Your Money or Your Life
I write this contribution to the open debate about the situation in Catalonia, and the political crisis, which is a crisis of the social bond that this situation shows us in a moment of maximum tension, maximum preoccupation, and maximum uncertainty.
Not long ago, at the 2015 Study Days of the ELP held in Barcelona under the title, Crisis – What the Psychoanalysts Have to Say, we learned and observed that crisis is something consubstantial with the human, and that “wanting to cure it can at times be the best way to feed this imperative and its devastating effects, if one does not first analyse the signifier that orders – in all senses of the word ‘order’ – this jouissance imposed in the name of the Good” (Bassols, 2015). I add, in reference to the current situation: in the name of an imposed jouissance of the Good that is supposedly the indissoluble unity, whether of the nation or the people.
Knowing this has not kept me from a feeling of collective disaster, which for that reason is personal. A jouissance of disaster that I do not want to be invaded by, which is why I am contributing this small idea to consider amongst many other ideas that have already been aired, diverse, discordant, and in the line of exploring the impossible, in order not to remain stuck in impotence and the observance of the push to the worse.
In Seminar XI, Jacques Lacan sets out, in relation to the operations of alienation and separation that cause the subject, the forced choice that is implied in the first of these. There, using a Witz that is almost visual, he indicates that in the choice between the money (the all, we could say) and life, one is forced to choose life, but in choosing it life can no longer be anything but restricted.
A loss is thus implied in this choice. Lacan then goes on to speak of a second operation, that of separation, which properly read also includes a loss, given that in this separare (se parere) what is at stake is a return to the primary alienation, but now in another modality (thus not without loss). There is no separation that does not imply a bond, a new bond. Without this separation we have the passage to the act.
This bond in common – Lacan will speak about this in various ways throughout his teaching – and is based in the solitude and the singularity of the sinthome. It is with this that one can make a community. Otherwise one is rather in the psychology of the masses.
Alienation and separation, by being thus holed, therefore include a loss, even though there is also something that is added: a new bond with the Other, an Other that is now barred, the fall of identifications, which had occupied the place of the “there is no”, of the “not-All”.
In the same chapters of Seminar XI, Lacan speaks about the choice of the slave, which is rather of the order of freedom or death. For the slave, the forced choice comes at the price of life, when life no longer has any value, one chooses life or death.
To return to the current situation, I thought that in the name of the all, that is, in believing that it is possible to have your money and your life – which is in a certain way the wager of those pushing for independence – one can lose one’s autonomy, which is a life of not-All, restricted, but at the end of the day still a life.
Saying that the wager of those in favour of independence is an all is a way of indicating the maximalist position to which those pressing for it have arrived. This involves, for example, equating the desire to decide, to separate, to become independent (about which there is nothing to say), with the right to decide (which in itself is questionable).
This maximalist position has been arrived at with the inestimable assistance of the government of Spain, which has not contributed any politics worthy of the name to this situation, but has rather acted in the manner of the Marx brothers “mas Madera es la Guerra”, as with the dreadful police actions of the 1st October, but also at many other moments in the course of the years.
It also occurred to me that in the staging of the independent position there has been a forcing. As someone more familiar with the matter said to me: it is a question of demonstrating the incurable of the Spanish State (even beyond the government) in order to justify that independence is the only possible way out. For our part let us not forget that the incurable, being more or less bearable depending on the subjectivities involved, is something for all, while not being completely reducible.
This forcing thus “logically” includes a decanting, a conversion of the forced choice of the subject into that of the slave, a conversion that is nothing but the rendering banal of the dignity of that choice, that of the true slave.
While I was writing this contribution, I heard a Councillor of the Generalitat say the following on the radio: “The Republic is no longer a choice, it is an absolute necessity for survival.” Thus when there is no choice, only “life or death” remains. Subtracting the subject from his forced choice leads to the banalisation of the choice between freedom and death. This choice is rendered banal in the same way and at the same time that applying a law without having previously included the politics that knows that “the unconscious is politics” has incalculable consequences for the social bond and for life.
Translation: Roger Litten
Turin, a Wake-up Call
Democracy is not a condition, once and for all, of a guaranteed bond, and this is a fact that is found both in the past and in our times. Sometimes we fall asleep with the idea that those rights, acquired at the cost of hard battles fought by those who came before us, remain unaltered over time, which means that we forget the warning that, if I am not mistaken, Goethe left us: “Who falls asleep under democracy will wake up under dictatorship.” These are words of warning that alert us to not end up, almost without realizing it, deprived of those rights enjoyed under democracy.
And what if democracy today tends to make the subject sleep while dictatorship, on the contrary, makes him wake up? One wonders why democracy would foster a certain anesthesia of the subject – that same democracy that offers itself as a bond in which a blazing conflict can find a home, a conflict linked to desire as well as to the attempt to hold together different subjective positions that are sometimes very distant from each other. The fact that conflict and desire are inseparable was extremely clear to Freud, who learned from the analytical experience an unthinkable lesson, both then and now, of the symptom as resulting from the conflict between drive demands, which are not wholly absorbed by way of language, and the needs of civilisation, which impose a renunciation of the drive on the individual in exchange for a “plus” in terms of security. In this sense, the symptom, a formation of compromise, would be a democratic formation produced by the work of the subconscious, at the moment when it tries to come to terms with a jouissance that constantly comes back, in conformity with the modalities of its expulsion. After all, the analytic experience draws its politics from reducing the symptom to its hard core, and from leading the subject to the edge of that unclassifiable hole which provokes resolute desire as a possible response. In this sense, the politics of psychoanalysis is a politics of the not-all, an osso buco politics, to put it in terms of the Piedmontese culinary speciality. Analysis teaches us that taking responsibility for the jouissance that concerns us in our misery and division, rather than throwing it onto the Other, is a necessary condition for welcoming the other in his radical difference and dealing in a creative way with the conflict that this difference brings with it. Addressing what is produced in terms of symptom, as much at the level of the singular as at that of the collective, therefore becomes one of the conditions for making sure that the encounter with alterity does not simply produce hatred and rejection. In that sense, as psychoanalyst-psychoanalysand, we have the responsibility, in the cure as well as in the social discourse in which we live, to remember what Lacan affirms in the Proposition of 9th October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School: There is a real at play in the formation of the psychoanalyst and this real tends to be misunderstood, as much at the level of the singular as at the level of the collective. This real, however, also pushes the analyst to incarnate, warily, the singular real in a cure, as in the collective discourse of which we are a part and which determines us. Jacques-Alain Miller, by his act, structurally “immondo”, impure, makes himself once again a cause of awakening; he shakes up the schools and the analysts to prevent them from falling asleep when faced with misunderstanding or the rejection of the real that is now at stake in the field of politics. Nowadays, these effects show themselves, in all their destructive power, in the field of politics, and they threaten that form of connection that we call democracy. Effects, like the purloined letter, which are so clear as to be invisible.
The question I ask myself is: is it the case that in democracy, today more than yesterday, we are asleep, since jouissance, under the empire in which we “live”, inhibits the conflictual dimension? I remember a Rosa Elena Manzetti intervention in which, several years ago, she highlighted a particular way for the contemporary subject to be phobic in relation to the dimension of conflict. The avoidance of conflict is nowadays facilitated by the possibility of establishing relationships in the absence of bodies, and by the illusion that it is enough to press a button to avoid meeting the other, where both misunderstanding and conflict manifest themselves on the horizon. However, does a democracy which backs away when confronted with conflict not reduce itself to an empty shape and the bureaucratic exercise of power? Does it not reduce itself to a democracy of statements that actually collapses as soon as it confronts the singular speech of each individual? Hannah Arendt explicitly highlighted the connection between a blind and apparently neutral bureaucratisation and the advent of totalitarianism.
The Turin Forum will be my opportunity to verify how much the speech of each person would provoke the speech of the other, and then another, in noting thus, during the act, that democracy is this field of desire, never guaranteed, which is achieved on the basis of the effects of a speech which takes form, and that therefore gives way to the singularity of the subject, be it individual or collective, rather than expelling it along the path of the concentration camp, which is constantly on the horizon. The Turin Forum is a wake-up call. We await you in Turin with its “Theory of the Subject of the School”, its galleries, its chocolate liqueur (bicerin), its osso buco and its lalangue.
Translated by Caterina Tropini
Reviewed by Janet and John Haney
 Miller, J.-A., “The Turin Theory of the Subject of the School”, May 2000, can be consulted at http://londonsociety-nls.org.uk/index.php?file=The-School/The-Turin-Theory-of-the-Subject-of-the-School-Jacques-Alain-Miller.html
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