Jouissance is defined in relationship to Freud’s notion of the “pleasure principle,” which is a reduction of tension to an agreeable level. As Freud (SE XVIII, 1920) was to show in his reexamination of his earlier thesis on the pleasure principle, there was a realm, which exists “beyond” it; the realm of the death drive where a certain form of enjoyment emerges defined by a paradoxical mixture of both pleasure and pain. This death drive was associated with the “polymorphously perverse” body of the drives (Triebe) governed by libidinal intensities that circulate around various erogenous zones of the body. Lacan identified such extreme pleasure as jouissance. This aspect of pleasure is at once unpleasant, harmful, and disturbs the equilibrium of the pleasure principle. Although it would make full sense to avoid its clutches, it also offers a form of avoidance, but incorporates the paradoxes of masochistic pleasurable pain and sadistic painful pleasure. We are hooked by it through our symptoms; at the same time we “love” and enjoy the suffering unwilling to change. There is pleasure in the experience of pain, and pain in the experience of pleasure. Jouissance indicates a realm of human suffering, which is not desirable because it leads to self-destructive behavior, but this is only half the story.
KeywordsSymbolic Order Virtual Body Bare Life Pleasure Principle Death Drive
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