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Marshall Sahlins, “The Spirit of the Gift,”[1972]
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Shoshana Felman [1987]
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Sigmund Freud [1912 original date]
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Jacques Lacan [1966]
8
Women on the Market
The society we know, our own culture, is based
exchange of women. Without the exchange of women, we are
told, we would fall back into the anarchy (?) of the natura]
world, the randomness (?) of the animal kingdom. The passage
into the social order, into the symbolic order, into order as
such, is assured by the fact that men, or groups of men, circu-
late women among themselves, according to a rule known as
taboo.
Whatever tammal may take in a given
state of society, its signification has a broader impact. It
assures the foundation of the economic, social,
order that has been ours for centuries.
Why exchange women? Because they are "scarce [commod-
ities] . . . essential to the life of the group," the anthropologist
tells us. 1 Why this characteristic of scarcity, given the
biological
equilibrium between male and female births? Because the "deep
polygamous tendency, which exists among all men, always
makes the number of available women seem insufficient. Let us
even were as many women as men, these
women would not be equally desirable ... and that, by
definition. . ., the most desirable women must form a
minority. "2
This text was originally published as "Lc marchc des femmes,"
in Sessualita
e politica, (Milan: Feltrinclli, 1978).
lClaude Levi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures oj Kinship
(Les Structures
eUmentaires de La Parmte, 1949, rev. 1967), trans. James Harle
Bell, John Rich-
ard von Sturmer, and Rodney Needham (Boston, 1969), p. 36.
p.38.
Women on the Market
Are men all equally desirable? Do women have no tendency
toward polygamy? The good anthropologist does not raise such
questions. A fortiori: why are men not objects of exchange
among women? It is because women's bodies-through their
use, consumption, and circulation-provide for
making social life and culture possible, although they remain an
unknown "infrastructure" of the elaboration of that social life
and culture. The exploitation of the matter that has been sexu-
female is so integral a part of our sociocultural horizon
is no way to interpret it except within this horizon.
In still other words: all the systems of exchange that organize
patriarchal societies and all the modalities of productive work
that are recognized, valued, and rewarded in these societies are
men's business. The production of women, signs, and com-
modities is always referred back to men (when a man buys a
girl, he "pays" the father or the brother, not the mother ... ),
and they always pass from one man to another, from one group
of men to another. The work force is thus always assumed to be
"products" are objects to be used, objects of
r ... "nc·'rr....n among men alone.
Which means that the possibility of our social life, of our
culture, depends upon a ho(m)mo-sexual monopol
that orders our society is the exclusive valorization of men's
needs! desires, of exchanges among men. What the anthropolo-
gist calls the passage from nature to culture thus amounts to the
institution of the reign of hom(m)o-sexuality. Not in an "im-
mediate" practice, but in its "social" mediation. From this
on, patriarchal societies might be interpreted as societies
functioning in the mode of " The value of sym-
bolic and imaginary productions is superimposed upon, and
even substituted for, the value relations
and corporal (re)production.
In this new matrix of History, in which man begets man as
171
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Luce Irigaray
This Sex Which Is Not One
his own likeness, wives, daughters, and sisters have value only
in that they serve as the possibility of, and potential benefit in,
relations among men. The use of and traffic in women subtend
and uphold the reign of masculine hom(m)o-sexuality, even
while they maintain that hom(m)o-sexuality in speculations,
mirror games, identifications, and more or less rivalrous appro-
priations, which defer its real practice. Reigning everywhere,
although prohibited in practice, hom(m)o-sexuality is played
out through the bodies of women, matter, or sign, and hetero-
sexuality has been up to now just an alibi for the smooth work-
ings of man's relations with himself, of relations among men.
Whose "sociocultural endogamy" excludes the participation of
that other, so foreign to the social order: woman. Exogamy
doubtless requires that one leave one's family, tribe, or clan, in
order to make alliances. All the same, it does not tolerate mar-
riage with populations that are too far away, too far removed
from the prevailing cultural rules. A sociocultural endogamy
would thus forbid commerce with women. Men make com-
merce of them, but they do not enter into any exchanges with
them. Is this perhaps all the more true because exogamy is an
economic issue, perhaps even subtends economy as such? The
exchange of women as goods accompanies and stimulates ex-
changes of other "wealth" among groups of men. The econo-
my-in both the narrow and the broad sense-that is in place in
our societies thus requires that women lend themselves to alien-
ation in consumption, and to exchanges in which they do not
participate, and that men be exempt from being used and circu-
lated like commodities.
*
Marx's analysis of commodities as the elementary form of
capitalist wealth can thus be understood as an interpretation of
the status of woman in so-called partriarchal societies. The or-
Women on the Market
ganization of such societies, and the operation of the symbolic
system on which this organization is based-a symbolic system
whose instrument and representative is the proper name: the
name of the father, the name of God-contain in a nuclear form
the developments that Marx defines as characteristic of a cap-
italist regime: the submission of "nature" to a "labor" on the
part of men who thus constitute "nature" as use value and
exchange value; the division of labor among private producer-
owners who exchange their women-commodities among
themselves, but also among producers and exploiters or ex-
ploitees of the social order; the standardization of women ac-
cording to proper names that determine their equivalences; a
tendency to accumulate wealth, that is, a tendency for the rep-
resentatives of the most "proper" names-the leaders-to cap-
italize more women than the others; a progression of the social
work of the symbolic toward greater and greater abstraction;
and so forth.
To be sure, the means of production have evolved, new tech-
niques have been developed, but it does seem that as soon as the
father-man was assured of his reproductive power and had
marked his products with his name, that is, from the very
origin of private property and the patriarchal family, social ex-
ploitation occurred. In other words, all the social regimes of
"History" are based upon the exploitation of one "class" of
producers, namely, women. Whose reproductive use value (re-
productive of children and of the labor force) and whose con-
stitution as exchange value underwrite the symbolic order as
such, without any compensation in kind going to them for that
"work." For such compensation would imply a double system
of exchange, that is, a shattering of the monopolization of the
proper name (and of what it signifies as appropriative power)
by father-men.
Thus the social body would be redistributed into producer-
subjects no longer functioning as commodities because they
172 173
This Sex Which Is Not One
provided the standard of value for commodities, and into com-
modity-objects that ensured the circulation of exchange with-
out participating in it as subjects.
*
Let us now reconsider a few points3 in Marx's analysis of
value that seem to describe the social status of women.
Wealth amounts to a subordination of the use of things to
their accumulation. Then would the way women are used matter
number? The possession of a woman is certainly
indispensable to man for the reproductive use value that she
represents; but what he desires is to have them all. To "accu-
mulate" them, to be able to count
possessions, both sequentially and cumulatlvelv. as measure or
standard(s).
All but one? For if the series could be closed,
well lie, as Marx says, in the relation among them rather than in
the relation to a standard that remains to them-
whether gold or phallus.
The use made of women is thus ofless value than their appro-
priation one by one. And their "usefulness" is not what counts
the most. Woman's price is not determined by the "properties"
3These notes constitute a statement of points that will be
developed in a
subsequent chapter. All the quotations in the remainder of this
chapter are
excerpted from Marx's Capital, 5ection1, chapter 1. (The page
numbers given
in the text refer to the Modern Library edition, trans. Samuel
Moore and
Edward Aveling, ed. Frederick Engels, rev. Ernest Untermann
[New York,
Will it be objected that this interpretation is analogical by
nature? I
accept the question, on condition that it be addressed also, and
in the first
to Marx's analysis of commodities. Did not Aristotle, a thinker"
according to Marx, determine the relation of form to matter by
analogy with
between masculine and feminine? Returning to the question of
the
difference between the sexes would amount instead, then, to
going back
Women on the Market
of her body-although her body constitutes the material sup-
port of that price.
But when women are woman's body must be
treated as an abstraction. The exchange operation cannot take
place in terms of some intrinsic, immanent value of the com-
modity. It can only come about when two objects-two wom-
en-are in a relation of equality with a third term that is neither
the one nor the other. It is thus not as "women" that they are
exchanged, but as women to some common feature-
their current price in gold, or phalluses-and of
would represent a plus or minus quantity. Not a plus or a
of feminine qualities, obviously. Since these qualities are aban-
doned in the long run. to the needs of the consumer, woman has
value on the market by virtue of one single quality: that of
being a
product of matt's "labor."
On this basis, each one looks exactly like every other. They
all have the same phantom-like reality. Metamorphosed in
identical sublimations, samples of the same indistinguishable
work, all these objects now manifest just one thing, namely,
that in their production a force of human labor has been ex-
pended, that labor has accumulated in them. In their role as
crystals of that common social substance, they are deemed to
value.
As women are two things at once: utilitarian
objects and bearers manifest themselves therefore
as commodities, or commodities, only in so
far as they have two forms, a or natural form, and a
value form" (p. 55).
But "the reality of the value of commodities differs in
respect from Dame Quickly, that we don't know 'where to
have it''' (ibid.). Woman, object of exchange, d~ffers from
UJoman,
use value, in that one doesn't know how to take (hold of) her,
for
since "the value of commodities is the very opposite of the
coarse materiality of their substance, not an atom of matter
174 175
This Sex Which Is Not One
enters into its composltlon. Turn and examine a
modity, by itself, as we will. Yet in so far as it
of value, it seems impossible to grasp it" (ibid.). a
woman always escapes: black continent, hole in the symbolic,
breach in discourse . . . It is only in the operation of exchange
among women that something of this-something enigmatic,
to be sure-can be felt. Woman thus has value only in that she
can
be exchanged. In the passage from one to the other, something
else finally exists beside the possible utility of the "coarseness"
of her body. But this value is not found, is not recaptured, in
her. It is only her measurement against a third term that re-
mains external to her, and that makes it possible to compare her
woman, that permits her to have a relation to
commodity in terms of an equivalence that remains
foreign to
are thus subject to a schism that divides
them into the categories of usefulness and value; into
matter-body and an envelope that is precious but impenetrable,
ungraspable, and not susceptible to appropriation bv women
themselves; into private use and social use.
In order to have a relative value, a commodity has to be con-
fronted with another commodity that serves as equivalent.
Its value is never found to lie within itself And the that it is
worth more or less is not its own doing but comes from that to
which it may be equivalent. Its value is transcendent to itself,
super-natural, ek-static.
in other words, for the commodity, there is no mirror that copies
it so
that it may be at once itself and its "own" reflection. One com-
modity cannot be mirrored in another, as man is mirrored in his
fellow man. For when we are dealing with commodities the
self-same, mirrored, is not "its" own likeness, contains nothing
its properties, its qualities, its "skin and hair." The likeness
a measure expressing the fabricated character of the
its trans-formation bv man's (social, symbolic)
Women on the Market
"labor." The mirror that envelops and paralyzes the com-
modity specularizes, speculates (on) man's "labor." Com-
women, are a mirror of value of and Jor man. In order to
serve as such, they up bodies to men as the support-
ing material of of speculation. They yield to
him their natural and value as a locus of imprints, marks,
and mirage of his
Commodities among themselves are thus not equal, nor
alike, nor different. They only become so when they are com-
pared by and for man. And the prosopopoeia of the relation
commodities among themselves is a projection through which
pro-
ducers-exchangers make them reenact before their eyes their
operations of specula(riza)tion. Forgetting that in order to re-
flect (oneself), to speculate (oneself), it is necessary to be a
"subject," and that matter can serve as a support for speculation
but cannot itself speculate in any way.
Thus, starting with the simplest relation of equivalence be-
tween commodities, starting with the possible exchange of
women, the entire enigma of the money form-of the phallic
function-is implied. That is, the appropriation-disappropria-
tion by man, for man, of nature and its productive forces,
insofar as a mirror now divides and travesties both
nature and labor. Man endows the commodities he produces
a blurs the seriousness of utility, of use.
Desire, as soon as is exchange, "perverts" need. But that
perversion will attributed to commodities and to their al-
leged relations. Whereas they can have no relationships except
from the perspective of speculating third parties.
The economy of exchange-ofdesire-is man's business. For two
reasons: the exchange takes place between masculine subjects,
and it requires a plus-value added to the body of the
commodity,
a supplement which gives it a valuable form. That supplement
will be found, Marx writes, in another commodity, whose use
value becomes, from that point on, a standard of value.
176 177
This Sex Which Is Not One
But that surplus-value enjoyed by one of the commodities
might vary: 'Just as many a man strutting about in a gorgeous
uniform counts for more than when in mufti" (p. 60). Orjust as
"A, for instance, cannot be 'your majesty' to B, unless at the
same time majesty in B's eyes assume the bodily form of A,
and, what is more, with every new father of the people, chan-
ges its features, hair, and many other things besides" (ibid.).
Commodities-"things" produced-would thus have the re-
spect due the uniform, majesty, paternal authority. And even
God. "The fact that it is value, is made manifest by its equality
with the coat, just as the sheep's nature of a Christian is shown
in his resemblance to the Lamb of God" (ibid.).
Commodities thus share in the cult of the father, and never stop
striving to resemble, to copy, the one who is his representative.
It is
from that resemblance, from that imitation of what represents
paternal authority, that commodities draw their value-for
men. But it is upon commodities that the producers-exchangers
bring to bear this power play. "We see, then, all that our analy-
sis of the value of commodities has already told us, is told us by
the linen itself, so soon as it comes into communication with
another commodity, the coat. Only it betrays its thoughts in
that language with which alone it is familiar, the language of
commodities. In order to tell us that its own value is created by
labour in its abstract character of human labour, it says that the
coat, in so far as it is worth as much as the linen, and therefore
is
value, consists of the same labour as the linen. In order to
inform us that its sublime reality as value is not the same as its
buckram body, it says that value has the appearance of a coat,
and consequently that so far as the linen is value, it and the coat
are as like as two peas. We may here remark, that the language
of commodities has, besides Hebrew, many other more or less
correct dialects. The German 'werthsein,' to be worth, for in-
stance, expresses in a less striking manner than the Romance
verbs 'valere,' 'valer,' 'valoir,' that the equating of commodity
B to commodity A, is commodity A's own mode of expressing
its value. Paris vaut bien une messe" (pp. 60-61).
Women on the Market
So commodities speak. To be sure, mostly dialects and patois,
lan-
guages hard for "subjects" to understand. The important thing is
that they be preoccupied with their respective values, that their
remarks confirm the exchangers' plans for them.
The body of a commodity thus becomes, for another such
commodity, a mirror of its value. Contingent upon a bodily
supplement. A supplement opposed to use value, a supplement
representing the commodity's super-natural quality (an imprint
that is purely social in nature), a supplement completely differ-
ent from the body itself, and from its properties, a supplement
that nevertheless exists only on condition that one commodity
agrees to relate itself to another considered as equivalent: "For
instance, one man is king only because other men stand in the
relation of subjects to him" (p. 66, n. 1).
This supplement of equivalency translates concrete work into
abstract work. In other words, in order to be able to incorpo-
rate itself into a mirror of value, it is necessary that the work
itself reflect only its property of human labor: that the body of a
commodity be nothing more than the materialization of an ab-
stract human labor. That is, that it have no more body, matter,
nature, but that it be objectivization, a crystallization as visible
object, of man's activity.
In order to become equivalent, a commodity changes bodies. A
super-natural, metaphysical origin is substituted for its material
origin. Thus its body becomes a transparent body, pure phe-
nomenality of value. But this transparency constitutes a supple-
ment to the material opacity of the commodity.
Once again there is a schism between the two. Two sides, two
poles, nature and society are divided, like the perceptible and
the
intelligible, matter and form, the empirical and the transcenden-
tal ... The commodity, like the sign, suffers from metaphysical
dichotomies. Its value, its truth, lies in the social element. But
this social element is added on to its nature, to its matter, and
the
social subordinates it as a lesser value, indeed as nonvalue. Par-
178 179
This Sex Which Is One
tlclpation in society requires that the body submit itself to a
specularization, a speculation, that transforms it into a value-
bearing object, a standardized sign, an exchangeable signifier, a
"likeness" with reference to an authoritative model. A com-
modity-a woman-is divided into two irreconcilable {{bodies":
her
"natural" body and her socially valued, exchangeable body,
is a particularly mimetic expression of masculine values.
No doubt these values also express "nature," that the expen-
diture of physical force. But this latter-essentially masculine,
moreover-serves for the fabrication, the transformation, the
technicization of natural productions. And it is this super-
natural
property that comes to constitute the value of the product.
Analyzing value in this way, Marx exposes the meta-physical
character of social operations.
commodity is thus a dual entity as soon as its value
comes to possess a phenomenal form of own, distinct from
its natural form: that of exchange value. And it never possesses
this form if it is considered in isolation. A commodity has
phenomenal form added on to its nature only in relation to
another commodity.
among signs, value appears only when a relationship has
been established. It remains the case that the establishment of
relationships cannot be accomplished by the commodities
themselves, but depends upon the operation of two exchangers.
The value of two signs, two commodities, two wom-
en, is a representation of the needs/desires of consumer-ex-
changer subjects: in no way is it the "property" of the signs/
articles/women themselves. At the most, the commodities-or
rather the relationships among them-are the material alibi for
the desire for relations among men. To this end, the com-
modity is disinvested of its body and redothed in a that
makes it suitable for exchange among men.
But, in this value-bearing form, the desire that exchange,
and the reflection of his own value and that of his fellow man
Women on the Market
that man seeks in it, are ek-stasized. In that suspension in the
commodity of the relationship among men, producer-con-
sumer-exchanger subjects are alienated. In order that they
might "bear" and support that alienation, commodities for
their part have always been dispossessed of their specific value.
On this basis, one may affirm that the value of the commodity
takes on indijJerently any given form use value. The price of
the articles, in fact, no longer comes from their natural form,
from their bodies, their language, but from the fact that they
mirror the need/ desire for exchanges among men. To do this,
the commodity obviously cannot exist alone, but there is no
such thing as a commodity, either, so long as there are not at
two men to make an exchange. In order for a product-a
woman?-to have value, two men, at least, have to invest (in)
her.
The general equivalent of a commodity no longer fonctions as a
commodity itself. A preeminent mirror, transcending the world
of merchandise, it guarantees the possibility of universal ex-
change among commodities. Each commodity may become
equivalent to every other from the viewpoint of that sublime
standard, but the fact that the judgment of their value depends
upon some transcendental element renders them provisionally
incapable of being directly exchanged for each other. They are
exchanged by means of the general equivalent-as Christians
love each other in God, to borrow a theological metaphor dear
to Marx.
That ek-static reference separates them radically from each
other. An abstract and universal lJalue preserves them from use
and
exchange among themselves. They are, as it were, transformed
into value-invested idealities. Their concrete forms, their spe-
cific qualities, and all the possibilities of "real" relations with
them or among them are reduced to their common character as
products of man's labor and desire.
We must emphasize also that the general equivalent, since it is
181
This Sex Is Not One
no longer a commodity, is no longer usefol. The standard as
such is
exempt from use.
Though a commodity may at first sight appear to be "a very
trivial thing, and easily understood, ... it is, in reality, a very
queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and the-
ological niceties" (p. 81). No doubt, "so far as it is a value in
use, there is nothing mysterious about it .... But, so soon as la
wooden table, for example] steps forth as a commodity, it is
changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with
its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities,
it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain gro-
tesque ideas, far more wonderful than 'table-turning' ever
(pp. 81-82).
"The mystical character of commodities not ongmate,
therefore, in their use value. Just as little does it proceed from
the nature of the determining factors of the first
place, however varied the useful kinds
activities, may be, it is a
tions of the human organism" (p. 82), which, for Marx, does
not seem to constitute a mystery in any way ... The material
contribution and support of bodies in societal operations pose
no problems for him, except as production and expenditure of
energy.
Where, then, does the enigmatic character of the product of
labor come from, as soon as this product takes on the form of a
commodity? It comes, obviously, from that form itself. Then
where does the en{gmatic character ofwomen comefrom? Or
even that
of their supposed relations among themselves? Obviously,
from the "form" of the needs/desires of man, needs/ desires
that women bring to light although men do not recognize them
in that form. That form, those women, are always enveloped,
veiled.
In any case, "the existence of things qua commodities, and
the value relation between the products oflabour which stamps
Women on the Market
them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their
physical properties and with the material relations arising there-
from. [With commodities] it is a definite social relation between
men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a
between things" (p. 83). This phenomenon has no
the religious world. "In that world the productions of
brain appear as independent
tering into relation one
So it is commodities with the products of men's
hands" fetishism attached to these products
present themselves as commodities.
as fttish-objects, inasmuch as, in exchanges,
are the manifestation and the circulation of a power of the
establishing relationships of men with each other?
*
Hence the following remarks:
On value.
It represents the equivalent of labor force, of an expenditure
of energy, of toil. In order to be measured, these latter must be
abstracted from all immediately natural qualities, from any con-
crete individual. A process of generalization and of
universaliza-
tion imposes itself in the operation of social exchanges. Hence
the reduction of man to a "concept"-that of his labor force-
and the reduction of his product to an "object," the visible,
material correlative of that concept.
The characteristics of corresnondino to
social state are thus the
is necessarily even pa111tul; Its abstract form; its
need/ desire to a transcendental element of wealth
182 183
This Sex Is Not One
standard of all value; its need a material support where
relation of appropriation to and of that standard is mea-
sured; its exchange relationships-always rivalrous-among
men alone, and so on.
Are not these modalities the ones that might define
(so-called) masculine sexuality? And is libido not another name
for the abstraction of "energy" in a productive power? For the
work of nature? Another name for the desire to accumulate
goods? Another name for the subordination of the specific
of bodies to a-neutral?-power that aims above all to
transform them in order to possess them? Does pleasure, for
masculine sexuality, consist in anything other than the appro-
priation of nature, in the desire to make it (re)produce, and in
exchanges of its I these products with other members of
society?
An essentially economic pleasure.
Thus the following question: what
masculine sexuality have presided over the evolution oja certain
social
order, primitive form, private property, to its devel-
. But also: to what extent are these needs Idesires
effict oja social mechanism, in part autonomous, that produces
them as such?
On the status oj women in such a social order.
What makes such an order possible, what assures its
tion, is thus the exchange oj women. circulation of women
among men is what establishes the operations of society, at least
of patriarchal society. Whose presuppositions include the fol-
appropriation of nature by man; the transformation
of nature according to "human" criteria, defined by men alone;
the submission of nature to labor and technology; the reduction
ofits material, corporeal, perceptible qualities to man's practical
concrete activity; the equality of women among themselves,
but in terms of laws of equivalence that remain external to
Women on
them; the constitution of women as "objects" that emblematize
the materialization of relations among men, and so on.
In such a social order, women thus represent a natural value
a social value. Their "development" lies in the passage
from one to the other. But this passage nev,er takes place
simply.
As mother, woman remains on the side oj (re)productive nature
and, because of this, man can never fully transcend his relation
to the "natural." His social his economic structures
and his sexuality are always tied to the work of nature: these
structures thus always remain at the level of the earliest appro-
priation, that of the constitution of nature as landed property,
earliest labor, which is agricultural. But this rela-
tionship to productive nature, an insurmountable one, has to be
denied so that relations among men may prevail. This means
that mothers, reproductive instruments marked with the name
of the father and enclosed in his house, must be private proper-
ty, excluded from exchange. The incest taboo represents
refusal to allow productive nature to enter into exchanges
among men. As both natural value and use value, mothers
cannot circulate in the form of commodities without threaten-
ing the existence of the social order. Mothers are essential
to its (re)production (particularly inasmuch as they are
[re]productive of children and of the labor force: through ma-
ternity, child-rearing, and domestic maintenance in general).
Their responsibility is to maintain the social order without in-
tervening so as to change it. Their products are legal tender in
that order, moreover, only if they are marked with the name of
the father, only if they are recognized within his law: that
only insofar as they are appropriated by him. Society is
place man engenders himself, where man produces him-
self as man, where man is born into "human," "super-natural"
existence.
184 185
Sex Is Not One
virginal woman, on the other hand, is pure exchange value.
She is nothing but the possibility, the place, the sign of
relations
among men. In and of herself, she does not exist: she is a simple
envelope veiling what is really at stake in social exchange. In
this sense, her natural body disappears into its representative
function. Red blood remains on the mother's side, but it has no
price, as such, in the social order; woman, for her part, as
medium of exchange, is no longer anything but semblance. The
ritualized passage from woman to mother is accomplished by
the violation of an envelope: the hymen, which has taken on the
value of taboo, the taboo of virginity. Once deflowered, woman
is relegated to the status of use value, to her entrapment in
private property; she is removed from exchange among men.
The prostitute remains to be considered. Explicitly condemned
by the social order, she is implicitly tolerated. No doubt
the break between usage and exchange her case, clear-
cut? In her case, the qualities of woman's body are "useful."
However, these qualities have "value" only because they have
already been appropriated by a man, and because they serve as
the locus ofrelations-hidden ones-between men. Prostitution
amounts to usage that is exchanged. Usage that is not merely
it has already been realized. The woman's body is
because it has already been used. In the extreme case, the
more it has served, the more it is worth. Not because its natural
assets have been put to use this way, but, on the contrary,
because its nature has been "used up," and has become once
again no more than a vehicle for relations among men.
Mother, vlrgm, prostitute: these are the social roles imposed on
women. The characteristics of (so-called) feminine sexuality de-
rive from them: the valorization of reproduction and nursing;
faithfulness; modesty, ignorance of and even lack of interest in
sexual pleasure; a passive acceptance of men's "activity";
seduc-
tiveness, in order to arouse the consumers' desire while offering
Women on the Market
herself as its material support without getting pleasure her-
self. . . Neither as mother nor as virgin nor as prostitute has
woman
any right to her own pleasure.
Of course the theoreticians of sexuality are sometimes as-
tonished by women's frigidity. But, according to
frigidity is explained more by an impotence to femi-
nine "nature" than by the submission
type of society. However,
sexuality is oddly evocative the status of a
references to IC ...·Ll.Jll" of the "natural"-
physiological organic nature, and so on-that are equally
ambiguous.
And, in addition:
-just as nature has to be subjected to man in order to be-
come a commodity, so, it appears, does "the development of a
normal woman." A development that amounts, for the femi-
nine, to subordination to the forms and laws of masculine ac-
tivity. The rejection of the mother-imputed to woman-
would find its "cause" here;
-just as, in commodities, natural utility is overridden by the
exchange function, so the properties of a woman's body have to
be suppressed and subordinated to the exigencies of its trans-
formation into an object of circulation among men;
-just as a commodity has no mirror it can use to reflect
itself, so woman serves as reflection, as of and for man,
but lacks specific qualities of her own. form
amounts to what man inscribes in and on
body;
-just as commodities cannot make among them-
selves without the intervention of a subiect that measures them
186 187
This Sex Which [s Not One
against a standard, so it is with women. Distinguished, divided,
separated, classified as like and unlike, according to whether
have been judged exchangeable. In themselves, among
themselves, they are amorphous and confused: natural body,
maternal body, doubtless useful to the consumer, but without
any possible identity or communicable value;
as commodities, despite their resistance, become more
or less autonomous repositories for the value of human work,
so, as mirrors of and for man, women more or less unwittingly
come to represent the danger dis appropriation of masculine
power: the phallic mirage;
-just as a commodity finds the expression of its value in an
equivalent-in the last analysis, a general one-that necessarily
remains external to it, so woman derives her price from her
relation to the male sex, constituted as a transcendental value:
the phallus. And indeed the enigma of "value" lies in the most
elementary relation among commodities. Among women. For,
uprooted from their "nature," they no longer to each
other except in terms of what they represent in men's desire,
and according to the "forms" that this imposes upon them.
Among themselves, they are separated by his speculations.
This means that the division of "labor"-sexual labor in par-
ticular-requires that woman maintain in her own body the
material substratum of the object of desire, but that herself
never have access to desire. The economy of desire-of ex-
change-is man's business. And that economy subjects women
to a schism that is necessary to symbolic operations:
blood/ semblance; body / value-invested envelope; mat-
ter/medium of exchange; (re) productive nature/fabricated fem-
... That schism-characteristic of all speaking nature,
someone will surely object-is experienced by women without
any possible profit to them. And without any way for them to
Women on the Market
transcend it. They are not even "conscious" of it. The symbolic
system that cuts them in two this way is in no way appropriate
to them. In them, "semblance" remains external, foreign to
"nature." Socially, they are "objects" for and among men and
furthermore they cannot do anything but mimic a "language"
that they have not produced; naturally, they remain amorphous,
suffering from drives without any possible representatives or
representations. For them, the transformation of the natural
into the social does not take place, except to the extent that they
function as components ofprivate property, or as commodities.
Characteristics of this social
This type of social system can be interpreted as the practical
realization ofthe meta-physical. As the practical destiny of the
meta-
physical, it would also represent its mostfully realizedJorm.
Oper-
ating in such a way, moreover, that subjects themselves, being
implicated in it through and through, being produced in it as
concepts, would lack the means to analyze it. Except in an after-
the-fact way whose delays are yet to be fully measured.
This practical realization of the meta-physical has as its
founding operation the appropriation of woman's body by the
father or his substitutes. It is marked by women's submission to
a system of general equivalents, the proper name representing
the monopoly of power. It is from this standardization
that women receive their value, as they pass from the state of
nature to the status of social object. This trans-formation of
women's bodies into use values and exchange values inaugu-
rates the symbolic order. But that order depends upon a nearly
pure added value. Women, animals endowed with speech like
men, assure the possibility of the use and circulation of the
symbolic without being recipients of it. Their nonaccess to the
symbolic is what has established the social order. Putting men
in touch with each other, in relations among themselves, wom-
188 189
Sex Is Not One
en only fulfill this role by relinquishing their right to speech
and
even to animality. No longer in the natural order, not in the
social order that they nonetheless maintain, women are the
symptom of the exploitation of individuals by a
remunerates them only partially, or even not at aU,
"work." Unless subordination to a system that utilizes you and
oppresses you should be considered as sufficient compensa-
tion ... ? Unless the fact that women are branded with the
proper name-of the "father"-should be viewed as the sym-
bolic payment awarded them for sustaining the social order
with their bodies?
But by submitting women's bodies to a general equivalent,
to a transcendent, super-natural value, men have drawn the
social structure into an ever greater process of abstraction, to
the point they themselves are produced in it as pure
concepts: having surmounted all their "perceptible" qualities
and individual differences, they are finally reduced to the aver-
productivity of their labor. The power of
economy of the meta-physical comes from the fact
withoutological" energy is transformed into abstract
mediation of an intelligible elaboration. No individual subject
can be credited any longer with bringing about this transforma-
tion. It is only after the fact that the subject might possibly be
able to analyze his determination as such by the social structure.
And even then it is not certain that his love of gold would not
make him give up everything else before he would renounce the
cult of this fetish. "The saver thus sacrifices to this fetish all
the
penchants of his flesh. No one takes the gospel of renunciation
more than he."
we may say so-women! commodities
would remain, as simple "objects" of transaction among men.
Their situation of specific exploitation in opera-
tions-sexual exchange, and economic, social, and cultural ex-
Women on the Market
changes in general-might lead them to offer a new critique of
the political economy." A critique that would no longer avoid
that
of discourse, and more generally of the symbolic system, in
which it is
realized. Which would lead to interpreting in a different way the
impact of symbolic social labor in the analysis of relations of
exploitation of women, what would be-
come of the order? What modifications would it undergo
if women left behind their condition as commodities-subject
to being produced, consumed, valorized, circulated, and so on,
by men alone-and took part in elaborating and out
exchanges? Not by reproducing, by copying, the "phal-
locratic" models that have the force of law today, but by so-
cializing in a different way the relation to nature, matter, the
body, language, and desire.
190 191
d
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Jean-Joseph Goux
from Symbolic Economies
d
Rectangle
d
Text Box
Freud from Civilization and its Discontents [1930]
d
Text Box
d
Rectangle
d
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d
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Sigmund Freud, 1915
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Am I The essence of comedy. What is a praxis?. Between
science and religion. The hysteric and Freud's own desire
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this series of lectures, which I have been invited to give by
the École pratique des Hautes Etudes, I shall be talking to you
about the fundamentals of psycho-analysis.
Today I should like simply to point out to you the meaning
I intend to give to this title and the way I hope to it.
And yet, I must first introduce myself to you—despite the
fact that most, though not all of you, know me already—be-
cause the circumstances are such that before dealing with this
subject it might be appropriate to ask a preliminary question,
namely: am I qualzfied to do so?
My qualification for speaking to you on this subject amounts
to this: for ten years, I held what was called a seminar,
addressed
to psycho-analysts. As some of you may know, I withdrew from
this role (to which I had in fact devoted my life) as a result
of events occurring within what is called a psycho-analytic
association, and, more specifically, within the association that
had conferred this role upon me.
It might be said that my qualification to undertake the same
role elsewhere is not, by that token, impugned as such. However
that may be, I consider the problem deferred for the time being.
And if today I am in a position to be able, let us simply say, to
further this teaching of mine, I feel it incumbent upon me,
before
embarking on what for me is a new phase, to express my thanks
to M. Fernand Braudel, the chairman of the section of the
Hautes Etudes that appointed me to appear before you here.
M. Braudel has informed me of his regret at being unable to be
present: I would like to pay tribute to what I can only call
his nobility in providing me with a means of continuing my
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teaching, whose style and reputation alone were known to him.
Nobility is surely the right word for his welcome to someone in
my position—that of a refugee otherwise reduced to silence.
M. Braudel extended this welcome to me as soon as he had
been alerted by the vigilance of my friend Claude Levi-
Strauss, whom I am delighted to see here today and who knows
how precious for me this evidence of his interest in my work
is—in work that has developed in parallel with his own.
I wish also to thank all those who on this occasion demon-
strated their sympathy to such effect that M. Robert Flaceière,
Director of the Ecole Normale SupCrieure, was generous
enough
to put this auditorium at the disposal of the Ecole des Hautes
Etudes—and without which I should have been at a loss to
welcome you in such numbers—for which I wish to express my
most heartfelt thanks.
All this concerns the base, in the topographical and even the
military sense of the word—the base for my teaching. I shall
now turn to what it is about—the fundamentals of psycho-
analysis.
I
As far as the fundamentals of psycho-analysis are concerned,
my seminar was, from the beginning, implicated, so to speak. It
was an element of those fundamentals, because it was a con-
tribution, in concreto, to them—because it was an internal part
of psycho-analytic praxis itself—because it was aimed at what
is an essential of that praxis, namely, the training of psycho-
analysts.
There was a time when, ironically—temporarily, perhaps,
and for lack of anything better in the situation I was in—I was
led to define a criterion of what psycho-analysis is, namely, the
treatment handed Out by psycho-analysts. Henry Ey, who is
here today, will remember the article in question as it was pub-
lished in a volume of the encyclopaedia he edits. And, since he
is present, it is all the easier for me to recall the fury that the
article aroused and the pressure exerted to get the said article
withdrawn from the said encyclopaedia. As a result, M. Ey,
whose sympathy for my cause is well known, was powerless to
resist an operation masterminded by an editorial committee
on which there were, precisely, some psycho-analysts. The
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article concerned will be included in a collection of a number
of my essays that I am trying to put together, and you will, I
think, be able to judge for yourselves whether it has lost any of
its relevance. For me, this seems all the less likely given that
the
questions I raise in it are the very same as those that I shall be
grappling with here, and which are resuscitated by the fact
that here I am, in the present circumstances, still asking that
very same question—what is psycho-analjsis?
No doubt there are certain ambiguities in all this, and the
question—as I pointed out in the article—still has a certain
bat-like quality. To examine it in broad daylight is what I
proposed to do then and, whatever position I am in, it is what
I propose to do today.
The position I refer to has changed, in fact; it is not wholly
inside, but whether it is outside is not known.
In reminding you of all this, I am not indulging in personal
reminiscence. I think you will agree that I am having recourse
neither to gossip nor to any kind of polemic if I point out here
what is simply a fact, namely, that my teaching—specifically
designated as such—has been the object of censure by a body
calling itself the Executive Committee of an organization
calling
itself the International Psycho-analytical Association. Such
censorship is of no ordinary kind, since what it amounts to is no
less than a ban on this teaching—which is to be regarded as
nul and void as far as any qualification to the title of psycho-
analyst is concerned. And the acceptance of this ban is to be a
condition of the international affiliation of the Psycho-
analytical
Association to which I belong.
But this is not all. It is expressly spelt out that this affiliation
is to be accepted only if a guarantee is given that my teaching
may never again be sanctioned by the Association as far as the
training of analysts is concerned.
So, what it amounts to is something strictly comparable to
what is elsewhere called major excommunication—although
there the term is never pronounced without any possibility of
repeal. The latter exists only in a religious community de-
signated by the significant symbolic term sjnagogue, and it was
precisely that which Spinoza was condemned to. On 27 July
1656—a singular bi-centenary, for it corresponds to that of
Freud—Spinoza was made the object of the kherem, an
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excommunication that corresponds to major excommunication,
• since he had to wait some time before becoming the object of
the chammata, which consists of appending the clause of no
return.
Please do not imagine that here—any more than elsewhere
—I am indulging in some metaphorical game—that would
be too puerile in view of the long and, God knows, serious
enough terrain we have to cover. 1 believe—you will be able
to judge for yourselves—that not only by virtue of the echoes
it evokes, but by the structure it implies, this fact introduces
something that is essential to our investigation of psycho-
analytic praxis.
I am not saying—though it would not be inconceivable
—that the community is a Church. Yet the
question indubitably does arise—what is it in that community
that is so reminiscent of religious practice? Nor would I have
stressed this point—though it is sufficiently significant to carry
the musty odour of scandal—were it not that like everything
I have to say today, it will be useful in what follows.
I do not mean that I am indifferent to what happens to me
in such circumstances. Do not imagine that for me—any more,
I suppose, than for the intercessor whose precedent I have not
hesitated to evoke—this is material for comedy. It is no laugh-
ing matter. Nevertheless, I should like to let you know en
passant that something of the order of a vast comic dimension
in all this has not wholly escaped me. What I am referring to
here is not at the level of what I have called excommunication.
It has to do with the situation I was in for two years, that of
knowing that I was—at the hands of precisely those who, in
relation to me, were colleagues or even pupils—the object of
what is called a deal.
For what was at stake was the extent to which the con-
cessions made with respect to the validity of my teaching could
be traded off with the other side of the deal, namely, the in-
ternational affiliation of the Association. I do not wish to
forgo this opportunity—we shall return to it later—of in-
dicating that the situation can be experienced at the level of
the comic dimension proper.
This can be fully appreciated, I think, only by a psycho-
analyst.
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No doubt, being the object of a deal is not a rare situation
for an individual—contrary to all the verbiage about human
dignity, not to mention the Rights of Man. Each of us at any
moment and at any level may be traded off—without the notion
of exchange we can have no serious insight into the social
structure. The kind of exchange involved here is the exchange
of individuals, that is, of those social supports which, in a
different context, are known as 'subjects', with all their sup-
posed sacred rights to autonomy. It is a well known fact that
politics is a matter of trading—wholesale, in lots, in this con-
text—the same subjects, who are now called citizens, in hun-
dreds of thousands. There was nothing particularly exceptional,
then, about my situation, except that being traded by those
whom I referred to just now as colleagues, and even pupils, is
sometimes, if seen from the outside, called by a different name.
But if the truth of the subject, even when he is in the position
of master, does not reside in himself; but, as analysis shows, in
an object that is, of its nature, concealed, to bring this object
out into the light of day is really and truly the essence of
comedy.
This dimension of the situation is worth pointing out, I
think, especially in the position from which I can testify to it,
because, after all, on such an occasion, it might be treated,
with undue restraint, a sort of false modesty, as someone who
had experienced it from the outside might do. From the inside,
I can tell you that this dimension is quite legitimate, that it
may be experienced from the analytic point of view, and even,
from the moment it is perceived, in a way that overcomes it
—namely, from the point of view of humour, which, here, is
simply the recognition of the comic.
This remark is not without relevance to my subject—the
fundamentals of psycho-analysis—for fundamentwn has more
than one meaning, and I do not need to remind you that in the
I5abbala it designates one of the modes of divine manifestation,
'which, in this register, is strictly identified with the pudenilum.
All the same, it would be extraordinary if, in an analytic dis-
course, we were to stop at the pudendum. In this context, no
doubt, the fundamentals would take the form of the bottom
parts, were it not that those parts were already to some extent
exposed.
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Some people, on the outside, may be surprised that certain
of my analysands, some of whom were still under analysis,
should have taken part, a very active part, in this deal. And
they may ask themselves how such a thing is possible were it
not that, at the level of the relation between your analysands
and yourselves, there is some discord that puts in question the
very value of analysis. Well, it is precisely by setting out from
something that may provide grounds for scandal that we will
be able to grasp in a more precise way what is called the
training analjsis—that praxis, or that stage of praxis, which has
been completely ignored in all published work on psycho-
analysis—and throw some light on its aims, its limits and its
effects.
This is no longer a question of pudendum. It is a question of
knowing what may, what must, be expected of psycho-analysis,
and the extent to which it may prove a hindrance, or even a
failure.
That is why I thought I was under an obligation to spare
you no details, but to present you with a fact, as an object,
whose outlines, and whose possible manipulation, I hope you
will see more clearly, to present it at the very outset of what I
now have to say when, before you, I ask the question—What
are the fundamentals, in the broad sense of the term, of psjcho-
analjth? Which amounts to saying—What grounds it as
praxis?
2
What is a praxis? I doubt whether this term may be regarded
as inappropriate to psycho-analysis. It is the broadest term to
designate a concerted human action, whatever it may be,
which places man in a position to treat the real by the symbolic.
The fact that in doing so he encounters the imaginary to a
greater or lesser degree is only of secondary importance here.
This definition of praxis, then, is very extensive. We are not
going to set out in search of our psycho-analysis, like Diogenes
in search of man, in the various, very diversified fields of
praxis.
Rather we shall take our psycho-analysis with us, and it will
direct us at once towards some fairly well located, specifiable
points of praxis.
Without even introducing by any kind of transition the two
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terms between which I wish to hold the question—and not at
all in an ironic way—I posit first that, if I am here, in such a
large auditorium, in such a place, and with such an audience,
it is to ask myself whether is a science, and to
examine the question with you.
The other reference, the religious one, I already mentioned
a little while ago, specifying that I am speaking of religion in
the true sense of the term—not of a desiccated, methodologized
religion, pushed back into the distant past of a primitive form
of thought, but of religion as we see it practised in a still living,
very vital way. Psycho-analysis, whether or not it is worthy of
being included in one of these two registers, may even en-
lighten us as to what we should understand by science, and
even by religion.
I would like at once to avoid a misunderstanding. In any
case, someone will say, psycho-analysis is a form of research.
Well, allow me to say quite clearly—in particular to the
public authorities for whom this search has seemed, for some
time now, to serve as a shibboleth for any number of things
—that I am a bit suspicious of this term research. Personally,
I have never regarded myself as a researcher. As Picasso once
said, to the shocked surprise of those around him—i do not
seek, I find.
Indeed, there are in the field of so-called scientific research
two domains that can quite easily be recognized, that in which
one seeks, and that in which one finds.
Curiously enough, this corresponds to a fairly well defined
frontier between what may and may not qualify as science.
Furthermore, there is no doubt some affinity between the
research that seeks and the religious register. In the religious
register, the phrase is often used— You would not seek me
had not alreadj found me. The alreadj found is already behind,
but
stricken by something like oblivion. Is it not, then, a corn-
endless search that is then opened up?
If the search concerns us here, it is by virtue of those elements
of this debate that are established at the level of what we now-
adays call the human sciences. Indeed, in these human sciences,
one sees emerging, as it were, beneath the feet of whoever
finds, what I will call the hermeneutic demand, which is
precisely
that which seeks—which seeks the ever new and the never
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exhausted signification, but one threatened with being trampled
under foot by him who finds.
Now, we analysts are interested in this herineneutics, be-
cause the way of developing signification offered by her-
meneutics is confused, in many minds, with what analysis calls
interpretation. It so happens that, although this interpretation
cannot in any way be conceived in the same way as the afore-
mentioned hermeneutics, hermeneutics, on the other hand,
makes ready use of interpretation. In this respect, we see, at
least, a corridor of communication between psycho-analysis and
the religious register. We shall come back to this in due course.
Before allowing psycho-analysis to call itself a science, there-
fore, we shall require a little more.
What specifies a science is having an object. It is possible to
maintain that a science is specified by a definite object, at least
by a certain reproducible level of operation known as experi-
ment. But we must be very prudent, because this object changes,
and in a very strange way, as a science develops. We cannot
say that the object of modern physics is the same now as at its
birth, which I would date in the seventeenth century. And is
the object of modern chemistry the same as at the moment of
its birth, which I would date from the time of Lavoisier? -
It is possible that these remarks will force us into an at least
tactical retreat, and to start again from the praxis, to ask our-
selves1 knowing that praxis delimits a field, whether it is at the
level of this field that the modern scientist, who is not a man
who knows a lot about everything, is to be specified.
I do not accept Duhem's demand that every science should
refer to a unitary, or world, system—a reference that is always
in fact more or less idealist, since it is a reference to the need of
identification. I would even go so far as to say that we can dis-
pense with the implicit transcendent element in the position of
the positivist, which always refers to some ultimate unity of all
the fields.
We will extricate ourselves from it all the more easily in view
of the fact that, after all, it is disputable, and may even be
regarded as false. It is in no way necessary that the tree of
science
should have a single trunk. I do not think that there are many
of them. There are perhaps, as in the first chapter of Genesis,
two different trunks—not that I attach in any way an cx-
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ceptional importance to this myth, which is tinged to a greater
or lesser degree with obscurantism, but why shouldn't we
expect psycho-analysis to throw some light on it?
If we hold to the notion of experience, in the sense of the
field of a praxis, we see very well that it is not enough to define
a science. Indeed, this definition might be applied very well,
for example, to the mystical experience. It is even by this door
that it is regarded once again as scientific, and that we almost
arrive at the stage of thinking that we can have a scientific
apprehension of this experience. There is a sort of ambiguity
here—to subject an experience to a scientific examination
always implies that the experience has of itself a scientific sub-
sistance. But it is obvious that we cannot re-introduce the
mystical experience into science.
One further remark. Might this definition of science, based
on the field determined by a praxis, be applied to alchemy to
give it the status of a science? I was recently rereading a little
book that is not even included in Diderot's Complete Works, but
which certainly seems to be by him. Although chemistry was
born with Lavoisier, Diderot speaks throughout this little book,
with all the subtlety of mind we expect of him, notof chemistry,
but of alchemy. What is it that makes us say at once that,
despite the dazzling character of the stories he recounts from
ages past, alchemy, when all is said and done, is not a science?
Something, in my view, is decisive, namely, that the purity of
soul of the operator was, as such, and in a specific way, an
essential element in the matter.
This remark is not beside the point, as you may realize, since
we may be about to raise something similar concerning the
presence of the analyst in the analytic Great Work, and to
maintain that it is perhaps what our training analysis seeks. I
may even seem to have been saying the same thing myself in my
teaching recently, when I point straight out, all veils torn aside,
and in a quite overt way, towards that central point that I put
in question, namely—what is the analjvst's desire?
3
What must there be in the analyst's desire for it to operate
in a correct way? Can this question be left outside the limits of
our field, as it is in effect in the sciences—the modern sciences
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of the most assured type—where no one questions himself as
to what there must be in the desire, for example, of the phy-
sicist?
There really must be a series of crises for an Oppenheimer to
question us all as to what there is in the desire that lies at the
basis of modern physics. No one pays any attention to him
anyway. It is thought to be a political incident. Is this desire
something of the same order as that which is required of the
adept of alchemy?
In any case, the analyst's desire can in no way be left outside
our question, for the simple reason that the problem of the
training of the analyst poses it. And the training analysis has
no other purpose than to bring the analyst to the point I
designate in my algebra as the analyst's desire.
Here, again, I must for the moment leave the question open.
You may feel that I am leading you, little by little, to some
such question as—Is agriculture a science? Some people will
say yes, some people no. I offer this example only to suggest to
you that you should make some distinction between agriculture
defined by an object and agriculture defined, if you'll forgive
me, by a field—between agriculture and agronomy. This en-
ables me to bring out one definite dimension—we are at the abc
stage, but, after all, we can't help it— that offormula making.
Is that enough to define the conditions of a science? I don't
think so. A false science, just like a true science, may be ex-
pressed in formulae. The question is not so simple, then, when
psycho-analysis, as a supposed science, appears to have such
problematic features.
What are the formulae in psycho-analysis concerned with?
What motivates and modulates this 'sliding-away' (glissement)
of the object? Are there psycho-analytic concepts that we are
now in possession of? How are we to understand the almost
religious maintenance of the terms proposed by Freud to
structure the analytic experience? Was Freud really the first,
and did he really remain the only theoretician of this supposed
science to have introduced fundamental concepts? Were this
so, it would be very unusual in the history of the sciences.
Without this trunk, this mast, this pile, where can our practice
be moored? we even say that what we are dealing with
are concepts in the strict sense? Are they concepts in the
process
I0
EXCOMMUNICATION
of formation? Are they concepts in the process of development,
in movement, to be revised at a later date?
I think this is a question in which we can maintain that some
progress has already been made, in a direction that can only be
one of work, of conquest, with a view to resolving the question
as to whether psjcho-anal,sis is a science. In fact, the
maintenance
of Freud's concepts at the centre of all theoretical discussion
in that dull, tedious, forbidding chain—which is read by no-
body but psycho-analysts—known as the psycho-analytic
literature, does not alter the fact that analysts in general have
not yet caught up with these concepts, that in this literature
most of the concepts are distorted, debased, fragmented, and
that those that are too difficult are quite simply ignored—that,
for example, everything that has been developed around the
concept of frustration is, in relation to Freud's concepts, from
which it derives, clearly retrograde and pre-conceptual.
Similarly, no one is any longer concerned, with certain rare
exceptions to be found among my pupils, with the ternary
structure of the Oedipus complex or with the castration com-
plex.
It is certainly no contribution to the theoretical status of
psycho-analysis for a writer like Fenichel to reduce, by an
enumeration of the 'main sewer' type, the accumulated material
of the psycho-analytic experience to the level of platitude. Of
course, a certain quantity of facts have been gathered together,
and there is some point in seeing them grouped into a few
chapters, but one cannot avoid the impression that, in a whole
field, everything is explained in advance. Analysis is not a
matter of discovering in a particular case the differential
feature of the theory, and in doing so believe that one is ex-
plaining why your daughter is silent—for the point at issue is
to get her to speak, and this effect proceeds from a type of
inter-
vention that has nothing to do with a differential feature.
Analysis consists precisely in getting her to speak. It might
be said, therefore, that in the last resort, it amounts to over-
coming the barrier of silence, and this is what, at one time, was
called the analysis of the resistances.
The symptom is first of all the silence in the supposed speak-
ing subject. If he speaks, he is cured of his silence, obviously.
But this does not tell us anything about why he began to speak.
II
EXCOMMUNICATION
It merely designates for us a differential feature which, in the
case of the silent girl, is, as was only to be expected, that of the
hysteric.
Now, the differential feature of the hysteric is precisely this
—it is in the very movement of speaking that the hysteric
constitutes her desire. So it is hardly surprising that it should
be through this door that Freud entered what was, in reality,
the relations of desire to language and discovered the mechan-
isms of the unconscious.
That this relation of desire to language as such did not
remain concealed from him is a feature of his genius, but this
is not to say that the relation was fully elucidated—far from
it—by the massive notion of the transference.
The fact that, in order to cure the hysteric of all hersymptoms,
the best way is to satisfy her hysteric's desire—which is for
her to posit her desire in relation to us as an unsatisfied desire
—leaves entirely to one side the specific question of whj she
can sustain her desire only as an unsatisfied desire. So hysteria
places us, I would say, on the track of some kind of original sin
in analysis. There has to be one. The truth is perhaps simply
one thing, namely, the desire of Freud himself, the fact that
something, in Freud, was never analysed.
I had reached precisely this point when, by a strange coin-
cidence, I was put into the position of having to give up my
seminar.
What I had to say on the Names-of-the-Father had no other
purpose, in fact, than to put in question the origin, to discover
by what privilege Freud's desire was able to find the entrance
into the field of experience he designates as the unconscious.
It is absolutely essential that we should go back to this
origin if we wish to put analysis on its feet.
In any case, such a mode of questioning the field of experi-
ence will be guided, in our next meeting, by the following
reference—what conceptual status must we give to four of the
terms introduced by Freud as fundamental concepts, namely,
the unconscious, repetition, the transference and the drive?
We will reach our next step, at our next meeting, by con-
sidering the way in which, in my past teaching, I have situated
these concepts in relation to the more general function that
embraces them, and which makes it possible to show their
12
EXCOMMUNICATION
operational value in this field, namely, the subjacent, implicit
function of the signifier as such.
This year, I promised myself to break off at twenty-past two,
so as to leave time for those who do not have to go on at once
to other pursuits to ask questions arising from my lecture.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
M. TORT: When jou relate to Freud's desire and
to the desire of the hjsteric, might ,ou not be accused of
LACAN: The reference to Freud's desire is not a psychological
reference—and reference to the hysteric's desire is not a
psychological reference.
I posed the following question: the functioning of 'Primitive
Thinking' (la Pensée sauvage), which places at the
basis of the statutes of society, is one unconscious, but is it
enough to accommodate the unconscious as such? And if it is
able to do so, does it accommodate the Freudian unconscious?
It was through the hysterics that Freud learnt the way of the
strictly Freudian unconscious. It was here that I brought the
desire of the hysteric into play, while indicating at the same
time that Freud did not stop there.
Freud's desire, however, I have placed at a higher level. I
have said that the Freudian field of analytic practice remained
dependent on a certain original desire, which always plays an
ambiguous, but dominant role in the transmission of psycho-
analysis. The problem of this desire is not psychological, any
more than is the unsolved problem of Socrates' desire. There
is an entire thematic area concerning the status of the subject
when Socrates declares that he does not place desire in a
position of original subjectivity, but in the position of an
object. Well! Freud, too, is concerned with desire as an object.
15 January 1964
/
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, Second Series, 1844.
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Cathy Caruth, 1996
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dText BoxMarshall Sahlins, The Spirit of the Gift,”[197.docx

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dText BoxMarshall Sahlins, The Spirit of the Gift,”[197.docx

  • 1. d Text Box Marshall Sahlins, “The Spirit of the Gift,”[1972]
  • 3. d Text Box Sigmund Freud [1912 original date] d Text Box d Text Box Jacques Lacan [1966]
  • 4. 8 Women on the Market The society we know, our own culture, is based exchange of women. Without the exchange of women, we are told, we would fall back into the anarchy (?) of the natura] world, the randomness (?) of the animal kingdom. The passage into the social order, into the symbolic order, into order as such, is assured by the fact that men, or groups of men, circu- late women among themselves, according to a rule known as taboo. Whatever tammal may take in a given state of society, its signification has a broader impact. It assures the foundation of the economic, social, order that has been ours for centuries. Why exchange women? Because they are "scarce [commod- ities] . . . essential to the life of the group," the anthropologist tells us. 1 Why this characteristic of scarcity, given the biological equilibrium between male and female births? Because the "deep polygamous tendency, which exists among all men, always makes the number of available women seem insufficient. Let us even were as many women as men, these women would not be equally desirable ... and that, by definition. . ., the most desirable women must form a minority. "2 This text was originally published as "Lc marchc des femmes," in Sessualita
  • 5. e politica, (Milan: Feltrinclli, 1978). lClaude Levi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures oj Kinship (Les Structures eUmentaires de La Parmte, 1949, rev. 1967), trans. James Harle Bell, John Rich- ard von Sturmer, and Rodney Needham (Boston, 1969), p. 36. p.38. Women on the Market Are men all equally desirable? Do women have no tendency toward polygamy? The good anthropologist does not raise such questions. A fortiori: why are men not objects of exchange among women? It is because women's bodies-through their use, consumption, and circulation-provide for making social life and culture possible, although they remain an unknown "infrastructure" of the elaboration of that social life and culture. The exploitation of the matter that has been sexu- female is so integral a part of our sociocultural horizon is no way to interpret it except within this horizon. In still other words: all the systems of exchange that organize patriarchal societies and all the modalities of productive work that are recognized, valued, and rewarded in these societies are men's business. The production of women, signs, and com- modities is always referred back to men (when a man buys a girl, he "pays" the father or the brother, not the mother ... ), and they always pass from one man to another, from one group of men to another. The work force is thus always assumed to be "products" are objects to be used, objects of r ... "nc·'rr....n among men alone.
  • 6. Which means that the possibility of our social life, of our culture, depends upon a ho(m)mo-sexual monopol that orders our society is the exclusive valorization of men's needs! desires, of exchanges among men. What the anthropolo- gist calls the passage from nature to culture thus amounts to the institution of the reign of hom(m)o-sexuality. Not in an "im- mediate" practice, but in its "social" mediation. From this on, patriarchal societies might be interpreted as societies functioning in the mode of " The value of sym- bolic and imaginary productions is superimposed upon, and even substituted for, the value relations and corporal (re)production. In this new matrix of History, in which man begets man as 171 d Text Box Luce Irigaray This Sex Which Is Not One his own likeness, wives, daughters, and sisters have value only in that they serve as the possibility of, and potential benefit in, relations among men. The use of and traffic in women subtend and uphold the reign of masculine hom(m)o-sexuality, even while they maintain that hom(m)o-sexuality in speculations, mirror games, identifications, and more or less rivalrous appro- priations, which defer its real practice. Reigning everywhere, although prohibited in practice, hom(m)o-sexuality is played out through the bodies of women, matter, or sign, and hetero- sexuality has been up to now just an alibi for the smooth work-
  • 7. ings of man's relations with himself, of relations among men. Whose "sociocultural endogamy" excludes the participation of that other, so foreign to the social order: woman. Exogamy doubtless requires that one leave one's family, tribe, or clan, in order to make alliances. All the same, it does not tolerate mar- riage with populations that are too far away, too far removed from the prevailing cultural rules. A sociocultural endogamy would thus forbid commerce with women. Men make com- merce of them, but they do not enter into any exchanges with them. Is this perhaps all the more true because exogamy is an economic issue, perhaps even subtends economy as such? The exchange of women as goods accompanies and stimulates ex- changes of other "wealth" among groups of men. The econo- my-in both the narrow and the broad sense-that is in place in our societies thus requires that women lend themselves to alien- ation in consumption, and to exchanges in which they do not participate, and that men be exempt from being used and circu- lated like commodities. * Marx's analysis of commodities as the elementary form of capitalist wealth can thus be understood as an interpretation of the status of woman in so-called partriarchal societies. The or- Women on the Market ganization of such societies, and the operation of the symbolic system on which this organization is based-a symbolic system whose instrument and representative is the proper name: the name of the father, the name of God-contain in a nuclear form the developments that Marx defines as characteristic of a cap- italist regime: the submission of "nature" to a "labor" on the part of men who thus constitute "nature" as use value and exchange value; the division of labor among private producer- owners who exchange their women-commodities among
  • 8. themselves, but also among producers and exploiters or ex- ploitees of the social order; the standardization of women ac- cording to proper names that determine their equivalences; a tendency to accumulate wealth, that is, a tendency for the rep- resentatives of the most "proper" names-the leaders-to cap- italize more women than the others; a progression of the social work of the symbolic toward greater and greater abstraction; and so forth. To be sure, the means of production have evolved, new tech- niques have been developed, but it does seem that as soon as the father-man was assured of his reproductive power and had marked his products with his name, that is, from the very origin of private property and the patriarchal family, social ex- ploitation occurred. In other words, all the social regimes of "History" are based upon the exploitation of one "class" of producers, namely, women. Whose reproductive use value (re- productive of children and of the labor force) and whose con- stitution as exchange value underwrite the symbolic order as such, without any compensation in kind going to them for that "work." For such compensation would imply a double system of exchange, that is, a shattering of the monopolization of the proper name (and of what it signifies as appropriative power) by father-men. Thus the social body would be redistributed into producer- subjects no longer functioning as commodities because they 172 173 This Sex Which Is Not One provided the standard of value for commodities, and into com- modity-objects that ensured the circulation of exchange with-
  • 9. out participating in it as subjects. * Let us now reconsider a few points3 in Marx's analysis of value that seem to describe the social status of women. Wealth amounts to a subordination of the use of things to their accumulation. Then would the way women are used matter number? The possession of a woman is certainly indispensable to man for the reproductive use value that she represents; but what he desires is to have them all. To "accu- mulate" them, to be able to count possessions, both sequentially and cumulatlvelv. as measure or standard(s). All but one? For if the series could be closed, well lie, as Marx says, in the relation among them rather than in the relation to a standard that remains to them- whether gold or phallus. The use made of women is thus ofless value than their appro- priation one by one. And their "usefulness" is not what counts the most. Woman's price is not determined by the "properties" 3These notes constitute a statement of points that will be developed in a subsequent chapter. All the quotations in the remainder of this chapter are excerpted from Marx's Capital, 5ection1, chapter 1. (The page numbers given in the text refer to the Modern Library edition, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, ed. Frederick Engels, rev. Ernest Untermann [New York,
  • 10. Will it be objected that this interpretation is analogical by nature? I accept the question, on condition that it be addressed also, and in the first to Marx's analysis of commodities. Did not Aristotle, a thinker" according to Marx, determine the relation of form to matter by analogy with between masculine and feminine? Returning to the question of the difference between the sexes would amount instead, then, to going back Women on the Market of her body-although her body constitutes the material sup- port of that price. But when women are woman's body must be treated as an abstraction. The exchange operation cannot take place in terms of some intrinsic, immanent value of the com- modity. It can only come about when two objects-two wom- en-are in a relation of equality with a third term that is neither the one nor the other. It is thus not as "women" that they are exchanged, but as women to some common feature- their current price in gold, or phalluses-and of would represent a plus or minus quantity. Not a plus or a of feminine qualities, obviously. Since these qualities are aban- doned in the long run. to the needs of the consumer, woman has value on the market by virtue of one single quality: that of being a product of matt's "labor." On this basis, each one looks exactly like every other. They
  • 11. all have the same phantom-like reality. Metamorphosed in identical sublimations, samples of the same indistinguishable work, all these objects now manifest just one thing, namely, that in their production a force of human labor has been ex- pended, that labor has accumulated in them. In their role as crystals of that common social substance, they are deemed to value. As women are two things at once: utilitarian objects and bearers manifest themselves therefore as commodities, or commodities, only in so far as they have two forms, a or natural form, and a value form" (p. 55). But "the reality of the value of commodities differs in respect from Dame Quickly, that we don't know 'where to have it''' (ibid.). Woman, object of exchange, d~ffers from UJoman, use value, in that one doesn't know how to take (hold of) her, for since "the value of commodities is the very opposite of the coarse materiality of their substance, not an atom of matter 174 175 This Sex Which Is Not One enters into its composltlon. Turn and examine a modity, by itself, as we will. Yet in so far as it of value, it seems impossible to grasp it" (ibid.). a woman always escapes: black continent, hole in the symbolic, breach in discourse . . . It is only in the operation of exchange among women that something of this-something enigmatic,
  • 12. to be sure-can be felt. Woman thus has value only in that she can be exchanged. In the passage from one to the other, something else finally exists beside the possible utility of the "coarseness" of her body. But this value is not found, is not recaptured, in her. It is only her measurement against a third term that re- mains external to her, and that makes it possible to compare her woman, that permits her to have a relation to commodity in terms of an equivalence that remains foreign to are thus subject to a schism that divides them into the categories of usefulness and value; into matter-body and an envelope that is precious but impenetrable, ungraspable, and not susceptible to appropriation bv women themselves; into private use and social use. In order to have a relative value, a commodity has to be con- fronted with another commodity that serves as equivalent. Its value is never found to lie within itself And the that it is worth more or less is not its own doing but comes from that to which it may be equivalent. Its value is transcendent to itself, super-natural, ek-static. in other words, for the commodity, there is no mirror that copies it so that it may be at once itself and its "own" reflection. One com- modity cannot be mirrored in another, as man is mirrored in his fellow man. For when we are dealing with commodities the self-same, mirrored, is not "its" own likeness, contains nothing its properties, its qualities, its "skin and hair." The likeness a measure expressing the fabricated character of the
  • 13. its trans-formation bv man's (social, symbolic) Women on the Market "labor." The mirror that envelops and paralyzes the com- modity specularizes, speculates (on) man's "labor." Com- women, are a mirror of value of and Jor man. In order to serve as such, they up bodies to men as the support- ing material of of speculation. They yield to him their natural and value as a locus of imprints, marks, and mirage of his Commodities among themselves are thus not equal, nor alike, nor different. They only become so when they are com- pared by and for man. And the prosopopoeia of the relation commodities among themselves is a projection through which pro- ducers-exchangers make them reenact before their eyes their operations of specula(riza)tion. Forgetting that in order to re- flect (oneself), to speculate (oneself), it is necessary to be a "subject," and that matter can serve as a support for speculation but cannot itself speculate in any way. Thus, starting with the simplest relation of equivalence be- tween commodities, starting with the possible exchange of women, the entire enigma of the money form-of the phallic function-is implied. That is, the appropriation-disappropria- tion by man, for man, of nature and its productive forces, insofar as a mirror now divides and travesties both nature and labor. Man endows the commodities he produces a blurs the seriousness of utility, of use. Desire, as soon as is exchange, "perverts" need. But that perversion will attributed to commodities and to their al- leged relations. Whereas they can have no relationships except
  • 14. from the perspective of speculating third parties. The economy of exchange-ofdesire-is man's business. For two reasons: the exchange takes place between masculine subjects, and it requires a plus-value added to the body of the commodity, a supplement which gives it a valuable form. That supplement will be found, Marx writes, in another commodity, whose use value becomes, from that point on, a standard of value. 176 177 This Sex Which Is Not One But that surplus-value enjoyed by one of the commodities might vary: 'Just as many a man strutting about in a gorgeous uniform counts for more than when in mufti" (p. 60). Orjust as "A, for instance, cannot be 'your majesty' to B, unless at the same time majesty in B's eyes assume the bodily form of A, and, what is more, with every new father of the people, chan- ges its features, hair, and many other things besides" (ibid.). Commodities-"things" produced-would thus have the re- spect due the uniform, majesty, paternal authority. And even God. "The fact that it is value, is made manifest by its equality with the coat, just as the sheep's nature of a Christian is shown in his resemblance to the Lamb of God" (ibid.). Commodities thus share in the cult of the father, and never stop striving to resemble, to copy, the one who is his representative. It is from that resemblance, from that imitation of what represents paternal authority, that commodities draw their value-for men. But it is upon commodities that the producers-exchangers bring to bear this power play. "We see, then, all that our analy-
  • 15. sis of the value of commodities has already told us, is told us by the linen itself, so soon as it comes into communication with another commodity, the coat. Only it betrays its thoughts in that language with which alone it is familiar, the language of commodities. In order to tell us that its own value is created by labour in its abstract character of human labour, it says that the coat, in so far as it is worth as much as the linen, and therefore is value, consists of the same labour as the linen. In order to inform us that its sublime reality as value is not the same as its buckram body, it says that value has the appearance of a coat, and consequently that so far as the linen is value, it and the coat are as like as two peas. We may here remark, that the language of commodities has, besides Hebrew, many other more or less correct dialects. The German 'werthsein,' to be worth, for in- stance, expresses in a less striking manner than the Romance verbs 'valere,' 'valer,' 'valoir,' that the equating of commodity B to commodity A, is commodity A's own mode of expressing its value. Paris vaut bien une messe" (pp. 60-61). Women on the Market So commodities speak. To be sure, mostly dialects and patois, lan- guages hard for "subjects" to understand. The important thing is that they be preoccupied with their respective values, that their remarks confirm the exchangers' plans for them. The body of a commodity thus becomes, for another such commodity, a mirror of its value. Contingent upon a bodily supplement. A supplement opposed to use value, a supplement representing the commodity's super-natural quality (an imprint that is purely social in nature), a supplement completely differ- ent from the body itself, and from its properties, a supplement that nevertheless exists only on condition that one commodity agrees to relate itself to another considered as equivalent: "For
  • 16. instance, one man is king only because other men stand in the relation of subjects to him" (p. 66, n. 1). This supplement of equivalency translates concrete work into abstract work. In other words, in order to be able to incorpo- rate itself into a mirror of value, it is necessary that the work itself reflect only its property of human labor: that the body of a commodity be nothing more than the materialization of an ab- stract human labor. That is, that it have no more body, matter, nature, but that it be objectivization, a crystallization as visible object, of man's activity. In order to become equivalent, a commodity changes bodies. A super-natural, metaphysical origin is substituted for its material origin. Thus its body becomes a transparent body, pure phe- nomenality of value. But this transparency constitutes a supple- ment to the material opacity of the commodity. Once again there is a schism between the two. Two sides, two poles, nature and society are divided, like the perceptible and the intelligible, matter and form, the empirical and the transcenden- tal ... The commodity, like the sign, suffers from metaphysical dichotomies. Its value, its truth, lies in the social element. But this social element is added on to its nature, to its matter, and the social subordinates it as a lesser value, indeed as nonvalue. Par- 178 179 This Sex Which Is One tlclpation in society requires that the body submit itself to a specularization, a speculation, that transforms it into a value-
  • 17. bearing object, a standardized sign, an exchangeable signifier, a "likeness" with reference to an authoritative model. A com- modity-a woman-is divided into two irreconcilable {{bodies": her "natural" body and her socially valued, exchangeable body, is a particularly mimetic expression of masculine values. No doubt these values also express "nature," that the expen- diture of physical force. But this latter-essentially masculine, moreover-serves for the fabrication, the transformation, the technicization of natural productions. And it is this super- natural property that comes to constitute the value of the product. Analyzing value in this way, Marx exposes the meta-physical character of social operations. commodity is thus a dual entity as soon as its value comes to possess a phenomenal form of own, distinct from its natural form: that of exchange value. And it never possesses this form if it is considered in isolation. A commodity has phenomenal form added on to its nature only in relation to another commodity. among signs, value appears only when a relationship has been established. It remains the case that the establishment of relationships cannot be accomplished by the commodities themselves, but depends upon the operation of two exchangers. The value of two signs, two commodities, two wom- en, is a representation of the needs/desires of consumer-ex- changer subjects: in no way is it the "property" of the signs/ articles/women themselves. At the most, the commodities-or rather the relationships among them-are the material alibi for the desire for relations among men. To this end, the com- modity is disinvested of its body and redothed in a that makes it suitable for exchange among men.
  • 18. But, in this value-bearing form, the desire that exchange, and the reflection of his own value and that of his fellow man Women on the Market that man seeks in it, are ek-stasized. In that suspension in the commodity of the relationship among men, producer-con- sumer-exchanger subjects are alienated. In order that they might "bear" and support that alienation, commodities for their part have always been dispossessed of their specific value. On this basis, one may affirm that the value of the commodity takes on indijJerently any given form use value. The price of the articles, in fact, no longer comes from their natural form, from their bodies, their language, but from the fact that they mirror the need/ desire for exchanges among men. To do this, the commodity obviously cannot exist alone, but there is no such thing as a commodity, either, so long as there are not at two men to make an exchange. In order for a product-a woman?-to have value, two men, at least, have to invest (in) her. The general equivalent of a commodity no longer fonctions as a commodity itself. A preeminent mirror, transcending the world of merchandise, it guarantees the possibility of universal ex- change among commodities. Each commodity may become equivalent to every other from the viewpoint of that sublime standard, but the fact that the judgment of their value depends upon some transcendental element renders them provisionally incapable of being directly exchanged for each other. They are exchanged by means of the general equivalent-as Christians love each other in God, to borrow a theological metaphor dear to Marx. That ek-static reference separates them radically from each other. An abstract and universal lJalue preserves them from use
  • 19. and exchange among themselves. They are, as it were, transformed into value-invested idealities. Their concrete forms, their spe- cific qualities, and all the possibilities of "real" relations with them or among them are reduced to their common character as products of man's labor and desire. We must emphasize also that the general equivalent, since it is 181 This Sex Is Not One no longer a commodity, is no longer usefol. The standard as such is exempt from use. Though a commodity may at first sight appear to be "a very trivial thing, and easily understood, ... it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and the- ological niceties" (p. 81). No doubt, "so far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it .... But, so soon as la wooden table, for example] steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain gro- tesque ideas, far more wonderful than 'table-turning' ever (pp. 81-82). "The mystical character of commodities not ongmate, therefore, in their use value. Just as little does it proceed from the nature of the determining factors of the first place, however varied the useful kinds activities, may be, it is a
  • 20. tions of the human organism" (p. 82), which, for Marx, does not seem to constitute a mystery in any way ... The material contribution and support of bodies in societal operations pose no problems for him, except as production and expenditure of energy. Where, then, does the enigmatic character of the product of labor come from, as soon as this product takes on the form of a commodity? It comes, obviously, from that form itself. Then where does the en{gmatic character ofwomen comefrom? Or even that of their supposed relations among themselves? Obviously, from the "form" of the needs/desires of man, needs/ desires that women bring to light although men do not recognize them in that form. That form, those women, are always enveloped, veiled. In any case, "the existence of things qua commodities, and the value relation between the products oflabour which stamps Women on the Market them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising there- from. [With commodities] it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a between things" (p. 83). This phenomenon has no the religious world. "In that world the productions of brain appear as independent tering into relation one So it is commodities with the products of men's hands" fetishism attached to these products present themselves as commodities. as fttish-objects, inasmuch as, in exchanges,
  • 21. are the manifestation and the circulation of a power of the establishing relationships of men with each other? * Hence the following remarks: On value. It represents the equivalent of labor force, of an expenditure of energy, of toil. In order to be measured, these latter must be abstracted from all immediately natural qualities, from any con- crete individual. A process of generalization and of universaliza- tion imposes itself in the operation of social exchanges. Hence the reduction of man to a "concept"-that of his labor force- and the reduction of his product to an "object," the visible, material correlative of that concept. The characteristics of corresnondino to social state are thus the is necessarily even pa111tul; Its abstract form; its need/ desire to a transcendental element of wealth 182 183 This Sex Is Not One standard of all value; its need a material support where relation of appropriation to and of that standard is mea-
  • 22. sured; its exchange relationships-always rivalrous-among men alone, and so on. Are not these modalities the ones that might define (so-called) masculine sexuality? And is libido not another name for the abstraction of "energy" in a productive power? For the work of nature? Another name for the desire to accumulate goods? Another name for the subordination of the specific of bodies to a-neutral?-power that aims above all to transform them in order to possess them? Does pleasure, for masculine sexuality, consist in anything other than the appro- priation of nature, in the desire to make it (re)produce, and in exchanges of its I these products with other members of society? An essentially economic pleasure. Thus the following question: what masculine sexuality have presided over the evolution oja certain social order, primitive form, private property, to its devel- . But also: to what extent are these needs Idesires effict oja social mechanism, in part autonomous, that produces them as such? On the status oj women in such a social order. What makes such an order possible, what assures its tion, is thus the exchange oj women. circulation of women among men is what establishes the operations of society, at least of patriarchal society. Whose presuppositions include the fol- appropriation of nature by man; the transformation of nature according to "human" criteria, defined by men alone;
  • 23. the submission of nature to labor and technology; the reduction ofits material, corporeal, perceptible qualities to man's practical concrete activity; the equality of women among themselves, but in terms of laws of equivalence that remain external to Women on them; the constitution of women as "objects" that emblematize the materialization of relations among men, and so on. In such a social order, women thus represent a natural value a social value. Their "development" lies in the passage from one to the other. But this passage nev,er takes place simply. As mother, woman remains on the side oj (re)productive nature and, because of this, man can never fully transcend his relation to the "natural." His social his economic structures and his sexuality are always tied to the work of nature: these structures thus always remain at the level of the earliest appro- priation, that of the constitution of nature as landed property, earliest labor, which is agricultural. But this rela- tionship to productive nature, an insurmountable one, has to be denied so that relations among men may prevail. This means that mothers, reproductive instruments marked with the name of the father and enclosed in his house, must be private proper- ty, excluded from exchange. The incest taboo represents refusal to allow productive nature to enter into exchanges among men. As both natural value and use value, mothers cannot circulate in the form of commodities without threaten- ing the existence of the social order. Mothers are essential to its (re)production (particularly inasmuch as they are [re]productive of children and of the labor force: through ma- ternity, child-rearing, and domestic maintenance in general).
  • 24. Their responsibility is to maintain the social order without in- tervening so as to change it. Their products are legal tender in that order, moreover, only if they are marked with the name of the father, only if they are recognized within his law: that only insofar as they are appropriated by him. Society is place man engenders himself, where man produces him- self as man, where man is born into "human," "super-natural" existence. 184 185 Sex Is Not One virginal woman, on the other hand, is pure exchange value. She is nothing but the possibility, the place, the sign of relations among men. In and of herself, she does not exist: she is a simple envelope veiling what is really at stake in social exchange. In this sense, her natural body disappears into its representative function. Red blood remains on the mother's side, but it has no price, as such, in the social order; woman, for her part, as medium of exchange, is no longer anything but semblance. The ritualized passage from woman to mother is accomplished by the violation of an envelope: the hymen, which has taken on the value of taboo, the taboo of virginity. Once deflowered, woman is relegated to the status of use value, to her entrapment in private property; she is removed from exchange among men. The prostitute remains to be considered. Explicitly condemned by the social order, she is implicitly tolerated. No doubt the break between usage and exchange her case, clear- cut? In her case, the qualities of woman's body are "useful." However, these qualities have "value" only because they have already been appropriated by a man, and because they serve as
  • 25. the locus ofrelations-hidden ones-between men. Prostitution amounts to usage that is exchanged. Usage that is not merely it has already been realized. The woman's body is because it has already been used. In the extreme case, the more it has served, the more it is worth. Not because its natural assets have been put to use this way, but, on the contrary, because its nature has been "used up," and has become once again no more than a vehicle for relations among men. Mother, vlrgm, prostitute: these are the social roles imposed on women. The characteristics of (so-called) feminine sexuality de- rive from them: the valorization of reproduction and nursing; faithfulness; modesty, ignorance of and even lack of interest in sexual pleasure; a passive acceptance of men's "activity"; seduc- tiveness, in order to arouse the consumers' desire while offering Women on the Market herself as its material support without getting pleasure her- self. . . Neither as mother nor as virgin nor as prostitute has woman any right to her own pleasure. Of course the theoreticians of sexuality are sometimes as- tonished by women's frigidity. But, according to frigidity is explained more by an impotence to femi- nine "nature" than by the submission type of society. However, sexuality is oddly evocative the status of a references to IC ...·Ll.Jll" of the "natural"- physiological organic nature, and so on-that are equally ambiguous.
  • 26. And, in addition: -just as nature has to be subjected to man in order to be- come a commodity, so, it appears, does "the development of a normal woman." A development that amounts, for the femi- nine, to subordination to the forms and laws of masculine ac- tivity. The rejection of the mother-imputed to woman- would find its "cause" here; -just as, in commodities, natural utility is overridden by the exchange function, so the properties of a woman's body have to be suppressed and subordinated to the exigencies of its trans- formation into an object of circulation among men; -just as a commodity has no mirror it can use to reflect itself, so woman serves as reflection, as of and for man, but lacks specific qualities of her own. form amounts to what man inscribes in and on body; -just as commodities cannot make among them- selves without the intervention of a subiect that measures them 186 187 This Sex Which [s Not One against a standard, so it is with women. Distinguished, divided, separated, classified as like and unlike, according to whether have been judged exchangeable. In themselves, among themselves, they are amorphous and confused: natural body, maternal body, doubtless useful to the consumer, but without
  • 27. any possible identity or communicable value; as commodities, despite their resistance, become more or less autonomous repositories for the value of human work, so, as mirrors of and for man, women more or less unwittingly come to represent the danger dis appropriation of masculine power: the phallic mirage; -just as a commodity finds the expression of its value in an equivalent-in the last analysis, a general one-that necessarily remains external to it, so woman derives her price from her relation to the male sex, constituted as a transcendental value: the phallus. And indeed the enigma of "value" lies in the most elementary relation among commodities. Among women. For, uprooted from their "nature," they no longer to each other except in terms of what they represent in men's desire, and according to the "forms" that this imposes upon them. Among themselves, they are separated by his speculations. This means that the division of "labor"-sexual labor in par- ticular-requires that woman maintain in her own body the material substratum of the object of desire, but that herself never have access to desire. The economy of desire-of ex- change-is man's business. And that economy subjects women to a schism that is necessary to symbolic operations: blood/ semblance; body / value-invested envelope; mat- ter/medium of exchange; (re) productive nature/fabricated fem- ... That schism-characteristic of all speaking nature, someone will surely object-is experienced by women without any possible profit to them. And without any way for them to Women on the Market transcend it. They are not even "conscious" of it. The symbolic system that cuts them in two this way is in no way appropriate
  • 28. to them. In them, "semblance" remains external, foreign to "nature." Socially, they are "objects" for and among men and furthermore they cannot do anything but mimic a "language" that they have not produced; naturally, they remain amorphous, suffering from drives without any possible representatives or representations. For them, the transformation of the natural into the social does not take place, except to the extent that they function as components ofprivate property, or as commodities. Characteristics of this social This type of social system can be interpreted as the practical realization ofthe meta-physical. As the practical destiny of the meta- physical, it would also represent its mostfully realizedJorm. Oper- ating in such a way, moreover, that subjects themselves, being implicated in it through and through, being produced in it as concepts, would lack the means to analyze it. Except in an after- the-fact way whose delays are yet to be fully measured. This practical realization of the meta-physical has as its founding operation the appropriation of woman's body by the father or his substitutes. It is marked by women's submission to a system of general equivalents, the proper name representing the monopoly of power. It is from this standardization that women receive their value, as they pass from the state of nature to the status of social object. This trans-formation of women's bodies into use values and exchange values inaugu- rates the symbolic order. But that order depends upon a nearly pure added value. Women, animals endowed with speech like men, assure the possibility of the use and circulation of the symbolic without being recipients of it. Their nonaccess to the symbolic is what has established the social order. Putting men in touch with each other, in relations among themselves, wom-
  • 29. 188 189 Sex Is Not One en only fulfill this role by relinquishing their right to speech and even to animality. No longer in the natural order, not in the social order that they nonetheless maintain, women are the symptom of the exploitation of individuals by a remunerates them only partially, or even not at aU, "work." Unless subordination to a system that utilizes you and oppresses you should be considered as sufficient compensa- tion ... ? Unless the fact that women are branded with the proper name-of the "father"-should be viewed as the sym- bolic payment awarded them for sustaining the social order with their bodies? But by submitting women's bodies to a general equivalent, to a transcendent, super-natural value, men have drawn the social structure into an ever greater process of abstraction, to the point they themselves are produced in it as pure concepts: having surmounted all their "perceptible" qualities and individual differences, they are finally reduced to the aver- productivity of their labor. The power of economy of the meta-physical comes from the fact withoutological" energy is transformed into abstract mediation of an intelligible elaboration. No individual subject can be credited any longer with bringing about this transforma- tion. It is only after the fact that the subject might possibly be able to analyze his determination as such by the social structure. And even then it is not certain that his love of gold would not make him give up everything else before he would renounce the
  • 30. cult of this fetish. "The saver thus sacrifices to this fetish all the penchants of his flesh. No one takes the gospel of renunciation more than he." we may say so-women! commodities would remain, as simple "objects" of transaction among men. Their situation of specific exploitation in opera- tions-sexual exchange, and economic, social, and cultural ex- Women on the Market changes in general-might lead them to offer a new critique of the political economy." A critique that would no longer avoid that of discourse, and more generally of the symbolic system, in which it is realized. Which would lead to interpreting in a different way the impact of symbolic social labor in the analysis of relations of exploitation of women, what would be- come of the order? What modifications would it undergo if women left behind their condition as commodities-subject to being produced, consumed, valorized, circulated, and so on, by men alone-and took part in elaborating and out exchanges? Not by reproducing, by copying, the "phal- locratic" models that have the force of law today, but by so- cializing in a different way the relation to nature, matter, the body, language, and desire. 190 191
  • 31. d Text Box Jean-Joseph Goux from Symbolic Economies d Rectangle d Text Box Freud from Civilization and its Discontents [1930] d Text Box
  • 32. d Rectangle d Text Box d Text Box Sigmund Freud, 1915 I EXCOMMUNICATION Am I The essence of comedy. What is a praxis?. Between science and religion. The hysteric and Freud's own desire
  • 33. Ladies and Gentlemen, In this series of lectures, which I have been invited to give by the École pratique des Hautes Etudes, I shall be talking to you about the fundamentals of psycho-analysis. Today I should like simply to point out to you the meaning I intend to give to this title and the way I hope to it. And yet, I must first introduce myself to you—despite the fact that most, though not all of you, know me already—be- cause the circumstances are such that before dealing with this subject it might be appropriate to ask a preliminary question, namely: am I qualzfied to do so? My qualification for speaking to you on this subject amounts to this: for ten years, I held what was called a seminar, addressed to psycho-analysts. As some of you may know, I withdrew from this role (to which I had in fact devoted my life) as a result of events occurring within what is called a psycho-analytic association, and, more specifically, within the association that had conferred this role upon me. It might be said that my qualification to undertake the same role elsewhere is not, by that token, impugned as such. However that may be, I consider the problem deferred for the time being. And if today I am in a position to be able, let us simply say, to further this teaching of mine, I feel it incumbent upon me, before embarking on what for me is a new phase, to express my thanks to M. Fernand Braudel, the chairman of the section of the Hautes Etudes that appointed me to appear before you here. M. Braudel has informed me of his regret at being unable to be present: I would like to pay tribute to what I can only call
  • 34. his nobility in providing me with a means of continuing my I EXCOMMUNICATION teaching, whose style and reputation alone were known to him. Nobility is surely the right word for his welcome to someone in my position—that of a refugee otherwise reduced to silence. M. Braudel extended this welcome to me as soon as he had been alerted by the vigilance of my friend Claude Levi- Strauss, whom I am delighted to see here today and who knows how precious for me this evidence of his interest in my work is—in work that has developed in parallel with his own. I wish also to thank all those who on this occasion demon- strated their sympathy to such effect that M. Robert Flaceière, Director of the Ecole Normale SupCrieure, was generous enough to put this auditorium at the disposal of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes—and without which I should have been at a loss to welcome you in such numbers—for which I wish to express my most heartfelt thanks. All this concerns the base, in the topographical and even the military sense of the word—the base for my teaching. I shall now turn to what it is about—the fundamentals of psycho- analysis. I As far as the fundamentals of psycho-analysis are concerned, my seminar was, from the beginning, implicated, so to speak. It was an element of those fundamentals, because it was a con-
  • 35. tribution, in concreto, to them—because it was an internal part of psycho-analytic praxis itself—because it was aimed at what is an essential of that praxis, namely, the training of psycho- analysts. There was a time when, ironically—temporarily, perhaps, and for lack of anything better in the situation I was in—I was led to define a criterion of what psycho-analysis is, namely, the treatment handed Out by psycho-analysts. Henry Ey, who is here today, will remember the article in question as it was pub- lished in a volume of the encyclopaedia he edits. And, since he is present, it is all the easier for me to recall the fury that the article aroused and the pressure exerted to get the said article withdrawn from the said encyclopaedia. As a result, M. Ey, whose sympathy for my cause is well known, was powerless to resist an operation masterminded by an editorial committee on which there were, precisely, some psycho-analysts. The 2 EXCOMMUNICATION article concerned will be included in a collection of a number of my essays that I am trying to put together, and you will, I think, be able to judge for yourselves whether it has lost any of its relevance. For me, this seems all the less likely given that the questions I raise in it are the very same as those that I shall be grappling with here, and which are resuscitated by the fact that here I am, in the present circumstances, still asking that very same question—what is psycho-analjsis? No doubt there are certain ambiguities in all this, and the question—as I pointed out in the article—still has a certain
  • 36. bat-like quality. To examine it in broad daylight is what I proposed to do then and, whatever position I am in, it is what I propose to do today. The position I refer to has changed, in fact; it is not wholly inside, but whether it is outside is not known. In reminding you of all this, I am not indulging in personal reminiscence. I think you will agree that I am having recourse neither to gossip nor to any kind of polemic if I point out here what is simply a fact, namely, that my teaching—specifically designated as such—has been the object of censure by a body calling itself the Executive Committee of an organization calling itself the International Psycho-analytical Association. Such censorship is of no ordinary kind, since what it amounts to is no less than a ban on this teaching—which is to be regarded as nul and void as far as any qualification to the title of psycho- analyst is concerned. And the acceptance of this ban is to be a condition of the international affiliation of the Psycho- analytical Association to which I belong. But this is not all. It is expressly spelt out that this affiliation is to be accepted only if a guarantee is given that my teaching may never again be sanctioned by the Association as far as the training of analysts is concerned. So, what it amounts to is something strictly comparable to what is elsewhere called major excommunication—although there the term is never pronounced without any possibility of repeal. The latter exists only in a religious community de- signated by the significant symbolic term sjnagogue, and it was precisely that which Spinoza was condemned to. On 27 July 1656—a singular bi-centenary, for it corresponds to that of Freud—Spinoza was made the object of the kherem, an
  • 37. 3 EXCOMMUNICATION excommunication that corresponds to major excommunication, • since he had to wait some time before becoming the object of the chammata, which consists of appending the clause of no return. Please do not imagine that here—any more than elsewhere —I am indulging in some metaphorical game—that would be too puerile in view of the long and, God knows, serious enough terrain we have to cover. 1 believe—you will be able to judge for yourselves—that not only by virtue of the echoes it evokes, but by the structure it implies, this fact introduces something that is essential to our investigation of psycho- analytic praxis. I am not saying—though it would not be inconceivable —that the community is a Church. Yet the question indubitably does arise—what is it in that community that is so reminiscent of religious practice? Nor would I have stressed this point—though it is sufficiently significant to carry the musty odour of scandal—were it not that like everything I have to say today, it will be useful in what follows. I do not mean that I am indifferent to what happens to me in such circumstances. Do not imagine that for me—any more, I suppose, than for the intercessor whose precedent I have not hesitated to evoke—this is material for comedy. It is no laugh- ing matter. Nevertheless, I should like to let you know en passant that something of the order of a vast comic dimension in all this has not wholly escaped me. What I am referring to
  • 38. here is not at the level of what I have called excommunication. It has to do with the situation I was in for two years, that of knowing that I was—at the hands of precisely those who, in relation to me, were colleagues or even pupils—the object of what is called a deal. For what was at stake was the extent to which the con- cessions made with respect to the validity of my teaching could be traded off with the other side of the deal, namely, the in- ternational affiliation of the Association. I do not wish to forgo this opportunity—we shall return to it later—of in- dicating that the situation can be experienced at the level of the comic dimension proper. This can be fully appreciated, I think, only by a psycho- analyst. 4 EXCOMMUNICATION No doubt, being the object of a deal is not a rare situation for an individual—contrary to all the verbiage about human dignity, not to mention the Rights of Man. Each of us at any moment and at any level may be traded off—without the notion of exchange we can have no serious insight into the social structure. The kind of exchange involved here is the exchange of individuals, that is, of those social supports which, in a different context, are known as 'subjects', with all their sup- posed sacred rights to autonomy. It is a well known fact that politics is a matter of trading—wholesale, in lots, in this con- text—the same subjects, who are now called citizens, in hun- dreds of thousands. There was nothing particularly exceptional, then, about my situation, except that being traded by those
  • 39. whom I referred to just now as colleagues, and even pupils, is sometimes, if seen from the outside, called by a different name. But if the truth of the subject, even when he is in the position of master, does not reside in himself; but, as analysis shows, in an object that is, of its nature, concealed, to bring this object out into the light of day is really and truly the essence of comedy. This dimension of the situation is worth pointing out, I think, especially in the position from which I can testify to it, because, after all, on such an occasion, it might be treated, with undue restraint, a sort of false modesty, as someone who had experienced it from the outside might do. From the inside, I can tell you that this dimension is quite legitimate, that it may be experienced from the analytic point of view, and even, from the moment it is perceived, in a way that overcomes it —namely, from the point of view of humour, which, here, is simply the recognition of the comic. This remark is not without relevance to my subject—the fundamentals of psycho-analysis—for fundamentwn has more than one meaning, and I do not need to remind you that in the I5abbala it designates one of the modes of divine manifestation, 'which, in this register, is strictly identified with the pudenilum. All the same, it would be extraordinary if, in an analytic dis- course, we were to stop at the pudendum. In this context, no doubt, the fundamentals would take the form of the bottom parts, were it not that those parts were already to some extent exposed. 5 EXCOMMUNICATION
  • 40. Some people, on the outside, may be surprised that certain of my analysands, some of whom were still under analysis, should have taken part, a very active part, in this deal. And they may ask themselves how such a thing is possible were it not that, at the level of the relation between your analysands and yourselves, there is some discord that puts in question the very value of analysis. Well, it is precisely by setting out from something that may provide grounds for scandal that we will be able to grasp in a more precise way what is called the training analjsis—that praxis, or that stage of praxis, which has been completely ignored in all published work on psycho- analysis—and throw some light on its aims, its limits and its effects. This is no longer a question of pudendum. It is a question of knowing what may, what must, be expected of psycho-analysis, and the extent to which it may prove a hindrance, or even a failure. That is why I thought I was under an obligation to spare you no details, but to present you with a fact, as an object, whose outlines, and whose possible manipulation, I hope you will see more clearly, to present it at the very outset of what I now have to say when, before you, I ask the question—What are the fundamentals, in the broad sense of the term, of psjcho- analjth? Which amounts to saying—What grounds it as praxis? 2 What is a praxis? I doubt whether this term may be regarded as inappropriate to psycho-analysis. It is the broadest term to designate a concerted human action, whatever it may be, which places man in a position to treat the real by the symbolic. The fact that in doing so he encounters the imaginary to a
  • 41. greater or lesser degree is only of secondary importance here. This definition of praxis, then, is very extensive. We are not going to set out in search of our psycho-analysis, like Diogenes in search of man, in the various, very diversified fields of praxis. Rather we shall take our psycho-analysis with us, and it will direct us at once towards some fairly well located, specifiable points of praxis. Without even introducing by any kind of transition the two 6 EXCOMMUNICATION terms between which I wish to hold the question—and not at all in an ironic way—I posit first that, if I am here, in such a large auditorium, in such a place, and with such an audience, it is to ask myself whether is a science, and to examine the question with you. The other reference, the religious one, I already mentioned a little while ago, specifying that I am speaking of religion in the true sense of the term—not of a desiccated, methodologized religion, pushed back into the distant past of a primitive form of thought, but of religion as we see it practised in a still living, very vital way. Psycho-analysis, whether or not it is worthy of being included in one of these two registers, may even en- lighten us as to what we should understand by science, and even by religion. I would like at once to avoid a misunderstanding. In any case, someone will say, psycho-analysis is a form of research. Well, allow me to say quite clearly—in particular to the
  • 42. public authorities for whom this search has seemed, for some time now, to serve as a shibboleth for any number of things —that I am a bit suspicious of this term research. Personally, I have never regarded myself as a researcher. As Picasso once said, to the shocked surprise of those around him—i do not seek, I find. Indeed, there are in the field of so-called scientific research two domains that can quite easily be recognized, that in which one seeks, and that in which one finds. Curiously enough, this corresponds to a fairly well defined frontier between what may and may not qualify as science. Furthermore, there is no doubt some affinity between the research that seeks and the religious register. In the religious register, the phrase is often used— You would not seek me had not alreadj found me. The alreadj found is already behind, but stricken by something like oblivion. Is it not, then, a corn- endless search that is then opened up? If the search concerns us here, it is by virtue of those elements of this debate that are established at the level of what we now- adays call the human sciences. Indeed, in these human sciences, one sees emerging, as it were, beneath the feet of whoever finds, what I will call the hermeneutic demand, which is precisely that which seeks—which seeks the ever new and the never 7 EXCOMMUNICATION
  • 43. exhausted signification, but one threatened with being trampled under foot by him who finds. Now, we analysts are interested in this herineneutics, be- cause the way of developing signification offered by her- meneutics is confused, in many minds, with what analysis calls interpretation. It so happens that, although this interpretation cannot in any way be conceived in the same way as the afore- mentioned hermeneutics, hermeneutics, on the other hand, makes ready use of interpretation. In this respect, we see, at least, a corridor of communication between psycho-analysis and the religious register. We shall come back to this in due course. Before allowing psycho-analysis to call itself a science, there- fore, we shall require a little more. What specifies a science is having an object. It is possible to maintain that a science is specified by a definite object, at least by a certain reproducible level of operation known as experi- ment. But we must be very prudent, because this object changes, and in a very strange way, as a science develops. We cannot say that the object of modern physics is the same now as at its birth, which I would date in the seventeenth century. And is the object of modern chemistry the same as at the moment of its birth, which I would date from the time of Lavoisier? - It is possible that these remarks will force us into an at least tactical retreat, and to start again from the praxis, to ask our- selves1 knowing that praxis delimits a field, whether it is at the level of this field that the modern scientist, who is not a man who knows a lot about everything, is to be specified. I do not accept Duhem's demand that every science should refer to a unitary, or world, system—a reference that is always in fact more or less idealist, since it is a reference to the need of identification. I would even go so far as to say that we can dis-
  • 44. pense with the implicit transcendent element in the position of the positivist, which always refers to some ultimate unity of all the fields. We will extricate ourselves from it all the more easily in view of the fact that, after all, it is disputable, and may even be regarded as false. It is in no way necessary that the tree of science should have a single trunk. I do not think that there are many of them. There are perhaps, as in the first chapter of Genesis, two different trunks—not that I attach in any way an cx- 8 EXCOMMUNICATION ceptional importance to this myth, which is tinged to a greater or lesser degree with obscurantism, but why shouldn't we expect psycho-analysis to throw some light on it? If we hold to the notion of experience, in the sense of the field of a praxis, we see very well that it is not enough to define a science. Indeed, this definition might be applied very well, for example, to the mystical experience. It is even by this door that it is regarded once again as scientific, and that we almost arrive at the stage of thinking that we can have a scientific apprehension of this experience. There is a sort of ambiguity here—to subject an experience to a scientific examination always implies that the experience has of itself a scientific sub- sistance. But it is obvious that we cannot re-introduce the mystical experience into science. One further remark. Might this definition of science, based on the field determined by a praxis, be applied to alchemy to
  • 45. give it the status of a science? I was recently rereading a little book that is not even included in Diderot's Complete Works, but which certainly seems to be by him. Although chemistry was born with Lavoisier, Diderot speaks throughout this little book, with all the subtlety of mind we expect of him, notof chemistry, but of alchemy. What is it that makes us say at once that, despite the dazzling character of the stories he recounts from ages past, alchemy, when all is said and done, is not a science? Something, in my view, is decisive, namely, that the purity of soul of the operator was, as such, and in a specific way, an essential element in the matter. This remark is not beside the point, as you may realize, since we may be about to raise something similar concerning the presence of the analyst in the analytic Great Work, and to maintain that it is perhaps what our training analysis seeks. I may even seem to have been saying the same thing myself in my teaching recently, when I point straight out, all veils torn aside, and in a quite overt way, towards that central point that I put in question, namely—what is the analjvst's desire? 3 What must there be in the analyst's desire for it to operate in a correct way? Can this question be left outside the limits of our field, as it is in effect in the sciences—the modern sciences 9 EXCOMMUNICATION of the most assured type—where no one questions himself as to what there must be in the desire, for example, of the phy- sicist?
  • 46. There really must be a series of crises for an Oppenheimer to question us all as to what there is in the desire that lies at the basis of modern physics. No one pays any attention to him anyway. It is thought to be a political incident. Is this desire something of the same order as that which is required of the adept of alchemy? In any case, the analyst's desire can in no way be left outside our question, for the simple reason that the problem of the training of the analyst poses it. And the training analysis has no other purpose than to bring the analyst to the point I designate in my algebra as the analyst's desire. Here, again, I must for the moment leave the question open. You may feel that I am leading you, little by little, to some such question as—Is agriculture a science? Some people will say yes, some people no. I offer this example only to suggest to you that you should make some distinction between agriculture defined by an object and agriculture defined, if you'll forgive me, by a field—between agriculture and agronomy. This en- ables me to bring out one definite dimension—we are at the abc stage, but, after all, we can't help it— that offormula making. Is that enough to define the conditions of a science? I don't think so. A false science, just like a true science, may be ex- pressed in formulae. The question is not so simple, then, when psycho-analysis, as a supposed science, appears to have such problematic features. What are the formulae in psycho-analysis concerned with? What motivates and modulates this 'sliding-away' (glissement) of the object? Are there psycho-analytic concepts that we are now in possession of? How are we to understand the almost religious maintenance of the terms proposed by Freud to structure the analytic experience? Was Freud really the first, and did he really remain the only theoretician of this supposed
  • 47. science to have introduced fundamental concepts? Were this so, it would be very unusual in the history of the sciences. Without this trunk, this mast, this pile, where can our practice be moored? we even say that what we are dealing with are concepts in the strict sense? Are they concepts in the process I0 EXCOMMUNICATION of formation? Are they concepts in the process of development, in movement, to be revised at a later date? I think this is a question in which we can maintain that some progress has already been made, in a direction that can only be one of work, of conquest, with a view to resolving the question as to whether psjcho-anal,sis is a science. In fact, the maintenance of Freud's concepts at the centre of all theoretical discussion in that dull, tedious, forbidding chain—which is read by no- body but psycho-analysts—known as the psycho-analytic literature, does not alter the fact that analysts in general have not yet caught up with these concepts, that in this literature most of the concepts are distorted, debased, fragmented, and that those that are too difficult are quite simply ignored—that, for example, everything that has been developed around the concept of frustration is, in relation to Freud's concepts, from which it derives, clearly retrograde and pre-conceptual. Similarly, no one is any longer concerned, with certain rare exceptions to be found among my pupils, with the ternary structure of the Oedipus complex or with the castration com- plex.
  • 48. It is certainly no contribution to the theoretical status of psycho-analysis for a writer like Fenichel to reduce, by an enumeration of the 'main sewer' type, the accumulated material of the psycho-analytic experience to the level of platitude. Of course, a certain quantity of facts have been gathered together, and there is some point in seeing them grouped into a few chapters, but one cannot avoid the impression that, in a whole field, everything is explained in advance. Analysis is not a matter of discovering in a particular case the differential feature of the theory, and in doing so believe that one is ex- plaining why your daughter is silent—for the point at issue is to get her to speak, and this effect proceeds from a type of inter- vention that has nothing to do with a differential feature. Analysis consists precisely in getting her to speak. It might be said, therefore, that in the last resort, it amounts to over- coming the barrier of silence, and this is what, at one time, was called the analysis of the resistances. The symptom is first of all the silence in the supposed speak- ing subject. If he speaks, he is cured of his silence, obviously. But this does not tell us anything about why he began to speak. II EXCOMMUNICATION It merely designates for us a differential feature which, in the case of the silent girl, is, as was only to be expected, that of the hysteric. Now, the differential feature of the hysteric is precisely this
  • 49. —it is in the very movement of speaking that the hysteric constitutes her desire. So it is hardly surprising that it should be through this door that Freud entered what was, in reality, the relations of desire to language and discovered the mechan- isms of the unconscious. That this relation of desire to language as such did not remain concealed from him is a feature of his genius, but this is not to say that the relation was fully elucidated—far from it—by the massive notion of the transference. The fact that, in order to cure the hysteric of all hersymptoms, the best way is to satisfy her hysteric's desire—which is for her to posit her desire in relation to us as an unsatisfied desire —leaves entirely to one side the specific question of whj she can sustain her desire only as an unsatisfied desire. So hysteria places us, I would say, on the track of some kind of original sin in analysis. There has to be one. The truth is perhaps simply one thing, namely, the desire of Freud himself, the fact that something, in Freud, was never analysed. I had reached precisely this point when, by a strange coin- cidence, I was put into the position of having to give up my seminar. What I had to say on the Names-of-the-Father had no other purpose, in fact, than to put in question the origin, to discover by what privilege Freud's desire was able to find the entrance into the field of experience he designates as the unconscious. It is absolutely essential that we should go back to this origin if we wish to put analysis on its feet. In any case, such a mode of questioning the field of experi- ence will be guided, in our next meeting, by the following reference—what conceptual status must we give to four of the
  • 50. terms introduced by Freud as fundamental concepts, namely, the unconscious, repetition, the transference and the drive? We will reach our next step, at our next meeting, by con- sidering the way in which, in my past teaching, I have situated these concepts in relation to the more general function that embraces them, and which makes it possible to show their 12 EXCOMMUNICATION operational value in this field, namely, the subjacent, implicit function of the signifier as such. This year, I promised myself to break off at twenty-past two, so as to leave time for those who do not have to go on at once to other pursuits to ask questions arising from my lecture. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS M. TORT: When jou relate to Freud's desire and to the desire of the hjsteric, might ,ou not be accused of LACAN: The reference to Freud's desire is not a psychological reference—and reference to the hysteric's desire is not a psychological reference. I posed the following question: the functioning of 'Primitive Thinking' (la Pensée sauvage), which places at the basis of the statutes of society, is one unconscious, but is it enough to accommodate the unconscious as such? And if it is able to do so, does it accommodate the Freudian unconscious?
  • 51. It was through the hysterics that Freud learnt the way of the strictly Freudian unconscious. It was here that I brought the desire of the hysteric into play, while indicating at the same time that Freud did not stop there. Freud's desire, however, I have placed at a higher level. I have said that the Freudian field of analytic practice remained dependent on a certain original desire, which always plays an ambiguous, but dominant role in the transmission of psycho- analysis. The problem of this desire is not psychological, any more than is the unsolved problem of Socrates' desire. There is an entire thematic area concerning the status of the subject when Socrates declares that he does not place desire in a position of original subjectivity, but in the position of an object. Well! Freud, too, is concerned with desire as an object. 15 January 1964 / '3 d Rectangle d Rectangle d Rectangle
  • 52. d Rectangle d Text Box Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, Second Series, 1844. d Text Box d Text Box Cathy Caruth, 1996 d Rectangle d Rectangle d Rectangle d Rectangle