This article meditates on the possibility of thinking about both psychoanalysis and contemporary critical analysis without the drive toward symptomatic reading. It argues that the instrumental expectation placed on the diagnosis of symptoms (of illness and of ideology alike) and the subsequent promise of transformative change have led to a series of critical impasses in liberal criticism. This essay contends that the failures of psychoanalysis (failures to produce stable meaning, to procure cure, to exorcize the past, to segregate health from illness, and so forth) may be precisely all the places that render psychoanalysis not only interesting but ethically vital to social critique and political consideration.

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