Presentation of the VIIIth Congress of the WAP
The symbolic order in the 21st Century. It is no longer what it was. What consequences for the treatment?
by Flory Kruger
The fragility of the symbolic order in our century has its symptoms but also its consequences.
Our VIIIth Congress of the WAP will be dedicated to questioning, in the course of the week from the 23rd to the 27th April 2012, these symptoms and in particular the consequences for analytic treatment.
We have a compass for this in what J. Lacan formulates in the Seminar ‘Or worse...’, when he affirms that: ‘There is no Other, there is One’. This orients us towards the avatars of the consistency of the symbolic Other that civilisation proposes to us.
It is evident that this questioning is not the monopoly of psychoanalysis nor of psychoanalysts, but without doubt our orientation will have to demonstrate its particularities.
To question the symbolic order we take account of the Nietzchean formulation ‘God is dead’. For Nietzche Western thinking constitutes the fundamental response to this affirmation.
Following Heiddeger, the nietzchean formule “God is dead” is in the base of the occidental way of thinking and it´s symbolic order. Psychoanalysis elucidates this phrase, demonstrating how the death of the father, something relevant in the degree to which it promotes paternal authority under the form of the law, serves simply to protect him. According to Lacan one saves the father by killing him. Let’s remember that it is on the basis of the myth of Totem and Taboo that the existence of the father is confirmed and civilisation is organised around the Oedipus Complex. This mode of thinking confronts us with a consistent Other. An Other that currently is disappearing irremediably. It will therefore be necessary to question what is the place, or rather, what is the function, if there remains any, of the Oedipus Complex in the analytic practice of the 21st Century.
Starting from the pulverisation of this consistency, and without any kind of nostalgia for it, Lacan proposes the pluralisation of the names of the father, which confronts us not only with the inexistence of the Other but also with the affirmation that the Other is just a semblant.
The discourse of science fixed the sense of the real in such a way that this real was in a position to protect subjects from the semblants. This is what made the creation of psychoanalysis possible for Freud, oriented by a scientific ideal. Today there is instead a malaise in respect of the real, given that the immersion of the contemporary subject in the semblants problematises the real.
The inexistence of the Other produces the crisis of identifications and sends the subject on a quest for surplus jouissance, the promotion of which takes sense from the debilitation of the ideal.
If ‘the delirium of our jouissance’ is localised less and less by the identifications supplied by the Other and more and more by surplus jouissance, how does this affect the analytic discourse whose objective aims at the fall of identifications?
Since the final decades of the 20th Century the world has been converted into an immense global village in connection with the scientific-technological revolution. Societies in general and economies and markets in particular have become more interdependent, more globalised. This revolution, in contrast to the previous ones, is characterised by the convergence and simultaneity of numerous phenomena with powerful impact worldwide.
We are witnessing the emergence of a form of social organisation structured around knowledge and the processing of information, which introduces a different dimension into the experience of living beings: the virtual. This traverses the order of production as much as that of social reproduction, conditioning the modes of social relation with the real.
According to various authors, the changes underway represent in the development of humanity a new revolution, the third in modernity, whose emblematic trait is the transformation of knowledge, as much in its economic and social value as in the fundamental source of productivity and of power in the societies of the 21st Century.
In the first revolution it was the steam engine which was materialized in the railway. In the second, new sources of energy and the internal combustion engine gave rise to the serial production of the assembly line, with the automobile as its emblematic object. In the third revolution, perhaps no longer industrial, centred on the processing of information and the production of knowledges, it is the computer that stands as the machine of the new form of society.
The symbolic order lost its consistency with the democratisation of information. The internet constitutes the example of this. The internet represents a fundamental innovation that modifies society, its products, their distribution, and even more important, modifies its mentality and spirit.
Previously, when we did not have an abundance of information, the mark, the symbol, transmitted certain characteristics that there was no way of checking. Now with the diffusion of information each person can decide for themselves without the need to take support from the Other of knowledge.
A new question then arises: How does this veritable mutation of knowledge affect the relation with the Subject Supposed to Know?
The same thing is happening today with opinion. Before when news was published in the New York Times, for example, it was synonymous with reliability, almost ‘the truth’. Now quality is judged on its proper merit and the New York Times is going bankrupt.
We cannot ignore the role of social networks in the political changes we are living through at the moment – the election of Obama as President of the United States, the democratic movement in Iran, the change of regime in Egypt, the preoccupation of totalitarian governments, particularly in China, with the monitoring of these means of communication.
We should not forget that the theme of the fragilisation of the symbolic order has a generational aspect which in its turn depends on the degree of adoption of technology. The internet puts all those who use it seriously in a position to ‘know more rapidly’ about many things through search engines and recommendations. All this means that currently symbolic marks are in crisis across the world, a theme that was originally taken up by the physicist Chris Anderson, editor of the technological journal Wired, icon of innovation in information technology.
Therefore, some of the questions that, without doubt, we should answer in our next Congress are: What is it that today occupies the place of the Other that does not exist? What are the consequences of the debilitation of the symbolic order for the direction of the treatment? What lies beyond the fall of the ideals? How to place psychoanalysis at the level of the progress of the sciences? How is a psychoanalyst formed today in a way that can respond to the aforementioned traits? What status to give to the virtual presence of the analyst? The quest for immediate satisfaction pushes towards a clinic of the passage to the act. How does the analyst respond?
As we can see, the fragilisation of the symbolic order in the 21st Century obliges us to rethink the analytic act, the direction of the treatment, interpretation, entries into analysis, transference, the ends of analysis, the position of the analyst – fundamental concepts that will need to be interrogated in the course of our next Congress.
In the face of the advance of knowledge exposed by all the virtual pathways that attempt to demonstrate in real time that the structure of truth does not pertain to fiction, we call on our fellow psychoanalysts to abandon their standards of thinking because it is obvious that the responses that we can give today cannot be those that are in the archive of the already said, but in the invention of the new, the different.
Creation ex nihilo or invention are not for us empty formulas of Lacan, but a methodical instrument that does not call on inspiration but on the logic that, starting in this case from inexistence, allows us to confront the new symptoms of civilisation that do not rely on the Other but are rather its victims.
Translated from the Spanish by Roger Litten
- Miller J. A.: El Otro que no existe y sus comités de ética. Paidós, Bs. As. Barcelona México, 2005.
- Lacan, J.: Psicoanálisis Radiofonía &Televisión. Pág. 119/20. Editorial Anagrama. Barcelona, 1977.
- Gutierrez Marín, M.: Alfabetización digital: algo más que ratones y teclas. Gedisa, Barcelona, 2003.
- Quoted in: Peres Useche, M.: Gobierno Digital: tendencias y desafíos. Universidad Externado de Colombia. Bogotá, 2003.