freud, of a genital drive in which the partial drives are completely integrated in a harmonious relation.
  1. Lacan argues that the drives are partial, not in the sense that thy are parts of a whole (a 'genital drive'), but in the sense that they only represent sexuality partially; they do not represent the reproductive function of sexuality but only the dimension of enjoyment.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p.204</ref>


The Four Partial Drives[edit | edit source]

Lacan identifies four partial drives: the oral drive, the anal drive, the scopic drive, and the invocatory drive.

Each of these drives is specified by a different partial object and a different erogenous zone.

The first two drives relate to demand, whereas the second pair relate to desire.

Table of partial drives
PARTIAL DRIVE EROGENOUS ZONE PARTIAL OBJECT VERB
D Oral drive Lips Breast To suck
D Anal drive Anus Faeces To shit
d Scopic drive Eyes Gaze To see
d Invocatory drive Ears Voice To hear


The Lacanian Matheme for the Drive[edit | edit source]

In 1957, in the context of the graph of desire, Lacan proposes the formula (S <> D) as the matheme for the drive.

This formula is to be read: the bared subject in relation to demand, the fading of the subject before the insistence of a demand that persists without any conscious intention to sustain it.


The Dualism of the Drives[edit | edit source]

Sigmund Freud: Life and Death[edit | edit source]

Throughout the various reformulations of drive-theory in Freud's work, one constant feature is a basic dualism.

At first this dualism was conceived in terms of an opposition between the sexual drives (Sexualtriebe) on the one hand, and the ego-drives (Ichtriebe) or drives of self-preservation (Selbsterhaltungstriebe) on the other.

This opposition was problematized by Freud's growing realization, in the period 1914-20, that the ego-drives are themselves sexual.

He was thus led to reconceptualize the dualism of the drives in terms of an opposition between the life drives (Lebenstriebe) and the death drives (Todestriebe).

Jacques Lacan: Symbolic and Imaginary[edit | edit source]

Lacan argues that it is important to retain Freud's dualism, and rejects the monism of Jung, who argued that all psychic forces could be reduced to one single concept of psychic energy.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p.118-20</ref>

However, Lacan prefers to reconceptualize this dualism in terms of an opposition between the symbolic and the imaginary, and not in terms of an opposition between different kinds of drives.

Thus, for Lacan, all drives are sexual drives, and every drive is a death drive since every drive is excessive, repetitive, and ultimately destructive.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.848</ref>

Drive and Desire[edit | edit source]

The drives are closely related to desire; both originate in the field of the subject, as opposed to the genital drive, which (if it exists) finds its form on the side of the Other.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p.189</ref>

However, the drive is not merely another name for desire: they are the partial aspects in which desire is realized.

Desire is one and undivided, whereas the drives are partial manifestations of desire.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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