chapter  6
11 Pages

Subjectivity, care-labour and Lacan’s structures of discourse

ByOwen Dempsey

The anticipatory care paradox is where anticipatory care, in the name of improving health and wellbeing, instead causes increasing harm. Marx’s analysis of capitalism shows how capitalism’s social relations shape individual subjectivity and conscious beliefs. The individual becomes non-conscious of the harms of this mode of care, and is incited to desire the surplus life it appears to offer. This chapter shows why neoliberal pragmatism has such a powerful grip on the human psyche, and how the anticipatory care paradox continues to be able to increasingly intensify its harms.

Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic idea about human subjectivity is introduced as something necessarily created from an always fragmented, or insufficient self-consciousness.

Lacan’s structures of discourse are used as a theoretical resource to show how the capitalist processes of alienation and commodity fetishism relate to the formation of subjectivity and identity. Using breast screening as an example this identifies the key elements and discourses at work. This shows how the individual is subjectivised (that is, both oppressed and objectivised in order to form her sense of herself) by a mode of care that undermines individual agency whilst seeming to enhance it.

Thus, this chapter shows that contemporary capitalism discursively constructs an individual’s subjectivity as her imagined sense of being a whole self and of her social role by exploiting her desire. It does this by repressing her knowledge of harms as harm, and through fetishised anticipatory care commodities and their promise of surplus life.