lacanian review online psychoanalysis

9.10.2015 - Archive

  • Jeremy Corbyn – A Fool Among Knaves
    By Scott Wilson

    Ever since it became apparent that Jeremy Corbyn would become the new leader of the British Labour Party, the notion of folly has dominated political discourse. It began with ‘the folly’ of MPs who, despite not believing in any of his policies, nominated him to ‘widen the debate’.1 MPs like former cabinet minister Margaret Beckett who accepted the appellation of ‘moron’ applied to them by John McTernan, ex-advisor to Tony Blair. It culminates in Corbyn himself giving his first keynote speech to the Labour Party conference dressed in the same tweed jacket and thin tie of Mr Bean, the nerdy idiot of Rowan Atkinson’s series of slapstick comedies, unwittingly reading out the instructions left by his speech writers to indicate emphasis: ‘strong message here’. Indeed. Combined with an apparent regression to the atavistic attitudes and policies of the 1970s, it is said, ‘folly upon folly has brought a grand political party to this predicament, from which it is not certain to recover.’2 ...

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    • In one of his rare direct comments on the politics of left and right in Seminar VII, Lacan has recourse to terms from the Elizabethan theatre.3 The left wing intellectual is characterized as a fool and the right wing intellectual a knave. The fool – for example from King Lear – was someone who might speak truth to power but without consequences. Not necessarily because the words of the left wing intellectual are those of a supposed simpleton, but because he or she does not want to deal with the consequences. For the fool, writes Jacques-Alain Miller, commenting on Lacan’s terms, ‘not dealing with the consequences is the only way of being consequent. The fool plays at being the angel. He stops at it’s not fair, then he proposes an end to injustice without considering the consistency of the set of choices.’4 It is easy to see how this characterization might fit Corbyn. In 40 years he has ‘never sought power or even desired it’;5 he has never sought a cabinet post, led a union, run a business, nor even chaired a parliamentary select committee. He seems to have avoided political responsibility at all costs, being content to vote against his own party hundreds of times, even while they were in government from 1997 to 2010. But now the anti-monarchist pacifist finds himself responsible for the defense of the Realm, supposing that he can act as a Prime Minister encumbered with a nuclear deterrent even as he tells everyone he could never contemplate pressing the nuclear ‘button’. Is it possible for this consistent anti-American anti-capitalist to retain the support of the nation’s traditional allies and manage its finances in the context of the global economy? Corbyn proposes a new type of leadership in which the party’s policies will emerge as the result of ‘a debate’, as if debates ever changed anyone’s mind about anything (they certainly haven’t Corbyn’s over the past 40 years). One suspects that these ‘debates’ will become a mechanism by which Corbyn’s policies will ‘melt away’, enabling him to maintain the purity of his oppositional position.6
      In the meantime, the ‘knaves’ sharpen their knives and wait for their moment. The knave, suggests Lacan, plays the role of the ‘unmitigated scoundrel’ in the name of realism. While the knaves of the ‘Tory Press’ have not ceased to ‘mock the fool by showing him that in playing the angel he is playing the ass’,7 in so doing they are preparing the ground for the real asses to show themselves. No one knows if Corbyn will be the Labour leader come the next election in 2020 when he will be 71 years of age. The suspicion is that he is content to create the conditions for the left wing dominance of the party and a return to its roots as a support for the unions and a vehicle for state socialism. For their part, his opponents in the party need to find more positive ways to reaffirm the necessity of economic realism, a dismal prospect if ever there was one.
      It was it seems overwhelmingly a younger generation that swept Corbyn to power, much to his surprise. This generation knows little about him except that the simplicity of his views represents ‘authenticity’. In itself this signals that the semblant of the market no longer offers the jouissance its so-called rationality once promised in its disclosure of all ideas, beliefs, institutions and laws as themselves semblants, mere idols of the market place. The words of a supposed simpleton are now opposed to the market as subject supposed to know. This suggests that if the wave beneath Corbyn is the start of a movement, it is not a revolutionary one. More modestly, perhaps, it is seeking a signifier that might arrest the dissolution of civil society by global finance that has indeed made the city unaffordable and unlivable.


      1 Rosa Prince, ‘Accidental Rise to Power of the Left’s last man standing’, The Daily Telegraph 14.09.15: 6 2 Financial Times 14.08.15 3 Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis tr. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 182-4. 4 Jacques-Alain Miller, ‘Psychoanalysis, the city and communities’ in Natalie Wülfing, Philosophical Notebooks 24 (2012): 9-28, 15. 5 Prince, ibid. 6 . See Martin McQuillan, ‘Is Jeremy Corbyn serious about free higher education?’ Times Higher Education. 03.10.15. 7 Miller, ibid.

  • “P” is for psychoanalysis
    By Bogdan Wolf

    Psychoanalysis is possibly the greatest thing that happened to humanity since Homer, although we would not have had Freud without Galileo and Lacan without a church. Psychoanalysis has passed through the ears of the world wide web, reaching every culture, library and classroom of the Lacanian School. And yet it will never be celebrated globally as a universal like medicine or physics. Why?...

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    • ... Because psychoanalysis has a language of its own that arises in a singular act of a particular subject Lacan later called speaking being. Psychoanalysis stands, in principio, if not de facto, in opposition to the universal achievements of humanity. There is no Nobel Prize for it, no certificates for achievements in the field. In short, psychoanalysis is always in crisis.
      I take the decline of the father’s function as an example. For centuries, before Lacan called it the Name-of-the-Father, it served as a universal reference for priests and scientists alike to seek refuge from the mother’s, or the wife she incarnates, demand. The father has been summoned for millennia to consecrate law from St Paul to present judiciary. At the same time, the paternal function remains contingent and not for all, not every neighbour makes a singular use of it. Your neighbour, Monsieur Farage, is a barbarian and, ergo, for him, you too are a foreigner. One of you cannot manage without the father and the other cannot manage without the sacrum that summons jouissance to hatred. That’s why Lacan anticipated it would be religion, not psychoanalysis, that would triumph. Identifications can always triumph when submission to the One goes against the Other. And if it goes with the Other, then the submission to the universal father leads to a singular failure, which leaves room for a serendipity called psychoanalysis.
      TThere is a paradox for me in this failure. How to show and transmit the subject’s absolutely singular experience of the real that does not know? How do the speaking beings find their mouthful of the unconscious if not, one by one, in the transmission of this failure in the experience of a crisis?
      This year in the Lacanian School we heard myriads of testimonies of crises of the body, traumas, fractures, falls, collapses and loss. Before Freud it was Hazlitt, the literary genius of XIX century England, who captured a human crisis by noting that nothing attracts us more than “hankering after evil” – disasters, acts of terror, love turned into hatred, which for Lacan was its underside, its veil – in these Hazlitt found the source of endless satisfaction. Is it indeed submission to the absolute or what Freud isolated as helplessness? After hours of witness and victim testimonies on the radio about the 7/07 London terror a decade ago, the presenter concludes: “We have enjoyed this day of memory… no, ‘enjoy’ is not the word for it..” He stops speechless. “Enjoyment” was a miss where jouissance, not only in analysis, does not translate.

  • A Match Made in Heaven
    By Cyrus Saint Amand Poliakoff

    On June 26, the United States Supreme Court announced that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the constitution. This landmark decision punctuated years of global debate, advocacy and media attention. There is no doubt that same-sex marriage involves real questions of civil rights and social justice. ...

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    • ... The struggle to define the union of two people under the law has continually produced division. Within America the states were divided; the Supreme Court as a Judicial body was divided in a vote of 5 to 4; the arguments anticipating the vote revealed that individual Justices of the Court were themselves subjectively divided. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, offered a tacitly psychoanalytic point: “How does withholding marriage from one group — same-sex couples — increase the value to the other group?” The more one forbids the jouissance of the Other, the more enjoyable it becomes. For both?

      Amidst the conflict, from another vantage we can suppose that marriage, gay or straight, is an attempt to ordain the sexual relation within the guarantee of the law. Everyone is entitled to their best attempt to make the sexual relation exist - just as everyone has the perilous right to jouir in their own way. But we cannot forget that fantasies are elaborate constructions to veil the impossibility of the sexual relation. The dissymmetry of love divides the ground underneath wedlock like a faultline.

      The trouble is that ‘sex’ according to US law and sex according to the laws of the unconscious are two different matters. Despite the best efforts to inscribe the sexual rapport within the definitions of constitutional law, the final word on ‘sex’ will never be written in the unconscious. Something (and by extension someone) will always be left out. In another sense, the gay marriage debate is an issue of the legal guarantee to enjoy a fantasy. It asks that the Other of the State witness a seal of jouissance. Jouissance and the law are a match made in heaven - this can already be heard in ‘Til death do us part.'

lacanian review online psychoanalysis

lacanian review online psychoanalysis