Cruelty, Its Origins, Its Fates
Prior to any theory or practice, and even prior to engaging in therapeutic work, no field of knowledge other than psychoanalysis is willing not to abandon the question of psychic cruelty to religion or metaphysics. A primal cruelty, phylogenetic and therefore anthropological in nature, nurtured by primal fantasies—of seduction, of the primal scene, of castration—can only be defined as a drive to power: a drive that draws on erotic as well as destructive impulses. It is in desisting from this power that analysis is practiced
If I had to choose a word of the French language to designate what I came to know in my life as the most common and widespread expression of a fundamental evil, and what, at the same time, can legitimately be dissociated from all discourses attempting to confiscate this evil and place it in the service of a cause, this word would be “cruelty.” Assuming that we know the meaning of this word linked with suffering: making or letting someone suffer cruelly, actively, passively or intentionally, making or letting oneself suffer cruelly, one and the other, one-another. Where does cruelty start? In forgetting the other or in forgetting oneself? In the failing toward one made necessary by the attention given to the other? Where does cruelty end? In bringing about the death of the other, in refusing his existence or merely in recognizing his lack of existence? Is giving life not indirectly cruel, since it implies giving a death-to-come? From one paradox to another, there seems to be no way out, since isn’t it also cruel to refuse to give life, as it sometimes is to refuse to give death? And the greatest paradox of all: since I cannot but suffer while speaking of suffering, is it not cruel to let you witness my pain and to ask you to suffer that I speak of it?
Suffer me to say that I speak today of a friend (*) who, after suffering cruelly, has left us “cruelly,” as the saying goes; a friend who brought to my attention, twenty-five years ago, a concept in the work of Freud that was never brought to the forefront, although it points out the singularity of an impulse that cannot be reduced to any other, albeit partaking in all the others thanks to a near-transcendental privilege. Before I employ myself in translating Grausamkeit and Bemächtigung, I will raise the question of whether there is inherent cruelty in the exercise of power or, in other words, whether, when a partial impulse succeeds in subjecting to its rule the entire instinctual system, is it not always in order to exert the violence of its rule over the object, be it internal or external, in its relation to oneself or to the other.
When a psychoanalyst ventures to speak of cruelty, he can be suspected of not having enough distance from a clinical setting, or from an era, or from the historical context of a country, from a culture or a religion; and of taking certain moral stances, widely held or not, without subjecting them to analytical questioning. In his exchanges with Freud on the causes of war and its cruelties, Einstein proposes the creation of an international legislative and judicial authority to arbitrate conflicts, and suggests that States could give up a part of their sovereignty. He adds that it is easy for him to propose this solution, since he is himself “immune from nationalist bias.” I am ready to believe him, but this implies that he had to trust this immunity, an immunity not likely to be lost or affected by an auto-immune process which might destroy it. In his answer, Freud refers, without any particular ethical justification, to a personal moral inclination, in truth, an obscure individual economy: “We are pacifists because, for organic reasons (aus organischen Gründen’), we cannot do otherwise. Is it possible to believe in these “organic reasons”—and what exactly are they?—that Freud invokes? Today, our rejection of war and cruelty is based on “a constitutional intolerance, an idiosyncrasy that can be said to be pushed to its limits. And it seems clear that the esthetic ravages of war play as great a part in our revolt as its cruelties.”(1) We who are pacifists, to use Freud’s term, “by virtue of an idiosyncrasy pushed to its limits,” we are revolted, in revolt against cruelties and esthetic ravages, against these impulses to cruelty that are associated with, but go beyond, the impulse to power Bemächtigungstrieb or the Machtbedürfnis (craving for power) to which Einstein refers in his letter.
The fact that I share this revolt which has only intensified with experience (Erlebnis) and the traces of survival is due less to what Freud discreetly calls an “idiosyncrasy” or a biological inclination than to the witnessing of all sorts of deceptions, denials and alibis that feed the particular rationality of power, as well as to what Freud calls, in the same correspondence, the right to violence in the face of a reign of the law that tends to become a reign of violence. This right to violence, to violent revolt, is not of the same nature; it is not akin to cruelty because, although it implies the exercise of the impulse to power, it is power over oneself, an exercise at the origin of moral conscience but not one with it, and beyond a relation to the other as ownership or ambivalent identification. This violence, not subject to intimidation, is linked, rather, with what Freud calls, in the same argument and not without daring, a “dictatorship of reason” (Diktatur der Vernunft). Thus, a violence of reason. Provided we accept that, since Freud, reason includes the possibility and the duty to be responsible for the unconscious.
The friend of whom I spoke, who never stopped speaking of the cruelty of our times (“The time is out of joint,” as Hamlet says), told the psychoanalysts whom he addressed on the eve of the new century that the discourse of psychoanalysis is the only one—because for him psychoanalysis was synonymous with “without alibi”—that can deal with the intractable nature of cruelty; and that all other discourses—theological, metaphysical, genetic, physicalist, cognitivist, etc.—can only reduce, exclude or deprive this question of sense. He maintained that psychoanalysis is “that without which we can no longer seriously envision something like psychical cruelty, and thus a psychical specificity, and something like the mere self-relation of this cruelty, before any knowledge, before any theory and any practice, and even before any therapeutic. Wherever a question of suffering just to suffer, of doing or letting one do evil for evil, in short, wherever the question of radical evil or of an evil worse than radical evil is no longer abandoned to religion or to metaphysics, no other discourse of knowledge stands ready to take an interest in something like cruelty—except what is called psychoanalysis.” But the consequence is that psychoanalysis would be “from then on associated with evil, and would become in turn more indecipherable than ever […]” (Derrida 2002, p.240).
We cannot overlook the fact that for so many discourses which for several decades have held themselves in check psychoanalysis has become as unbearable as evil, that it has become radical evil or worse, that which they must resist by all means, and which this evil has succeeded in resisting from within.
Nor will I hasten to say that ”I have no inclination to cruelty.” It will be remembered that in the second analytic session with the Rat Man, when the latter was attempting, not without difficulty, to describe the torture recounted by the cruel captain, and was imploring his analyst not to make him describe the details, Freud assured him that he had no inclination to cruelty and certainly no desire to torment him. Which later resulted in the patient calling him ”my captain.” This means that the patient interpreted his analyst’s statement as a denial. But Freud had also assured his patient that he would do everything in his power to guess what the patient was referring to. By doing so, he was introducing, with the verb erraten (to guess), the signifier raten which was central to the torture in question.(2) We often hear analysands who lack a representation say: ”You are letting me suffer cruelly.” Whereas others, such as doctors for example, believe they know the origin of this complaint, to whom it is addressed, who is its subject and who is its object, the analyst a priori leaves indeterminate the places the subject can hold in the fantasy: ”Making or letting someone suffer” leaves in suspense the present relation of this statement with a past reality. Is it not cruel, rather than letting this complaint in quest of a meaning find the meaning of the request it expresses, to hasten to answer believing that one knows what meaning to give it, by imposing a certain meaning that repeats in one way or another that which was once imposed on the subject? Yet this is exactly what countless current techniques advocate, arguing that they gain time and efficiency, if only temporarily and in an illusory manner, by restoring the authority of the Ego, of consciousness and self-awareness, by eliminating the third authority of analytic transference which is reduced to an intersubjective relation.
Almost always attributed to someone, to some other whether close or distant, or to a carnivorous beast or vengeful God, cruelty is always already there, sovereign, like a founding predatory act; ”one kills, tears apart or devours a prey, someone,” the other, me, the others. An act that the world, living beings, endlessly enact, today under the eye of the media; these beings whose primary fantasies of seduction, of primal scene and castration appear as by-products. Thanks to images of cruelty broadcast daily on television, we now understand better than ever, if we did not already, why Freud associated the scopic impulse with cruelty (Schau und Grausamkeitstrieb) as early as 1905 in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and even more explicitly in a 1915 footnote to these Essays, either by considering them relatively independent from erogenous sexual activity,(3) or by considering their sources independent from sexuality but likely to establish an early relation with it.(4) The complement provided by the impulse to cruelty to seeing-and-being-seen is ”indispensable for understanding the nature of suffering expressed in symptoms, and almost always pertains to some aspect of social conduct.”(5) I will come back to this.
The term ”cruelty” plays an essential operational role in Freud’s thinking because on the many occasions when it occurs in a social and political context, the word is always rooted in a logic of drives. This illustrates the fact that a Freudian idea can be at once political and rigorously psychoanalytic. A few months after the start of the First World War, Freud wrote to Frederik Van Eeden that ”the cruelties and injustices perpetrated by the most civilized nations, the different standards by which they judge their own lies and wrongdoings and those of their enemies” show to what extent psychoanalysis is right to infer from these observations that the most primitive human drives will never be eradicated in each of us [he includes himself this time], and that we are always ready to behave deceitfully or stupidly at their slightest reappearance (Freud 1914, p. 301). And the following year, in his Thoughts for the Times [his as well as ours] on War and Death, he points out the lack of morality of States that, despite this, appoint themselves guardians of moral values. This points to the probability that in peacetime the State does not forbid violence to abolish it, but to monopolize it, and that in wartime the State shamelessly violates treaties and conventions that tie it to other States by asking its citizens to support it in the name of patriotism.
What precedes and what follows relates easily to current events such as the American invasion of Iraq: when the community no longer raises objections to the behavior of the State, the subjects perform acts of cruelty [my emphasis] and deceit, of betrayal and brutality so incompatible with their degree of civilization that they would have seemed impossible. (Freud 1915) Thus, there is an indissociable link between violence, cruelty committed by the State and sovereignty, the right of the State or of the sovereign to be cruel, to torture, to kill. It is the same sovereignty, the same law that abolishes the law, that subjects invoke when they perpetrate acts of cruelty in wartime. The recorded images of American officers inflicting torments and humiliations on Iraqi prisoners were first displayed with pride among Americans.
To answer a question Nathalie Zaltzman would surely ask, I confess that I never experienced war. The circumstances of my birth kept me away from the Second World War that raged in Europe during my childhood. Neither did I experience military service, since I was born in a country that had and still has only a professional army. Thus, I did not directly witness the cruelties that many of my contemporaries, often my elders, have seen up close. But the history of my country recounted how the Iroquois, before their almost total genocidal extinction, devoured raw the heart of the missionaries who had resisted hot iron torture, in order to acquire their courage. Since one of my ancestors was a Montagnais, from a less warlike tribe, it seems that I inherited, paradoxically, from the “savage” side, an organically peaceful nature and, from the Old Europe side, the nature of warlike invaders. In other words, my inheritance can be said to be the violence of reason. This was the inheritance that was my lot, as a participant in what Nathalie Zaltzman (1998) designates by the familiar yet obscure term, “human reality,” before I came to know better, through texts and accounts about the concentration camps, those who suffered directly or indirectly, those who in analysis had to relive this experience through its traces. I have also known prisoners cruelly tortured for their political convictions. I have never experienced such treatment personally. But what I have known are the consequences, with their far-reaching effects on generations of psychoanalysts, of betrayals of analysis in historical compromises with genocidal or repressive political systems, and the moral cruelty, always linked with power stakes, inflicted on some analysts by their colleagues, simply because they acknowledged the truth and the reality of the facts. I am referring to Helena Basserman Vianna’s (1997) first-hand account, of which the highest international psychoanalytic authorities enjoined her not to speak to anyone. Because the account of cruelty—in this case physical torture authorized by psychoanalysis—reveals what in general, in the places where it is practised, is intended to intimidate those who are also its targets.
Freud’s patient reacted to the account of the captain ”who evidently liked cruelty” as if this fanaticism was becoming reality in his own body at the moment when he repeated the account to Freud. The actual torture inflicted in the account, on another by another, is taken up by the subject as a reflection. The Rat Man tortures himself and displays his horror before Freud. As will be remembered, Freud interprets this as ”the horror of a voluptuousness of which he is himself unaware” (seiner ihm sebst unbekannten Lust).
What is the relation of cruelty with seeing and being seen? What is there to see or not see, to be seen or not to be seen, to be seen seeing or to see oneself seeing? Freud tells us that in the pleasure of seeing and of being seen, the eye constitutes an erogenous zone. In the impulse to cruelty, it is the skin that has this function. (Freud 1901-5, p.158) How is the skin an erogenous origin in this context? Cruelty linked with seeing, the scopic impulse and the impulse to cruelty (Schau und Grausamkeitstrieb), crosses the barrier of the skin or the envelope it constitutes for the inside of the body, pierces it, cuts it up, looks for the raw, for blood, for shed blood (cruor, crudus, crudelitas), a crime of blood in ties of blood. But cruelty is also curious, fascinated by the interior of the body, human or animal, organs and muscles, like the interest of Leonardo da Vinci for anatomy and dissection. In this case, the scopic impulse and the impulse to cruelty are used in the service of the impulse to epistemophily, a science not unrelated to intellectual mastery and the power it confers over oneself and over the other. In the Theater of Cruelty, defined by Artaud as ”the affirmation of a terrible and, in any case, irrevocable necessity,” pure visibility is not exposed to voyeurism. It is a theater of the dream, of the cruel dream, inasmuch as it gives words the importance they have in dreams, it lets them keep their inevitable cruelty, their lucidity exposed in plain sight. As we can read in the First Letter on Cruelty, “it is consciousness that gives any living action its bloody color, its cruel shade, since we know that life is always the death of someone.” Thus, a murder is always at the origin of cruelty. And above all, parricide.
If there is a primal cruelty, a sovereign cruelty, that of a primal Father who rules over life and death, a cruelty without pleasure or displeasure, and without any consciousness of guilt, this cruelty can only ignore the suffering of others. What we usually mean by ”cruelty,” inflicted suffering, has no meaning for the unique Being, for the sovereign Being whose sovereignty, which is his essential trait, is indivisible and neither gives time nor gives himself time. This cruelty, as pure violence, is self-appointed and exempt of any legitimacy. It establishes its legitimacy in a Bewältigung, in the exercise of violent and absolute power, guaranteeing the permanent possibility of a cruelty unaware of itself as cruelty. Sovereignty implies the exercise of Bemächtigungstrieb, an impulse to power that takes hold of the entire instinctual system and overpowers it.
The impulse to power makes it possible to frame, orient and plan in the greatest detail the action of a Destrucktionstrieb that carries off what is most essential to the Bemächtigungstrieb: that the other as other, similar in every way or different in every way, can only find existence in non-existence; that the exercise of this drive in its pure state, although not stemming from a sexual origin, can orient all search for origins, all search for original purity; that the cruelty it perpetuates, although not experienced as such, is free of guilt since it places itself outside any relation of identification with its appropriative goals, and that this impulse to power subjects the Ego itself, the pleasure principle and the reality principle to its designs, sometimes leading to self-sacrifice when the death impulse it contains overwhelms it. This absence of guilt was evident every time a Nazi criminal was judged. A good example is the case of Stangl, Kommandant of Sobibor and of Treblinka, judged in DDüsseldorf for the death of hundreds of thousands of people. After he was condemned to a life sentence, it was in his exchanges with Gitta Sereny that his first identification with the other as altogether other took place, since he recognized his conversations with her as his only wrongdoing, and died immediately thereafter. The impulse to destruction, in all its radicality, turned against him. Having become the other, he could no longer exist except in nonexistence, ”in the only place,” says Nathalie Zaltzman (2002), ”that human reality (in other words, cruelty) could assign him: death.”
Since this Bemächtigungstrieb has proven to be a sovereign impulse that insures its sovereignty by determining the functioning of the other impulses, by establishing a relation to itself as relation to the other, and a relation to the other as a relation to itself, it is the only drive allowing us to define primal cruelty. This being so, the power principle becomes more universal than the pleasure principle. It goes beyond it. Beyond the pleasure principle—power. And although everything Freud describes in terms of repetition compulsion and death drive has all the distinctive characteristics of this impulse, the impulse to impulses, the drives themselves, the impulse to auto-affection; although this impulse to power makes it possible to define a death drive, it nevertheless remains distinct from it. The death drive goes beyond power, attacks it, undermines it and destroys it from within. The exercise of absolute power inevitably comes up against its auto-immunity, is infected by its auto-affection. It is this setback, this accident or failure that create the object as such for the subject. The changes they produce in the subject bring about consciousness of the other—the other in the other, the other in oneself, the other outside oneself—and, through this becoming other, emerges the sense of guilt.
Cruelty as such is essentially different from aggression and sadism, which presuppose recognition of the other as other, and of his suffering as a condition of his existence—a redirecting to the object of auto-affection of power—, although in the oral phase of libidinal organization, Liebesbemächtigung, amorous possession, coincides with the destruction of the object, its appropriation, its incorporation. In the same way, in the genital phase, the sadistic component that tends to govern the sexual object can become unleashed to the point of undertaking its destruction. In everyone, the moral conscience of the Ego can also become unspeakable cruelty (Freud 1924, p. 167) if the impulse to cruelty, power and sovereignty turns back against the Ego.
In Why War?, Freud speaks of the ”countless cruelties of history and of daily life,” of ”the cruelties of the Inquisition;” and in Moses and Monotheism, he says: ”We live in very remarkable times. We find with astonishment that progress has concluded an alliance with barbarism.” Of course, there is reference to Soviet Russia, where people are ”subjected to the cruelest coercion”, the absence of freedom of thought; as well as to Germany, where ”a relapse into almost prehistoric barbarism can occur without being attached to any progressive ideas.” (Freud 1939, Vintage Books, p. 66-67; S.E., 23, p. 54) It cannot be said that since then the most cruel forms of repression or of massacre have ceased to exist in the world. They constitute a long list of which these names are but a few: Algeria, Cambodia, China, the Czeczen Republic, Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Darfur. To say nothing of the fact that never in history have so many men and women been enslaved, starved, left alone with their diseases, while the immense amounts of money spent on war would suffice to feed them and treat their ailments. Seemingly remote from this cruel reality, but following upon the technological and scientific developments of the 1930s, the biopolitics predicted by Michel Foucault are presently infiltrating the social tissue of our so-called democratic countries, in the name of security, salvation, health and physical integrity, in a messianic frenzy of redemption, restored soundness and restitution, whose potential for a cruel ”epidemic of incompetence”(6) is already apparent.
As for the psychic integrity this policy hopes to bring about, that of a state of mind free of worry and anxiety, biochemically controlled or subjected to the most manipulative forms of psychotherapy, it is an integrity perfectly suited to an economy of control and cruel elimination of all forms of rebellious, critical or revolted subjectivity.
If time allowed, we could use lycologic discourse (politics as discourse on the wolf, lukos)—which since Plautus’ comedy Asinaria, and since his homo homini lupus underlies Plato’s, Montaigne’s and particularly Hobbes’ political thinking—to update the fantasmatic realm in scenes of devouring cruelty such as those already found in Totem and Taboo, where they are unleashed, suppressed, repressed and turned into symptoms. In Leviathan, Hobbes maintains that it is art that creates, with a kind of monstrous but natural animal strength, this artificial man called Commonwealth or State, of greater stature than natural man, for whose protection and defence it was intended: ”For the State, sovereignty is an artificial soul that gives life and motion to the whole body; magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; rewards and punishments (by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty, every joint and member is moved to perform his duty) are the nerves […].” (Mallet 2004) Tausk’s “influencing machine” that reproduces all the organs is another model of the same type. This giant prosthesis is intended to amplify the power of the living being it serves and protects, but as a dead machine, a dead machine that imitates the living being who created it. The health of the machine requires agreement, consensus; disagreement and discord lead to its illness. Today, the fabulous (fable-like, as unbelievable as it is real) development of computer technologies and of the media extends the empire of the scopic impulse and of cruelty even further. It was again Jacques Derrida who, in his Seminar delivered two years ago and entitled “La bête et le souverain,” asked how efficient the so-called ”international terrorist” attack would have been if the image of the collapse of the Twin Towers, as constituted image, would not have been not just filmed and stored, but compulsively reproduced immediately across the United States and almost simultaneously in the whole world. This technical possibility of reproduction is an integral part of the event. From the start, making it seen and making it known, the know-how that makes it seen, the disturbing choice of images and more: the way they ”shape the truth,” that is, the way they create it as much as reveal it—all this is part and parcel of a politics of the event that tends to give credence, in the case of September 11, to even more terrible threats such as the nuclear, the biochemical, the bacteriologic. The capitalistic control of information consisted in the ability to buy all the images captured and to broadcast not only what could be widely seen, but also what could be widely heard, since an amateur radio buff in San Francisco, awakened at 6 in the morning (because of the time difference) was able to receive and record covertly, using a sophisticated system, all the messages exchanged around the Towers by New York police and firemen, as well as the screams of the victims. This politics of the event introduces the virtuality of the worst threats, the traumas to come, into the core of this prophetic machine that makes known. Its cruelty consists of knowing how to terrify by making known. Whether it is terror generated by the State or terror against the State, this know-how linked to pretense, virtuality or reality has the power to affect bodies and souls depending on the degree of belief, faith or credence given to it.
It would be useful to review the genealogy of all political ideologies that have and have had recourse to fear and even panic to create subjectivity, subjection, servitude and the subject. But, for politics, the subject is the myth of a supposed subject who is asked to believe and whose freedom is constantly measured. The more the State seems to protect him, the more it attempts to enslave him. After all, Carl Schmitt, who defined the exceptional State our present governments are still using as a model, formulated the Protego ergo obligo (I protect, therefore I oblige) which is the State’s equivalent of Cogito ergo sum. If time allowed, I would have liked to show, as does the author of the Seminar to which I refer, that despite their claim to save human autonomy from the institution of State sovereignty, and while invoking the model of divine art, modern philosophers of sovereignty such as Hobbes or Bodin clearly show that the very essence of this human sovereignty remains enslaved, subject to divine sovereignty, and that this essence never distinguishes itself from a politico-theological concept.
Faced with this notion of a sovereignty indivisible by nature, with the fear it inspires and with the cruelty it inflicts as part of its exercise of power, I would like to sketch the main features of a sovereignty of the subject as viewed by psychoanalysis: a paradoxically divisible supremacy that springs forth in the privileged moments when the sovereign Ego is demoted, when the authority of the present being is suspended, when self-consciousness is annulled. This experience might be similar to that of “supreme joy,” reminiscent of Bataille as interpreted by Blanchot in L’instant de ma mort. But an analogy can also be made with the ecstatic state of love—no doubt a paradoxical experience of death—in which the feeling that I exist and that the other exists accompanies the feeling of my nonexistence. This supreme moment annuls all power, both that of the other over me and that which my ego can exert on the other. This singular singularity can only be sovereign by giving up the drive to power and to sovereignty. If it surmounts the risk of madness, its existence is unencumbered by the weight of the unconscious myth and the tricks of reason used by the Ego to comply with the demands of the Superego; in addition, it escapes social pressures and the hypnotic effects of the group, of the leader, of the sovereign. It takes on the violence of reason in the face of what Gérard Granel called “the 30s that are still ahead of us.” In this sense, the supreme moment has the status of an outlaw, an exception, an exceptional quality applying to sovereignty in general, but applying in this case to a paradoxical sovereignty: an exception that attempts to escape the sacrificial fate religious and political forces are constantly enacting. When I say “attempts to escape” the sacrificial, I introduce the notion of a possible-impossible sacrifice of the sacrificial.
In his answer to Einstein, Freud stresses that he has no illusions regarding the possibility of eradicating cruelty, power or sovereignty. Like Nietzsche, he thinks that cruelty has no opposite, that it is part of life or that anything contrary must take it into account. What he proposes are indirect paths (indirekte Wege), a method of forging ahead, an economy of detours and deferrals. An attempt to deviate, to put off these cruel impulses. Although cruelty is permanently rooted and endless, it can encounter antagonistic forces. One of them is love of life in the intellectual and emotional relation to the other, even without direct sexual intent. Another antagonistic force is the one that succeeds in subjecting the drives to a “dictatorship of reason” through recourse to enlightened guides or to cultural endeavour (Kulturarbeit). As a result, the Logos (“our god Logos”) would become sovereign, but a logos, a reason based on a new principle of reason that includes the unconscious. However, this inclusion of psychoanalytic reason involves a leap beyond the possible, beyond an economy of the possible and of ownership, provided that the gap between psychoanalysis and ethics, the law or politics does not exclude the indirect relation, even in discontinuity and heterogeneity. In this barely glimpsed conceptual field, almost everything remains to be done.
The psychoanalytic system and its fictional space contain the exact opposite of that which psychoanalysis usually treats: psychic cruelty, that it treats thanks to its particular hospitality that allows the unexpected emergence of the other: a hospitality whose laws are beyond suffering or jouissance, beyond compassion and pity, beyond intentionality, ownership, power or debt. In the fictional structure specific to this situation, with the effects of truth and reality engendered by it, the reference to reality, to cruel reality, is not abolished. Its historical truth is placed in perspective, and any hypothesis of a given meaning is suspended. This apparent irresponsibility of “allowing oneself to say everything,” because it exposes the subject to the unexpected and to the unforeseeable, only heightens his responsibility vis-à-vis all that which, from its position in the unconscious, governs him. It is that which happens outside intentionality and rules that produces the event in analysis, as an act of language. Therefore, in exchange, there must be unconditionality on the part of the analyst to allow this unexpected arrival of the other; a hospitality at once possible and impossible offered to each word, each silence, each feeling (no matter how cruel), an absence of ownership of the event that escapes his power and his pride.
For the event to take place, the subject must foresake his status as the subject of discourse who knows what he wants to say, he must forsake knowledge as power. Thus, while he abstains from recourse to his usual frame of reference, he must not abstain. For an event to occur in analysis, with its effects ensuing as real, it is also essential that, in the course of the analysis, the analyst receive the manifestation of the representations taken by suffering so as to represent a portion or all of this suffering (“You are letting me suffer cruelly”), while dissociating himself from the different characters he represents in the same unconditional terms as those associated with his reception of cruelty.
Analytic interpretation itself is unpredictable. It eludes the analytic knowledge it presupposes, just as it escapes the symbolic order that establishes a protocol with its technical, legal and political codes. It lies outside any category of injunction, promise or sanction. In addition, everything that can be said to be outside its specific field, and whose character is descriptive or pertains to constative knowledge—to use the idiom of acts of language, can be included in the category of the performative, given that through transference, that is, thanks to the symptomatic place of the analyst, interpretation does what it says. This is what makes the analyst’s word so difficult to keep, except by betting on the possibility of diverting each time, in a single move, both the order of knowledge and the symbolic order. This means that interpretation invents or reinvents each time a relation where power exercises and dismisses itself, dismisses itself in the very midst of its exercise, creating a relation beyond the power principle: a true relation of unconditionality without sovereignty.
Translated from the French by Agnès Jacob