What about the discourse of the analyst? One that assumedly began in the 20th century but that, according to Lacan as we’ve seen, was already being held at the highest levels in the restless Athens of the 5th century BC . Considering everything we’ve said on Socrates as an obscene figure possessing a flicker of spiritual seduction, I would say that for Lacan, the discourse of the analyst is “an attraction for the pearly excrement,” a shit in which the pearl tying the analysand, sometimes for years, to the grievous and joyful work of analysis shines bright. Fachinelli (2004 ) pointed out that patients very often equate their analysts to whores; analysts too supply erotic experiences, in the broad sense, for a fee. For Lacan the analyst is a piece of shit, for Fachinelli a prostitute paid by the hour. For Lacan the analysand holds the analyst in deep contempt but, insofar as the latter insists pigheadedly in not tearing himself away from that position, he keeps magnetizing the subject. According to Lacan, this is because the analyst is in the position of object a, which is the cause of desire. If I suddenly meet a woman and desire her, that woman – Lacan says – is a desirable object, but not precisely an object a . Lacan argues that even in sexual attraction we always mistake objects. Because if there is something that really secretly makes a woman desirable – or a man for a woman, or a man for a man, or a woman for a woman – it is the fact that behind her attractive forms, a woman is a scrap, a déchet. And, indeed, for a woman not to be only a Madonna, but also a woman – Madonna in Italian includes the word donna, woman – it is important for her to engage in an act that in all cultures is considered obscene, though pleasurable: coitus. In this way we can see how object a – which we shall discuss further on – is at once the most attractive and the most repulsive object. Here, too, Lacan shockingly breaks away from both common sense and the established psycho-biological theories. According to the latter, erotic attraction is adaptive, because in the other sex we look for someone who will guarantee us offspring: the beauty of a woman is connected to the sign of her fertility, the physique of a man tells us whether he will be able to adequately defend her and their common progeny. All this is (partially) true. But what really attracts us in an individual man or woman, according to Lacan, is the fact that, behind the beneficial male or feminine figures, we glimpse the object a; that which authentically – beyond the “fine figures” – triggers our desire. We can then say that Lacan’s four discourses are his theory on social life. Freud had set out his doctrine on social sets – on the Massen, on the crowds – in texts like Totem and Taboo and Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego ( Freud 1912 –13, 1921 ). If we read the latter carefully, what becomes apparent is that Freud thought that every form of social life is essentially fascist. Freud didn’t say so explicitly, because fascism and Nazism hadn’t yet affirmed themselves when he wrote the essay in 1921. However, for Freud a Masse, a collective, is never “horizontal” but is always constructed “vertically.” So there are no anarchic collectives. A Masse is set up when an external figure – a Führer, a leader – occupies the place of various people’s Ego Ideals. It seems evident to me that this is the very definition of fascism as we’ve witnessed it in history. I’ve met several fascists first-hand, people who were infatuated with Mussolini when he was still alive and powerful. Some of these people would never have hurt a fly. Their Ego Ideals were also very different: in one it was the ideal of the warrior, in another the ideal of Aphrodite sleeping with the warrior Ares, in another the ideal of the Italian people emancipated at last, in another still the sense of discipline to fight decadentism, and so on. Each gave particular contents to their ideal, but Mussolini occupied the place of this ideal – he took possession of it – becoming the ideal Object of so many. But for Freud, this is the rule for the construction of any collective. Let’s say that historically, Nazism and fascism lay bare the fascist nature of any established “being a group.” I realize that what I’m saying is extremely serious: most of us belong to some sort of Masse, of which we are often proud members, and wouldn’t dream of considering ourselves “fascists.” For example, how to tolerate the idea that my psychoanalytical association, guided by such an admirable, good-natured, and combative leader, is a fascist one? But we need to read Freud’s essay without blinders: it states exactly what I’m saying here. Freud also described the opposite process to “collective doing,” to the “flock” as Nietzsche called it. This is when my Ego Ideal totally invests an external object, almost taking its place. He called it Verliebtheit, falling in love, and thought it blinded us no less than the group we belong to. It’s what the French call amour passion, distinct from calm marital love. For Freud, passionate love undermines social aggregation, it tends to break up the Masse. Passionate love is lethal to collectives and collectives are lethal to passionate love, as Shakespeare showed in Romeo and Juliet . Some, even without having read Freud, feel that associative life is structurally fascistic and try to keep away from it; behaving like Stirnerian “Uniques” they steer away from any crowd and rebel against the masses like José Ortega y Gasset ( The Revolt of the Masses). They belong to the snobbish anti-Mass. Freud, however, who in turn created his own Masse – behaving as a proper despotic leader within it, expelling anyone he disliked – knew that exiting the group is not a solution. That in any case the mass is aggregation, Eros. Retiring to a castle, far from the madding crowd, is Thanatos. Hence the dilemma from which no one can escape: either we enter the fascist, but erotic, logic of being-in-the-group or we leave it in a motion of mortal disintegration. We must choose between killing on behalf of a Führer and causing our own civic death by singing from a different song sheet, by which we risk hitting the bad note of narcissism. We all swing between the “fascism” of the group we belong to and “infatuation” for the person we adore, which may even be ourselves. Ethic decency in our lives is entirely decided by the way we juggle between infatuation and fascism. As for Lacan, he seems to have limited the fascism of groups to what he calls the discourse of the Maître. But he believes there are three more social bonds. He prefers the discourse of the analyst, which is certainly not fascist, but which requires a saintly sacrifice, an immolation of someone who calls herself or himself an analyst. Someone prepared to end up like Socrates, the prototype of all analysts according to Lacan.

CONVERSATIONS WITH LACAN

Sergio Benvenuto

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