Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis: 'A Problematic Proximity'

Derrida Today 5 (1):69-91 (2012)
This essay explores Derrida's work on repetition in psychoanalysis and what Freud, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, called the ‘compulsion to repeat’. Revising the model of the psyche that had to that point dominated his theory, Freud began in 1920 to ascribe greater significance to experiences of trauma and unpleasure, and to their recurrence in the analytic treatment. This type of repeated repetition ultimately suggested to Freud the existence of a ‘death drive’ antithetical to life. I examine here how Derrida re-reads Beyond in The Post Card, analysing the way uncontrollable effects of repetition repeatedly undo Freud's efforts to make any progress on what lies beyond the pleasure principle. Another ‘logic’ of repetition, other than the one Freud invokes, inhabits Freud's text, threatening the fundamental opposition between the life drives and the death drive. But in reading Freud in this way, Derrida himself cannot quite ‘do justice to’ Freud, to the ambivalence at work in Freud's text. At certain key moments in his reading of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, I show, Derrida seems to restrict an ambiguity in Freud's thinking around the relation between life and death. What Derrida's reading makes legible in part, then, is Derrida's resistance to psychoanalysis, the tension inhabiting Derrida's dealings with Freud in The Post Card and beyond
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