Not perverts but bureaucrats will set things off (LRO 331) : 22nd February 2022 : Natalie Wülfing

by Julia Evans on February 22, 2022


From: NLS-Messager – New Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis

Subject: [nls-messager] 4166.en/ LRO 331: “Not perverts but bureaucrats will set things off”

Date: 2 March 2022 at 18:04:48 GMT


Lacanian Review Online (LRO 331) – /authors a-z (Wülfing)

Availability of references

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

Seminar VII : 18th May 1960 : p231-233 of Dennis Porter’s translation : (Note, Jacques Lacan was referring to the Cuban missile crisis)

It seemed to me this morning that it wasn’t inappropriate to begin my seminar by asking the question, Have we crossed the line?

I don’t mean in what we are doing here, but in what is happening out there in the world in which we live. It isn’t because what is occurring there makes such a vulgar noise that we should refuse to hear it.

At a time when I am speaking to you about the paradox of desire – in the sense that different goods obscure it – you can hear outside the awful language of power. There’s no point in asking whether they are sincere or hypocritical, whether they want peace or whether they calculate the risks. The dominating impression at such a moment is that of something that may pass for a prescribed good; information addresses and captures impotent crowds to whom it is poured forth like a liquor that leaves them dazed as they move toward the slaughterhouse. One might even ask if one would allow the cataclysm to occur without first giving free reign to this hubbub of voices.

Is there anything more disconcerting than the transmission via those little machines that we all possess of what are known as press conferences? Or, in other words, questions that are stupidly repeated to which the leader replies with a false casualness, while he calls for more interesting questions and even on occasion engages in witticisms.

There was one somewhere yesterday, in Paris or in Brussels, that told us about our gloomy future. I swear it was absurd. Don’t you think that the only way to adjust our hearing to what is proclaimed may be formulated along the lines of “What does it mean? What is it aiming at?” Yet everyone falls asleep on the soft pillow of “/r’s not possible” – whereas, in fact, nothing is more possible, the possible is above all that. That’s possible because the possible is that which can answer man’s demand, and because man doesn’t know what he is setting in motion with his demand.

The frightening unknown on the other side of the line is that which in man we call the unconscious, that is to say the memory of those things he forgets. And the things he forgets – you can see in which way – are those things in connection with which everything is arranged so that he doesn’t think about them, i.e., stench and corruption that always yawn like an abyss. For life after all is rottenness.

And it is even more so recently, since the anarchy of forms, that second destruction that Sade was talking about the other day in the quotation I read you – the destruction that calls for subversion even beyond the cycle of generation-corruption – are for us pressing problems. The possibility of a second destruction has suddenly become a tangible reality for us, including the threat of anarchy at the level of the chromosomes of a kind that could break the ties to given forms of life. Monsters obsessed a great deal those who up to the eighteenth century still attributed a meaning to the word “Nature.” It has been a long time since we accorded any importance to calves with six feet or children with two heads. Yet we may now perhaps see them appear in the thousands.

That is why when we ask what is beyond the barrier erected by the structure of the world of the good – where is the point on which this world of the good turns, as we wait for it to drag us to our destruction – our question has a meaning that you would do well to remember has a terrifying relevance. What is beyond this barrier? Don’t forget that if we know there is a barrier and that there is a beyond, we know nothing about what lies beyond.

It is a false beginning to say, as on the basis of our experience some have, that it is the world of fear. To centre our life, even our religion, on fear as a final term is an error. Fear with its ghosts is a localizable defence, a protection against something that is beyond, and which is precisely something unknown to us.

It is at the moment when these things are possible but wrapped in the injunction “Thinking about them is prohibited,” that it is appropriate to point out the distance and the proximity that links this possible to those extraordinary texts that I have chosen this year as the fulcrum of my proof, namely, Sade’s works.

One doesn’t have to read very far for this collection of horrors to engender incredulity and disgust in us, and it is only fleetingly, in a brief flash, that such images may cause something strange to vibrate in us which we call perverse desire, insofar as the darker side of natural Eros enters into it.

In the end, any imaginary or indeed real relationship to the research appropriate to perverse desire only suggests the incapacity of natural desire, of the natural desire of the senses, to go very far in this direction. On this path, this desire quickly gives up, is the first to give up. It is no doubt understandable if modern man’s thought seeks the beginning, the trace, the point of departure there, the path toward self-knowledge, toward the mystery of desire, but, on the other hand, all the fascination that this beginning exercises over both scientific and literary studies – witness for example the revels to be found in the works of the not untalented author of Sexus, Plexus and Nexus[1] – founders on a rather sterile pleasure-taking. We must be lacking in the proper method, if everything that has been elaborated on the topic by writers or scientists was outdistanced in advance some time ago, was rendered thoroughly outdated by the lucubrations of someone who was only after all a country squire, a social example of the degeneration of the nobility at a time when its privileges were about to be abolished.

It is nevertheless the case that Sade’s extraordinary catalogue of horrors, which causes not only the senses and human possibilities but the imagination, too, to flinch, is nothing at all compared to what will, in effect, be seen on a collective scale, if the great and very real explosion occurs that threatens us all. The only difference between Sade’s exorbitant descriptions and such a catastrophe is that no pleasure will enter into the motivation of the latter. Not perverts but bureaucrats will set things off, and we won’t even know if their intentions were good or bad. Things will go off by command; they will be carried through according to regulations, mechanically, down the chain of command, with human wills bent, abolished, overcome, in a task that ceases to have any meaning. That task will be the elimination of an incalculable waste that reveals its constant and final dimension for man.

Let us not forget that that has, in effect, always been one of the dimensions in which we can recognize what a fond dreamer once charmingly referred to as “the humanization of the planet.” There’s never any problem in recognizing man’s passage through the world, his footstep, mark, trace, touch; there where one finds a huge accumulation of oyster shells, only man can have manifestly been. The geological ages have left their waste, too, waste that allows us to recognize order. But the pile of garbage is one of the sides of the human dimension that it would be wrong to mistake.

Having sketched the outlines of this sepulchral mound at the limit of the politics of the good, of the general good, of the good of the community, we will pick up again where we left off last time.

[1] 1 The author referred to is, of course, Henry Miller

[Jacques Lacan is referring to the Missiles Crisis in Cuba]

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


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‘The Symbolic in the 21st century’


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