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In the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, objet petit a (object little-a) stands for the unattainable object of desire. It is sometimes called the object cause of desire.

The letter a stands for autre, "other" in French, and it is "little" because objet a, the other as object, stands in contrast to the Big Other, the field against which the subject is defined.

To some extent, the objet petit a does not exist - it might be described as a nothing-space into which the subject moves in a dialectic, an imagined place that by its difference from reality gives depth and dimension to reality.

Lacan's formulation of this idea was influenced by his understanding of Hegel's Master-slave dialectic.

It might be compared with Althusser's idea of a Subject/subject relationship. The capital 's' Subject is the One (Master, Society) that calls one's name. The little 's' subject's name is called. Yet neither exists without the other.

Slavoj Žižek explains this objet petit a—the MacGuffin—in the following way: "MacGuffin is objet petit a pure and simple: the lack, the remainder of the real that sets in motion the symbolic movement of interpretation, a hole at the center of the symbolic order, the mere appearance of some secret to be explained, interpreted, etc." (Love thy symptom as thyself).

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es:Objeto a fr:Objet a

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