Un réel pour le XXI sciècle
IXth Congress of the WAP • 14-18 april 2014 • Paris • Palais des Congrès • www.wapol.org

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Psychoanalysis of the Lacanian Orientation: An Offer for the 21st Century
by Sérgio Laia

Sérgio LaiaA real for the 21st century – the title of the forthcoming congress of the WAP – can be heard as an offer: that psychoanalysis of the lacanian orientation would offer to our century a real. Why would we do it?

Psychoanalysis of the lacanian orientation does indeed "have" a real, or, to say it better, it makes for the experience of an approach to the real that is different from what religion, science and the "combined domination"[1] of the discourse of science and the discourse of capitalism make of it. In this way, psychoanalysis can offer areal to the 21st century that does not cease having to deal with the constraint of the real. If to a world devastated by the First World War, Monet had offered asylum in his Waterlilies conceived as some kind of an enormous bouquet[2], we, analysts of the lacanian orientation, can offer subtlety, the finesse of areal, for a century which is entangled in next to no time in the real and which, although devastated by it, aspires all the time to its presence. It is the question of a strategic offer that will allow psychoanalysis to continue beyond the turning of this century that succeeds the one which saw psychoanalysis being born.

The combination of the discourse of science and the discourse of capitalism has devalued the Name-of-the-Father as the reference that traditionally structured human experience, while religion maintains itself as the nostalgic guardian of a Father exiled from the world. With Lacan, Jacques-Alain Miller enlightens us, we have a depreciation of the Name-of-the-Father that occurred less than three decades before the start of the 21st century, but it is different from the depreciation effected by the science-capitalism junction, being foreign to all religious nostalgia or conservatism because in it the Name-of-the-Father is reduced to a symptom, that is, to the "suppletion for a hole", it being underlined that this hole is that of the inexistence of the sexual relation[3].

Present-day civilisation is built on the gap of the Father, on the inexistence of an Other-who-is-not-deceived, even as it tries to plug these gaps with objects which are going to reopen them without cease, in such a way that in next to no time new objects appear on the market, whether religious or consumerist.

Psychoanalysis of the lacanian orientation, in its turn, will underline that the Name-of-the-Father – whether glorified by religion, or at once holed and plugged by the products of science and by the consumerism particular to capitalism – is the suppletion for the inevitable hole that the impossibility of the sexual relation leaves on the bodies of those who speak. As a consequence, analytical experience does not seek refuge in the father any more than it disdains his existence or fights for his destruction. It leans at the same time on an otherexistence and an otherinexistence, in orienting itself from a symptomwhichexists as a response to the real of the inexistenceofthesexual relation.

The expression "orientation towards the real" is often employed to refer to what is in play in the lacanian analytical experience. J.-A. Miller invites us to find out what would be such an orientation today, and indicates a way to us: to exploit, in each clinical case, "the defense against the real without law and outside sense", to disturb it without ignoring that transference itself is "a defense against the real", and, thus, to highlight how the psychoanalytical clinic – bound up in the transference which implies a "wanting to say", a "sense" – can give way to "the real unconscious" for which what exists is an "it is so"[4], emptied of all sense.

In this research, to which we have devoted ourselves in view of the 2014 WAP Congress, it is a question of throwing light on the renewal of the desire of the analyst in terms of a "desire to reach the real, to reduce the Other to its real and to release it from sense"[5]. Since this reduction and this release seem to me inseparable from Lacan's attempt "to represent the real as a Borromean knot" and to make us touch this "irremediable zone of existence, like Oedipus at Colonus, where the absolute absence of love, of fraternity and of all human feeling is encountered"[6], it would be important to clarify how the entrance into this so very disquieting place that Lacan ended up writing the sinthome – even if J.-A. Miller evokes the tragedy of Oedipus at Colonus and takes support from the "ego of Joyce"[7] – is distinguished from the tragic path of the "narcissism of the lost Cause"[8].

The "lost Cause", as Lacan teaches us, comprises the "supreme narcissism" by which a subject, as much on the "path of Greek tragedy" as in the "Christianity of despair" of a Paul Claudel, faces up to "the will of the Other" to satisfy the "will to castration"[9] registered in this latter. A recent version of the "supreme narcissism of the lost cause", in the field of the religion, is the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI: he spoke of withdrawing from the world in order to preserve the little bit of life and health that bodily remained to him, reducing his link with this world, in his voluntary exile, to the prayers that he devotes to it. However, this cannot be separated from his impotence in responding to the religious, political and financial impasses which confront Catholicism. By the combination of the discourse of science and of capitalism, a new version of the "supreme narcissism of the lost Cause" is manifested in the agitation of bodies irresistibly pulled along by the innovations of science and merchandise, and this despite the mortifying incidences of this jouissance.

The contemporary taste for perdition, for abandonment and for boredom, just like the devotion always present in bodies caught in an autoerotic satisfaction, will be able to encounter, in the singularity of each case, right across the analytical experience, a counterpoint to the offers of religion, science and capitalism, without underestimating the taking into account of the libidinal dimension that affects living bodies. In the manner of an Oedipus at Colonus, an analysand, confronted with his program of jouissance, will be able to wonder – "Am I made man in the hour when I cease to be?"[10] To reach this disquieting question is a means for finding in the sinthome what is the most singular in each one, even more singular than one's own body image, since, while this image results from the alienation in relation to the other that it represented at first, the sinthome – through, additionally, the opacity which resides in it – comprises what, in the terms of Joyce read with Lacan, is individual, i.e., without division, without distribution, and from which each one makes a jouissance. In these counterpoints, it is reaffirmed that the psychoanalysis of the lacanian orientation truly "has" a real to offer to the 21st century consumed and overwhelmed by the real..

Translated from the French by Samya Seth

  1. Miller, J.-A., "Le réel au XXIe siècle", in Engouement pour la clinique: La Cause du désir, Navarin éditeur, Issue 82, October 2012, p. 88. www.congresamp2014.com
  2. This reference is based on the memory of visits to the Musée de l'Orangerie and on the information available on their website: http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/home_id24799_u112.htm
  3. Miller, J. - A., "Le réel au XXIe siècle", op. cit., p. 93.
  4. Ibid., p. 94.
  5. Loc. cit.
  6. Loc. cit.
  7. Lacan, J., Le Séminaire, livre XXIII, Le Sinthome, Paris, Seuil, 2005, pp. 143-155.
  8. Lacan, J. "The Subversion of the Subject and Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious", Écrits, The First Complete Edition in English, transl. by B. Fink, Norton & Co., New York/London, 2006, p. 700.
  9. Loc. cit.
  10. It is an excellent text of Ram Mandil that allowed me to isolate this striking verse: Mandil, R. A., "D'un désir de toucher au reel", Papers No. 1: http://www.congresamp2014.com/pt/Papers/Papers-001.pdf