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Perversion II: The Perverse Structure

The Letter, Issue 23, Autumn 2001, Pages 77 - 95


Paul Verhaeghe

In contemporary Lacanian theory, one of the accepted ideas is that there exists such a thing as the perverse structure of the subject, alongside the better-known neurotic and psychotic ones. Perverse structure means that there exists a perverse relationship between subject, Other and lack. Lacan himself did not publish all that much on this subject, and in matters of treatment, his publications are even more rare. His most quoted saying teaches us that:

The whole problem of the perversions consists in conceiving how the child, in relation to the mother, a relation constituted in analysis not by his vital dependence on her, but by his dependence on her love, that is to say, by the desire of her desire, identifies himself with the imaginary object of this desire in so far as the mother herself symbolizes it in the phallus.[1]

The link to Freud is obvious, that is, the denial of castration, although Lacan adds something to it, by focusing on the part played in this by identification. The perverse subject is the one that identifies itself with the imaginary phallus of the Other.

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