By Alex Callinicos
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Extra resources for Is there a Future for Marxism?
Be compared with a sheet of paper: thought is the front and sound the back; one cannot cut the front without cutting the back at the same time; likewise in language, one can neither divide sound from thought nor thought from sound. 4 This concept of the sign and of signification in itself involves no radical breach with traditional notions. Roman Jakobson has pointed out that Saussure's conception of the sign is the same as its mediaeval definition as aliquid stat pro aliquo something which stands for something else.
35 However, Lacan does not simply take over Saussure's concepts, but transforms them. The signifier becomes constitutive of langue, as is clear from the following passage: The first network, that of the signifier, is the synchronic structure of the language material insofar as in that structure each element assumes its precise function by being different from the others; this is the principle of distribution that alone governs the function of the elements of the language (langue) at its different levels ....
The child imagines himself to be a whole and the world to be an extension of his needs and demands; he is incapable of engaging in genuine inter-subjective relationships. The autonomy of the subject is a phantasy produced within the imaginary. Only when the child enters the symbolic order can he relate to other self-consciousnesses, and here he is caught up in a new form of alienation- subordination to the signifying chain. The subject is outside himself, in the 'other scene' of the unconscious, where the process through which he came to submit to his alienation is recorded.