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CulturePrintCritical dictionary

Psychoanalysis and Culture

José Miguel Marinas

Psychoanalytical experience, considered uneven discourse by Lacan in his work The Seminar, On Transference, manifests itself within a context of crisis (Schorske, Riedl) - that is, as one of the possible responses to the crisis at the end of the 19th Century. A crisis than can be generically defined as a crisis of the splitting of the liberal subject. Unevenness, the non-even feature proposed by psychoanalysis, consists, as is known, of the supposition of another scenario: informed by conscious dimensions which are also voluntary, instrumentally designed and which nurture a universalist position as an ethical criterion, there are forms of our making which appear to be regulated by strange forms and an uncommon logic which leads us, both personally and collectively, to its opposite.

Keywords: culture; repetition; religion; current/contemporary



Psychoanalytical experience, considered uneven discourse by Lacan in his work The Seminar, On Transference, manifests itself within a context of crisis (Schorske, Riedl[1]) - that is, as one of the possible responses to the crisis at the end of the 19th Century. A crisis than can be generically defined as a crisis of the splitting of the liberal subject. Unevenness, the non-even feature proposed by psychoanalysis, consists, as is known, of the supposition of another scenario: informed by conscious dimensions which are also voluntary, instrumentally designed and which nurture a universalist position as an ethical criterion, there are forms of our making which appear to be regulated by strange forms and an uncommon logic which leads us, both personally and collectively, to its opposite. Such are the scenarios of the unconscious which, far from constituting a delirious chimera, make up those same experiences which are the subject of culture which, due to maladjustment with ability, become immoderate (traumatic) and are sent to another place (which is designated repression) - that is, the unconscious. From that place which cannot be concretely located, from that non-controlled memory, distorted signals continue to be sent to us, in the form of repetitions: symptoms, lapses, dreams, social formations from the unconscious in culture, narratives, and the meaningful components of art.

 

Experience of analysis consists of freeing a word which may contain representations of that repressed content (representations of representations: Vorstellungsrepräsentanz), and it may be the case that our half full expression may come close to being a full expression, which increasing says what has happened (to us). 

Psychoanalysis occurs indiscernibly interwoven (that is, within a context) with other discourses and representations, although not to be mixed up with these. These derive from conflict with the identities of the former regime and those which then contradicted them. This occurred at the beginnings of industrial capitalism and voiced a tension with the new forms particular to culture and consumption.  Freud’s writings continued to attempt to describe what was not stated and what was at stake in the experience of analysis, and was crossed by the three cultures alluded to (lineage, work, consumption), and inaugurated another level of theorising and observing which is chiefly present in his more mature works, and particular Civilisation and its Discontents, a work dating from the fateful year of 1929, when Freud presented an interpretative reading of discontent relating to the following characteristic of culture: it is produced by us, but experienced as if a foreign body. Freud, as a true thinker on the crisis, establishes a diagnosis. This role is decisive, but Freud does not limit himself to this. Freud speaks as an analyst rather than as a cultural critic. That is, he proposes an examination, a knowledge of desire, of the subject which makes up the unconscious. And shows with this his position as being one of continuity.

 

In Psychology of the masses and analysis of the I (1922), Freudian psychoanalysis uses the diagnostic technique of transformations of contemporary culture as it places its attention on the forms of the unconscious. Unconscious processes are not limited to the scope of the individual, and successive integration of the individual into ever-larger groups can be verified, from the clan to contemporary groupings, and in addition experimenting with the disintegration of belonging forms such as the family, place and class, the redefinition of which is carried out within scenarios of a consumption culture.

 

Culture is discontent

 

The so-called consumption society, which has established social ties strongly mediated by market signifiers, has been imposed in a stressful and contradictory manner, thus bringing in a new form of passing time and, as a result, a way of living out the meaning of life. Informed by the belief which is still ruled through progressive, linear time - the time where history is governed by the law of (technological and, in principle, moral) progress - another time was established, governed by diligence, by an internal rhythm (Simmel), a nervousness (Freud) emanating from the incessant and fleeting renewal which the market promises, and which starts through the daily experience of the elites, then extends in general to the inhabitants of the city. The universal expositions, the large warehouses and the urban transformation of commercial areas had been marking this innovation, which was the process which gave birth to our time as consumers.

 

At the same moment, a new form of living was created, with this being governed not by necessity and calculation, but by the contradictory engine of desire (the desire of possessing, but also the desire for that which perturbs us). This could be designated as the time of the unconscious, postulated by psychoanalytical discovery.

 

Living through three contradictory times, there was no other remedy except to create an echo of a new time, which was that of biography: each subject of the fin de siècle was confronted with the failure of the models which had come down from the Ancien Régime; with the disharmony required of oneself as a modern creator, possessed with a vision of the future, and that which affirmed itself as an instantaneous consumer, once again glimpsing the strangeness of that other time, that other scenario of the unconscious, experimenting, as Simone de Beauvoir stated, the need to relate to oneself, and make coherent a life guided by open, pluralistic models.

 

Such is the thesis of Freud’s work Civilisation and its Discontents (1929) which presents this relationship is a solid and direct manner.

1. Oceanic sentiment survives through being a primary sentiment of the ego, an unlimited narcissism.

2. Religion survives informed by other cultural resources: sublimation is difficult and anesthetization dangerous, because it is impossible to completely satisfy desire.

3. Human beings are not happy since they manifest as Gods possessing prostheses (which are cultural institutions) which lead them to believe they are omnipotent. These, however, turn against desire and counter it through engendering the feeling of being threatened by it.

4. Culture creates (with Eros) community, but in its turn restricts sexual life.

5. Psychoanalysis shows us a schism: we find satisfaction in the simulacrum (the symptom) and we exchange happiness for safety.

6. Psychoanalysis shows us through experiences with compulsion and repetition that there is an aggression instinct - Thanatos - which opposes itself to the agglutinative Eros. And this is the price to pay, against myself and against the object, the other.

7. Psychoanalysis shows us that we defend this aggressivity by interiorising it, constructing the superego from the experience of guilt.

8. Psychoanalysis allows us, above all, to show that this guilt, more than being mere remorse, is unconscious, constituting discontent. Ethics arises as a therapy: we have to know and accept this necessary order. Recognition of Eros, of desire, can thus help us.

 

Culture dominates the dangerous aggressive inclination of the individual, debilitating it, disarming it and having it watched over by an instantiation housed within its interior as a military garrison in a city under siege. (65)

 

Psychoanalysis and culture in the Post-Lacan period

 

Contemporary culture is affected by a generalised crisis. The crisis within social bonding is characterised by the depletion of the political. This is the major line of thought which Lacan took up in his Envers de la Psychanalyse, inverting the politics which had constituted the basis of his four discourses, for which Lacan proposed the recording of formulas, the mathemes. The simulacrum which establishes meaning.

From there new binding figures of meaning have been carried out (Groddek, Ferenzci, Deleuze). The interest which arises from observing that which supposes the unconscious (which supposes the subject of desire) and that which arises from the political reflection to take into account the symptoms such as anomie, violence, disentailment, immunity. To repossess a clinic of the real or to announce that we have found ourselves “in the desert of the real” may imply the risk of - taking seriously what in innovative in these explorations - reifying that which is nothing but an impossible oppositional point, but which is always relative to the imaginary and the symbolic.

 

This reflection on the psychic of the polis, is interesting above all for (a) the real as event, (b) the real as inexpressible, (c) the real as impossible, (d) the real as that which surprises the system, any system, (e) the real as that which is relative to jouissance, (f) the real as that which constructs the interior of chaos, the untreatable, fecund, vertiginous and that which hangs in the air… and (g) as Lacan stated in the session on 19 February 1974, in the 21st Seminar Les non-dupes errent: the Real as something that is discovered with the Borromean knot.

We all know why it is that all of us invent something to furnish the lack of the Real... Because of this I say that the Real is discovered, and not where there is a lack, but it is not unthinkable that it may not be through this lack, that we advance in terms of everything that we discover about the Real which is something because it is clear that there is a place in which that which activates the Real causes it to enter as three, as this bastard thing, because it is certainly the case that it is difficult to logically manipulate this connotation of the Real as three.

 

To sum up, those dimensions of discourse which theorise the peculiar and odd experience of analysis and thus throw some light on the what-is-not-said of the machinations of the web within the city are important.


Bibliography


Roberto Esposito, Communitas (2002), Ed. Amorrortu.

Roberto Esposito, Inmunitas (2004), Ed. Amorrortu.

I. Gárate y JM Marinas, Lacan en español - Breviario de lectura, Biblioteca Nueva, 2003.

J.M. Marinas, La fábula del bazar, Orígenes de la cultura del consumo, Ed. A. Machado, 2001.

J.M. Marinas, La ciudad y la esfinge - Contexto ético del psicoanálisis, Ed. Síntesis, 2005.

J.M. Marinas, El síntoma comunitario, entre polis y mercado, Ed. Antonio Machado, 2006.

J.M. Marinas (ed.), Lo político y el psicoanálisis – El reverso del vínculo, Biblioteca Nueva, 2008.

Marcel Mauss, “Ensayo sobre los dones”, en Sociología y Antropología, Ed.Tecnos, 1980. (Marcel Mauss; “Essay on the Gift”, “Essai sur le don. Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques”; L’Année sociologique, 1925; new series, 1, pp. 30-186. in Sociologie et anhropologie, pp. 143-279; Tecnos; 1979; pp. 153-263.)

 


[1] J. M. Marinas, La fábula del bazar, Orígenes de la cultura del consumo, Antonio Machado, Madris, 2001; La ciudad y la esfinge – Contexto ético del psicoanálisis, Síntesis, Madrid, 2004 and, more recently: El sintoma comunitario, entre polis y mercado, Antonio Machado, 2006. The original French work is Le séminaire, Livre VIII: Le transfert (dans sa disparité subjective), Paris: Seuil, 1991 (Translator’s Note).

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