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A LACANIAN WARNING

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Contemporary Lacanian psychoanalysts not affiliated with particular schools are occasionally overcome by a certain unease, an urge to change the order of the addends. As a consequence of this, they begin to propose to stop clinging to Lacanian theory as if it was the last resort, and opt to broaden their horizon by turning to neighboring clinical teachings. For humanitarian non-clinicians, this logic will be difficult to comprehend, but for some reason, Wilfred Bion or André Green are often suggested as the alternatives closest to Lacan.

 

However, it is not only that the systems of these authors are not even close analogs of the Lacanian apparatus, neither in their powerfulness, nor in the logic of their construction; there is a much more significant circumstance that does not allow to leave Lacan for greener pastures with impunity. The reason consists in that a really strong theory often differs not only in the quality of its conclusions—in any case, contrary to the popular opinion, it differs in this not primarily—but in what might be called the theory’s creator’s ability to evade judgments that can evoke in the public unjustifiably rapid understanding and unhealthy excitement related to it. Whereas a weaker theory not only fails to avoid using means to cause such excitement, but often goes along with it.

 

Green is almost an ideal case here because, being engaged in the theory of narcissism, he himself turned out to be captivated by it as a completely mythologically real—not an invention of clinicians—Narcissus. As a result of this, he produced a whole host of hackneyed (and hence clearly imaginary), yet highly seductive truths for both professional and broader audience. For instance, he asserted that narcissism and reality contradict each other, or that the narcissistic type loves no one, including himself (but himself slightly more after all—and this “slightly more” Green apparently considered a genuinely revolutionary discovery of his).

 

On the one hand, it could be argued that he was unable—and did not have to be able—to anticipate in what will soon result a frenetic, almost obscene interest in the concept of narcissism. In contrast, Lacan, who worked decades before Green, not simply managed to foresee and sense it, but also took a number of precautionary actions to not to get caught by it in any way and to steer his students away from such a perspective. The cautiousness of these actions fully corresponded to that unquestionably excremental found in the usage of the concept, making it so attractive.

 

It is for this reason that psychoanalysis has to hold onto Lacan just as political thought (not science, of course, because there is no such thing as political science) holds onto Marx. The inevitability of fastening onto the latter was realized, among others, by thinkers as original and self-standing as Marx himself, such as Adorno or Deleuze, who acknowledged that while visiting can be good, every thought returns to Marx and that there is no alternative to this return.

 

This lack of alternative is primarily connected to the fact that, as it was expressed by Lacan, Marx, along with a narrow circle of other thinkers (whom Lacan undoubtedly associated with), “never spoke bullshit.”

 

Having reached this part of Lacan’s text[1], some readers, as if offended in advance, become irritated and demand “concrete examples” (which is in itself bullshit). But in this case, the sought-after example stares one in the face: it is precisely the protracted voluptuous analysis of the concept of narcissism (not every analysis, of course, because it might be handled as correctly as it was handled by Freud, who did not draw any ethical conclusions). The relentless, inherent attempt in contemporary psychotherapy to fit into this concept the entire darkness of the world, the absolute horror and madness of self-conceit according to Hegel, while also simultaneously enjoying the very engagement of this signifier, is obviously in sharp opposition to Freud.

 

This opposition, camouflaged by the superficial reverence of classical analysts towards Freud, clearly shows itself in Green’s work “Life Narcissism, Death Narcissism”, which was published in 1983, as if in celebration of the recent death of Lacan. It can be claimed that precisely because some petty masters and their readers after them regard such titles as good ideas, one has to keep to Lacan and the path to Freud opened by him practically undisputedly.

 

In connection with this, it is interesting that psychoanalysts are sent for supervision when they encounter difficulties with their analysands, for example, when they experience sensuality towards them or disproportionately overvalue the significance of their relationship with them. However, no one ever recommends supervision when those same specialists face analogical difficulties with concepts. To put the matter bluntly, the relationship with concepts, as with subjects, can also be complicated by affection, and the transference, with all the infatuation that comes with it, is also possible here. There you have the truth that corresponds to the spirit of the Lacanian warning.

Translated from Russian by Ignas Gutauskas

Artwork: Man in a Suprematist Landscape by Kazimir Malevich

 

 

[1] [The part of the text in question is from seminar XVII, p. 70–1): “I wanted to begin with an aphorism which, I hope, will strike you by its obviousness, because it’s the reason that Freud has carried the day despite the protestations that greeted his entry into the world of commerce of ideas. What carried the day is this—Freud doesn’t bullshit. This is what gives him this sort of priority he has in our day. It’s probably also what makes it the case that there is another who, as we know, survives fairly despite everything. What is characteristic of the two of them, Freud and Marx, is that they don’t bullshit.”]

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