In Seminar 17, we find an appendix from 3 December 1969, called “Analyticon”, where Lacan addresses the students at Vincennes. Their shameless exhibitionism of jouissance is not opposed to power, but its mutation: “And the first to collaborate with this, right here at Vincennes, are you, for you fulfill the role of helot of the regime. You don’t know what that means either? The regime is putting you on display. It says, ‘Look at them enjoying!’”[1]

Lacan, in the last session of the seminar, elaborates on this incident and makes a wordplay with Vincennes, obscenity, making a scene, or twenty of them and to ‘make vincennes’ (“vincène/obscène/vingt-scènes/faire Vincennes”).[2] The students and the new regime, of which they are helots, will no longer show any shame, but will make scenes, as in reality-shows[3], of shamelessness. Lacan closes the session: “If…there are some slightly less than ignoble reasons for your presence here in such numbers…it is because I happen to make you ashamed.” Is the purpose of psychoanalysis to make us ashamed? Does this get more difficult, not simply with reality shows, but with new platforms of user-generated shamelessness?

In October 2022, a video[4] of some students from the University of Complutense in Madrid went viral to the point that the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, had to respond. In the video, a young man appears in a fraternity window. Across from his all-male dormitory is an all-female dormitory. The man shouts in a long, prepared sequence: “whores, come out of your holes, bunnies. You are a load of nymphomaniac whores.”[5] Then, in a choreographed move, the blinds of all the other windows that had been dark open and the fraternity members appear, shouting animal sounds in unison to finish off the initial speech made by not so much the primordial father, but what one is tempted to call a primordial brother. Many reacted to this event with disgust and questioned the young men’s actions: ‘have they no shame?’

Once the video had elicited backlash from the Prime Minister and appalled the public, fraternity representatives claimed that the chants and rituals were part of a long tradition. Perhaps it is a tradition, but it cannot be dissociated from the current zeitgeist of accountability in the form of the #MeToo movement. Can we not read this reaction, this shamelessness, as a symptom?

But as a symptom of what? Jacques-Alain Miller points out that we have to read contemporary shamelessness from the perspective of a certain mutation in capitalism, a capitalism that relies on “repression of enjoyment”, as in Max Weber’s famous analysis of permissiveness: “the new mode – if it bears the mark of a style at all – is rather that of permissiveness, where what can sometimes be the cause of difficulty is the prohibition on prohibiting.”[6]

This ritual of chanting frat boys in windows, which previously evaded public scrutiny, is now viewed by a global audience. Perversion is not to be hidden, but is rather the order of the day. And yet it reveals what has come to replace the traditional paternal authority: the brotherhood of hate, which Lacan saw as equivalent to globalization and capitalism.[7]

Miller writes: “it is no doubt a question (…) of separating the subject from its master signifier in the analytic operation. But this assumes that he knows he has one, and that he respects it.”[8] If psychoanalysis re-introduces a notion of aristocracy, it is not because it wants to return to feudalism, but rather because it is interested in singularity. He continues:

“We are not in the habit of using the term aristocracy, but it is nevertheless unavoidable when one returns to Lacan’s position in the face of this fact of civilization, that was at Vincennes. Everything indicates that what he encountered there he classified as belonging to the register of the ignoble, and that, in the face of the emergence of place from which shame had disappeared, he had an aristocratic reaction.”[9]

Rather than a return to aristocracy, Miller points us toward the singularity of the subject. In the event of the students in Madrid there was no possibility of singularity, no way of telling who was who in those windows. In this sense, the ritual was perhaps not so different from the tendency toward unification and validation of common markets, to which Lacan refers to as the ‘credit points’ of the university where everything can be measured.

Maybe the problem is also that enjoyment encouraged by permissive capitalism cannot be distributed equally, like material goods, like clothing.[10] There is rather a certain malaise, which is not the opposite of enjoyment, but part of it; that enjoyment needs its obstacles to function.[11] In this case, the condition of jouissance is precisely transgression and obscenity that is not amenable to any ‘politically correct courting’ or ‘consensual’ sex, in this obscene display of, to alter Freud’s title slightly, the ‘university’s tendency to debasement in the sphere of love’.

Image from

[1] Lacan, J. The Other Side of Psychoanalysis: The seminar of Jacques Lacan, book xvii, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Russel Grigg (New York. W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), 208.

[2] Opt.cit. 180; 181

[3] Both Miller and Laurent, in 2004, point to reality shows on television as examples of Lacan’s point. Today I would also mention, as a further radicalization, user-generated content on social media platforms, like Tik-Tok. The topic of “Shame” is taken up again, much more recently, in a very incisive talk given by Laurent, 5th of May, 2020, in the excellent webinar of the seminar, held by the London Society of the NLS, available at:


[5] Translation from

[6] Miller, J.-A. “On Shame, “ Jacques Lacan and the Other Side of Psychoanalysis, ed. Justin Clemens and Russel Grigg (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006). See also Eric Laurent, “Symptom and Discourse”, in the same volume.

[7] “I think that, in our epoch, the trace, the scar left by the evaporation of the father is what we can put under the general label of segregation. We think that universalism, that communication of our civilizations, homogenizes the relations among men. On the contrary, I believe, that what characterizes our time – and this cannot escape us – is a ramified and reinforced segregation that produces intersections on all levels and only multiple barriers.” (Nota sul padre e l’universalismo, La psicoanalisi, 33 (2003) – after Marie-Hélène Brousse, in “Common Markets and Segregation”, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, 262).

[8] Miller, J.-A., 21.

[9] Op. cit.

[10] Like Lacan describes in Seminar VII in a famous passage of St. Martin. One thinks also of the student on the steps of the pantheon, in Seminar XVII, that precisely takes his shirt off and proposes an orgy, as if to demonstrate, that enjoyment can be distributed as equally as if everyone just took off their clothing. Lacan precisely tries to make him more modest perhaps, by saying he has seen better in the theater the night before.

[11] Freud mentions this, for example, in Civilization and its Discontents: “Sometimes one seems to perceive that it is not only the pressure of civilization but something in the nature of the function itself which denies us full satisfaction and urges us along other paths. This may be wrong; it is hard to decide” (Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and its Discontents”, (1930), SE, vol xxi (1961): 64-145.