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196 Penumbra Lacan has left us many formulas for a finite or terminable analysis: the end marked by assuming “being for death,” by subjectivizing castration, by the subjective destitution of the pass, and finally by identifying with the symptom. Amidst this variety, which follows from his structural elaborations, we are left with a question: what is the “saying,” the unique saying, which is to be inferred from the multiple things that have been said (dits)?

If we juxtapose Freud’s position on a finite analysis, it seems that according to what can be disengaged from what he said (ses dits), the actual end is a matter of simple pragmatism. This is not the case with Lacan, who at each stage situates the end in terms of structures, and even of the matheme. At the end, we have the identification with the symptom. Is this a theoretical upset, as some have said? It is certain that Lacan’s work between 1970 and 1975 is marked by changes: the new Borromean schematism and its clinical advances, the redefinition of the symptom, the devaluation of the hegemony of the symbolic, the reevaluation of the real. Yet, to what extent do these shifts of perspective alter what is to be obtained from the end of an analysis?

I shall argue that the formula is new but the saying is not, for it never varied. This identification with the symptom is not to be confused with what I will call the identifications of alienation—identifications via the Other—which go from the ideals of the Other, I(A), to the phallic signifier. These identifications certainly try to “crystallize” into an identity, but they are merely elaborate facades that hide a subject that is only supposed, who cannot be identified in the Other, and thus functions only as a lack (-1). The symptom as singular, as Lacan had once said about the Thing, is not on the side of the Other but rather comes from the real, from jouissance. This identification consists, he says, in “recognizing oneself in it.” What does this mean? This expression should be weighed against another, from the same period, that says that one can never recognize oneself in one’s unconscious.

Obviously, in order to recognize oneself in one’s symptom, one must have identified the symptom at a distance; one must have recognized—beyond the therapeutic changes occurring throughout the analytic elaboration—the specific modalities of jouissance that do not cease to be written for the subject and which define his partner. This is the condition for dealing with the symptom, or as Lacan put it, “knowing how to do it” (savoir faire avec). For the neurotic—who, by definition, does not recognize himself in his symptom and continues to deny and complain about it, even when he gives himself the air of a cynic—this is progress.

To recognize oneself in one’s symptom is to take upon oneself what must be called a jouissanceidentity. This has nothing to do with identifying with the Other. Thus the symptom that does not cease to write itself responds to the “What am I?” of the entry into analysis. The end by means of identifying with the symptom is an end through identity, not by identification; or, more The Aim of the Analytic Act precisely, it is an end achieved by what I will call a separation-identity. There is, indeed, no other identity.

The explicit precursor of this thesis can be found at the end of The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, where Lacan, in mentioning an identification of a special type with the object a, was already aiming at a separation-identity by jouissance. More essential still, this Borromean symptom determines not only the subject that is supposed in relation to the signifier, but on the contrary, the “real subject” that Lacan designated in 1975 as the one who is irrefutably there: the individual speaking being that has a body and is substantial.

This saying about the end of analysis by separation-identity can be generalized. Regarding the end and the result of the analytic metamorphosis, there is no other saying of Lacan’s than this, as I have more extensively demonstrated elsewhere. This saying has moved from the ineffable identity that is affirmed by the ecstatic “you are that” in the 1949 text on the Mirror Stage, through the subjective destitution, to the famous identification with the jouissance-letter of the symptom in 1975. This letter, however, uproots the end from the ineffable, since within language it alone is identical to itself.

Identity is the contrary of mental perplexity and turmoil; separation is the contrary of alienation. It is astounding to witness the extent to which Lacan produced misunderstandings and was grossly misinterpreted by his first students. In a manner that was increasingly pathetic, and thus idealized, these followers put forth, in succession, notions of lack, castration, de-being, destitution, and—of course—non-knowledge. Hence they were stupefied by the appearance of the identification with the symptom, which served only as the final quilting point of the thesis that had been present from the beginning.

Lacan himself diagnosed this misunderstanding by evoking those analysts who authorize themselves only by their perplexity.

Without this fundamental thesis of the end by separation-identity, how can we acknowledge an important clinical fact (which, moreover, the enemies of psychoanalysis enjoy pointing out), that those who are called “analyzed,” and for whom analysis has sometimes changed everything, have nonetheless, at a certain level, remained the same and even become more incorrigible?


That the time for understanding has taken so long has its drawbacks.

These disadvantages are clinical, of course, but are not confined to the clinic insofar as the conception of the end of analysis has a decisive political import. From the beginning, Lacan posited that for psychoanalysis “its ethics are never individualistic.”7 On the contrary, it has effects on our current civilization. Rereading his early texts, I have been struck by the number of virulent remarks Lacan makes about the era, which can still be perfectly applied to the beginning of the twenty-first century. I shall quickly cite a 198 Penumbra few. From “Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis”: it is a time of “social hell” in which “touching” victims are produced by the “barbarity of the Darwinian century”8; from “Function and Field of Speech and Language”: the subject “loses his meaning in the objectifications of discourse” within “our scientific civilization”9; from the “Remarks on Daniel Lagache’s Presentation”: the widespread ethics of the superego and of dread10; from “La troisième”: we are all proletarians, insofar as we no longer have anything from which we can make a social bond.11 Corresponding to each of these diagnoses, the mission of psychoanalysis is redefined: with the touching victim, “we clear anew the path to his meaning in a discrete fraternity”12; despite his or her lost meaning “the subject’s satisfaction is achievable in the satisfaction of all”13; getting out of the ethic of the superego is achieved by the silence of desire. In “Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire,” it is making one’s castration serve as the regulation of desire; in Television, it is getting out of the capitalist discourse;

and finally, in “La troisième,” there is a countering of the real, that is, the real of the proletarian social symptom.

It would be necessary to follow this progression in greater detail, but we can already observe, in every case, that the objective that Lacan prescribes goes in the direction of restoring to subjects a place in the social bond that passes through disalienation.

On this point, what can be said of the identification with the symptom?

Does it not add to the modern proletarian’s forced individualism and dereliction? Some colleagues have asked, with today’s subjects prey to the values of capitalism, how can we still recommend that each “meet at its horizon the subjectivity of his time,” as Lacan recommended for the analyst at the end of “The Function and Field of Speech and Language.”14 Perhaps these colleagues have imagined that the identification with the symptom was homogeneous to what I have called the regime of “general narcynicism” that capitalism produces.

This, I think, is the error. The social symptom of all proletarians, which globalizes and standardizes each subject’s relation with the products of the market, effectively disrupts the social bond. In its wake, this symptom establishes merely a single—and not very social—bond for each subject to a prescribed surplus jouissance. This is not necessarily the case for the Borromean symptom at the end of analysis, which knots desire and jouissance for each subject in a singular—never global—way, without at the same time excluding the social bond. Quite to the contrary, the Borromean symptom alone can ensure what Lacan called a more-worthy love, and even “the exit from the herd.” Confronted with the globalization of merchandized jouissance, and thus with standardized surplus jouissance, identification with the symptom highlights a singularity of jouissance without any nostalgic resort to values from the past that have become powerless. It is thus linked to the subjectivity of the The Aim of the Analytic Act age, or at least to what remains of it in a discourse that tries to master desires.

Lacan is up to date now more than ever.

Does it not remain the case, however, that the solution to neurosis by identifying with the symptom still is not a way out of an individualistic ethic?

This is why, I think, Lacan could say this approach fell short. But it is also the reason why he added the necessity of making a number, and also that of a complement, for analysts; that is, the solution by means of the school.


1. This text resumes a number of developments begun in 1987, in a text devoted to the aim of the analytic act, and continued until 1994 at the meetings of L’international des forums-l’Ecole de psychanalyse du Champ Lacanien.

2. Colette Soler, “Le second retour à Freud,” Boletin del circulo psicanalitico de Vigo (1986).

3. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: Encore: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, 1972-1973, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 1998), 131.

4. Lacan, RSI (1974-1975), unpublished seminar, 18 February 1975.

5. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1981), ix.

6. Colette Soler, “Les invariants de l’analyse finie,” Hétérté 5 (June 2005).

7. Lacan, “The Freudian Thing,” in Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink in collaboration with Héloïse Fink and Russell Grigg (New York: Norton, 2006), 346.

8. Lacan, “Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis,” Écrits, 101, 99.

9. Lacan, “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis,” Écrits, 232-233.

10. Lacan, “Remarks on Daniel Lagache’s Presentation,” Écrits, 543-574.

11. Lacan, “La troisième,” Lettres de l’Ecole freudienne 16 (1975): 177-203.

12. Lacan, “Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis,” 101.

13. Lacan, “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis,” 264.

14. Ibid.

–  –  –


What is the peculiar evocative force of the notion of the real? In the “passion for the real” which, according to Badiou,2 animated all the subversive inventions of the 20th century—from psychoanalysis to revolutionary politics—is there a mystification at work that merits our critical scrutiny before we so quickly subscribe to its seductive appeal?

Rather than succumbing to the temptation of forcing appearance in order to accede to the real supposed to be lurking behind it—an endeavour which can only engender devastating consequences, as Badiou never tires of repeating3—for Lacanian psychoanalysis, the path of access to the real is none other than that of the semblant. Indeed, for psychoanalysis, the question of the real is inseparable from the interrogation of the semblant. This is why, although the semblant is relevant to numerous contemporary discourses, it is only in psychoanalysis that this term was elevated to the level of concept.

The semblant is a term forged by Lacan in the last period of his teaching in order to rework the relation between the symbolic and the real. The introduction of this notion charts a momentous shift in Lacan’s teaching from the symbolic to the real as a focal point of psychoanalysis. Thus, to a certain extent, the semblant is a problem specific to psychoanalysis. Omnipresent, unsettling, yet unresolved, the problem of the semblant comes to the fore at critical moments in the history of psychoanalysis, thereby marking turning points at which the orientation of psychoanalysis is at stake. Freud himself already tried to circumscribe the problem of the semblant by claiming that “there are no indications of reality in the unconscious, so that one cannot distinguish between the truth and fiction cathected with affect.”4 Stumbling across what could be termed a primordial deceitfulness at the level of the unconscious, Freud 202 Penumbra nevertheless refused to consider the distinction between truth and fiction as an operational conceptual opposition in psychoanalysis. He thereby indicates that another dimension, that of the libido and the satisfaction of the drives, is to be taken as a compass for orienting oneself in an unconscious swarming with lures and deceptions.

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