Lacan intended to have “Kant avec Sade” (a version, which is not the best translation, appears here) published as the preface of Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom. However, it actually appeared in Critique during the year of 1963. In fact, Lacan informed us, in a manner which at once appears begrudgingly, that the text was commissioned but later oddly rejected. It was only after his Ecrits were published, retroactively establishing “Lacan” as a name with currency (Lacan thus, in a certain sense, became a subject), that the text was included as a postface in the same publisher’s edition of Sade’s complete works. Lacan, known for his restraint, was thus in rare form when he wrote:
[Added in 1971:] This essay was commissioned from me for the abovementioned edition [but was not included in it]. I will add here, for the fun of it, that it was recommissioned from me when the success of my Ecrits rendered it plausible ( … to the person who had replaced me?). [It was included as a postface in the same publisher’s 1966 edition of Sade’s Oeuvres completes.]
It should not be my place to ask the reader to consider the point that Lacan’s enjoyment, his “fun,” was acted out in his writing. It was, without any doubt, an enjoyment of the Other that slipped through Lacan’s writing. Perhaps it would be too much if I were to go as far as to consider Lacan’s enjoyment something more like jouissance. In any case, I am myself having too much fun with this, and this, in turn, demonstrates the persistence of the symptom. The point is that there is already here within the play of Lacan avec publisher a similar logic to that of Sade avec Kant. Might we wonder if the Ecrits were Lacan’s answer to Lacan avec publisher? Certainly, after all of his writings and transgressions, Lacan, after his proper birth through the Oedipal Ecrits, finally made a name for himself: The Lacan. It was as if Lacan was sucked out of his bedroom, through the ureteric Ecrits, into the world as The beautiful bouncing Lacan.
What have we to say, then, about this birth of the name? Most commentators on the “Kant avec Sade” text can fit into one of the following categories: (1) those who dismiss the text entirely for being incomprehensible, (2) those who dismiss the text entirely for being obtuse, or (3) those who reduce the text to a simple axiom: the truth of Kant is Sade. Very well, then, for these latter commentators I shall ask: what is the truth, then, of Sade? The answer is far more difficult and yet we ought not for that reason presume that an axiom of sorts can not be derived. If Sade is the truth of Kant, then does this imply that Sade is nothing outside of the Kantian relation that Lacan draws toward him? Does Sade have a truth and, if so, is Sade’s truth the following?: the truth of Sade is Kant. It is not so clear. What we can say is that Zizek has been working in this direction:
Lacan’s point, however, is the exact opposite of this first association: it is not Kant who was a closet sadist, it is Sade who is a closet Kantian […] Lacan’s counterargument here is: what if we encounter a subject (as we do regularly in psychoanalysis), who can only fully enjoy a night of passion if some form of “gallows” is threatening him, i.e. if, by doing it, he is violating some prohibition? (Zizek, “Kant and Sade: The Ideal Couple“).
Here I agree wholeheartedly with Zizek. Whereas for Kant avec Sade we have Lacan avec the Publishers, we also have Anarchism avec Lacan. And so, it is not by any strange logic that Lacan is to the publishers what Anarchism is to Lacan. This is the importance of the structure of discourse in the psychoanalytic scheme: what matters is the relation (rapport) that the subject has to an Other and not, as it seems, the relation that one body of thought has to another.
If I were to hazard an intervention in the direction of an analysis of Lacan’s footnote I would certainly begin with Bruce Fink’s apt summarization of Lacan’s desire within his writing (cf., Lacan to the Letter):
His [Lacan’s] writing is […] ‘distinguished by a prevalence of the text […] which allows for the kind of tightening up that must, to my taste, leave the reader no other way out than the way in.’ Lacan seems to be suggesting that, in writing, he can close up all of the holes in his discourse, leaving only one point of entry, only one hole or orifice, so to speak; the reader can either enter and leave by the same opening or not enter or leave at all. The wish for a certain control over the reader seems quite plain here. Situated in the context of Lacan’s comments on analysts’ use and abuse (mostly abuse) of Freud’s texts, we might assume that Lacan deliberately attempts to write in such a way that his work cannot be co-opted by any form of psychology, ego psychology, or anti-intellectual reductionistic psychoanalysis. He wants to write in such a way that we either crawl right up into his head or belly or anus (we can probably take our pick) and follow his every theoretical gyration, or we throw his book down in disgust within a few minutes, which is, in fact, what happens with a great many readers: They read him either for years or not at all. The way in and the way out must be one and the same: The womb metaphor seems fairly obvious, and the phrase that follows: ‘which I prefer to be difficult’, makes it clear that we are talking about labor: only the hard labor will get us in or out of that one small opening.
Thus, there is a difficult labor that we all must do to give birth to Lacan. To give birth to Lacan – which I am afraid we still have not fully accomplished – involves many hours, much struggle, and then, after all of that, he can be properly named, The Lacan. He Lives! But what, for all of this, does this say to us about Lacan avec the publishers? After all, he was a beautiful bouncing boy, and one whom answered to the name – but what was Lacan’s desire? Is it possible that to ask Lacan’s desire is similar in effect to the question of Sade’s desire?
As the story goes, Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom, being published just eight years after Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, completes the ethical system of the latter text. Here we would be wise to think through what it means to “complete” the system. If, for example, I state that the only thing that can complete me is a man then, for Lacan, I am only completed by the semblance that that man has in filling up the hole at the heart of me. I am, as woman, the objet petit a, the pure masquerade, upon which the man projects the semblance. Is this, then, completion? If man requires the objet petit a then he is no more completed than the woman who, in turn, requires the promise of the man’s phallus. This is why, essentially, man and woman are completed beings but not, for that matter, whole. There is a relation (rapport) between the sexes just as there is a relation between Sade and Kant. And then there is the relation of Lacan to his publishers and of the anarchists to Lacan. The result is, as Fink put it, one of ‘closing up the hole’ – and what any woman, Lacan or any other, does in the relation with the man, is to close up that hole through the phallus of Ecrits.