The Politics of the Gaze: Foucault, Lacan and Žižek


  • Henry Krips Cultural Studies and Andrew W. Mellon all Claremont Chair of Humanities, Claremont Graduate University, USA



Film theory, the gaze, Lacan, Foucault, Copjec, Žižek


Joan Copjec accuses orthodox film theory of misrepresenting the Lacanian gaze by assimilating it to Foucauldian panopticon (Copjec 1994: 18–19). Although Copjec is correct that orthodox film theory misrepresents the Lacanian gaze, she, in turn, misrepresents Foucault by choosing to focus exclusively upon those aspects of his work on the panopticon that have been taken up by orthodox film theory (Copjec 1994: 4). In so doing, I argue, Copjec misses key parallels between the Lacanian and Foucauldian concepts of the gaze. More than a narrow academic dispute about how to read Foucault and Lacan, this debate has wider political significance. In particular, using Slavoj Žižek’s work, I show that a correct account of the panoptic gaze leads us to rethink the question of how to oppose modern techniques of surveillance.


Copjec, Joan (1994): Read My Desire: Lacan Against the Historicists, Harvard: MIT Press.

Foucault, Michel (1996): Foucault Live: Interviews, 19611984, Sylvère Lotringer (ed), Lysa Hochroth & John Johnson (trans), New York: Semiotext€.

–––– (1976/1990): The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction, Robert Hurley (trans), New York: Vintage.

Freud, Sigmund (1997): General Psychological Theory, James Strachey (trans), New York: Touchstone.

Lacan, Jacques (1981): The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Jacques-Alain Miller (ed), Alan Sheridan (trans), New York: Norton.

Žižek, Slavoj (1997): The Plague of Fantasies, London: Verso.






Theme: Surveillance