The city of Turin holds a specific signification for psychoanalysis in the Lacanian Orientation. It is not for nothing that Jacques-Alain Miller, during his speech at the Scientific Congress of the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis (SLP) in formation on May 21, 2000, formulated there his Theory of Turin on the Subject of the School, a fundamental reference for us. And it is not for nothing that Jacques-Alain Miller chose Turin to celebrate, last July, the Seminar of Lacanian politics. Today it is a Forum that proposes a debate on a topic of the utmost political relevance, and about which psychoanalysts undoubtedly have a lot to say.
That Europe is at a crossroads does not escape anyone. If on the one hand we can once again hear rumors about the idea of reactivating the old project of the United States of Europe (Victor Hugo already mentioned this possibility in his speech at the Peace Congress in 1849 in Paris), on the other hand, there is an awakening of tensions, and the particularities which are capable of calling into question the very possibility of a common project are taking on more importance.
It is true that Europe, in the last twenty years, has been a distant reality more often experienced as an oppressive bureaucracy than as an area of democratic participation. On the other hand, as long as the very notion of democracy is under revision, as long as the idea of representation is in competition with more direct forms of immediate and continuous participation, as long as we do not know how they can fit within the framework of politics as we know it, what place is there for a transnational, translinguistic, transreligious community?
In recent times, where messages are coming to us from Catalonia and in particular Barcelona which raise concerns in more than one decision-making center, ELP members should feel particularly concerned by the Turin meeting, a beautiful city in which a singular chapter of European history was written.
Involved like so many other European (and Spanish) cities in the terrible Spanish Civil War, a decisive conflict for the configuration of modern Europe, the city of the Savoy had a very different destiny from that of Barcelona. While Turin, after its late compromise with the Great Alliance against the Bourbons, resisted the assault of the Franco-Spanish troops and forced them to retreat (1706), Barcelona fell as one of the last strongholds of the opposition (1714 ), even after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht which, among other things, left the Rock of Gibraltar as an English enclave.
Turin is an excellent place to develop a current reflection on the meaning of a democratic Europe and the necessary compromise between the past, the present and a certain representation of a future to share. Even if the city continues to celebrate the defeat of French troops, written in the names of the streets dedicated to their heroes, the imprint of French culture is visible to anyone in many details of this Italian city that surprises us and always enchants us – in fact, the official language of the Court was French until the middle of the 19th century.
From the experience of the School as a set of exceptions, psychoanalysts have, perhaps, something to say about the treatment of differences and about an idea of democracy that does not slide towards the fragmentation specific to the time of the One-all-alone.
Driven by Fear
We are increasingly pervaded by a feeling of constant danger because of our proximity to an other about which we thought we knew everything but in fact knew nothing. The statistical data, which the capitalistic discourse rates so highly, no longer have any value. At the news that the work of those who come from other countries contributes to the maintenance of the self-proclaimed autochthonous people, a woman whispers, “I have worked my entire life, I cannot accept that my pension is paid by immigrants!”
Thanks to Freud, we have learned that, for the human being, that which frightened him is what was the most familiar to him: “What disturbs us is always something in which we do not find ourselves, so to speak.” This proximity to the other whose presence would cause the loss of our place in the world (it would seem to be a privilege of the few) risks veiling the condition of precariousness that is increasingly affecting everyone.
On 13 October, the Centro Psicoanalitico di Trattamento dei Malesseri Contemporanei (The Psychoanalytical Centre for Treatment of Contemporary Discontents) devoted a day of work to the theme “Fears Out-of-control – Individual and Collective Responses”, which revealed that the responses to these phenomena differ: isolation, charity, integration, hatred.
In any case, there where we think of acting legitimately, in order to know how to safeguard “our place”, but also to occupy the place of those who say “the other” what his place should be, we can verify, at an individual and collective level, that it is the exclusion of all difference that is produced.
A certain way of promoting democracy as equality, parity and identity – the theme of our Forum, “Determined Desires for Democracy in Europe” – does not diminish the increase in fears about which our governments mainly respond by increasing security measures, whose only result is an increase of those same fears.
Already, in 1950, Jacques Lacan recognised that in a civilisation in which the ideal of individualism has been raised to a degree of affirmation previously unknown, individuals have the tendency (or I would say, they are pushed) to think, feel, do and love exactly the same things, at the same time, in strictly equivalent spaces.
It would be precisely this “alienating identification” that forms the basis of the phenomena of “social assimilation”, which in turn would result in a situation where “the standardised aggressive tensions must rush wherever the crowd breaks up and polarises.”
For psychoanalysis, fear is already a response; we could almost say it is a resource for putting into words an increasingly generalised, and increasingly silent and anonymous anxiety, which is likely to fuel isolation and hatred. If it is true that psychoanalysis responds to the discontents of society by offering a “place of speech”, this has nothing in common with narrative, which is used so much in the psy-world and in politics.
What can make the difference is the meeting with those who are the recipients of that speech, without trying to “manipulate” it and reduce it to the social norm in order to gain a political or professional consensus, just as Lacan did on 19 March 1974 in his lesson of Seminar 21, Les non-dupes errent, calling psychoanalysts to the ethic of their position.
Translation reviewed by Janet and John Haney
New Lacanian School
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