Brennan 93Teresa Brennan, 1993, Professor of at Cambridge, History After Lacan, 40-45
From the beginning, Lacan had asserted that the ‘lure of spatial identification’ in the mirror-stage accounts for the méconnaissances that mark the ego in all its structures (Lacan 1949, pp. 4–6). The mirror-stage identification is an inverse one, in which the image is outside and opposed to the self; it is, so to speak, a ‘reversal’. This spatial lure is an energetic formation which also structures the subject as a rival within itself. Subsequently, its energetic aspect will implicitly, as ever with Lacan who is always implicit, bear on the link between the ego and the environment. Turning here to the mirror-stage as an internal rivalrous structure: the key point here is that this structure not only constitutes the subject-to-be’s identity. It is also a precondition for the subject’s Oedipal rivalry with the other. Note that this means that an internal structure prefigures a similar external one. A psychical reality, or fantasy, pre-dates its subsequent acting out. The narcissism of the mirror-stage is inextricably bound up with aggressiveness against this ‘other’, and is the locus of the master-slave struggle for recognition that binds the ego as master and the ego as slave one to another. In steps that are not clear (and to which I return) Lacan discusses this bondage and the aggressiveness it generates in the first four theses of ‘On Aggressivity’. He introduces the fifth, final thesis by saying that Such a notion of aggressivity as one of the intentional co-ordinates of the human ego, especially relative to the category of space, allows us to conceive of its role in modernneurosis and in the ‘discontents’ of civilization. (Lacan 1948, p. 25) The fifth thesis is avowedly ‘social’. It is about aggression ‘in the present social order’ (ibid., p. 25). In it, Lacan indicates how the spatial dimensions of the environment and the ego intersect. He seems to be saying that aggression increases in the spatial restrictions of an urban environment. He explicitly refers to ‘the dialectic common to the passions of the soul and the city’ and to the effects of the ‘ever-contracting living space” in which human competition is becoming ever keener…’ (ibid., pp. 26–7).22 For Lacan the city’s spatial restrictions result in needs to escape on the one hand, and an increased social aggressiveness on the other. The apparent banality of Lacan’s statement that ‘overcrowding leads to aggressiveness’ is alleviated in that his account gestures to why overcrowding leads to aggressiveness, and as we shall see, to a territorializing imperative whereby the ego seeks to make the globe over in its own image. Aggressiveness motivates the drive to dominate not only the earth’s surface but outer spacethrough ‘psycho-techniques’ (ibid.). It is also part of a competitive Darwinian ethic which ‘projected the predations of Victorian Society and the economic euphoria that sanctioned for that society the social devastation that it initiated on a planetary scale’(ibid., p. 26). It is with Victorian imperialism that the ego’s era gathers steam. The Darwinian ethic, Lacan notes, presents itself as natural, although its true origins lie in the aggression generated by the masterslave dialectic. In its entirety, ‘On Aggressivity’ suggests a fundamental connection between the spatial dimension of the ego and the spatial environment. However, the precise nature of this egoic/environmental spatial dialectic needs to be constructed from Lacan’s allusions. There are some indications as to how this might be done. To begin explicating them, it is necessary to hark back to Lacan’s comment on anxiety, and its intersection with the spatial dimension. Lacan’s introduction of anxiety at that point in the text on aggressiveness appears somewhat ad hoc. Yet he has obliquely referred to anxiety earlier in the same text, through referring to Melanie Klein. Lacan’s text is dated 1948, a time when Klein’s name was associated with the view that anxiety and aggressiveness played a dominant part in very early psychical life.23 Lacan refers to Klein in ‘On Aggressivity’ when discussing the ‘paranoiac structure of the ego’ and the ‘especial delusion of the misanthropic belle âme, throwing back onto the world the disorder out of which his being is composed’ (Lacan 1948, p. 20). After referring to Klein’s work, Lacan turns to aggressiveness and its relation to narcissism (ibid., p. 21). I take this mention of the belle âme as a signpost to the formation of the modern ego, given that Lacan referred to the belle âme when saying that he had ‘indicated elsewhere’ how the modern ego takes on its form. Projection is a mechanism of the imaginary, and the subject who throws his disorder back into the world is engaging, evidently, in the act of projection. Klein was particularly concerned with the early operation of projection, whose force she linked to anxiety: for her, the extent of a subject’s persecutory anxiety not only affects its ability to link; it also determines the degree to which it projects ‘bad internal objects’. Projection is the mode for putting bad feelings and ‘bad internal objects’ (to which Lacan explicitly refers) (ibid., p. 21) outside the self: this projective process in turn generates feelings of persecution about bad objects returning, hence paranoia. This is not the only reference to this projective process in the text on aggressiveness. The projection of internal negativity isa mobilizing factor in war, as indeed is the need to dominate physical space (ibid., p. 28). Taking physical pressure, its ‘dialectical counterpart’ in the physical environment and the aggressive anxiety they trigger into account, there are grounds for setting out how a historical, spatial dynamic might work. If, as Lacan says, the more spatially constricted the environment is, the more anxiety and the aggressive desire to dominate space increase, then that desire and anxiety must increase as space becomes more constricted and more dominated. Yet as Lacan also says that this process produces an increase in aggressive competitiveness, his dialectic requires an economic, technological supplement. The supplement should illuminate the ego’srigidity and desire for control. The rigidity, the basis of the ego’s ‘resistance to truth’, is first formed in the spatial positioning of the mirror-stage. I want to suggest here that, just as there is a dialectic between the spatial dimensions of the ego and of the environment, so too might the ego’s rigidity have a dialectical counterpart in the things the subject constructs. It is this dialectical counterpart which accounts for the temporal process at work in the foreclosure of the sense of time, and which explains why the sense of history is fading. As will be plain by Chapter 5, the ‘things’ constructed physically alter the perception of time. ‘Things’ means the whole technological apparatus by which the environment is controlled. The modern age ‘begins that way of being human which mans the realm of human capability as a domain given over to measuring and executing, for the purpose of gaining mastery over that which is as a whole’ (Heidegger 1949, p. 132). Apart from the fact that the construction of things is one expression of the desire to dominate space, it is also consistent with Lacan’s otherwise puzzling question as to whether the master-slave dialectic ‘will find its resolution in the service of the machine’. It fits, too, with his suspicion of reality-testing. If the construction of things is one expression of what Lacan elsewhere refers to as ‘the passionate desire peculiar to man to impress his image on reality’(Lacan 1948, p. 22) thenreality-testing is suspect because the ego has constructed the reality it then proceeds to test.As the point of departure for this supplement on how the ego’s rigidity has a counterpart in the environment it constructs, it is worth recalling that Lacan ties both the ego’s rigidity and the social psychosis to paranoia. The ego, in part, has a paranoid dimension because both the ego and the ego’s objects are conceived of as fixed, and the ego wants them to stay fixed. Any unregulated movement or change in these objects poses a threat to the ego’s concept of itself as fixed, in that its own fixity is defined in relation to them. Here we can locate the need to control the environment in an attempt to predict and regulate changes within it, to subject the irregularity of living things to a form of domination in which the ego closes off to itself the truth about itself, by making its dream of fixation come true. That is to say, at the same time as it closes off the truth on which its psychical health depends, it also, and in a parallel manner, restricts the regeneration of the natural environment on which it depends to stay alive. This coupling of spatial shifts with technological expansion is repeated, although the emphasis is reversed in Marx’s account. For Marx, the division of town and country is at one and the same time the basis of the accumulation of capital, which accelerates and requires the technological expansion necessary for winning in the competition of the marketplace. This does not solve the problem of what triggers aggressive competitiveness in so far as Marx himself continued to seek, and was unhappy with, his own accounts of the cause of the accumulation of capital; he sought them in a variety of places, from the relaxation of the church’s laws restricting usury, to the shift whereby the merchant became an industrialist through employing small rural producers.24 Marx’s critics, notably Max Weber, have argued that he overlooked the extent to which substantial urbanization preceded capitalization (Giddens 1981, p. 109). Yet whatever the cause of capitalization, the technological expansion that accompanied it is the means whereby the ego is able to secure the ‘reversal’ in knowledge, as it makes the world over in its own image. It is also, and this is critical to the dynamics of the ego’s era, a means of generating continuous economic insecurity and anxiety over survival in the majority, and guarantees their dependence on those identified with the dominant ego’s standpoint.In fact to say that the above points can be made in the form of an economic supplement is drastically to understate the case: the unelaborated relation between the economic dimension and the ego is the subjective flaw in Lacan’s historical theory, because it is only through the elaboration of this relation that the mechanism by which the social psychosis could exist simultaneously in and around individuals will emerge. ‘Aggressive competitiveness’ is tied to imperialism (loosely) but the fact that this tie is also fundamental in the competitive profit motive is not followed through (despite, or perhaps because of, the Heideggerian allusions). This tie can be effected after the foundational fantasy is identified in more detail in Part II. And once this is done, the details of the mechanism by which the fixity or rigidity that Lacan so frequently refers to as a hallmark of the individual ego has a counterpart in the historical ego’s era will be apparent. So will another reason for scepticism about ‘reality-testing’. Lacan refers to the ego’s era approach to knowledge as paranoid, as it is based on a need for control. But he does not take account of how the ego technologically constructs an environment it can control, and how this, in turn, reinforces paranoia, precisely because the damage done to nature in the process makes the ego fear (rightly) for its ownsurvival.
These pathologies distort not only how we respond to crisis but also why and to which crises---as such, your primary role is to investigate the aff’s psychological investment in energy production as an exercise in reprogramming our position in a non-linear and inevitably chaotic world.
Dodds 12 Joseph, MPhil, Psychoanalytic Studies, Sheffield University, UK, MA, Psychoanalytic Studies, Sheffield University, UK BSc, Psychology and Neuroscience, Manchester University, UK, Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol) of the British Psychological Society (BPS), and a member of several other profession al organizations such as the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society, Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos p 198 ( ) – gender modified
The metaphor of an acrobat on a high wire referred to by Bateson (2000: 506) is particularly apt for us now. The acrobat, in order not to fall, requires maximum freedom to 'move from one position of instability to another.' This is the paradox of order and disorder that we discussed in Chapter 11. In our current ecological crisis we must face the possibility that achieving the freedom and flexibility that we need to survive requires a fundamental re-examination of many of the basic coordinates of our lives,and some of our most cherished theories. In analyzing the rise and fall of past civilizations, we find that a 'new technology for the exploitation of nature or a new technique for the exploitation of other men ... gives elbow room or flexibility' but that'the using up of that flexibility is death' (Bateson 2000: 503).
Like the patient stuck on a local optima that we discussed in Chapter 12, unable or unwilling to cross the threshold to a more adaptive peak, entire species, and civilizations, have in the past found themselves in dangerous dead ends and unable to change. These dead ends include those within the ecology of mind, ways of thinking and being that become pathological if they fail to evolve along with the constantly shifting relations in the constitution of natural and social ecosystems. Ecopsychoanalysis, which draws on the tools and ideas of nonlinear science, understands that our world is governed by nonlinear dynamics,to the extent that the prediction and control promised by Enlightenment rationality will always remain to some degree illusory. Instead, we need to engage with the creativity of the Earth, and follow the lines of flight we uncover, exploring 'the potential for self-organization inherent in even the humblest forms of matter-energy' (DeLanda 2005:273).
Our species has experienced such severe existential threats before. One of the most extreme examples was an evolutionary bottleneck which molecular biology shows us occurred approximately 70,000 years ago, when the human species was down to the last few thousand individuals or even less. Geological evidence suggests that this near extinction may have been linked to the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia, whose eruption triggered sudden climate change with major environmental impacts (Dawkins 2004). We do not know how we emerged from that particular crisis, or how close we may have come to extinction at various other times in our history.
We might reflect on these experiences as applying to the whole species an idea that Winnicott (1974: 104) once discussed in terms of the fear of breakdown in individual psychoanalysis. For Winnicott, this fear refers to a breakdown that has already occurred, but it was a catastrophe which took place before there was yet a subject to folly experience it with a reflective consciousness. At the risk of anthropocentrism, we might do well to consider Dennett's (2003: 267) point that in many ways we do occupy a unique position in the history of the Earth, as 'wherever lineages found themselves on local peaks of the adaptive landscape, their members had no way of so much as wondering whether or not there might be higher, better summits on the far side of this valley or that.'
Despite all the defensive reasons to not know which we explored in Chapters 4-7. we are, to some extent at least, becoming conscious of the enormity of the danger which confronts us. Today we are forced to think in these complex terms, to wonder about other valleys and other peaks on the plane of immanence, our virtual realm of possibility, to find a path through the current deadlock. As we saw in Part I of this book, these are difficult times. As Bateson (2000: 495) writes, the 'massive aggregation of threats to (hu)man(kind) and his ecological systems arises out of errors in our habits of thoughtatdeep and partly unconscious levels.'
The contribution of psychoanalysis is precisely to help us to overcome such errors through investigating their unconscious roots. Ecopsychoanalysis recognizes the need for a radical questioning of our theories, whether psychoanalytic, philosophical, scientific or political, and the corresponding ways of living individually and collectively that they make possible and reflect. However, it does so through a respectful engagement with the best that our various traditions have to offer, entering into uncanny new symbioses, making these disciplines strange to themselves not in order to destroy them but to make them more vital and alive.
Despite the gravity of our situation, there are 'patches of sanity still surviving in the world' (Bateson 2000: 495), ideas in the ecology of mind worth exploring, helping us to construct a new alpha function we can only hope is capable of dreaming at the precipice. This book has sought to uncover what some of the components of this might be, focusing in particular on the constructive synergy between psychoanalysis, complexity theory, ecology, and the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari. Ecopsychoanalysis wonders whether it is precisely in the very severity of the desperate ecological situation we face that a great opportunity lies for re-imagining the human, our societies, and our place in the world. It is in the ecopsychological spirit of nurturing hope while facing despair that this book was written.
However, there is no 'big Other' (Zizek 2007) to guarantee our success, or even our future existence. In a chaotic world without certainty, ecopsychoanalysis can turn to the experimental pragmatics of Deleuze and Guattari (2003a: 161): 'Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers ... find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.'
Assumptions according to which we have long lived our lives collapse as we begin to feel the disturbing effects of the hyperobject of climate change on the ecology of mind. Ecopsychoanalysis itself can be viewed as a hyperobject in that it does not yet fully exist. It should not be seen as an end state but a process of becoming, a work in progress, a meshwork emerging at the interstices of the three ecologies, and the elaboration of an alpha function that is able to think and dwell in our new uncanny home. As Bateson (2000: 512) writes, 'we are not outside the ecology for which we plan - we are always and inevitably a part of it. Herein lies the charm and the terror of ecology.' Ecopsychoanalysis can never occupy an outside from which to explore and engage with the new strange ecology(s), but is always already extimate with it (Lacan 1992: 139).
For all its chaos, because of all its chaos, the world is still a place of wonder, and we can only hope that we find ways of staying in it at least a little while longer. The nonlinearity and chaos of nature, and the forms of thinking required to sustain our relationship to it beyond the limited horizons of our experience, are both frightening and liberating. Yet, despite the anxiety, guilt and terror that climate change forces us to face, this moment of crisis can also offer us an opportunity for a more open vision of ourselves,as subjects, as societies, and as a species among the interconnected life systems of the Earth.