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  • Stiegler and the Clinic
  • Jared Russell (bio)

As is natural, the world generally has no understanding of what is truly appalling.

—Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

In an early review of Bernard Stiegler’s Technics and Time, Volume 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, translator Richard Beardsworth parenthetically expressed a “serious regret” over the book’s “lack of a confrontation between its thinking of memory and inheritance and Freud’s theory of the unconscious.” Noting that such a confrontation would have been too complex at such an initial juncture, Beardsworth nevertheless promised that Stiegler “has at the very least opened up a major field of inquiry for the future theoretical work of psychoanalysis” (1995, 89). As Stiegler’s project has increasingly taken to incorporating a psychoanalytic point of reference, now would seem to be an appropriate moment to open up this field of inquiry from the side of psychoanalysis itself. Taking into account what it means for psychoanalysis to be both a theory of human nature and a clinical practice that challenges any essentialist determinations of that nature, Stiegler’s philosophical output allows psychoanalysis to appreciate in broader scope what it means that its theoretical framework can function at once as a practical, therapeutic technique of individuation.

My argument here will be that the “major field of inquiry” Stiegler opens up for the theoretical work of psychoanalysis pre-eminently [End Page 95] concerns the future of the practice of psychoanalysis. By offering new ways of configuring the relationship between theory and practice that are not determined by the founding philosophical gesture that opposes the empirical and the transcendental, the most pressing import of Stiegler’s work for psychoanalysis may be its ability to facilitate a powerful response to the challenges that the clinic faces today with regard to what, with a nod to Marcuse (1964), constitutes the “total administration” of the mental health industry. Situating psychoanalysis in relation to what Heidegger in Being and Time (1996; henceforth bt) calls the modern technological “wish-world,” in which “what is available … is never enough” (bt, 182; emphasis added), is an urgent task. Stiegler’s approach to this wish-world—a world defined by its commitment to modalities of care-less addiction—updates and critically transforms Heidegger’s understanding of Da-sein’s ontological care-structure by integrating it with, rather than opposing it to, the “question concerning technology.” It is within a general thematics of technics qua pharmaka (both poison and remedy)—and through a reconsideration of the meaning of therapeutic “technique”—that psychoanalysis today must respond to the demands of a patient population addicted to the bureaucratized passivity of “managed care.”

Beginning with a reading of paragraph 41 of Being and Time, I will develop how Heidegger’s project for a fundamental ontology is elaborated by Stiegler in terms of the material inscription of “spirit” in ways that open onto a viable future for thinking the practical consequences of any approach to the Freudian unconscious. As Stiegler describes, the wish-world today—in which even those who are not addicted (to drugs, alcohol, television, etc.) become addicted to efforts at not being addicted (via pharmaceuticals, corrective behavioral and dietary regimens, “life-coaching,” etc.)—consists in the proliferation of pharmaka that promote new addictions to resisting addiction. Psychoanalysis is the only form of therapeutic engagement whose trace remains recognizable in—yet in such a way that proves it cannot be thoroughly co-opted by—the busy marketplace of currently available [End Page 96] therapies, and that is capable of understanding and responding to the global crisis of care that Stiegler has prolifically dedicated himself to diagnosing.

Fundamental Ontology Interprets Care

The climactic disclosure of ecstatic temporality as Da-sein’s “articulated care structure”—being-ahead-itself (future) as already-being-in (past) as being-together-with (present)—occurs in paragraph 41 of Being and Time. This disclosure opens immediately onto Heidegger’s analyses of wishing, willing, urge, and addiction. In offering up an analysis of these modalities of being, Heidegger is describing the modern technological world, which enforces tranquilization through absorption in the real. What is at issue here is the meaning of the emergence of a culture of absolute consumption, a “wish...


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pp. 95-114
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