Consciousness as claiming: Practice and habit in an enigmatic world

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There has been increasing interest in recent years on the non-cognitive nature of human existence. Self-conscious thought and reflective action are no longer seen to be the defining feature of the human condition nor an anchor for social life. On the contrary, material practice and habitual engagements are the abiding mechanisms by which everyday life is sutured. One of the consequences of this perspective is its abbreviated conception of human consciousness. In the literature on habit and practical engagement, consciousness is conceptualised primarily in terms of self-perception and awareness. The aim of this article is to put forth the thesis that human consciousness is not just an awareness of the self – it is also a ‘claim’. Drawing upon the psycho-analytic work of Jean Laplanche, the paper argues that consciousness emerges as subjects reckon with existential problems that are as imminent to everyday life as the concrete problems and practical tasks. In this framing, consciousness emerges as a desire to claim oneself as a self in the face of problems that exceed our practical capacities. Consciousness is a claim in the sense that it marks a desire to be a self-standing, self-possessed subject, within a precarious and enigmatic world
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1135
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number6
Early online date28 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2018


  • consciousness
  • habit
  • practical engagement
  • materiality
  • claiming
  • Laplanche
  • Consciousness


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