New incarnations of the desire for democracy in Europe : 31st October 2017 : Éric Laurent

by Julia Evans on October 31, 2017

Towards the European Forum “Determined Desires for Democracy in Europe” of 18th November 2017 in Turin. This follows the July 2017 conference, see here

Circulated by EuroFédération de Psychanalyse : as Towards the European Forum of Turin – Eric Laurent : on 31 October 2017 at 23:53:16 GMT

Translated by Alasdair Duncan, Revised by Véronique Voruz

Available here

Related text : ▪ Le sac de nœuds – Chronicle of Éric Laurent ▪ The Tracery of Incarnation LQ 96 : 22nd November 2011 or here

References to Jacques Lacan in the text:

– Lacan’s statement according to which “the Unconscious is politics”,

See Seminar XIV : 10th May 1967 : For notes & availability see Seminar XIV: The logic of phantasy: 1966-1967: begins 16th November 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here :

pXIX 205-206 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : It is, undoubtedly, not something un-disturbing or something that may not appear to us, on occasion, to require to be highlighted, to remark that one or other thing that may happen in the world, and for example, quite simply at the moment, in a certain little district of South West Asia. What is at stake? It is a matter of convincing people that they are quite wrong not to want to be admitted to the benefits of capitalism! They prefer to be rejected! It is starting from there, it seems, that there ought to be posed questions about certain meanings. And specifically the following, for example, which will show us – which will show us no doubt, but today is not the day that I will even take the first steps in this direction – that if Freud wrote somewhere that “anatomy is destiny”, there is perhaps a moment, when people have come back to a sound perception of what Freud discovered for us, that it will be said – I am not even saying “politics is the unconscious” – but, quite simply, the unconscious is politics!

I mean that what binds men together, or what opposes them, is precisely to be justified by that whose logic we are trying for the moment to articulate.

Because it is for want of this logical articulation that these slippages can be produced. This means that before noting the fact that in order to be rejected, for the “to be rejected” to be essential as a dimension for the neurotic, the following, in any case, is essential: that he offers himself.

Note : “Anatomy is destiny” is from

i) ‘On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love’ (Contributions to the Psychology of Love II) : 1912 : Sigmund Freud : p3180 : p259 of James Strachey’s translation, pfl : Why is the relation of the lover to his sexual object so very different?

It is my belief that, however strange it may sound, we must reckon with the possibility that something in the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavourable to the realization of complete satisfaction. If we consider the long and difficult developmental history of the instinct, two factors immediately spring to mind which might be made responsible for this difficulty.

Firstly, as a result of the diphasic onset of object-choice, and the interposition of the barrier against incest, the final object of the sexual instinct is never any longer the original object but only a surrogate for it. Psycho-analysis has shown us that when the original object of a wishful impulse has been lost as a result of repression, it is frequently represented by an endless series of substitutive objects none of which, however, brings full satisfaction. This may explain the inconstancy in object-choice, the ‘craving for stimulation’ which is so often a feature of the love of adults.

Secondly, we know that the sexual instinct is originally divided into a great number of components – or rather, it develops out of them – some of which cannot be taken up into the instinct in its later form, but have at an earlier stage to be suppressed or put to other uses. These are above all the coprophilic instinctual components, which have proved incompatible with our aesthetic standards of culture, probably since, as a result of our adopting an erect gait, we raised our organ of smell from the ground. [Footnote 3] The same is true of a large portion of the sadistic urges which are a part of erotic life. But all such developmental processes affect only the upper layers of the complex structure. The fundamental processes which produce erotic excitation remain unaltered. The excremental is all too intimately and inseparably bound up with the sexual; the position of the genitals – inter unrinas et faeces – remains the decisive and unchangeable factor. One might say here, varying a well-known saying of the great Napoleon: ‘Anatomy is destiny.’ The genitals themselves have not taken part in the development of the human body in the direction of beauty: they have remained animal, and thus love, too, has remained in essence just as animal as it ever was. The instincts of love are hard to educate; education of them achieves now too much, now too little. What civilization aims at making out of them seems unattainable except at the price of a sensible loss of pleasure; the persistence of the impulses that could not be made use of can be detected in sexual activity in the form of non- satisfaction.

Thus we may perhaps be forced to become reconciled to the idea that it is quite impossible to adjust the claims of the sexual instinct to the demands of civilization; that in consequence of its cultural development renunciation and suffering, as well as the danger of extinction in the remotest future, cannot be avoided by the human race. [Footnote 3 : James Strachey : Cf. two long footnotes to Chapter IV of ‘Civilization and its Discontents’ : 1930a, in which this idea is explored in greater detail.]

ii) Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex : 1924 : Sigmund Freud :

p320 of James Strachey’s translation, pfl : At this point our material – for some incomprehensible reason – becomes far more obscure and full of gaps. The female sex, too, develops an Oedipus complex, a super-ego and a latency period. May we also attribute a phallic organization and a castration complex to it? The answer is in the affirmative; but these things cannot be the same as they are in boys. Here the feminist demand for equal rights for the sexes does not take us far, for the morphological distinction is bound to find expression in differences of psychical development. [Footnote 2] ‘Anatomy is Destiny’, to vary a saying of Napoleon’s. [Footnote 2 : by James Strachey : See ‘Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction between the Sexes’ : 1925j : p331 of pfl. Much of what follows is elaborated there. The paraphrase of Napoleon’s epigram had appeared already in the second paper on the psychology of love (1912d)]

See “The Unconscious is Politics”, today : LQ518 (Lacan Quotidien 518) : May 2015 : Éric Laurent or here  for notes and information.


– The “punctual and vanishing” subject, as Lacan said, which cannot be defined by an essence or a fixed homeostasis, can only be articulated with the signifying chain, with what can be described as narrative history. But what, in Lacan, is above all logical existence [14], [14] Miller J-A, L’être et l’Un, 2010-2011 Course, Unpublished

From Science and Truth: 1st December 1965 session of Seminar XIII: The Object of Psychoanalysis : Jacques Lacan : See here for information and notes :

p6-7 of Bruce Fink’s first translation : I am saying that this way never shed the ideals of scientism, as it is called, and that the mark it bears of this latter is not contingent but, rather, essential.

Its credit us preserved by this mark, despite the deviations to which it gave rise, Freud having opposed these deviations with timely sureness and inflexible rigor.

Witness his break with the most prestigious of his followers, Jung, as soon as the latter slipped into something whose function can only be defined as an attempt to reinstate a subject endowed with depths (with an “s”), i.e. a subject constituted by a relationship – said to be archetypal – to knowledge; the said relationship was not reduced to that exclusively allowed by modern science, being no other than the one I defined last year as punctual and vanishing; that relationship to knowledge which, since its historically inaugural moment, has retained the name “cogito”.

Note : Science and Truth is the first session of Seminar XIII: The Object of Psychoanalysis: 1965-1966 : from December 1st 1965: Jacques Lacan : See here for notes and information.


– And this reduction announces the sexuated speaking being of Freudianism, highlighted by the last teaching of Lacan under the name of the parlêtre who has a body. “If we think about it properly, the man of the Declaration announces the man/woman of Freudianism: unlike the man of religions and philosophies, he is neither created nor inferred, he is born; this is what his real amounts to. “[24]

See The Unconscious and the Speaking Body : Paris : 17th April 2014 : Jacques-Alain Miller or here for notes & information.

Quote: Two years later, however, he’d changed his mind, if we are to go by his written text, “Joyce le Symptôme”, where he puts forwards the neologism I just mentioned, which he prophesises will replace the Freudian word “unconscious”: the parlêtre.[18]

This is the operation which I suggest can provide us with our compass for the next congress. This metaphor – the substitution of the Lacanian parlêtre for the Freudian unconscious – fixes down a scintillation. I propose that we take it as an index of what is changing in psychoanalysis in the twenty-first century, when it has to take into account an other symbolic order and an other real besides those upon which it was established.

Psychoanalysis is changing and that’s a fact. Lacan remarks rather mischievously that it has changed because first it was practiced on a solitary basis by Freud, and then it came to be practiced in couples. But it underwent many other changes which we can take stock of when we read Freud, and even when we re-read early Lacan. It changes factually, in spite of our attachment to the old words and schemas. It is an ongoing effort to stay as close as possible to the experience in order to say it, without crashing into the wall of language. To help us to get over this wall, we need an (a)mur, I mean an agalmatic word that will pierce through the wall. I find this word with parlêtre.

This word will not feature on the poster for the next congress. Amongst ourselves we will know that the parlêtre is at issue in so far as it has replaced the unconscious, in so far as analysing the parlêtre is no longer quite the same thing as analysing the unconscious in Freud’s sense, nor even the unconscious structured like a language. I would even say that we can bet that we are already analysing the parlêtre, and it is up to us to find out how to say so.
We’re learning how to say so. For example, when we speak about the symptom as a sinthome. This is a word, a concept, that comes from the era of the parlêtre. It translates a shift from the concept of the symptom of the unconscious to the parlêtre. As you know, the symptom as a formation of the unconscious structured as a language is a metaphor, it’s an effect of meaning, induced by the substitution of one signifier for another. On the other hand, the sinthome of a parlêtre is an “event of the body”[19], an emergence of jouissance. Moreover, there’s nothing to say that the body in question is your body. You can be “another body’s symptom”, should you be a woman.[20] And then, there is hysteria when there is a symptom of the symptom, when you form a symptom from “someone else’s symptom”, that is to say, a symptom raised to the second power. The symptom of the parlêtre certainly stands in need of further clarification in its relationship with the clinical types. I’m just mentioning, following Lacan’s indications[21], how it applies to hysteria.

We shall not manage this by forgetting the structure of the symptom 
of the unconscious, just as Freud’s second topography does not cancel out the first, but rather is composed with it. Likewise, Lacan has not come to efface Freud, but to extend him. The modifications in his teaching are made without any tearing, using the resources of a conceptual topology that ensures continuity without forbidding renewal. Thus, from Freud to Lacan, we shall say that the mechanism of repression is made explicit for us by means of metaphor, just as from the unconscious to the parlêtre, metaphor gives us the formal
 envelope of the body-event. Repression made explicit by metaphor is a ciphering, and the operation of this ciphering labours away for the jouissance that affects the body. Our reflection is woven from this kind of cobbling together of various pieces from different eras, borrowed from Freud and from Lacan, and we should not shrink back from this kind of patchwork in order to move ahead in tightening our grasp on psychoanalysis in the twenty-first century.
Here I would point out another word, after sinthome, which is from the era of the parlêtre and which I would place alongside the sinthome. It is a word that forces us to proceed to a new classification of notions that are familiar to us. The word that I shall place alongside the word sinthome is the word escabeau, which again I’m taking from “Joyce le Symptôme”.[22] In Spanish, it is escabel. The escabeau is not a ladder, it’s smaller than a ladder, but it’s got steps. What is the escabeau? I mean the psychoanalytic escabeau, and not just the one that you use to reach books in a library. Generally speaking, it is what the parlêtre hoists himself onto, hauls himself onto in order to make himself beau. It is his pedestal, which allows him to raise himself to the dignity of
the thing. This, for example (pointing at the dais), is a little escabeau for me.

[18]-Lacan, J., “Joyce le Symptôme (II)” in Autres écrits, op. cit., p. 568. : See Joyce the Symptôm (Sinthôme) I & II : 16th June 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here for notes and availability of this text in French & English & Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here

See too: Lacan, J., séminaire livre XXIII, Le sinthome, (1975-1976), Paris: Seuil, 2005, p. 56: “the subject is sustained by the parlêtre, which is what I denote as the unconscious”. :  Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here for notes and information.

Probably Seminar XXIII : 16th December 1975 : pIII 13 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : On the other hand, the enjoyment described as phallic is situated there, at the conjunction of the Symbolic with the Real. It is in as much that in the subject which is supported by the parlêtre in the sense that this is what I designate as being the unconscious, …

19-Ibid., p. 569.



22-Ibid., pp. 565-569.

23-Ibid., p. 568.

For further notes and references see

Habeus Corpus : 28th April 2016 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) : Jacques-Alain Milleror here

The Stepladder (Escabeau) and Freudian Sublimation. From forcing to manipulation : A reading of «Joyce the Symptom» : (Paris) 3rd February 2015 : Éric Laurent or here


– At the end of Seminar XXIII, Lacan substitutes the exile of bodies in history to the ex-sistence of the subject of the unconscious: “Joyce rejects that anything can happen in what the history of historians is supposed to take for its object. He’s quite right, history being nothing more than a flight, none of which is told but the exoduses. Through his exile, he sanctions the seriousness of his judgment. Deportees alone take part in history: since man’s got a body, it’s by the body that he can be got. The flipside of habeas corpus. Reread history: this is all the truth to be read in it. Those who believe they stand for a cause in its hullabaloo are also misplaced without doubt by an exile they have deliberated, but in making themselves an escabeau they are struck havisionless.” [26]

[26] Lacan J., “Joyce the Symptom”, in Autres écrits, Seuil, 2001, p. 568, English translation A. R. Price, in The Lacanian Review issue 5, forthcoming.

See Joyce the Symptôm (Sinthôme) I & II : 16th June 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here for notes and availability in French & English & Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here

& Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar XXIII : 11th May 1976 : possibly pXI 11-12 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : He, he had, it is something that is psychologically valid, he had a reaction of disgust. And this disgust concerns his own body in short. It is like someone who puts in parenthesis, who drives away the bad memory. This is what is at stake. This is altogether left as a possibility; as a possibility of the relationship to his own body as foreign.

And this indeed is what is expressed by the fact of using the verb ‘to have’. One has one’s body, one is not it to any degree. And this is what leads to belief in the soul. As a consequence of which there is no reason to stop there. And one also believes that one has a soul, which crowns it all. This form of letting drop, of letting drop the relationship to one’s own body, is very suspect for an analyst. This idea of self: of self as body has something weighty about it. This is what is called the ego. If the ego is said to be narcissistic, it is indeed because there is something at a certain level which supports the body as image. But in the case of Joyce is the fact that this image, on this occasion is not involved, is this not what marks that on this occasion the ego has a quite particular function. How can that be written in, in my noeud bo?

So then here, I trace out, I am breaking through something which you might not necessarily follow. How far, as I might say, does this pére-version go? As you know since the time I have been writing it, that is what the noeud bo is. It is the sanction of the fact that Freud makes everything depend on the function of the father. The noeud bo is only the translation of this, the fact is, as I was reminded last evening, love and, into the bargain, the love that one can qualify as eternal, is what is referred back to the function of the father, which is addressed to him, in the name of the fact that the father is the carrier of castration. This at least is what Freud put forward in Totem and Taboo, namely, the reference to the first horde. It is in the measure that the sons are deprived of women that they love the father.

It is in effect something quite singular and breathtaking and that is sanctioned only by Freud’s intuition. But !o this intuition, to this intuition, I am trying to give a different body, precisely, in my noeud bo which is so well designed to evoke Mount Nebo or, as they say, the Law. This Law which has absolutely nothing to do with the laws of the real world, the laws of the real world being moreover a question that remains completely open, and the Law, (170) on this occasion, is simply the law of love, namely, perversion.

& Seminar XXIII : 11th May 1976 : pXI 16 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : You must indeed have realised that what I told you of the relationships of man to his body and which depend entirely on what if have told you: in the fact that man says he has the body, his body, he has. Already to say his, is to say that he possesses it, of course, like a piece of furniture. And that this has nothing to do with anything whatsoever that allows the subject to be strictly defined. The subject is only defined in a correct way from what ensures the relationship, from what ensures that a subject is a signifier in so far as he is represented to another signifier.

I would like here to tell you something that may perhaps all the same slow down a little bit what creates a gulf, in what we are permitted to circumscribe by the use of this Borromean knot, of this pére-version.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London


Other texts

By Éric Laurent here

See especially : ▪ Le sac de nœuds – Chronicle of Éric Laurent ▪ The Tracery of Incarnation LQ 96 : 22nd November 2011 or here

& The Stepladder (Escabeau) and Freudian Sublimation. From forcing to manipulation : A reading of «Joyce the Symptom» : (Paris) 3rd February 2015 : Éric Laurent or here

& “The Unconscious is Politics”, today : LQ518 (Lacan Quotidien 518) : May 2015 : Éric Laurent or here

& The Unconscious and the Body Event : the full interview : July 2015 : Éric Laurent or here

Texts on ‘The Symbolic Order in the XXIst Century’ here

Ethics here

Definitions of humanness here

On Lacanian History here

Use of power here

Lacanian Transmission : here

Topology : here

From LW working groups : here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here