Anarchism: Real Politics or Politics of the Act?

This is a bit of a response to a post made earlier this evening on Levi Bryant’s blog about anarchism. Apologies for the scattered ideas and the poor writing.

I’ve been an anarchist for more than half of my life. While I am often charged with being an “armchair anarchist,” the truth is that I spent the greater part of my life on the front lines tossing bricks, building autonomous spaces, and experimenting with different anarchist practices. I’ve been arrested, I’ve hiked the country, I’ve grown gardens, I’ve had dinner parties, I’ve worn black masks, I’ve fought with police officers, I’ve disrupted the meetings of members of the power elite, and I’ve participated in conspiracies against the government, and so on. I write this knowing very well that it marks me as a target. However, I also say it knowing very well that these are no longer practices that I find compelling as an anarchist. I suggest that these are reified forms of political activity which are every bit as recuperated as voting. As it happens, I’ve also spent a significant part of my life reading through the works of the great anarchists of our tradition. I write this so that it can be known that I am fully aware that many people will not recognize the anarchist tradition that I offer for them here. The point is that I recognize it, and, moreover, I am capable of defending it. Anarchism is a tradition, and a tradition which is well worth defending. Moreover, the point is that I see great value in thinking about our tradition, and in thinking itself as a form of direct action.

In a book I wrote many years ago now, namely After Post-Anarchism, I argued that most of anarchist thinking has centred around an influential text by Peter Kropotkin (his “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution”). Kropotkin went on to write an unfinished volumes on Ethics. The importance of Kropotkin’s work can not be overstated. He is at the centred of the popular tradition, and unavoidable for thinking anarchists. Moreover, his point of departure, that is, ethics, has defined a trajectory of thought. As a result, many anarchists in this continent, including Uri Gordon, Andrej Grubacic, Simon Critcley, Richard J. F. Day, etc, have argued, in each their own way, that anarchism has been to ethics what Marxism has been to strategy. The point that I am trying to make is that Levi Bryant is correct to suggest that ethics has been central to the anarchist tradition. And so as anarchists we can make a choice: we can accept the tradition as it has been popularly read through Kropotkin, we can reject that tradition (and, perhaps, build our own), or we can reread that tradition to discover entirely new ethical orientations. In After Post-Anarchism, I attempted to do all of the above. I rejected the anarchist tradition and found that at its base it was really a nihilist ethical tradition. But I also offered new readings of the tradition, through Kropotkin and Stirner.

I have argued that anarchism is not itself an ideal form of society, and that it does not necessarily teach us how to act in the world. It does not make prescriptions about action in the world. It does not suggest that building a commune or connecting the syndicates is the way to an ideal society. Anarchists have always tried to distance themselves from lofty ideals and normative abstractions. And so I attempt to demonstrate that anarchism does not necessarily signify “without law” or even “without masters.” Both of these conceptions share a similar utopian presumption about the anarchist tradition. Some of the most interesting and ignored contemporary texts in our continent have reread Kropotkin’s work to discover something similar to what I am outlining here. For example, Brian Morris and Allan Antliff have discovered that Kropotkin was, like Stirner, against these ideals. Allan Antliff has written that Kropotkin’s ethics offer a “refusal to model individuals according to an abstract idea.” This certainly sounds like something Stirner could have written. At base, then, the abstract ideal of freedom, of life without a master, would also be subject to intense anarchist scrutiny.

Some thinkers, notably Larry Gambone, have demonstrated that Proudhon and Kropotkin were against utopia because it was restrictive of personal liberty. Utopia was something that was too violent for the individual, and even for the collective. I think that a more interesting reading would argue that Kropotkin, being against abstract normative ideals, was against utopia precisely because it wasn’t violent enough. In this understanding, the problem is not that anarchism has been understood as an ethics of living without a master but that it suffers from ignoring the properly violent and traumatic dimension of the real. And this is what a politics of the real also suffers from – the real is traumatic, and we do not want to live within it. Moreover, there are times when the symbolic dimension of life collapses into the real, hides out there, and reemerges as the zone of freedom. I recall a painting by Ad Reinhardt named Abstract Painting which presents to us what immediate appears to be pure black. I maintain that this is the space of the real, of freedom, of thinking. I also note that if one remains in front of the appearance for long enough, one might discern the various shades of black that separate and give structure to the painting (see here). Reinhardt explained: “[In this painting,] there is a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.” Well, this is precisely what happens in the real. Sometimes when the distribution of the sensible gives rise to the real, the uncounted, there emerges, deep in the shadows, the hegemony of the straight line. We discover that nothing has really changed. And this is what I find so disconcerting about an anarchism which begins with the assumption that life without a master is possible.

On the contrary, we negotiate with the real. We want to work something out from it, to work through the anxiety that it produces. And we want to do so with courage and conviction. We must be prepared to do the long a difficult work of thinking, of staring at the real and discovering what within it has the structure of the old world. Finally, we must seek a new justice. We must recognize that utopian interpretations of the anarchist tradition go against a deeper and more interesting reading which argues that anarchism is about seeking out and uncovering the masters concealed from the world but which nonetheless subject us to their laws (even and especially when we believe ourselves to be free of them). But anarchism, if it is to be a political doctrine, must also forever find a way to renew a sense of the subject. As Saul Newman argued so many years ago, there is no genuine political philosophy without a point of departure, uncontaminated by power, outside. This outside could be something rather paradoxical: an outside that exists deeply on the inside. We can not lose this sense of the nothing which resists suture, which forces itself inside of the world.

Finally, Levi’s conception of anarchism is that it is always at odds with the vanguard party. On this point, I am in agreement. However, when he employs a particular reading of the Lacanian plus-one as the empty place, he seems to reintroduce the possibility for the reemergence of the vanguard party. As it happens, Jodi Dean and others have already described the vanguard party as the empty place or plus-one of politics. This is why we can not model anarchist politics on the plus-one in practice. We must instead rethink the plus-one from the standpoint of the Lacanian tradition. The first thing we notice is that the plus-one has the power of achieving a sort of direct action at the level of thought: it compels us to think of the master, of all masters, as castrated. But it does not compel us toward utopian presumptions that the master does not or can not in fact exist. The master is the minimal possibility of freedom. Without the master, nothing is permitted. Anarchists know this more than any other – they get off on interrogating the master, without whom they would have no proper existence, or identity. They require the master at the level of thought. The task of anarchism is, then, to castrate the master, and then, moreover, to discover new masters. Who are the masters today? Are they the same as yesterday? Anarchism is the process of thinking and castrating the master and not, as it were, the development of a fantasy about a world without masters.

Stirner’s Subject

For many decades the words “egoism,” “individualism,” and “nihilism,” have been used as synonyms by anarchists. This permits a fixing of the concept governing Max Stirner’s book „Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum“. These fixations determine in advance our reading of the text by accenting those words which have carried unfortunate connotations for so many decades, thus leading us to believe that there may be some unitary and transparent self at the foundation of Stirner’s Egoist thinking. This misreading is no different from the one which has cursed Cartesian philosophy for so many years, and which has permitted, quite paradoxically, a thinking which has nothing to say about existence. I state this without waiting another moment: these scholars do not think, and ought therefore not exist.

We must emphasize the nihilist moment in Stirner’s work so as to provide a counter-point to the Cartesian boogeyman erected by enemies of thought. Stirner’s self is not really the ego misleadingly translated from Freud’s work. Rather, it is the subject as we understand it in the Lacanian tradition. Stirner’s subject, his creative nothing, is grounded on something absent or missing from the normative abstractions governing daily life. It is a subject which forces its way into the appearances of the world – it makes room for itself in the world, by forcing itself as truth. It is a subject based on nothing which, at its creative moment, forces itself in opposition to the deceptive process of suturing. Stirner reminds us that we must not avoid acknowledging the subject as this creative element missing from symbolic life. Put differently, at the heart of all appearances, spooks, normative abstractions, and so on, there stands something which can not be contained or captured, something which exceeds all attempts to suture it, and something which is, from the standpoint of the world of comforting appearances, properly traumatic.

Stirner concludes his book with the radical forcing of the subject:

They say of God, “Names name thee not.” That holds good of me: no concept expresses me, nothing that is designated as my essence exhausts me; they are only names. […] In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before the sun of this consciousness. If I set my affair on myself, the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say: All things are nothing to me.

Suture (Elements of the Logic of the Signifier) – Unworked Notes

Presented on 24 February 1965, approximately one month after Yves Duroux’s introduction, “Psychology and Logic”.

Miller begins by noting that only those who have gone through personal analysis and gained the “precise conceptions of analysis” should concern themselves with “it”. He does not state what “it” is, but I presume that “it” is the “logic of the signifier”.

Miller asks himself a question from the perspective of the audience: if he does not have the credentials to speak about it, what is he doing here?

He then redirects the question: why are analysts here, listening to somebody without credentials, without practice. Miller seems quite amazed, almost dumb-founded, that he has an audience of analysts listening to him speak.

“The Freudian field is not representable as a closed surface” – this is what Miller claims gives him the authority to speak to an audience of analysts.

If you are situated on the inside, and Miller is outside, and the two are here speaking, then, this is because the two surfaces join up and the periphery or outer edge crosses over the circumscription.

Interested in the logic of the signifier. It is a general logic – it governs all fields of knowledge. It is a minimal logic – there is a movement, a progression, along a linear sequence.

The logic of the signifier is not only a logic for linguistic study. It can be imported into other discourses. And we should import it into psychoanalysis.

There is a relationship between the signifier’s logic and the “logician’s logic.” The signifier’s logic treats the emergence of the logician’s logic. The signifier’s logic is the logic of the origin of logic. This means that the signifier’s logic does not follow its own laws – it itself falls outside of the jurisdiction of its logic.

There is something similar being done in our method as Derrida did in his phenomenology [Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction, by Derrida).

Miscognition finds its point of departure in the production of meaning. It is constituted on repression. To designate all of this Miller uses the name “suture”.

Suture names the relation of the subject to the chain of its discourse; it figures there as the element which is lacking, in the form of a stand-in [holding in place of, substitute]. Just because something is lacking doesn’t mean that it is purely and simply absent. Suture – which is a relation of lack to structure – is a taking the place of.

Suture is not named explicitly by Lacan, but it is there in his system.

Miller is not speaking as a philosopher, Freud, quoting Heinrich Heine, claimed that philosophers “with his nightcaps and the tatters of his dressing-gown, patching up the gaps in the structure of the universe.” Suturation is not peculiar to the philosopher. Philosophers suture universal structures. And the logician, like the linguist, also sutures at his particular level. And so does anybody who says “I”.

We must focus on the letter of a discourse and not its meaning. We are concerned with a dead letter – the meaning dies.

We are concerned with Gottlob Frege’s argument in The Foundations of Arithmetic (1953). Frege’s system puts into question natural numbers taken as primary, (1) zero, (2) number, and (3) succession.

What is it [a question of being] which functions in the series of whole natural numbers and to which we can assign their progression/succession?

Miller provides the answer up front. At this point we’ve already taken a step beyond Duroux’s short text: “in the process of the constitution of the [numeric] series, in the genesis of progression, the function of the subject, miscognized, is operative.”

Frege’s logical discourse begins with an exclusion which makes possible the passage of the thing to the unit and to the set/collection of units to the unit of number. Frege excludes the subject as the basis for this passage. The function of the subject is the support of the operations of abstraction and unification.

The unity of individual [unit?] and set only holds if we presume that the number functions as its name.

A subject – the other side of the subject is politics – is a faculty of memory necessary to close the set without any loss of any of the interchangable elements, and a faculty of repetition which operates inductively. Deciphering this: the subject is what makes possible the faculty of repetition, and the memory of that which preceded number, the passage from one number to another, for example.

But Frege excludes the subject from the start, excludes it from the field in which the concept of the number is to appear.

The subject is not reducible to the psychological – the exclusion of the subject from the field of number is assimilable to repetition.

Frege’s discourse begins with three concepts: the concept, the object, and the number. It also includes two relations: subsumption [relation of concept to object], and assignation [relation of concept to number]. A number is assigned to a concept which subsumes objects.


Subsumption [concept <> object]
Assignation [concept <> number]

Logic of Frege’s system: a concept is defined and exists solely through the relation which it maintains as subsumer with that which it subsumes [concept relation to object]. Also: object only exists insofar as it falls under a concept – the object takes its meaning from its difference to the thing integrated, to the real. Does this not imply a new concept, then? What is a thing? Miller does not say. Object is related to something which is not a concept and which is not a number – it is a thing, and it is in the real.

Miller picks this up immediately: the thing disappears from Frege’s system, it must disappear for the object to appear. The object then:

Object is thing insofar as it is One.

The thing is counted as One, it is elevated to the status of One.

So there is a redoubling: the concept is formed through the determination of subsumption [concept <> object]: the concept of identity to a concept. [concept <> object, 1 <> 1 is taken where there should be object <> thing, 1 <> 0].

So this redoubling, Miller seems to call “identity”. The concept is redoubled, induced in the concept by identity – and it effects the disappearance of the thing it gives rise to the emergence of the numerable. The thing, as 0, is erased, to give the 1.

Identity as a logic, is similar to what Duroux named equivalence – there is a correspondence, presumed, between thing and object, or, if not presumed, avoided or repressed, in favour of redoubling of the concept – in favour of the concept referring only to the concept.

Assignation of number [concept <> number]: ‘the number assigned to the concept F is the extension of the concept ‘identical to the concept F’”. All that is left to the Thing, in Frege’s system, is the support of its identity with itself. This is the support for the numerable.

Distinctive unit supports the number, unifying unit is assigned by the number.

A distinctive unit’s foundation is situated in the function of identity. The function of identity confers on each thing in the world the property of being One, whole – a unit. It also transforms the unit into an object of the logical concept. Miller therefore insists that we call this logic “identity” rather than “equality”.

Frege takes his definition from Leibniz: ‘Those things are identical of which one can be substituted for the other salva veritate, without loss of truth.’ Here is the emergence of the function of truth. What the function assumes is more important than what is expresses: that is, identity-with-itself.

A thing can not be substituted for itself – where does this therefore leave truth?

If a thing can not be substituted for itself then this subverts the field of truth, ruins it, abolishes it.

But identity-with-itself is essential if truth is to be saved – and identity-with-itself is what we connote when we pass from the thing to the object, according to Frege.

Truth is. Each thing is identical with itself.

Let: Thing, X, be in the world
Let: There is an empirical Concept of Thing X
But: Empirical Concept of Thing X is a redoubled Concept
Therefore: Concept of Thing X is identical with the Concept of Thing X.
Let: Object X fall under Concept X as a Unit.
Let: Number Assigned to Concept X be “1”

This means: The number 1, as function, is repetitive for all things of the world.

Thus: Number 1 is only the unit which constitutes the number as such, and not the 1 in its personal identity as a number with its own particular place and a proper name in a series of numbers.

The construction of the Number 1 demands that we call upon the thing in the world and yet this, according to Frege, can not be done. What is logical can therefore only be sustained through what is logical itself.

For Number 1 to pass from the repetition of 1 of the identical that of its ordered succession [eg., 2], in order for the number to gain autonomy definitively, without any reference to the real, the zero has to appear.

Zero is the number assigned to not-identical-with-itself.

So: there is a Concept, “Not identical with itself” This concept must subsume an Object – but it doesn’t, it does not subsume an Object.

Zero is supported by the proposition: truth is.
If no Object falls under the Concept “not identical with itself” then this is because truth must be saved.

The concept of not-identical-with-itself is assigned by the number zero, and it sutures logical discourse.

It has been necessary in Frege’s system, in order to exclude any reference to the real, to evoke on the level of the concept an object not-identical-with-itself which is subsequently rejected from the dimension of truth.

The zero assigned as number consummates the exclusion of this object. [an object is missing here]. The object is missing, it is lacking, and so nothing can be written there – if a 0 must be traced, it is merely in order to figure a blank, to render visible the lack.

“From the zero lack to the zero number, the non-conceptualizable is conceptualized.”

If through subsumption [concept <> object] we move from 0 to 1:

Thing = 0
Concept = Concept of 0
Object = Unit of Concept 0
Number = 1

Circulation: number 0 -> concept of 0 -> object of 0 -> number 1

The entire system is constituted with the 0 counting as 1.
The concept 0 subsumes nothing in the real but a blank. This is the support of the series of numbers – of succession.

Successor is obtained by obtaining the number following n by adding a unit to it, n’. Thus, n+1.

n … (n+1) … = n’

Frege opens n+1 to discover what is involved in the passage from n to its successor.

Successor, for Frege: the Number assigned to the Concept member of the series of natural numbers ending with n is what follows in the series of natural numbers ending after n.

For example: …member of a series ending with 3. The number assigned to this Concept is 4. The number here functions as a unifying name of a set.

The 3 subsumes 3 objects in the order of the real. In the order of number, which is that of discourse bound by truth, it is numbers which are counted: before the 3 there are 3 numbers, but with the 3 there is a fourth, the 0.

In the order of number there is the additional 0, and the 0 counts for 1.

That which in the real is pure is simple – finds itself in number noted as 0 and counted for 1.

Something is rejected by truth – an object not-identical with itself – and is sutured by discourse or annulled.

The emergence of a lack as 0, and of 0 as counted as 1, is what determines the successor.

Let: n be.
Let: 0 lack.
Let: 0 be fixed as 1
Let: n+1 absorb the 1

The 1 of n+1 counts the 0 as 1. Subsumption is this process.

The sign of “+” is somewhat unneeded then.

The 1 is the primary symbol of the emergence of lack in the field of truth. The sign “+” indicates the crossing, the transgression through which the 0 lack comes to be represented as 1 … and this allows for the name of a number to come into being, succession.

This opens up the new logic, the logic which comes before the logician’s logic.

The fact that zero is a number assures the logical dimension of its closure.

The zero is a number which sutures and stands-in for the lack.

The zero cancels out the meaning of each of the names caught up in the metonymic chain of successional progression.

0 (as lack of contradictory object) must be distinguished from that which sutures this absence in the series of numbers
1 (as the proper name of a number) must be distinguished from that which comes to fix in a trait the zero of the not-identical with itself sutured by the identity with itself. It is the law of discourse in the field of truth.

The paradox: the trait of the identical represents the non-identical, whence is deduced the impossibility of its redoubling, and from that impossibility the structure of repetition as the process of differentiation of the identical.

0 is represented and excluded in the chain of succession.

The 0 summons and rejects in order to constitute itself. The succession wants to know nothing of it, rejects it. We name this object which is rejected and which the chain wants to know nothing of, the subject.

It is excluded from the discourse is suture.

Number = signified
trait = signifier
logic of signifier = relation of lack to the trait.

relation of subject to the Other (the locus of truth) = relation the zero entertains with the identit6 of the unique as the support of truth.

Zero = not identical with itself.

The subject is excluded by the field of the Other and is represented in that field (Subject <> Other) in the form of the unit, the trait – the unit-trait. The exclusion is marked by Lacan as $<>A.

This exteriority of the subject to the Other institutes the unconscious.

Repetition is produced by the vanishing of the subject and its passage as lack. Only the unconscious can name the progression which constitutes the chain in the order of thought.

A definition of the subject: the possibility of one signifier more.

This explains the possibility of an enumerable infinity.

Lacan: sign is that which represents something for someone – signifier is that which represents the subject for another signifier. The insertion of the subject into the chain is representation. It is not necessarily an exclusion as a vanishing.

Once we have a signifier: the subject is both before and after the signifier. The subject is the effect of the signifier and the signifier is the representative of the subject.

Suture = 0
The subject flickers – a movement open and closes for the subject, in succession. It delivers up the lack in the form of 1 in order to abolish it in the successor itself.

The Port of Access – and “lack of lack”

A S (Jouissance)
a Ø (anxiety)
$ (desire)


Within Lacan’s table of long division: he places anxiety between Jouissance and desire. If it is in the middle it is not because it mediates between desire and jouissance but rather because it must be passed through. One can not do otherwise but pass through the field of anxiety. This is why Lacan refers to it as the “port of access”. Here, anxiety seems to connect it with two lacks. There is a lack in the Other (the barred O) and a lack in the subject (objet a).

From the position of desire ($) we use the port of access to arrive at fantasy. Thus, the matheme of fantasy expresses: $<>a (the barred-subject faces objet petit a). At this point we can not admit the thesis that the objet a is that which we avoid. Rather, we must admit that it is that which we must deal with. And so fantasy is one way of facing it. Another is jumping off stage, passage a l’Acte.  It is for this reason that objet a, in seminar 10, seems to have two faces. It is the mobius strip. It is, that which we can not face, or, avoid, and yet that which we must deal with nonetheless. The objet a is a port of access and not solely that which we avoid.

A lot of seminar X seems to deal with obsessional neurosis. And what the obsessional neurotic can not bare is that he or the Other is lacking. The obsessional’s fundamental problem, we are told, has to do with the problem of the *is*: the obsessional is not. His question concerns being itself. And so imposture has to do with being where there is lack of being. It seems to me that it is only the pervert who confronts anxiety as a lack of lack – his attempt is to make lack appear. And he does this by bringing the Other (or himself) to the anxiety-point.

And so anxiety arises here in a confrontation with lack and not, as it were, with lack of lack. This is something I’m struggling with because I can not find any support for the thesis of lack of lack. For example, on page 234 of Seminar X, Lacan says: “The anxiety-point lies at the level of the mother. In the child, the anxiety of the mother’s lack is the anxiety of the breast drying up. The locus of the anxiety-point does not merge with the locus at which the relation to the object of desire is established.” So here it seems clear that it is not when there is a lack of lack, namely, an overburdening presence of the breast, but rather, when the child realizes that the breast could suddenly stop working/providing. This is not to claim that anxiety occurs from separation – but from the ambiguity of objet a itself. The same occurs in the case of the homosexual woman. It is not the over-presence of the father’s gaze which provokes a passage a l’acte but rather the very ambiguity of the gaze – no? On page 236 we see that Lacan claims that the anxiety-point “lies at the level of the Other.” So this gives more support to my thesis that anxiety resides in a privileged domain – the domain not of objet a specifically, but of the lack in the Other. 


This is the final class from the tenth seminar of Lacan. He opens the class by informing us that he will fill in all the holes, that he will provide us with some sense of closure. Of course, this is not what he does at all. He fills in some holes, opens many others, and leaves many holes as holes.

He brings us back to Freud’s late work, wherein he described anxiety as a signal, and, moreover, anxiety as a signal of danger. At this point Lacan is able to claim that this danger which is signalled by anxiety is bound at some level to the question of the cession of object a. Recall that Lacan spent a great deal of time in the last class discussing the anal stage and its respective object, excrement. It is the moment one one can no longer hold in, hold on, that one finally lets go. One gives up, one lets go. And when one lets go – perhaps by accident, perhaps on the way to the potty – one feels the dangerous effect. So what one is really holding onto behind the anal object, behind excrement, is precisely object a. It is behind it all.

We’ve also seen in the previous class that human desire at the anal stage is already a function of the desire of the Other. The toddler holds in the object, the object a, precisely so that he can gain recognition, an acknowledgement, encouragement, from the Other. It is by holding it in that he gains approval. Every parent knows this to be the case: my son sits on the potty for the first time and we clap and give him a high five, he sits a second time, again, and so on until finally he goes to the potty himself without shitting on the way. It is always a risk. Once, it broke my heart, Soren used the potty and looked up at me and said: “Do you love me now Dad?”

And then we discussed the scopic relation. Recall that Lacan placed the various stages of ‘development’ (from oral stage through to phallic and onward to superegoic) along an archway which progresses upward and then regresses downward. In this way he demonstrated that even as one progresses one regresses on another level. Thus, the anal stage is parallel to the scopic stage – and so there is a relationship between the two here. In the scopic field we turn back on ourselves and how we are viewed by the Other – at least for the case of obsession. The subject is here linked to the Other by virtue of the semblable, his own ego ideal. It is at this level that the subject encounters what we can refer to as alienation. Recall that one version of Marx’s theory of alienation was that species-being becomes alienated from itself, it was to this process that alienation referred. The concept of alienation thereafter became an essential starting point for many of the German philosophers; notably, Max Stirner, who brought the theory of alienation to its limit by positing that species-being is a radical nothingness, and that one must essentially traverse the fantasy of all ‘spooks’ which attempt to transform this nothingness into something which is against our own interests. Thus, one can finally become the creative nothing which in turn creates everything. The Alpha Male.

The problem at this level is therefore that I don’t know what object I am. So I must rather be nothing at all. Am I nothing or am I something? This is the question, and this is the source of great anxiety. The problem is that we do not have access to the Other’s reality – we only have access to what is perceived as his or her demand. So, there is something detached at this level. Something is not there, something is lacking. The anal stage fulfils the function of making the Other’s demand occur in a clear cut fashion. The Other pinches out a demand, if I can put it that way.

Next, we discussed the fact that there is a desire of desire, a recursion, or a layering of desire, that occurs for obsessional neurosis. Desire is hidden behind so many things, including, for example, aggression. Apparently this is where the formula which eluded my understanding from the very beginning designates:

d(a): 0 > d(0)

Lacan claims that we should read this as follows: desire as object a is determined by a ‘yieldable’ object such that the subject is faced with the impossibility of coexistent self-consciousness. There can only be one desire, and this is why he does not ever get to the cause of desire. There can only be one, as Stirner put it: the Unique one. There is only one egoist, only one within the schizophrenia of the Herd. There can not be another speaking in and through me. And so I must empty this place of all foreign consciousnesses, of all spooks, and reduce myself to the only one, the unique, the creative nothing.

So, since we are dealing with self-consciousness, we can see why we are essentially confronted with a question of existence. We are dealing with the existence of one or else none. There can only be one: so be or not to be. If obsession is articulated in this way then the end of analysis can only be a question of the analysand’s oneness – that is, a question of castration and of the analyst’s position in this fantasy as the agent of castration. This is why the end of analysis seems to have something to do with castration anxiety. This is the level at which Oedipus is situated, according to Lacan. Oedipus wanted to see what existed beyond the satisfaction of his desire and so his sin was that he had a passionate thirst [is thirst the right word here?] for intellectual certainty. He wanted to know and so he paid for this knowledge with his own eyes, with castration. And is this not what we’ve seen with some of the other great obsessionals of history. Isaac Newton and other physicists (such as John Dalton), were notable scientists (who, it should be mentioned, held serious private theological convictions) who sacrificed their eyes for knowledge, for certainty. How else could they come to know?

With the obsessional neurotic still in mind, we return to the Inhibition-Symptom-Anxiety chart, this time with some adjustments.

I Desire not to see Powerlessness Concept of Anxiety (embarrassment)
S Misrecognition (not wanting to know) Almightiness (fantasy) Suicide (passage a l’acte)
A Ego Ideal (turmoil) Mourning (acting-out) Anxiety

I’d like to compare this with the last chart:

Inhibition Impediment (Not Being Able) Embarrassment
Emotion (Not Knowing) Symptom Passage a l’Acte
Turmoil (emoi) Acting-out Anxiety

We’ve been using the bottom chart over since the very first course. Now, on the last class, Lacan seems to make a number of changes. To be sure, these are not serious changes. The staggered Inhibition, Symptom, Anxiety are now headings for each row. In place of “Inhibition” is the Desire not to see – and yet it is still inhibition. Yet, at this point, Inhibition comes to stand for powerlessness and embarrassment as well. This is a significant revision. Powerlessness, which is another way of saying not being able or impediment, is also, truth be told, an inhibition. And so too is embarrassment.

The only additional thing worth mentioning about his chart is that the anxiety at the bottom right, in the row of anxiety is now a second-level form of anxiety. It is masked anxiety, or anxiety concealed. As I wrote above, the obsessional can not handle the possibility that there is a desire to his desire, that there is another anxiety beyond the anxiety that he thinks he feels. Ultimately, this is because the obsessional can only think in terms of the Kierkegaardian either/or: either I hold onto some concept or formula at the symbolic level to cleave into the real or I am held by anxiety in perceiving the real as such. This is sort of logic has to do with the number 1: the obsessional seems to think that he is 1, indivisible, absolutely unique, and so on. Otherwise, he must be nothing at all.

At the end of the class Lacan sets out to hint at the next topic he will cover, in future seminars. It is the name, and, more to the point, the names-of-the-father. He gives us a taste of what the stakes are about: at the mythical level, the father intervenes so as to crush the desires of all others – the brothers, for example. It’s not for nothing that the first question a candidate is asked when undergoing initiation in a masonic lodge is about their fear of God. It is the fear of God which conditions the possibility of there being brothers. In any case, I thought it was not for nothing that Lacan finished his tenth seminar with the follow statement: “The analyst certainly ought to be the one who, however little, from some angle, from some line of approach, has merged his desire back into this irreducible a sufficiently to offer the question of the concept of anxiety a real guarantee.” We have here the question of the analyst as the object petit a. What could this mean?



Lacan has been demonstrating that anxiety resides, essentially on the side of the Other, where the other is lacking, perhaps even as a signal that something is lacking there. However, we know by now that the Other is not the Other as such, at least not at the level of anxiety, it is much rather the Other as it is in its relation to the Subject. Anxiety is there where the desire of the Other is a question. So this means that desire, which is always desire of the Other, opens up at some level to anxiety, at those times when the question surfaces as such. At least, I think this is the correct interpretation.

Desire is in a sense revealed by anxiety, precisely because anxiety is that which does not deceive. We can be sure that we are not deceived when anxiety is in the picture. We also know – at least, we presume that we know since this was not articulated in any depth during the last two years (1962-3) of classes – that the Other is the place of the signifier. We discussed in previous classes that, quite obviously, we are not born with language, it comes from some place, it is transferred from the Other. So, we get our signifiers from the Other and, when this comes through to us, we become barred-subjects, subjects barred into the signifier to signifier relation. At this point I want to be clear about what Lacan seems to mean by the barred-subject. It is not that the subject is somehow hiding behind signifiers, or that anything at all is hiding behind the signifiers, it is that the subject is nothing but this signifier to signifier relation, at least at a certain level. Desire, object a as the object cause of desire, is a gap in the signifier to signifier relation, a residue, it is what is left over after the subject becomes caught into this signifier to signifier relation.

When anxiety appears, at the level of object a, from the position of the barred-subject, that is, through the matheme of fantasy $<>a, it does so, then, necessarily, in some relation to the desire of the Other – precisely because it comes after, in some sense, subjectification to the bar. This is why Lacan always places the object a on the side of the big Other. The object a is dependent upon the subject vis-a-vis the big Other, it is at the intermediary position, in between, to some extent. Thus, the object a is also, in effect, prior to the constitution of the Subject. It comes before precisely because it is on the side of the Other. This is where things could get complicated real fast. I’m going to slow down so that I don’t get lost.

The object a is also the cause of desire, it is the subject’s cause of desire inasmuch as it is caused from the Other. In other seminars Lacan will describe this, with hysterical neurosis as its support, using the formula: desire is desire of the Other. You can see that the subject’s desire is caused by something Other.

Lacan seems particularly interested in Obsessional Neurosis at this point. The emphasis on cause, with respect to object a, is crucial at the level of obsession and compulsion, as we shall see. At some level the obsessional who suffers from compulsions is confronted by anxiety at that moment when he fails to act with respect to his desire. In other words, if the compulsion concerns checking that the stove is shut off, or that the front door is in fact locked, then anxiety sets in when he fails to check. It is his own inability to act that causes obsession, in this case. You can see here that it is when the Other – the message from the Other – is not addressed that the possibility of its lack sets in, the possibility of anxiety as such.

The obsessional must be brought to recognize that that’s how it works. It is schematic, it is a mechanism, the machine perhaps, that he must come to understand. Thus, the crucial first step of analysis consists of simply having the obsessional realize at some level that there is such a thing as an unconscious, at the level of a system, at the level of the machine, at the level of formulae, topology, whatever. The obsessional is quite often even aware of his symptoms, but even here he might fail to address them, to subjectify them. There is only one way through and it is to “grab the symptom by the ears […] [that is, it is to grab] the unassimilated side of the symptom, unassimilated by the subject, [by the ears.” You grab him, you force him to see that this is how it works. At some level, what you are really doing is demonstrating that there’s a cause behind this. This there’s a cause behind this is enough to open up the point at which he can in fact open himself up to his pact with the Other.

Thus, many times the wrong move is to spell out what the problem is, to articulate it, put it into words, come to understand it, and so on. More often, I believe, the more effective move is to merely bring others (as well as oneself) to recognize the fact that, as Lacan puts it, there’s a cause behind this. This is why the technique of free association is not enough with obsessionals. Learning to speak, fully, is, in this conception, essential. But learning to speak is much more difficult for the obsessional. Free speech, despite what early Brauer and Freud believed, is never anything like free for the obsessional. Imagine, for example, these rap superstars who produce videos of themselves on youtube, freestyling. We all know that those lines are rehearsed, that there are certain formulae guiding the process of their speech. It is precisely the same in the clinic. It is not enough to simply verbalize, if the cause doesn’t slip it. This is not how it works, there is a cause behind all of this. The obsessional needs to recognize that the unconscious works, even while all his postures aim to demonstrate this possibility. This is why we need to bring out the object a relation as cause of desire.

We must take seriously the question of cause. The point is that causality does exist. And we need to begin to think about it in terms of what Lacan calls his “transcendental ethics”. We know that space is not an a priori sense perception. Our understanding or intuition concerning space develops. It is not as simple as the point that subjective experience is inside and thing-in-itself is outside. Space is a part of the real, in all cases, for Lacan. At this point, I think Lacan’s argument is itself limited. The ontological twists he develops here with respect to the mobius-strip and the cross-cap are precisely on the side of the subject, ultimately. It is psychical, at base. Yet, there is another dimension here which is per-embryonic, which is before the subject, and which generates the very embryonic structure which comes to define the life of desire. In any case, the twisting of the strip is itself a way of organizing life lodged in real space, but what about real space lodged within life? This is not even a question. Three dimensional space – unlike, in many ways, the two dimensional space of the Eulerian model – allows us to understand the presence of desire at the scopic level, in fantasy.

Cause can not be grasphed. It evades, withdraws, and so on. And yet everything is caused. Cause is also quite literally a question. Lacan was explicit about this, even if he didn’t dwell on it. Cause is a question. Is it, then, perhaps, the question that being – jouissance – asks? At this point Lacan makes a number of distinctions:

  1. Cause = object cause, object a
  2. Effect = desire (but there is nothing effectuated about desire)
  3. Result = Symptom (result of a question, not the effect of a question)

I can’t tell you what headaches this gave me trying to figure out – even if I’ve only dedicated a few moments to it. I’m still somewhat at a loss. We see three distinctions: cause, effect, and result. The object a is literally the cause of desire, the support of desire and fantasy. And yet it is also ungraspable, unknowable, and yet entirely causal. Desire is the effect of the object a, but it is not “effectuated” – which must mean that it is not forced. There is no strict forcing of desire by the cause of desire. There is something ungraspable and so there is a way of moving around in relation to this ungraspable cause. Finally, result is the symptom. I wonder if this means that the symptom is the question itself, the question asked as a result of the effect of the cause. This makes some sense for me so I’m going to roll with it. I’m going to, for now – until I see evidence to the contrary – presume that symptom relates to the question, desire to the fantasy, and object a to the ungraspable cause. The cause itself introduces a gap in the effect, and produces a result which, eventually, can fade away. It fades away because new questions get asked. Take, for example, the case of science. In science we have a cause of desire which effects something and results in a question. We ask the question – obtain some progress – and the question fades away precisely because the gap gets filled in. We obtain an answer for the cause. Put differently, whenever we make a discovery in the field of science we often forget to ask about waht it was that drove us to ask that question in the first place. Why do we care about the nature of light, for example? Why was the Atom Bomb discovered? What drove Einstein to his famous formula of relativity? Lacan puts it like this: “the cause vanishes into thin air – what we didn’t know vanishes into thin air.”

Now, we can latch onto some more diagrams. I can’t reproduce them here due to limitations of the medium but I will try to describe them. Actually, I will produce them using symbols, where parentheses should be taken for circles. We have five levels. I’ll put them all here right away:

  1. (S (a) barred-A)
  2. (a ($) barred-A)
  3. (M (-phi) W)
  4. (S (x) +phi)

Lacan describes these are five “levels” in the constitution of the a in the relation between S and A. In the first operation, we can see, the Subject is in some relation to the barred-Other. The Subject is not barred here, for some reason. He is the mythical subject, or, at least, he must be. The Other is split open, and split open to reveal the lack, the signal of anxiety. And this lack, this object a, is transferred, or so it seems, onto the Subject. So the subject is, thus, split between himself as mythical subject and himself as desire of the Other. In this sense, he is in need in the Other. The subject has his support in the Other, and at the level of the Other. His desire is literally the desire of the Other. It is the oral dimension.

In the second phase, the object a is split from the Other entirely and what is between is the barred-subject. There is a passage from the S into $, moving from left to right, from mythical subject to its operation on the Other, whereby the subject enters the world of the signifier. Here, via the signifier, there is demand in the Other. There is a concern here with the remainder in the Other’s demand, that which is left over from the demand. I suppose this is why the object a is in the place of the mythical subject. Who knows.

The third level is the phallic dimension. Lacan brings us back to his discussion of the relation between the sexes, constituted as it is by the minus-phi. What we are dealing here is always with imposture and masquerade, with the lack of an object, and with how one relates to this lack. At this level it is not demand but jouissance in the Other which matters. This is the level of true castration anxiety.

The fourth level concerns the eye. It seems to be the most “mature” level, in a sense. The subject is confronted with fantasy, the x from early in the year, and it is the might in the Other which matters. The subject is here doomed toward nonrecognition. I presume that Lacan will go over all of these again very soon, because he does not spell them out in much detail.

The final operation concerns the desire of the Other in its purest form. We see it in obsession, where anxiety is at the fore. As I wrote at the beginning of this blog, the obsessional is always repressing the desire of the Other. Object a is thus reduced to angst, to anxiety. And through this reduction the obsessional must move toward Demand, as a cover for anxiety. The obsessional requires authorization – the other needs to demand him to do something. You can imagine, then, that, for example, someone writing a blog, collecting notes, about the 10th seminar of Lacan’s, who wanted to exit the stage, required a certain somebody, or a certain number of somebodies, to demand that he continue. The Other has to ask him to do something.

The obsessional covers over the desire of the Other by means of the demand of the Other. The object a is situated here at the anal level – at the level where the gift, excrement, must be demanded of him. Here it is, my shit – for you. And so this opens up the field of anal anxiety. Anal anxiety which, I wonder, must have some relation, lets hope not in its psychotic dimension, to fear and trembling, to panic


There are two major topics that Lacan concerns himself with during this short class: (1) teaching, and (2) drive.

With respect to the first topic: he notes that teaching certain systems of thought – such as the Copernican system or Einstein’s system – can be accomplished with minimal effort and exceptional clarity. It can be relatively easy to transmit a teaching in the field of Physics and Mathematics – depending on the audience – because the foundations of the field have already been established, certain thresholds for understanding have been passed, and so one is already prepared for the teaching, already opened up to it. Thus, much of Einstein’s teaching has already been opened up by Newton, Galileo, and Copernicus. Despite what we’ve been told – it is a seductive narrative for those who desire to know – there is no real revolution here.

Today, at the cafe, I discussed with a new-found friend, my admiration for Cornel West’s style of teaching, and also for Zizek’s performances. I called Zizek’s work a performance as a lure – if one calls it a performance than one opens up the possibility for the audience to state up front their reservations. I quickly retracted my statement because I’m not sure it was admiration that I had for them per say, rather it concerned the strategic effectiveness of their technique. Afterall, it is easy to dismiss West or Zizek on the grounds that seduction is not the proper way to transmit a teaching, as if passion alone establishes truth or validity. Those who care about such things are surely repelled from the discourse. Yet, if psychoanalysis teaches us anything at all it is quite simply that passion is the port of access through which truth passes into the field.

We often hear from Zizekians – there are fewer of them than we are led to believe – that Zizek introduced Lacan to the world. It is as if he was our gateway drug. He was the port of access. And for many, this port permitted us the possibility to move onto more serious pursuits. At least, this is how many of us have phrased it. More serious pursuits means that we are above all that hysterical bullshit, the performances, the passionate rhetoric, and so on and so on. We can at least admit that there is something to this, but surely it is not enough to claim that the teaching allows us to return home again.

Does Zizek bring us back home? That is the question. Zizek’s presented absence – the popular judgment of his work before reading – certainly seems to operate as a tactical rallying-point, around which we can situate our more serious and perhaps even moral teaching. And even former Zizek scholars – those who have moved onto more serious pursuits – seem to return back home – after a layover in France – to Lacan or Hegel. Todd McGowen tells us to spend more time doing philosophy in the bedroom, to look under our bed for monsters: he named this serious theory. I could continue on this track but I fear that I am digressing too much.

Psychoanalysis as a field is similar to the field of Physics and Mathematics. It makes its break without necessarily abandoning that which came before. Revolutions, we are told by Lacan (in a future seminar, namely seminar 17), occur by turning everything at 90 degree angles. Near the very beginning, we know that Pythagoras did this with the hypotenuse (a word which means to stretch out underneath) and revolutionized Geometry. It seems to me that Lacan does something similar to the Freudian tradition. He did not abandon it and move onto to better things, neither did he embrace it as the tradition already stood – he went at it across the hypotenuse, turning everything at 90 degree angles. He stretched out his discourse beneath Freud’s own discourse. The revolutionary break, Lacan’s revolutionary break, is with the object a. It was already there within Freud’s work, but we are pursuing it along a new angle. An angle has two meanings here, the latter has to do with catching a few fish. With Neitzsche, I wonder if there are any fish left in the water. The break, however, the break of the revolution, where it hits the breaks, is in castration anxiety.

In castration anxiety we reach the end-point of our understanding within the field of psychoanalysis. Lacan attempts to overcome this limit, to advance further, and by working at the limits of understanding itself. What is the relationship between understanding a teaching and castration anxiety? This is a question which is not yet raised, but it has been hinted at. It is in the air. In any case, Lacan needs to adopt a certain pedagogy. This indicates – it is certain – that Lacan’s teaching is strategic. He is conscious of it. Chomsky once found that it was not enough to name Lacan a charlatan, he had to be called a “perfectly conscious” charlatan. At the very least, we know that Lacan was aware – whether it was consciousness or not which fuelled his discourse remains to be seen.

We begin with what Lacan’s pedagogy is not. It is not the pedagogy of William Stern. I know nothing of William Stern so I am solely basing this discussion on what Lacan has to say, which is that for Stern everything is determined by the maturation of the intellect. Thus, when the intellect is mature, it is open to certain things, to certain discoveries, to certain advancements in knowledge, and so on and so on. For Jean Paiget, there is a movement toward scientific knowledge – and a gap between the capabilities of the child’s intellect and the capabilities of the scientific intellect. But in both cases, teaching opens up to nobody – there is no and so on and so on because the teaching is reduced to zero, it can have no effect on its audience.

Lacan is more hopeful than all of that. He claims that something like a teaching does exist. Teaching, as a way of opening up an audience to knowledge and so and so on exists. What sort of theatrical performances are involved in teaching, then? We see, for example, in Cornel West and Slavoj Zizek’s work – a teaching which evokes something, which opens up its audience to something. It may not open the audience up to the profound truth of 1+1=2 – a hard proof – but it nonetheless opens them up to a brief encounter with the operation which sustains the equation: what is the operation of the count? What is it to succeed from the first one to the second 1, which is a 2 (ie., a number with the name of the previous number, one, with something new – the name of two). Put differently, at this level we become aware of something. We become aware of the monster under the bed – some people use passion to make a point, but me, I do something much more serious. It won’t be long until we return back home.

The point is that scientific teaching – mathematical teaching – occurs to those who have already been admitted without any real obstacle. Unless, of course, an obstacle becomes the bases for revolution. But teaching in psychoanalysis has to chart a different path because the obstacle for its field can also be the obstacle for its teaching. With mathematics, Lacan claims, “[c]oncepts that might have once seemed extremely complicated at a previous stage […] are now immediately accessible to very young minds.” But within psychoanalysis, the very concepts which are now accepted become the basis for complications, and the ensuing tracing of the contours of what the teaching itself offers. All of this is simply to bring us back to Lacan’s rebuttal to Paiget and Stern: we can help children, we can open them up to something. At least, I think that this is what Lacan is going on about.

We inevitably reach a limit. For Freud, we have seen, the limit was what Lacan designates as minus-phi, namely, castration anxiety. Maybe, Lacan thinks, if we can not move beyond castration anxiety, if we can not understand any further, the best approach is to move around it, in a “roundabout way.” I can’t help but focus on this phrasing – I have to appeal to those who speak the language better than I again – it can not be a mistake that Lacan described approaching what exists beyond castration anxiety as something that must be approached in a roundabout way. After all, we have seen that what we are dealing with is something which is round like a rim, which is round like the eyes, lips, and ass-hole. We move around castration anxiety because we do not want to jump off of the stage.

The minus-phi is castration anxiety but only at first; forever after, so it seems, it is the imaginary phallus. The imaginary phallus thus finds itself everywhere and at all levels. For example, we see it in the Wolf Man’s image. I’ll return to this in a moment, after a brief detour. The primal scene happens in the visual field – it is a scene, and things are present and absent from this scene. We can think of it in less particular terms and just imagine it as a painting of black and white. The primal scene is a painting of black and white, of absence and presence, and of the whiteness or presence of the phallus. There is something traumatic about the presence of the phallus in the primal scene. It evokes anxiety – perhaps more than anxiety. For the Wolf Man, after the primal scene, the phallus was everywhere. At this point Lacan gets quite abstract, but we should be able to follow it: the phallus is everywhere in his diagram, it is in the trees, it is everywhere.

The Wolf Man’s Diagram

How can the phallus be everywhere? It is everywhere because it is constituted by the gaze. The wolves, for example, are looking at us. Everything in the image looks back at us, gazes at us, and yet from an invisible place. In this way we can say that the phallus is invisible and yet everywhere, and the gaze is here equivalent to the phallus, but in the visual field. However, this is where I get somewhat lost. Lacan claims that jouissance is presented within the image in an erect form – the subject himself is his erection, this phallus – and this is what freezes the subject from head to toe. Thus, jouissance is linked here to the phallus, linked to his own gaze, and this immobilizes. What could this mean? It seems that it has something to do with the connection between the Other and the Subject, between jouissance and phallus, to such an extent that the subject is the Other. After all, this is the hallmark of psychosis.

The primal scene triggers defecation. Here we are dealing with the excremental object, what Freud described as the gift. More to the point, Freud described the excremental object as a gift to God, to what Lacan names the big Other. It is also linked to sacrifice, and sacrifice is thereby linked to psychosis – even if it has an obsessional flare to it. Or so it seems.

On the other side there is orgasm. We’ve seen that orgasm is related to anxiety. Lacan is now most sure about this, he claims that “orgasm [is] in its equivalence to anxiety.” Orgasm, then, like anxiety, does not deceive. The question we are pursuing is how this all relates to jouissance. I feel that we are approaching this point, we are moving toward an examination of jouissance and drive. Indeed, in the next seminar, seminar 11, Lacan turns to an even closer examination of the “mysteries of drive.” Lacan does not want to suggest that the satisfaction of orgasm is to be linked with jouissance. That would be too simple, something else is going on here. For example, to complete the orgasm is sometimes not enough. Much of jouissance also comes from prolongation. At the extreme, for example, we’ve heard of men who do horrible things to women who they’ve never even said so much as “hello” to – without ever so much as obtaining an erection. Jouissance can not be reduced to the satisfaction of orgasm – that is not what is at stake in much of sexual life.

What is the relationship between desire and demand, $<>D. If we return to the graph of desire, below, we can see where it is situated. At the top left, after desire slips away from need, after an address has been made to the Other, at A. It is that extra, that remainder, that object a. This is one path. A path that is very near to castration, as we can see, but remains on the line of jouissance nonetheless.

Completed Graph of Desire

Recall that $ is in the bottom level of the table of long division, the position from which desire situates itself. At this point we are at death drive. Desire poses itself to demand at the point of castration, of the little death. Drive, Lacan claims, is “tightly entwined with the demand of lovemaking – to do it until death, or to die laughing.” This perhaps is the other face of Don Juan, whose name has all the letters of Duane, without the e. On Duan. To take the Gaelic, in full darkness. When desire poses itself in the face of Demand we enter into the satisfaction that death obtains within life – a satisfaction that comes from little death, a death we can tolerate – and a death we desire to tolerate for who knows how long. This is a form of death that helps us get off the hook for real death, for the big death. Or, at least, that is my initial interpretation. This also happens at the level of coitus interruptus, withdrawal from orgasm – or prolongation of foreplay. All the pleasure, none of the risk. It is a form of jouissance which ignores the Other and what it asks.

This is why Lacan names it little death: because there is really no risk. In fact, there seems to be a beneficial aspect to this for the Subject, death as the renewal of life. Or, perhaps put differently, a renewal of the I, the ego. The point is that something stops, or slows down, prematurely at this level. One sacrifices before the time is right – repetitively, I would presume – so that when the real sacrifice has to be made, he does not have to deal with the risk.

Lacan implies that this is largely a possible part of man’s domain. Woman, on the other hand, has a different relation to orgasm. She can finish the sexual act without orgasm and be pleased with her understanding of the relationship between her and her partner. Lacan puts this rather well: “she can now be quite easy in her mind as to her partner’s intentions.” Lacan quotes T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land to get to the root of what is at stake in Woman’s relation to anxiety and orgasm:

When lovely woman stoops to folly and

Paces about her room again, alone,

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,

and puts a record on the gramophone.

So here we can see that Woman’s desire is determined by a certain jouissance which is not ultimately linked to the orgasm. Lacan makes an explicit link between feminine jouissance and hysteria. What woman, unlike man, asks for at the limit of analysis – at the limit of understanding – is the phallus. The only way to get it is to offer it, as masquerade, to man as that which can sustain his desire so as to make her feminine masquerade the basis for man’s almightiness. What can we make of this?