The Rhetorical Satisfactions of Hate Speech

  • James MartinEmail author
Part of the Studies in the Psychosocial book series (STIP)


In this chapter I explore the phenomenon of ‘hate speech,’ understood as a rhetorical practice whereby aggressive hostility is directed at others. Drawing upon Jacques Lacan’s account of the tension between the imaginary and symbolic registers of subjectivity, I present political speech as a means to sublimate violence. Political controversies enact confrontations between rivals who seek to diminish the integrity of their opponent’s self-image. Speaking hatefully is thus a familiar dimension of most political contests. Yet it can also become a refusal of any symbolic mediation with one’s opponent. Lacan describes this type of hate as ‘a passion of being.’ I employ the example of the controversy over antisemitism in the British Labour Party after 2015 to illustrate this variety of hateful speech.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International Relations, Goldsmiths College, University of LondonLondonUK

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