Act and Transmission

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1 Act and Transmission André Michels To combine "act" and "transmission" doesn t mean that there is or could be a transmission of the analytic act, but that the analytic act is an essential agency or factor of transmission and that transmission is the field of the analytic act. The knowledge (savoir) of lalangue and the act of transmission Transmission is the consequence of what Lacan calls lalangue, which evokes "the language before the syntactically structured language" 1, the maternal language associated to the first bodily care which leaves ineffaceable traces on the body. Lalangue is the common ground of language and as such has a "translinguistic function". Lalangue is pre- and post-linguistic insofar as it traverses language, all languages, the language of the individual before the emergence of the subject. Lalangue is closer to the tongue (glossa, lingua), as an organ, signaling the organic anchorage of language, the inscription of the unconscious in the body as structured by the drive (Trieb). Lalangue transfers a knowledge that we could call primary or archaic, which constitutes the kernel of the unconscious, preceding the emergence of the subject as represented by the signifier for another signifier. What is the meaning here of representation? The reference to representation requires the elaboration of the structure of language on the basis of the transmission of lalangue. We have to deal with the differentiation in time between language and lalangue which establishes the latter lalangue in the position of a "knowledge without subject (savoir sans sujet) ": Lacan s definition of the unconscious in "The psychoanalytic act " 2. The knowledge of lalangue belongs to the deeper layers of the repressed: "Lalangue articule des choses qui vont beaucoup plus loin que ce que l être parlant supporte de savoir énoncé (lalangue articulates things going far beyond that which the speaking being supports as an enounced knowledge) " 3. One cannot speak about the analytic act without taking in account the initial difference between language and lalangue. It re-articulates the Freudian difference between the primary and the secondary, which I would like to associate to another fundamental split intervening between transmission and transference. We have to clarify our ideas on transmission to avoid its confusion with teaching, to consider that the object of transmission is determined, created by transmission itself as its genuine product, not as its cause. The notion of lalangue is very helpful in understanding this process in time. There is no teaching of the knowledge of lalangue, but a transmission, as well as there is a transmission of the unconscious and no teaching of it. This has very important consequences for our understanding of neuroscience and its different theories; of all kinds of learning processes; for our understanding of the genesis of neurosis, psychosis and perversion 1 Colette Soler, L inconscient réinventé, PUF Paris 2009, p Jacques Lacan, L acte analytique, Le Séminaire livre XV, session of the 17th January 1958, unpublished. 3 Jacques Lacan, Encore, Le Séminaire livre XX, Seuil Paris 1975, p

2 and, above all, for our handling of transference and interpretation. The analytic act takes place in the field of transmission of lalangue, of the unconscious structured as a language. The drive-doctrine (Trieblehre) and the analytic act If this thesis is correct, we have to consider in addition to the field of desire that is freudian, and the field of jouissance that is lacanian, the field of transmission as the third constitutive moment of the psychoanalytic doctrine. Psychoanalysis is not a discipline, which could be taught at university, but requires a doctrine (Lehre). In a footnote added in 1925 to the "Three Essays on Sexuality", Freud makes a clear distinction between doctrine and theory: "Drive-doctrine is the most important and yet the most unfinished part of psychoanalytic theory" 4. There is no direct access, but only a representative of the drive in the unconscious. It requires a whole apparatus of different layers that we have to unfold, with the symptom as its starting point and a practical procedure (dispositif) in which transference plays a major role which itself has to be guaranteed by an organization, the psychoanalytic community and its politics. The position of the analyst in transference is determined by his understanding or elaboration of the constitution taken as a political constitution of the psychoanalytic community. This approach is totally different from the traditional psychoanalytic societies, based on a hierarchical principle that, with regard to the unconscious, doesn t make any sense. Political representation, not only so far as psychoanalysis is concerned, is determined by the drive structure of Man and political constitution is the equivalent of a drive-doctrine giving the psychoanalytic act a political dimension. The link between the political constitution and the drive-doctrine is at work in an early paper of Hans Kelsen, "The concept of State with regard to Freud's Mass-theory (Massentheorie)", published in 1922 in the psychoanalytic journal "Imago" founded by Freud. This paper leads Freud himself, as Etienne Balibar demonstrates, to the elaboration of the super-ego and the second topic. 5 The same theme is developed in two major texts of Carl Schmitt "The concept of Politics (Der Begriff des Politischen)" published in two different versions in 1927 and 1932, which has to be read together with its outstanding commentary by Leo Strauss, and his interpretation of "The Leviathan, Hobbes theory of the State " published in My purpose is to define politics with regard to a drive-doctrine. Analysts could make an essential contribution, according to their experience as different from any other one, to political science. The political dimension in psychoanalysis, which has to be developed, is coexistent to the hypothesis of the unconscious. 4 Sigmund Freud (1905), Drei Abhandlungen über Sexualtheorie, G.W. V, p.67 Unfortunately, the standard Edition renders the translation in English as: "The theory of the instincts is the most important but at the same time the least complete portion of psychoanalytic theory." S.E. Vol. VII, p Etienne Balibar, L invention du Surmoi. Freud et Kelsen 1922, in : Citoyen Sujet et autres essais d anthropolgie philosophique, PUF Paris 2011, P

3 Let s come back to the juncture, the intersection between transference and transmission that is essential for our understanding of the act, be it political or psychoanalytic. Taking into account transmission, as the specific field where the analytic act takes place, leads us to a more sophisticated approach to transference: it is not only "the enactment of the reality of the unconscious, which is untenable truth sexual reality" 6, not only the elaboration of the unconscious material and knowledge as determined by the drive, not only a name of the unconscious 7 as constituted by drive representation, but also more radically, and prior to all theses structuring moments, is transference referred to the primordial time factor, the generational difference, from which any other difference in Man proceeds and for which transmission constitutes the only possible basis and legal support. The difference of the generations is the consequence of the fundamental law, the incest prohibition, the only law in Man of universal dimension. Transmission is referred to the unreachable antecedence (antécédence) of lalangue 8 determining a normative, i.e. a logical, legal, ethical, time and order. The political act and the transmission of power What is most decisive in human activity is the difference to which it is referred. The way it is introduced to define a section of the Symbolic, the boundaries of a specific field of thought, knowledge or practice. Carl Schmitt defines "the political (das Politische)", i.e. the political act, as referred to what he considers the primordial difference, that between friend and enemy. Other differences, e.g., true and false, good and evil, define the fields and determine the status of logic and ethics. The strength in Schmitt s thesis is to state the fundamental difference in politics as determined by the friend-enemy (Freund-Feind) difference, to consider it as more radical than any other and as independent from any sociological, anthropological or psychological category. This is an approach that of course has to be questioned. The weakness of the thesis, its dramatic failure in fact, consists in posing the fundamental difference independently from any consideration of time. Political power, as a very specific form of jouissance, can only be determined, thought or criticised from the point of view and under the authority of a drive-doctrine (Trieblehre) considered in terms of space and time. Lacan s topology, the equivalent and further development of the drive-doctrine, constitutes the basis of a theory of fiction. It gives the fundamental phantasm (Urphantasie, fantasme fondamental) an epistemic status and is of the highest importance for political science and the theory of law, as far as any political or legal act finds its legitimacy only on the basis of a fiction. It is the case for the fiction of a State in Hobbes "Leviathan", represented by a biblical sea monster (in the book of Job), or the fiction of a "Basic Norm (Grundnorm)" in Hans Kelsen s posthumous 6 Jacques Lacan, Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse, Le séminaire livre XI, Seuil Paris 1973, p Colette Soler (2009), ibid., p Colette Soler, ibid. p

4 masterwork "General Doctrine of Norms (Allgemeine Normenlehre)", the foundation of any legal system as determined by a fiction. The doctrine of norms, its fundamental fiction, has to be considered with regard to the doctrine of drives, i.e. to the Real of the drive. The fiction of a State, referred to the Real of the drive, determines any political action or act and the fiction of a Basic Norm, referred to the Real of the drive, defines any legal act. Political activity, defined by the principle of sovereignty (principe de souveraineté), consists above all in the exercise of power, a specific form of jouissance, which has to be reconsidered in terms of drive-doctrine, in terms of drive and time. It was not at Carl Schmitt s disposal, who was unable to think the transmission of power, i.e. the power as determined by the conditions, the necessary procedures and institutions of transmission. Power, the political act as referred to the friend-enemy difference, is based on an essential war (polemos) with the internal or external enemy. For Herakleitos, the father of the dialetics, polemos is the essence of Being, it s fundamental split. Transferred on the level of society, as its constituting point or constitutive factor, it could be the cause of an ongoing civil war, counterbalanced only by an external war. It indicates Man s incapacity to leave the status belli (state of war), Hobbes definition of the status naturalis (state of nature), which is still at work in the most elaborate and sophisticated political system. Deprived of a theory of transmission, i.e. of time, Carl Schmitt defines in a later work, "Nomos of the Earth (Nomos der Erde)", politics and the political act as determined by the land-share, according to the etymology of nomos derived from nemein, to share land, to put a landmark and determine a boundary. The pivotal point of his political thought is anchored in space, not in time, the ground of his fundamental anti-judaism. The split of Being and the castration act It is worthwhile in this context to mention another adventure in 20th century s thought, the philosophy of Martin Heidegger as referred to another fundamental difference, the so called ontological difference (ontologische Differenz) intervening between Being and being (das Sein des Seienden). The originality and unparalleled depth of his thought was to reconsider the whole tradition of Western philosophy and certain aspects of Eastern philosophy, above all Taoism, with regard to one fundamental difference which doesn t belong to any specific field of being or area of knowledge. There is an absolute priority, precedence of the ontological difference in relation to any kind of knowledge, of science and its fundamental concepts, as Heidegger states in the introduction to "Being and Time (Sein und Zeit)", "[...] these concepts first receive their genuine evidence and "grounding" in a correspondingly preliminary research into the area of knowledge itself. But since each of these areas arises from the domain of beings themselves, this preliminary research that creates the fundamental concepts amounts to nothing else than interpreting these beings in terms of the basic constitution of their Being. This kind of investigation must precede the positive sciences and it can do so." 9 Any positive science has to be referred, i.e. to be reconsidered, rethought with regard to the fundamental ontological difference. 9 Martin Heidegger (1927), Sein und Zeit, Gesamtausgabe Bd 2, V. Klostermann, Frankfurt a.m. 4

5 What is at stake is not only the status of the fundamental concepts, but the grounding of the scientific practice or act, and the possibility of its criticism which is or has to be the main purpose of thought: "Die Wissenschaft denkt nicht (science doesn t think " and therefore requires a specific thought which cannot be other than ethical. Jacques Derrida made a very witty association between the ontological and the sexual difference considering the status of the one as concerned and determined by the other. The huge difference between Freud and Heidegger, who absolutely refused to read Freud, is the reference to the body, i.e. of which we find no traces in Heidegger, which for Freud on the contrary is the topos of inscription of castration, of the fundamental difference in psychoanalysis, the ground of the drive-doctrine and the reference point of the analytic act. The psychoanalytic field, its fundamental concepts: transference, transmission, interpretation, the unconscious, the drive on the one hand, the psychoanalytic act on the other, are referred to castration, the fundamental difference, which has to be defined with regard to the body in terms of sexual and generational differences. The difference between man and woman seems to be under the influence of the recent advances or normative shifts in science and society. The fundamental difference instituted by castration is more radical than any other one, than the splits between body and psyche, body and mind, so prolific and so disastrous in Western tradition. The psychoanalytic act is referred to the essential priority of castration, the basis of the drive-doctrine, which makes it clearer than ever before that psychoanalysis cannot be reduced to any type of psychology or psychosomatic understanding of the world. Castration the castration act constitutes the fundamental difference at work in the creation of the world, of any new as represented by the name of the newborn, of the new as the reference and aim of interpretation. 5

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