Comments on ‘A woman is authorised by herself’: An example of THE feminine: Margaret Thatcher?

by Julia Evans on April 16, 2013

Miquel Bassols’ piece evoked many trains of thought – thank you.

(Note: ‘A woman is authorised by herself’ by Miquel Bassols, ELP, Barcelona was circulated by PIPOL NEWS no:42 on 15 April 2013 at 08:27. This is now published by EuroFédération de Psychanalyse ( and is available here.)

The death of Mrs Margaret Thatcher also evokes much for someone who is part of the immediate post-war baby boom and worked, within organisation development, in large manufacturing organisations or computer services companies for much of her reign.

Miquel Bassols states ‘If a woman is only authorised by herself in order to be one, if she only authorises herself in that Other that she actually is for herself, then each subject, man  or woman, is at the end of the day deeply divided over this condition of femininity, that of being precisely Other for herself.’

May this be applied to Mrs Thatcher?

Two extracts from the avalanche of commentaries that have recently appeared:

1) For Margaret Thatcher doubt was for wimps, but that’s what makes us human. I won’t be joining in any gloating over her death, for she was as fallible as the rest of us. A pity she could never see that, though. From Giles Fraser , The Guardian, Friday 12 April 2013 19.29 BST. Available here

2)  What seems to have been left out of all the obsequies is the fact that, by the end, she was going mad. I wrote as much while she was still prime minister and heard it from several of her colleagues. Neither the evil witch nor the saviour- of-our-great-nation brigades could cope with that because it challenged their certainties.

But look at the evidence. The way she would grab a microphone from a TV reporter whose questions she didn’t like. The predilection for tiny gestures at irrelevant times. (In his memoirs, Cold Cream, Ferdinand Mount recalls her breaking off an important and over-running meeting to fetch him painkillers he didn’t need and had specifically said he didn’t want. He also recalled her obsessive concern for “the mill girls of Bolton”, even though, thanks to her policies, there were no mill girls left in Bolton.)

“We are a grandmother.” Bonkers! Her unbelievable rudeness to colleagues, including Geoffrey Howe, who later helped destroy her. The way she came to speak about the government as if it had nothing to do with her. (The late John Biffen said she resembled a woman sitting under the hairdryer saying to her neighbour: “I blame the government, don’t know what they think they’re up to …”). The way she re-wrote her own history, obliterating things that hadn’t worked, imagining those that had.

Most of all the poll tax, which might have come out of some ancient legend. “Once there was an unhappy land governed by a cruel queen. She decreed that everyone, from the richest lord to the poorest serf, should pay the same taxes, whether they could or not. So the people rose against their wicked ruler…”

And she didn’t see it coming. Being off her trolley she had come to believe that whatever she believed must be right merely because she believed it.

There is a nice line about that in John Major’s memoirs: “Why did Margaret press ahead with what turned out to be an act of political suicide? Even lemmings have their reasons.” From: Simon Hoggart’s week: the good, the mad and the ugly. What seems to have been left out of all the obsequies is the fact that, by the end, Thatcher was going mad. From Simon Hoggart , The Guardian, Friday 12 April 2013, 18.01 BST, available here

From the table of sexuation, Jacques Lacan: Seminar XX: Session of 13th March 1973, there are two positions available to women: one in the all-position and one in the not-all.  Mrs Thatcher was exclusively in the all-position. Yes, she challenged male power, but from a position within the all-position.  In Miquel Bassols’ terms, she was Other for herself and had no doubt.  Maybe this is why she impinged very little on me as a role model, even when she was enthroned and I had a proper job.

Instead, I was as part of the Organisation Development Network, in contact with Charles Handy. By chance, there is a recent interview with him published here : The Monday Interview:  Charles Handy: righting management wrongs, By Andrew Hill, April 14 2013, Financial Times

Two quotes:

1) In the 1980s and 1990s, he foresaw a world of flexible working and mutual trust that would free employers and employees from organisations he likened to “prisons for the human soul”. Mr Handy did warn there was a dark side to his forecasts. (JE: See ‘Kant with Sade’) In ‘The Age of Unreason’ (1989) he said there was a risk the world could develop into “a collection of private courts and courtiers”.

2) …he adds,”what you’re trying to do is to be in some way better at what you want to be”. It is a version of the Aristotelian objective of ‘eudaemonia’ that runs through the former classics student’s work. The concept is sometimes translated as “happiness” but better rendered, according to Mr Handy, as “flourishing”.

Or as Miquel Bassols states: And indeed, only after Oedipus is a woman authorised by herself, conjugating herself in the future of a decided desire.

Or Charles Handy again:  Mr Handy has set himself apart from any high-profile management experts by not offering definitive responses to such questions. It is one reason he dislikes the “guru” title… Instead, he prefers to teach through what he describes as an open, “Socratic” dialogue – “counselling” rather than consulting. “The idea is to help people see that the world is going to be different and [it’s] time for them to adapt to it”, he says.


1)  Availability of ‘Kant with Sade’ is given here

2)  Availability of Seminar XX is given here