Lacan the Charlatan
This book sets out to determine the validity of an accusation made against Jacques Lacan by Noam Chomsky in an interview in 1989. He stated that Lacan was a “charlatan” – not that his ideas were flawed or wrong, but that his entire discourse was fraudulent, an accusation that has since been repeated by many other critics. Examining the arguments of key anti-Lacanian critics, Mathews weighs and contextualizes the legitimacy of Lacan’s engagements with structural linguistics, mathematical formalization, science, ethics, Hegelian dialectics, and psychoanalysis. The guiding thread is Lacan’s own recurrent interrogation of authority, which inhabits an ambiguous zone between mastery and charlatanry. This book offers a novel contribution to the field for students and scholars of psychoanalysis, philosophy, sociology, critical and literary theory.

Lacan the Charlatan Details

TitleLacan the Charlatan
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 2nd, 2020
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN-139783030452032
Rating
GenrePhilosophy, Theory, Literature, 21st Century, Psychology

Lacan the Charlatan Review

  • Peter Mathews
    January 1, 1970
    Don't be fooled by the title. The book is neither an attack on nor a defense of Lacan, but rather an nuanced examination of how authority works.
  • Tyler
    January 1, 1970
    "we know that the Écrits are unreadable; people at least pretend to read them..."Jacques Lacan, My Teaching Peter Matthews analyses Lacan's most notable critics, Roger Scruton, François Roustang, Noam Chomsky and more, demonstrating that Lacan is not a charlatan, but a complex thinker and a showman. Whilst not uncritical, Matthews teases out what a true engagement with Lacanian theory reveals, and what the critics of Lacan can tell us about true intellectual integrity, mastery and reveal the use "we know that the Écrits are unreadable; people at least pretend to read them..."Jacques Lacan, My Teaching Peter Matthews analyses Lacan's most notable critics, Roger Scruton, François Roustang, Noam Chomsky and more, demonstrating that Lacan is not a charlatan, but a complex thinker and a showman. Whilst not uncritical, Matthews teases out what a true engagement with Lacanian theory reveals, and what the critics of Lacan can tell us about true intellectual integrity, mastery and reveal the useful kernels of knowledge behind this much maligned figure. Matthews is no Lacan cultist, but a serious scholar who distances himself from uncritical acceptance of Lacan, and also from people who refuse to engage Lacanianism beyond a tertiary reading before trashing the man behind the theory. A must read for any student of psychoanalysis.
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  • Karl Hallbjörnsson
    January 1, 1970
    An all right romp — many interesting tidbits and meditations on Lacan, psychoanalysis, etc. — although I'm not quite sure how well the author answered his own research question: is Lacan a charlatan? The author stresses the fact that the book is supposedly an even-handed and honest inquiry into the question, but as far as I can tell, the book is much more Lacan-leaning than not from the very beginning. I simply did not expect the level of condescending psychoanalysis Mathews seems content to car An all right romp — many interesting tidbits and meditations on Lacan, psychoanalysis, etc. — although I'm not quite sure how well the author answered his own research question: is Lacan a charlatan? The author stresses the fact that the book is supposedly an even-handed and honest inquiry into the question, but as far as I can tell, the book is much more Lacan-leaning than not from the very beginning. I simply did not expect the level of condescending psychoanalysis Mathews seems content to carry out against Lacan's opponents; Dylan Evans is hysterical, Stuart Schneiderman is simply getting over his "breakup" with Lacan, Sokal and Bricmont are stupid, etc. — I don't find this kind of text engaging, productive or attractive. It reduces criticism to psychoanalytic phantasm, behind which there looms the Name of the Father or Castration or Penis Envy or The Dreaded Unconscious, all written in conceptual capital letters with an almost priestly stench of fear about it. Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't mean to imply that Sokal and Bricmont, to name one example, are somehow the pinnacle of critique—but the cores of the questions they are engaged with: "Why do intellectuals actually posture in the ways they do?" are too often simply dismissed as corollaries of their more easily dismissed comments—which is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For some reason it's acceptable when Roudinesco criticizes Lacan for using "mathemes" and stupid slogans instead of reasoning and argument, but highly unacceptable then S&B do it—what's the difference? Does Mathews here not himself rely upon some sort of master-discourse, excluding S&B from entering into the critique because they don't engage with the whole of Lacan's writings, taking it at face value? The question inevitably arises: why the heck should they?What's worse, the critical content of the book tends to be overly academic and musty as hell — even if, stylistically, it is clearly written and lucid. I don't actually care if Sokal or Bricmont fail to make the requisite references when they mention "critics" — it's beside the point, and riffing on their failure in cataloging these critics gives off a childish vibe. I had a few more minimal gripes with the book, but I might keep it short and sum up by recalling Nietzsche's aphorism, GS366: "At the Sight of a Learned Book": [O]h, how quickly we divine how a person has arrived at his thoughts: - if it is by sitting before an ink-bottle with compressed belly and head bent over the paper: oh, how quickly we are then done with his book! The constipated bowels betray themselves, one may wager on it, just as the atmosphere of the room, the ceiling of the room, the smallness of the room, betray themselves. - These were my feelings when closing a straightforward, learned book, thankful, very thankful, but also relieved.... In the book of a learned man there is almost always something oppressive and oppressed: the "specialist" comes to light somewhere, his ardour, his seriousness, his wrath, his over-estimation of the nook in which he sits and spins, his hump - every specialist has his hump.
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  • Peter Mathews
    January 1, 1970
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