‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part four)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on March 26, 2018 @ 12:56 pm

For Sigmund Freud and later Jacques Lacan, transference was a highly important part of therapy. The projection on to the therapist of all our issues. According to both this came out in the language the client speaks, as if the ego is incapable of getting to the point (we would have no Adam Curtis documentaries if there was not some pleasure in this!) The role of the therapist is to play a secure, safe reflection of those anxieties that prevent more direct communication. That said Freud argued that such indirectness was a product of civilisation. With regards this indirectness I will return later with regards signifying and hostile prejudiced environments, but in the meantime I will not that modern CBT prefers the term ‘therapeutic relationship’, and work by the CBT psychologist Professor Richard Bentall has shown this is a valid indicator of the efficacy of therapy beyond the actual method used. But still the relation remains the same as Lacan quoting Freud says “the sick ego promises us the most complete candour – promises, that is, to put at our disposal all the material which its self-perception yields; we assure the patient of the strictest discretion and place at his service our experience in interpreting material that has been influenced by the unconscious. Our knowledge is to make up for his ignorance and to give his ego back its mastery over lost provinces of his mental life. This pact constitutes the analytic situation” (p.65) The power relationship is the same whether Freudian psychoanalysis, Integrative psychotherapy, CBT or the Talking with Voices therapy. In view of this I want to return to transference and counter transference, as in the last few articles we have looked at the idea of projection as not only something humans do, without it we would have no art, but also something that may be involved in voice hearing, and other psychoses. Is there transference going on in the psychotic’s relation with the Other that leads to these phantasms? Is this pathological as the idea that these phantasms are hostile is the failure to resolve trauma and histories of distorted communication, given that they may be reflected feelings of distress, and all is needed is some compassionate, guided normative techniques? Or are there understandable feelings of threat, to take a contemporary example ‘brown envelope syndrome’, the fear of the DWP envelope that lands on the doorstep during a period of austerity, that has involved cuts to essential services and punitive sanction regimes aimed at those in receipt of state support? Are such people ‘loony lefties’? Their failure to get with the program their own fault, their symptom, for not ‘doing the homework’ and recovering, after all there is ‘nothing wrong with capitalism’, is there? Or is the expectation of ‘working to recovery’ under such conditions a ‘doubling up’ of responsibility expecting people who are feeling iller than they were before due to an attack on their safety net (a vital relationship) to work harder than before at their recovery? I will look at both Freud and Lacan’s idea of transference and then Silvia Federici and Kathi Weeks’ ideas of ‘non-work’ as work and how such a conception includes ‘recovery’. As Maurizio Lazzarato argues in Signs and Machines, ‘we all work’.
Lacan points out that “[the] stake is full speech… but the remarkable fact that the analytic method, if it aims at attaining full speech, starts off on a path leading in the diametrically opposed direction, in so far as it instructs the subject to delineate a speech as devoid as possible of any assumption of responsibility and that it even frees him from any expectation of authenticity. It calls on him to say everything that comes into his head. It is through these very means that it facilitates, that at least once can say, his return on to the path which, in speech, is below the level of recognition and concerns the third party, the object.” (p.108). One would think, that alone, in one’s room, going mad one could say, or shout, what one likes at the ‘voices’… and yet we pay. In echoes, in returning light beams, in counter-commands, often for at least 24 hours… sometimes weeks later, although when that occurs the construct’s mask is hiding another mask.
Lacan argues that the effectiveness of an analyst’s intervention lies in transference, but what is transference, he argues it quite simply les in ‘the speech act’: “each time a man speaks to another in an authentic and full manner, there is, in the true sense, transference, symbolic transference – something takes place which changes the nature of the two beings present… The function of transference should be located on the imaginary plane. So it is to specify it that the notions… the repetition of prehistoric situations, unconscious repetition, the putting into effect of a reintegration of history – history in the opposite sense to the one I once put forward , since it is a question of an imaginary reintegration, the past situation only being experienced in the present, without the knowledge of the subject, in so far as its historical dimension is misrecognised by him- you’ll note I didn’t say unconscious.” what they don’t uncover though is “the reason, the function, the signification of what we observe in the real.” (p.109).
In her book Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici uses the character Caliban from King Lear as a metaphor for the ‘body’ of the dispossessed in the 17th century, who from the 18th century onwards would be ‘disciplined’ into a working class ‘body’ as observed by many from Michel Foucault to E.P. Thompson. But it is in Prospero that she finds a metaphor for the new burgeoning bourgeoisie “who combines the celestial spirituality of Ariel and the brutish materiality of Caliban. Yet he betrays an anxiety over the equilibrium achieved that rules out any pride for “Man’s” unique position in the Great Chain of Being. In defeating Calban, Prospero must admit that “this thing of darkness is mine,” thus reminding his audience that our human partaking of the angel and the beast is problematic indeed.” (p.134).
Kathi Weeks describes work as “productive co-operation organised around but not necessarily confined to, the privileged model of waged labour” (p.14). She invokes Moishe Postone when she remarks that “the normative explanation of waged work as an individual responsibility has more to do with the socially mediating role of work than its strictly productive function. Work is the primary means by which individuals are integrated not only into the economic system, but also into social, political, and familial modes of cooperation.” (p.8). Weeks goes on to say that “the category of the wok society refers not just to the socially mediating and subjectively constitutive roles of work but to the dominance of its values” (p.11). If we take Federici’s invocation of Shakespeare’s Prospero as the mark of a new burgeoning bourgeois ethic, then Max Weber’s book the ‘Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ described the ascetic belief’s relation with Capitalism and the creation of not just the working classes but a ‘work ethic’. Weeks notes that “On the one hand, the Protestant work wthis is, as Weber emphasizes, a fundamentally ascetic morality, one that ‘turned with all its force against one thing: the spontaneous enjoyment of life and all it had to offer’ (Weber). ‘Life’ with its wealth of possibilities is subordinated to the disciplinary demands of work… ‘Of all the pillars of the work ethic.’ Daniel Rodgers observes, ‘the predilection to see the moral life as a mustering of the will against the temptations within and the trials without remained the strongest, the least affected by the industrial transformation’ (Rodgers). The ‘sanitising effects of constant labour’ and the focus on work as the arena in which the individual can, with the proper self-discipline, will his or her self-development and transformation continue to be affirmed today under the conditions of Post-Fordist production. Nonetheless, as a worldly asceticism – rather than an Otherworldly one – the prescription was and remains rife with difficulties. The worldliness of, for example, unruly bodies, seductive pleasures, and spontaneous enjoyment poses as constant challenge to the mandate for such focused attention and diligent effort in properly productive pursuits.” (p.48). One thinks here both of the ‘mental hygiene’ movement, and as a counter-discourse Albert Camus’ argument in the Myth of Sisyphus that sin without God leads to the Absurd. However those who have an association with ‘recovery work’ have to deal with another aspect of Kathi Weeks’ theory, and that is what constitutes ‘non’work’. Weeks argues that “the work wthic is not only a racialized but genered construction… This was enabled by the historical process through which work… became equated with waged work, waged work was linked to masculinity, and unwaged domestic work was reconceived as non-productive women’s work. This lack of recognition of feminized domestic labour emerged with early industrialisation, as unwaged household work came to stand as the (naturalised and feminised) model of nonwork that served to contrast and thereby sustain a (now masculinised) concept of work… Unwaged women (and those waged women who found themselves judged in relation to this normative model), not subject to the morally purifying and invigorating effects of work discipline, were a justifiably dependent class. The work ethic could then be embraced as a masculine ethic while nonwork – a rather more expansive category including everything from leisure practices and consumption work to unwaged agriculture, household and caring labour – was devalued with its association with a degraded femininity.” (p.63). I want to argue that ‘recovery work’ fits into this category of ‘nonwork’. However under late capitalism it is more divisive than this, as Maurizio Lazzarato argues in his criticism of the relation of language and the increasing technologisation that leads to automation in late Post-fordist capitalism, Signs and Machines, he notes that when we use a self-service machine we are doing the work that would have been done by a cashier for free whilst paying to increase the supermarket’s profits. The same goes when we use comparison websites to buy plane tickets or shop for insurance, jobs that travel agents or insurance brokers used to do. This not only affects unemployment but also is work we do in our everyday life for free, in the name of efficiency and expediency. It is in this sense he argues that we ‘all work’. In the final two articles I will be looking at the biopolitics of recovery and strategies of survival, and hopefully resistance in such a modern society.

Camus, Albert – Myth of Sisyphus (2005) Penguin
Federici, Silvia – Caliban and the Witch (2009) Autonomedia
Lacan, Jacques – Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954: The seminar of Jacques Lacan Book 1 (1991) Norton
Lazzarato, Maurizio – Signs and Machines (2014) Semiotext(e)
Thompson, E. P. – The Making of the English Working Class (1984) Pelican
Weeks, Kathi – The Problem with Work (2011) Duke


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace