Orientation Texts

What is a Lacanian cartel?

Lacan invented the cartel in 1964 as a way to make the study of psychoanalysis come alive. Like clinical psychoanalysis, it is a speaking experience that—contrary to a study group—is not subjugated to pre-established knowledge. It implies working with limitations of time and number of participants. 

Who works in a cartel?


Anyone can work in a cartel, which must have “at least three people, five at most, four being the right balance.”[1] You can invite colleagues to start one or make a request to the NLS Cartel Delegate, who can help find others to work with. One does not have to be a member of an NLS Society or Group to be in a cartel.


Once the cartelisands have connected, they invite somebody to serve as the plus-one. At this point the cartel is knotted. The plus-one is a member of the cartel, serving as a provocative agent who “comes with question marks”[2] and re-launches everyone’s elaborations.

How does a cartel work?

Shared interest in a theme is usually what inspires the formation of a cartel. It’s a flexible tool; it may be formed to read a psychoanalytic text, to study a concept, to pursue clinical or theoretical research, to make a connection between psychoanalysis and other fields, or to prepare for an event. 

At the beginning, each member of the cartel, including the plus-one, announces their specific subject of work. This is the singular way each one articulates their question with the cartel’s theme. The pursuit of knowledge is guided and challenged by one’s own question, but also stimulated by the work of the others. Lacan specified that the encounter of cartelisands with the plus-one creates a “whirlwind effect” (tourbillon)[3], creating a vortex-hole in knowledge for each one, spinning into motion a desire to work.

Lacan’s choice of the signifier cartel is derived from the Italian cardo, the hinge. This means that openness, surprise, and discovery are situated on the horizon of the cartel, allowing one to overcome the “I don’t want to know anything about it” of the passion of ignorance. 

What are the time and place for a cartel?

A cartel can be formed at any time. First there is a contingent moment when a question emerges, followed by a desire to know. Once formed, the cartel chooses their meeting time, place, and frequency. The encounters take place in person if possible or by videoconference. It is desirable that online cartels also have the occasion to meet in body (e.g., at a Congress).

Duration and dissolution are decided by each cartel. To prevent what Lacan called “a glue effect,” a “permutation must occur at the fixed term of one year, two maximum.”[4] However flash cartels (less than a year) may be more suitable when a particular urgency evokes the desire to work, such as when there is limited time before the event of a Congress or study day. After either the end of the flash period or a year of work, the cartel decides whether to continue (up to two years) or untie.

What is the cartel’s function in the School? 

Lacan considered the cartel to be the School’s “basic organ.” The cartel, along with the pass, and supervision of clinical practice constitute the three pillars of the School. Thus everywhere a cartel operates, the School is alive and enlightened by its work products. Working in a cartel often leads the cartelisand to write, with the plus-one being “responsible for the selection, the discussion and the outcome to be accorded to the work of each one.”[5]

Being a member of a cartel establishes a direct link with the School through its registration in the NLS cartel directory. 

Frank Rollier
NLS Cartel Delegate, 2016-2020

Fundamental Texts:
Jacques Lacan,
 “Founding Act,” Television. A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. Joan
Copjec (Norton: New York/ London, 1990), 97.

Jacques-Alain Miller, “Five Variations on the Theme of Provocated Elaboration” trans. Linda Clarke and Florencia Shanahan, 4+oneThe NLS Cartels’ Newsletter, No. 5 (February 2018)

J.-A. Miller : « L’École à l’envers »

J.-A. Miller : « The cartel in the world »  

Éric Laurent : « Le réel et le groupe »


Alexandre Stevens : La position du plus-un- Cartello N° 24

Frank Rollier : “The Cartel’s Whirlwind. Affinities Between the Cartel and Lacanian Psychoanalysis”

Frank Rollier : “The Cartel’s Urgency”, TLR N° 6  

Jeff Erbe: “From Lapsus to Linking: A Cartel Testimony”4+one N° 10

Caroline Leduc: The School Shaped by the Cartel” – London Society website 

Rick Loose: “The realism of the cartel”- 4+one N°1

Florencia Shanahan: “The Trait and the Ones”- 4 + one N°

Patricia Tassara : “The plus-one: an incarnation of the impossible to collectivize”- 4 + one N° 12

[1] Lacan, J. “Founding Act” 

[2] Miller, J.-A., “Five Variations on the Theme of Provoked Elaboration” – 4+ one N°5

[3] Lacan, J. “Monsieur A.

[4] Lacan, J. “D’écolage”, 11 March 1980

[5] Jacques Lacan, “Founding Act”