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"Rien n'est Tout": Lacan and the Legacy of May '68 Peter Starr [Ç]a a une conséquence très importante, spécialement pour les révolutionnaires, c'est que Rien n'est Tout.... D'où que vous preniez les choses, de quelque façon que vous les retourniez, la propri été de chacun de ces petits schémas à quatre pattes, c'est de laisser chacun sa béance. —Jacques Lacan, "L'impromptu de Vincennes" IF THERE WAS ONE LESSON that Jacques Lacan wanted to impress upon the revolutionaries of May '68, it was that "Rien n'est Tout"— "Nothing (or No Thing) is All." At his "Impromptu" at Vincennes on December 3, 1969, and more subtly in the 1969-1970 Séminaire XVII: L'envers de la psychanalyse, Lacan articulated a thoroughgoing critique of the quest for the One (truth, system or revolution)—arguably the most salient contemporary manifestation of an impulse to totalizing knowledge that he saw as characteristic of the political as such.1 In my epigraph, taken from the Vincennes "Impromptu," Lacan uses his insistence that "Nothing is All" to lay the groundwork for an alternate logic of revolutionary (read, rotational) supplementary exemplified by his so-called Four Discourses. Three years later, in Séminaire XX: Encore, Lacan would argue for an analogous logic conditioned by the supposed impossibility of sexual relations.2 In both instances, the phantasm of a Oneness that Lacan links to the very "essence of the signifier " is theorized as fundamentally productive: first of analytic discourse, later of amorous blather and of writing itself {Encore 12). It is precisely the productivity of Lacan 's various rotational logics that I want to examine in this paper in order briefly to illustrate Lacan 's evolving take on the revolutionism of May '68 and on the consequences of that revolutionism for theory, psychoanalytic and otherwise. L'hystérisation du discours Standing before the students of Vincennes and in his seminars, Lacan repeatedly (and famously) spoke of May '68 as an episode of hysterical revolt—in Zizek's words, "a provocation intending to be refused.'" Like the communist proletarian before them, Lacan suggested, what the revolutionaries of May were destined to find on the far side of their subversions was "un savoir de maître. Et c'est pourquoi [ils n'ont] fait que changer de maître" 34 Spring 2001 Starr (Envers 34). "Si vous aviez un peu de patience," he admonished the students at Vincennes, et si vous vouliez bien que nos impromptus continuent, je vous dirais que l'aspiration révolutionnaire , ça n'a qu'une chance d'aboutir, toujours, au discours du maître. C'est ce que l'expérience en a fait la preuve. Ce à quoi vous aspirez comme révolutionnaire, c'est à un Maître. Vous l'aurez.4 Is Lacan here suggesting that his radicalized interlocutors unwittingly strive to reaffirm the master in his power—the lesson that many had taken from the Gaullist victories in the plebiscites of June 23 and June 30,1968? Or is he claiming that they aim to repeat such mastery in their own names? To rephrase this alternative in the terminology of my Logics of Failed Revolt, is Lacan 's intimation of a seemingly necessary failure of revolutionary action grounded in a logic of recuperation or in a logic of specular doubling?5 Although Lacan was not loathe to espouse either logic, it is arguable that the alternative between them is ultimately undercut by Lacan's insistence, to quote from his discussion of Dora, on the hysteric's "identification à une jouissance en tant qu'elle est celle du maître"—where the very identity of this master (the hysteric's other? the hysteric as master of that other?) is left suspended (Envers 110). Let me spare you the autocritique that might follow from a more sustained analysis of this question by simply insisting that Lacan's take on revolutionism was by no means as straightforward as this characterization of the revolutionary as hysteric appears to suggest. Consider what he says of the analytic process in the Envers seminar, just moments after he had spoken of the proletarian under Stalinism as merely changing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 34-42
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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