decentred self

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decentred self


decentred subject

a conception of the SELF, or the thinking and acting subject (see SUBJECT AND OBJECT), in which the self is no longer regarded as providing the kind of ultimate grounding for epistemological thinking that is often assumed in traditional forms of philosophy (e.g. EMPIRICISM). Particularly associated with STRUCTURALISM and POSTSTRUCTURALISM, the concept of a decentred self derives from three interconnected sources:
  1. from PSYCHOANALYSIS, the idea that the EGO is not ‘master in its own home’, and is influenced by the UNCONSCIOUS (see LACAN);
  2. from critical discourse with SAUSSURE'S linguistics, the conception that language consists of a system of SIGNS constituted by DIFFERENCE, so that the ‘I’ is ‘only constituted as a sign’ by virtue of its difference from ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘they’, etc., and as one element in that system, so that there can be no question of granting it philosophical privilege;
  3. from an emphasis on the ‘autonomy’ of culture, or the TEXT, in which the ‘individual’, or the ‘author’, exists nowhere.

In this view, rather than a single ‘self ‘, for any ‘individual’ person there always exist ‘multiple selves’ or ‘quasi-selves’, in which the ‘self ‘ exists only as a moment in a ‘syntagmatic chain’. Whereas in structuralism the decentring of the self leads to the elevation of STRUCTURE as the pre-eminent basis of accounts of reality, in POST-STRUCTURALISM, neither the self nor structure are regarded as providing a secure basis. See also ALTHUSSER, ALTHUSSERIAN MARXISM, DECONSTRUCTION, DERRIDA, FOUCAULT.

References in periodicals archive ?
Kristeva's description of the decentred subject proposes a notion of agency that challenges concepts of a compliant, conscious subject.
8) The decentred subject has been more recently epitomised by the figure of Bateman in Brett Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho (9) where the human and the social "are collapsed into the visual and the material so that sex, bodies and relationships are as indistinguishable, disposable and meaningless, or meaningful as clothes, Cds and interior design.
Whether the decentred subject is symptomatic only of postmodern cultural theory and bears little relationship to the lived reality of postmodernity, (9) is the cornerstone of a radical political agenda, (10) or is useful simply as a model for interpreting a historical shift in Western ideas and experiences of selfhood, (11) is still a matter for debate.
However, the schizophrenic can more accurately be seen as taking over the role of decentred subject in precipitating postmodernism's major aesthetic trends.
Sartre's ideas seem strangely out of kilter not only with the more fashionable intellectual notions of a decentred subject and of ceaselessly deferred ideological and narrative strategies, but also with the more consensually based politics gradually emerging in contemporary Europe.
Astutely, he fixes his attention on some important moments in the later work of Edward Said, Julia Kristeva, and Michel Foucault, at which the doctrines of the decentred subject, the ubiquity of discourse, and the demands of absolute alterity are checked and complicated by confrontation with the continuing force of Enlightenment ideals of criticism and common humanity.
As a conclusion, she then compares the female subject in Morgner's works to the split and decentred subjects of poststructuralist discourses and interprets Morgner's fantasy of a female ventriloquism in Amanda as a model for positive action.