The Pass & The Act

Commentators often prematurely punctuate the first sentence of the foundational act, forgetting about the second part: “I found – as alone as I have always been in my relation to the psychoanalytic cause – L’Ecole Française de Psychanalyse, of which, for the four coming years in which nothing in the present forbids me to answer for, I will personally assure the direction.” Here we can see the birth of an authentic and novel psychoanalytic act, or what Alain Badiou defined as “militant conviction” (akin, in some sense, to the founding act of Saint Paul). It was the moment of “fidelity” to a cause which would have been the solitary delusion of Lacan had the act not been carried through with fervent tenacity; in other words, the act was in fidelity with the psychoanalytic cause, which is, in the final analysis, I would say, the cause of the real. Lacan’s cause was grounded within the delusion of his subjectivity, it was an act for which he would continue to live out the consequences so as to bring forth the celebrity name of Lacan onto the public scene. It was not unlike that delusion remarked upon by Miller, regarding the founding act of Islam:

“Ask yourself if what orders our world is not for a large part a delusion. […] The Freudian field is a delusion, it doesn’t have a clear-cut existence. It’s a thing for a few thousand people in the world who speak of the Freudian field […] When you read about Mohammed – God forbid that I say anything against Mohammed – he went away alone, he had some divine message, he wrote it down, and this discourse ordered one million people in the world. It was a divine delusion” (Miller).

We should not be relieved of the burden of thinking through the consequences of this argument that the founding act is also a delusion, however divine. The pass reveals today that it is altogether more easy to achieve it, though altogether less common. We are obligated to ask ourselves the question concerning the ease with which the pass might today be accomplished – if, in fact, we could think of it as an accomplishment – and the subsequent infrequency of militant conviction among emerging generations. There is no pass without militant conviction, and, thus, there are few passes among these generations, though, certainly, there are acts. Plenty of them.

one and three

Lacan claimed that you can only count to one because of a prior three. He referred to this logic as the “at-least three.” However, my research seems to be moving in the opposite direction, though necessitated by Lacan’s later teaching: you can only count to three because of one (but you wouldn’t know that without the assistance of three). In other words, there is a gap that separates the one and the three, which expresses the fundamental “Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel.” The one is therefore the Thing, since, as everyone from Frege onward now knows very well: the one is always also zero.

Trump Fires Comey: Kettle Logic

Freud, in Die Traumdeutung, provided the following example to demonstrate the way in which the dream-work denies responsibility for the wish which follows:

“[I] recall vividly the defence offered by a man who was accused by his neighbour of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. In the first place, he said, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all. A complicated defence, but so much the better; if only one of these three lines of defence is recognized as valid, the man must be acquitted.”

We see a very similar series of arguments at play in Trump’s remarks regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey. First, Trump claimed, during the electoral process, that he had “great respect” for Comey, and for Comey’s lead on the investigation into Hilary Clinton’s emails. We might refer to this as the logic of ‘the kettle is not damaged,’ since, in this case, there is nothing at all wrong with Comey’s leadership. Second, Trump drafted a letter indicating that he has taken a recommendation from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General to dismiss Comey. In this case, Trump is making the claim that Comey’s leadership was in question by others – that is, that the problem with Comey has to do with the fact that he was already, in effect, broken. Third, Trump claimed that he had found problems with Comey and had been thinking about firing him since his inauguration. In this case, Comey is found to already have been fired. In other words, his fate was already sealed.

Now, Trump has added an additional reason for Comey’s dismissal. According to Trump, the kettle is too delicate to borrow at all. In other words, Trump is now citing Comey’s ‘grandstanding’ and ‘showboating’ as sufficient reasons for his dismissal. To render this in kettle logic: (1) the kettle was returned undamaged, (2) the kettle was already damaged when borrowed, (3) the kettle was never borrowed; to which we add a fourth: (4) the kettle is too precious anyway.

In the beginning was the objet petit a…

Last night I was taught that Surah 96, from the Koran, is actually Surah 1, if taken chronologically. Somebody – probably one of the first scribes – rearranged the Koran for ease of reading (could somebody verify this for me?).
In any case, the Surah begins with an aleph, which is also the first letter of Allah, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and the first letter of this first Surah. It also makes up the first letter for the word “read,” which is the first letter of the first Surah. According to the narrative, the angel Gabriel was asked to “read” and his reply was: “I can not read!” But then, nonetheless, the first word written – by the pen – ends up being “read.” It has a curious fate similar, I think, to the word “Yod” in Hebrew scripture.
The name of the first Surah – I think it was named by Mohammed himself – is “the clot.” I asked for the best translation of this word “Al-Alaq” into English and I was told that it was a little piece of excess, a little piece of extra something, like a blood clot or a single sperm, or ‘attached and hanging off of something more congealed or with more mass.’ The bahaus, I guess, have an even more interesting reading of this, but I’ll leave that.
Little stories like that demonstrate that theology is not yet dead, and that, moreover, psychoanalysis has something interesting to say about theology. The aleph, like yod, is a dot that tapers off…
In the beginning was the objet petit a.

Metaphor formula during ordinary psychosis

Has anybody attempted to rewrite the formula of metaphoric substitution to account for psychotic substitution? How does the formula change for an “un-triggered” and/or “triggered” psychosis? In “On a Question…,” Lacan writes two versions. In the first, you have the generic version of metaphoric substitution which moves from the signifier, to the expression of the barred signifier through a signified. This formula is expressed in the following way:


S/$ * $’/x -> S(1/s)

The S’s, we are told, are signifiers. The $’ is the signifier after it has undergone a new meaning by way of the x, which is the unknown signification. The result is that the signifier expressed a new signified, s.

Okay, next, Lacan provides the formula for ordinary neurosis (I choose the title “ordinary” neurosis):


Ndp/Md * ~md/Sd(x) -> Ndp(1/Phi)

So, in this formula the name of the father stands in place of the mother’s desire (md), thereby effacing the desire to make way for an unknown new signifier for that desire, x. The result is that the name of the father is a function through which the phallus comes to dominate the mental life of the individual.

Okay, very well.

But next Lacan does something very interesting, and it still holds up for contemporary Lacanian thought – he insists that the formula is changed because the name of the father (ndp) becomes replaced by a hole.

Perhaps this formula would read as follows:


Zero/MD * MD/MD -> zero (Semblant)

The non-effacement of the mother’s desire [MD/MD rather than ~MD/s(x)] occurs which produces the possibility of a system of semblants. This, then, might be the formula for pure psychosis, if such a thing exists.

However, the ordinary psychotic – which is, only by degree, relatively stable whether problematically or not – may be written as follows:


Zero/MD * MD/MD * Semblant/MD * ~MD/Sinthome -> …

This implies that the name of the father does not efface the mother’s desire, because it is zero, so that, to compensate, a semblant provides the latter corrective. However, what it produces is not a signifier but rather an unknown symptom, a sinthome. I’m not sure what this would mean for the other side of the formula, and this is why I’ve left an ellipses.

The semblant represents the sinthome, which, anyway, is already negative (whereas the phallus requires an inversion of 1/Phi so that it becomes imaginary). Finally, then, it must be:

Zero/MD * MD/MD * Semblant/MD * ~MD/Sinthome -> Semblant(Sinthome)

I want to highlight a part of this formula, the part that I am now placing in square brackets is the compensatory function of the metaphor – what some have referred to as the delusional metaphor:


Zero/MD * MD/MD * [Semblant/MD * ~MD/Sinthome] -> Semblant(Sinthome)

You can see that I have really only redoubled the original metaphor formula. It is precisely the same, in the end. This means that the means by which a psychosis becomes ordinary is precisely the same means by which neurosis is grounded. The redoubling only serves to emphasize that the semblant(sinthome) bond is fragile whereas the bond of the signifier to the signified [S(1/s)] is more tightly bonded.

This demonstrates the inadequacy of the formula. What we require instead is a topology or a knotting. For example, if you demonstrate the way in which neurosis begins in much the same way as ordinary psychosis becomes stabilized then you end up missing something essential. The result is that an ordinary neurosis would be a variation on this formula (rather than psychosis being a variation on the falling of a neurosis) written as follows:


Zero/MD * MD/MD * NDP-as-semblant/MD * ~MD/Signifier(x) -> NDP-as-semblant(sinthome(1/Phi)).

What you miss is the topology of the zero as compared with the topology of the NDP. This is why the return to Frege that I’ve drawn in my paper (not included here) is essential.

Please feel free to interrogate and correct.

Anarchist Social Movements Do Not Exist

If I were to write a book about post-anarchist social movements it would be titled: “anarchist social movements do not exist.” This argument occurred to me during a conversation with a friend this afternoon. His claim, which is not at all an unfamiliar one for anarchist scholars, was that anarchist social movements do not follow the logic of the new social movement paradigm (e.g., a demand for recognition). I remembered Richard Day’s influential claim that anarchist social movements are not what sociologists would describe as social movements at all. Instead, he referred to them as the ‘newest social movements,’ and outlined their alternative logic.

I want to push further in this direction. It is not that the newest social movements – anarchist movements – have an alternative logic. Rather, it is that they simply do not exist. They are ‘not-all’ in the sense of not being entirely included within the symbolic system. Mine is an ontological claim, which positions anarchist social movements within the domain of standing a bit outside of the symbolic system of rule – they are, to borrow Ranciere’s expression, ‘not-part’ of it.

Put differently, anarchist social movements are collective formations of remainders. They feel themselves to be outside of the authority of the state and of all of the various apparatuses of ruling. This was a crucial distinction during the time of increasing state repression, and it may very well be important during the time of Trump. However, something new is going on these days within the world of symbolic authority. Lacanian pscyhoanalysts have described this as the age of ordinary psychosis, that is, as the time when the symbolic has a hole.

At this time, then, it is important to return to the modern anarchist notion of autonomy. Auto-nom-me indicates the self-authorization of the anarchist social movement, it is the anarchists’ means of recovery from the hole in the symbolic. This is a mode of ‘ontological repair’ that occurs not through recognition but through a return to identification. Thus, my guess is that the concept of ‘identification,’ which was so ferociously critiqued in the last few decades, will soon return to a central place within anarchist thinking.

Identification is one means of repairing the hole in the symbolic, and it occurs, perhaps, through auto-no-me, that is, through the self-naming exercises of marginalized populations. It provides a source of stabilization in ‘tough times’ for anarchist social movements, who struggle, due to a lack of hysterical identification with external authority, with simply being.

Contemporary anarchist social movements will have to return to the classical concepts and reclaim them. Autonomy is one such concept. After having passed through the critique of identity and essentialism, we can, finally, return to a notion of identification and autonomy stripped of its inherent multiplicities but also stripped of its quest for recognition by an authority of one kind or another.

Michael Schmidt

I am reposting something I wrote on facebook on Sept. 25 2015, at the request of a friend.

The first reaction to the Michael Schmidt infiltration by most thinking anarchists has been: that’s not us! But lets not take this as an opportunity to reassert our moral purity. It is us – we were all reading Schmidt, debating it, and, truth be told, the least we can say is that we all enjoyed very much rejecting his work. Today more than ever there is a certain enjoyment, a self-satisfaction, that we get from his expulsion from the movement and indeed from his infiltration as well. We would be wise to recognize this instead of avoid it.

Moreover, the reaction has also been: lets not see in Michael Schmidt’s work any honest representation of anarcho-syndicalism or anarchism more generally. The problem is precisely that we did see in him a serious thinking in that regard. It is very safe to claim now that he has been outed as a fascist: he was never one of us! The proof: even ADCS, the journal I edit, published a debate about his book (Black Flame). So I was conned just as much as anybody else. I am not stating this to one-up anybody, but simply to take some responsibility – when he was practicing as an anarchist, when he was writing anarchist texts, he was, for all intents and purposes, an anarchist. His works survive as anarchist texts until we find what within them contain this retroactive fascism.

For now, and yesterday, there is and was no deeper truth hiding behind his works: they did not reveal a secret and powerful white nationalist fascist ideology. This shall be future task: to discover what within all of the work we once admired and debated was always already fascist without us detecting it. And why it was that we did not detect it sooner.

The responsibility is on us.

The next point I want to make concerns the nature of “sectarianism.” The most sectarian thing one can do here is to claim that one ought not be sectarian regarding this incident. When people claim that we ought to not find what within our readings of his work was fascist, when they claim that Schmidt is just somebody ‘outside’ of our tradition that we have now eradicated, they miss the whole point of infiltration. For example, some noted anarchist authors have already come out and claimed: “I secretly always believed that Schmidt was a fascist.” This provides a nice moral posturing through the third sense. Our response as thinking anarchists ought to be: “of course you always thought he was a fascist – you think EVERYBODY is a fascist!” Thus, when a real fascist is found, we validate our delusions.

Infiltration is something we can not control – it is something that happens to all of us. This, if anything at all, is what micro-fascism is all about. To be sectarian at a time like this is essential. We must be sectarian so as to rescue anarchism from self-defeat by puritanical fanaticism. Zizek once claimed, through T. S. Eliot, that there are “moments when the only choice is the one between sectarianism and non-belief, i.e., when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split from its main corpse. By means of this sectarian split, by cutting himself off the decaying corpose of the International Psychoanalytic association, Lacan kept the Freudian teaching alive — and it is upon us today to do the same with Lacan.”

The only way to rid ourselves of fascist infiltration is to cut ourselves off from the anarchism that we’ve always known – that is, the anti-fascist anarchism which survives only by attacking the exception, the fascist, instead of, truth be told, strategically finding means to overthrow neoliberalism. We can morally disgrace one or two fascist, we may even punch one in the head – but we still have to live as neoliberals.

We need to be sectarian for anarchism.