By Julie Walsh (auth.)
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Additional resources for Narcissism and Its Discontents
This speaks to the structural paradox of primary narcissism identiﬁed at the start of this chapter where it was the neonate’s position in a precarious environment that provided the catalyst for the production of his ﬁctive self-sufﬁciency. As we go on through the chapters of this book we shall come to know this structural bind by the refrain ‘the mother can always leave’. e. remaining with Freud and Aristophanes in sceptical attitude towards the purported harmonious relation that existed prior to the development of the ego), then the operation of illusory identiﬁcations need not indicate false-selves, or immature subjects.
Most often, the prosthetic extension to man’s narcissism is framed as part of the familiar tale of man’s self-alienation through his strived-for domination of nature, where technology – as ideology, fetish, or supplement – is the site of ambivalence around which power and prosthesis meet. ) assure ‘happiness’. We can read this as a further comment on the qualities of illusion within narcissism which speak to the structural impossibility of a total self-satisfaction. Indeed, 46 Narcissism and Its Discontents the very idea that there was once a primitive society where man’s fantasy of omnipotence went unchecked must itself be revealed as fantastical.
The mirror-image must be more perfect than itself – the itself that is not yet constituted – as Narcissus discovered to his cost. Because he stayed hooked on his image and couldn’t tolerate its absence, Narcissus never constituted himself as a subject. (386) Once again it seems that Narcissus is destined to remain in a condition of pre-subjectivity, but the inﬂection is now quite different to that of ‘oceanic feeling’ that allowed Marcuse to read into narcissism a fundamental relatedness. In the Lacanian model it follows that the little Narcissus inevitably ‘knows’ that what he sees in the reﬂection is himself, otherwise he would have no gestalt image around which to constitute his identity-deﬁning illusions – but crucially his knowledge is faulty.