Lacanian movement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Post-Lacanian)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Lacanian movement comprises the various followings of the innovative and dissident French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Lacanianism began as a philosophical/linguistic re-interpretation of Freud's original teachings.[1] How far it subsequently became an independent body of thought has been, and remains, a matter of debate — Lacan himself famously informing his followers, "It is up to you to be Lacanians if you wish. I am a Freudian".[2]

The wide extent of Lacan's evolving intellectual stances, and his inability to find a settled institutional framework for his work, has meant that over time the Lacanian movement has been subject to numerous schisms and continuing divisions.[3]

Lacan's lifetime[edit]

Three main phases may be identified in Lacan's mature work:[4] his Fifties exploration of the Imaginary and the Symbolic; his concern with the Real and the lost object of desire, the objet petit a, during the Sixties; and a final phase highlighting jouissance and the mathematical formulation of psychoanalytic teaching.

As the fifties Lacan developed a distinctive style of teaching based on a linguistic reading of Freud, so too he built up a substantial following within the Société Française de Psychanalyse [SFP], with Serge Leclaire only the first of many French "Lacanians".[5] It was this phase of his teaching that was memorialised in Écrits, and which first found its way into the English-speaking world, where more Lacanians were thus to be found in English or Philosophy Departments than in clinical practice.[6]

However the very extent of Lacan's following raised serious criticisms: he was accused both of abusing the positive transference to tie his analysands to himself, and of magnifying their numbers by the use of shortened analytic sessions.[7] The questionable nature of his following was one of the reasons for his failure to gain recognition for his teaching from the IPA recognition for the French form of Freudianism that was "Lacanianism"[8] — a failure that led to his founding the École Freudienne de Paris (EFP) in 1964.[9] Many of his closest and most creative followers, such as Jean Laplanche, chose the IPA over Lacan at this point, in the first of many subsequent Lacanian schisms.[10]

Élisabeth Roudinesco has suggested that, after the founding of the EFP “the history of psychoanalysis in France became subordinate to that of Lacanianism...the Lacanian movement occupied thereafter the motor position in relation to which the other movements were obliged to determine their course'”.[11] There was certainly a large expansion in the numbers of the school, if arguably at the expense of quantity over quality, as a flood of psychologists submerged the analysts who had come with him from the SFP.[12] Protests against the new regime reached a head with the introduction of the self-certifying 'passe' to analytic status, and old comrades such as François Perrier broke away in the bitter schism of 1968 to found the Quatrieme Groupe.

However, major divisions remained within the EDF underwent another painful split over the question of analytic qualifications. There remained within the movement a broad division between the old guard of first generation Lacanians', focused on the symbolic[13] — on the study of Freud through the structural linguistic tools of the fifties[14] — and the younger group of mathematicians and philosophers centred on Jacques-Alain Miller, who favoured a self-contained Lacanianism, formalised and free of its Freudian roots.

As the seventies Lacan spoke of the mathematicisation of psychoanalysis and coined the term 'matheme' to describe its formulaic abstraction, so Leclaire brusquely dismissed the new formulas as “graffiti”[15] Nevertheless, despite these and other tensions, the EDF held together under the charisma of their Master, until (despairing of his followers) Lacan himself dissolved the school in 1980 the year before his death.


Frederick Crews writes that when Deleuze and Guattari "indicted Lacanian psychoanalysis as a capitalist disorder" and "pilloried analysts as the most sinister priest-manipulators of a psychotic society" in Anti-Oedipus, their "demonstration was widely regarded as unanswerable" and "devastated the already shrinking Lacanian camp in Paris."[16]


The start of the Eighties saw the Lacanian movement dissolve into a plethora of new organisations,[17] of which the Millerite Ecole de la Cause freudienne (ECF, 273 members) and the Centre de formation et de recherches psychoanalytiques (CFRP, 390 members) are perhaps the most important. By 1993 another fourteen associations had grown out of the former EDF;[18] nor did the process stop there. Early resignations and splits from the ECF were followed in the late 1990s by a massive exodus of analysts worldwide from Miller's organisation under allegations of misuse of authority.[19]

Attempts were made to re-unite the various factions, Leclaire arguing that Lacanianism was “becoming ossifed, stiffening into a kind of war of religion, into theoretical debates that no longer contribute anything new”.[20] But with French Lacanianism (in particular) haunted by a past of betrayals and conflict[21] — by faction after faction claiming their segment of Lacanian thought as the only genuine one[22] — reunification of any kind has proven very problematic; and Roudinesco was perhaps correct to conclude that “'Lacanianism, born of subversion and a wish to transgress, is essentially doomed to fragility and dispersal”.[23]


Three main divisions can be made in contemporary Lacanianism.

  • In one form, the academic reading of a de-clinicalised Lacan has become a pursuit in itself.[24]
  • The (self-styled) legitimatism of the ECF, developed into an international movement with strong Spanish support as well as Latin American roots,[25] set itself up as a rival challenge to the IPA.
  • The third form is a plural Lacanianism, best epitomiesd in the moderate CFRP, with its abandonment of the passe and openness to traditional psychoanalysis,[26] and (after the 1995 dissolution) in its two successors.[27]

Attempts to rejoin the IPA remain problematic, however, not least due to the persistence of the 'short session' and of Lacan's rejection of countertransference as a therapeutic tool.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Malcolm Bowie, Lacan (1991) p. 111 and p. 196
  2. ^ Lacan, J., "Overture to the 1st International Encounter of the Freudian Field" in Hurly-Burly, Issue 6, September 2011, p. 18.
  3. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 432-3
  4. ^ James M. Mellard, Beyond Lacan (2006) p. 49-54
  5. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 248
  6. ^ David Macey, 'Introduction', Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1994) p. xiv
  7. ^ David Macey, 'Introduction', Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1994) p. xii-iv
  8. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 248
  9. ^ David Macey, 'Introduction', Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1994) p. xiii
  10. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 259
  11. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan & Co (1990) p. 375
  12. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 293-5
  13. ^ James A. Mellard, Beyond Lacan (2006) p. 54
  14. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 334
  15. ^ David Macey, 'Introduction', Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1994) p. xxxii-ii
  16. ^ Crews, Frederick (1986). Skeptical Engagements. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 176. ISBN 0-19-503950-5. 
  17. ^ "French Lacanian Movement
  18. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 429
  19. ^ Ann Casement, Who Owns Psychoanalysis? (2004) p. 217
  20. ^ Quoted in Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 431
  21. ^ Gérard Pommier, Erotic Anger (2001) p. xxii
  22. ^ Ann Casement, Who Owns Psychoanalysis? (2004) p. 2o4
  23. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 433
  24. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 434-5
  25. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 430-83
  26. ^ Élisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (Cambridge 2005) p. 440-1
  27. ^ "French Lacanian Movement
  28. ^ Jean-Michel Quinodoz, Reading Freud (2006)

Further reading[edit]

  • David Macey, Lacan in Contexts (1988)
  • Marini Marcelle, Jacques Lacan: The French Context (1992)

External links[edit]