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Jouissance ( dt. : Enjoy ) is a term of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan . For him, enjoyment stands - in contrast to lust and desire  - for an immediate satisfaction, especially of sexual needs. As an “idiotic”, dull, meaningless form of satisfaction it belongs to the realm of the real .

Development of the term

The concept of enjoying immersed in the work of Lacan late terminology on. In the early seminars I and II (1953–1955) Lacan used it in connection with the Hegelian master-servant dialectic, where the servant is forced to produce objects of enjoyment for the master through his work. Until 1957, enjoyment meant nothing more than the satisfaction of biological needs , such as hunger. It was not until 1957 that Lacan used the term in relation to enjoying a sexual object as well as masturbation . Later he also makes the importance of enjoyment as orgasm clear.

Lust and enjoyment

It was not until 1960 that Lacan juxtaposed enjoyment and lust . For him, as it was for Freud, pleasure rests on a prohibition that gives the forbidden its value. “The pleasure principle acts as a kind of restriction on pleasure ; it is a law that orders the subject to 'enjoy as little as possible'. ”(Dylan Evans: Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis , p. 114) Instead of uninhibited enjoyment, pleasure has to take the place of regulated desire other. In particular, the incest taboo and the threat of castration in the Oedipus complex are examples of such prohibitions. Entry into the symbolic order is a form of prohibition of enjoyment, in a figurative sense a form of “symbolic castration ”.

Profanity and painful lust

Enjoyment, on the other hand, defies this symbolic prohibition . It does not hold back its satisfaction, but gets it immediately. Slavoj Žižek therefore emphasizes the “ obscene ” character of enjoyment. Enjoyment is also paradoxical . Because overriding the prohibition no longer creates pleasure from a certain point, but causes pain , since the subject can only endure a certain amount of pleasure. This painful, neurotic pleasure is enjoyment: "Enjoyment is suffering" (Seminar VII), whereby the French "mal" can be translated both as "suffering" and as "evil".

This paradoxical form of satisfaction can be related to Freud's concept of "primary gain from one's own illness"; H. the subject's pleasure in its own illness and in its own symptom. In this sense, enjoyment is not only obscene, but also "idiotic" in that it prolongs one's suffering. "Enjoyment is that which serves nothing." (Seminar XX, p. 9)

The real and the "Sinthome"

Lacan also connects enjoyment with Freud's concept of the “ death instinct ”: Enjoyment is “the way to death” (Seminar XVII). Dylan Evans writes: "To the extent that the drives represent attempts to break through the pleasure principle in search of enjoyment, they are all death drives." (Dylan Evans: Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis , p. 115)

The death instinct includes the “ repetition compulsion ”, holding on to what has been experienced once and its repetition in the symptom . Enjoyment differs from desire in that it does not change its object at will, on the contrary, it just holds on to it. In this sense, too, it is “idiotic” and cannot be interpreted. Slavoj Žižek writes:

"And insofar as a core of enjoyment persists in the symptom, which resists any interpretation, the end of the analysis is perhaps not to be sought in an interpretative resolution of the symptom, but in an identification with it, in an identification of the subject with this non-analyzable Point, with this particular 'pathological' tic, which ultimately forms the only support of his existence. " (Žižek: Love your symptom as yourself , p. 26 f.)

It should be added, however, that the symptom is not limited to this remainder of the real , but has two sides. On the one hand, it is a signifier that symbolically indicates something and can be interpreted. On the other hand, there is an excess of meaning, an indissoluble “remainder of the real”: “The symptom is not only a significant structure, it is at the same time the way in which the subject organizes his enjoyment.” (Žižek: Love your symptom like Yourself , p. 20) Lacan coined the term " Sinthome " for this remainder in the symptom . When Žižek asks for identification with one's own symptom, this “sinthome” is always meant.


The concept of enjoyment is also related to Freud's concept of libido . Lacan sees enjoyment as essentially phallic , much like Freud viewed the libido as genuinely masculine. "Sexual enjoyment is phallic, which means that it does not relate to the other as such." (Seminar XX, p. 13) But Lacan also admits that there is a female enjoyment of its own alongside the male, which " beyond the phallus ”(Seminar XX, p. 81).

More enjoyment and added value at Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek writes that the concept of the object small a was developed by Lacan in connection with enjoyment as an analogy to Marx's conception of surplus value . It is precisely the loss of enjoyment that gives the subject a gain in pleasure, a “more enjoyment” that the object small a possesses in the form of an added value in meaning and pleasure (“plus-de-jouir”). To what extent this more enjoyment is to be connected with Marx's conception of added value, Žižek leaves open.

See also


  • Jacques Lacan: Seminar XX. Encore (1972–1973), Weinheim / Berlin: Quadriga 1986.
  • Dylan Evans: Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis , Vienna: Turia + Kant 2002.
  • Slavoj Žižek: Love your symptom like yourself! Jacques Lacans Psychoanalysis and the Media , Berlin: Merve 1991.
  • Slavoj Žižek: Enjoy more. Lacan in popular culture , Vienna: Turia + Kant 1992.
  • Corinne Maier / Hanna van Laak: The discovery of desire , Munich: Goldmann 2007, ISBN 3442154030 .