The Security State by David Ferraro (LRO 105) : 19th November 2018

by Julia Evans on November 19, 2018

Circulated by NLS Messager as ‘2851.en/ Lacanian Review Online: Walled World

:Available : (LRO 105)

Quote : This is a way of naming a turn in contemporary politics: endless security, but no care, and with violent segregation ordinarised.


The reference to knave is to Seminar VII : 23rd March 1960 : p182-183 of Dennis Porter’s translation : See Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: begins 18thNovember 1959 : Jacques Lacan or here : Quote :

To the extent that a sensitive subject such as ethics is not nowadays separable from what is called ideology, it seems to me appropriate to offer here some clarification of the political meaning of this turning point in ethics for which we, the inheritors of Freud, are responsible.

That is why I spoke of master-fools. This expression may seem impertinent, indeed not exempt from a certain excess. I would like to make clear here what in my view is involved.

There was a time, an already distant time right at the beginning of our Society, you will remember, when we spoke of intellectuals in connection with Plato’s ‘Meno’. I would like to make a few condensed comments on the subject, but I believe they will prove to be illuminating.

It was noted then that, for a long time now, there have been left-wing intellectuals and right-wing intellectuals. I would like to give you formulas for them that, however categorical they may appear at first sight, might nevertheless help to illuminate the way.

“Fool” (sot) or, if you like, “simpleton” (demeuré) – quite a nice term for which I have a certain fondness – these words only express approximately a certain something for which the English language and its literature seem to me to offer a more helpful signifier – I will come back to this later. A tradition that begins with Chaucer, but which reaches its full development in the theatre of the Elizabethan period is, in effect, centred on the term “fool”. [In this and subsequent passages, the words “fool” and “knave” along with “foolery” and “knavery” in quotation marks are in English in the original.]

The “fool” is an innocent, a simpleton, but truths issue from his mouth that are not simply tolerated but adapted, by virtue of the fact that this “fool” is sometimes clothed in the insignia of the jester. And in my view it is a similar happy shadow, a similar fundamental “foolery”, that accounts for the importance of the left-wing intellectual.

[p183] And I contrast this with the designation for that which the same tradition furnishes a strictly contemporary term, a term that is used in conjunction with the former, namely, “knave” – if we have the time, I will show you the texts, which are numbers and unambiguous.

At a certain level of its usage “knave” may be translated into French as ‘valet’, but “knave” goes further. He’s not a cynic with the element of heroism implied by that attitude. He is, to be precise, what Stendhal called an “unmitigated scoundrel”. That is to say, no more than your Mr Everyman, but your Mr Everyman with greater strength of character.

Everyone knows that a certain way of presenting himself, which constitutes part of the ideology on the right-wing intellectual, is precisely to play the role of what he is in fact, namely, a “knave”. In other words, he doesn’t retreat from the consequences of what is called realism; that is, when require, he admits he’s a crook.

This is only of interest if one considers things from the point of view of their result. After all, a crook is certainly worth a fool, at least for the entertainment he gives, if the result of gathering crooks into a herd did not inevitably lead to a collective “foolery”. That is what makes the politics of right-wing ideology so depressing.

But what is not sufficiently noted is that by a curious chiasma, the “foolery” which constitutes the individual style of the left-wing intellectual gives rise to a collective “knavery”.

What I am proposing here for you to reflect on has, I don’t deny, the character of a confession. Those of you who know me are aware of my reading habits; you know which weeklies lie around on my desk. The thing I enjoy most, I must admit, is the spectacle of collective knavery exhibited in them – that innocent chicanery, not to say calm impudence, which allows them to express so many heroic truths without wanting to pay the price. It is thanks to this that what is affirmed concerning the horrors of Mammon on the first page leads, on the last, to purrs of tenderness for this same Mammon.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London


Other texts

Ethics here

Networking & Politics here

Case studies here

Of the clinic here

Use of power here

Some Lacanian History : here

Topology : here

Lacanian Transmission : here

Groups & Cartels here

By David Ferraro here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here