Ambiguous democracy and the ethics of psychoanalysis

Philosophy and Social Criticism 23 (2):79-96 (1997)
It is one of the paradoxes of our age that the 'success' of democracy in Eastern Europe and South Africa is coupled with grave disappointment in the 'birth places' of modern democracy. This dis appointment is partly due to the irreducible ambiguity entailed in democratic institutional arrangements. Democracy, in fact, is founded on this ambiguity. It attempts to construct social unity on the basis of recognizing the lack around which the social field is always structured. In that sense the source of the disappointment caused by democracy is of an ethical status. It is the antithesis between the ambiguity of democracy and a still hegemonic ethics of harmony. Any aspiration, however, to eliminate the ambiguity of democracy ignores the innovative logic of democratic politics. If the ethics of harmony lead to a de-democratization of democracy, what a radical democratic project needs today is an ethical basis of a totally different nature. Here, the ethics of psychoanalysis, as formulated in the Lacanian tradition, can be of great help. Key Words: democracy • ethics • harmony • Lacan • psychoanalysis.
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DOI 10.1177/019145379702300204
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