Further explorations of Freud’s 1921 enquiry ‘There must (therefore) be the possibility of transforming group psychology into individual psychology’

by Julia Evans on November 12, 2011

And on limits and groups and their links to others in the context of the August riots.


To recap (Cartel presentation on 8th October – Available Further exploration of limits and groups and their links to others in the context of the August riots by Julia Evans on October 8, 2011 or here) :


From Russell’s paradox: In order to avoid the impossibility of commitment to the set which contains itself, all propositional functions are arranged into a hierarchy.  In moving from one level to the next, the limits or boundaries of the sets are changed.  First a subject, S, becomes a barred subject, $ and gets moved into the field of the Other, A. Then the field of the Other, A, becomes the field of the barred Other A . At this point, I suggest, the link provided by the set becomes uncertain so processes or relationships hold it together (see Laurent p21).  Éric Laurent[i] uses Oliver Cromwell as a singular example (Laurent p27). I propose this is at the level of  sets of sets of individuals.  So the logic of singularity is beyond the master signifiers imposed on individuals at the first level and acting as the set of individuals at the next level, for example, Man and Woman.  Or as Éric Laurent (p27) puts it “This logic of singularity is a logic where the void and jouissance are put into play beyond the master signifiers that make up the law for each of us.”


From Freud[ii]’s and Lacan[iii]’s comments on ‘Spring Awakening’ the term object is implicated and also the development of the masculine position.  As previously stated, I will continue to use the term ‘object’ without examining it.  According to Freud (1907 p116, footnote ii) it is possible to be without object.  He also implies that those, without object, do not have a position and there is no relationship with those who are different. Jacques Lacan (1974, footnote iii) states that the inability for a man to situate himself as One-among-others, means he does not become Man.  The girl is One and wants to stay that way. So she is situated as One-among-other-Ones (THE woman)  and wants to stay there.  These sets of individuals do not relate to each other. (This is referred to by Éric Laurent, [i] p22)


I ended last time with: So my first question is: are there 3 conditions emerging? if a closed set includes itself, then there is no object. If separation from the primal father has taken place then identification is to THE object and lastly, if individual difference is allowed, then possession of the object is not certain.   Please note I am studiously avoiding defining object at this point.



Let’s return to Freud Group Psychology : 1921 [iv]: ‘There must therefore be a possibility of transforming group psychology into individual psychology; a condition must be discovered under which such a transformation is easily accomplished….’  This seems to be the logic of singularity beyond the master signifiers. How does THE woman become a woman or how does Man become a man?


Freud ([iv]Group Psychology:1921 : P157): ‘We may further emphasize, as being specially instructive, the relation that holds between the contrivance, by means of which an artificial group is held together, and the constitution of the primal horde.’ With the logic which seems to be developing then the primal horde may be seen as at Russell’s level of the imposition of sentences on individuals. Individuals do not have an object in place. The object is imposed. The artificial group is where the set is in place. The object is in place but only if you join the set. (Melchior, in Spring Awakening, stays outside and does not register as Man.)


Freud’s examples (from 1921 Group psychology Ch X): ‘We have seen that with an army and a Church this contrivance is the illusion that the leader loves all of the individuals equally and justly. But this is simply an idealistic remodelling of the state of affairs in the primal horde, where all of the sons knew that they were equally persecuted by the primal father, and feared him equally.’ So this is movement from the first level to the second where the set of individuals is put in place. Note, in the first level group, A remodelling occurs: the first level is held together from the top, the second by an artificial contrivance which resembles love.

Freud (1921):  ‘This same recasting upon which all social duties are built up is already presupposed by the next form of human society, the totemic clan. The indestructible strength of the family as a natural group formation rests upon the fact that this necessary presupposition of the father’s equal love can have a real application in the family.’ The totemic clan is held together by identification to an ideal, the father. This is a set of individuals not a set of sets.

Freud (1921 footnote): ‘It may perhaps also be assumed that the sons, when they were driven out and separated from their father, advanced from identification with one another to homosexual object-love, and in this way won freedom to kill their father.‘ [v]

The movement is from being defined from the top-down to being defined in relation to One-another in a group.  So in order to become Man, there has to be a separation or a driving out from the first level.  I am not convinced that it is separation from their father which is at stake, and it is possible that Bruno de Florence’s cartel expositions throws more light on this.


What is at stake? (Freud 1921) It is the illusion that the leader loves all of the individuals equally and justly. Whereas all the sons know they were equally persecuted.


So this is a love driven from the top downwards, you are loveable if you comply or fit in.  There is a comparison with an ideal involved.


The condition for separation from this father is being driven out which produces a transformation from identification with each other to identification with object-love. $ <> a versus a <> $


So to the riots.


The link between all this and the riots was obvious at the beginning of September, when I invented my title.  So to re-establish:  There are 3 positions with respect to the object: no object, identification to the object and individuation or relationship with an object. Identification to the object has two positions: Either you have the certainty of possessing the object or you are uncertain of both an object and your relationship to it.  Pierre Naveau in his text on Lacanianworks (here) refers to the transgression of two kinds of law: the transgression of the law of pleasure and the transgression of the law of the prohibition of jouissance.  For groups, which have separated from receiving the One love, into possession of the object then the object remains the object and not an object.  It is. And love of the object and hate of the object are both possibilities.


Freud ([1929]1930)[vi]:  ‘The existence of this inclination to aggression, which we can detect in ourselves and justly assume to be present in others, is the factor which disturbs our relations with our neighbour and which forces civilization into such a high expenditure. In consequence of this primary mutual hostility of human beings, civilized society is perpetually threatened with disintegration. The interest of work in common would not hold it together; instinctual passions are stronger than reasonable interests. Civilization has to use its utmost efforts in order to set limits to man’s aggressive instincts and to hold the manifestations of them in check by psychical reaction-formations. Hence, therefore, the use of methods intended to incite people into identifications and aim-inhibited relationships of love, hence the restriction upon sexual life, and hence too the ideal’s commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself – a commandment which is really justified by the fact that nothing else runs so strongly counter to the original nature of man.’


At the first level, individuals are driven and this produces either hostility or fading – they disappear. A ‘Wet House’ was described to me this week. It is a place where alcoholics, who cannot give up their addiction, go to die. They have no bodies let alone subjectivity and the only form of co-operation is to ensure their supply. Their collectiveness is only in place in relation to their dependence on alcohol. As Dr Reitler states in the 1907 discussion on ‘Spring Awakening’ [ii], the young people are without knowledge or guidance.


Freud goes on, in the above quote, to suggest that there are methods in place  to put identifications and limits in place. These come in the form of ‘the normal sexual relationship': as a set or the rules of civilised behaviour – for example, the immigration test of what constitutes British-ness or the placing of a commandment into an ought.


I propose to stop here before applying myself to the question of the summer riots.  Was this feral gangs or individuals at work? Was it a failure of the civilised norms of behaviour and society’s failure to inculcate these into the rioters? Was it an outbreak of primary mutual hostility? Was it a reaction to police tactics?

[i]  The Symbolic Order in the XXI Century: Consequences for the Treatment: July 2010: Éric Laurent : Available here   This text, given in July 2010, leads to the  VIII Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis: (WAP Congress): “The Symbolic Order in the 21st Century

[ii] Sigmund Freud’s 1907 comments on Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’ available here. Dr Reitler’s comments : available here. See Comments on Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’: 1907: Sigmund Freud (here)

[iii]  Spring Awakening: September 1st 1974: Jacques Lacan : Available here

[iv] Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego : 1921 : Sigmund Freud : Chapter X: The group and the primal horde, p156 of Penguin Freud Library OR You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published by www.Freud2Lacan.com : available here

[v] Éric Laurent (see note i) also comments on ‘Spring Awakening’ but Jacques Lacan’s text (Spring Awakening: September 1st 1974: Jacques Lacan (here)). ‘Lacan even said in his text on Wedekind’s Spring Awakening (Available Spring Awakening: 1891: Franz Wedekind or here), that boys wouldn’t have any kind of relation with girls if they didn’t have their dreams to guide them. Lacan: “Moritz in our play manages however to make an exception of himself, which is why Melchior calls him a girl.  And he has a good reason: the girl is only one and she wants to stay that way, but this is completely obliterated in the play. The fact remains that a man becomes Man when he situates himself a One-among-others, by including himself among his fellows (sembables). By making an exception of himself, Moritz excludes himself in a beyond. It is only there that he is counted, not by chance, among the dead, as excluded from the real. The drama makes him survive there – and why not, if the hero is already dead.”

So Moritz has no object. He has been unable to separate and identify within a group to an object.  This is I believe the start of an ideal. The next phase is putting a woman in the place of the woman.

[vi] Civilization and its Discontents: 1929 (published 1930): Sigmund Freud: Chapter V, Penguin Freud Library, p298  Also available here http://archive.org/details/CivilizationAndItsDiscontents


Posts for the ‘Lacanian Transmission’ category are available here

For other texts by Éric Laurent see here

Related texts :

Freud & Reitler comment on ‘Spring Awakening’: work-in-progress by Julia Evans on 19th September 2011 (here)

Further exploration of limits and groups and their links to others in the context of the August riots by Julia Evans on 8th October 2011 or here