Despite the frequency of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s recourse to the key terms of classic communications theory (notions of entropy, signal, noise, redundancy, and so on), communication studies has yet to adequately explore the critical potential of psychoanalytic thought for the analysis of communication. The aim of this chapter is to highlight the distinctive contribution that psychoanalysis makes to understanding the transformative potential of communication. More specifically, I will show that psychoanalysis provides a unique means of distinguishing two fundamental registers of communication. The first of these occurs along the ‘imaginary axis’. This is the domain of one-to-one intersubjectivity that serves the ego and functions to consolidate the images subjects use to substantiate themselves. The second register — far more disturbing and unpredictable — occurs along the symbolic axis. It links the subject to a trans-subjective order of truth, it provides them with a set of socio-symbolic coordinates, and it ties them into a variety of roles and social contracts. Importantly, it entails the radical alterity of what Lacan refers to as ‘the Other’.
KeywordsEmpty speech founding speech full speech the Imaginary méconnaissance phatic communication the Other speech acts the Symbolic.
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