In Lacanian theory, a signifier which stops the slippage of the signified under the signifier and fixes meaning, thereby forming a stable symbolic order. It is a particular signifier with no signified of its own, which stands in for the "fullness" of the meaning of the symbolic system itself. However, since contingency and lack are taken to be primary in Lacanian theory, it is necessarily arbitrary and is unable to guarantee its own primacy except through arbitrary and ungrounded violence. It is always haunted by the return of the Real.
In my view, this concept is useful but its basis is mistaken. What is repressed is active desire, held down for fear of punishment, and not some kind of ontological void. Lacan is wrong to pose his problems on such a metaphysical level.
by Andy May 7, 2004
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