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REP_011_2e (1).pdf

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THE PRESENT-DAY FORMS OF DISCONTENT IN CULTURE
 
François Richard
 
Association Recherches en psychanalyse |
Recherches en psychanalys
2011/1 - n°11pages 6a à 17a ISSN 1767-5448
Article disponible en ligne à l'adresse:
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http://www.cairn.info/revue-recherches-en-psychanalyse-2011-1-page-6a.htm
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Pour citer cet article :
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Richard François, «The Present-Day Forms of Discontent in Culture»,
Recherches en psychanalyse 
, 2011/1 n°11, p. 6a-17a. DOI : 10.3917/rep.011.0201
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Distribution électronique Cairn.info pour Association Recherches en psychanalyse. © Association Recherches en psychanalyse. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays.La reproduction ou représentation de cet article, notamment par photocopie, n'est autorisée que dans les limites desconditions générales d'utilisation du site ou, le cas échéant, des conditions générales de la licence souscrite par votreétablissement. Toute autre reproduction ou représentation, en tout ou partie, sous quelque forme et de quelque manière quece soit, est interdite sauf accord préalable et écrit de l'éditeur, en dehors des cas prévus par la législation en vigueur enFrance. Il est précisé que son stockage dans une base de données est également interdit.
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Recherches en Psychanalyse
Research in Psychoanalysis
 
11│2011
 
6
 Journal of Psychoanalytic Studies.
Hosted by the Department of Psychoanalytic Studies, Paris Diderot at Sorbonne Paris Cité University.
 
The Present-Day Forms of Discontent in Culture
Les formes actuelles du malaise dans la culture
François Richard
 Abstract:
Is the present-day discontent in culture an extension of the one described by Freud, or does it constitutesomething altogether different? This article takes up the Freudian idea of a contradiction betweenbarbarism and civilization when it is active at the very heart of the collective cultural Superego. Thisnotion sheds light on the contemporary transformations, on condition that we supplement the notion of the death drive by that of subjective disengagement; that we understand that Freud's “actual neurosis”has been replaced by a new modality of dissatisfaction; and finally that we entertain the complexity of asituation in which we find both mounting moral concern and the brazen expression of shamelesscynicism.
Résumé :
Le malaise actuel dans la culture est-il la continuation de celui dépeint par Freud ou constitue-t-ilquelque chose de différent ? Cet article reprend l’idée freudienne sur la contradiction entre barbarie etcivilisation lorsqu’elle agit à l’intérieur même du Surmoi culturel collectif. Ceci éclaire les évolutionscontemporaines, à condition de compléter la notion de pulsion de mort par celle de désengagementsubjectal, de comprendre qu’à la névrose actuelle s’est substituée une modalité nouvelle del’insatisfaction, et enfin d’envisager la complexité d’une situation où l’on trouve à la fois un souci moralcroissant et l’expression d’un cynisme sans vergogne.
Keywords:
adolescence, borderline cases, subjective disengagement, civilization and its discontents,primary processes, group psychology, sexuality, superego
 
Mots-clefs :
 
adolescence, sexualité, cas-limites, désengagement subjectal, malaise dans la culture,processus primaires, psychologie des masses, surmoi
Plan:
From Freud’s (1929) “Cultural Discontents” to Those of Today (2011)The Specificity of the Present-Day Cultural DiscontentsDisturbances of Sexuality in Today’s Cultural DiscontentsConclusion: Group Psychology Today
 
11│2011
 – Current Perspectives
 Perspectives contemporaines
[Online] June 15, 2011
   D  o  c  u  m  e  n   t   t   é   l   é  c   h  a  r  g   é   d  e  p  u   i  s  w  w  w .  c  a   i  r  n .   i  n   f  o  -  u  n   i  v_  p  a  r   i  s   7  -  -   8   1 .   1   9   4 .   1   6 .   1   0   2  -   1   6   /   0   9   /   2   0   1   2   2   0   h   2   2 .   ©   A  s  s  o  c   i  a   t   i  o  n   R  e  c   h  e  r  c   h  e  s  e  n  p  s  y  c   h  a  n  a   l  y  s  e
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Recherches en Psychanalyse
Research in Psychoanalysis
 
11│2011
 
7
 Journal of Psychoanalytic Studies.
Hosted by the Department of Psychoanalytic Studies, Paris Diderot at Sorbonne Paris Cité University.
 The force of Freud’s 1929 idea of “discontent incivilization”
1
is surely due to its combination of straightforward assertions and complexhypotheses. The affect of 
discontent 
is anythingbut simple: it is an anxiety generated by aninsufficient satisfaction of the drive, mixed withguilt pertaining to an aggressiveness that is notexperienced as such, further combined with anextreme ambivalence that is frozen betwixt twoequal yet opposing forces, all of which is bound upwith an attempt to give in to desubjectivation andeffectively eject the subject.Here in this article we shall follow the 1929 textin its ascent towards increasingly paradoxicalaporias with a view to posing the followingquestion: Is the present-day (2011) discontentthe extension (albeit somewhat transformed) of the one Freud described eighty-two years ago,or does it constitute something utterly new anddifferent? In the present-day forms of discontent in civilization, a tyrannical Ideal egois tending to replace the structuring superegoand excitation is struggling to be organized intodrive due to the lack of any structuring of thesubject through by prohibitions and limits, andthe lack of a reliable and ascertainable object.In their clinical practice, psychoanalystsencounter various difficulties of Being and painsof existence from which their patients suffer asa result of failings in mutual recognition withtheir first interlocutors, i.e. failings in the veryinfrastructure of the social bond: It is notsurprising therefore that in setting down to thetask of theoretical and technical re-hauling thatis required by their clinic, psychoanalysts arefind themselves contending with the complex of discontent in culture.
In the individual’s mental life someoneelse is invariably involved, as a model, as anobject, as a helper, as an opponent; and sofrom the very first, individual psychology, inthis extended but entirely justifiable senseof the words, is at the same time socialpsychology as well.
2
 
This sentence presupposes a metapsychology of identification, of anaclisis, and of inter-psychicalconflict. Above all else it introduces the nowclassic motivations behind the individual’sregression into the group, the
mass,
whichdenotes a crowd but also a singular psychicalstate, one that is contradictory, of a strongidentification with an inductive form that leadsto an undoing of the previous identifications.This topography should not mask over theprevalence of economy (an economy of bothaffects and drives), which stands at the heart of discontent, in the radical form of “the ubiquityof non-erotic aggressivity and destructiveness”and “the disturbance of communal life by thehuman drive of aggression and self-destruction.”
3
 How is one to free oneself from the oscillationbetween, on the one hand, the outwarddeflection of the death drive that brings thesocial link to the brink of barbarism, and, on theother, the censorship of this aggressivenesswhich generates neurosis and eventually leadsto destructiveness as well? The altogetherstraightforward idea of a repression of instinctual needs that leads the masses toloathe the demands of culture opens out into afar more complicated perspective: if we wish topreserve civilization, this censorship cannot beentirely lifted. It is the result of an impossibleequilibrium:
barbarism constantly infiltratescivilization from within,
social morality windingup by living in cynical cohabitation with adestructiveness that no longer even tries toconceal itself (see the striking present-daymixture of a preoccupation with respect for theother and the rise in violence in human andsocial relations). The
 present-day 
discontent incivilization brings the coexisting oppositesdiscovered by Freud to boiling point, to theextent that everyone is feeling the urgent needto rethink a viable ethics. Indeed, Freud’s“paradoxical thesis” that “moral conscience isthe consequence of instinctual renouncement,”finds its grounding in the theory of mimeticviolence: “the original severity of the superegodoes not – or does not so much – represent theseverity which one has experienced from it [theobject], or which one attributes to it, it
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