The Sadeian position in Jacques Lacan’s Seminar X & LacanianWorks posts

by Julia Evans on January 16, 2012


During the Monday 16th January 2012 ‘Reading Seminar X Group’, questions emerged from Lacan’s use of ‘concentration camps’.

[Beginning paragraph of the 27th February 1963 session: Chapter XII in Cormac Gallagher’s translation of Seminar X: 1962-1963: The Anxiety or Dread, published at, and available here. ]  The context is that Lacan has just returned from his winter sports holiday. Quote:  ‘which brought me back to a problem of which they (the holiday) seem to be an obvious incarnation, a living materialisation, it is the contemporary one of the function of the concentration camp for the wealthy old, which as everyone knows will become more and more of a problem with the advance of our civilisation given the advance of the average age over time: that reminded me that obviously this problem of the concentration camp and of its function at this epoch of our history has really been completely missed up to now, completely masked by the era of cretinous moralising which immediately followed the end of the war, and the absurd idea that we were going to be able to finish just as quickly with them, I am still talking about concentration camps.’

So on holiday Lacan has been thinking through aspects of ‘L’Angoisse’ or ‘The Anxiety/Dread’. In this opening paragraph he seems to infer that concentration camps cannot be left, hermetically sealed, within the war.

So what form do they take in this our epoch?

I have been writing on this question for the last 10 years.   A list of snippets which I have posted to is available beyond the further quotes from Seminar X.

This Sadeian form of the use of power started to make sense during the London Society of the New Lacanian School series of Seminars, 2003-2004 ‘Kant with Sade’: Fantasy and the limits of Enjoyment.

These seminars were based on ‘Kant with Sade: April 1963’ by Jacques Lacan, published in English, translated by J. B. Swenson, in ‘October’ MIT Press, Mass. 1989. In French, it was published as ‘Kant avec Sade’ in the Écrits, by Seuil, 1966.  The LS-NLS series consisted of five commentaries, two of which are published on  Jean-Louis Gault’s who gave the opening seminar and Pierre Naveau’s :

The ‘TRUTH’ of Kant’s moral law : Fantasy and the Limits of Enjoyment by Jean-Louis Gault on 1st October 2003 or here

Fantasy and the Limits of Enjoyment: ‘The Mother-Daughter Relationship’: Thread and Needle by Pierre Naveau   on 8th January 2004 or here

As the Reading Group progressed through the session of 27th February 1963, the references to the Maquis de Sade or Sadeian continued. The following are, probably, all the references to Sade by Jacques Lacan in Seminar X.   They are taken from Cormac Gallagher’s translation, reference given above.

Jacques Lacan: Seminar X – 1962 – 1963: The Anxiety or Dread

Session of 16th January 1963, Chapter VIII

(7) Moreover, if you evoke what is involved in the figure of 
Sade, you will see then that it is not by chance if, what can be extracted from it, what remains of it, through a sort of transubstantiation through the ages, with the imaginary elaboration of his figure throughout the generations, is a form – Man Ray could do no better when he tried to construct his imaginary portrait – precisely a petrified form.

This is why I come back today to this plane to show certain aspects, indeed implications of it. Desire then is the law. It is not only the fact that in analytic doctrine, with the Oedipus complex as its central corpus, it is clear that what constitutes the substance of the law is the desire for the mother, that inversely what normatives desire itself, what situates it as desire, is what is called the law of the prohibition of incest.

Session of 27th February1963, Chapter XII

Let us take things from the angle, through the way in, defined by this word which has a presentified meaning in the very times in which we live, erotism.

We know, that its Sadean if not its sadistic manifestation, is the most exemplary one. Desire presents itself as a will to jouissance from whatever angle it appears – I spoke about the Sadean angle, I did not say the sadistic one, it is just as true for what is called masochism.

It is quite clear that if something is revealed by analytic experience, it is that even in perversion where desire in sum appears by presenting itself as what lays down the law, namely as a subversion of the law, it is in fact well and truly the support of a law. If there is something that we now know about the pervert, it is that what appears from the outside as satisfaction without restraint is defence, is well and truly the bringing into play, into action of a law in so far as it restrains, it suspends, it stops, precisely on the path of this jouissance.

The will to jouissance in the pervert as in everyone else, is a will which fails, which encounters its own limit, its own restraint, in the very exercise as such of the perverse desire. In a word, the pervert does not know, as was very well emphasised by one of the people who spoke today at my request, he does not know at the service of what jouissance his activity is exercised. It is not in any case at the service of his own.

6th March1963, Chapter XIII, page 8

In the sadist, anxiety is less hidden. It is even so little so that it comes to the fore in the phantasy, which, if one analyses it makes of the anxiety of the victim an altogether required condition. Only this is the very thing which ought to make us suspicious. What the sadist seeks in the Other – because it is quite clear that for him the Other exists and it is not because he takes him as object that we ought to say that there is some relationship or other that we could call immature or again, as it is put, pregenital, the Other is absolutely essential and this indeed is what I wanted to articulate when I gave you my seminar on Ethics by bringing together Sade and Kant, the essential putting into question of the Other which goes so far as to simulate, and not by chance, the requirements of the moral law, which are indeed there to show us that the reference to the Other as such forms part of his aim – what is he searching for there?

It is here that the texts, the texts that we can hold onto, I (10) mean those which give some hold on an adequate critique, take on their value, of course, a value signaled by the strangeness of some moments, of some detours which in a way detach themselves, explode with respect to the line that is being followed. I will leave you to search in Juliette, even in the One hundred and twenty days, these few passages where the characters, completely occupied in slaking on these chosen victims their greed for torments, enter into this bizarre, singular and curious trance, indicated, I repeat, on several occasions in the text of Sade, which is expressed in these strange words, in effect that it is necessary for me to articulate here: “I had,” cries the tormentor, “I had the skin of the cunt”.

This is not a feature which is obvious along the track of the imaginable, and the privileged character, the moment of enthusiasm, the character of supreme trophy brandished at the high point of the chapter is something which, I believe, is sufficiently indicative of the following: it is that something is sought which is in a way the reverse (l’envers) of the subject, which takes on here its signification from this feature of the glove turned inside-out which underlines the feminine essence of the victim. It is the passage to the outside of what is most hidden that is involved; but let us observe at the same time that (6.3.63 XIII page 9) this moment is in a way indicated in the text itself as being totally impenetrated by the subject, allowing there precisely to be masked here the trait of his own anxiety.

In a word, if there is something for that matter which evokes how little light we can throw on the truly sadistic relationship, that the form of explanatory texts turn aside from the phantasy, if there is something that they suggest to us, it is in a way the instrumental character to which the function of the agent is reduced. That which in a way is hidden, except in a flash, the aim of his action, is the work aspect of his operation. He also has a relationship with God, this is what is exposed everywhere in Sade’s text. He cannot take a step forward without this reference to the supremely wicked being and it is just as clear for him as for the one who is speaking that it is God that is involved.

For his part he goes to all sorts of exhausting trouble, even to the extent of missing his goal, to realise – which, thank God, it has to be said, Sade spares us having to reconstruct, for he articulates it as such – to realise the jouissance of God.

I think I have shown you here the game of occultation through which anxiety and object, in the one and in the other, are
(11) brought to the forefront, one at the expense of the other term, but how also in the structures there is designated, there is declared the radical link between anxiety and this object in so far as it falls. In that very way its essential function is approached, its decisive function as remainder of the subject, the subject as a real. Undoubtedly this invites us to look again, to place a greater accent on the reality of these objects. And in moving on to this following chapter, I cannot fail to remark the degree to which this real status of objects, already nevertheless located for us, has been left to one side, been badly defined by people who would nevertheless like to consider themselves as the biologising reference points and bearings of psychoanalysis for you.

Session of 13th March 1963 Chapter XIV

On the side of sadism, with an entirely analogous remark, namely that the first term is elided and that it has nevertheless the same obviousness as on the side of masochism, what is aimed at in sadism in all its forms, at all its levels, is something which also promotes the function of the Other, and that precisely there what is open to view is that what is sought is the anxiety of the Other, just as in masochism, what is masked by that, is, not at all, by an inverse process of reversal, the jouissance of the Other – sadism is not the reverse of masochism for the simple reason that they are not a reversible couple, the structure is more complex, I insist on it, even though today, I am only isolating two terms in each; to illustrate if you wish what I mean, I would say that, as you might assume after several of my essential schemas, they are functions with four terms, they are if you wish squared functions, and that the passage from one to the other is carried out by a rotation of a quarter of a turn and not by any symmetry or inversion.

You do not see this appearing at the level that I am now designating for you. But what I pointed out to you the last time is hidden behind this search for the anxiety of the Other, is in sadism the search for the object o. It is to this that I brought as a reference, an expressive term taken from Sadean phantasies “the skin of the cunt”. I will not recall for you now this text from Sade’s work.

We find ourselves therefore between sadism and masochism in the presence of that which at the second level, at the level hidden from the perspective of each one of these two tendencies, is presented as the alternation, in reality the reciprocal occultation of anxiety in the first case, of the object o in the other (sadism).

I will end with a brief reminder which returns to what I already said precisely about this o, this object, namely the emphasising of what I could call, essentially, the manifest character that we know well, even though we do not perceive its importance, the manifest character with which is marked what? The mode in which there enters this anatomy which Freud is wrong to say without any further precision, is destiny.

12th June 1963, Chapter XXII

This is impossible to articulate if we do not display in an altogether radical fashion the relationship between the function of o, the cause of desire, and the mental dimension of cause as such. This, I already indicated in what I might call some asides in my discourse, and I wrote it somewhere at a point that I could find again in the article “Kant with Sade” which appeared in the April edition of the journal Critique. It is on this point that I intend today to bring to bear the main part of my discourse.

From now on you see the interest in marking, in making it 
likely, that this dimension of the cause indicates – and only indicates – the emergence, the presentification, in the starting data of the analysis of the obsessional, of this o around which – this is in the future of what I am trying for the moment to explain to you – around which there has to turn the whole
 analysis of the transference in order not to be obliged, required to turn in a circle. A circle certainly is not nothing, the circuit is gone through; but it is clear that there is – and I am not the one who enounced it – a problem about the end of the analysis, one which is enounced as follows: the irreducibility of a transference neurosis. This transference neurosis is or is not the same as the one which was detectable at the beginning. Undoubtedly it is different in being entirely present, it appears to us sometimes in an impasse, that is to say sometimes
 culminates in a complete stagnation of the relationships between the analysand and the analyst. Its only difference to everything that is produced in an analogous way, at the beginning of the analysis, is that it is completely collected together.


Reading Seminar X  here

Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan    or here

Kant with Sade: April 1963: Jacques Lacan or here

Explorations of the Sadeian position available on :

Sadeian power, the UK Government……… & CON-sultations  by Julia Evans on 3rd February 2012 or here

Sadeian power in use: By having its hand on Asia’s water tap, China is therefore acquiring tremendous leverage over its neighbours’ behaviour… by Julia Evans on August 31, 2011

The Government as Sadeian experimenter by Julia Evans on August 17, 2011

Principles based in trust and relationships versus Sadeian absolute control by Julia Evans on August 14, 2011

What works – tackling out-of-limits destruction and violence by Julia Evans on August 14, 2011

Not If, but when by Bruno de Florence on August 11, 2011

Ethics: the Sadean & Kantian position and how the Lacanian psychoanalytic position differs by Julia Evans on July 28, 2011

On limits by Julia Evans on July 27, 2011

Who is in bed with whom (Part 2)? A call for your action. by Julia Evans on December 2, 2010

Wellbeing & Happiness as used by the UK Government by Julia Evans on May 7, 2007:  Examines the two forms of legislating & governing in use in the UK and contrasts the use of outcome measurement and risk analysis in England and Denmark.


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


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst


Further texts

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Use of power here

Of the clinic : here

Lacanian Transmission : here

Some Lacanian History : here

Topology : here

From LW working groups : here

By Julia Evans  here