To begin with, my contribution to the debate on the European Constitution.
It takes the form of four remarks.
1) In the regime under which we live and which I have proposed to call "capitalo-parliamentarianism" (i.e. the combination of an economic domination by Capital and a political system of the representative kind), the function of political parties is to subjectivate constraints into a figure of a choice: whilst the macro-decisions have already been taken, there remains at the margins a cramped space for the sake of which, under the semblance of a choice, global necessities are subjectivated. In this system which juxtaposes in a singular manner necessity and choice, choice is certainly illusory, but in capitalo-parliamentarianism better the illusion of choice than its absence pure and simple. The moment will come when the apparent choice will be dissolved into the constraint, the moment of disappointment which is precisely the one taken up by the parties. Now, I note that on the occasion of the referendum on the European constitution, there was a dysfunction in this apparatus: something, which is nevertheless difficult to circumscribe, is outside the control of the parties. A patent symptom of this is the massive presence of a "Left no", whilst the main party of the Left declared for the yes. Whence the question, which has been posed more and more plainly: why was there need of a referendum? It was enough, as in other countries, to make parliaments adopt the text of the constitution, which by far the majority of parliamentarians are in favour of. But in the current situation, a manifest discord appears between the people and their parliamentary representation. This decision for a referendum is due to Chirac who intended thereby to divide the PS - Socialist Party - (which is exactly what is taking place); in his eyes, the dysfunction of the PS was more important than the dysfunction of the system. Will he be able, as he has been in the past, to snuff out the fire he himself has started? Only time will tell. It remains the case that there are - sometimes furious - debates in society, that bar-talk and family discussions are stirred up, and that, on the occasion of a vote, i.e. in an immediate relation to the State, a subjectivation outside the frame has taken place. What will the consequences be? Perhaps nonexistent, perhaps not - no one knows (by definition, because they are outside the frame).
2) In the division between the "yes" vote and the "no" vote there has appeared - and it is a relative novelty - the argument from authority. In other words, the correlation, which Foucault would have appreciated, between knowledge and power: the "yes" is the choice of enlightened people (experts of all sorts, without forgetting journalists), the "no" belongs to the ignorant. The criticisms levied against Chirac on the choice for the referendum overlap with this argument: it is not a good idea to entrust matters as important as Europe to the decision of an ignorant mass; one could, or rather should, put the ignorant fraction of the population outside the capitalo-parliamentarian system (a theme which is already explicitly in circulation in the U.S.A. where grosso modo only half the population takes part in voting). To be a proper citizen, one needs (would need) a specific qualification; that's the idea, an idea that, of course, is equally correlated to the failure of the control of subjectivities by parties. Are we witnessing a surreptitious return of the doctrine of suffrage based on tax status? The truth is that if one wishes to break with the capitalo-parliamentarian apparatus (and this has always been true in the past for the break with the dominant apparatuses), one will invariably be treated sooner or later as a barbarian. It's inevitable. On the part of the right, but also the left (because there is an entire series of predicates of the "republican tradition" vis-ˆ-vis which the position of rupture is considered as barbarian). In any case the "no" appears as a "barbarian" choice.
3) In the text of the constitution itself there are anti-barbarian clauses. I'm thinking of everything which concerns "migratory flows". The European state of affairs must be defended (cf. Foucault, Society Must Be Defended). The text pronounces itself on the question of the delimitation of what our societies are ready to admit and not to admit in the relations between the barbarians and us. The European idea only counts here as exclusion.
4) But Europe as a "great new Idea"? Or, what is Europe worth in "critical" European statements, such as: "I'm for Europe, but..."? My personal view is that Europe, Europe as Idea, is already dead; voting for Europe is voting for a corpse. As far as I'm concerned, I won't vote. There are only two ways of envisaging Europe as a singularity: a) conceiving it in the framework of inter-imperialist rivalry (Europe versus U.S.A.) - but this is a schema that belongs to the past; b) thinking it as a heterogeneous power, i.e. both heterogeneous vis-ˆ-vis the U.S.A. and as a new type of power. This question of power, and in particular of military power, remains a decisive test to qualify a singularity. Now, what is going on with Europe? I must say that the incapacity of the European powers (England, France, Germany) to treat at the time the question of Yugoslavia as well as the consequences of this incapacity (the bombing by American planes of a country placed at our doorstep) had for me the significance of a verdict: Europe does not exist. This was confirmed by the attitude of the same powers vis-ˆ-vis the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If the "no" wins, we are threatened with a possible regression with regard to Europe. But I think that this backward step is necessary. What is on the agenda is effectively a "beyond" of the national sphere - with the difference that this beyond must be subjectivated on the basis of what exists in the national sphere itself. We reencounter our question: the necessity of the identification of a figure of the adversary. The question of a power of a new type, of a power opposed to U.S. hegemony and which would not be symmetrical vis-ˆ-vis U.S. power - a decisive question, which today largely remains open. This is at least as important as "social Europe" (to which I am in any case favourable). We must take up the European question again from the base. As you know, I have publicly pronounced myself on this, I think this must pass through a new Franco-German alliance (and this after having put the English out, for the time necessary for them to reflect).
That is my contribution to the electoral debate.
translated by Alberto Toscano
excerpt from a seminar at ENS - May 18, 2005
© lacan.com 1997/2005
Copyright Notice. Please respect the fact that this material in LACAN.COM is copyright.
It is made available here without charge for personal use only. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.