The text below was presented during the “Beat Le Pen” (BLP) Forum, hosted by l’École de la Cause freudienne, on April 21, 2022, two days before the second and final round of the French presidential election between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Many speakers presented during the two nights of the BLP (April 21-22, 2022). This is the third of four presentations from that event that LRO will publish.
On January 6th 2021, far-right rioters stormed the Capitol in Washington D.C. They chanted threats to hang Vice President Mike Pence for his refusal to follow Trump’s claim the Democrats “stole” the election. The attack confirmed that our symbolic site of democracy was no longer sovereign. That was the pinnacle of Trump’s presidency, but his 2024 campaign is already under way.
This attempted coup was uncanny. Yet watching it unfold on television rendered it simply another installment in a series of crises that Trump had made of daily life in the US. This outrageous occurrence was somehow numbing; we could only look on. Democracy is a structure and a collection of acts of civic engagement, whereas its degradation renders citizens into a passive audience. Thus we must be wary when reading and speaking succumb to watching.
Four years earlier, the race between Trump and Clinton was a turning point. Trump’s popularity was a consequence of the American populace becoming increasingly disinvested from democratic principles. Though his win seemed unlikely, it was common to hear people felt they were voting for the lesser of two evils. Obama’s call for hope and change had ushered in an end of ideals. Up until Election Day, the semblant of American politics had not quite fallen. Each citizen, whether they voted or not, was responsible for what would come next. Trump won and promptly denied that Hilary won the popular vote. Then when he lost to Biden, he used every tactic to overturn the result, confirming that his aim was to maintain presidential power at any cost.
Today I want to know what those of you faced with this vote for the presidential election in France are experiencing. Despite my transference to France from spending time there and having chosen the Lacanian orientation for my practice as an analyst, I am distant from the situation. Nevertheless, I sense the familiar malaise about the choice in this election.
The numbers strike me: in many recent elections there is almost an even split in the popular vote. Races are won by the thinnest of margins. As citizens, we perceive two options: either/or. Sometimes this becomes a matter of in or out, to vote or not. But not voting only gives the far-right a way in. In the US we’ve seen the far-right’s indiscriminate abuse of power has devastating consequences, including jeopardizing the right to vote.
The platform of far-right extremist campaigns is rejection of the other’s jouissance. Le Pen represents an undertow of hatred, turning society against itself. This is the premise of their ideology. It is also what analysts of the Lacanian orientation can and must speak to.
What is the nature of this crisis? It is one that threatens dialogue, debate, and democracy. We must also not idealize psychoanalysis for the fact that it provides a place to speak because that place is not guaranteed. We must defend, without hesitation, the practice of risking engagement with each other.
I was compelled when I read in the invitation for this event that the “audience will be as wide as possible, to unify against the far-right.” One distinctive trait of the Lacanian orientation is that even if one speaks alone, discourse is not self-contained. From the outset, Lacan was transdisciplinary. His style demonstrated the vitality at stake in the very extimacy of speech itself. Each of us must make the effort to perforate our speech via an encounter with what is other to it. This is where psychoanalysis and democracy converge, and why psychoanalysis depends on democracy.
The necessity at stake for psychoanalysts, né speaking beings, is to gather by whatever means possible, to enact the ethic of speaking with one another. In this the aims of democracy and psychoanalysis are united.