This book explores the enabling function of constraints in relation to the psychoanalytic concept of the symbolic. It argues that, in the social and legal spheres, the enabling dimension of constraint is often overlooked; we tend not to view political or legal constraints as facilitating subjective freedom. The book provides examples that highlight different aspects of law (and especially written law), which is so often posited as antithetical to freedom and free will, as well as constrained practices such as the constraints that structure the experience of psychoanalysis. In this introduction, the role of constraints in sustaining the so-called “experimental” dimension of the symbolic is illustrated with three examples: Lucie Cantin's analysis of the religious practices and institutional reforms of the Spanish mystic Teresa of Ávila, the political philosophy of Jacques Rancière, and the work of contemporary French photographer Sophie Calle as read by Juliet Flower MacCannell.
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