INTIMACIES BERSANI PDF

Just when I thought I was getting out of psychoanalysis. Leo Bersani , Adam Phillips. Two gifted and highly prolific intellectuals, Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips, here present a fascinating dialogue about the problems and possibilities of human intimacy. Their conversation takes as its point of departure psychoanalysis and its central importance to the modern imagination—though equally important is their shared sense that by misleading us about the importance of self-knowledge and the danger of narcissism, psychoanalysis has failed to realize its most exciting and innovative relational potential.

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Analytic theory, especially as it has joined with continental philosophy and poststructuralism, has always contained a critical vein that underscores the contradictions between our desires and the social order. From this point of view, psychoanalytically informed self-consciousness could undermine the social norms thought to be most repressive by revealing how they serve some desires and not others, as well as by showing how these same norms produce suffering under the guise of protecting us from it.

Leo Bersani belongs very much to this second perspective on psychoanalytic theorizing, while Adam Phillips has written provocatively from both sides of this divide.

Bersani, professor of French emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, has for decades explored dimensions of Freudian thinking that broaden our understanding of desire as excitation and of pleasure rather than satisfaction. He has been a critic of accommodation and of satisfaction that reinforces the violence-producing status quo. Satisfaction leads to a sense of closure, or even redemption, and for Bersani, these are deceptions that distance us from our capacity for intensity.

For Bersani, pleasure is not an enhancement of the ego as it masters the world. Pleasure is a shattering of the ego as it encounters the world. What does this splintering have to do with intimacy? These would be new intimacies that embrace shock and fragmentation, that seek out self-shattering rather than repair and redemption.

From the traditional psychoanalytic perspective, we had to overcome narcissism and to recognize the otherness of others in order to approach intimacy with them.

Phillips and Bersani reject this narrative because they think it leads to rage against otherness; that the achievement of intimacy on this older model is never safe from violence. Phillips picks up the baton in chapter 4, riffing on some of the themes already introduced but focusing really on love and narcissism. Aware of the deadly idiocy of these practices, he is nonetheless drawn to their radical embrace of shattering pleasure.

They do not. They want their barebacking and their safety, too. It may be the only one they get. Our authors want to make hay of the inarticulate sounds of the sex party, because this allows them to challenge notions of love that have been dominant in the West for a very long time.

Phillips notes approvingly that his friend wants love without the tendency to violence. But Freud should have taught them that there was no escape from this dialectic constitutive of human desire. Both writers know that the Freudian tale of individual development insists that desire is linked to a sense of the past, to a sense of loss. They want desire without loss, which they hope will mean without violence.

They dream that if we grow up differently, new, impersonal yet intense relations will be without violence. But they never consider that losing the self, joining in shattering, can also be connected to an orgy of destructiveness. Have they forgotten fascism, genocidal mobs, or group torture? Why do they think that their tribe of narcissists will be kind and gentle yet intense? Michael Roth is president of Wesleyan University.

University Of Chicago Press. Hardcover, pages.

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Intimacies

Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips. The dialogue enacts the kind of relationality it seeks to know, moving beyond the traditional narcissism of authorship, probing the important difference between being a psychological subject and finding a way to be present to another person. Psychoanalysis is moved beyond the theory of the ego and developmental norms, returned to primary questions of how and why pleasure is often at odds with self-preservation, and how such enduring tensions are presented in visual media, sexual practice, dialogue, and clinical exchange. Practiced here is an intimacy that explores the regions of impersonal co-existence where losing the self expands the capacity to love.

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Analytic theory, especially as it has joined with continental philosophy and poststructuralism, has always contained a critical vein that underscores the contradictions between our desires and the social order. From this point of view, psychoanalytically informed self-consciousness could undermine the social norms thought to be most repressive by revealing how they serve some desires and not others, as well as by showing how these same norms produce suffering under the guise of protecting us from it. Leo Bersani belongs very much to this second perspective on psychoanalytic theorizing, while Adam Phillips has written provocatively from both sides of this divide. Bersani, professor of French emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, has for decades explored dimensions of Freudian thinking that broaden our understanding of desire as excitation and of pleasure rather than satisfaction. He has been a critic of accommodation and of satisfaction that reinforces the violence-producing status quo. Satisfaction leads to a sense of closure, or even redemption, and for Bersani, these are deceptions that distance us from our capacity for intensity. For Bersani, pleasure is not an enhancement of the ego as it masters the world.

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