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Klein's Bottle: Getting Real

The Letter, Issue 30, Spring 2004, Pages 87 - 100



When Freud himself admitted that he had underestimated the negative - 'I can no longer understand how we have overlooked the ubiquity of non-erotic aggressivity and destructiveness... in our interpretation of life'[1] - he was also underestimating the force that was to be Kleinianism within psychoanalysis. Half a century later a whole cluster of modern maladies associated with atomistic culture, that might have once been registered as hysteria, had been described. Kleinianism visits the wordless place of the inhibited, the schizoid, the psychotic, the borderline, the autistic, the psychopathic. Klein explores the negative and the obscene, analyzing there at the mute limits of the human. Here, in this domain, violence operates independently, as it were, beyond the pleasure principle. Always beyond. Today, this might be the Kleinian argument: everything hangs on this beyond, beyond subjectivity. Clearly, Klein did not envisage the paranoid-schizoid or the depressive positions as epigenetic stages of development, like Anna Freud and developmental psychology. No, these are not stages of growth. As we enter into, or are inserted into language, some translation of this mute world occurs, but much must be left "outside." As George Steiner says, translation does violence to the translated. It is to these mute violent remnants that attention must be paid. Klein therefore implicitly challenges the hegemony of language. If the world is structured by language and we cannot think or speak otherwise, then the Kleinians want to oppose this with their own pre-biographic demonology. The violence of language and its autocracy invites, let us imagine for a moment, a mute counterviolence of the drives, who it appears have become deeply unhappy, we might say, with the strident assertion (a total reversal on the classical way of thinking) that they themselves were created by language, that they are no more than an effectof language. This question of the re-transcription of biology, that the somatic is somehow re-written, as it were, is deeply offensive to the drives who have been fighting for their rights, staging a come-back with their own violent liberation struggle.

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