Associazione Europea di Psicoanalisi
has, from the outset, shown great interest in watching over political events
that effect psychoanalysis in Europe.
The regulation of our practices in the various member states of the union is a question of maximum importance that places other matters, such as research, theory etc. in second place.
Indeed, the very existence of a European psychoanalysis depends on such regulation, otherwise greatly risking, as has for some time been the case, for example, in America, becoming included in the general medical discourse, losing in that way, the specificity that belongs to it, that is inherent to its statute as science of the unconscious as an alternative to state “psychotherapy-zation” of discomfort sold as an illness and to which J.A. Miller attributes the disturbing classification/naming “authoritarian hygiene”.
We publish here below an interesting interview with lacanian Eric Laurent given to Massimo Recalcati for the Italian daily newspaper Il Manifesto (21st February 2004) in which the position of the French intellectuals on the question debated in the National Assembly is presented.
Leggi la versione italiana
Strategy of control of the roads to happiness
Meeting with Eric Laurent, a student/follower of Lacan, and involved in the
personal rights defence movement for the choice of care for the mentally
suffering. A civil confrontation against the threat of the Accoyer amendment,
that intellectuals such as Philippe Sollers, Bernard Henry Levy, Elisabeth
Rudinesco are supporting.
A member of the parliamentary majority of the French National Assembly called Accoyer last October presented a bill known as « Accoyer Amendment», aimed at defining and regulating the practice of psychotherapy in France. Later, other amendments (Giraud and Mattei) followed with the same goals: the reinforcing of the regulations concerning the relationship between the therapists and their patients. The right for patients to choose the therapy and the therapist in this way is abruptly revoked to the advantage of medical and academic psychiatry and its privileged relationship with economic interests of large pharmaceutical companies. It will be a mechanical and impersonal system of evaluation that will distinguish the effective therapeutic treatment from that which is supposed not to be effective, and it will be in the power of the psychiatrist to indicate to patients the treatment available and which therapist to go to. From then to now, especially thanks to the dedication of Jacques-Alain Miller, inheritor and follower of the teachings of Jacques Lacan, in France, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, psychologists and intellectuals (amongst which Philippe Sollers, Bernard Henry Levy, Jean-Claude Milner, Elisabeth Rudinesco) have given rise to a great movement of protest, able to arouse enthusiasm and public interest reminding many of the “heroic” movement of spring 1968. Against the demand for control that permeates these bills, the psychoanalytical movement is fighting in defence of personal rights to a free choice of one’s therapist, and therefore, treatment, initiating a civil confrontation, against the prescriptive ambitions of the State to intervene directly in such a private and personal domain as, indeed it is, that of the “therapy of the soul”.
Supporters of the amendment justify their initiatives on the basis of a moral motivation (relative to the need to protect the patients) and of an epistemological evaluation of the therapeutic results. What they propose is to contain the «grey power of the evaluator», considered to be paradigm of a new regime, in which “hygiene clinical» and «scientism» are merged together. The Freudian principal for which each clinical case is unique and incomparable is turned up-side down by the need to make everything measurable, mistreating the qualitative and irreducible element of treatment to an anonymous and quantitative serialisation.
In the context of a Forum organized by the Lacanian School of psychoanalysts, in solidarity with their French colleagues, we met Eric Laurent, direct student of Jacques Lacan, friend and companion of Jacques-Alain Miller.
In your opinion, what will the future of psychoanalysis be in the era of undisputed market dominion , as society today adopts medicine or gadgets as remedies to the “disease of live”?
At present we are submersed by an indirect, massive and continuous use of medicine. All medicines, in particular those which are psycotropics, are used in therapies other than those for which they are strictly and scientifically indicated. Producers push sales of their products in a high tech, highly competitive market, facing consumers that demand, as always, the panacea of all evils. The reason for this overwhelming, excessive, symptomatic use, is fear. A society of risk is a society of fear.
In a recent speech at a Forum of the psychoanalytical movement held in Paris, Bernard-Henry Levy invited Lacanian and Foucaultian followers to united their intellectual energies against the ideology that Jacques-Alain Miller defined as « authoritarian hygiene», voted to hybrid medical power with authoritative power. On what common ground do Lacan and Foucault meet?
The common opinion held by Foucault and Lacan denounces the practices of collusion between the psychoanalytic field and the exercising of power. This alliance relentlessly produces new techniques of population management. Foucault broadly described the birth of these «disciplines of the worst», and Lacan summarized what he shared with Foucault saying that « psychotherapy returns to the worst»: effectively it does take us back to the worst if its ethical horizon is forgotten. One should never join with ideals the burden of which are too heavy for our shoulders to take on, even though they are hedonistic mirages of our civilisation.
Authoritarian hygiene imposes universal rules, valid for everyone, without taking into account subjective particulars. Whereas, psychanalysis teaches us that treatment does not answer to any comparative criteria. Freud advised the psychoanalyst to welcome a patient as if for the first time each and every time so avoiding a standardisation of the procedure of treatment.
The new hygiene is one of the faces of the worst. Now is the moment to remember the terms of an interview with Lacan given to Panorama in 1974, and published this month in the “Magazine Littéraire”: «When I hear of the man of the street, of phenomena of the mass and things of this kind, I think of all the patients that I have seen and listened to on my couch during the past forty years of practice. In some measure there is no similarity between one or another».
The regulating of the profession of psychotherapeutics seems to be a need of a civilised society: we need to protect the sick, people who are suffering, we need to guarantee them qualified intervention, defending their right to health and from charlatans…..
There is nothing worse than a charlatan than a «diplomat» charlatan. Reserving the practice of psychotherapy to medical graduates and to psychologists, when these studies do not lead to any preparation to relational psychotherapy, is simply absurd. The university qualification does not lend itself to approving such a singular experience as, for example, a personal analysis is, experience of which is an essential prerequisite to be able to practise later. Only «purely technical» psychotherapists, such as cognitive-behavioural therapists, can manage without the training connected to personal experience, the effects of which are judged by private association, that therefore we hope will be taken into consideration by the State. A law is made necessary to protect the privacy of therapeutic listeners and their patients.
The practice of evaluation is inevitably a practice of control; but whose responsibility is it to effect it, and according to which principles of evaluation? These are questions that are spreading throughout advanced capitalist societies. We need only to see what happened in Italy with the Parmalat case.
The principles of evaluation of the effectiveness of psychotherapy give value to short term. Just as the stock exchange privileges a 3 or 6 month term result, to the detriment of a future, long term result. We have seen the consequences that derive from capitalism stock exchange, in which to embellish the results they sacrificed the future. In the same way, in the field of psychotherapy, the evaluators regulate on short term, and consequently define some «target symptoms», that must be reduced. The more rapid procedures sacrifice the consideration of a lasting transformation, and which need time, or rather the objective of psychoanalysis and relational therapy. The result will produce the same effects that have been seen on the stock market: a swindle/fraud.
The practice of evaluation is demanding a scientific validity. Is that right?
Evaluation is based on a managerial method, it is a false science, rhetoric - as Jacques Alain Miller and Jean Claude Milner say – that aims to silence while counting the number of «boxes» marked: what is measured one does not know, and it has no more foundation than IQ that, at the beginning of the 20th century, was claimed to be evaluated.
Perhaps what they claim to evaluate is personal happiness, but this measuring – as Lacan said – is ethically impracticable. And anyway, what would the standard be?
Apparently the evaluation of happiness accomplishes, in a diminished form, the project of the Enlightenment to make happiness a political factor. But precisely the era of the Enlightened taught us that it is impossible to pass from a personal happiness to a collective happiness. A theorem of the impossibility was announced to this ends by Kenneth Arrow in 1951. The lie of the technical-managerial new liberals is to make us believe that the unhappiness of each person improves if «inevitable» rules of good practice prescribed by the market are followed. Accept more risks for the individual and everything will go better for the collective. Accept less social protection and the state will be more dynamic. Accept not having access to other than de-conditioning psychotherapy, give up long-term hopes, and the happiness of everyone will improve. It is always the same lie.
Who will win this battle?
When the bill comes back to the National Assembly in Spring, we will try to convince our psychoanalyst colleagues to not be content with the extra territorial statute which has been conceded to them. We are also the voice of those who most often are suspected of being «charlatans», or rather the psychotherapists. However this bill is voted, a long lasting battle is about to start. It means fighting, with psychoanalysis and with all those who want to be with us, against the return of the worst.
Il Manifesto, 21 Febbraio 2004, pag. 13
(tr. Rosemary Dewart)