A crisis rarely has had so many different aspects, and covers so many different domains on such a large scale as the corona crisis that keeps us all in our own places if it does not force us to stand in the line of fire. We are at war, we didn’t need Emmanuel Macron to realize it, but he made it official. A feeling was symbolically confirmed. The effects of this new war range from absolute horror to the emergence of previously unknown inventions and desires in all areas of our lives. Marie-Hélène Brousse also states the latter in her beautiful text Finding the vital power of desire1 in the very impasse of a situation.[1]

The intangibility, the unimaginability and unpredictability of this war compels us to conclude that The Corona crisis does not exist, just as Lacan stated that The woman (La femme) does not exist, there is no signifier for it in the symbolic. There can therefore only be crises, every speakbeing has his own crisis.

Even if this crisis is elusive and inexpressible, or for that very reason indeed, there is a lot to be said about it, at the risk of not illuminating a downside of the same thing. Let me focus on the social aspect of it. Here too, we see a very paradoxical or contradictory situation emerging that swings between havoc and invention, with nothing but our own desire as our compass.

This crisis is not unrelated to what we call globalization today, which brought with it an extremely high degree of mobility across the planet. The times of chacun chez soi, each in his own house lay behind us since already a while now. Lacan was talking about universalization here, and he had his own view of it, which he shared with few at the time, even if it seems an undeniable fact today. He linked universalisation to science and technology, which would, among other things, evolve mobility with a rotational movement inherent in capitalism. This would – oh paradox! – lead to an ever-increasing segregation of enjoying bodies. Unification leads to fragmentation. Bringing the enjoying bodies too close together would lead to more brotherhood, one hoped. By, among other things, removing boundaries in combination with the decline of the symbolic Father that arranged social interaction, the social distance between us has become infinitely small. But this brotherhood would not be the peaceful brotherhood that was dreamed of – it would be a particularly cruel brotherhood, with unseen hard-core segregation at its core, including extreme forms of racism and misogyny. Not only would the distance between people become infinitely short, it would also prove to be infinitely large, Lacan claimed. And so it happened. It brought us to the point of the corona crisis today.

Psychoanalysts, too, would not escape the dance of segregation. In response to all this, Lacan founded a School, which is not a group with all the ensuing group effects, but a collection of loners who to some extent stand alone and are connected only in their absolute solitude. Des épars désassortis,[2] disparate, unconformable loose speakbeings. On the basis of these it is not possible to form a group, but a community in which not love or hate, but cooperation, is central, of course without completely eradicating the love and hate phenomena – spare us from that! This led to the invention of the cartel as a working tool. Lacan spoke of a ‘discreet brotherhood’[3] here.

Isn’t that what today’s social distancing also seems to lead to, among other things? Despite, in addition to, and – yes – in part, also thanks to the ravages that result from the social distancing and will result from it much more in the future? Marie-Hélène Brousse concludes: “In short, it’s about resourcing desire in so far as it implicates loss as its operational mode, but not all-loss, since it brings with it invention and thereby unprecedented knowledge.”[4] This loss seems to be, among other things, a loss of too great a proximity, a proximity that catapults speaking beings infinitely far apart, because they all enjoy in different ways that cannot be reconciled. The proximity of the discreet brotherhood as a specific interpretation of social distancing seems to me more appropriate than ever in these corona times, in which we are clearly connected in loneliness, and perhaps this is also what this crisis invites us to. If we want to hear it.


Originally published in KringNLSNu! – Newsletter of the Kring-NLS on March 27th 2020.

[1] Brousse, M.-H. (2020). Finding in the very impasse of a situation the vital force of desire, https://www.thelacanianreviews.com/finding-in-the-very-impasse-of-a-situation-the-vital-force-of-desire/

[2] Lacan J., Préface à l’édition anglaise du Séminaire xiAutres écritsParis, Seuil, 2001, 573.

[3] Lacan(J., L’agressivité en psychanalyse, Écrits, Paris, Le Seuil, 1966, 124.

[4]  Brousse, M.-H., Op. cit.