Volume 65, Issue 3, Summer 2021
Special Topic: Technology and Society
The “New” Materialisms of Jacques Lacan and Judith Butler
This article defends Jacques Lacan and Judith Butler against the long-standing but recently reiterated charge that they affirm a linguistic idealism or foundationalism. First outlining the parameters of Lacan’s thinking on this topic through his comments on the materiality inherent in the imaginary, symbolic, real schema to show that he offers an account built around the tension between the real and symbolic, I then move to Butler to argue that she more coherently identifies the parameters of the problem before offering an explanation based on paradox. With this, both offer (1) a forceful rebuttal of linguistic idealism, (2) a far more complex analysis of the materialism–signification relation than their new materialist critics tend to appreciate, and (3) innovative but often-ignored “new” materialisms of their own.