...... Psychoanalysis in Close Touch with the Social •

.........Jacques-Alain Miller
.........translated by Thelma Sowley

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Unforeseen Enthusiasm

Four years ago, the CPCT, the Psychoanalytic Center of Consultation and Treatment of the rue Chabrol, opened in Paris. If there are today about ten CPCTs in France, several in Spain, two in Italy, one in Brussels, and many more being formed, if about fifty institutions have joined the RIPA, our Network of Institutions of Applied Psychoanalysis, if all this little world is in full activity, in full growth, this is not due to any guidelines or injunctions. In fact, four years ago, it seemed that the CPCT of Paris was an experimental initiative that would very likely remain solitary for a long time, until scientific committees might wisely draw the lessons of its accomplishments.

An unforeseen enthusiasm has cleared the path. The masses of the Freudian Field took hold of this idea and transformed it into a material force; they overcame all the obstacles, bringing to light unsuspected reservoirs of good will, of availability, revealing vocations, as if each one had said to himself: “Here we are at last!” As if we were finally returning to the future. As if, through us, psychoanalysis was forging a new alliance with the present time.

A new paradigm

We are carried along by this great movement, which we must at the same time elucidate, if just to know what the following step is on the path of PIPOL. In order to justify for ourselves the renovation introduced by the CPCT, in order to put our psychoanalytic papers in order, we turned to an old distinction: pure psychoanalysis and applied psychoanalysis. Indeed! A classical distinction.

It is true that we leave pure psychoanalysis intact, the same requirements continue to be imposed on the training of analysts, the pass remains the name of what we conceive as the real term of an analysis and we practice its verification.

The renovation in question was produced at the level of psychoanalysis as applied to therapy. It was more reassuring for us to think of it in this way. With it, we touched parameters that up till then had been constant, the duration of the cure and its payment: limited and programmed duration, payment suppressed. Take heed! Suppressed for the patient, but also, up till now at any rate, for the practitioner.

Undoubtedly short therapies had already been practiced and theorized in psychoanalysis — for example, by one of our predecessors, Franz Alexander —, as well as free treatments — by the Berlin clinic at the time of Wilhelm Reich —, but, to my knowledge, such practices had never been carried out on such a scale, nor with the ad hoc clinical elaboration that, for us, accompanies it now.

An Alpha Place

This would have been impossible if we still had as our reference the fossilized concept of the setting, understood only as the consulting room of the practitioner exercising in a private practice. Psychoanalytic effects do not depend on the setting, but on the discourse, that is, on the installation of the symbolic coordinates by someone who is an analyst, and whose quality as an analyst does not depend on the location of his consulting room, nor the nature of his clients, but rather on the experience he is engaged in. The Lacanian concepts of the analytic act, the analytic discourse, and the conclusion of an analysis as a pass to the analyst have permitted us to conceive of the psychoanalyst as a nomad object, and psychoanalysis as a portable installation, capable of moving into new contexts, and, in particular, into institutions. The accounts given of cases show and demonstrate, bring into evidence, that specifically psychoanalytic effects are produced within institutional contexts whenever this context authorizes the installation of an analytic place. There is an analytic place possible in institutions, let’s say an Alpha Place.

An Alpha Place is not a “listening” place. We call “listening place” today a place where a subject is invited to talk drivel to his heart’s content. It is said that putting things into words brings relief. An Alpha Place is a place of response, a place where the chattering takes the form of a question, and the question itself the form of a response. There can be an Alpha Place only if, by the operation of the analyst, the chattering turns out to contain a treasure, that of an other sense having the value of a response, that is, of the knowledge we call unconscious. This mutation of the chattering depends on what we call transference, which allows the interpretive event to take place, the interpretive event that separates a before from an after, as we say classically.

For there to be an Alpha Place, it is necessary and sufficient that the loop be closed by which “the emitter receives from the receptor its own message in an inverted form”, 1 the subject finding himself from then on connected to the subject supposed to know that he did not know he himself was the seat of.

Connection, reconnection

The emergence of such an instant of knowledge requires a severe control, because it is a spark that can set fire to the plain, I mean it can light for a subject the fire of a generalized interpretive delusion. A drastic selection is imposed for those who operate in an Alpha Place, in order to be sure they are capable of a pondered distribution of psychoanalytic effects, dosed to a subject’s capacities to bear them. Moreover, those who operate in an Alpha Place, cannot avoid practicing the art of rapid diagnostic. As a rule, this task is confided in our CPCT to the most confirmed and seasoned practitioners, who are called on to formulate a detailed prescription.

We can already perceive what was captivating about the practice of rapid therapeutic effects: the degree of clinical mastery it requires, the immediate mobilization of knowledge already accumulated both through the study of texts and effective experience, the instantaneous evaluation and the reasoned assumption of the clinical risk. We were thus able to observe that even a fleeting connection to a supposed knowledge, which by hypothesis we call unconscious knowledge, is translated as a rule by a reconnection to what we traditionally call the discourse of the Other. I will take some distance from this formulation. The designation, “the Great Other” is an approximation; since it does not concern a unified agency, it is not a monolith. So, I find no objection to speaking of a reconnection to social reality.

Operation Truth

What is the social? — which we have included in the title of PIPOL 3.

It is first of all a word that functions in many contexts, eminently useful, which serves as an interface between the language of political and administrative authorities and our own, probably at the cost of equivoque. The secret, ours, is that we do not distinguish between psychic reality and social reality. Psychic reality is social reality. We find in Lacan’s very last teaching this provoking proposal: “Neurosis is due to social relations”. 2 To eliminate any seeming paradox from what I have just advanced, we only need to recall that at the foundations of social reality, we have language. By language, we mean the structure that emerges from the language we speak under the effect of the routine of the social bond. It is the social routine that provides that the signified can retain some sense, the sense that is given by the sentiment of each of us to “be part of his world, that is to say of his little family and what surrounds it.” 3

The psychoanalysts who exercise in the Alpha Places are of course in direct contact with the social, embodying as such the social, and restituting the social bond for the subjects they meet up with. This is what justifies the title of PIPOL 3. On the other hand, the subjects they meet up with are precisely no longer in direct contact with the social, being rather in a situation of “discontact”. Isn’t this what it would now be fitting to thematize: the situation of social discontact?

For the psychoanalysts who exercise in the Alpha Places, the CPCT and the RIPA institutions, we understand the enthusiasm that can take hold of them at seeing the mediations done away with that ordinarily veil the position of the analyst, which veil to the analyst that he is in direct contact with the social. An analyst can only function if he is in direct contact with the social, but in his consulting room, he can fail to realize this and entertain sweet dreams — Schwarmerei — of his extraterritoriality.

This word is often quoted from the mouth of Lacan as if he was praising it, when, of course, he uses it ironically. When the Alpha Place emigrates from the consulting room to the institution, it is the truth that is laid bare, that of the structural sociality of the psychoanalytic position and act. I would go so far as to say that the success of the CPCT, and more widely that of the RIPA institutions, is the success of this “operation truth”. It is this truth that founds what I heard these days in the form of “Here we are at last”.

A psychoanalytic basis for the symptom.

When we speak of pure psychoanalysis and applied psychoanalysis, we understand that the results of the first are invested in the second. That is true, and it is first of all the case of the practitioner himself, inasmuch as he is the result of his own analysis, which was neither brief nor programmed, nor free. But we cannot neglect the fact that there is a return effect. Applied psychoanalysis, the kind we practice, has an incidence on pure psychoanalysis and this incidence will increase with time.

It is already perceptible in the clinic of ordinary psychosis, psychosis without an onset, where the effects of foreclosure are not spectacular, as delusions and hallucinations are, but are translated by more discreet signs, sometimes insignificant elementary phenomena, successive disconnections with family and everything that surrounds it, social relations and the world. Applied psychoanalysis will also have consequences on the theory of the cure. The programming of brief treatments renders the practitioner more attentive to the advances in each session taken one by one, while the Durcharbeitung of the pure experience — the “working through” as it has been translated —, the prolongated time to understand that pure analysis imposes, has as its natural effect to abrase this detail, or even to render it imperceptible to the practitioner. What sometimes deserves to be called mini-cures carried out in the Alpha Places will have the effect of sharpening the vigilance of the analysts in the direction of the analytic cure proper.

Thirdly, I remind you that our institutional Alpha Places are now, for some, subsidized by administrations, and this will be more and more the case. But a natural requirement is thus imposed on them to give an account to their commanditaires. They want figures, something quantifiable, numbers. They want to produce results for statistics, classifying machines, computers. They are already proposing the services of their engineers.

We could maintain that we operate with supposed knowledge, and that exposed knowledge denatures our operation. We could say with a sigh that it is tiring to fill in the forms they ask us for. I propose we take it from another angle: as the occasion to have our clinic with its diagnostics and its indicators pass into the circuit of common communication, which means, in the first place, having it pass into the register of integral transmission, what Lacan called the matheme.

The matheme is not only the use of $, a, S1, S2 and the rest. The requirement of the commanditaires should be the occasion for us to formalize our clinic, and why not, to rival the DSM. Why not create the BPS? Who can doubt that the constitution of a “psychoanalytic base of the symptom” (Base psychoanalytique du symptôme) capable of being quantified would have the most favorable effects on the quality of our clinical transmission, including its most subtle aspects? Am I alone in desiring a more consistent mathematic armature than the one we already dispose of? I don’t think so.

Disinsertion 4

The following step to take in the series of the PIPOLs is logically imposed. It is time to pass on to a thematic, differential, graduated study of the subjective situations of social discontact.

Social discontact has a name common in contemporary administrative language: disinsertion. This word was chosen as the title of the RIPA research project on the European level. 5 I see PIPOL 4 as a scansion in this research. Thus, the title I propose: “Clinic and Pragmatics of Disinsertion in Psychoanalysis”.

I say clinic because we have evidently things to say and ordain concerning the fundamentals of psychoanalysis and disinsertion in which we will be able to invest our results on ordinary psychosis, in particular all that turns around what Hugo Freda named “symbolic precariousness”. It cannot be doubted that we can transmit something new — about the refusal of school, for example, since the master-signifier says something about authority and the S2 something about knowledge, and this can be communicated. I say pragmatic rather than treatment or cure because we are in the order of the savoir y faire (knowing how to deal with) of the “se dé(c)brouiller avec” (coming to terms with).

The great movement we are part of is a result of psychoanalysis having shown and still showing it has fallen behind itself. Psychoanalysis, whose practice implies the collapse of all semblants, which puts into practice a powerful, quasi Socratic, principle of irony, often remains attached to its obsolete beliefs, taking refuge in an imaginary extraterritoriality. It no longer recognizes itself in a contemporary universe whose emergence it has, nevertheless, contributed to more that others, and the most ignorant and least likable of the lot cry over the Name-of-the-Father, dreaming of reestablishing its reign. Nostalgia of the Freudian epoch of psychoanalysis, of a time when an authoritarian, hierarchical, regulatory, and even disciplinarian social order still reigned, and where psychoanalysis was in an alveolar situation, pleading for the right to each one’s jouissance.

It was the epoch in which social insertion was accomplished primarily through symbolic identification. A psychoanalyst could then prone the liberation of desire, salvation through the drive. We are at a time when the Other no longer exists. At the “social zenith”, the object a has replaced it. Insertion is accomplished less through identification than through consummation. The dream is less of liberation than of satisfaction. And social reality turns out to be dominated by the manque-è-jouir (want-of-jouissance). Which gives rise to the vogue of addictions, which is not simply a vogue limited to practices: everything becomes addiction in social behavior, everything takes on an addictive style. We must recognize in the addictions, as in the frenetic consummation of the plus-de-jouir (surplus-jouissance) that technology multiplies and puts on the market more and more rapidly, a desperate effort to remunerate a deficit of satisfaction that is structural.

A pragmatic moment

This is the key to the shock of civilizations. What we thus name is essentially the opposition, the incompatibility, between the religious civilization and the merchant civilization, between the civilization dominated by the ideal ego and the one that the superego strictly speaking dominates, the superego whose imperative can be formulated jouis, 6 between the civilization of respect and ours, which is that of greediness. The merchant civilization stigmatizes as fanaticism that of the ideal ego, and it is in turn stigmatized as perversion, corruption, immorality, Jouissance-pride. 7 We find between the two an enigmatic mix, today’s China, where we can observe both an authoritarian control of the Ideal and an extraordinary disinhibition of consummation.

What are analysts for in these times of discontent? Not to share the discontent. The good humor that reigned during these Study Days shows that this is not our style. Not being a dupe of the illusory satisfaction of the plus-de-jouir does not however mean staying obstinately planted in the refusal of the beautiful soul, and anathematizing contemporary social reality. The mission that is ours in this world is to recognize and elucidate human diversity, the diversity of the modes-de-jouir (modes-of-jouissance) of the species. That requires renewing with the spirit of psychoanalysis at its beginnings, when psychoanalysts still knew how to sacrifice to psychoanalysis the semblants of respectability. Psychoanalysis then knew that to be entirely rigorous, it had to be a bit of a rogue.

I spoke of the Freudian moment, which is behind us. The Lacanian moment is not less behind us. It was both, in a baroque conjugation, existentialist and structuralist, that is, scientistic. Lacan himself left this moment behind him, and he sketched out for us the configuration of the contemporary moment, which is pragmatic. Yes, we are pragmatic as everyone is today, but somehow still apart, — paradoxical pragmatists who do not practice the cult of it works. The it works never works. Our good humor probably comes from the fact we know that it misses the mark, but we believe we hit on the side of the target in the right way. Have no doubt that we are needed.


1 Jacques Lacan, “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis” (1953), Écrits, Paris, Seuil, 1966, p. 298; English translation Bruce Fink, Norton, 2006, p. 246.

2 J. Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XXIV, L’insu que sait de l’une-bévue s’aile à mourre (1976-77), lesson of May 17, 1977 ; cf. Miller J.-A., "Le tout dernier Lacan" (2006-07), L’orientation lacanienne III, 9, lessons of March 14 and 21, 2007.

3 J. Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XX, Encore (1972-73), Paris, Seuil, 1975, chap. IV.

4 Translator’s note. I use the signifier “insertion” here in the way it is currently used in French, with reference to the insertion of individuals into the social and economic structure, giving us the pair insertion/disinsertion. Two other pairs will have to be differentiated in this paper with reference to the lacanian clinic: for the French branchement/ rebranchement, I propose the English connection/ reconnection, for prise/déprise: contact / discontact, this final neologism corresponding to the neological use of déprise... These choices do not exclude a subsequent differential elaboration of the concepts.

5 This theme was chosen during the RIPA meeting on June 30, 2007, and will be implemented by a new committee directed by Hugo Freda, at the same time as research for the clinical software of our institution will be assembled by a commission directed by Jean-Daniel Matet.

6 T.N. The imperative form of the verb jouir, also found in the expressions above and which means “to take jouissance”.

7 Allusion to the Gay Pride parade that took place the day before, June 30, 2007.

Transcription by Catherine Bonningue of J.-A. Miller’s talk during the PIPOL 3 Study Days, June 30th and July 1st 2007. The title of the Study Days was “Psychoanalysis in Close Touch with the Social”.

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