Lacanian Psychoanalytic Theory and the Historical Progression of Discourse: The Shifting of Social and Institutional Identity in Post-World War II America


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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study is to present an alternative way of analyzing the behavior of our leading social and governmental institutions through the employment of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, specifically Lacan's theory of discourse. Lacan used the term discourse to show that a society's primary social link is founded on language, reflected back through society in the form of discursive practices. According to Lacanian discourse theory, a subject's movement into language and the social bond that is created between people as a result of this movement are at the center of our current cultural condition. More mainstream approaches to organizational behavior have traditionally focused on observed human action to explain human behavior and the correlation of this behavior with possible remedial actions. Lacanian discourse theory, with its foundation in psychoanalytic theory, enables the formulation of a model of institutional behavior that goes beyond more mainstream approaches by focusing on behavior at the unconscious level.

The central premise of this dissertation is that there has been a cultural shift in the United States from the dominant form of discourse of the modern era to a new form of discourse. This new discourse has led to serious disconnections between our current social bond and true human desire. By employing Lacanian discourse theory, changes in the deeper, structural level of how a society relates to and communicates with each other will be revealed, thus providing greater insight into the current social condition of the United States and how this condition affects the behavior of its leading public institutions.



discourse, organization, institution, identity, lacan, culture