- Notes on Elvio Fachinelli and René GirardThe Psychoanalysis of Dissent Meets Mimetic Theory
INTRODUCTION: CELESTIAL OBJECTS
In a short article on the practice of psychoanalysis in Italy, Sergio Benvenuto observes that the country has never been considered a central hub for the development and diffusion of the discipline. As a result, he notes, "very few are interested in Italian psychoanalysis: up until now, Italy has not produced as many famous 'masters' in this field as has Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, the US, and other countries."1
Although Benvenuto is right in claiming that the psychoanalytic panorama in Italy is less active and variegated than in other contexts, the outstanding figure of Elvio Fachinelli suffices—I believe—to challenge the prejudice of Italy as a country where the couch has never been in the vanguard.
Born in Luserna in 1928, Elvio Fachinelli is one of the most meaningful figures of Italian psychoanalysis in the roaring decades of 1960s and 1970s, and combined an active political commitment with analytical practice. Fachinelli mostly worked in Milan, and although his career developed under the aegis of the SPI (Italian Psychoanalytic Society), he was in a radical and open polemics [End Page 109] with this institution, its bureaucratic politics, and its hierarchical organization. Diffident toward any form of organised power, in 1973 he refused Jacques Lacan's proposal to become president of the Italian equivalent of the École Freudienne de Paris, overtly showing the profound discomfort he has always felt toward any form of authoritarianism within the practice of psychoanalysis and its institutions. Fachinelli was indeed interested in developing an antiestablishment psychoanalysis of dissent, not exclusively employed as an instrument of individual cure but, rather, seen as a tool of social and political critique. He encouraged Italian psychoanalysts to step out from the borders of the setting, inviting them to contribute to the overall change in mentality. Hence his participation in radical experiments of alternative pedagogy; his involvement in the creation of self-formation and self-consciousness groups in collaboration with Feminist leaders; his interest in the rising movement of anti-psychiatry; his active participation in the students' revolts in 1968; and in 1969, his crucial role in the Roman "counter-conference"2 against the International Psychoanalytic Association economic management and hierarchical organization.
In what follows, I aim to draw a parallel between Elvio Fachinelli, a revolutionary figure in the story of Italian psychoanalysis, and René Girard. Although scholarship has never viewed together these two figures who, at first sight, may look like quite an "odd couple," their thought shares, I argue, interesting resemblances that can shed new light on both thinkers.
On the one hand, the total lack of literature on the topic is certainly attributable to the fact that Elvio Fachinelli is scarcely known abroad, due to the prejudicial view of Italian psychoanalysis as a marginal subject, compared to countries where the talking cure is embedded in national culture.3 On the other, the lack of scholarship on Girard and Fachinelli is due to the enormous gap that, apparently, separates the two figures: a distance that, on the surface, make them almost incompatible thinkers.
Fachinelli played the role of a "man of his times"—politically engaged, actively involved in the coeval social debate, siding with the progressive left and making his voice heard in all the intellectual circles á la page—whereas Renà Girard has never really embodied the Zeitgeist. Quite to the contrary, as Maurizio Meloni has put it, Girard is the proper "party-pooper," the "trickster of contemporary thought" who
thinks provocatively what the contemporary sciences exclude from their paradigms. In a cultural context which is charmed by complexity, theoretical weakness and falsifiability he has come forward as the spokesman of a theory with a strong vocation for totalization. To an intellectual world enchanted by differences, Girard proposed [End Page 110] that behind the plurality of texts and cultures lies only one generative mechanism. He breaks through all the rigorous prohibitions on which thecontemporary episteme is founded.4
If, in sum, Girard's "voice is in contrast with the currents of thought that have dominated the last 40 years,"5 the figure of Fachinelli seems to...