The name of the strict father

I’ve been thinking about how I used the concept of the big Other to describe the manner by which Ranil Wickremesinghe, the current Sri Lankan President, functions with a section of the electorate that supports him.

Recently, after some theatrics in Parliament by him, I referenced the (non-Lacanian) strict father model.

Both these views came from thinking about the emergence of a group who were supporters of the former Rajapaksa regime, and now support the current President. They form a cohort with those who previously supported Wickremasinghe in his previous guise as a liberal figure, but who continue to support him now despite an illiberal turn.

Beyond policy, or the fact this is a hybrid Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe regime, the question from a psychoanalytical perspective is, what draws these two groups together now? Why have they merged into supporting the current government?

My invoking of the strict father model made me think again of my previous use of the big Other.

I think my analysis of RW as the big Other was simplistic and a misreading of Lacan. Rather than being the personification of the big Other (the symbolic order), it is more accurate to suggest that by acting as the strict father archetype, RW is playing the role of the Name-of-the-Father signifier, thus anchoring the symbolic order and allowing it to function.

To elaborate: What Lacan calls the Name-of-the-Father does not need to be a literal father.

It is in the name of the father that we must recognize the basis of the symbolic function which, since the dawn of historical time, has identified his person with the figure of the law

With this analysis, what we can deduce is that there is a collective symbolic order (ideals, cultural values and social norms) shared between the various groups that have come together to support Wickremasinghe. Particularised for these individuals as the big Other, in this case, these values include a respect of “great men”, a belief in hierarchies, and authoritarianism as a means of governance.

The Name-of-the-Father represents a focal point through which the symbolic is enabled and conveyed into the subject. It mediates between the subject and the big Other, allowing the symbolic order to operate on the subject.

The father for Lacan is “a symbolic function to which all group members … are subjected”;”It provides human beings with an internalized compass of culturally and socially viable principles”

Stijn Vanheule, The Subject of Psychosis: A Lacanian Perspective

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