Translated from Russian by Eugenia Konoreva.
20 December 2019.
Original interview published 13 June 2019,
available online in 'Nozh' journal https://knife.media/smulyansky-interview/
What is contemporary psychoanalysis?
Philosopher Alexander Smulyansky talks about hysterical reading and the first rapist as a new family member.
Psychoanalysis is not only about Freud. Rather it is a complex and diverse school of thought which gave rise to various schools and branches throughout the twentieth century. Saint Petersburg’s psychoanalyst and philosopher Alexander Smulyanskiy pursues the approach of the greatest French post-structuralist philosopher Jacques Lacan. We publish the conversation with Alexander Smulyanskiy, dedicated to the release of his third book "Paternal Metaphor and Desire of the Analyst: Sexuation and Its Transformation in Analysis".
- What is psychoanalysis in 2019? In relation to psychoanalysis a hundred years ago, can we give it a new definition today?
- Freud demonstrated the work of the unconscious to both - the public and the patient, mainly in order to explain the mysterious symptoms of nervous disorders, thereby demonstrating the capacities of his science of the unconscious. However, starting roughly from the early structuralism, this demonstration of the work of the inaccessible part of the psyche has turned into an independent project.
The analysand (and society) is not confronted with the unconscious merely as an answer to the problem of the symptoms, but as a problem in itself. What comes to the fore is the perseverance and inevitability of the processes in the area, for which the symptom and the suffering it causes are no more than a sign. The analyst testifies about the unconscious as persistently as the unconscious itself affects the subject. This ethical redoubling of effort is the essence of psychoanalytic discipline as it stands today.
- That is, based on your thesis that modern psychological problems, like phobias, quite often do not require psychoanalytic intervention at all, psychoanalysis is continuously abandoning the clinic that legitimized it earlier into the public sphere, where the attempts to demonstrate the unconscious coincide with the justification of its right for existence?
- The clinic is still the key pivot of the analytic practice, because, for yet unclear reasons, the changes in the unconscious are achieved only in the course of the individual analytic work at sessions. It seems unlikely that anything has changed in this respect. However, at the same time, psychoanalysis is indeed moving away from applied psychotherapy and its goal is less often formulated as to overcome a specific symptom. Even in clinical practice, we emphasize the work with the instance of desire as a whole, including the desire as a historical and cultural phenomenon.
- Why does a person start psychoanalytic treatment today?
- Today, the analyst is approached not so much with a specific request as with the assumption that in the course of analysis something which from the start could be determined only provisionally and vaguely would undergo certain change. Essentially, the analysand makes an advance of expectations into his analysis assuming that it is impossible to envision specific changes in his current situation, since any assumption of this sort is rooted in the same pre-analytic situation that the subject brings into his analysis. In this sense, it is natural for analysis to specify its objective retroactively, which is often achieved towards the end of the analysis at best. Without such an assumption gap, the subject is unlikely to endure his analysis.
- Is it possible that science will change its attitude toward psychoanalysis? Is it possible to think of a neorationalist psychoanalysis capable of acting in the utopian, yet important for the modern imagination environment of a fully disclosed world, described and understood by science?
- Indeed, in the territory of science, knowledge secures a potential increase in power and expansion of opportunities, but it does not have the same effect in the psychoanalysis. Even if the achievement of absolute transparency of mental processes is possible, it won’t affect the outcome of the clinical impact.
At some point, Freud abandoned the idea that the explanation of unconscious processes is useful for the patient. Thereby, the rationalist hypothesis, namely, its stake on the direct transformative role of knowledge was over.
The analyst's knowledge, even considering its great significance, is always at a certain distance from the analytic technique – from the specific actions of the analyst on the session and from what will cause changes in the analysand’s psyche in the end.
- Left philologists and culturologists trace changes in the very structure of the subject in relation to the globalization of capitalism, the growing role of the financial sphere etc. What does psychoanalysis think of this sort of research? Are we talking about a fundamentally different understanding of what a subject is? Is it possible to find a psychoanalytic formulation for the phenomena that unfold in this environment?
- Speaking specifically about the psychoanalysis, the statements appearing from time to time in its field, concerning some radical change of the ‘newest’ subject act, as a rule, as some sort of a panic reaction. Quite often they are initiated under the influence of the academic discourse. Contrary to this, the inner psychoanalytic perspective does not detect any significant change in the position of the modern subject. This is what ensures continuity in relation to the Freudian discovery of the subject: his way of dealing with the objects of the drive, anxiety realizations, and relations with the instance of the Other, most likely, do not depend on the historical conditions of recent decades.
However, there are certain processes where these changes could be revealed: the question of pleasure (jouissance) politics, for example. Sometimes this is understood somewhat simplistically as if the newest subject is doomed to much larger volumes of jouissance than it was before. Presumably, the subject began to enjoy more under the influence of the capitalist coercive machine. This point of view is offered by many ‘academic leftists’ who were influenced by analysis, such as Slavoj Žižek.
From the psychoanalytic point of view, including what might be called Lacanian sociology, the reasons for the global changes in jouissance politics cannot be reduced to technical discoveries or progress pace. Jouissance is discursive, its distribution does not depend on objects (goods, for example), but on the corresponding signifiers. It is true, that today there exist communities and processes where the situation regarding jouissance has been radically changed. Along with that, something in society has changed.
For example, this concerns a newfound ability to derive jouissance from subjects with certain types of disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders; or to derive jouissance from a public confession of abuse or harassment.
Besides, this jouissance concerns both – the narrating victim and the listener, which, as we know, has important consequences in the social field. It is quite possible, that soon we will witness the emergence of new jouissance practices which would radically change certain spheres where the subject operates.
- By the way, since you mentioned Žižek, how could you describe his method?
- I consider his writing to be a function derived from Lacan’s act of enunciation. This is not about Lacanian texts, whose contents Žižek tends to retell, but about the continuation that he undertakes, the continuation of Lacanian intervention in the mode of judgment typical for the intellectual environment. If we evaluate the outcome of this continuation, we can see that the problem with Žižek’s text is not its secondary character; besides this secondariness is majorly overstated, since Žižek is a completely original thinker. The problem is Žižek’s way of truncating Lacanian deconstruction while following its specific logic.
Whenever Lacan undertakes a critical exposure of some prevailing dogma, he does not stop at this point and produces another original judgment, requiring the reader to part not only with prejudice but also with the perspective where both prejudice and its exposure were required. Žižek does not do this. He is content with individual acts of exposure and the short-term asceticism of thought achieved by them which is never constant and requires renewed attacks. This is the source of the typical Žižek’s style which is advancement via refutations. They are quite functional in the field of established thought routines, yet eventually, at the level of enunciation, they risk remaining in the same field as what is being refuted.
The hysterical subject at the origins of psychoanalysis.
- Your book is devoted to the analysis of the concept of ‘desire of the analyst’ introduced by Lacan and you try to link it with Freud’s ‘desire’ understood as a specific desire of a specific person who lived a century ago. Do you mean that as tradition psychoanalysis is ultimately attached to this event and cannot get rid of Freud's personal ‘desire’?
- In Seminar XI Lacan notes that Freud's desire is not a psychological fact. What he means is that it is not the subject’s desire which can be understood by attaching it to some childhood event or to any event that influenced the rest of his life, like for example, a long period of Freud's failures in spreading his teaching and the lack of public recognition. There was something fundamentally beyond-analytic in Freud’s desire. Therefore, it could not form the basis of ‘the desire of the analyst’ as such since like any other desire it is far from harmless. When Lacan speaks about a specific impurity of analysis’s origins, he mentions this non-innocuity a few times, however, he does not return to this later on.
We have to dwell on this impurity in more detail because it is being denied today. It causes the greatest anxiety among analysts themselves. The point is that in the process of its development psychoanalysis undergoes a specific deepening and flattening, that is a theoretical rise and, on the contrary, a decline. This decline is associated with the impossibility of interaction with the desire of the one, who escalates certain issues.
It is known that analysis after Freud flourishes, albeit in a different way than he was planning. During his lifetime Freud was extremely annoyed by most of the followers, but it cannot be denied that they went into sufficient depth, so that, eventually, psychoanalysis became a significant cultural fact of our time.
However, at some stage analysis passes into what I call the stabilization period in my book, which leads to the decline of theoretical research. Primarily, this is due to the fact, that something in Freud's desire ceased being a thing that other analysts would somehow relate to. Whereas, initially this desire caused anxiety, which was reflected in the activities of such analysts as Wilhelm Reich, Carl Jung and others, later these researches were suspended. That was clearly connected with Freud's ‘desire’ which could not function as the basis for analysis as a respectable practice.
There exists an obsessive image of analysis as something absolutely sterile. Even lacanian analysis, having declared a scandalous demand to return to Freud, still passes into a period of stabilization. Among all the variety of studies devoted to Lacan, you won’t find a question posed as inconveniently as it was posed by Lacan himself. This is why I turn to ‘the desire of the analyst’ and show that today it remains a bulwark of respectability, although it does distinguish Lacanian analysis from more traditional versions of psychoanalysis. Yet, nothing remains here apart from the signifier as such. The very analyst's desire being an extremely inconvenient object is not studied. The source of this inconvenience lies in Freud's desire and I insist that were it not for it, the forms of analytic behavior we encounter at sessions would not have developed.
Even those who did not come into close contact with analysis, that is, those who were not analyzed, are well aware that it is a rather bizarre kind of communication if communication at all. Let's say, in analysis, you are not answered or the analyst rejects what you bring with a good intention to be analyzed, believing that you will help the analyst by communicating certain things or deeply reflecting on the reasons for your session activity. Any analysand’s demonstration of the integrity of his intentions is contracted by the one who is conducting the analysis. Were it not for these special forms of engagements, no analysand's speech would exist in analysis. Yet, these engagements should assume an appearance of certain trustworthiness.
Whereas the present consensus around Lacan's ‘desire of the analyst’ does not coincide with what Lacan thought of it, it is nevertheless useful because it serves the interests of analysis. If the analyst’s conduct is not favorable (not in the sense of violating analytic etiquette, but in that he does not meet your desire, does not embrace it, that is, the analyst does not bring you satisfaction at sessions – Freud called this abstinence, that is, a deprivation of enjoyment in the course of one’s own analysis), it is generally accepted that this is for analysis’s good. It is true, eventually, there is nothing scandalous to debunk here.
‘The desire of the analyst’ goes back to Freud's desire, in particular, to the episode of his communication with the hysterics, when Freud was dangerously balancing between what would become the ‘analyst's desire’ as such and a historically defined male desire. The latter was manifested in the deprivation of the hysteric, in the barring or rejection of the precious object that she intended to present to the man. A specific dialectical tension persists between these two desires. On the one hand, the developed analyst's desire would not have emerged without Freud's ‘desire’, on the other hand, its genealogy leaves a certain mark. A certain specific element inherent in Freud is preserved in the ‘desire of the analyst’. This element has never submitted to the good of analysis and analysis itself serves as its sublimation. Psychoanalysis functions as the taming of this desire - quite successful in the case of Freud.
- In other words, is psychoanalysis a certain form of Freud’s desire sublimation? Don’t we risk getting something different from psychoanalysis if we return to it?
- In fact, nowhere do we risk approaching Freud's ‘desire’, however in order to prevent this scenario analysts have to go through a certain training which is a cross between censorship and the continuation of Freud's sublimation in the most effective for analysis way. The introduction of the concept of countertransference was an important episode of this censorship. Freud mentions it only a couple of times, but the analysts of the post-stabilization era (around the 1930s and 1970s) find that it could be unsafe for analysand.
Countertransference is suspected of introducing into analysis unnecessary hesitations, personal favors, and preferences, which were never verified experimentally. (It is not that everything in the analysis could be confirmed experimentally, but certain solid analytical observations suggest that something really happens in the subject's psyche.) Nothing similar to countertransference could be found in the analyst's psyche unless it is a case of extreme unpreparedness or what Freud called 'wild analysis.
In the book, I demonstrate how this highly overestimated danger made it possible to ignore the other one. The analyst can be trained to such an extent, that nearly anything at sessions would make him uncomfortable; no declaration, including the most shocking, disgusting, low confessions, will make him shudder. However, it is precisely Freud's ‘desire’ which is the actual threat, wherein, as such it was not anything forbidden or disgusting. It was a specific case of dealing with the hysteric’s object never brought to an end by Freud (that is why despite their impressive texture his most famous hysterical cases always endured some ultimate failure). Yet again, there is nothing dangerous in returning to it and not only because it is a historically determined ‘desire’, that is, a singular desire; but also because the analyst today is not in a position where he could be confronted with the object that was so insulting to Freud.
- Today some Western researchers discuss the so-called invention of hysteria. If I understood you correctly, the main thing that Freud problematizes in the event you mention is not even the hysteric’s own speech, but the sexual desire that the doctor has for her.
- Freud managed to notice that the doctor indulges in a specific form of genital jouissance from the hysteric. At the time, this was a progressive remark that could have been welcomed by feminist communities, for example. But Freud does this in order to represent in the best way the object given by the hysteric. That is, he points not so much to the fact that the doctor is abusing the hysteric (although that was striking), but to the fact that the doctor remains indifferent to the hysteric’s object which she wants to present as a gift to the genital man.
That is, in relation to the hysteric patient the peculiarity of the position of the genital doctor who is used to more somatic cases (that is, he deals with neurology, but not with the unconscious) is that like any genital man he simply does not notice her gift, being ostensibly unable to appreciate it. This discovery is the merit of Freud.
Another thing is that the hysteric’s object is the reason for the problematic character of Freud's own ‘desire’. It consisted in making the patient present her object in full, in all its glory, and then to make her renounce it, to recognize her gift as insignificant. In fact, that’s what was driving Freud.
- That is, the genitality of the doctor subject aims at ignoring the hysteric’s speech?
- Yes, primarily it is a disregard for the speech. That is why I devote several chapters to hysteric’s dumbness which is not necessarily literal dumbness, that is, a big hysteric symptom of mutism treated by psychiatry
We are talking about social dumbness: the hysteric cannot speak out, because anything she says would be either ignored or revised as sentimental nonsense by the genital man.
One of Freud’s merits is his seriousness in treating these things. He believed that there was something important there, perhaps even the most important of the historical processes of our time. Another thing is that he had certain aggressiveness (for all the ambiguity of this term): Freud also shared the intention to devalue this speech as an offering that functioned as an object, marked the object which the genital man lacked due to his narrow-mindedness. The suspension of this devaluation is located between the ‘desire’ of Freud and the ‘desire of the analyst’.
- What exactly happens to the hysterical subject at the end of the 19th century? Is this the moment when she was first born or first discovered?
- The emergence of the hysterical subject is not caused by the reasons which are commonly accepted, namely, the scientific and technological revolution or the change in the status of women. This is a process that can be registered only in the psychoanalytic discourse and by its terms; it is the emergence of a particular genitality.
If we what to find a philosophical parallel it could be traced back to genitality emerged in the era of disciplinarity in Foucauldian sense. But there were even more complex processes which led to the creation of the hysterical subject as the one who supports the desire of the genital man. Supporting him does not mean that the hysteric agrees with him, on the contrary, from her point of view the genital man is mistaken and he should be cured of this mistake.
This is how, confronted with genital deafness the hysterical woman acquires those specific symptoms addressed to the Other which are sometimes described in purely psychological terms as attracting attention, theatricalization, dramatization. In fact, these symptoms could be called the somatic embodiment of the completely objective obstacle that the hysteric stumbles upon. That is, the actions of the hysteric are not related to the fact that she needs attention. From her point of view, it is the position of the man that requires attention.
- When you or other researchers interpret Antigone using the term "hysteric", is it an anachronism or is it somehow connected with what is happening in the last century?
- In relation to the VII volume of Lacan's seminars where Antigone is analyzed, this is undoubtedly an anachronism, although certain formal circumstances prompted him to take Antigone out of the hysterical field. On the other hand, in purely technical terms Lacan was right since, of course, there was no any hysteria in the historical coordinates of Ancient Greece.
There is some kind of hysterical sign or subtle marker in Antigone's support for the desire of the man, her brother in particular, who could also be her father at the symbolic level. But this is not the genital man who became mass-scale by the end of the 19th century. From the point of view of the hysteric, this genital man does not suffer like Oedipus did, who suffered quite real, including reputational, losses being not guilty, by the will of fate. The hysteric, instead, confronts with a man who is totally content, who considers himself to be a subject secured in all respects, including his own future and satisfaction of his desire. Herewith, this subject is extremely limited in his desire and constantly suffers from the fact that he desires things that cannot bring him satisfaction. There was no such mass-scale subject in Ancient Greece, of course.
- You say that the desire and the project of the hysteric is a certain reconfiguration of this male genital subject. Can we consider Freud himself as some sort of success of this project?
- In the book I demonstrate that in relation to Freud's project (not Freud himself, since he was out of her league), that is, in relation to analysis, the hysteric undertook some kind of alternative move. What Freud did not recognize (yet, his introduction to ‘The Case of One Hysteria’ shows that on some other level he was sensitive to that danger), what he did not realize and what remained unrecorded in his texts (at least in the form of theses addressed to the reader) is the fact that all that the hysteric does in analysis comes down to proposing her alternative project. That is, the hysteric hinted how to deal with her, how to listen to her, what conclusions should be drawn from her words.
As long as by that time Freud had already developed the concept of resistance with whose help he abstained analysand, indicating that analysand’s speech should be interpreted and it could not serve as a guide for analysis in itself, he was able to reject these hysteric’s inclinations.
Yet, retrospectively we should recognize that hysterical intentions were something other than, say, the resistance of obsessive neurotic. He can be really naive about analysis, howver quite often he has more knowledge about it.
- What you describe is the situation after Freud was able to take a certain analytic position. But the very moment when he has the desire to treat the hysteric’s speech differently – was this not the goal of the hysteric’s project, at least in part?
- Yes, but the problem is that there are practically no case records left that could demonstrate that Freud was treating the hysterical subject differently. The two major cases – Dora and a young homosexual girl – are very similar in the classification of the patients and in Freud’s manner of dealing with them. To say the least, both of these cases demonstrate that at that time Freud was guided by the intention to deprive the hysteric of her object; and in doing so he seemed to solidarize with her father. With the development of postcolonial or proto-feminist criticism of psychoanalysis, say, Deleuze or Butler circles, he was reproached for that more than once.
Instead, I show that, in fact, this solidarization was not available to Freud and it was never fully realized. That is, the only thing he shared with the genital man was the fact that he could consider the hysteric to be extremely problematic subject, requiring some form of disciplinary restriction but not in the way of the genital man, of course. The object that Freud intended to deprive the hysterical woman of was unconscious to her. In this sense Freud's project was not educational like, say, the project of genital treatment in the form of neurological healing.
Publicity as a new gender.
- In your new book and in the previous one you use quite extensively the concept of the public, of the public stage. A large number of phenomena recorded within psychoanalysis could be centered around this term. Is it your own theoretical position of some kind? Or do you think that it was already Lacan and Freud who considered ‘public space’ as something decisive in understanding the subject?
- Lacan and Freud were, perhaps, the first researchers who could perfectly handle this space. They understood that their speech does not merely target directly into this space, but it also owes to its effects. Oddly enough, this question of publicity of researcher's speech was not raised in this way neither in such a vast project as Marxism, nor in the future projects of Foucault or Deleuze. That is, it was formulated at a theoretical level, but never had researcher's speech itself revealed such a fine attunement with that elusive, but condemning position of the subject who is speaking out.
Here I see something concerning psychoanalysis as such. It is commonly considered to be some sort of a private matter. However, paradoxically, it is analysis which raises for the first time the question of the adjustment introduced by the public position and of the radical forms of lack which is acquired by someone, whose position concerning desire is to watch what happens on the public stage. It does not matter whether we are talking about the subject who is writing or, for example, speaking in some narrow circles (as was the case with Freud, at least in the start). This adjustment is clearly audible in Freud's speech and even more clearly in Lacan's speech.
It was treated differently. For Freud, this adjustment was in the form of an obsessive need to clarify that his research was not complete, that perhaps he had reached a dead end somewhere and brought his reader there; that certain clarifications would follow in the upcoming works. In a funny way by his constant refusal, by evasion, which was later entrenched in the works of Derrida, for example, Lacan acted hysterically. Insisting that he cannot be understood, that something extensive is happening here, that is, something unfolding in a different place – this position was undoubtedly an invention of Lacan.
- And yet it is difficult not to notice that in a wide range of theoretical works the public quality of the utterance is either hushed up or ignored, or sidelined; and the whole variety of publicity forms is viewed as a private matter of the one who deals with them. Do I understand correctly that your emphasis on publicity of various processes is a theoretical position that you personally insist on?
- I devoted the previous course of ‘Lacan-likbez’ precisely to the concept of publicity in relation to sexuality which occupies an important place in the book. Yet, this line of thought was not included in the book. From my point of view, publicity is not a sociological fact but something inscribed in the ‘concept of psychosexual development’ as Freud calls it. So far, something like that has been present only as a hint. For example, Lacan has a rather cryptic description of the object a problem faced specifically by the teenager (not an adult or a child). Lacan associates it with the high learning capacity demonstrated by the young man and with a change of object a in the agenda of his desire.
Lacan does not develop this idea but for the first time he says that certain facts which were considered purely historical or were left to the mercy of various humanities can be radically reduced to the question of libido without reduction or simplification, as was already realized by Freud.
I consider publicity as a certain stage of sexuation in the life of the subject, which is not compulsory yet. There is nothing innovative in this thought – some stages of sexuality can never take place. For example, Freud notes that the subject does not always achieve genitality and that sometimes this does not happen even with male subjects, let alone female subjects to whom this happens much less often. For a time, Freud considered analysis as a means of achieving this genital position considering it the ultimate highest point, the peak, the acme of human desire in general. The subject does not achieve some types of sexuality if he is not engaged in certain activities.
In the last seasons of my seminar and in this book, among other things, I analyzed the desire of the analyst not only from the point of view of a certain desire that causes changes in the subject, but also from the point that being in analysis introduces some changes in sexuation. The analyzed subject (and this is trivial; everyone understands this, otherwise, no one would see a psychoanalyst) is a subject whose desire was modified, who underwent some change.
For quite a while prior to Lacan, it was believed that as a result of analysis the change in the subject lies along the axis of mitigating the symptom, of discarding the internal psychological conflict. That is, the subject undergoes improvements in certain activities; he becomes capable of overcoming procrastination, of going to work, maybe of getting married, of having children, of becoming pregnant (if this subject is female). So, Lacan's innovation – he does not voice it but it can be deduced from his teaching – is that analysis does not only introduce some particular, albeit infinitely pleasant changes in desire, but it also brings the subject to a different psychosexual level. This is not about development, since the notion that some stage can be dominating or it can provide a better functioning is incorrect. However, we can still refer to them due to the potential for alternation.
Returning to your question: from my point of view, a condition of publicity, that is, the subject's ability to take a public position and all the consequences for his desire and for the desire of the audience represent a certain stage of psychosexual advancement. As was already mentioned, not everyone achieves this. But the functioning of this desire is so peculiar that, without exaggeration, it could be distinguished as a significant and independent phenomenon similar to sexuality based on sex, for example.
In other words, public person is the person of a particular sex.
Reading – is the form of sexuation.
- A considerable part of your research is devoted to the analysis of the book, of reading, of writing. Whereas we are accustomed to using Lacanian theory primarily in the analysis of cinematography in connection with certain concepts introduced by Lacan. Do you think that as a written text the book is something fundamentally different from cinema or from any other kind of art?
- My interest in the book is not caused by the anxiety about the cinematography’s speed of occupying the territory applicable for psychoanalytic apparatus.
I was interested in the book itself as a cultural fact: not the invention of writing, nor the ability to make use of the written text, but precisely as a fact associated with the functioning of desire via the specific jouissance delivered by book. The book is turned into this cultural fact just at the time of the hysteria emergence.
It is known that the hysteric, as she was indeed portrayed in different conservative pamphlets, – is a creature who reads a lot. From the perspective of the genital man, who reads either little or specialized literature, the hysteric reads too much and this produces certain changes in her desire.
Clearly, it is not possible to determine the cause and the effect. The book does not necessarily hystericize, yet, this was proposed by the advocates of renouncing reading. On the other hand, it is not evident that the book is being read by a ready-made hysteric and she reads precisely due to the completeness of her hysterical neurosis. These movements are co-directed.
Anyway, there is something in the book that enables it to provide the hysteric’s desire with a form. Eventually, regardless of gender, age or specialty difference everyone begins to read far and wide. There emerges a universal book empire which is secured by certain power threads or frameworks, which I describe in detail in the chapter you mentioned.
It is not the point that you can write about anything you want; the point is that there exists specific literature which functions as a certain model or a canon for the rest of it. This is not a canon in the genre sense, but in the sense of formalizing the problematic relations of the hysteric with her object. That's why I refer to dystopias, in particular, or to other genre-specific works.
For example, it was surprising for me to see that in 2010 ‘Bukvoed’1 had a special shelf for the so-called sentimental literature which is not positioned as literature for women. That is, we are talking about the texts devoted to people with some sort of social or physical disability – invalids, subjects who are somehow different from others, about those who have difficult times in growing up or they search for themselves.
As a result, depending on whether such a subject is able to turn to the world and thereby turn the world to himself, everything ends with a happy ending. This is a very peculiar literature which, undoubtedly, is designed to give the hysteric a rest, since she never sees anything of the sort in her surroundings. But I demonstrate that apart from the satisfaction it delivers, it also has a tension of jouissance. We know that satisfaction is opposed to jouissance: if satisfaction is the end of the process, then jouissance is its midst; where the conflict nature of desire manifests itself most vividly.
In this part of the book I wanted to demonstrate that the procedure for psychosexual forwarding is provided, among other things, by ubiquitous mass reading. It leads to the appearance of a phase called ‘latent’ in my course.
This is a certain subtype of desire which marks the procedure of desire reproduction in modern times and allows the subject to attach to the processes where the hysteric was involved. This concerns the reduction of genitality to a private, obscene and, perhaps, mutilated fact.
Yet, I do not want to claim for any political position, to turn either in conservative or in liberal direction, I just point out a psychosexually observable fact. We cannot predict what happens to this genital psychosexuality in the future, but it has been noticeably shaken. Whereas, the book even if it did not serve as a means or a direct tool in the struggle for this disturbance, at least marked it similar to the sound of a bugle or a trumpet that marks the victory.
Reading is a particular psychosexual form. It can decline which opposes this ubiquitous universe of reading. As a result, oddly enough, the subject exhausts this form.
The book wins at the latent stage of development pointed out by Anna Freud. Once the child starts school, among the young – the book wins; but after thirty something happens to the subject, as if some spell falls off him. I used the demonstration of this decaying charm in order to show that psychosexual development is fundamentally incomplete and that, essentially, any phase can be exhausted. The psychosexual episode caused in the life of the subject by the book is no exception to this rule.
- Yet right now in our century, reading, writing and publicity pass through great changes. Today we can easily imagine a person who is not interested in reading books, but in reading ‘Syg.ma’ website2; someone who constantly uploads their texts to ‘Syg.ma’ again or to other blogs, or to Facebook. Does it change anything from psychoanalytic point of view?
- There are certain consequences of this change which I observed from the analytic perspective. I will not dwell on its reasons, but I can point out a certain instability or malleability of the modern subject. I do not mean suggestibility and similar non-analytic explanations, but a whole series of new symptomatic manifestations that contribute to subject’s instability. For example, it is known that in Freud times certain nervous disorders either did not exist or were presented in extremely reduced form, say, only among children.
So, Freud diagnoses little Hans with agoraphobia. This is not a surprise for Freud since such states were already familiar to him. Moreover, Freud believes that this is not the final word in his diagnosis. Agoraphobia is most deeply associated with the castration complex, with the failed role of the father, but either way it was an extremely marginal disease at the time.
Today we see that it is spread across the board. There is practically no subject who has not experienced some difficulties associated with space, be it too vast or by contrast too closed at least once.
The subject today is not the subject of narcissistic (which is very often popular among non-Lacanian psychoanalysts), but of panic disorder.
The contemporary subject is an alarmist. He is obsessed by a number of phobias that have never before been present in such a mass scale.
Undoubtedly, there is a subtle connection here with what you called public position. Maybe not as direct so that one could count on the emergence of some kind of new reader's conservatism, limiting the consumption and production of texts; yet this connection exists.
An enormous number of fears of the subject are related with the fact that this public position has become much closer to him. It is due to the era of social networks, that is a possibility to read and write. Moreover, these actions have ceased to display any significant difference.
There still endures an idea of reading as something easier than writing; that in order to write something you need to have an exclusive right, that is, you have to be in a certain respectable symbolic position. But we see that today this distinction is fading away and quite possibly we approach an era when it will be completely eliminated.
- In other words, today the public position is very close to us?
- Yes. It is close to each of the subjects, it literally threatens the subject with all these mental neoplasms, which it is generally fraught with. Having studied the biographies of public people you can find precisely those marginal disorders that are observed in everyone today.
- Are these disorders, phobias which have now become much more common, less susceptible to psychoanalysis?
- Indeed, they are very poorly amenable to psychoanalysis, therefore, whenever a subject expects from his psychoanalyst deliverance from, say, a specific agoraphobia or phobia of some type, apparently, he cannot count on that. Besides, this was taken care of by the cohort of analysts who kept the extremely cautious Freudian promise about the future of psychoanalysis concerned with abstinence as its outcome. This promise is enthusiastic, on the one hand, and extremely cautious – on the other hand.
What’s more, what you can get on the sessions could be, perhaps, different from what you wanted (or expected) to get – encouragement or support. Instead you get mild, albeit necessary disappointment.
The analysis results could be disappointing. Getting rid of a phobia cannot be promised in analysis, which does not downplay its significance or its value. On the contrary, this emphasizes what real the reason it was created for. Freud created analysis in order to introduce a new basis in the subject's psyche, that is, to modify his jouissance. Obviously, this does not entail any particular, individual phobia, as, say, teaching writing skills. Yet, it can create a completely different subject out of you, but it does not guarantee that you will successfully marry or have wonderful children, for example.
- In your books and your works you employ the terms from Marxist tradition, for example, such as "alienation" or "commodification." What place does Marxism and sociology, perhaps, occupy in your works? Is it something additional to psychoanalysis or can they somehow interact?
- In my lectures I repeatedly emphasized that in this respect we talk about the culture of thought which is installed in modern enunciation mode. In this sense, Marxism is not a trend that you can tendentiously adhere to or just as tendentiously deny (although there are people who do it at once). It concerns a specific theoretical matrix as such.
That is, I believe that if you use the term ‘alienation’ this does not necessarily mean that you got it specifically from Marxism somehow. Existentialism uses the same term which undoubtedly owes it to Marxism, although eventually existentialism renounces it.
I'm talking about something required by language in its totality. This poses the problem of correlation between what might be called the university discourse and other types of enunciation. On the one hand, we know from Lacan that university discourse is something immanent to modernity, on the other hand, apparently, this discourse does not permit to persist on its positions for long and still remain able to invent something pursuing psychoanalytic life. That is, in spite of the fact that somehow or other it affects our speech, we have to keep distancing from it.
#MeToo: - abuser – new family member.
- What is the role of incest in hysteria?
- It is crucial to clarify that the prohibition on incest first actualized by Freud refers directly to ‘Freud’s desire’, which is the one that I called preceding the analyst's desire.
Incest is the hysteric’s fantasy. Not in the sense that she is interested in her own mother, yet this thought could be suggested by the tensions between them along with the forms of modern feminism as the realization of the woman's ability to have closer communication, while renouncing the male subject.
The bottom line is that the hysteric is interested in jouissance of her father. That is, Freud drew the very idea of incest from the direction of thought taken by the hysteric.
Since it was precisely the hysteric’s object that he had to restrain, he had to parry somehow, cover it up, consequently there emerges a powerful theoretical infusion, indeed, effectively used by Freud in the future.
Even though, from my point of view, Deleuze and Guattari critique does not hit the essence of analysis at all and represents a completely different terminological system, nevertheless, it does get the trail in the question of raising the doctrine of incest to a superlative degree.
However, today there exist more scandalous forms of jouissance that are not always reported by the analyst, yet they remain relevant and incestuousness is not among them.
Whereas, the expanding scandal around the possibility of incest or relations between people of different age sexuations in general (say, between a child and an adult) seems to indicate the rebirth of this topic. But you shouldn't be deceived. This topic is born again, but not the way it did in the 19th century – on a wave the genital man’s anxiety, which is detected by the hysteric when she tries to bring satisfaction to the man regardless this anxiety.
Instead, this topic owes to the processes that were called latent earlier. On the one hand, they are caused by investments of hysterical jouissance and, on the other, by the growing influence of university discourse.
- That is, these proclamations that we read within the framework of #MeToo movement can be interpreted as the proclamations of the hysteric?
- In my lectures I deliberately drew a distinction between the position of a modern activist or she-activist, since it refers to women’s activism, and between a hysterical position. From my point of view, which actually does not say anything fundamentally new, yet we should to draw more fresh conclusions from it, - the hysterical position has been lost today. It can be found among some analysands via what Lacan calls the hysteric structure; and sometimes it is very pronounced in these cases, but it is not problematized as a hysterical position contemporary to Freud, but as a position that causes hesitations in relation to desire.
According to Lacan, the biggest problem for the hysteric is the fact of the existence of desire per se. In this sense, the position of the subject structured hysterically differs from the position of the hysterical woman, since it was only male desire that was the problem to her. There are no such subjects today because today it is rather woman's desire that is problematic for the representatives of the hysteric structure.
Therefore, the hysterical subject on whom Freud sharpened his analyst’s desire does not exist today. Whereas, in relation to large-scale activist movements we should not speak about hysteria, but about a certain type of sexuation, which can be called the public one. That is, the #MeToo movement owes much more to the sexuation of publicity than to the neurotic-hysterical root foundations discovered by the pre-Freudian doctor.
- But the #MeToo movement is a very specific proclamation. I'm not even sure that it can be called activism, since it is based on bringing to light some crimes, some violence that male subjects caused to women.
- But someone has to do it, someone provides facts for it. I do not mean that we have to return to the conservative idea about mind controllers. Although today in the funny way it returns in the discourse of conservatives who oppose this sort of movements.
By publicity I do not only mean the statement of a knowingly public person, but a certain form of desire. This could be statements made in a private way, for example, notes in your diary whose nature, from the point of view of discursivity, will be unconditionally described as public. That is, publicity like any other sexuation is a certain way of handling the object of jouissance and the Other. And it's not necessarily about hype, advertising, promotion or anything like that.
- But the object in this case is the male desire?
- The object of any given sexuality cannot be reduced to the circumstances around which it is organized.
- As for the text, when a woman writes about she was treated by a man, using the #MeToo tag, are we talking about man's desire?
- Clearly, we talk about the desire, however not the masculine, but the genital one. It is surprising how rarely this is discussed, however Judith Butler has created a good foundation for it. When the old wave feminism declares the very existence of the male subject as a problem, it obviously targets the position of genitality, although, not every male subject achieves it.
Genitality, of course, does not guarantee that the man will neglect the woman's desire or commit more sophisticated violent actions with her. But in any case, it is important that, apparently, #MeToo aims at the formation of an object that, with all caution, could be called a new kinship object.
For example, if you come across a social media post formulated in accordance with all the canons of the #MeToo movement, you will most certainly find there such an important figure for the woman as the first rapist (or the first abuser - in softer versions, if the woman was mercifully spared of certain sad circumstances).
Most likely, it is a totally new figure that we are talking about, who may well be described in terms of a new type of social kinship. That is, it receives a certain structural place. This is an important figure, regardless of the moral condemnation that it should be addressed. Activism handles this task successfully, but what is important for our psychoanalytic perspective – is the special connection, established with this figure.
We witness the emergence of a new family member.
 Bookstore in Saint Petersburg, Russia.