The real at the origin of sovereignty

J. Peter Burgess
Scientific article

This article revisits the concept of sovereignty in political theory by applying tools adapted from Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. It critically reviews the premises of political subjected assumed by sovereignty, and formulates a widened concept of sovereignty based on a general understanding of the ‘self’, ‘self-relation’ and ‘identity’ as the fundamental components of sovereignty. With this concept in hand, the article then focuses on the concept of the ‘sovereign good’ common to French histories of political thought and of particular interest to Jacques Lacan in his 1959-60 seminar on the Ethics of Psychoanalysis and his 1963 article ‘Kant with Sade’. By reinterpreting the sovereignty of the sovereign good, Lacan points to a path according to which an idealised and universalised notion of the sovereign is made possible and energised through an identification of the ‘real’ with the sovereign good. By understanding sovereignty as supported by the Lacanian real, be can better understand both the forces that drive it to self-preservation and the insecurities that make its survival and longevity powerful hindrances to its dissolution

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