Socialization by the Legal System: The Scientific Validity of a Lacanian Socio-Legal Psychoanalysis

30 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2014 Last revised: 4 Jun 2014

Date Written: October 1, 1996


Ever since Freud wrote about using psychoanalysis to decide facts at trial, scholars have debated the utility of using psychoanalysis in law. Advocates of its use generally have applied it in one of three ways: (1) to decide the facts in a case, such as whether a defendant had criminal intent; (2) to influence legal doctrine, such as the insanity defense and criminal responsibility; or (3) to understand the evolution, nature, and purpose of the legal system. The first two approaches are outdated and are no longer generally accepted; psychoanalysis is seen as having little practical relevance or explanatory power in these realms. No modern court, for example, would cite dozens of psychoanalytic treatises and rely explicitly on Freud to arrive at its holding as the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit did in 1963.

In contrast, the third approach is now quite popular in legal scholarship and deserves serious attention. In this approach, psychoanalysis seeks to understand how the law is influenced by our unconscious - how the "law is mind-of-man-made." Freud said our unconscious desires must be controlled by social structures like the law. "The superego needs all the help it can get from custom, habit, taboo, religion, accepted morality, and, of crucial importance in modern civilized society, from the law..."

Keywords: Freud, law, psychoanalysis, psychoanalysis in law, Lacanian, socialization

Suggested Citation

Redding, Richard E., Socialization by the Legal System: The Scientific Validity of a Lacanian Socio-Legal Psychoanalysis (October 1, 1996). Oregon Law Review, Vol. 75, pp. 781-810, 1996, Available at SSRN:

Richard E. Redding (Contact Author)

Chapman University ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2688 (Phone)
714-628-2564 (Fax)

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