Continental Philosophy Review 40 (4):365-387 (2007)

Sara Beardsworth
Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
This paper investigates the potential of the concept of sublimation for thinking subjectivity at the intersection of psychoanalysis and critical theory. I first rehearse a recent argument by Whitebook that Freud’s notion of sublimation presents a nonviolent integration and expansion of the ego, which can mediate the modern dichotomy between the rational subject and nonrational impulse and desire. On this view, sublimation turns subjectivity into a site of possibility in the context of modern, rationalized thought and society. I then argue that the concept of sublimation offered to critical theory in this form is insufficiently developed. Both Freud and Adorno analyze a deep-seated destructiveness of the modern subject, which turns up right at the heart of attempts to mediate the dichotomies of rationalized modernity. What is needed to counter this problem is a theory of love in which love is not separated from, but, rather, correlated with drive and desire, and can thereby get on a level with the unconscious or unacknowledged, impulsive nature of death-bearing subjectivity in enlightened modernity. A central conception in Kristeva’s development of Freudian psychoanalysis, the idea of transference love, delivers such a theory and thereby develops the concept of sublimation in the way that is needed at the intersection of psychoanalysis and critical theory
Keywords Adorno  Freud  Kristevan  Sublimation
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-007-9068-z
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