The Government as Sadeian experimenter

by Julia Evans on August 17, 2011

Two reasons for this post:

1) the invention of a stage on which to act &

2) what those in the sadistic position desire

Julia Evans 

I started my morning by being reminded that, forty years ago,  Professor Philip Zimbardo set up the famous prison experiment at Stanford University to discover the psychological effects of getting students to play the roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison building[i].  From my rough transcript[ii] the following points can be made:

Both the Guards and Prisoners are stripped of their identities via their clothing. Further the prisoners, as in the Third Reich, are reduced to a number. Their subjectivity is removed and not recognised.

Zimbardo: 2nd day, it was a prison created in the minds of each prisoner, each guard and the staff.

Guard: I made the decision to take on the persona of a sadistic guard….

Z: I kept looking for the limits at what point would they say ‘no’ this is just an experiment I have had enough……

P: …there was no-one rational at the head so I started to refuse food

Z draws the female researcher’s gaze to the line-up

She breaks the gaze and leaves.

Guard?: But that the majority of us, can get seduced into behaving in ways that are atypical of everything we believe we are.

So what is going on? Zimbardo’s phantasy, the prison, is created in the minds of all.  They make decisions of how to play on Zimbardo’s stage. There is nothing limiting their behaviour so they go beyond & beyond &…

We all create conceptual frameworks so we can play parts. Marcus du Sautoy examines some of these frameworks in his BBC programme  ‘The Code[iii]. So these codes enable us to predict – predictions which can fail.

Now in this experiment, the stage is set by the experimenter, Zimbardo. This process is described by Lacan in Seminar X : January 16th 1963[iv]. And whether there are limits is controlled by the experimenter acting as sadist.

Why sadist? The sadist produces .. Lacan[v] (Seminar X January 16th 1963): ‘this dissociation, that it (the sadist) aims essentially at introducing in the other, by imposing on him up to a certain limit, that which cannot be tolerated, at the exactly adequate limit where there manifests itself, where there appears in the other this division, this gap there is between his existence as subject and what he undergoes, what he can suffer in his body.’ … ‘his essential existence as subject with respect to this anxiety, this is what the sadistic desire wants to make vibrate.’ So the sadist, by controlling this stage, wants to make anxiety vibrate in the other[vi].

The experimenter behaves as if he is neutral to the process.  He takes the Government’s scientific evaluation position. Lacan[vii]: ‘It is not today or yesterday that intervening for example during one of our scientific meetings on some phenomena which were brought to us – I cannot go over them again today – concerning the creation of experimental neurosis, I pointed out to the one who was communicating his researches, that his own presence in the experiment as a human person, manipulating a certain number of things around the animal, should at one or other moment of the experiment, be put in question, taken into account.’

The limits to the stage is not recognised by the experimenter or players[viii]. Lacan: ‘This phenomenon of edge, in what opens like this window on privileged occasions, marks the illusory limit of this world of recognition, of the one that I call the stage.’

It takes someone speaking from outside this systematic enjoyment, the female researcher, to bring normality or the ‘name of the father’ into the ‘prison’. In Pierre Naveau’s comments on ‘Philosophy in the Boudoir’, it is the Mother who introduces the ‘name of the father’.

So how does this help with the riots or the Government’s imposition of rules and regulating into Education, Health, Social Care, Child Protection, and so on?

If you take a Sadeian position – the experimenter’s position – it is not value free or independent.  And the rules and regulations form a stage on which human beings will strip off their subjectivity and take on the clothing the Government provides – see Skills for Health competencies for Psychological Therapies or the HPC’s fitness-to-practice regulations.  They will then implement them to please the Ruler.  Thus subjectivity and difference go missing.  Yes and the rioters were also behaving in a Sadeian system of enjoyment.  There were no limits because the network of relationships has been broken and they re not included.

The Government needs to move from the Sadeian position NOW.  If it does not, they will continue to impose these perverse systems of enjoyment on their subjects with predictable results.

Once again, this has been flung together, against advice which is to post once a month.  I think it urgent that we all, as individual citizens, decide what our unique response is going to be to this Government’s (and the previous one’s) use of abusive power.


[i]http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9566000/9566400.stm

Today: Wednesday 17th August Radio 4

0741 Forty years ago, Professor Philip Zimbardo set up the famous prison experiment at Stanford University to discover the psychological effects of getting students to play the roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison building. The BBC’s Alastair Leithead looks back at what is often seen as a striking example of the human capacity for evil under the right conditions.  Alastair Leithead reports on the “sadistic” results.

[ii] http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9566000/9566400.stm

Today: Wednesday 17th August Radio 4

Approximate transcript typed by Julia Evans

Guard: Given uniform

Prisoner: Stripped of clothes and got a number

Zimbardo: 2nd day, it was a prison created in the minds of each prisoner, guard and the staff.

Guard: I made the decision to take on the persona of a sadistic guard….

Z: I kept looking for the limits at what point would they say ‘no’ this is just an experiment I have had enough……

P: …there was no-one rational at the head so I started to refuse food

The study ended because a young woman Christina Masleck, a graduate and reseracher, was present watching the prisoners lined up with paper bags on their heads, chained together. Z draws her attention to this and says ‘ Hey look at this. Is not that interesting?’ She, with tears welling up, states ‘I can’t look at this’ and runs out of the building. The study was ended early.

Guard?:  I was not surprised by Abu Ghraib. … It does tell us that human nature is not totally under the control of what we like to think of as free will and personal intention. But that the majority of us, can get seduced into behaving in ways that are atypical of everything we believe we are.

[iii] Prediction : The Code

A mysterious code underpins the world. But what does it mean and what can we learn from it? Marcus du Sautoy takes us on an odyssey to uncover the code and reveal its meaning

SYNOPSIS: Marcus du Sautoy continues his exploration of the hidden numerical code that underpins all nature. This time it’s the strange world of what happens next. Professor du Sautoy’s odyssey starts with the lunar eclipse – once thought supernatural, now routinely predicted through the power of the code. But more intriguing is what the code can say about our future.

Along the path to enlightenment, Marcus overturns the lemming’s suicidal reputation, avoids being crushed to death, reveals how to catch a serial killer and discovers that the answer to life the universe and everything isn’t 42 after all – it’s 1.15.

on BBC iPlayer or download at BBC iPlayer

[iv] Seminar X 16th January 1963 : See Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References : See here : Quote from Chapter VIII page 9 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

This phenomenon of edge, in what opens like this window on privileged occasions, marks the illusory limit of this world of recognition, of the one that I call the stage. That it should be linked to this edge, to this framing, to this gap which is illustrated in this schema at least twice, in this edge here of the mirror and moreover in this little sign, <> , that this is the locus of anxiety, is what you ought always to retain as the signal of what is to be sought in the middle.

[v] Seminar X: 16th January 1963 : op.cit. : From Cormac Gallagher’s translation – Chapter VIII page 5 :

If there is something there called sadistic desire, with all the enigma it involves, it is only articulatable, it is only formulatable in so far as the schize, this dissociation, that it aims essentially at introducing in the other, by imposing on him up to a certain limit, that which cannot be tolerated, at the exactly adequate limit where there manifests itself, where there appears in the other this division, this gap there is between his existence as subject and what he undergoes, what he can suffer in his body.

And to such a degree is it this distinction, this division, this gap as essential that is involved and a matter of questioning, that in fact it is not so much the suffering of the other that is sought in the sadistic intention, as his anxiety – precisely here I articulate, I designate, I note this little sign, $ (S barred) 0 (Zero), which in the first formulae that I believe in my second lecture of this year, I introduced concerning anxiety, I taught you to read by the term not A (Autre=Other), I told you but zero – the anxiety of the other, his essential existence as subject with respect to this anxiety, this is what the sadistic desire wants to make vibrate.

What is important today and the only thing I want to add another touch to, is that what characterises the sadistic desire is properly that he does not know that in the accomplishment of his act, of his ritual – because it involves properly speaking this type of human action in which we find all the structure of ritual – what he does not know, is what he is looking for, and what he is looking for, is properly speaking to realise himself, to make himself appear, to whom – since, in any case, this revelation can only remain obscure to himself – to make himself appear as pure object, dark fetish. This is how there can be resumed, in its final term, the manifestation of sadistic desire, in so far as the one who is its agent goes towards such a realisation.

[vi] Seminar X : 16th January 1963 : op.cit. : Chapter VIII page 6 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation :

‘You should clearly understand that I have not said, without elaboration, that the masochist attains his identification with the object. As for the sadist this identification only appears on a stage. Only, even on this stage, the sadist does not see himself, he only sees the remainder.’

[vii] Seminar X : 12th December 1962 : op.cit. : Chapter V page 4 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation :

It would no doubt be important to highlight in this range of experimental interrogation, where, properly speaking, there is manifested something which reminds us among neurotic reactions of the form described as “anxiety ridden”. There is nevertheless something which appears to be eluded in such a way of posing the problem of the experiment. Eluded in a way for which it is no doubt impossible to reproach the reporter of these experiments for eluding, because this elision is constitutive of the experiment itself.   But for someone who has to connect this experiment to our experience, namely the one which happens with a speaking subject – this is the importance of this dimension in so far as I remind you of it – it is impossible not to notice the following, that however primitive may be the animal organism thus interrogated compared to that of the speaking subject – and these organisms are far from being primitive, from being distant from our own in the Pavlovian experiments, because they are dogs – the dimension of the Other is present in the experiment.

It is not today or yesterday that intervening for example during one of our scientific meetings on some phenomena which were brought to us – I cannot go over them again today – concerning the creation of experimental neurosis, I pointed out to the one who was communicating his researches, that his own presence in the experiment as a human person, manipulating a certain number of things around the animal, should at one or other moment of the experiment, be put in question, taken into account. When one knows how a dog behaves vis-a-vis the one who is called or who is not called his master, one knows that the dimension of the Other counts, in any case, for a dog. But even if it were not a dog, if it were a grasshopper or a leech, because of the fact that there is this collection of systems, the dimension of the Other is present. You will tell me: in a grasshopper or a leech, the organism undergoing the experiment, knows nothing about this dimension of the Other. I agree absolutely, and that is why my whole effort for a certain time was to demonstrate the extent of the level that in our case, as subjects, as we learn to manipulate, to determine this subject that we are, there is also a whole field where we know nothing about what constitutes us as field. And that the Selbstbewusstsein that I taught you to name, the subject who is presumed to know (le sujet suppose savoir), is a deceptive illusion. The Selbstbewusstsein considered as constitutive of a knowing subject is an illusion, (6) is a source of error. For the dimension of the subject supposedly transparent in his own act of knowing, only begins with the coming into play of a specified object which is the one that I am try to circumscribe in the mirror stage, namely, of the image of one’s own body in so far as the subject in a jubilatory fashion has in effect the feeling of being before an object which makes him, the subject, transparent to himself.

[viii] Seminar X: 16th January 1963 : op.cit : Chapter VIII page 9 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation :

This phenomenon of edge, in what opens like this window on privileged occasions, marks the illusory limit of this world of recognition, of the one that I call the stage. That it should be linked to this edge, to this framing, to this gap which is illustrated in this schema at least twice, in this edge here of the mirror and moreover in this little sign, <> , that this is the locus of anxiety, is what you ought always to retain as the signal of what is to be sought in the middle.

 

Julia Evans 

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

 

Explorations of the Sadeian position available on www.lacanianworks.net 

Sadeian power in use: By having its hand on Asia’s water tap, China is therefore acquiring tremendous leverage over its neighbours’ behaviour… by Julia Evans on 31st August 2011

The Government as Sadeian experimenter by Julia Evans  on 17th August 2011

Principles based in trust and relationships versus Sadeian absolute control by Julia Evans  on 14thAugust 2011

What works – tackling out-of-limits destruction and violence by Julia Evans  on 14thAugust 2011

Not If, but when by Bruno de Florence on 11th August 2011

Ethics: the Sadean & Kantian position and how the Lacanian psychoanalytic position differs by Julia Evans  on 28th July 2011

On limits by Julia Evans on 27th July 2011

Who is in bed with whom (Part 2)? A call for your action. by Julia Evans  on 2nd December 2010

Wellbeing & Happiness as used by the UK Government by Julia Evans  on 7th May 2007:  Examines the two forms of legislating & governing in use in the UK and contrasts the use of outcome measurement and risk analysis in England and Denmark.

References

Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References : See here

Kant with Sade: April 1963: Jacques Lacan : See here

Further posts:

Reading Seminar X here

Reading Seminar VII here

‘The Symbolic in the 21st Century’ working group (LW WG) here

Government as guarantor of practice within Mental Health here

Government reports here

Mental Health here

Other Government actions here

On Lacanian History here

Of the clinic : here

Use of power here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan : here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Translation Working Group here

Information about Julia Evans (See here)