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Lacan - The Unconscious Reinvented

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Has Jacques Lacan's impact on psychoanalysis really been assessed? His formulation that the Freudian unconscious is "structured like a language" is well-known, but this was only the beginning. There was then the radically new thesis of the "real unconscious". Why this step?Searching for the Ariadne's thread that runs throughout Lacan's ever-evolving teaching, this book illuminates the questions implicit in each step, and sheds new light on his revisions and renewals of psychoanalytic concepts. In tracing these, Colette Soler brings out their consequences for the clinic, and in particular, for the subject, for symptoms, for affects, and for the aims of treatment itself. The last section of the book examines the political import of these developments.If many analysts since Freud have dreamt of reinventing psychoanalysis, Colette Soler shows the ways in which Lacan succeeded in this reinvention.

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Chapter One: Trajectory

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Lacan himself did not fail to question his own trajectory and to reappraise each one of his steps. The new formulas as well as the theses of this reappraisal are striking theoretical rectifications (Soler, 2008a). Ultimately, we have a Symbolic which is no longer language but langue, to be written lalangue (I will come back to this); an Imaginary which is not signification subordinated to the Symbolic but is essentially form and representation; finally, a Real outside of the Symbolic whereas its previous definition located it at the limit points of linguistic formalisation.

Why? The question is not intended to mark out a periodisation, to chart a first, second, and third Lacan. Chronology is in itself inert and presents a drawback that is not entirely innocent: indeed it elides the One that links all the textual variations. This One is not at the level of theses but at the level of what I call the choice that grounds a unique saying [un dire unique], beyond the variations of statements [les dits]. With chronological sequence, whether one knows it or not, One-saying [l’Un-dire] is surreptitiously divided up into successive textualities, and in the name of a methodical reading it becomes so multiple that in the end it is simply resorbed.

 

Chapter Two: Towards the Real

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Ihave jumped from the structure of language to the Borromean knot so as to situate the underlying framework of the Lacanian trajectory, but this is only intelligible and justified if it follows the development step by step.

It is in so far as psychoanalysis as a practice of speech mobilises the Imaginary and the Symbolic, namely the field of semblants, that the Real is brought into question, and one can wonder if it is not a delire-à-deux, as Lacan ultimately put it. This is obviously a major question.

The Real can emerge in speech and limit the infinite drift of both deciphering and meaning. Lacan put forward three successive elaborations of the Real that imply, moreover, three definitions of the final pass of analysis and not just one. What animates this quest?

On this question, the popular thesis according to which all these advances are so many efforts at thinking the relations between the signifier and jouissance is not adequate. No doubt these relations were reformulated over time, but the real questionis: why go beyond the first consistent construction on this theme, mainly elaborated in the 1960s, that of the object a? For this already allowed the whole of analytic experience to be rethought from the perspective of the economy of jouissance, since this object, to put it succinctly, is simultaneously the main effect of language that mortifies jouissance and the remainder which conditions all our surplus jouissance. With this object, Lacan writes both the jouissance that is lacking—let us say, Freud's lost object—and that which remains condensed in the objects of surplus jouissance. And this sheds light on the “destitution” at the end of analysis and the procedure of the pass is established, set out in 1967 in the “Proposition on the psychoanalyst of the school” (Lacan, 1995).

 

Chapter Three: Lalangue, Traumatic

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Why write it as one word? The references are numerous, and Lacan explained it in this way: it is because of its homophony with “lallation”. “Lallation” comes from the Latin lallare, which the dictionaries say designates the act of singing “la, la” to send infants to sleep.1 The term also designates the babbling of the infant who does not yet speak but who already makes sounds. Lallation is sound separated from meaning, but nonetheless, as we know, not separated from the infant's state of satisfaction.

Here a small digression. An apparently enigmatic and hardly even serious remark in the lecture “Joyce, the symptom” is now clarified (Lacan, 1987, p. 35). Speaking of the symptom as an event of the body, he calls it “tied to that which: l’on l’a, l’on l’a de l’air, l’on l’aire, de l’on l’a”. One can even sing it. The implication of this remark is the link of lalangue with the symptomatic body.

Lalangue evokes the speech that is transmitted before syntactically structured language. Lacan says that lalangue, as one word, means the mother tongue: in other words, the first things heard, to parallel the first forms of bodily care.

 

Chapter Four: From the Transference towards the other Unconscious

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“The unconscious is a fact inasmuch as it is supported by the discourse which establishes it”

The transference, a name of the unconscious

To say “impasse”, to bring up the necessary “fall” of the transference if not its “liquidation”, should not lead analysts to chant the well-known refrain about the detrimental effects of the transference, especially as this critical note is dominant in contemporary discourse where it is only spoken about as a power likely to obscure reason and paralyse the will; a sort of public danger that is often confused with that of sects. This should already alert us and above all put us on our guard.

Indeed, we must not forget that analysis owes everything to the transference: there is no psychoanalysis without the postulate of the subject supposed to know. Everyone agrees on this. What is apparently less well understood is that without this postulate there is no unconscious either, for the unconscious, as I have said, is not just one thing among others. It is the transference that makes it supposed. Lacan produced a matheme for it, written in accordance with the algorithm signifier/signified (Lacan, 1995). The subject supposed to knowledge, a knowledge itself supposed from the signifiers of the unconscious, is written at the place of the signified of the analytic address. In this sense, the transference is a name of the unconscious, but the unconscious as supposed; hence the fact that it is essentially tied to belief. We could even say that it is in essence itself belief. This is indeed, outside analysis, what it is reproached for: its credulity. The term “supposition” was a way of giving epistemic dignity to the transference by raising it to the status of a scientific hypothesis. The term, introduced in the seminar The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (Lacan, 1981b), should be paired with another expression from the same period, the “position of the unconscious”, which already shows that it is not enough to suppose the unconscious in order to position it. The supposition belongs to the analysand, the position to the analyst. The analytic act—whatever its manifestations—is this: to position an unconscious, which in itself is not positioned, and from this fact the analysand will be able to suppose, for supposition is a retroaction of positioning. Hence the idea—which is not paradoxical if we know the link of the unconscious to speech—that psychoanalysts are responsible for the unconscious.

 

Chapter Five: The Royal Road to the Rucs

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In following Lacan's trajectory, I realised that his references to the formations of the unconscious changed over time.

We could say that he commented on them all methodically. We have the main developments on the dream, the Witz, the lapsus, the bungled action, the forgotten word, etc. Then there comes a time when he has more or less finished with his return to Freud and where he evokes the triad: dream, lapsus, and joke. There are many examples in the texts of the 1970s: “L’étourdit” (1973), “Introduction à l’édition allemande des Écrits” (1975c), and later in others.

Then we have the famous text I have just referred to and at which I paused, the “Introduction to the English-language edition” of Seminar XI where the lapsus appears on its own. We are in May 1976, just before the start of the seminar “L’insu que sait d’l’une bévue s’aile à mourre” which emphasises the unconscious as lapsus. Lacan notes that a blunder [bévue] is difficult to define, but the definition he gives of it is after all still “one word for another”.

 

Chapter Six: The Borromean Aleph

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After the period in which the unconscious is formulated in terms of language, the signified of which is sought, it was a major step to uncover the real unconscious made of “incarnated” ones, outside the chain and outside meaning, challenging the idea of the unconscious as symbolic. The RUCS is a-structural: far from being constructed or interpreted, it is encountered in emergences that are always punctual and which defy both awareness and communication.

Let's remind ourselves of the steps that led to this thesis: they go from the structure of signifying representation stemming from the linguistic conceptualisation of the Freudian practice of deciphering, to the unconscious “knowledge without a subject” implied by this same structure, a knowledge which if not determinant of the subject determines his jouissance. This was first thought of in terms of object a, as the lacking object or as the object of surplus jouissance, then in terms of lalangue as the place of this “spoken knowledge” [savoir parlé] which civilises jouissance by giving it its linguistic form.

 

Chapter Seven: The Parlêtre

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This term echoes the emphasis on the function of lalangue, its link with the real of jouissance, that is constitutive of the real unconscious. It is preceded by the introduction of the new Borromean framework, basically starting from Encore. It does not get rid of the notion of the subject as want-to-be, but adds to it by indicating that the subject only has being from what comes through the incarnated effects of lalangue.

The term parlêtre is introduced in the second lecture on Joyce published in 1979 in the volume Joyce avec Lacan (Lacan, [1979] 1987). The date of the writing of this lecture has not been established, but I am sure that it is contemporary with the seminar on Joyce and is probably even a bit later. I note, indeed, that the introduction of lalangue and the Borromean knot in Lacan's teaching immediately follows a new emphasis from 1970 on writing and the letter.1

With the periodisation of Lacan's teaching, a prejudiced reading occurs which suggests several, successive Lacans: first, the one of speech and language, then, that of the object a, finally, that of jouissance and of the Real. Not the Real as the limit of formalisation—“which does not stop not writing itself”—but the Real that is well and truly there, as it is inscribed in the Borromean knot. A facticity outside the Symbolic, thus also outside meaning, and even outside enjoyed meaning, outside “I think, therefore it enjoys itself”, this is the Real that is not all, not universal, resistant to representation. But with this term “parlêtre” we immediately see that the function of speech that was present at the beginning is still there at the end.

 

Chapter Eight: The End Pass

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I come now to the consequences of the RUCS regarding analysis and its end. If there is no end to the possibility of the transference and no end either to the real unconscious, how therefore is an end to analysis possible? There is no end to the transference, but in its space there may be several passes to the real, of which the lapsus offers us the reduced model. What would the end pass then be? This question runs through all of Lacan's teaching. It was at stake in his construction of object a, it remains at stake in the RUCS, which could not leave the pass of 1967 unaffected.

I will take things from the side of the symptom, for if there were only the lapsus things would have been easier for Freud. Actually, the word of the lapsus is homologous in the diachrony of speech to the letter of the symptom in its synchrony. But more than the lapsus, the symptom is what best shows us that the real unconscious, outside meaning, has a use value—that of jouissance—but no exchange value. With the real unconscious, the “no dialogue” [“pas de dialogue”] does not even have its limit in interpretation.

 

Chapter Nine: The Time that isn't Logical

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The essential part of Lacan's elaboration concerning the time of analysis was in the framework of his return to Freud, and focused on the analysis that Freud had introduced, that is, an analysis oriented towards articulated truth, a truth that speaks in the structure of language through the analysand's words but also through the symptoms of his body. It is the dialectical time of rambling speech which the variable length session corresponds to. It is the time of the chain which produces the surprise return of the repressed, the time of the future anterior of the subject, stretched between anticipation and retroaction, and governed by the quilting points of his discourse, which will allow him to retroactively refind the marks of the first contingencies of his life.

However, the real unconscious is not dialectical and calls for other modes of intervention. I would ask if the Lacanian short session and the length of time needed for analysis do not share the same causality, even if in practice the generally long duration of analysis seems separate from that of the sessions which vary greatly depending on current practices.

 

Chapter Ten: Terminable Analysis

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Separation identity

The question arises of what analysis leaves the analys and beyond its therapeutic effects. The problem of identity is posed not only at the exit but also at moment of entry into analysis. However, the question goes far beyond the analytic framework and is useful to determine its general framework.

The names of identity

I have chosen to begin with its relations to the name and to nomination. I am not starting from nothing since there is already a thesis according to which the symptom is the name of the subject's identity, his true and proper name which usurps the patronymic name.

I am not going to run through this thesis but will just make two remarks. We can find a simple indication of it in the fact that some subjects manage to rename themselves through their work. But what else is a work than the product of the knotting between a desire and a mode of jouissance? It is the same for both the subjects’ deeds and misdeeds. Thus we say: a Fragonard, Gödel's Theorem, Zorro the Avenger, but also Jack the Ripper and, of course, Joyce the Symptom. From there it is only a small step to the idea that an analysis aims at finding one's true proper name. But this is also to suggest that each subject has at least two proper names: his patronymic name, which obviously has major subjective resonances, and his private name, that of his being of jouissance.

 

Chapter Eleven: Identification with the Symptom or…Worse

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The symptom is what via the unconscious makes up for the foreclosure of the sexual relation. It is thus structurally out of the question that the fundamental symptom be absent at the end of analysis, whether we know it or not. That does not rule out the therapeutic effect, which consists of modifying one part of the symptom, that to which meaning can be given via deciphering. Look at the paradigmatic case of the Rat Man: at the end of the deciphering process, his obsession disappears, but the fundamental symptom of his relation to the sexual partner is neither resolved nor elucidated.

This symptom is not just any old one. At the beginning, and during the course of an analysis, we are faced with plural symptoms which are multiple and varied, and that establish themselves in opposition to the conventionalities governing established discourses. In contrast, the symptom in the singular is the one that establishes the social bond where precisely there was none. And where is this if not in the “enclosed field” of the relation to sex or to different objects that can be substituted for it: in other words, in the “love affairs” about which Lacan could say in Television that they are severed “from every established social bond” (Lacan, 1990b, p. 38). This means that just as the schizophrenic is confronted with his organs, and even more so to his life, without the aid of an established discourse, so too very parlêtre is confronted sexually to the Other of sex without the aid of an established discourse. The symptom is a suppletion. At this level everyone is incomparable. I have called this symptom fundamental in analogy with the fundamental phantasy. I could also say the last symptom, since it is this symptom that in the field of jouissance makes up for the last word lacking in the field of language.

 

Chapter Twelve: The Identity at the End, its Aporias

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I said that the question of identity was at the entry into every psychoanalysis. But we should recognise it under different terms. When Lacan formulates the step of entry into the transference in terms of a “Ché vuoï?”, when he adds a “What am I there?” where the signifiers of the Other are lacking, these are questions of identity.

The references to the cogito of Descartes imply that identity poses a question, since the “I think, therefore I am” does not say what I am. It poses—I should say: sub-poses—an existence, not an identity. Hence the following step by Descartes—“What therefore am I?”—which is a question about identity, not about a particular subject but about the universal subject. Translated into psychoanalysis as a practice of speech, this cogito would become “I speak, therefore I am”, except that I do not only speak through my mouth but through my symptoms. Identity in the social sphere is first of all a policing problem, to know who is who etc. It is also for each subject a problem of social integration. We know this only too well. The question is intrinsic to psychoanalysis and constitutes the entry into psychoanalysis precisely because of symptoms.

 

Chapter Thirteen: The Status of Jouissances

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The real unconscious that makes the parlêtre is the most shared thing in the world, although, as I said, only in an analysis can it be proven whether or not it can be knotted to the unconscious as phantasy.

We must consider the consequences here at theoretical, clinical, and practical levels. They are multiple, and they require that we simultaneously complete the theory of the symptom, reorder our diagnostic categories in relation to the function of the father, and question anew the impact of the exchange of speech, of love and the very aim and function of psychoanalysis at the beginning of this century.

However, we cannot situate Lacan's advances in relation to the symptom and the status of jouissances without returning to the beginning, the Freudian beginning.

Freud's saying

We know the first thesis: in deciphering symptoms, Freud discovers what he calls sexual meaning, but this is coded in terms of the repressed partial drives: oral, anal, etc. The symptom is thus a sexual substitute: due to repression, it is a paradoxically unpleasant way of enjoying. Freud hears, in the adult who speaks to him through his symptoms, the voice of the little “polymorphous pervert”, enjoying his own body autoerotically without any partner. This is the first model of what I have called the autistic symptom, in order to designate a bodily enjoyment that does not pass through another partner, one that relies only on the excitation of the erogenous zones.

 

Chapter Fourteen: Symptom of the Real Unconscious

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The status of the jouissance that does not write the sexual relation changes the function of what we call the symptom. If all jouissance could be said to be perverse—and this applies to everyone—we must not say “all perverts” for that would add nothing except complacency. But if, on the other hand, this jouissance is displaced everywhere in the series of signs which carry it and where we decipher it, constituting reality and even social bonds, it is a matter of extricating both the specificity of the symptom in so far as it is a formation of jouissance and that which of the two unconsciouses determines it.

The symptom, indeed, is not just any decipherable formation of the unconscious. The dream, the lapsus, and the bungled action, although sometimes repeated, are punctual but the symptom, by its constancy and fixity, both enjoyable and uncomfortable, is different from these ephemeral manifestations. It is different from the coding of the unconscious and from the metonymic drift of speech that never stops displacing castrated jouissance and surplus jouissance. On the contrary, where language displaces in the series of signs, the symptom anchors, fixes, makes “fixion”.

 

Chapter Fifteen: The Father and the Real

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Lacan introduced the Name-of-the-Father as a metaphoric function. Hence a question: for a clinic that includes the real outside meaning, what becomes of the function of the Father? It remains. The beyond of the Oedipus is not the beyond of its function. I have been able to show (Soler, 2003–2004) I believe, that it was necessary for Lacan to give the two seminars, “RSI” and “Joyce the symptom” in order to conclude, after tentative steps and hesitations, that the triadic knotting of the three consistencies represented by the three circles of string that make the knot, supposed a fourth element, represented by a fourth circle that he calls sinthome, inscribing the function that is the condition of knotting. The Father, not his signifier but his saying—more precisely, his nominating saying that makes the sinthome—is the existential condition of Borromean knotting. And it is from here that Lacan drew his conclusion about the “symptomatology” of Joyce and the particularity of his sinthome of suppletion.

 

Chapter Sixteen: Towards the Father of the Name

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If a father is only a Father, if he incarnates his function only by the half-saying of his symptom, the question is raised of knowing how this saying operates in order to ensure what Lacan calls the sinthome function of knotting the three dimensions together. Lacan ends up by asserting that this knotting takes place via the nominating saying, thus sliding from the Name-of-the-Father to the Father of the name.

Before this thesis crystallizes, Lacan had marked the link of the function of the father with nomination several times. Notably, this occurs at the end of the seminar L’angoisse, where the father is invoked in the link with his object as the principle of overcoming anxiety. These are brief but very precious indications after some remarks about the transference transposing the object into the field of the Other: “Anxiety is only surmounted when the Other is named. Of love, there is nothing more than the name, as each of us knows from experience. The moment when the name of the one to whom our love is addressed is uttered, we know very well that it is a threshold of the greatest importance” (Lacan, 2004, p. 390).

 

Chapter Seventeen: Love and the Real

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The question of knowing if psychoanalysis can promise a new love, beyond the symptoms of love life that are addressed to it, has been there from the start. Today, given the preceding elaborations, it is more precisely a matter of knowing what new light is brought to this question by taking the real unconscious into account.

From the beginning, Freud postulated that the bonds of the passions of love, incomprehensible as they are, escape neither rationality nor logic. He succeeded in showing the workings of repetition. One love repeats another. In other words, the object carries the traits, the marks of the primary object. As Freud said, the first is thus always the second. In Lacan's terms, the object bears the marks of the first Other encountered in the first demand for love, what Freud called the Oedipal objects. We are at the level of family stories here. Now, according to Freud, these are always stories of despair. There is no happy childhood, despite people's amnesia. One should read Beyond the Pleasure Principle on this theme, where there is an astonishing page, penned with an unusual animation, on the unhappiness of childhood (Freud, 1920g, p. 20).

 

Chapter Eighteen: Dissidence of the Symptom?

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All of Lacan's rethinking of the regulations of jouissance, sex, the Father, clinical structures, love, and the correlative ends of analysis, has political implications and consequences. As well as revising them in the light of these developments, they should also to be adjusted to the changes of our times and to the social reorganisation produced by the triumph of globalised capitalism.

That the symptom has a political import is a Freudian thesis; a simple title like Civilization and its Discontents indicates this.

Announcing, as Lacan did, a final identification with the symptom—construed as the product of a double “event” of the body and of saying—no doubt adds something to this.

The implication of jouissance is clear in the conversion symptoms of hysteria and in the perversions, which both involve scenarios with the body. It is also visible enough in schizophrenia, with its anomalous phenomena of the body. But what of obsession and paranoia? Obsession is certainly a mental phenomenon that interferes with thought, yet obsessions are always thoughts of jouissance. The same goes for paranoia. The paranoiac is also a thinker, but what does he think of if not the jouissance of the other, of the persecutor?

 

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