What would Lacan have to say about road rage?

November 22, 2007

Former urban planner, cycling advocate and doctoral researcher Adrian was almost run over by a car while cycling to his Lacanian seminar. So he wondered what Lacan might have to say about motoring and roads…and then wrote a paper about it called The Road to Nowhere

I have attempted to develop a few loose observations about how we may think about automobiles and roads via the detours of psychoanalysis and popular culture.

It’s a compelling read and I’m liberally stealing quotes here:

when Lacan began his psychoanalytic seminars, the ‘Golden Age’ of the automobile had truly begun. Lacan often refers to the road, the highway, and detours within his psychoanalytic theory. Furthermore, unlike many other ‘post-Freudian’ thinkers, Lacan was also concerned with another kind of ‘drive’ – the Freudian drive – that he regarded as a fundamental concept of psychoanalysis
Like the excited child who walks for the first time, the adolescent driver also finds joy in the initial act of driving, which allows him/herself to experience the world anew. Therefore, it is perhaps this deeply affective dimension of driving appeals to our conception of subjectivity.

Speaking of the place of the car in contemporary culture he goes on to say

Whether Thelma and Louise should be regarded as a story of feminist liberation or a pseudo-feminist valorisation of masochism is difficult to answer. However, what interests me about the film is the way it articulates how life is represented in the act of driving and through a passage of detours. According to Lacan, the libidinal drive also undertakes its own adventures along what he calls ‘the roads of life’. However, while the roads of life may lead eventually to death, according to Lacan (1988:2) ‘we cannot find death along any old road’. The drive, as such, is an endless detour that passes along the road to nowhere.

Fascinating stuff and I wish I was as adept at turning road rage into something as interesting and productive as this!