The Signifier and the Group

Journal Article or Monograph

Title: The Signifier and the Group
Year: 1991
Authors: Long, S.

This paper is concerned with the idea of the group as a signifying chain. Group elements, e.g., roles, subgroups, group episodes, and social acts, are viewed as signifiers open to particular significations each of which may be represented within the imaginary history of the group, i.e., in particular people and events. This theoretical position is arrived at via an application of Lacan's ideas to implications drawn from an examination of Freud's works on narcissism and group psychology. To Freud, the group is bound together by narcissistic identifications among the members who have each incorporated important aspects of the leader into his/her ego-ideal. The myth of the primal horde exemplifies this basic group structure. Taking this myth as a basis for further hypotheses about groups, this paper argues for differential member identifications with the leader. These differential identifications seem to be the imaginary effects of the signifying chain (group structure) that is anchored by the central signifier of the group, i.e., the symbolic father/leader. A particular group is exampled.

Keywords: group structure, identification, narcissism, signification, Lacan
Language: English

Journal: Human Relations
Volume: 44
Issue: 4
Start page: 389
End page: 401
Publisher ID:

Submitted by:
Susan Long

Corresponding author:

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he final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Human Relations, 44/4, 1991 by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. Susan Long.

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