The French word jouissance means enjoyment, but it has a sexual connotation (i.e. orgasm) lacking in the English word "enjoyment", and is therefore left untranslated in English editions of the works of Jacques Lacan.

In his Seminar "The Ethics of Psychoanalysis" (1959-1960) Lacan develops his concept of the opposition of jouissance and pleasure. The pleasure principle, according to Lacan, functions as a limit to enjoyment: it is the law that commands the subject to 'enjoy as little as possible'. At the same time the subject constantly attempts to transgress the prohibitions imposed on his enjoyment, to go beyond the pleasure principle. Yet the result of transgressing the pleasure principle, according to Lacan, is not more pleasure but pain, since there is only a certain amount of pleasure that the subject can bear. Beyond this limit, pleasure becomes pain, and this 'painful principle' is what Lacan calls jouissance. (Dylan Evans). Thus jouissance is suffering (Ethics).

In his Seminar "Encore" (1972-1973) Lacan states that jouissance is essentially phallic. That is, insofar as jouissance is sexual it is phallic, meaning that it does not relate to the Other as such. Lacan admits, however, that there is a specifically feminine jouissance, a supplementary jouissance, which is beyond the phallus, a jouissance of the Other. This feminine jouissance is ineffable, for women experience it but know nothing about it.

In his seminar "The Other Side of Psychoanalysis" (1969-1970) Lacan introduced the concept of surplus-jouissance (French 'plus-de-jouir') inspired by Marx's concept of surplus-value: objet petit a is the excess of jouissance which has no use value, and which persists for the mere sake of jouissance.

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj ?i?ek, a known Lacanian theorist, has adopted the term in his philosophy; it may also be seen in the works, both joint and individual, of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and it plays an important role in the writing of Roland Barthes.


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