Thomas Van Rumst – The Brain in the Social


Say “The brain is political!” as Alan Rowan puts it; a headline of hot of the press, it’s tantamount to saying that our brains no longer belong to us. They are now the object of a political enterprise which, in order to be achieved, must pass through the elimination of the unconscious. Curious immersion of the brain into the social, precisely at the point where the neurosciences that legitimise this enterprise are struggling to integrate the social into the nervous system.

Nothing to do therefore with the unconscious, which from the outset presents in its social necessity. It suffices to read Lacan’s commentary on the Project, in his Seminar on the Ethics of Psychoanalysis, to realise that this psychic apparatus that Freud elaborates has nothing of an organ that develops in a continuous manner: firstly the unconscious and pleasure, then thought and reality, and finally consciousness which makes a synthesis of it. On the contrary, these three systems are extremely precariously linked and would go rapidly south if it wasn’t for the intervention of Not des lebens. This urgency of life has nothing to do with a vitalistic thrust and is not localised in the brain but finds its principle in the Nebenmensch, the first stranger in the life of the subject. All this rocket science [usine à gaz] functions and develops, as we can read in the exchange with Miquel Bassols, only by the presence of an other and this other cannot be reduced to its environment but remains stranger as per the strong sense of the term: extimate.

It is in the contingency of the encounter with this stranger that the real proper to the unconscious is produced. Any attempt to verify this real by resorting to science, as Manuel Fernández Blanco points out, only results in its degradation. Exit responsibility, the possibility of choice by rapport with the intimate strangers that are the body and jouissance is abraded in favour of an education adapted to our technological environment. Our opposition to this reductionism is not only epistemic but is set in play primarily on the ethical level (1).

Translation: Raphael Montague

  1. Anaëlle Lebovits-Quenehen, “Freud et Marx refoulés! [Freud and Marx Repressed]”, Lacan Quotidien n° 829.. Unpublished in English. PIPOL News will continue to relay the ongoing debate.
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