LONDON SOCIETY of the NLS
NLS Seminar 2006-2007
En 2006-2007, la London Society a organisé le séminaire de la NLS sur le thème “Analytic Subversion and Contempary Life”. Penny Georgiou, sa présidente, et Natalie Wulfing, Secrétaire, nous en présentent ici les enseignements. Elles inaugurent ainsi la nouvelle maquette de NLS-Agora, notre liste de débat, et nous les en remercions.
A Political Moment in London
The publication of the seminar XVII in English last year afforded us the opportunity to work on the text and to develop a suppleness of discourse in the NLS seminar 2006-7, taking as the theme: “Analytic Subversion and Contemporary Life.” Our closing event for the year which was built around the question of the Master Discourse, “The State, Science and the Discourse of psychoanalysis: Against the Commodification of (Un)Happiness.” was engaged in saying something about the ongoing movement by the UK government to regulate the psychological therapies. The conference received presentations from our guest speaker, Gustavo Dessal, and several members of the London Society, including Richard Klein, Roger Litten, Alan Rowan, Veronique Voruz, and Bogdan Wolf.
Additionally, the conference hosted a Round Table, where representatives of other organisations and fields of treatment, including the British Psychoanalytic Council (IPA), the BACP , as well as from medicine, were invited to engage in a conversation about “The Future of the Talking Therapies in Contemporary Society”.
One can ask how it was that we arrived at this moment. A key point of recent history is that, in May 2005, the NLS hosted it’s annual congress in London, on the question of Anxiety? This moment coincided with the height of the activity in France of the Forum Psy, and a special event was thereby convened in London in the presence of Jacques Alain Miller. This event brought to our attention what was to come here in the UK: the steady, pragmatic movement of the state machine towards the implementation of the law, already passed in 2001, to regulate the ‘psychological therapies. While previously standing apart from the politics arising here, we have since allowed the real of this movement to permeate our work; undertaking the preparation necessary for an ongoing acquaintance with the field, developing places from which to speak, as well as responding to the places opened by the process of regulation itself.
The Politicking Regulating Machine:
Although there are many individual voices in the UK who express their doubts and concerns at the prospect of regulation, it is true to say that most of the organisations, and certainly the large organisations, accept and even encourage the discourse of regulation in the name of public protection. However, there has been almost universal ‘unhappiness’ at the form of regulation on offer.
As time has gone on, it has become fairly clear that it was the institutions themselves who have lobbied the government, demanding regulation, stoking the fire of anxieties about public protection generated by the shipman scandal as an alibi for what are essentially ‘turf wars’.
The government in turn replied with a logical matrix based on the particular type of interest that it does have, in as much as it has an interest in regulating at all. This logical matrix takes as it’s point of departure the requirements of an employer concerned with the terms of trade with it’s contractually bound employees.
The government appears not at all interested in the modes of practice that we call the orientations, regarding these differences to be largely of the small and narcissistic variety. The government’s lack of interest is demonstrated by the approach to regulation, one of a mass production, with one size fits all, cut to the standards of the levelling organisation, the HPC – Health Professionals Council.
The HPC extrapolates from a matrix constructed from two main axioms: a) medical services and b) delivered within the NHS. In this model, the regulated become variants of medical service providers, whose practice takes place in a formalised context (premises and contracts of service) configured for transactions with the NHS, who is postulated as a potential purchaser. The soon-to-be-regulated are not very happy.
The discourse of happiness was given much media coverage through Richard (Lord) Layard, an Economist, who has been advising the Government on the economic problem of mental health. Lord Layard reminded us that Economics has a strong tradition of interest in both happiness and depression, and so proposed treatment (happiness) centres, claiming that CBT can enable people to come off state incapacity benefit (roughly £750 per month) with a one-off payment of a similar amount, representing 11 sessions.
Our conference took these co-ordinates as it’s points of departure/ and the event was aimed at an audience outside the Lacanian orientation, as well as those within it. Our situation provides an opportunity for an extension of the conversation of psychoanalysis, both within our society and beyond it. In addition to our colleagues of the AMP who had joined us on various occasions through the year, we were pleased to welcome our, Gustavo Dessal, who came from Madrid to speak of the Future of Psychoanalysis. He told us, “Psychoanalysis is not a scandal anymore…The main adversities of today come from other sources that I will distinguish with a play of words:
1) the state of the present conscience, and 2) the present conscience of the State…
1) the state of the present conscience: The tendency to the consumption of psychotropics, and the inclination to trust them as a solution for any kind of conflict, does not depend as much on the therapeutic results but on the fact that drugs do not question the present state of conscience, that is a state of radical innocence. Instead of the guilty conscience founded by the Jewish and Christian religions, post-modernity has promoted the innocent conscience… Psychotropics confirm the innocence of the subject, whereas psychoanalysis denies it.
2) The present conscience of the State: It is impossible to push the state to take care of our castration, and at the same time keep it at a prudent distance from our private life. Thus, we observe a progressive interference of the nutritious state in the most intimate aspects of the subject. If the state assumes the protective responsibility, it is reasonable that at the same time it wants to set up the methods that it considers more suitable to accomplish its function, and mainly to control them by means of criteria of selection, evaluation and costs… Of course, as far as we are psychoanalysts we will neither neglect the importance of a social policy, nor the fact that there are victims and executioners, but we question the tendency to crystallize a way of social, political and citizen link through the stereotyped model of the subject-victim; we resist to support the consolidation of an ideology that deprives the real victim of his dignity, turning his singular experience into the general condition of anyone…”.
Thus he set the tone and direction away from stereotypical uniformity towards the singular, with the consequences and the responsibility that inexorably accompanies them.
Richard Klein’s paper spoke about “the A-Typical Citizen” as a best that one can hope for in an analysis’; psychoanalytical ideal ‘under threat by New Labour’. In a poignant and witty exposition of the government’s attempts to forge ‘Unity’ for the country on the basis of the typical, using the signifier of Britishness, identifying it’s parallel process for the psychological therapies under the signifier of the HPC:
“I would say that there is too much identity and too much social cohesion. Blair is trying to override the narcissism of little differences. One way of doing it is to start loving thy neighbour. No one can tolerate a too intimate approach to his neighbour, according to Freud.
The HPC represents its own act of union. It will structure itself on the basis of the narcissism of little differences or it will give way to New Labour’s push to identity and cohesion. It is bound to press for unity amongst the psychoanalytical gangs. It will legitimise transference which will make it impossible to exclude identificatory omnipotence from the analyst’s desire. It will attempt to harmonise schools of psychoanalysis. It will drag us into absurd concepts of well being. It will do this by setting targets until it achieves what it recognises as a typical New Labour citizen. It wants all of us to make identifications with its ideals.”
Bogdan Wolf’s paper delivered an astute and poetic unmasking of the logic and consequences of a bureaucratic form of regulation “The State’s relation to science feeds on that difference. Its survival as a secular agency in the modern society resulted from the shift to its dependence on pseudoscientific developments. What is harnessed for the benefit of the efficient organisational production are the growth of technology and the rise of the machines. The State bureaucracy can now enter an eternal reorganisation because it is reorganised according to a certain inertia already at work. The democratic State wants efficiency because the public wants more efficiency. The public wants protection. The State provides more efficient protection in line with the more efficient means of designing them: i.e. admin. organisation, statistical calculus, data processing, cataloguing, listing, filing, changing places, comparing, projecting, producing, and more statistics, more information processing and more data production… All this has the marks of the Freudian unconscious.”
An interesting and, perhaps, surprising item emerged from the Round Table discussions. In the custody battle over the subject in need of a psychological therapy, the notion of ‘evidence-based practice’ has appropriated to stand in the place of Solomon. However, Holger Auner, a medical practitioner invited to report to us on his experience of both medical practice and research in the fields of haematology/oncology, informed that, in fact, only a small percentage of his practice is evidence-based, perhaps not more than 20%, with results mostly being inconclusive or in many cases the data offered can support contrary conclusions from those claimed. If figures such as these indicate anything at all, it is that truth of science is realised as the elusiveness of objective certainty. While evidence-based practice is the preferred model in this field; in practice, the clinician has to fall back on experience, observation and opinion - in short, on clinical judgement - as the basis of his act. It remains then to note that only those more concerned with the deployment of propaganda, rather than with the imperatives of the real, are convinced by the evidence of evidence-based-practice.
Here, I have only been able to deliver a small taste of what was a day of engagement and vivacity. If this taste constitutes an appetite for more, there is more…the papers delivered at the conference, will be published in the next issue of the psychoanalytical notebooks., Since the conference, Brown, rather than Blair, and we wait to see whether this will be a little difference or a change of consequence. The campaign of the London Society for the transmission of the orientation of the school continues…
THE STATE, SCIENCE AND THE DISCOURSE OF PSYCHOANALYSIS
Against the Commodification of (Un)happiness
This conference that took place on the 23rd of June in London and was organised by members of the London Society, brought together individuals from the professions of Health and Education, to discuss the effect of current government plans to regulate and evaluate those fields.
The day started with a wonderful expose by our invited colleague Gustavo Dessal (AME from Madrid) who began his talk on “Unhuman Sciences” with a fable of a futuristic scenario in which all aspects of a subject’s life are handled by a computer: their physical, mental and emotional balance, to use the language of cognitive and neuro science, is monitored and kept at the right level at all times; literally, unbearably so. In what followed, Gustavo evoked Heidegger’s thought of the world turning into an image with the consequence that there is nothing invisible anymore in the modern world, from which, hence, nothing is missing. The desire to know the future by way of ‘science based’ predictions is a false conception that amounts to nothing but the desire to make everything visible. The future, however, belongs to the real, of which nothing can be said unless it has become past. The modern citizen, who identifies with the signifier ‘victim’ is part of a new “Victimology” , an ideology for the future. In this climate, the state sets up methods and reasons for control and regulation to protect the victim citizen. In the field of mental health, the suppression of the symptom is the most obvious course to take and the victim patient is in league with the demand to get rid of the symptom, seeing the symptom as an injustice that was done to him. “Far from considering it an objective knowledge, Lacan described science as ideology, a set of representations destined to guarding a real one, in this case the one of the subject. “Ideology of the suppression of the subject” is the name of a practice with the deliberate or unconscious intention to eliminate the subjective difference, which includes the sexual difference.”
Gustavo ended by reminding us of the responsibility psychoanalysis has, to forge a future for itself by not compromising on its knowledge, which offers the subject a chance to speak and to live with his difference.
This was followed by a talk by Veronique Voruz about “Strategies of Resistance” in which she outlined the logic of Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’ and the contemporary fantasy of risk aversion and control, all based on the illusion of statistics being the correct basis from which to take one’s bearings for action. CBT and pharmacology are replacing psychic causality and the investigative method in dealing with “people with mental health” because the methods of measuring include the factors of time and money that then begin to play a part of their own. The danger of being transformed by and to collude with the demands of government on our daily life and our work in the fields of mental health is real. In this context, where current British critical research fails is the level at which it too agrees with the premise of the existence of the risk of criminality and mental health for society, treating them as questions of segregation.
Bogdan Wolf talked about “Science of the State and the Secret of Psychoanalysis”: “The discourse of psychoanalysis, and within it the analysand’s right to the secret – incidentally uncontested for millennia as integral to the Catholic Church – is oriented around the lack in the knowledge about satisfaction and happiness. Psychoanalysis thus gives a chance to ‘for each his/her own unhappiness”.Richard Klein’s “The Atypical Citizen Under Threat by New Labour”, Alan Rowan’s “The Value of the Negative” and Roger Litten’s “The State, Science and the Discourse of Risk” followed and added substance to the basis of the debate that was to follow:
A round table discussion saw practitioners from other psychoanalytically oriented therapies offer their version of the meaning of state interference and the damage to human conversation and exchange that the methods of evaluation, by definition, cause.
Sally Aldridge, Head of Regulatory Policy of the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) spoke of the incompatibility between the language of ‘evidence based practice’ with the language of human speech in conversation with another.
Throughout the day a very lively atmosphere reigned and many comments and interventions came from the floor that documented the importance of having these debates and the commonality of the aversion to government intrusion.We were also treated to a short film, ‘Life XP’, dealing with the future of predictions in which life expectancy is determined from birth and illness has been eliminated. In this world, even the mere twitches of life cause a trauma that leads to an original response that nevertheless gets taken into the common discourse once more in the end. This future depicts science as a science for death, not a science of life, precisely because it makes the whole world visible.
As someone noted, we seem to have been listening to many ‘stories’ today, which I found a fitting summary of a day spent arguing against the “Unhuman Sciences”.
Association Mondiale de Psychanalysewww.wapol.org <http://www.wapol.org> Nouvelle École de Psychanalyse — New Lacanian Schoolwww.amp-nls.org <http://www.amp-nls.org>