My current fantasy is to name ourselves “The Toronto Institute for Political Psychoanalysis”

May 14, 2009









What psychoanalysis enables us to conceptualize is nothing other than this, which is in line with what Marxism has opened up, namely that discourse is bound up with the interests of the subject. This is what, from time to time, Marx calls the economy, because these interests are, in capitalist society, entirely commercial. It’s just that since the market is linked to the master signifier, nothing is resolved by denouncing it in this way. For the market is no less linked to this signifier after the socialist revolution.– Jacques Lacan, Seminar XVII

At one point in his seminar on “The Other Side of Psychoanalysis,” Lacan complains that no economist – not even Marx — ever really bothered to ask, “What is wealth?” since its only definition appears to be that “wealth is an attribute of ‘the wealthy’.” He argues that psychoanalysis is tied to politics through the field of economics: both deal with jouissance (enjoyment: a satisfying of a desire, a fantasy fulfillment in attaining the object of a drive).

In talking of the other side of psychoanalysis, the question arises of the place of psychoanalysis in politics. The intrusion into politics can only be made by recognizing that the only discourse there is, and not just analytic discourse, is the discourse of jouissance, at least when one is hoping for the work of truth from it.[1]

Given that ‘the economy’ is today’s topique du jour and that ours is a time of global financial turmoil, can we ask this question anew?

What has wealth come to mean for us today?

Freud used the term ‘wealth’ in a very technical way, as a psychical relation to communal ‘wealth’ (the material and cultural assets created by the collective sacrifice of drive satisfaction to the benefit of human society). [Civilization and its Discontents and The Future of an Illusion]. It is a psychical relation that remains hostage to each individual’s unconscious hostility to this required sacrifice, and by extension to society and culture as such.

As we watch American conservatives repeat their call for a new Reagan Revolution to weaken the last ideals of communal or shared wealth (see recent news of ‘tea baggers’ and threats of secession over taxes) we hope in this Symposium to undertake an examination of why wealth and economics inspires such ardent (and often unconscious) passions.

Equally open to psychoanalytic examination are the massive gambles and thefts that the idea of wealth has apparently inspired (Madoff, Stanford, et al.). Housing and food turned into commodified ‘signs of wealth’ have created a host of unintended, deleterious consequences. The question of how psychoanalysis works under this discourse may also be addressed here.

In Seminar XVII, Lacan claimed that a ‘discourse of the university’ {Hegel and since; Lacan assimilates it with capitalism] dictates the coordinates of our era. It is a discourse that places S2, or total accumulated knowledge — a ‘treasury of signifiers’ — in the position of discursive dominant. The a, the surplus jouissance that was the excess produced by work of the slave in the prior discourse, now sits on the same level as the vast accumulation of knowledge as if there for the taking by one and all. Or so it seems — for one cannot ignore what is below the bar: the split Subject and its signifying Truth hidden beneath this new regime.

The top line of university discourses algorithm reads: S2 a. It seems like a displaced, expanded version of the formula of the fantasy [S <> a] where the a once sat beneath the bar in the prior discourse of the Master. The effect is that the productive energy and psychical power of fantasy appears to have been evacuated from social discourse. At the same time, however, the now-visible a lends its aura of fulfilled fantasy to the S2.: fake jouissance or what Lacan calls jouissance en toc.

We are looking for papers that address this theme in various socio-cultural arenas, literature, news, media, film and original social research.

All sessions are plenary, and papers should be 40-45 minutes long.

The symposium will be held August 29-30, 2009 in 370 Dwinelle Hall on the campus of UC Berkeley.

Paper proposals should be sent to me by June 30, 2009.


9 Responses to “My current fantasy is to name ourselves “The Toronto Institute for Political Psychoanalysis””

  1. battleofthegiants said


    So it looks like my flakiness either transformed into no meeting this week, or you all met without me (which is the outcome I hope is the actual one). My appologies.

    I’m wondering if the above is of interest for people: it would 1) be a great chance to meet some people who share similar interests 2) go to the states (perhaps less great..) 3) work up some new ideas.

    If anyone’s interested, I propose that the we put off reading Sem III for yet another week (I do have a copy of it now, though) and read 3 papers from the secondary source on The Other Side that Zizek edited: Zizek’s “objet a in social links”; Dolar’s “Hegel as the other side of psychoanalysis” (which I think will challenge my assertion that Zizek has left the monarch behind) and Zupancic’s “From surplus-value to surplus-enjoyment.”

    I’m going to make copies of these for people today; regardless of being interested in a panel, you’ll probably still find these papers of interest.

    There’s another paper in there on Lacan’s relation to Marx, but I’m less excited about it after having started it.

    As for “The Toronto Institute for Political Psychoanalysis”, I’m kinda serious about it. Maybe we could start it as a second group, one outside the reading group. I know people that are into stuff other than Lacan/Zizek that I could convince to join…



  2. veiledphallus said

    As I told you in person, I am definitely interested in this conference. We should discuss it further. In terms of future readings, I wouldn’t mind pushing ‘Psychoses’ further into the future, as I am getting a tad bored with the topic. I am going to order the book you are referring to, along with the adjoining seminar. If anyone is up for it, maybe we can cover these two over ‘Psychoses’. I am also interested in the institute idea as well.

  3. veiledphallus said

    Also, I am a quarter-way through ‘The Four Fundamental Concepts’. I recall you wanting me to keep an eye out for something. Can you please remind me of what that was so that I can report back? Coolio

  4. battleofthegiants said

    It was Lacan talking about some dude who had listed 12 different forms of the unconscious, none of which corresponded to Freud’s version of it. I’d be interested in tracking it down so as to clarify what Lacan thinks Freud’s version is by looking at what he thinks it is not…


  5. veiledphallus said

    It’s actually located in the beginning of the book because I recall reading it. I will provide a precise page number soon.

  6. seeing1 said

    what are the times for this conference?

  7. battleofthegiants said

    Apparently things start at 10am on Saturday August 29 in Room 370 Dwinelle Hall.

    There are no times set for the 30th.

    Will you be in attendance?

  8. battleofthegiants said

    See the newest post on the blog… (at least, I think it has all the info…)


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