The Name-of-the-Father – Psychoanalysis and Democracy : 2003 : Éric Laurent

by Julia Evans on January 1, 2003

Translated by Maria Cristina Aguirre


Éric Laurent, “Le nom-du-père: psychanalyse et démocratie,” Cités 16 (2003): p55-62 (French)

Lacanian Compass, Jan 24 2006, Vol 1 issue 7


The web-site of the Lacan Circle of Melbourne in the Library section ( Available here

The Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine website ( : Available here

Also available  /éric laurent or authors by date

References – availability & notes

P1 : “ It is said that the prince is the father of the people. The father is the most ancient authority, the first one; he is for the child the unique authority. All the other social powers developed from this primitive authority (except matriarchy)”. The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud Availability here

From the English translation, by James Strachey, : My making plans was a reproach against my father dating from a later period. And indeed the whole rebellious content of the dream, with its lèse majesté and its derision of the higher authorities, went back to rebellion against my father. A Prince is known as the father of his country; the father is the oldest, first, and for children the only authority, and from his autocratic power the other social authorities have developed in the course of the history of human civilization – except in so far as the ‘matriarchy’ calls for a qualification of this assertion. : SE4, p217 Footnote 1, Chapter V The Material and Sources of Dreams, Section B Infantile Material as a Source of Dreams, Interpretation of Dreams

P2 : Moses and Monotheism: 1934-1938 [1939] : Sigmund Freud : SE XXIII p3 or Penguin Freud Library: Vol 13: p237 : Available here   The complete bilingual of Moses and Monotheism from Freud/Philosophy  / (13. The complete bilingual of MOSES AND MONOTHEISM:  Part 1, (includes the suppressed intro to the Manuscript Draft)   Part 2, (includes Ernst Sellin’s Mose und seine Bedeutung…))

P2 : Totem and Taboo: 1912-1913 : Sigmund Freud :  SE XIII :  Published bilingual by  / Freud: The Metapsychological Papers,  Papers on Technique and others    (2. TOTEM AND TABOO (Totem und Tabu))

P2 : Footnote 3 “It is because of the secret curse of the Great Man, whose only power derives from resonating at the bottom of the inaugural murder of humanity, that the Christian redemption… is accomplished. Only this tradition takes to the last consequences the work of revealing what is at stake in the primitive crime of the primordial law” Lacan, J. Le Seminaire, livre VII, l’Ethique de la psychanalyse, Paris, Seuil, 1986, pp. 205- 206

P174 of Dennis Porter’s translation : Seminar VII : 16th March 1960 : Having said that, however, it’s clear that Freud doesn’t for a moment doubt that the major interest of Jewish history is that of being the bearer of the message of one God.

And that’s where things stand. We have the dissociation between the rationalist Moses and the inspired, obscurantist Moses, who is scarcely ever discussed. But basing his argument on the examination of historical evidence, Freud finds no other path adapted to the transmission of the rationalist Moses’ message than that of darkness; in other words, this message is linked through repression to the murder of the Great Man. And it is precisely in this way, Freud tells us, that it could be transmitted and maintained in a state of efficacy that can be historically measured. It’s so lose to the Christian tradition that it’s really remarkable; it is because the primordial murder of the Great Man reemerges in a second murder that in a sense translates and brings it to light, the murder of Christ, that the monotheistic message is completed. It is because the secret malediction of the murder of the Great Man – which itself only draws its power from the fact that it echoes the inaugural murder of humanity, that of the primitive father – it is because this event emerges into the light of day, that what, in the light of Freud’s text, we are obliged to call Christian redemption may be accomplished.

That tradition alone pursues to the end the task of revealing what is involved in the primitive crime of the primordial law.

Availability Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: begins 18th November 1959 : Jacques Lacan or here

P2 Footnote 5 : “A primary group of this kind is a number of individuals who have put one and the same object in the place of their ego ideal and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego” Freud, S., “Group (Mass) Psychology and Analysis of the Ego”, (1921) SE XVIII p116.  Published bilingual at  /Freud: The Metapsychological Papers, Papers on Technique and others 

P2 Footnote 6 : Ibid. p. 127
7 “And, in complete opposition to the usual practice, we shall not choose a relatively simple group formation as our point of departure, but shall begin with highly organized, lasting and artificial groups. The most interesting example of such structures are Churches-communities of believers- and armies”. Ibid. p, 93

P2 Footnote 8 : We have already heard in the discussion of the two artificial groups, Church and army, that their necessary precondition is that all their members should be loved in the same way by one person, the leader. (…) All the members must be equal to one another, but they all want to be ruled by one person (…) that is the situation that we find realized in groups which are capable of subsisting”. Ibid, p. 121

P3 : Civilization and its Discontents: 1929: Sigmund Freud: available here. : Available bilingually /Freud/Philosophy (31. CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS (Das Unbehagen in der Kultur)

P3 : Probably a reference to Introduction to the Names-of-the-Father Seminar : 20th November 1963: Jacques Lacan : Availability here

P3 : “the Oedipus Complex” Sigmund Freud introduced the concept in his The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud (Information and availability here )  The term derives from the Theban hero Oedipus of Greek legend, who unknowingly slew his father and married his mother.

P3 Footnote 9 : “All the Middle-Age massacres of the Jewish did not make it a more peaceful or safer period for the Christian brothers” and “one asks with anxiety what will the Soviets undertake once all the bourgeois are exterminated” Freud, S. Civilization and its discontent, Paris, PUF, 1992, p. 68

P4 : passage-à-l’acte (Lacan) : In Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References [Availability & information here] the ‘passage to the act’ marks the subjects’ radical renunciation of the symbolic order, based on the confrontation with the ‘real’: in leaping off and falling into the deep void the ‘big Other’ is radically rejected. Lacan describes this radical rejection in his re-reading of Freud’s ‘Psychogenesis of a Case of Female Homosexuality’.

There are many references to ‘passage à l’acte’ and Freud’s case in Seminar X. In particular consult: Seminar X : 19th December 1962 : See pVI 52 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation for the table of anxiety &

Seminar X : 23rd January 1963 : pIX 77-88 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation distinguishes between ‘passage à l’acte’ & acting out.

P4 a ‘not-all’ (Lacan) See Lacan’s Table of Sexuation : Seminar XX : 13th March 1973   : Ch VIII p1 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : Availability & information : Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: from 21st November 1972 : Jacques Lacan or here

P4 Alain Joxe summarizes in his title The Empire of chaos

In Seminar XXIII : 16th March 1976 (Availability given Seminar XXIII: The Sinthome or Joyce and the Sinthome: 1975-1976: beginning on November 18th 1975 : Jacques Lacan or here) Jacques Lacan comments on a film : (L’empire des sens) The Realm of The Sense (film) : 1976 : Nagisa Oshima (Information and availability here ) The Realm of The Sense (Ai no corrida) (L’Empire des sens) is a French/Japanese film made in 1976 by Nagisa Oshima, and seen by Jacques Lacan about 10th March 1976.

P4 diverse push-to-enjoyment (‘pousse-au-jouir’) I cannot trace a direct reference to Jacques Lacan using this term. It may be that surplus-enjoyment is a more usual translation. A reading of  Television: 31st January 1974: Jacques Lacan (Availability here) will give access to Jacques Lacan’s construction of the Capitalist Discourse.

P4 This is a way for us to understand Lacan’s statement according to which a master signifier is indispensable to read writing. Footnote 14. Lacan, J. le Seminaire, livre XVII, L’envers de la psychanalyse, Paris, Seuil, 1991, p. 218 Seminar XVII: Psychoanalysis upside down/The reverse side of psychoanalysis: 1969-1970 : from 26th November 1969: Jacques Lacan Availability here

Seminar XVII : 17th June 1970 : Ch XV p10-12 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation. :

A function is something that enters into the real, which had never entered there before and which corresponds, not to discovering, experimenting, circumscribing, detaching, extracting, but rather to writing – writing two orders of relations to exemplify what logarithms come from. …. It is a matter of one of these relations being applied to the other. You invent the algorithm. It starts to run wild in the world, according to little rules that seem to be unimportant, but do not believe that the fact that they exist leaves you, any of you who are here, in the same state as before they emerged. Their presence is what is important.

…. There is the necessity that, in knowledge, something is produced that plays the function of master signifier. You cannot of course prevent yourself dreaming, or trying to find out who was the first to do it, and then, one finds the beauty of the ball going back and forth between master and slave. But it was perhaps simply someone who was ashamed, who pushed himself forward, like that. Today, I brought you the dimension of shame. It is not easy to put forward. It [pXV 11] is not easy to put forward. It is not one of the easiest things to speak about. That is perhaps what it really is, the hole from which the master signifier springs. If it were, it would perhaps be of some use for measuring how close you have to get to it if you want to have something to do with the subversion, indeed even just the circulation of the Master’s discourse. Be that as it may, one thing is certain, you have this introduction of the S1 within your reach in the last discourse – it is what defines its readability. There is, in effect, language and speech and knowledge, and all that seems to have worked in the Neolithic era, but we have no trace that any dimension called reading existed. No need yet for any writing or any impression, not that it was not there for a long time, but in some way, by a retroactive affect. How is it that we can always ask ourselves, in reading any text, what distinguishes it as readable? We have to look for the joint terms of what makes the master signifier. I would point out to you that in works of literature, you read nothing but incredible things. Why then do they hang together? I do not know. It happens in my last faux pas – I adore them. I happened to read The reverse side of contemporary life (L’Envers de la vie contemporaine) by Balzac. That is really is something incredible. If you have not read it, it does not matter that you have read everything on the history of the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, the French Revolution to call it by its name. You may even have read Marx, you will understand nothing about it, and there will always be something that escapes you, which is to be found only there, in this story that will give you the sweats, The reverse side of contemporary life. Please consult it. I am sure that not many of you have read it. It is one of the least read of Balzac’s works. Have you read it, Philippe? You haven’t read it. Neither have you! You see! It’s crazy! Read it, and do some homework. Do exactly the same as what about a hundred years ago, I tried to get the characters I was speaking to at Sainte-Anne to do about the first scene of Act One of Athaliah. All they heard were the quilting points (points de capiton). I am not saying that it was an excellent metaphor, in fact it was this S1 the master signifier. God only knows what they made of this quilting point, they even took it off to Les [XV 12] temps modernes – which is, all the same, not minute. It was something of a master signifier. It was a way of asking them to give an account of how something that is spread throughout language like a trail of powder, is readable, that is to say that it catches on, creates a discourse. I still maintain that there is no metalanguage. Everything you may think is of the order of seeking the meta in language is always simply a question about reading.

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