We are pleased to bring you the English translation
of an interview with Jacques-Alain
previously published in the original Spanish
in the journal Página/12 (see NLS Messager 4351)
“Lacan Foresaw the Global Domination of Capitalism”
8 August, 2022
Just forty years after Jacques Lacan's death (on 9 September 1981),
the prestigious French psychoanalyst Jacques-Alain Miller and his
Argentinean colleague Alejandra Glaze decided to undertake a task as
rigorous as it was exciting: a book that would function as a tribute and, at
the same time, serve as an epistemic contribution to the way Jacques Lacan is
seen in the Spanish-speaking world. The result is Lacan Hispano, a
volume of more than 500 pages that Glaze, the director of Grama Ediciones,
co-directed with Lacan's son-in-law. More than seventy analysts from the World
Association of Psychoanalysis or linked with this institution – each with
their own perspective – allow us to understand that Argentina, Spain and
Venezuela functioned as the gateways of Lacanian orientation in the Hispanic
world. At the same time, they speak of the marks that the encounter with
Lacan's work has left on them, and recall heartfelt tributes to Judith Miller
(who died in 2017), Jacques Lacan's third daughter, who dedicated her life to
the dissemination and protection of her father's psychoanalytic work.
In this exclusive interview with Página/12 (the only one he
gave to an Argentinean media outlet on the occasion of this editorial event),
Jacques-Alain Miller, the most significant contemporary psychoanalyst
worldwide, explains how the publication allows us to understand the
importance of Lacan's teaching in Spanish-speaking countries, refers to Lacan's
influence in Latin America, does not fail to recall the unavoidable figure of
Oscar Masotta and also observes how the teachings of the great French
psychiatrist and psychoanalyst can be read in a political key.
Is the aim of the book to give an account of the transmission of
Lacanian psychoanalysis in the world, especially in the Spanish-speaking world?
— I wouldn't say so because the transmission in the world has been
approached at another level: that of the institutions I have created and that
cover a good part of the world. I'm not going to say "the whole
world" because there are still countries missing. But in Latin America and
Europe there are seven schools and transmission essentially passes through them.
For me there is a distinction between the type of institutional work that
schools are for. I will say something more about the word “transmission” with
an anecdote. Once, there was a Congress of the École Freudienne de Paris,
which was founded by Lacan. He expressed some doubt about the title of this
Congress. The idea was to talk about the future of psychoanalysis. In a private
conversation, I said to him: “If you are on the side of pessimism, let's say
'tradition'; in other words, leaning on the past and continuing it into the
future. If you are on the side of optimism, let's choose the word ‘transmission’”.
Lacan left “transmission”. So the Congress went on and taking the floor at the
end, to general surprise, after two days of talking about transmission, Lacan
said: “There is no transmission of psychoanalysis. What exists is one by one:
each one must reinvent psychoanalysis on his own”. My comment is this: if you
think of painting when it is said, for example, that Goya and Picasso
reinvented painting, that presupposes a very good knowledge of the tradition of
painting, of previous painters. And it is on this basis that one can reinvent
the discipline. In my opinion, it is the same thing: it is necessary to know
very well the history of psychoanalysis, the controversies that took place in
psychoanalysis in order to be able to reinvent it with one’s own means.
More than seventy analysts write in the book, with different points
of view. If you had to say what thread unites them, what would be the Hispanic view
of Jacques Lacan?
– There is no thread. That is the merit of this volume. To have a
thread would be to tie the authors together. On the contrary, we have left each
one to reinvent his contribution on his own. So I can't give you a synthesis of
the volume. It is a book by the will of Alejandra Glaze and myself, a volume of
a gathering of scattered authors. And they don't necessarily say the same thing
or have at all the same angle, the same perspective.
Do you think that Lacan's presence in Caracas in 1980 marked a
turning point for Spanish-speaking psychoanalysis? Is it possible, then, to
speak of a Hispanic Lacan?
– Yes, Caracas 1980 marked a break in the history of psychoanalysis
in the Spanish-speaking world. But it is a break after the initial break, which
was that of Oscar Masotta. As we know, Oscar Masotta was a literary critic, a
critic of painting, but he knew a famous psychoanalyst in Argentina: Enrique
Pichon-Rivière. The 1950s were a time when Lacan had not yet published a single
book on psychoanalysis, none. And to get to know him you had to read articles
in specialised journals. And Pichon-Rivière had those journals of
psychoanalysis with articles because I suppose he was a subscriber to those
journals. And those first articles by Lacan were made known to Masotta. The
first time Masotta quoted Lacan was in an article on Sartre in 1960. It was the
first. I have the information from an article that Germán García published in Página/12.
And from then on, Masotta began to spread Lacan in the city of Buenos Aires and
to interest more and more people, such as psychologists who could not join the
International Society at that time because the society required a medical degree.
Psychologists were Masotta's readers, but there were also sociologists,
linguists, philosophers, doctors and writers. A broad and diverse public that
gradually grew until the moment when Masotta felt he could create a school.
And he did so in 1974…
– He made it known in France. After creating the school, the
following year Masotta had to go to Barcelona for political reasons and died
shortly afterwards, before he turned 50. It's incredible how much he achieved
in such a short time. In such a way that in Caracas 1980 what happened was that
the Hispanic Lacan, created by Masotta, encountered the French Lacan. It encountered
Lacan the person. That was a shock for the Latinos. There was also a shock for
the French when they discovered that there was a dissemination of Lacan there,
totally independent of them, and that Lacan’s theory was known in Argentina and
in other countries. That meeting should have taken place in Buenos Aires, but
as the military were in power in Argentina, we decided to hold it in Caracas.
That was the reason why it was held in Caracas, but it was already known that
the centre of Lacan's dissemination and work was Buenos Aires.
How do you remember the fact that you inaugurated an experience of
Schools beyond France?
– What was new with Caracas 80 and the years that immediately
followed was that the Argentineans and the other Latinos knew Lacan’s theory,
but they did not have the living experience of an analysis oriented by Lacan’s
theory. They had analysed each other trying to translate theory into practice,
but they didn't have the experience. And that started from Caracas; that is,
first a small number of Argentinean analysts asked for analysis with French
analysts. Later, that fundamentally changed the situation because they
themselves had patients with whom they could practice in the Lacanian sense.
And now there is a great closeness between French practice and Argentinean
practice. I say closeness [cercania], but it is one by one. But we
totally recognise each other as practising students of Lacan.
What were the political consequences of Jacques Lacan's teaching?
– We can say that there were political consequences because analysts
before Lacan were conservative, of a moderate right. And more or less Freud
too. There were also communist consequences of Freud. There were attempts of
institutes that were open to the poor in Germany, for example. And then there
were humanist consequences that were not conservative, not exactly progressive,
but had a certain humanitarian orientation. These were the consequences of
Lacan. He said that he was not progressive, that he did not believe in
progress. For him, history was rather circular, in a way. But it wasn't just
him who didn't believe in progress. From the 19th century onwards,
this distance from the idea of progress developed. He was not progressive, he
was not conservative and, at the same time, he did not believe in total change
because he thought that if you leave a master, or destroy a master, then you
will find another master. We have seen that very clearly with Soviet communism,
for example. Stalin was a much fiercer master than the Tsar. Under the Tsar
there were a thousand agents of the special information services. And with
Stalin there were 5,000 and then there were 200,000 of those agents. Almost the
entire population in communist Germany were government spies. So Lacan was not
optimistic about politics. But he was caring for the suffering patients, also
for the poor. To such an extent that he said that the ultra-rich could not be
analysed because they could not afford to pay for something that would really
cost them. To do an analysis it was necessary for payment to come from work.
And the ultra-rich don't work, they only expect income.
How can one think about capitalist discourse today in a world marked
by the advance of the ultra-right?
– Lacan formalises the capitalist discourse when all the youth and
beyond were talking about capitalism. It was the great question of '68, for
example. Lacan sought in the culture of his time the essential concerns and
gave them a translation in his discourse in order to divert, to have an impact
on these issues without rejecting them, accepting them in order to transform
them. When people spoke of the capitalist discourse, it was because it seemed
that there was an alternative in the communist countries, with the Third World,
but which was more sympathetic to the left. This is not the case today.
Capitalism is everywhere. Globalisation is the globalisation of capital. There
is no alternative. Or the alternative is between democratic capitalism and
authoritarian capitalism. And I think that if Lacan thought about things today,
his formalisation of capitalist discourse would be different. At the same time,
I have an anecdote that perhaps says the opposite of what I am saying.
How does it go?
– Once, in a private conversation, I asked Lacan what he thought
about what was happening in China. It was in the 1960s. I was a Maoist and I
thought that there was something totally unprecedented that Mao was trying to
do in China. And Lacan answered me: “In Peking, as everywhere else, the master
is money”. It was extraordinary in its anticipation and lucidity. He already
had the idea that the future was the domination of capitalism in the world.
And how do you think about it today? Should an analyst stay away
from mass phenomena?
– No, he should be close to mass phenomena, as Freud was, by
analysing them, giving us a general formula of the mass [the group] in
psychology, group psychology. We have a great interest in knowing how mass
phenomena are structured in our time, which is different from how it was in
Freud's time because we have, for example, the internet, social communication
through the internet. And that makes it possible, for example, to create
ideological mass movements in a way that did not exist in Freud's writing. At
the same time, a tradition of analysts is to keep a certain distance from political
commitment. Perhaps less so in Argentina. I know that, for example, in the
School of the Lacanian Orientation (EOL) a distinction is made between
"the Ks" and "the anti-Ks". There is political dissidence,
but in general the analytic tradition takes a certain distance. It has to be
said that in the EOL, even if some are K and some are anti-K, they work
together in the School. They don't create separate groups based on political
affinities. I personally distinguish between what I am as a psychoanalyst and
what I am as a citizen. As a citizen I am anti-fascist, as analysts generally
are, but I have also entered the political struggle in a personal way, trying
to fully distinguish my school, the French School, and my personal commitments.
But I feel my freedom to do that because I think it is possible to distinguish
the two, although as a citizen the knowledge I have as an analyst does not
evaporate, of course not. But for me it doesn't prevent me from committing
myself strongly to the political struggle, even though I am not in any party,
nor in any political association. It is entirely personal.
In what respects would you say that Lacan can continue to be read as
a contemporary thinker?
– He himself said “I am unreadable” (laughter). At the end of
his life, he was very interested in James Joyce. Ulysses is very
difficult to read and understand. It is a unique work that clearly fascinated
Lacan. And Joyce said: “I have left work to academics for 300 years”. And I
think Lacan also wanted to leave work for us for 300 years. That's one way of
giving an answer to your question. The other way is to say that he had a gift
of anticipation that we have seen at the political level and that existed also
at the clinical level. For example, the depathologisation of the clinic, he
clearly anticipated it. He is still relevant today by the very nature of his
teaching. Also thanks to us, to the large community of analysts who refer to
him, who give their time and efforts to this thought.
* Oscar Ranzani is a journalist and film critic.
Published in Spanish https://zadigespana.com/2022/08/08/jacques-alain-miller-lacan-anticipo-la-dominacion-del-capitalismo-en-el-mundo/?fbclid=IwAR3Fc-IB4RDGiwaBRBn8dk2mMHTkIRBVGoEDtcqo3iAuk5BGgqYfUF4xViQ