Seduction takes from discourse its sense and turns it from its truth. It is, therefore, contrary to the psychoanalytic distinction between manifest and latent discourses. For the latent discourse turns the manifest discourse not from its truth, but towards its truth. It makes the manifest discourse say what it does not want to say; it causes determinations and profound indéterminations to show through in the manifest discourse. Depth always peeks through from behind the break, and meaning peeks from behind the line. The manifest discourse has the status of an appearance, a laboured appearance, traversed by the emergence of meaning. Interpretation is what breaks the appearance and play of the manifest discourse and, by taking up with the latent discourse, delivers the real meaning.
In seduction, by contrast, it is the manifest discourse - discourse at its most superficial - that turns back on the deeper order (whether conscious or unconscious) in order to invalidate it, substituting the charm and illusion of appearances. These appearances are not in the least frivolous, but occasions for a game and its stakes, and a passion for deviation - the seduction of the signs themselves being more important than the emergence of any truth - which interpretation neglects and destroys in its search for hidden meanings. This is why interpretation is what, par excellence, is opposed to seduction, and why it is the least seductive of discourses. Not only does it subject the domain of appearances to incalculable daniage, but this privileged search for hidden meanings may well be profoundly in error. For it is not somewhere else, in a hinterwelt or an unconscious, that one will find what leads discourse astray. What truly displaces discourse, "seduces" it in the literal sense, and renders it seductive, is its very appearance, its inflections, its nuances, the circulation (whether aleatory and senseless, or ritualized and meticulous) of signs at its surface. It is this that effaces meaning and is seductive, while a discourse's meaning has never seduced anyone. All meaningful discourse seeks to end appearances: this is its attraction, and its imposture. It is also an impossible undertaking. Inexorably, discourse is left to its appearances, and thus to the stakes of seduction, thus to its own failure as discourse. But perhaps discourse is secretly tempted by this failure, by the bracketing of its objectives, of its truth effects which become absorbed within a surface that swallows meaning. This is what happens at first, when discourse seduces itself it is the original form by which discourse becomes absorbed within itself and emptied of its truth in order to better fascinate others: the primitive seduction of language.
Every discourse is complicit in this rapture, in this deviation, and if it does not do it itself, then others will do: it in its place. All appearances conspire to combat and root out meaning (whether intentional or otherwise), and turn it into a game, into another of the game's rules, a more arbitrary rule - or into another elusive ritual, one that is more adventurous and seductive than the directive line of meaning. What discourse must fight against is not so much the unconscious secret as the superficial abyss of its own appearance; and if discourse must triumph over something, it is not over phantasies and hallucinations heavy with meaning and misinterpretation, but the shiny surface of non-sense and all the games, that the latter renders possible. It was only a short while ago that one suc-ceeeded in eliminating this stake of seduction (which has as its concern the sacred horizon of appearances) in order to substitute a stake "in depth," a stake in the unconscious, or in interpretation. But this substitution is fragile and ephemeral. No one knows if the reigning obsession with latent discourse one finds in psychoanalysis (which in effect, generalizes the violence of interpretation to all levels), if this mechanism with which one has eliminated (or sought to eliminate) all seduction is not itself a model of simulation - a rather fragile one that gives itself the semblance of being insurmountable in order to better conceal all parallel effects, and most notably, the effects of seduction that are beginning to work their damage. For what is most damaging to psychoanalysis is the realization that the unconscious seduces: it seduces by its dreams and by its concept; it seduces as soon as the id speaks and even as the id wishes to speak. A double structure emerges, a parallel structure of the connivance of the signs of the unconscious and their exchange, which eats away at the other structure, the hard, pure structure of unconscious "labour" and transference and counter-transference. The entire psychoanalytic edifice perishes of its own seduction, and with it all the others. Let us be analysts for one blazing instant, and say that it is the revenge of the repressed, the repression of seduction, that is at the origin of psychoanalysis as a "science," within the intellectural trajectory of Freud himself.
The Freudian oeuvre unfolds between two poles that radically put into question the intermediary construction, these poles being seduction and the death drive. We have already spoken in L'Échange symbolique et la mort of the latter, considered as an inversion of the earlier psychoanalytic apparatus (topical, economic). Regarding the former, which after numerous turns links up with the death drive by some secret affinity, one has to say that it appears as psychoanalysis' lost object.
It is classic to consider Freud's abandonment of the theory of seduction (1907) as a decisive step in the emergence of psychoanalytic theory and in moving to the foreground the notions of unconscious phantasy, psychic reality, infantile sexuality, etc.
Laplanche and Pontalis Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse
Seduction, as an original form, is considered related to the state of the "primal phantasy "and thus treated, according to a logic that is not longer its own, as a residue, a vestige, or screen/formation in the henceforth triumphant logic and structure of psychic and sexual reality. But instead of considering seduction's downgrading as necessary to psychoanalysis' growth, one shoud think of it as a crucial event, heavy with consequences. As we know, seduction will disappear from psychoanalytic discourse, or will reappear only to be burried and forgotten, in accord with a logical repetition of the foundational act of denial by the master himself. It is not simply set aside as something secondary relative to the more decisive elements like infantile sexuality, repression, Oedipus, etc.; it is denied as a dangerous form that could well threaten the development and coherence of the ulterior edifice.
Exactly the same thing occurs in Saussure as in Freud. Saussure also began, in the Anagrammes, with a description of a form of language, or more precisely, of its subversion - a ritualized, meticulous form of the deconstruction of meaning and value. But then he took it all back and moved on to the construction of linguistics. Was this turn due to the manifest failure of his attempted proofs, or did it involve a renunciation of the anagrammatical challenge in order to undertake the more constructive, durable and scientific development of the mode of production of meaning, to the exclusion of its possible subversion? But what does it matter, the fact is that linguistics was born from this irrevocable redeployment, and it constitutes the fundamental axiom and rule for all those who continue Saus-sure's work. One does not return to the scene of the crime, and the forgetting of the original murder is part of the logical and triumphant unfolding of science. All the energy of the dead object and its last rites passes into the simulated resurrection of the living. Still it must be said that Saussure, at least, had the intutition towards the end that his linguistic enterprise had failed, leaving a hovering uncertainty, the glimpse of a weakness, of the possibly illusory character of so beautiful a mechanism of substitution. But such scruples, within which one can perceive something of the premature and violent burial of the Anagrammes, would be totally foreign to his heirs, who remain content to manage the discipline without ever touching on the idea of an abyss of language, an abyss of linguistic seduction, a radically different operation that absorbs rather than produces meaning. The sarcophagus of linguistics was tightly sealed, and fell upon the shroud of the signifier.
Thus the shroud of psychoanalysis has fallen over seduction, the shroud of hidden meanings and of a hidden excess of meaning, at the expense of the surface of absorption, the superficial abyss of appearances, the instantaneous and panicky surface of the exchange and rivalry of signs constituted by seduction (hysteria being but a "symptomatic" manifestation of the latter, one that has already been contaminated by the latent structure of the symptom, and is thus pre-psychoanalytic, thus degraded - which is why it was able to,serve as a "conversion matrix" for psychoanalysis). Freud abolished seduction in order to put into place a machinery of interpretation, and of sexual repression, that offer all the characteristics of objectivity and coherence. Assuming that one disregards all the internal convulsions of psychoanalysis, be they personal or theoretical, that undermine its beautiful coherence - lest all the challenges and seductions buried under the discourse's rigour reemerge like the living dead. (But doesn't this suggest, so the beautiful souls will argue, that, at bottom, psychoanalysis is still alive?). Freud may have broken with seduction and taken the side of interpretation (at least until the last metapsychology which, very definitely, moves in a different direction), but all that was repressed by this admirable realignment has reemerged within the conflicts and vicissitudes of psychoanalysis' history, and within the course of almost every cure (one is never finished with hysteria!). And it is not an inconsiderable source of entertainment to see seduction sweep across psychoanalysis with Lacan, in the wild-eyed form of a play of signifiers from which psychoanalysis - in the rigour of its demands and in its form, in the form Freud wanted - is dying just as certainly, nay even more certainly, as from its institutional banalization.
The seduction of Lacanianism is, no doubt, an imposture;
but in its own way it corrects, rectifies and atones for the original imposture of Freud himself, that of the forclosure of the form /seduction to the advantage of a would-be science. The Lacanian discourse, which generalizes the seductive practices of psychoanalysis, avenges this foreclosed seduction, but in a manner that is itself contaminated by psychoanalysis. That is to say, the vengeance always occurs within the terms of the Law (of the symbolic), resulting in an insidious seduction exercised in terms of the law and (of the effigy) of a Master who rules by the Word over hysterical masses unfit for pleasure...
Nonetheless, with Lacan it is still a matter of the death of psychoanalysis, of a death due to the triumphant but posthumous reemergence of what at the beginning was denied. Isn't this the fulfillment of a destiny? At least psychoanalysis will have had the opportunity to end with a Great Impostpr after having begun with a Great Denial. ,;
That the most beautiful construction of meaning and interpretation ever erected thus collapses under the weight of its own signs, which were once terms heavy with meaning, but have once again become devices in an unrestrained seduction, terms in an untrammeled exchange that is both complicit with and empty of meaning (including in the cure) - this should exalt and comfort us. It is a sign that the truth at least (that for which impostors reign) will be spared us. And that what might appear as psychoanalysis' failure is but the temptation common to every: great system of meaning, to sink into its own image and lose its sense - which indeed suggests the return of primitive seduction's flame and the revenge of appearances. But then where is the imposture? Having rejected the form/seduction from the start, psychoanalysis was perhaps only an illusion -an illusion of truth and interpretation - that would be contradicted and counterbalanced by the Lacanian illusion of seduction. Thus a cycle is completed, from which perhaps other interrogative and seductive forms will arise. i
It was the same with God and the Revolution. To dispel all appearances so that God's truth could shine forth was the illusion of the Iconoclasts. An illusion because God's truth did not exist, and perhaps secretly they knew it, this being why their failure proceeded from the same intuition as that of the adorers of images: one can live only the idea of altered truth. It is the only way to live in conformity with the truth. Otherwise life becomes unbearable (precisely because the truth does not exist). One need not want to dispel appearances (the seduction of images). But if one does, it is imperative that one not succeed lest the absence of the truth become manifest. Or the absence of God, or the Revolution. The Revolution, and in particular its ape-like travesty, Stalinism, lives only by the idea that everything is opposed to it. Stalinism is indestructible because it exists only in order to conceal the non-existence of the Revolution and its truth, and thereby to restore hope. "The people" Rivarol said, "did not want a Revolution, they wanted only its spectacle" - because this is the only way to preserve the Revolution's appeal, instead of abolishing it in its truth.
"We do not believe that the truth remains true once the veil has been lifted" (Nietzsche).
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