An ordeal of the real: shame and the superego


  • Prof J Barnard-Naudé University of Cape Town, South Africa



shame, superego, ego-ideal, death drive


This essay argues that the renovation of a discourse of shame in late capitalist society requires revisiting the conventional Freudian literature on shame from a Lacanian point of view. The argument holds that shame is a subjective manifestation of a complex dialectics between the ego-ideal and the superego. The essay extends the Lacanian notion that shame is felt in relation to an “Other prior to the Other”. Under the dialectical pressure of the ego-ideal, the superego, it is argued, plays a paradoxical but ineliminable role in the production of shame. In the concluding parts of the essay, I tease out the radical socio-political consequences of a renovated Lacanian discourse of shame. Correlated to the death drive, shame offers an escape from the capitalist symbolic order’s predeterminations and pre-assigned identifications. As such, shame is designated not only as the telos of psychoanalysis, but also as the original and originary ethical relation.


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