Notes from Seminar VII : 2nd March 1960 : p155 : Interventions by Pierre Kaufmann on Siegfried Bernfeld’s work

by Julia Evans on November 9, 2013

The Seminar VII Reading group read this on 9th November 2013. 

Seminar VII : 2nd March 1960 : Ch XII – A critique of Bernfeld : Session’s first sentence : p155 :

Let us not forget that this year I resolved that this seminar would be a real seminar.


1) In his collection of Seminar VII’s missing interventions, Emmanuel Kosadinos (Les interventions au Séminaire 7 – « L’éthique de la psychanalyse » – de Jacques Lacan : Paris, vendredi 5 août 2011) gives the following quote:

Seminar VII : 2nd December 1959 : p38 of Dennis Porter’s translation : rereading the ‘Entwurf’:

I, therefore, had no difficulty remembering – it is something of which I am painfully aware – that this seminar is a seminar, and that it would be a good idea if it were not simply the signifier “seminar” alone that maintained its right to such a denomination. That is why I asked one of the two people to come and tell us the thoughts inspired in him by the way in which I related the subject of this seminar to the ‘Entwurf’. … (Freud’s Project)  [ See The Project for a Scientific Psychology: 23rd & 25th September & 5th October 1895: Sigmund Freud  or here]

2)  It seems to me that Jacques Lacan’s idea of a seminar is one in which there is an exchange of ideas between a number of people.

Seminar VII : 2nd March 1960 : p155 – 2nd paragraph :

This is all the more essential because we have among us not a few people capable of contributing, including someone whom I can call our friend. That is Pierre Kaufmann, who is an ‘assistant’ at the Sorbonne. He has been following what goes on at this seminar for a long time now, and has been attentive to its work in the most useful of ways. Perhaps some of you follow his philosophical chronicle that appears in ‘Combat’ on Thursdays.


1)  From Wikipedia here : (Note my translation of this text has probably contributed errors!) : Pierre Kaufmann (1916 – September 3, 1995), journalist , philosopher , psychologist , and French psychoanalyst in the Lacanian tradition.


Former student of the École Normale Supérieure (rue d’Ulm) , dismissed from the École by the Vichy regime, he was readmitted? at the end of the war. He was one of the founders of Agence France-Presse in 1944 , becoming the correspondent in Damascus (Syria), and then a reporter for the newspaper Combat.

In 1958 , he was appointed ‘assistant’ in philosophy at the Sorbonne , he later became successively professor of psychology at the University of Rennes and professor of philosophy at the University of Paris X – Nanterre . Also a member of the Freudian School of Paris, he contributed greatly to the introduction of the teaching of psychoanalysis in French universities. On the theoretical side, he developed a psychoanalytic anthropology . Collaborating with Encyclopædia Britannica , he contributed two articles, in particular : “Culture and Civilization” and “Psychoanalysis works.”


The Last Master (novel), Paris: Gallimard , 1949.

Collaborative CONTRIBUTION Freudian. Elements for an encyclopaedia of psychoanalysis, Paris: Bordas, 1993.

Seminar VII : 2nd March 1960 : 2nd paragraph p155

He (Pierre Kaufmann) has several times discussed my teaching, on the occasion of the Royaumont Conference, for example, …


1.  Jacques Lacan’s intervention was :The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of Its Power: 10-13th July 1958: available here

2. This was the first report to the Colloque International de Royaumont, 10-13 July, 1958. Jacques Lacan spoke at the invitation of the Société française de psychanalyse.

Seminar VII : 2nd March 1960 : 2nd paragraph p155

Or quite recently when he was good enough to give an account of work that was useful to an author such as Henri Lefebvre – he had complained of a deficiency of some kind in my teaching on the basis of the mere sight of a part of it or of an article.


1. From Wikipedia here : Henri Lefebvre (French; 16 June 1901 – 29 June 1991) was a French Marxist philosopher and sociologist, best known for pioneering the critique of everyday life, for introducing the concepts of the right to the city and the production of social space, and for his work on dialectics, alienation, and criticism of Stalinism and structuralism. In his prolific career, Lefebvre wrote more than sixty books and three hundred articles.

2.  The difference seems to be explained here : Abstract available here :

Virginia Blum & Heidi Nast : 1996 : “Where’s the difference? The heterosexualization of alterity in Henri Lefebvre and Jacques Lacan” : Environment and Planning D: Society and Space : 14(5) p559 – 580

Abstract. It has been largely overlooked that Henri Lefebvre in his book The Production of Space, 1974, draws heavily upon Lacanian psychoanalytic accounts of the emergence of subjectivity in theorizing political relations. Lefebvre implicitly repudiates at the same time that he builds upon Lacan’s distinctions between real, imaginary, and symbolic registers of subjectivity. For Lefebvre, Lacan’s registers give primacy to visuality and heterosexualized familial dynamics while lived material, spatial, and political experience are incidental to subject formation and systems of meaning. Lefebvre transforms Lacan’s registers by historicizing them in spatially dialectical terms, loosely replacing them with distinct forms of evolutionary spatialities which he calls natural, absolute, and abstract. In the process, he both subverts and reproduces Lacan’s paternal – maternal (heterosexual) order. We hold that Lefebvre’s critique provides powerful theoretical tools for understanding how alterity and signification are always and inevitably politically and materially mediated through corporealities and ‘space’. Nonetheless, Lefebvre can only work out his spatial dialectic of history in heterosexist terms: although he usefully identifies maternal – paternal metaphors in different Western social formations over time, he fails to interrogate directly the very heterosexuality that gives these metaphors their relational significance and force. In short, he brings us to the brink of a nonheterosexist domain, but never enters it. In this paper then, we outline the striking parallels in the theoretical frameworks of Lefebvre and Lacan in order to illustrate how both theorists focus on gender construction as the fundamental social process through which alterity is achieved. At the same time, we unpack the underlying phaliocentrism and heterosexism that sustain their versions of alterity, subjectivity, and agency, in the process showing how Lefebvre deftly undermines the apolitical stance of Lacan. In conclusion, we strive to recuperate the crucial liberatory aspects of Lefebvre’s project through considering how we might go on to dislocate received versions of capitalism and sexual difference.

Clearly, there is some evidence for Lacan’s complaint against Lefebvre

Seminar VII : 2nd March 1960 : p155 3rd paragraph

In any case, four weeks ago I referred to a little article by Bernfeld.


1)  From here :

An Austrian philosopher and psychoanalyst, Siegfried Bernfeld (1892-1953) was born March 7, 1892, in Lemberg, the capital city of Galicia, and died April 2, 1953, in San Francisco. Bernfeld distinguished himself in the extent of his knowledge, the originality of his ideas, and his qualities as an educator. A prolific and exacting writer, he was also an outstanding teacher, admired by his students and respected by his colleagues. Freud said he considered him the most gifted of his students and disciples.

His parents lived in Vienna but his mother returned to her hometown to give birth to her first child. In 1910 Bernfeld completed his studies at the Gymnasium and entered the University of Vienna, where he obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy, while also studying psychoanalysis, sociology, education, and biology. All branches of knowledge held an interest for Bernfeld, who was also involved in contemporary political issues. A lucid and passionate left-wing Zionist, he was active in political struggles while he was a university student.

Impregnated with the ideas of psychoanalysis and Marxism, Bernfeld founded, in 1919, the Kinderheim Baumgarten, where nearly three hundred Jewish children, refugees from Poland, were housed. His first book, published in 1921, examined this short, intense period of his life.

In 1925 he published two important works on infant psychology and education. Psychologie des Säuglings (Infant Psychology) is a well-known work that makes use of psychoanalysis and drive theory to develop a new psychology of the infant. Sisyphos is a critique of the idealist notion of education and comes down strongly in favor of a non-authoritarian system, one that respects the life of the instincts and the needs of the student.

In Der Begriff der “Deutung” in der Psychoanalyse (The Concept of “Interpretation” in Psychoanalysis), Bernfeld described the concept of interpretation with the tools of the scientific method, something he shared with Moritz Schlick and Hans Reichenbach. He distinguished several types of interpretation. “Final” interpretation attempts to penetrate the unconscious intentional context in which a determinate psychic production that appears to be isolated from any context can be situated. “Functional” interpretation takes account of the value of a specific psychic fact. “Reconstruction,” an instrument of psychoanalytic science, concretely reconstructs an old psychic process. Because there is a consistent relation between the psychic event and its traces, reconstruction can discover the genetic connection that is continuously repeated through impulse and desire. In this way psychoanalysis is raised to the rank of a natural science to the extent that it provides an explanation for personal psychic events on the basis of certain laws.

The approach to psychoanalysis as a science of traces is based on the leading theories of the field: free association, transference and resistance, which inhibits the formation of missing unconscious connections …

With the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the imminent ascent of Hitler to power, Bernfeld realized that he could no longer remain in Germany. He left Berlin and, after a brief stay in Vienna, went into exile in France in 1932.

Little is known about Bernfeld’s life in France. Apparently, he was not well received by the Paris Psychoanalytic Society. He settled in the south of France, where he met Suzanne Cassirer-Paret, who became his third wife and an important collaborator. In 1936 Siegfried and Suzanne decided to leave France and, in answer to Otto Fenichel and Ernst Simmel’s invitation, emigrated to California in 1937.

JE:  From the above, it is possible that Jacques Lacan’s path crossed with Siegfried Bernfelt’s.

2)  Siegfried Bernfeld’s article seems only to be available in German.

Dr Siegfried Bernfeld : Bemerkungen über Sublimierung : Imago : Zeitschrift für Anwendung der Psychoanalyse auf die Geisteswissenschaften Herausgegeben von Prof. Dr Sigm. Freud: Vol 3 : 1922 : p333-344  : Availability given here

Seminar VII : 2nd March 1960 : p156-159

Pierre Kaufmann’s interventions are at best abbreviated.

A fuller version is available only in French : here