AIDS was probably the first postmodern event to inaugurate the definitive consolidation of biopolitics and the appropriation of the concept of risk by the State with the aim of introducing a regulation, an ordering, and even a prophylaxis of subjectivity. Threatened by a pandemic of proportions unprecedented since the era of the great European plagues, and following a first period of perplexity and dread, the Western subject learned to add a new concern to the shadows that hovered over him from the political realm.

When, twenty years later, the Al Qaeda operation against the Twin Towers was broadcast live by all audiovisual media on the planet, the subject (who in the meantime had mutated, his Western identity dissolving into the undefined and euphemistic magma of “global society”) came to realize that from then on risk (his eternal and not always visible traveling companion) had become converted into the only dogma of faith to which he could cling.

In losing in an almost definitive manner its political function, the State has become administrator, manager and supervisor of the fabulous risk industry, driven by the alliance between techno-science and capital, a compact that consists in turning fear into an object of consumption, into a justification for obedience and into a good argument for organizing new crusades of salvation.

At this point, one cannot help perceiving the inversion of the sublimatory process that, according to Jacques Lacan, constituted one of the most extraordinary creations of culture: the fear of God, capable of “replacing innumerable fears by the fear of a unique being […] It was necessary that someone invent it and propose to men, as a remedy for a world made up of manifold terrors […]”[1].

The “risk society“, in contrast, returns the contemporary subject to the most primitive feeling of helplessness in the face of a multiplication of dangers and fears that in turn are carefully promoted and disseminated, to the point that the demand for security has become an imperious claim and a new market value. Risk will have to be measured, predicted, assessed, even mathematicized in commercial figures, in order to finally become the fundamental rationale of economic, military, policing, sanitary and judicial strategies.

The subject must train himself in the recognition and acceptance that his life is definitively besieged by innumerable real dangers from which he must be protected by policies that – unfortunately, but for his own good… – will require a progressive loss of rights and freedoms. Beyond what is supposed by this treatment of castration in terms of the perverse instrumentalization of the political function, it implies a radical distance from the ethics of psychoanalysis.

If for Lacan desire is what justifies the effort to live “when life does not turn someone into a coward”[2], existence conceived as the minimization, prevention and management of risk entails the enthronement of solitude and isolation as ways of access to a jouissance which one tries to purge of all connotation of loss. In the end, war by remote-control and love via WhatsApp are based on a common logic: to eradicate presence.


Translated by Florencia F.C. Shanahan


[1] Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 3, “The Psychoses”, W. W. Norton & Company, London:New York, 1997, p. 267.

[2] Lacan, Jacques, Ecrits, The First Complete Edition in English, Norton & Co,, London:New York, 2005, p. 660.