…Continued from LRO 298 (26th May 2021)…

This new relationship is due to several factors, the first of which is the evaporation of the Name, following the collapse of the place of the symbolic father, previously the pillar of the family. Of course, the family remains both the first order to situate the subject represented by a signifier for another signifier, and the place of first care provided by a mother figure. But the paternal function has lost its place of exception. I refer here to the formulas of sexuation as Lacan writes them in Seminar xx, Encore. An analysand, already an analyst himself, recently recounted one of his dreams––the formula of the universal “For all x phi of X” had taken the place of the exception: “There exists an X such that not phi of X.” This gives us “for all X not phi of X.”

Today the exception has become the universal. Indeed, “all X” is the multiple that occupies the place of the exception, producing an exception generalized to all speaking beings. It is thus against the background of this generalized foreclosure [of the Name of the Father] that fraternity unfolds.

It finds in social networks, which have become the public square of the age, the means that are adequate to it. The “carnival,” as Lacan called it in his interview with a journalist in Rome in 1974,[8] has become a carnival without limitation of place thanks to the power of the virtual, which has modified the category of perceptual space, which until now required the displacement of the body.

How was this trend initiated and deployed in the dominant discourse?

We will approach this question along two axes, that of gender––the signifier of a category whose rise to power has made it an essential part of the discourse of the day––and that of the body. The first refers to both imaginary and symbolic identifications. The second refers to the real.

The Extension of the Domain of Genders

It is worth going back to the period from the 1960s to the 1990s. Already demonstrating her characteristic sensitivity to the ambient discourse, Judith Butler published her major work, Gender Troubles: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, in 1990.

The movement had in fact begun in the 1970s at the Centre Universitaire de Vincennes, where Hélène Cixious had created the first women’s studies department in a European university in connection with American and Canadian women’s studies. In 1975 she published her essay “Le rire de la Méduse,” an important contribution to feminism. Women’s studies was an offshoot of cultural studies in the USA. Luce Irygaray, whose work began with the assertion that there is a language of men and a language of women, thus applying gender to language, published her book Speculum of the Other Woman in 1974. We know how Lacan welcomed these various attempts to gender language through academic discourse: they implied an Other of the Other … which there is not. In those same years, UNESCO decided to replace the word sex with gender. The influence of American culture can be seen in this, as this feminist advance through gender was put at the service of its characteristic puritanism.

Once gender was put in the spotlight in various ways by academic feminism, the concept became increasingly popular. It became embedded in language through inclusive writing, for example. But by cutting the links with sex, it could also give rise to a categorical amplification. This was the multiplication of genders: LGTBQIA… More recently, from the 2000s onwards, Queer theory also differentiates between biological sexual type and gender and criticizes what it calls the dictatorship of heteronormativity over gender.

Whereas in traditional discourse the identifications they made were complementary, genders became antagonistic, following on from their ordering by the imaginary.

At the level of symbolic identifications, from the moment when the familial order placed the father and the mother on an equal footing, each one becoming a “parent,” gender was able to open up to the multiple.

Finally, the word “cisgender” is to be placed in this perspective. It appeared on the internet in the 1990s and is used to refer to people who are not transgender. A cis man is a male person who considers himself to be male and a cis woman is a female person who considers herself to be female. It is therefore from the rise of transgender claims that the gender is named here: cisgender. Some authors have begun to use the term “cisnormativity” in reference to heteronormativity, a term promoted by gender studies. Alexandre Baril, a professor at the University of Ottawa, writes: “Cisgenderism, sometimes called transphobia, is a system of oppression that affects trans people. It manifests itself on the legal, political, economic, social, medical and normative levels.” By the way, he prefers the term disability to phobia, which is probably too ‘psy.’ The extension of the domain of gender now knows no limits. It transforms genders into fraternally separated races. Racism in the time of the brothers responds to the postulate of multiples without the One.

Back to the Unconscious, Real

As a teacher at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault promoted the term “bio-power” in his Lectures on the Will to Know. The word is seductive, and Foucault’s approach seduced the world of Anglo-Saxon universities. This power of seduction can be explained by Foucault’s fascination with discourses of domination.

In contrast, at Vincennes, in the department of psychoanalysis that had just opened there, Lacan stated:

There are four discourses. Each one thinks it is the truth. The only exception is the analytic discourse. We would be better off if it did dominate, people will conclude, but in point of fact this discourse excludes domination; in other words, it teaches nothing. There is nothing universal about it, which is precisely why it cannot be taught.

How does one go about teaching what cannot be taught? This is something Freud ventured into. He thought that all is but a dream, and that everyone (if one can say such a thing), that everyone is mad, that is, delusional… Might the antipathy between the university and analytic discourses be overcome at Vincennes? Certainly not. It is being put to work there; at least it has been for the four years I have been observing.”[9]

The Lacanian orientation has emerged from this “putting to work.”

If the analytic discourse can reach the real, it is thus not by bio and even less by willpower that it achieves it. It does not ignore biology. It cuts it in two, bio-logic; understand by that the recourse to logic, mathematics, physics––all disciplines that have bitten into the real. Thus, in The Triumph of Religion, Lacan states: “The real, as long as science does its part, will expand… Science is something new, and it will introduce a lot of upsetting things into everyone’s life.”[10] It is obvious that the trans orientation would not have developed as it has without the progress of the medical sciences and their interventions on the organism.

But this does not affect the analytical discourse. A trans is a parlêtre, meaning that he cannot do without the unconscious and that consequently we do not see why he would not choose, driven by his fantasy, to do analytical work. For there is a body libidinalized by words and speech in the Other. It does not therefore constitute a specific race, a type, of speaking being. In the same way, the community that claims identity through the word “woke,” seeking to differentiate itself from other communities, will only ever achieve an auto-segregation of brothers.

Let us return to Jacques-Alain Miller’s lecture with a quote from the epigraph to this text: “Races are effects of discourse, it is the use of jouissance in the order of a discourse that makes the differences.” In the analytical clinic, race, defined as the emergence of jouissance, is an effect of discourse, and therefore of domination. This is caught in a cure by different parameters, that of the family as the inaugural place of the subject and that of trauma, the random encounter of the body with discourse having imaginary and symbolic effects.

And what about the real? Let’s return the woke to its sender! Let’s wake up! For as Jacques-Alain Miller demonstrates, the unconscious is real. It is no longer the unconscious of the Father. The real unconscious accommodates the rise of the brothers. Its real is material since it is motérialité. But it does not obey the deployment of the multiple without the one, it equivocates, it poeticizes. It is rooted in the Yad’lun of an inaugural experience of jouissance, always singular and random.

Translated by Janet Haney

[8] Lacan, J., “Freud Forever: An Interview with Panorama”, trans. P. Dravers, Hurly-Burly 12, 2015, p. 20.

[9] Lacan, J., “There are Four Discourses”, Culture/Clinic 1, trans. A.R. Price, London/Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, 2013, p. 3.

[10] Lacan, J., The Triumph of Religion, trans. B. Fink, Cambridge, Polity, 2013, p. 95.