30 de octubre de 2017

Towards the European Forum in Turin : Determined Desires for Democracy in Europe, by Paola Bolgiani - Transportation



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Impossible Professions
Paola Bolgiani


Freud has recognised the Oedipal structure and the paternal function as the backbone of every society. Whether it is about the organisation of the state or religious organisation, he locates the Oedipal matrix, leaning on a Father who establishes the law and structures it rules and prohibitions.

However, in his opinion, psychoanalysing, educating and governing are three impossible professions.[1] The symptom cannot be fully decoded. The drive cannot be totally subject to the law. Individual needs cannot be completely channelled into the social bond. There are always remnants, which are impossible to analyse: they are unteachable and ungovernable.

We can affirm that democracy is the form of government which best takes into account this remnant. We could in fact say that only the democratic form of government makes room for dissent, for what cannot be assimilated. Therefore, democracy alone can include and, eventually, make room for psychoanalysis: in the same way that analysis aims at producing absolute difference, the exact opposite of producing subjects assimilated to the mainstream thought; so too psychoanalysis as a discourse, right from the beginning in Freud, carries a critique of society by showing that civilisation produces, structurally, its own discontents. 

So the decline of the Name of the Father and the rise to the zenith of the objects of jouissance, at the expense of the ideals, pose an increasing problem concerning the legitimacy of the powers that be. Whether it is the legitimacy of he who psychoanalyses or educates or rules, these “impossible professions” are called into question at their very base.

The state’s response is to regulate, increasingly narrowly and bureaucratically, those professions which concern themselves with these areas – let’s think, with regard to the professions of care and education, about the increase in the number of titles and “credits” to be accumulated – with the paradox that the form proves powerless at the level of “substance”.

A few years ago, Giorgio Agamben highlighted the importance of distinguishing “between two essential principles of our ethical-political tradition, of which our societies seem to have lost all awareness: legitimacy and legality.”[2] He continues: “If, as happened in 20th-century totalitarian states, legitimacy expects to do without legality, then the political machine idles, often with lethal results; if, on the other hand, as in modern democracies, the principle that legitimates popular sovereignty limits itself to the election period and reduces itself to juridically pre-established procedural rules, legitimacy risks disappearing into legality, and the political machinery will be equally paralysed.”[3]

The question of legitimacy, no longer guaranteed by the Name of the Father, cannot be simply dismissed in terms of legality, which reduces it to norms and protocols that must to be followed, even if they are juridically unassailable, and which flattens the impossible professions under technical procedures that it would be sufficient to apply in order to attain good governance as well as good education and good care.

In 1958 Lacan wrote, “I intend to show how the inability to authentically sustain a praxis results, as is common in the history of mankind, in the exercise of power.”[4] Lacan showed that the more we avoid the responsibility of an “authentic practice”, like the one that results from educating, governing and psychoanalysing, the more we fall into the exercise of power which can manifest itself through seduction and suggestion, or in terms of prevarication and authoritarianism.

In its field of expertise, the response of psychoanalysis is based on the demonstration, case by case, of knowing what to do with the irreducible that psychoanalysis entails, hence, on taking responsibility for his own act, which cannot be reduced to any guarantee, even if it submits to the rule of law.

From this perspective, can psychoanalysis transmit something to other “impossible professions”? Yes! This is the wager we make by meeting in Turin.

With thanks to Janet Haney for her help with the translation.


[1] Freud, S., “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” [1937], S.E. Vol. 23.
[2] G. Agamben, The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days, Stanford University Press, 2017.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Lacan, J., “The Direction of the Cure and the Principles of Its Power” [1958], Écrits, Norton, New York/London, 2006, p. 490.