The plague: Freud, Lacan & the crisis of critique

During its long history, psychoanalytical theory has developed a criticism dealing with almost the entire domain of human culture and civilization. That theory lays bare the unconscious motives and structures which, on the conscious level, can have all kinds of pernicious effects. The weak point of that criticism, however, consists in its awareness that the unconscious motives and structures it brings to consciousness, after its critical analysis, will remain unconscious and repressed. In that sense, psychoanalytical theory performs a critique of criticism as such. Unmasking falsity and lies does not necessarily result in establishing truth.

This essay outlines the contours of such a psychoanalytical ‘critique of criticism as such’, as well as its implications for contemporary critical thought in general. The essay more precisely focuses on the right-wing cultural criticism, which makes use of criticism’s newly discovered ‘tragic condition’ in order to support a conservative ethical, cultural and political programme. This essay proposes a few points of reference replying to these tendencies in contemporary critical thought.

The Wanderings of Jouissance, with the Object a in the Pocket: On Differential Diagnosis in Psychosis

In clinical practice, when confronted with a suspected psychosis, it is critical that, beyond simply providing a label, the diagnosis is verified and further specified with regard to the particular psychotic structure: paranoia, schizophrenia, mania, melancholia or autism. Each psychotic structure requires a specific kind of treatment. When this is clarified, it will allow us to take up an appropriate position in the transference and it to orient ourselves in relation to treatment. One approach is to determine the status of the object a and the jouissance within the logic of the case. For example, the paranoiac situates the jouissance in the Other, the schizophrenic will struggle with the jouissance in the body and the autistic subject will have troubles with language and the Other. In the case of melancholia we see that the subject fully identifies with the object a and finally, in mania, the object a will no longer function. Clinical examples of each of these structures are provided.

Pasolini’s “Teorem”: Psychoanalysis of a “New” Subject

Pasolini describes himself as a “scandal of self-contradiction” (Pasolini, 1957). He brings a subject who assumes the radical split that runs through the subjective field. With his poetry of permanent dissidence he taunts power in which desire and her laws are inscribed. By postponing the exemplary symbolic suicide his subject manages to avoid the deadlock of turning a blind eye and alienation in the symbolic other. Terence Stamp embodies this subject in Teorem in the role of mysterious guest. Pasolini’s theorem seems to be that, via regression to pre-genital forms of sexuality (a pre-symbolic state), one not only escapes to a mythic (poetic) reality, but also takes possession of a weapon one can use against the oppressor. Desire emerges in disturbances that shred the symbolic order and release the Real. Filmic truth is exposed as a core of pure nonsense and sexuality appears as the root of a perverted society.

The Treatment of the Signifier for Children with Autism

The recent term of Disorder of the autismspectrum makes clear that nowadays autism becomes more and more an all-embracing, even empty diagnosis. Beyond this problematic labeling, Psychoanalysis deals with the symptom of the subject as a particular solution for the problem of the desire and the enjoyment of the Other. The symptom of the child can be considered within the structural opposition formulated by Lacan: the symptom as a representation versus a realisation of the truth of the parents. In a case of a ten year old boy with autism a symptom is analyzed in terms of a pure materialisation of the object a. The psychoanalytic intervention, based on the technique of bricolage, attempt to make tolerable and accessible the pure signifier, full of enjoyment of the Other, for the subject.

On the Death Drive: From Compulsion to Repeat to the Reference to The Thing

This article broadly discusses the concept of the death drive. It demonstrates how a biological frame of reference is inadequate for interpreting the (sexual) drive. The notion of the compulsion to repeat helps us to understand why Freud was forced to introduce the death drive and, at the same time, to acknowledge it as being the underlying determining principle of every drive. Making use of the notions das Ding and objet a we show how Lacan’s reading of this controversial concept of the death drive precludes an organic interpretation. Finally, two clinical fragments illustrate how the activity of the death drive may reveal itself.