Todd McGowan – Enjoying What We Do Not Have



The loss of the object is the foundation of our enjoyment … [and this distance to the object] embodies that object with the power to satisfy us. Through the loss of the object, we are able to enjoy the object in its absence,

We enjoy nothing rather than something. … The enjoyment of absence — is the only type of enjoyment available to us as desiring beings. When we actually have the object, it loses the quality that renders it enjoyable. We can enjoy the object, but we can enjoy it only through its absence.


– Todd McGowan


The loss that founds this drive frees the subject from its dependence on its social environment, and the repetition of the initial loss sustains this freedom. By embracing the inescapability of traumatic loss, one embraces one’s freedom, and any political project genuinely concerned with freedom must orient itself around loss. Rather than looking to the possibility of overcoming loss, our political projects must work to remain faithful to it and enhance our contact with it. Only in this way does politics have the opportunity to carve out a space for the freedom to enjoy rather than restricting it under the banner of the good.


– Todd McGowan


around this loss to which the subject can relate.


– Todd McGowan


We may see an object of desire as embodying the lost object, but whenever we obtain this object, we discover its emptiness. The lost object is constitutively rather than empirically lost. Eating Nothing In this light, we can see the anorexic as the model for all desiring subjectivity.


– Todd McGowan

The anorexic doesn’t just try to embody the ideal of feminine beauty. She goes too far in her pursuit of thinness and comes to inhabit a body far from the ideal. Even wlu-n everyone tells her that she no longer looks good, that she is too thin, the anorexic continues to lose weight. It is for this reason that many feminists have seen her as a subversive figure. As Elizabeth Grosz puts it, “… anorexia can, like the phantom limb, be a kind ol mourning. …Anorexia is a form of protest at the social meaning of the female body.”  Grosz accounts for the excessiveness of anorexia by aligning it with feminist resistance to patriarchy rather than obsequious submission to it. But she aligns the anorexic with wholeness and the maternal bond rather than with the lost object. In this sense, she misses the true radicality of the anorexic, a radically that stems from the power of the anorexic’s desire. The anorexic doesn’t simply refuse to eat but eats nothing, the nothing that is the lost object.


– Todd McGowan


The anorexic starves not because she can’t find, in the mode of Kafka’s hunger artist, any food that would satisfy her but because she has found a satisfying food, a food that nourishes the desiring subject rather than the living being.

Objects of desire are desirable only insofar as they attempt to represent the impossible lost object, which is what the anorexic reveals.

The impossible ideal of perfect thinness allows the anorexic subject to avow, albeit unconsciously, the structural impossibility of desire itself. Unlike male subjects (or other female subjects who manage to distance themselves from the ideal), the anorexic cannot avoid confronting the impossibility of her object. The oppressive ideal of perfect thinness allows the anorexic to bear witness with her body to the truth of desire. Understanding the impossible nature of the lost object — what the anorexic makes clear — allows us to rethink the nature of the political act. Rather than


– Todd McGowan

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