Mladen Dolar: “What’s in a name?”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Janša would, were he not Janša call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”
Romeo and Juliet, II, 2, 43–49

A name always bears a symbolic mandate. As soon as false pretenders appear, questions arise as to the symbolic mandate’s power, its validity and justification. Names refer to genealogies, yet thereby always involve a certain distribution of power. To arrogate a name is to arrogate power. There is a claim to power in every name, in assuming the social role that goes with it, in transmitting symbolic legacy, in social impact, in genealogical inscription. The story of false pretenders entails the moment of bemusement – one’s feeling that, really, one is always a false pretender, as there’s no way one could inhabit a name legitimately, naturally, feeling fully justified bearing the name one bears. No sufficient grounds can ever substantiate it; no name is ever covered by the Leibnizian principle of sufficient reason. The feeling of being an impostor, false pretender to a name, isn’t personal sentiment or idiosyncrasy; it’s a structural feeling accompanying names – their shadow and effect.

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What’s in a Name?
Mladen Dolar
Edited by Janez Janša
Proofreading: Eric Dean Scott
Graphic design: Luka Umekcredits_white-space
64 pp. English, 4.25  x 6.88 in
Perfect-bound paperback, Black & white
Printed and distributed by:
ISBN 978-1-291-98060-8
Producer: Aksioma, steirischer herbst, Graz and Artribune, Rome in the framework of Masters & Servers
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Author

Mladen Dolar
Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana. His principal areas of research are psychoanalysis, modern French philosophy, German idealism and art theory. He has lectured extensively at universities in the US and across Europe, he is the author of over a hundred papers in scholarly journals and volume collections. Apart from ten books in Slovene, his book publications include most notably A Voice and Nothing More (MIT 2006, translated into six languages) and Opera’s Second Death (with Slavoj Žižek, Routledge 2001, also translated into several languages). He is the co-founder of what has become known as ‘the Ljubljana School’.