Lacan, foucault, and the ‘crisis of the subject’: Revisionist reflections on phenomenology and post-structuralism

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This article offers a revisionist interpretation of the relationship between phenomenology and post-structuralism through an analysis of the post-structuralists most influential at philosophy’s intersection with the ‘psy’ professions: Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault. French structuralists and post-structuralists sharply criticized subjectivity as a domain of study (the ‘primacy of consciousness’) and notions of the ‘autonomous subject,’ arguing instead for the determining role of language and other semiotic systems. I discuss Heidegger’s role as a ‘vanishing mediator,’ an influence on both phenomenology and post-structuralism whose own focus on forms of being (the ontological dimension) undermines this assumed opposition. I discuss the relevance for phenomenology of Foucault’s ‘epistemes’ (in Order of Things) and of Lacan’s registers of Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real. Finally, I consider ways in which Foucault (in Discipline and Punish) and Lacan (on ethics and the ‘psychoanalytic act’) seem to accept elements of the traditional notion of the subject, including forms of freedom and responsibility, and the possibility of self-reflection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-341
Number of pages17
JournalPhilosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Philosophy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Anti-humanism
  • Episteme
  • Heidegger
  • Hermeneutic phenomenology
  • Imaginary/Symbolic/Real
  • Ontological difference
  • Panopticon
  • Structuralism
  • Subjectivity


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