Is There a Politics in Psychoanalysis?

Jelica Sumic
University of Nova Gorica

Volume 9, 2016

The Crisis of Negation

According to theorists form a variety of intellectual traditions there is no question more burning today than the question of the way out, i.e. the possibility of a radical break with the existing state of affairs capable of initiating change within the late capitalist conjuncture, or, in Badiou’s words, capable of transforming the transcendental of the present world. If contemporary thought faces today the growing impasses of the way out, this is partly due, according to Badiou (2014, 45-55), to the crisis of negation. The problem of the way out, traditionally conceived in negative terms—as an ‘opposition to’, ‘critique of’, ‘rebellion against’ or, simply, as a ‘negation of’—is all the more acute in the present conjuncture, whether one calls it the state of exception, capitalist-parliamentarianism, post-democracy, or the discourse of the capitalist, as the new regime of mastery (knowing no limit, no outside and therefore no exception) seems to annihilate the very nexus of negation and creation, i.e. the possibility of a way out that would articulate the negation of the present with the creation of an alternative to that which exists. Hence, our task can be none other than to examine to what extent contemporary thought, associating psychoanalysis and philosophy, can rise to this challenge. Our departure point is the assumption that, for psychoanalysis and for contemporary political thought, there must be another perspective; another angle under which it is possible to conceive of a way out while breaking with the prevailing conception of a solution in terms of a subversion of the existing hegemonic arrangement. We can find an understanding of the specifically political consequences of this impasse in contemporary responses to a perceived crisis of negation insofar as the latter is considered as a condition for a new beginning, a creation of some novelty. Indeed, these responses center around attempts to conceptualize differently the locations in which a reserve of transformative potential of thought might be uncovered. Renouncing the temptation to look for alternatives to capitalism in an exterior, in something that capitalism cannot appropriate, contemporary thinkers conceptualize potential for change at the heart of capital’s power.

In what follows, I intend to engage critically with this quest for such a potential from a slightly different perspective. My point of departure is a shift that has been taking place in contemporary thought over the past three decades, namely, a drift away from an understanding of the break with the existing state of affairs in terms of a dialectical relationship between destruction and construction, towards an account of the way out from the here and now in terms of resistance, the latter being conceived in non-dialectical terms. This move from a dialectical to a non-dialectical account of the way out, while marking “a sort of crisis of trust in the power of negativity”, to borrow Badiou’s term (2014, 46), signals at the same time a radical transformation of the relationship between thought and the rebellion of the body.

An intriguing account of this shift, which appears to be itself a direct consequence of the weakening if not the ruin of the category of negativity, especially in the realm of politics, can be found in Jean-Claude Milner’s 2002 book, Constats. According to Milner, revolutionary politics maintains its pre-eminence so long as it is grounded in the conjunction of thought and rebellion. What is meant by politics is nothing less than the capacity of thought to produce material effects in the social field, the privileged figure of these effects being the insurrection of the social body (Milner 24). Seen from this perspective, the defeat or retreat of emancipatory politics (in this reading, identified with politics tout court) that we have been witnessing for the past three decades signals the incapacity of contemporary thought to translate its effects into rebellion.

It should be noted, however, that this postulation of the thought-rebellion link suggests no ‘natural’ affinity between the two. On the contrary, if the emergence of the conjunction of thought and rebellion marks the break of modernity in the domain of politics, as Milner claims, this is only due to the fact that modern political thought, in opposition to the classical thought that precludes the very idea of linking these two heterogeneous terms, is centered around their ‘unnatural’ union. Indeed, for classical political philosophy grounded in the assumption of the unbridgeable gap between thought and the body, rebellion, situated in the somatic moment rather than in thought, represents the impossible-real of politics and, thus, remains inconceivable (Milner 34). The linking of thought and rebellion, that is, of two ultimately incompatible entities, inasmuch as the latter is designated as the negation of the former, would, then, mark the invention of a new politics. Setting out from the assumption that there is no intrinsic bond between the body and thought, nor a common ground upon which they could initially meet, modernity is assigned the task of providing a base for their conjunction. As Milner rightly observes, in the modern universe of science (this being a universe without beyond, a universe that knows of no limit and no measure), thought and rebellion cannot meet. Hence, to make their union possible ethics must intervene: the ‘ethics of the maximum’, as Milner calls it (26). This is because only an ‘extremist’ ethics, one that drives the subject beyond the possible into the impossible—ultimately, an ethics that requires a finite, mortal speaking being to act as if he or she were immortal (27)—can establish a link between thought and the body, thus providing a proper grounding for a politics that would constitute a true way out in the infinite universe. Seen in this perspective the way out, conceived as a politics of emancipation, appears to be less a matter of redemption, of repairing a wrong done to victims, as an experience of exploring the unheard-of, indeed, the ‘impossible’ possibilities of a given situation.

We can understand now why the emancipationist paradigm, so construed, is condemned to collapse once the alliance of thought and rebellion starts to falter and the process of their dissociation sets in. What is striking about Milner’s account is the judiciousness with which the negative implications of the process of disjunction, of the drifting apart of thought and rebellion that we are witnessing to today, are brought to the fore: thought ceases to be politically subversive; worse, thought is worth its name only by being conservative, hostile to all forms of rebellion; while rebellion, on the other hand, is true to its nature only by expressing itself through a thoughtless, headless brutality (Milner 51). Put another way, thought marks the dissociation from rebellion by its growing powerlessness to produce material effects in the political and the social field, whereas rebellion records its break with thought by turning into a resistance against thought, in short, by being the unthought. The present anti-nomic, non-dialectical relationship between thought and rebellion can thus be accounted for in terms of a forced choice between ‘I am (not)’ and ‘I am (not) thinking’. Confronted with the disjunction—according to which I am, the corporeal presence, there where I am not thinking and vice versa—rebellion assuredly opts for the ‘I am’ and therefore for the ‘I am not thinking’, suggesting that what is lost in this forced choice in any case is precisely a resistant thought, a thought capable of inciting rebellion. This is evident in contemporary theorizing about resistance, from Adorno, via Lyotard and Deleuze, to Agamben today, insofar as that which is, strictly speaking, a problem (namely, the antinomy between thought and resistance) is proposed as a solution.

This is of particular importance for, as I will argue in what follows, the fact that the choice of resistance appears to be a true forced choice, certainly unavoidable for a thought that seeks to indicate its separation, both from the solution put forward by the traditional theories of emancipation as well as from the present-day ideology celebrating the worldwide victory of the alliance of capitalism and representative democracy, signals that contemporary theorizing about the way out has reached an impasse. Hence, it is hardly surprising that contemporary theorists of resistance, while insisting on its necessity, readily admit that resistance in the present conjuncture of globalization may well be perfectly useless. Consider the following statement from Jean-François Lyotard and Gilibert Larochelle: “I say resistance without any delusion about the consequences of that resistance” (1992 417). Crudely put, resistance today may well appear to be nothing but an invention of the system itself, a response orchestrated by it, in short, part of its defensive strategy. The cause for this resignation must be seen in the mutation of the present regime of mastery, which, having as its structural principle the generalization of exception, succeeds in creating through this very lawlessness an interminable status quo, immune to all change. For what is paradoxical about the regime founded on the generalized exception and suspension of the law, a world in which the law is made to coincide entirely with the lawlessness, is that the regime, instead of breaking down, keeps running. The ‘eternization’ of the existing state of affairs provides us with a plausible key to identifying the difficulties of a contemporary theory of resistance in finding a way out of the present impasse.

To understand how the present mutation of the dominant power structure bears upon our sense of the possibility of its negation and its transformation, and how this, in turn, has come to permeate the very activity of thought itself, it may be helpful to turn to Lacan. His succinct remark gives us a penetrating insight into the problem: “In relating this misery [caused by capitalism] to the discourse of the capitalist, I denounce the latter. Only here, I point out in all seriousness that I cannot do this, because in denouncing it, I reinforce it—by normalizing it, that is, improving it” (Lacan 1990, 13-14). This cryptic remark seems to convey Lacan’s principled pessimism with regard to the possible exit from capitalism, the contemporary regime of mastery. For what we have here is the reversal of the usual ‘progressivist’ interpretation of Marx’s dictum: “The limit of capital is capital itself”, according to which, due to the inexorable laws of the development of productive forces, capitalism will come up against a limit it cannot overcome and therefore face its own ruin. The lesson to be drawn from Lacan’s remark is quite different: instead of an announcement of the inevitable end of capitalism, it brutally states that any attempt at stopping the working of capitalism, far from surpassing it, consolidates it. Thus, if capitalism refuses to collapse, to come up against the limit of its own growth and expansion, this is due to what Lacan calls its structural “greediness” (1990 26), as capitalism itself is nothing but the impasse of growth. This also explains why this structural deadlock, this growing impasse of capitalism, is a stimulus rather than an impediment to its further development. What then, would a way out of capitalist domination be if every solution seems to become entangled in the growing impasses of the capitalist’s drive for growth?

To be sure Foucault’s, Lyotard’s, Derrida’s, Deleuze’s, Nancy’s and Agamben’s work stems from a certain sense of negation and its creative, i.e. emancipatory potential, yet without laying claim to a world-transforming perspective initiated through politics. The solution put forward by these theorists who appear to be taking distance from a political solution, yet refuse to despair because the revolutionary politics traditionally considered as the way out is finished with, consists in emphatically asserting the continuation of resistance by other means and on other terrains. One might ask, though, what motivates this belief in the ineradicability of resistance, especially as the assumption by many contemporary theorists of resistance is that there is no privileged site from which to launch resistance. Once resistance is no longer linked to some already-existing and identifiable node, such as the proletariat, its emergence can, in principle, be accounted for in two different ways. According to the first account, the possibility of resistance resides in the fact that the social field, which is itself only to the extent that it is traversed by various and even conflicting forces, appears to be non-totalizable, a not-all. This would imply that a space for resistance is opened up by the very incompatibility of these forces that turn the socio-political space into a site of endless struggle. In the second interpretation, however, advanced primarily by Lyotard and Deleuze, resistance testifies to the fact that a given system or regime of domination incorporates some ‘intractable’ heterogeneity that has the power to jam its functioning.[1] Several terms have been proposed to designate this resistant particularity: Lyotard calls it ‘the intractable’, Lacan theorizes it under objet petit a, and Foucault’s word for it is ‘the plebe’. All these concepts come to characterize this, with respect to the system, immanent node of resistance in terms of some elusive, unfathomable, ungraspable entity pregnant with paradoxical oppositions: it has no substance, no figure and therefore no ‘proper’ embodiment yet there is a proliferation of disguises under which it manifests its presence; it represents a hard, inert kernel that resists the system yet it seems to dissolve into nothingness as soon as we try to pin it to some positive entity.

Generally speaking, we can consider these various, often mutually exclusive, attempts of conceiving an effective resistance that would be attuned to the deadlocks of our situation a symptom of the breakdown of the classical, i.e. dialectical, notion of negation. Indeed, with the emergence of a new regime of mastery that knows no limit, no outside, negation no longer constitutes a true principle of creation: taken in its purely destructive aspect negation, instead of constituting a conditio sine qua non for the emergence of some epoch-breaking novelty, remains capable of doing away with the old yet proves to be powerless in giving rise to a new creation. As a result, the question of the relationship between negation and creation must be re-posed in such a way that the emphasis is less on the destructive aspect of negation than on its capacity to create, within the existing regime of mastery and at a distance from it, a space of independence and autonomy for the subject’s decisions and actions.

An idea of the emancipatory potential of such a ‘subtractive’ negation, to take up Badiou’s term, can be found in Lacan’s staging of a non-dialectical relationship between psychoanalysis, or, more precisely, the discourse of the analyst, and the existing regime of mastery, the discourse of the capitalist. Thus, instead of a critique that is, by structural necessity, caught in the vicious circle of the drive for growth, Lacan proposes the following solution: “The more saints, the more laughter; that’s my principle, to wit, the way out of capitalist discourse—which will not constitute progress, if it happens only for some” (1990 16). How is the position of the saint to be understood in terms of negation? As evidence that all critique, all opposition, all resistance is, ultimately, illusory, useless? Rejecting critique and negation as being outdated today, Lacan rejects at the same time a widespread practice of self-accusation en vogue among contemporary philosophers burdening philosophy with crimes it had not committed (from Auschwitz to the Gulag). In response to those who would be taking “all the burdens of the world’s misery on to their shoulders”, Lacan states emphatically: “One thing is certain: to take the misery on to one’s shoulders … is to enter into a discourse that determines it, even if only in protest” (1990 13). What Lacan proposes instead is the following advice: those who are “busying themselves at [the] supposed burdening, oughtn’t to be protesting, but collaborating. Whether they know it or not, that’s what they’re doing” (1990 13).

Does it mean that Lacan preaches the ‘heroism’ of renunciation and collaboration? Indeed, if Lacan is justified in using these terms in connection with psychoanalysis, presented as a solution, this is only on condition of a radical recasting of the notion of the way out. First of all, it should be noted that to propose psychoanalysis as a solution, as the way out of capitalism, is only possible in the very specific circumstance of the collapse of the belief in the emancipatory power of critique and negation, such as has been incarnated in revolutionary politics. Indeed, one is tempted to say that psychoanalysis, which, according to Lacan, is capable of succeeding there where the politics of emancipation failed—to find a way out of the growing impasses of capitalism—emerges as a tenant-lieu, a place-holder of the absent if not impossible emancipatory politics. This, however, is only possible inasmuch as psychoanalysis itself is considered by Lacan as a refusal of a sort, more specifically, as a resistance to the pressures of civilization to conform.

‘The Place of Psychoanalysis in Politics’

The main difficulty that confronts psychoanalysis in proposing itself as a true way out of contemporary civilization, and that Lacan designates as the discourse of the capitalist, is that it must allow for a subjective position that would be antagonistic to that required by capitalism. For Lacan, such a position presents itself in the figure of the saint. Lacan’s observations are important for our concerns here because, by designating the saint as the site of resistance, he clearly indicates that a resistance to capitalism, defined as a drive for growth that knows no limits, no beyond, can only be theorized in terms of some resistant instance which is, strictly speaking, neither exterior nor interior, but rather is situated at the point of exteriority in the very intimacy of interiority, the point at which the most intimate encounters the outmost. As is well known, the Lacanian name for this paradoxical intimate exteriority is ‘the extimacy’. Conceived in terms of extimacy rather than in terms of a pure alterity, resistance therefore consists in the derivation, from within capitalism, of an indigestible kernel, of an otherness that has the potential to disrupt the circuit of the drive for growth. The term of ‘extimacy’ illuminates a significant aspect of the way in which the notion of sainthood as a privileged site of resistance to the capitalist discourse functioned for Lacan. Sainthood would therefore name a model of self-positioning in spaces in which the distinction between the inside and the outside is abolished by the dominant discourse itself. For sainthood as practiced by the analyst, at least the analyst as Lacan defines him/her, always operates from a stance of heterogeneity and extimacy. Sainthood is an elusive positionality of resistance to the normalizing effects of dominant discourse, the perpetual reassertion of un-masterability. This sort of un-masterability, much more than a hysterical rejection of all social bonds, is precisely what Lacan intended for psychoanalysis as a solution to the deadlocks of the capitalist discourse, indeed, as an exit from it.

One might well agree with Lacan that sainthood can succeed in jamming the machine of production that feeds on the want-to-enjoy, a machine that transforms the lack-of-enjoyment into the desire to enjoy. In a word, sainthood can interrupt the insatiable ‘more’ of the drive for growth to the extent that the saint is one who refuses to produce, but instead persists in a certain modality of passivity or inoperativity, indeed, who assumes the position of being useless but who becomes, paradoxically, useful in this being useless. It should be noted, however, that although it might seem that there is an affinity between the contemporary saint, i.e. the analyst who resists by ‘doing nothing’, by refusing to satisfy the demand of capitalist discourse to produce and be useful, and the hysterics who resist the existing symbolic order by refusing to assume the role assigned to them by this order, we believe that it would be a serious error to conflate the resistance offered by the saint with the hysterical ‘No!’ precisely because hysterical refusal, instead of impeding the drive for growth, sets it in motion. That is to say, the mere refusal of the given order, of the roles and places that have been distributed and fixed by the ‘police’, to use Rancière’s term, in itself does not bring about a change in the situation. On the contrary, such an answer may well be expected if not ‘orchestrated’ by the ‘police’ itself.

But how, then, does psychoanalysis operate? Crucial for our discussion here is that, in a situation in which it seems that there is no option left, Lacan puts forward a solution that consists, ultimately, in identifying the position of the subject not with the agent or the producer, but with the product or, more precisely, with what remains after production, what is left over, with the trash. Moreover, the analyst is identified with a product that is singularly de-creative, in the sense that it puts into question the received idea according to which productive action constitutes the essence of man. Despite some indisputable points of convergence between the becoming useless of Lacan’s analyst-saint and the desoeuvrement of man—a Kojèvian notion taken up by Blanchot and Nancy as well by Agamben today, and used to describe the status of post-historic man and a certain modus of passivity that would designate the ‘non-acting action’ proper to the role to be played by the analyst in an analysis—it is nevertheless clear that something quite different is at stake in Lacan’s understanding of the analyst’s ‘doing nothing’. The saint on which Lacan models the analyst’s refusal to be useful, to surrender to the demands of capitalism, should be viewed as a singular structural apparatus rather than a vocation. Ultimately, this difference has everything to do with Lacan’s conviction that “the fundamental mainspring of the analytic operation is the maintenance of the distance between the I—identification—and the a [the object]” (Lacan 1979, 273). This allows Lacan to situate the way out proposed by psychoanalysis precisely at the level of that which cannot be represented, the infamous object a, at the level of what is left after the completion of dis-identification. The great virtue of ‘sainthood’ lies precisely in its undefinability. Without a stable feature, disposition, or set of predetermined actions the analyst’s status can best be described as an ‘extimate positionality’ or ‘strategic eccentricity’ defined by its oppositional character vis-à-vis the position of the subject required and modeled by the dominant discourse.

For psychoanalysis to achieve this effect it is necessary to remember that the analytical relation is not a reciprocal one, on the contrary, it is essentially dissymmetric. What this means is that the analyst is invited to occupy the position of the object, a position that requires that charity as well as distributive justice are put into question. Indeed, to be able to “embody what structure entails, namely allowing the subject, the subject of the unconscious, to take him as the cause of the subject’s own desire” (1990 15), the saint-analyst must divest himself of the burden of charity. The simplest way of explaining ‘what the structure entails’ is to say that the analyst’s function is to help the subject accede to the point of the choice of being, a kind of return to the point of departure which preceded the attribution of existence, since it allows the subject to regain his/her power of choice in order to confront once more, as it were, the original choice, being/identification, thus allowing him/her to ratify or reject his/her initial but forced choice. Briefly put, if what the structure of the analysis entails for the analyst is nothing less than to bring the subject to the point of his/her re-birth, since “it is as desire’s object a, as what he was to the Other in his erection as a living being, as wanted or unwanted when he came into the world, that he is called to be reborn in order to know if he wants what he desires” (Lacan 2006, 571-2) and if “it is through the abjection of this cause that the subject in question has a chance to be aware of his position” (Lacan 1990, 15), this is possible on the proviso that the analyst guides the analysand in a wholly disinterested manner, or, as Lacan remarks, this requires that “the saint is the refuse of jouissance” (Lacan 1990, 16). This means that, in order for sainthood to be operational, charity and jouissance must be strictly separated. The important point in all this is that the analyst can be efficacious in the analysis only by being placed as the cause of somebody’s desire. But the price to be paid for occupying this position is the analyst’s subjective destitution: incarnating the excessive leftover, that which does not count and which, for that reason, finds no place in the given order, the analyst must be willing to exit from human society, in a word, to be a dropout of humanity. Thus, it could be said that the analyst’s transformation into a cause of the desire of another subject, the analysand, is ‘paid for’ by the analyst’s conversion into an object. This objectal status of the analyst clearly indicates that the analyst’s position is not tuned to the dominant social link, rather, it is at odds with it. But it is precisely this position of extimacy that makes a subversion of that link possible, at least at the level of the individual subject. This subversion is a paradoxical one: for what is actually involved in the analysis is a peculiar kind of social unbinding. Put differently, if discourse, according to Lacan, is constitutive as such of the social bond, what sets the analyst’s discourse apart is its ability to situate the subject beyond all identification, all communal belonging, by revealing what is most peculiar or singular in the subject: a specific mode of enjoyment that cannot be universalized or collectivized. In so doing, the analyst’s discourse announces “another dimension of discourse and [opens up] the possibility of completely subverting the function of discourse as such” (Lacan 1998, 30).

It could, then, be said that in his attempt to address the question of the possibility of a way out and the powers of negation in our time, Lacan proposes a solution that essentially mobilizes psychoanalysis. Indeed, for Lacan psychoanalysis presents itself as a space that is situated within the existing world, while remaining at a distance from the structuring principles of that world. For psychoanalysis, as Lacan conceives and practices it, the main problem is that of an immanent or internal way out that can only be practiced through the creation of a space of independence and autonomy vis-à-vis the existing regime of domination. Psychoanalysis thus confronts a curious topological difficulty, namely, the identification of a point at which the outside meets the inside as it is only from such a point that it is possible to radically modify the existing relation between the possible and the impossible, which, in turn, allows the transformation of the very transcendental framework—the fundamental fantasy, to borrow Lacan’s term—that determines our reality. This also explains why contemporary psychoanalysis cannot simply satisfy itself with maintaining a critical distance vis-à-vis the world as it is.

Lacan’s warning that the path of the saint would not constitute progress in terms of a possible exit from the capitalist discourse if it worked only for some, or, worse, for ‘at least me’, indicates what could be, according to Lacan, “the place of psychoanalysis in politics”. Indeed, for Lacan “the intrusion [of psychoanalysis] into politics can only be made by recognizing that the only discourse there is, and not just analytic discourse, the discourse of jouissance, at least when one is hoping for the work of truth from it” (Lacan 1991, 90). In this respect every discourse, by assigning the subject his or her proper place in a given discourse universe, operates at the same time as a setup that regulates the jouissance of speaking beings. This can be achieved by means of prohibition, as in the case of the classic master’s discourse, or by means of the Super-Ego’s imperative ‘Enjoy!’, as in the case of the capitalist’s discourse. One of the major consequences of this transformation, at the level of the dominant discourse, is described by Lacan in the following terms: “We think that universalism, that communication of our civilizations, homogenizes the relations among men. On the contrary, I believe that what characterizes our time— and this cannot escape us—is a ramified and reinforced segregation that produces intersections on all levels and only multiplies barriers” (Lacan 2003, 9). With the new regime of mastery, segregation becomes a principal mode for the regulation of the always particular mode of enjoyment of speaking beings. In his “Proposition of 9 October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School”, Lacan is even more explicit: “Let us sum up by saying that what we have seen emerging, to our horror, represents the precursor’s reaction to what is going to develop as a consequence of the reorganization of social groups by science and the universality it introduces. Our future as common markets will find its equilibrium in a harsher extension of the process of segregation” (Lacan 1995, 6). The jouissance that is at issue in this new modality of the dominant discourse is no longer articulated with prohibition, since one is supposed to be enjoying without interdictions, barriers, limitations, but this is only possible if jouissance is correlated with segregation. The autistic subject of the capitalist’s discourse is paired with the objects that are supposed to provide him or her his or her being, a being of jouissance. Given that all these objects are from the beginning destined to become waste, the communities of speaking beings proliferate: gay, lesbian, black, Latino, WASP, etc., since each of these emerging communities is provided with objects proper to their particular mode of enjoyment.

In view of this I would argue, however, that the crux of the matter, that is, the extent to which psychoanalysis is able to face the deadlocks inherent to the dominant regime of mastery, the capitalist discourse, is related not only to ‘the place of psychoanalysis in politics’ but also to the place of politics in psychoanalysis. More specifically, at issue here is the capacity of psychoanalysis to theorize and practice new forms of non-segregationist collectivity. My aim in this essay is to contribute towards an understanding of this complex issue by bringing into question the seemingly self-evident relationship of the mutual exclusion between politics and psychoanalysis. In order to expose an affinity in dealing with the issue of segregation in politics and psychoanalysis, it is necessary to move beyond the traditionally hostile polarities of the singular and the universal, and reverse the usual perspective according to which there is no passage between the domain of the singular and the domain of the universal. I will then move on to consider the relationship between psychoanalysis and politics from the point of view of the collectivity ‘for all’, constituted through a complex practice of disidentification and production of the generic or, to use Agamben’s term (1993), “whatever” singularities.

My starting assumption is that politics and psychoanalysis encounter the same structural impasse as that of dealing with a kind of irreducible heterogeneity or alterity. Indeed, the central issue in analysis is precisely that of a knot that holds the subject together, an instance that links together three registers that would otherwise remain disconnected: the symbolic of his or her representation, the real of his or her enjoyment, and the imaginary consistency of the body’s image. What the patient learns at the end of his or her analysis is that nothing holds together these three instances—the real, the imaginary and the symbolic—except the symptom, or sinthom as Lacan termed it in his later teaching. Politics, likewise, irrespective of the regime or type of government, confronts a similar impasse that could be formulated in the following terms: how to hold together singularities that have nothing in common. Modern politics, at least from the French Revolution onwards, has treated this impossibility of the social bond by constructing a form of collectivity that would be ‘for all’. It is a paradoxical collectivity since the condition for its very constitution requires the exclusion of the exception, of some otherness that is presumed to be evading universalization.

From such a perspective, psychoanalysis and politics appear to be two different languages for articulating heterogeneity or otherness that are in confrontation with each other. But is the heterogeneity or otherness in psychoanalysis the same as that which we encounter in politics? What is at issue here is precisely the question: under what conditions is it legitimate to bring together politics and psychoanalysis? Indeed, any attempt to relate psychoanalysis to politics is far from obvious. According to the received idea, there seems to be no common ground permitting their encounter. In this view, psychoanalysis is presumed to be defending the rights of the singular, of that precisely which resists the universal. Indeed, psychoanalysis is by definition the domain of the ‘not for all’. As such, psychoanalysis cannot, without losing its competence, force the boundaries of confidentiality imposed by its practice to wander into a domain in which, on the contrary, something is valid only insofar as it applies to all. From this view, psychoanalysis has no competence in the domain destined ‘for all’. Politics, by contrast, designed as the order of the collective, deals with the masses, with the multiple. Insofar as politics is preoccupied with the question of that which is valid for all, it can only turn a blind eye to the singular: the proper object of psychoanalysis. For politics, in which there seems to be no place for the singular, it would be an illegitimate step to make the opposite move: from the ‘for all’ to that of the ‘only for one’. Indeed, if we follow the received idea, what makes their encounter impossible is a double interdiction of the passage from the register of the singular to that of the multiple.

I propose to reverse this perspective and examine under what circumstances the relation between these two domains, that of the ‘for all’ and that of ‘irreducible singularity’, can be established. Hence, the very fact of posing the question of heterogeneity or otherness in politics and psychoanalysis requires the construction of a site, a scene for their encounter. My guide in this pivoting of perspective will be Lacan. I will refer, more specifically, to his Television, in which he presents both his critique of politics as a way out of capitalism and the task of psychoanalysis in a universe governed by the capitalist discourse. This requires that we reconsider his enigmatic, already quoted remark: “The more saints, the more laughter; that’s my principle, to wit, the way out of capitalist discourse – which would not constitute progress, if it happens only for some” (1990 16).

First of all it should be noted that to propose psychoanalysis as a solution, as the way out of capitalism, is only possible in the very specific circumstance of the collapse of belief in the emancipatory power of politics to face the growing impasses of the way out of capitalism. As a consequence psychoanalysis, according to Lacan, is confronted with a paradoxical task: to find a way out of a discourse that is considered to be limitless, ‘eternal’, a discourse that precisely knows of no way out. It could, then, be said that for Lacan only psychoanalysis is able to invent—to force even, in the situation of an impasse—a radically new solution: that of an immanent way out. However, it is important to consider how psychoanalysis can emerge as a way out of the capitalist discourse. It is true that Lacan harbored some ambitions concerning the “duty incumbent upon [psychoanalysis] in our world” (1990 97), as he puts it. From this point of view, it seems that psychoanalysis according to Lacan is capable of succeeding there where the politics of emancipation failed: to find a way out of the growing impasses of capitalism. Indeed, one is tempted to say that psychoanalysis emerges as a tenant-lieu, a place-holder of the impossible, absent emancipatory politics.

The Politics of Symptom or the Politics of Love?

What, then, could be a politics proper to psychoanalysis? Indeed, what politics might result from psychoanalysis? Actually there exist two interpretations of the politics of psychoanalysis respectively, termed the ‘politics of symptom’ and the ‘politics of love’. Both of these interpretations, which have their partisans and critiques, are to a certain extent grounded in Lacan’s work, in particular as they both take as their point of departure the irreducible heterogeneity inherent in the subject, a kernel of the real resisting the dominant social bond. There is something in the subject that makes him/her other, unlike any other in the community to which he or she belongs. While both of these paradigms refuse the anti-nomic relation between politics and psychoanalysis, they nevertheless differ in outlining the crucial stake of such a politics proper to psychoanalysis.

According to a first reading, what psychoanalysis could eventually promote in terms of politics can only be a ‘politics of symptom’. Setting out from the assumption that politics and psychoanalysis are in an anti-nomic relation, the task of psychoanalysis is to examine contemporary modes of the social bond from the viewpoint of the symptom (Soler 71-6). The symptom here is conceived as a specific fixing of jouissance proper to each subject; in a word, as that which in the subject resists universalization. The central stake in such a politics of symptom is therefore to uncover the tension between the social bond and the symptom. More particularly, it is to reveal the incompatibility between allowed and forbidden jouissance. Thus, there is, on one hand, jouissance, such as is prescribed by the social Other; and, on the other, there is the symptom as a mode of enjoyment that is particular to each subject and as such is irreducible to standard jouissance. As a result, the jouissance under the guise of the symptom cannot but present a threat to the social bond.

There are two structural consequences that follow from the politics of symptom. The first is that the conclusion to be drawn from the conflict of these two jouissances is that nothing can ‘hold together’ subjects-symptoms; nothing can bring together these irreducible modes of jouissance. From this perspective, then, jouissance can be seen as the impossible-real of the social bond. Jouissance, as a symptom, is that irreducible otherness or heterogeneity on which no collective logics can be grounded. The ultimate lesson to be drawn from psychoanalysis insofar as it ventures into the domain of the social and politics is, then, the affirmation of what we would propose to call the ‘solipsism of enjoyment’. There is, however, a problem that such a ‘politics of symptom’ cannot solve, to the extent that the hegemonic social bond today, the discourse of the capitalist, brings into question what is supposed to be the capital issue of this politics; namely, the tension between the prescribed standard jouissance, and jouissance provided by the symptom. Thus the politics of symptom may well have been applicable in Freud’s times. Today, however, there seems to be no place for such a politics of symptom precisely to the extent that the capitalist discourse itself dissolves the tension between the singular and the universal. Capitalism is namely an exceptional social bond insofar as it appears to be capable of attaining what in all the other social bonds seems to be impossible: its compatibility with enjoyment. Instead of demanding that the subject sacrifice his or her always particular mode of enjoyment, the capitalist social bond adapts itself to the ‘private’ enjoyment of everybody; moreover, it is supposed to be providing every subject with the lacking particular mode of jouissance. It could then be argued that not only does jouissance not threaten the capitalist social bond, but, on the contrary, that capitalism presents itself as a discourse in which the solipsistic ‘democracy of enjoyment’ rules: a democracy whose sole principle is primum vivere; one lives for enjoyment. This is the case because the capitalist discourse exploits the lack it installs in the subject as a way of reproducing itself. The cunning of the capitalist discourse then consists in exploiting the structure of the desiring subject: by manipulating his or her desire, i.e. by reducing it to demand, the capitalist discourse creates the illusion that, thanks to scientific development and the market, it is able to provide the subject with the complement of being that he or she is lacking by transforming the subject’s lack of being into the lack of having. In this view, ‘having’ is considered to be a cure for the lack of being of the subject of the capitalist discourse. One could, then, say that by being nothing but the embodiment of the lack of being, the subject of the capitalist discourse can only be completed by products thrown on the market.

This is why Lacan named the subject of the capitalist discourse ‘the proletarian’; a name for the subject that is inseparable from that which constitutes the complement of his or her being: his or her plus-de-jouir, surplus-enjoyment, the object a. As the dominant structure of social relations, the capitalist discourse provides the conditions for an obscure subjectivation that depends on the conversion of surplus-value—that is to say, any product thrown on the market—into surplus-enjoyment, the cause of the subject’s desire. Indeed, it is precisely this in-distinction between surplus-value and surplus-enjoyment what makes it possible for the capitalist production of ‘whatever objects’ to capture, indeed, to enslave, the subject’s desire, to sustain its eternal “This is not it!”. It could be claimed that capitalism, insofar as it promotes a sort of autistic enjoyment, promotes at the same time a particular communal figure which Milner termed a “paradoxical class”, a collective in which its members are joined or held together by that which disjoins them; namely, their idiosyncratic mode of enjoyment (Milner 1983, 116-123). What is thus placed in question is precisely the social bond. Or, to be more precise, the social bond that exists today is presented under the form of dispersed individuals that are but another name for the dissolution of all links, or the unbinding of all bonds.

Both of these features of the capitalist discourse—disidentification and the replacement of the prohibition of enjoyment with commanded enjoyment through the regulation of desire—could, then, be brought together in a single syntagm of generalized proletarization. In the words of Lacan: “There is but one social symptom: every individual is in effect a proletarian, that is to say that no discourse is at the disposal of the individual by means of which a social bond could be established” (1975 187). Ironically, proletarization remains the symptom of contemporary society, but this proletarization is of a particular kind that, by being articulated with the intrinsically metonymic nature of the capitalist discourse, has lost all its subversive effectiveness and revolutionary potential.

The second paradigm of the politics of psychoanalysis is to a certain extent the reversal of the first one. What is at issue here is to show that enjoyment, precisely as an irreducible heterogeneity or otherness, is the point at which psychoanalysis encounters politics. Far from precluding all social bonds, enjoyment appears rather as a foundation for that politics which could be termed, for lack of a better term, the ‘politics of love’. At issue in this paradigm is love for one’s neighbor rather than the solipsism of enjoyment. The texts of reference here are, of course, Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents and Lacan’s The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, two texts that have, as their point of departure, the presupposition that what constitutes the otherness of the other is enjoyment insofar as it is evil. For Freud the evil jouissance that I suspect in the Other justifies my reservations with regard to him; it is the reason why the Other does not deserve my love since I can give my love only to the one who is like me. For Lacan, on the contrary, it is precisely this evil jouissance that the Other and I have in common. This irreducible otherness of jouissance is what joins us together. And this is why Lacan can claim that “that fundamental evil which dwells within this neighbor … it also dwells in me” (Lacan 1992, 186). This is why Lacan, in his “Kant with Sade”, reproaches Sade, but in an indirect way Freud too, with the misrecognition of his own enjoyment. Sade, just like Freud, Lacan says, ‘refuses to be my neighbor’.

The reason for this refusal, according to Lacan (Écrits 2006, 666), is that “Sade does not have neighborly enough relations with his own malice [méchanceté] to encounter his neighbor in it”, backing away, just like Freud, from the Christian commandment: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor like thyself’. Nothing, then, following Lacan, is closer to me than what I try desperately to avoid; this nameless evil enjoyment that I encounter not only in the Other, but in myself. On the other hand, it is precisely because, like myself, the Other is in the same position in relation to that what Lacan calls la chose la plus proche—that thing which is closest to me, being of course jouissance—that I can love the Other. What is difficult to accept here is not the idea that the Other is unfathomable, enigmatic, or wholly other. What is unthinkable is this sameness that the Other and I share at the level of enjoyment. That which radically separates me from the Other, his or her absolutely particular enjoyment, is at the same time that which we have in common: this otherness in me. Paradoxically, enjoyment as this irreducible otherness is the foundation of sameness.

The crucial point of Lacan’s interpretation of the love of one’s neighbor—far from being a postmodernist exaltation of the irreducible otherness of the Other—is designated here as a strategy for handling the irreducible otherness in me. Love insofar as it is beyond all transaction—this non-reciprocal love, in the final analysis, as a renouncement of any direct equivalent to that which I give, all promise of payment, this wholly unmotivated, gratuitous love, love as a gift without recompense—is what Lacan proposes as a solution to the impasse caused by the encounter with the enjoyment in the Other, with the otherness of the Other. This ‘real’ love – real in the sense that it demands the impossible—to love somebody for that which provokes his hatred and aggression, and turns them against me—is a possible strategy for handling that otherness in me, and neutralizing it. From the perspective of the second interpretation of the politics of psychoanalysis, only psychoanalysis (by bringing to light enjoyment as the irreducible singularity common to me and my neighbor, as a paradoxical sameness in otherness) can elaborate a theory of the subject appropriate to democracy. Indeed, a theory of the subject that is necessary to democracy. It is precisely at this point that the political implications of love of thy neighbor can be drawn out. Love of thy neighbor as a way of dealing with enjoyment is precisely what Derrida (1997) perceives as a chance for democracy. According to Derrida, “there is no democracy without respect for irreducible singularity or alterity” (1997, 22). But, Derrida adds, “there is no democracy without a ‘community of friends’, without the calculation of majorities, without identifiable, stabilizable, representable subjects, all equal” (1997, 22).

A nonreciprocal love for thy neighbor detached from all usefulness is the terrain upon which politics and psychoanalysis necessarily meet. Indeed, such a love can be seen as a model for a non-segregationist community. This is because the indifference to the useful that situates love beyond all altruist utilitarianism signifies a radical mutation in the field of politics, a mutation that concerns precisely the status of the Other. For the break with the useful characterizes not only love and friendship, but also hatred, as Freud himself points out in his Civilization, because my enemy is not interested in the profit he might gain from the wrongdoing he inflicts on me. This leads to a somewhat unexpected conclusion: if the refusal of usefulness, an indifference to possible gain is what friend and enemy have in common, then the distinction between the friend and the enemy disappears.

The crucial question here is of course: what consequences can be drawn from the disappearance of the demarcation line between friend and foe, in the final analysis, from the collapse of the figure of the Other for the social bond and, consequently, for politics? This is precisely the central issue in Schmitt’s theory of politics. As is well known, Schmitt situated the friend/enemy discrimination at the core of politics, signaling in this way that the moment of hatred is essential in politics.[2] The intrinsic complicity between enmity and the Other, more precisely, between the identification of the Other and the domestication of hatred, is embedded, according to Schmitt’s fundamental thesis, in the very constitution of a (homogeneous) political community. In Schmitt’s view, a mere agglomeration of fellow men can never bring about the desired homogeneity as the recognizable similarity requires the existence of an instance of dissimilarity, an element of otherness or heterogeneity that, at the level of the relationship between mere fellow men, is precisely lacking. At this level, not only is the other not an other at all—since it is coupled with the ego in a relation that is always reflexive, interchangeable—this specular relation itself is governed by a lethal alteration: if it is you, I am not, and if it is me, it is you who are not (Lacan 1988, 169). In deconstructive terms: in the absence of some radical otherness that makes it possible for individuals grouped together to identify themselves as being in some crucial aspects similar and capable thereby of constituting themselves into a community, the unleashing of a pure logic of identity or equivalence would lead (instead of to reconciliation and unification) to total destruction, as depicted in the Hobbesian fantasy of the state of nature.

Schmitt’s greatest merit is to have pointed out the intrinsic complicity between enmity and the Other. If we are to follow Schmitt, for homogeneity to be established at all the existence of an instance of dissimilarity—an element of otherness—is required that at the level of the relationship between semblables, between fellow men, is lacking. Schmitt’s introduction of the friend/enemy distinction can thus be understood as an attempt at diffusing the hatred that fellow men would otherwise vent against one another through the ‘exportation’ elsewhere of this inherent aggressivity. This externalization of the Other that prevents the slipping into cruelty and total destruction is possible only on the condition that the relationship of enmity is purified of all passion and affects.[3] Hence it is not simply the ‘we’/‘they’ distinction that would in itself make the checking of the excess of hostility—measureless violence—possible, but the symbolization of enmity involving a distance; the construction of a remote, external Other and rules that must be respected by all. Viewed from this perspective, the role of the Other is to pacify.

On the other hand, however, hatred is never completely domesticated. As Schmitt himself is forced to acknowledge, the establishment of such a constitutive outside is always incomplete since the Other is always contaminated by another figure of the enemy, within the community. This other Other—by being unlocatable, indiscernible—corrodes the communal being, threatens the community with its dissolution. From the very start there are, then, two figures of the enemy and not simply one: the symbolic enemy that Schmitt calls the political enemy. And there is yet another figure of the Other: the ‘real’ or internal enemy. Whereas the first figure is essentially pacifying, the second activates the absolute destructive hostility leading to a permanent civil war.

This distinction between the ‘good’, external, i.e. political enemy, and the ‘bad’, unfathomable, internal enemy is patently undermined in the present conjuncture of globalization. This is because today we are facing a situation in which, strictly speaking, there is no instance that could play the role of the ‘constitutive outside’; no instance of the ‘they’ that would render possible the construction of the ‘we’ since both ‘we’ and ‘they’ are always already ‘in’, included. Hence, it is essential to realize how contemporary otherlessness paradoxically opens up the possibility for the emergence of a hatred that nothing can appease.[4] The proliferation of hated real others in the era of the nonexistence of the Other is necessary, since once the figure of the external, political, ‘symbolic’ enemy is eliminated— once everybody is included—anybody, myself included, can occupy the place of the radical, real other. For what characterizes present-day globalization is the denial of all exclusion. The exclusion of exclusion did not, however, make exclusion disappear; it has only become internal and thus invisible. It is precisely because the frontier between the included and the excluded is ultimately invisible, since there is no sign, no attribute that would help me determine who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’, that, in a universe without beyond or limit, a universe that knows of no exception, anybody can in principle find himself/herself occupying the place of the real, dehumanized Other. This construction of the ‘altogether other’ in a constellation in which no Other is possible, bears some similarities to the movement designated by Lacan as the barbarism of all human assimilation. According to Lacan, in order for the subject to attain his/her identity, s/he is compelled to precipitate her/his self-affirmation: “I declare myself to be a man for fear of being convinced by men that I am not a man” (Lacan, “Logical Time” 2006).

This is precisely the reason that the ‘politics of love’—a politics that aims at the impossible articulation of otherness and the social bond, the impossibility of counting and the necessity of counting—remains forever contained within the perspective of the promise; it is forever ‘to come’, ‘à venir, never in the here and now. In other words, such a politics cannot provide us with a satisfactory answer to the question: How is it possible to justify the legitimacy of the move from the singular to the universal. The politics of love is satisfied with the ceaseless affirmation of the singularity of otherness. That is why it cannot indicate a way in which this singularity could be asserted politically, i.e. a way of politicizing the singularity of the singular by introducing another principle of counting: that of counting the uncounted, the uncountable. Ultimately, what such a conception of politics in terms of love misrecognizes is precisely the irreducible gap between counting and the impossibility of counting as the sole site in which the contemporary politics of emancipation can be situated. We propose to call the politics of emancipation that politics that organizes a confrontation between counting and the impossibility of counting; an operation that reveals the constitutive impossibility of institutionalizing a collectivity ‘for all’, a collectivity in which what is at stake is precisely the predicate determining the belonging to the community, the line of demarcation between inside/outside, us/them.

The Lacanian School and Its Politics

It is precisely at this point that the contemporary politics of emancipation encounters psychoanalysis. I would argue that psychoanalysis can show us how it is possible, in spite everything, to think and to practice a collectivity ‘for all’ as an open, non-segregationist community. For the great merit of Lacan’s proposed solution in Television consists in recasting the question of the universal, of the ‘for all’, from the perspective of the not-all, of the infinite. Clearly, the solution proposed by Lacan is a paradoxical solution since we are dealing here with an interior way out, if we may say so; a paradoxical way out that implies no transgression, no forcing of a barrier, since there is no barrier separating the outside and the inside. In view of this interior way out everything depends, of course, on the way we understand Lacan’s statement: “It would not constitute progress if it happens only to some”. Does the expression ‘not only for some’ imply ‘for all’ or not? Our claim is that it points in the direction of the ‘for all’. To be sure, this is a very peculiar ‘for all’ since in the not-all, that is, in an infinite universe in which this ‘for all’ is situated, it is impossible to state the universality of the predicate.

To fully grasp the political implications of this articulation of the ‘for all’ to the ‘not-all’, we must distinguish between two forms of the not-all: the not-all of incompleteness and the not-all of inconsistence. The first not-all is what we usually refer to as the all or the universal, to use its traditional name. This category designates a unity constructed through the limitation, or, more precisely, through the exclusion of an exception. And there is another form of the not-all, the inconsistent not-all that can, paradoxically, be obtained not through the exclusion of the exception, but through its inclusion. By the very fact of subtracting the exception from a series we render it limitless; non-totalizable. Now, what exactly is the status of the exception seen from the perspective of the not-all? We cannot simply state that there is no exception to the universal function, for instance, ‘All As are B’. We should, rather, say: if there is an exception we do not know where to find it. From the perspective of the not-all, the exception is seen as being erratic. It is everywhere, yet nowhere to be located. It could then be said that the exception is generalized. We could also say, for instance, that we are all exceptions.

The first figure of the not-all is subtractive or segregationist, because the price to be paid for the constitution of the ‘all’ is the exclusion of those who do not posses the required predicate. A ‘true’ not-all is non-segregationist because, from the outset, all exception is postulated as being undecidable, indeterminable. Consequently such a not-all is open, inclusive, in a word: ‘for all’. We can see here a solution to the impasse that Schmitt confronted: how to conceive of a community when there is no Other from which the members of the community are to be distinguished. The politics of the non-segregationist not-all is symmetrically inversed compared to that proposed by Schmitt: it consists in including the Other rather than in excluding the Other. Not of course in the name of respecting the rights of otherness—openness to the Other—but in order to bring into question the communal identity, the supposed homogeneity, of the group. It is this second aspect of the not-all, one in which it is impossible to determine the existence of a totalizing exception that can best be illustrated by the politics inherent to Lacan’s School: Ecole de la Cause. For there is yet another way of considering a politics that is proper to psychoanalysis; one that is capable of dealing with the problem of structural non-totalization.

A shift in Lacan’s reflections on politics in general, and the functioning of a psychoanalytical institution whose principal task would be the transmission of a radically singular experience such as can only be encountered in analysis, is marked by a paradoxical thesis according to which a group is the real, that is, according to Lacan’s vocabulary, a radical impossibility. The real of the group is that which is precisely at stake in the foundation of his School: Ecole de la Cause, School of the Cause. If I propose to consider Lacan’s thesis about the real of the group seriously this is precisely because Lacan, while insisting on the impossibility of the group by founding his School, succeeded nevertheless in demonstrating that there is a way of dealing with this impossibility.

Lacan’s solution to the impasse of collectivity consists in opening his School ‘to everybody’, which is to say ‘to anybody’. Setting out from the assumption that there is absolutely nothing to define the analyst, no pre-given predicate or property on which his identification could be grounded, the only viable solution is one that takes into account precisely this impossibility of determining a predicate that would be proper to the (Lacanian) analyst. The solution is, then, none other than to call on all those who are willing to work in the Freudian field. By inviting anybody to his school without any qualification Lacan created an open, empty space destined to be inhabited only by a special kind of work; the work of the “determined workers” (1990, 100), be it analysis or not, as he puts it.

As the expression ‘determined worker’ suggests, it is work that decides the belonging to the collectivity. This also implies that this work cannot be standardized. The work to be done is by definition indeterminable, since it cannot take place unless there is transference to a cause at hand. This expression, ‘determined worker’, emphasizes the importance of fidelity to a cause; the willingness of everyone involved in it to risk himself or herself and his or her desire in the pursuit of what is ultimately unknowable. All that the work to be done by everybody requires, and this despite the fact that neither its quality nor quantity can be prescribed, is a new relation to the cause. In the final analysis, the task that everybody is confronted with is that of inventing psychoanalysis. It is precisely in this sense that in Lacan’s School it is impossible to distinguish good, determined workers from idlers. Rather, School of the Cause is to be seen as a collectivity that is profoundly non-segregationist. It is non-segregationist because the presence of an element allegedly heterogeneous to the collectivity, a non-analyst, is not only tolerated but required in order to bring into question the predicate: to be an analyst.[5]

This Lacanian collectivity ‘for all’ can serve us as a model for the anonymous egalitarianism required by contemporary emancipatory politics in so far as it renders visible the functioning of both universalist, although incompatible, logics: the one that is grounded in the exception and the other that takes as its departure point the axiom according to which ‘there is none who has not got it’, namely, the capacity to be a determined worker. The paradox of the politics implied in Lacan’s School resides namely in the fact that it is situated precisely at the level of that which cannot be represented nor counted, as it is what is left after the completion of identification. In short, it is situated at the level of the pure, whatever singularity. Yet it is precisely this irreducible singularity that Lacan’s School proposes to take into account, to ‘count’. For the ambition of Lacan’s School is not only to find a way out of the traps of identification. It is, above all, to find, to force, a passage there where there is a non-passage, an impasse, a deadlock, of the group. What is at stake in the foundation of the Ecole de la Cause is a paradoxical project: to universalize the singular.

We can see now that what is at stake in the distinction between the two logics of the universal is eminently political. At issue here is the way in which the logics of the not-all is set to work, made operational there where segregationist logics operate, there where exclusion, be it visible or invisible, reigns. From this perspective, Lacan’s School can be viewed as a special collectivity ‘for all’; a collectivity that implies disidentification practiced at the level of the group: everyone ought to become anyone; a whatever singularity. This is not to say that one discovers oneself as already being such. On the contrary, one only becomes such: anyone. This is a subjective transformation that everyone has to accomplish for him or herself. This is because the collectivity ‘for all’ is ultimately grounded in a cause that sets us to work. In this sense it includes in the real a radical novelty: a paradoxical collectivity that is at once not-all, non-totalizable, and yet at the same time ‘for all’, offered to all.

Such a collectivity ‘for all’ grounded in the real of the group, which is to say, in its impossibility, is certainly a forcing: a forcing of saying, since what characterizes such a collectivity is precisely the advent of an allegedly mute, uncounted, invisible instance that starts to speak out, and, in so doing, asserts its presence: ‘We are here’. But it is also a forcing of all social order and of its counting. What is at issue here is not to correct the miscount made by the social order by including those who were left outside, those who did not count. Rather, it is to accomplish in view of those uncounted and counted alike the operation of trans-finitization: an operation that aims at constituting an open non-segregationism for all. How many members will count this “for all” of the not-all? It does not matter. It is not about the numbers on the condition, however, that it remains just like a Cantorian aleph; indifferent, impervious, to both all addition and all subtraction. So this paradoxical interior way out is nothing other than the constitution of a local, temporary, provisional collectivity ‘for all’. It is not to remain forever. All that remains forever, ultimately, is its name and its call.


01. See Lyotard, Political Writings (1993 168-9).

02. “The specific political distinction to which political action and notions can be reduced is the distinction between friend and enemy” (Schmitt, 1996, 26).

03. “The enemy is solely the public enemy, because everything that has a relationship to such a collectivity of men, particularly to a whole nation, becomes public by virtue of such a relationship. The enemy is hostis, not inimicus in the broader sense . . . The enemy in the political sense need not be hated personally, and in the private sphere only does it make sense to love one’s enemy, that is, one’s adversary” (1996, 28-29). 

04. It should be noted, however, that it is not only due to changed circumstances that in the present-day constellation of globalization the establishment of the instance of the Other proves to be impossible, thus rendering the relevance of Schmitt’s concept of the political questionable. Rather, the friend/enemy binary is from the outset self-de(con)structive. Significant in this respect is the conflation of two lines of Schmitt’s argument. On one hand, the identification of the enemy is grounded in a dialectic of reciprocal recognition since, for Schmitt, one can only recognise one’s enemy by being simultaneously recognised as his/her enemy. However, by tacitly assuming that nothing is more proper to self than one’s own enemy, indeed, by acknowledging that the enemy is interior (intimo meo, to say it with Saint Augustine, that is, “more interior than my innermost being”) Schmitt is forced to admit that the line of demarcation between the self and one’s own enemy remains radically undecidable. Thus to the question, “Whom may I finally recognise as my enemy?”, Schmitt can provide the only appropriate answer: “Only myself. Or my brother” (Schmitt 1987, 89). 

05. See, for instance, Lacan’s “Discours à l’Ecole freudienne de Paris” (2001, 270-272).


Agamben, Giorgio. The Coming Community. Trans. Michael Hardt. Minneapolis, U of Minnesota P, 1993.
Badiou, Alain. “From Logic to Anthropology: Affirmative Dialectics”. In Badiou and the Political Condition. Ed. Marios Constantinou. Edinburgh, The U of Edinburgh P, 2014.
Derrida, Jacques. Politics of Friendship. Trans. George Collins. New York, Verso, 1997.
Lacan, Jacques. “La troisième”. In Lettres de l’Ecole freudeinne de Paris, 16, 1975.
———. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. London, Penguin, 1979.
———. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York, W.W. Norton & Co, 1988.
———. Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment. Trans. J. Mehlman, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1990.
———. Le séminaire, livre XVII : l’Envers de la psychanalyse. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris, Seuil, 1991.
———. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Trans. D. Porter, London, Routledge, 1992.
———. “Proposition of 9 October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School”. Analysis. Melbourne, Center for Psychoanalytic Research, 6, 1995.
———. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book XX: Encore. Trans. Bruce Fink. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.
———. “Discours à l’École freudienne de Paris”. In Autres écrits. Paris, Seuil, 2001: 261-82.
———. “Nota sul padre e l’universalismo”. La psicoanalisi. (33) 2003.
———. ”Remarks on Daniel Lagache’s Presentation: ‘Psychoanalysis and Personality Structure’”. In Ecrits. Trans. Bruce Fink. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006: 571-572.
———. “Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty”. In Ecrits. Trans. Bruce Fink. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006: 161-75.
———. “Kant avec Sade”. In Ecrits. Trans. Bruce Fink. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006: 645-70.
Lyotard, Jean-François. Political Writings. Minneapolis, U of Minnesota P, 1993.
——— and Gilibert Larochelle, “That Which Resists, After All”. Philosophy Today. 36(4). 1992: 401-17.
Milner, Jean-Claude. Les noms indistincts. Paris, Seuil, 1983.
———. Constats. Paris, Gallimard, 2002.
Schmitt, Carl. The Concept of the Political. Trans. George Schwab. Chicago, Chicago UP, 1996.
———. Ex Captivitate Salus, Erfahrungen der Zeit 1945/47. Pletenberg, Peiran, 1987.
Soler, Colette. ”La politique du symptôme”. Quarto. 65, 1998.