partial objects

partial objects
  ---- by Kenneth Surin
  Sigmund Freud's metapsychology was in essence a theory of drives, in that it invoked the concepts of energy and structure to show that every human action has its basis in a fundamental and irreducible instinctual ground. Two drives were pre-eminent: the sexual drive and the drive for selfpreservation. Connected with the concept of drive was the notion of an object - the psychic economy was populated by a plethora of such objects, with the objects in question being related to the 'discharge' of an underlying drive. Interestingly, Freud himself was not always clear or consistent on the relation between drive and object, and changed his position in subsequent writings or sometimes said incompatible things about objects in different parts of the same text. Yet, the fundamental point remained: the psychic object is a result of the drive, and the relation to an object is the function of a drive's discharge. Freud and his followers construed successful psychic development, then, as the capacity an individual psyche has to form relations with whole objects. Subsequent thinkers in the psychoanalytical tradition criticised this emphasis on the individual psyche, and charged Freud with de-emphasising social relations and group ties, despite his attempts to deal with such issues in, for example, Totem and Taboo and Moses and Monotheism. Freud was said to have failed to consider adequately the mechanisms that link objects to drives and objects to each other. These mechanisms - introjection and projection - are highly flexible in their operation, and blend objects with each other, as well as decomposing objects into 'partial' or 'part' objects. Object creation can also be enhanced by the particular dealings an individual has with the external world.
  The positions taken by Deleuze and Guattari on psychoanalysis belong to this deviant or post-Freudian tradition. Perhaps the most significant figure in this post-Freudian movement was Klein. Klein differed from Freud in her insistence that the drives are not mere streams of energy, but possess from the beginning a direction and structure, that is, they are object-focused. For Deleuze and Guattari, though, Klein remained within the psychoanalytic tradition: while Klein acknowledged the centrality and power of partial objects, with their changes of intensity, their variable flows, and having the capacity to ebb or explode, she still located the task of interpreting these objects in a contractual relation between analyst and patient. The analyst provided an interpretation of these psychic objects in the context of the contract that existed between her and the patient. Even Winnicott, who moved further from Freudianism than Klein because he dispensed with the contractual relation between analyst and patient, was said by Deleuze to have remained within the psychoanalytic paradigm. For Deleuze, the analyst and patient have to share something beyond law, contract or institution. But the primary disagreement that Deleuze and Guattari had with the psychoanalytic tradition arose from the latter's insistence that psychic well-being resides ultimately in a relationship with a whole object, thereby consigning partial objects (the mother's breast, the penis, a whisper, a pain, a piece of cake, and so on) to a necessarily inferior or proleptic position in the psychoanalytic scheme of things - partial objects were always something that one moved on from, a stage that one went though, in attaining psychic maturity.
  For Deleuze and Guattari, however, partial objects (and even drives) are not mere structural phenomena or stages on a developmental trajectory, but, as they put it in A Thousand Plateaus, 'entryways and exits, impasses the child lives out politically, in other words, with all the force of his or her desire' (D&G 1987: 13). Psychoanalysis forces the desire of the patient into a grid that can then be traced by the analyst, whereas this desire needs to be kept away from any pre-traced identity or destiny. Only in this way can the patient (and the analyst) experiment with the real. But to undertake this experimentation it is necessary to treat psychic objects as political options and just as significantly, to refrain from relegating partial objects to a merely secondary or provisional status in relation to whole objects.
  Partial objects are invariably something 'menacing, explosive, bursting, toxic, or poisonous', and it is this flexible and plastic quality which makes them inherently political. For parts follow a specific course when they are detached from a whole or from other parts, or when they are collected into other wholes along with one or more other parts, and so the question of the specific processes that underlie this detachment or reattachment is absolutely crucial: is a particular attachment, detachment or reattachment menacing, reassuring, painful, pleasurable, tranquillising, alluring, and so on? What makes it any one (or more) of these things? For Deleuze and Guattari it is absolutely essential that we see these processes and their meanings as inherently political, as phenomena that move people on, or hold them back, in the courses taken by their lives. As they see it, psychoanalysis, by privileging the whole psychic object, can never do justice to politics.
   § psychoanalysis
   § real

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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