Agora 19 - 2011/2012
“The Symbolic Order in the 21st Century: It ain’t what it used to be”
The last of the ICLO-NLS Clinical Conversation series for 2010-11 took place inSt.Vincent’s Hospital Fairview last May 7th.
After Alan Rowan (ICLO,NLS,WAP) highlighted, in an interesting introduction to the topic, the challenges that psychoanalysis is confrontedwith in the 21st Century, our guest Jean-Louis Gault (ECF,NLS,WAP) presented the theme from the perspective of ‘the clinical consequences of the nature of the symbolic order’ in our times.
To approach this JLG considered Jacques-Alain Miller’s conference in Comandatuba (2004) and the thesis sustained there of ‘the discourse of hyper-modern civilization as the promotion of objects for consumption’. JLG emphasized how for human beings the relation with satisfaction is never a simple one, but a fundamentally paradoxical one, and how Lacan responded to the problem thereexists between pleasure and the satisfaction beyond pleasure, with his notion of jouissance.
Through Freud’s case of the ‘beautiful butcher’s wife’, JLG illustrated Lacan’s complex concept of plus-de-jouir, in order to explain how contemporary discourse implies the replacement of ideals, which once ordered the subject’s life, by objects. Civilization has to respond to the inexistence of ‘a program that would tell us how to act in sexuality’. In opposition to an answer derived from the function of I(A) and the master’s discourse, hyper-modern times accomplish ‘a super-ego program’, where the inexistence of the sexual relation has been accepted and has been replaced by the relationship between the subject and his ‘gadgets’.
A detailed overview of Freud’s discoveries in the context of ‘monogamous marriage’ and ‘civilised sexual morality’ allowed JLG to introduce the modifications that the new constitution of the symbolic introduces: instead of inhibitions and symptoms caused by a culture where ‘everyone must have the same sexual behaviour’ we are now confronted with a subject ‘screwed to its objects, screens, sms, blogs’ [sa vie sexuelle ca visse…]. One consequence of this is the predominance of indifference over impossibility; sex has no consequences, the disoriented subject is ‘no longer confronted with prohibition but with the real of the trauma of the encounter’. The affects that correspond to this shift are boredom and gloom, in so far as what is suppressed is the‘well-saying upon the moment of the encounter’. To the prohibition by morality, hypermodernity substitutes ‘prescription by industry’.
JLG developed several further points, including the ‘rise of the object to the social zenith’ and that which he named ‘five classes of the industrial object’, to continue with the demonstration of how today civilization is at the sametime ‘obscene and puritan’. The jouissance resulting from this new response to the impossibility of the sexual relations, JLG proposed, can becharacterised as: anonymous (saves us from the embarrassment of desire and love, produces a profound loneliness); autistic (at the level of satisfaction); addictive (it fixates the subject) and asexual (it ignores the encounter with the body of the other).
Finally, JLG spoke of the characteristics of the symptom presentation in our times within the framework of the superegoic command: ‘enjoy!’ and the consequences of the ‘too much satisfaction’ (fading of desire, generalised anxiety due to the lack lacking, etc). He highlighted that the Lacanian conception of the symptom as ‘truth-value’ remains essential to preserve the value of protest and the subjective assertion of desire and the drive.
In the afternoon, a lively discussion took place following clinical presentations by Susan Mc Feely (ICLO) and Noel Power (ICLO). Addiction and infertility were the two themes addressed by the clinical material presented, raising multiple questions and comments with regards to the very specific position and response that psychoanalysis of the Lacanian orientation introduces vis a vis the symptomatic solutions and failures as articulated by each subject in its singularity.
ICLO-NLS welcomed Jean-Louis Gault for the first time in Dublin, and this proved to be the occasion of a fruitful work also in preparation towards the next WAP Congress in 2012. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to him for his very clear and enriching transmission.
Florencia Fernandez Coria Shanahan
Nouvelle École Lacanienne de Psychanalyse — New Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis www.amp-nls.org