British Psychiatry and the War : 1947 : Jacques Lacan

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1947

Translated by Philip Dravers and Veronique Voruz

Published in English:

Psychoanalytical Notebooks of the London Circle: Vol 4, Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis: Spring 2000 : p9-34.  & Now also published in Psychoanalytical Notebooks : Vol 33, The Real and the Social Bond : June 2019 : p59-87

Available to download at /lacan


Published in bilingual form (French & English) at, with this translation, here

In French:

1)  L’évolution psychiatrique, 1947, Fascicule I, January/March

2)  Autres Écrits, Paris: Seuil, 2001:  p101-120 :  Availability given Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here

3) Electronically at École Lacanienne de la Psychanalyse here and available as ‘1947-00-00, La psychiatrie et la guerre’ here 

Linked text:

The Real and the Group : 2000 : Éric Laurent or here


P11 & p24 Brigadier General Rees: The Shaping of Psychiatry by the War

P11  Sigmund Freud:  It is indeed in the writings of Freud that both the question of leadership and that of morale were posed for the first time in the scientific terms of the relation of identification – I am referring here to this whole incantation designed to absorb the fears and anxieties of each individual in the solidarity of a group in life and in death which until then had been the monopoly of the practitioners of military art – a conquest of reason which comes to integrate tradition itself by lightening it and raising it to a second power.

P12 Dr Thomas W. Salmon: The proposal  presented by the Health Service of the Army, which proposed to organise not only the physical but also the mental instruction of recruits. And yet, the principle of this project had been applied in the United Sates as early as the previous war through the impetus of Dr. Thomas W. Salmon.

P12  Colonel Hargreaves : A kindling spirit had preceded them: Colonel Hargreaves, who set up an initial trial of eliminatory testing, adapted from the Spearman tests which had already been used as an inspiration in Canada to give shape to the Penrose-Raven tests.

P13 Homogeneity & Freud: What is at stake is to obtain in the group a certain homogeneity held to be an essential factor for its morale. Indeed, any intellectual or physical deficit takes on an affective value for a subject within the group through the process of horizontal identification touched upon in the work of Freud evoked earlier, where it is however neglected in favour of the identification that one may call, vertical that to the leader.

P13 Dr Turquet: Our friend Dr. Turquet, with us today, has indicated the French equivalent of the term dullard to be lourdaud rather than arriéré [retarded], in other words it refers to what our colloquial vocabulary designates with the word débilard, which expresses less a mental level than an evaluation of personality.

P14  Major General Rees sees the application of this fundamental experience to a social problem of our civilisation as being immediately accessible to practice, without for all that acceding in any way to the scabrous theories of eugenics, being completely opposed, as one can see, to the anticipatory myth of Huxley’s Brave New World.

P14  Kurt Lewin:  Psychology of groups- which, although they may have barely appeared upon our horizon, have reached a sufficient level of elaboration in the Anglo-Saxon world to be expressed, in the work of one Kurt Lewin, at the mathematical level of a vectorial analysis, no less.

P15  The former, Bion, and the latter Rickman have publishcd together in the issue of 27th November 1943 of The Lancet, which js the equivalent both in its audience and its format to our Presse médicale, an article which, though amounting to only six newspaper colunns, will mark an historic date in psychiatry.

Under the significant title: Intra-group Tensions in Therapy, Their Study as the task of the Group, the authors bring us a concrete example of their activities in a military hospital which, with the unadorned clarity it casts on both the occasion and the principles of the said activities and with perfect humility, I would add, takes on the value of a demonstration of method.

P15  Freud: I find in their work something of the miraculous feeling of the initial stages of the Freudian elaboration: that of finding in the very impasse of a situation the vital force of an intervention.

P20  I will only indicate that there I found once more, on a collective scale, the degradation of the virile type that I had linked to the social decadence of the patemal imago in a publication on the family in 1938.  For availability see Family Complexes in the Formation of the Individual: 1938: Jacques Lacan or here

P25  Episodes of collective depression appeared in a very eclectic way in commando units which had been the object of an insufficient process of selection; and I will only evoke that young psychiatrist who, in rejoining the parachuted troops which he was to follow to the Italian front, carried, in  his small aviator’s baggage, Melanie Klein’s book which had introduced him to the notion of ‘bad objects’ introjected during the phase of excremental interests as well as during that even ealier period, that of oral sadism: a view which proved to be fruitful for understanding subjects already situated psychologically by their voluntary recruitment.

P27  Since the path of large scale social selection has been set, and that, ahead of public powers, powerful private organisations such as Hawthorne Western Electic in the United States have already implemented it to their benefit,

I recommend this paragraph:

P28:  On the other hand, the development of means of action on psychism (endnote 3) that will increase in this century, a concerted handling of images and passions which has already been used successfully against our judgement, our resolution, our moral unity, will be the occasion of new abuses of the power. [endnote 3 p34: It is thus that we are led upon a terrain where a thousand researches on small points rigorously bring to light all kinds of psycho-genetic correlation – thanks to the use of statistics which, it must be said, have nothing to do with what the physician designates under this name in his ‘specific communications’ – which arc already interesting at the simplest of levels, such as the curve of increasing and continuing correlation of scabies and lice in relation to the decrease of mental capacity, but which take on a doctrinal importance when they allow us to establish a link between the inadequation of the subject to his function and a bad social positioning, a gastrointestinal infection that in their language one designates approximately as the ‘dyspepsia of the re-enlisted soldier‘.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Sandwich in Kent & London


Note : If links to any required text do not work, check If a particular text or book remains absent, contact Julia Evans.


Further posts:

Lacanian Transmission here

Groups & Cartels  here

Some Lacanian history here

Of the clinic here

Topology here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Jacques Lacan in English or here

Translation Working Group here

Use of power here

Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here

By Julia Evans here