Law, Psychoanalysis, Society: Taking the Unconscious Seriously. By Maria Aristodemou. Oxon, UK and New York: Routledge, 2014. 189 pp. $125 cloth, $48.95 paper.

Published date01 December 2015
Date01 December 2015
Law, Psychoanalysis, Society: Taking the Unconscious Seriously.
By Maria Aristodemou. Oxon, UK and New York: Routledge,
2014. 189 pp. $125 cloth, $48.95 paper.
Reviewed by Marianne Constable, Department of Rhetoric, University
of California, Berkeley
In Law, Pyschoanalysis, Society: Taking the Unconscious Seriously,Maria
Aristodemou goes far beyond the usual arguments about the chal-
lenges that the psyche poses to the ostensibly sovereign subject of law.
Through an exceedingly lucid account of Lacanian theory, illustrated
with a light touch through references to the likes of Baum’s Wizard of
Oz, Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet,andSaramagosBlindness,Aristodemou
shows how the unconscious is itself a law into which the human subject
is born when the human enters into language. The book is key for
those interested in law and language. It will also resonate with those
who are inclined to offer stories of law as accounts of failure. In Aristo-
demou’s provocative book, the aim of psychoanalysis is not so much to
offer another theory of law or of its failure, however, as to facilitate the
entree of practitioners and scholars of law into ethical critique.
For Lacan, according to Aristodemou, one is constituted as a
subject through one’s lack or through one’s desire and demand for
an ostensibly lost object that one never actually possessed. This lack
or “hole in the subject” emerges with language, insofar as language
introduces a distinction—or cut—between one’s needs and the
demands one makes in speech. Language, or the symbolic, is inad-
equate to the “Real.” The gap otherwise known as that between sig-
nifier and thing signified corresponds to one’s alienation from the
Real and to one’s insatiable demand for more than what one needs.
The “Big Other”—God, state, parent, community, law—to which
the subject turns for fulfillment is itself an incomplete fantasy that
glosses over the subject’s own lack.
In modern culture, despite the death of God, Aristodemou con-
tinues, citing Zizek, the place of the absent God remains. We have
killed God, that is, but not gotten rid of his place, to which we con-
tinue to address our demands. The law of this place limits our pleas-
ure and keeps us from a terrifying enjoyment or jouissance that
would exceed language. Such law gives birth to, sustains, and gov-
erns an impossible desire for the beyond of speech, or the Real,
which desire it simultaneously prohibits. The subject depends on
law to keep from herself the truth: that she needs to keep the object
of her desire at bay. As modern law becomes a substance- or
content-less imperative for “more” in which anything goes however,
systems of administration generate their own obscene jouissance,
Aristodemou argues, becoming impossible to resist except through
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