I want to start by raising the question of the theme Lacan chose for his Seminar in 1962 – anxiety. This will perhaps be best done if I sketch out the situation Lacan was in at that time. To introduce this gripping Seminar that turned out to be crucial and instrumental for what we now habitually call “later teaching” of Lacan, one must speak about its politics – politics of the Seminar X, in particular, and of Lacan’s teaching at the threshold of his separation from the institution he was a part of for over a decade at the time. I propose to address these questions in the following points:
By the early 1960s Lacan achieved a considerable status, having concluded a decade of work referred to by him and others as his “teaching”.
For some years, this teaching already raised many eyebrows because of Lacan’s formulations and proposals, especially that of the object a – which is the case here, but not only.
Lacan did not speak about the object a to suit and adjust it to the scientific requirements, not even for the purpose of the “solidarity of church and science”. In fact, the object a became what I would call a point of indeterminacy that renewed psychoanalysis by keeping it as separate from science and opened new lines of addressing Freud’s discourse – the famous “return to Freud”. Lacan’s discourse was not to the taste of the scientific community that nevertheless surrounded him. His focus was rather on the mysterious object a that allowed him to make statements like “I desire you even if I don’t know this”. Imagine a scientist saying: the world is made of genes because I want it to be clearer and more understandable.
2In short, Lacan took as a start the enigma of desire, of which object a was a reminder, and not its science or even interpretation. And that began to cause problems “to the mass-effects entailed in the delusion of scientism”, as Recalde put it.
Then, there was the infamous session, the Lacanian session, not measured by the time of the clock but by the logic of the unconscious and the vicinity of the object a. This session, often called “short” or, more precisely, “variable”, turned out to show, as Jacques-Alain Miller remarked, that its true dimension was that of infinity. We can think here about the “anxiety effect” at the moment of the cut. This anxiety effect appears in analysis in an encounter with the analyst, i.e. with the infinity of the Other’s desire.
Lacan came to the point of anxiety only in effect of undercutting the well-formed and established discourse. To achieve this, he began to speak about his teaching, again. He embarked on a revision of his own formulations to rearticulate them and resituate them – an already anguishing exercise – to circumscribe the place of the object a as the point of indeterminacy that cannot be defined by science. According to Jacques-Alain Miller, Lacan wanted to demythologise psychoanalysis as a concept, and that implied a certain disenfranchisement, even disenchantment of psychoanalysis. In short, Lacan presented his Seminar on the object a, but not without anxiety, making it the sine qua non of anxiety.
All this led him to the point when his teaching came under growing scrutiny. We could say that during his seminar lessons at the time a certain “dossier” was being jotted down by his colleagues on the man and his work. And this led others to find him on the edges of the orthodoxy. But Lacan’s teaching was neither unFreudian nor unorthodox – it rather followed the meanders of the real with the object a. Towards the end of 1963 Lacan wrote to Leclaire that all he wanted in that past ten years of his teaching was “to have a training/formation that would not be a lie”. That’s why, before speaking about the analyst’s desire, which was new at the time, Lacan spoke of the anxiety of the analyst, which we will address in detail later.
There was something else that made Lacan bring the object a to the fore and to speak of anxiety of the analysand, and of the analyst, as conditioned and constituted by the object a. Lacan was already anticipating a moment of separation from the French Society. It is what Jacques-Alain Miller makes plain in his commentary. In short, Lacan’s choice was not accidental, and this will gradually emerge in relation, among other coordinates, to the revision of countertransference I will undertake here.