Imagine it, a short walk at night, the two of them. What did they say? Their gangly strides striking the warm pavement, the vinegar maker's prodigy and the manic depressive, walking, talking, walking....
What DID they say to each other?
Our relationship is an old one, Althusser
Lacan, you say that you think about the analyst's desire. And you say you've observed that what you say transforms the attitude of you students and your patients and changes their approach to psychoanalytic reality
The complexity of their encounter, Lacan's terse and cryptic proclamations on Althusser's long and ebullient eulogies on Lacan's work, Althusser's desire and need for a champion, Lacan's lukewarm friendship, Althusser's dejection.
It all points to certain unease and imbalance between the two (is this a matter of system, of semiotics, of semantics, ideology or personality?). Personality and ideology do not work according to the same logics – a certain humanity and compassion can make the least palatable worldview almost desirable, but it cannot intervene totally. There is always something left over which, in the end, is strictly ideological.
Disentangling the ideological from the disposition of the two is particularly difficult here: Lacan's aristocratic tone (a symptom, perhaps, of his tempestuous struggle with the IPA), matches Althusser's well – they both speak as if from a gilded place, from a place of extraordinary composure, but those composures, those two assurednesses: they are fundamentally disparate.
It is not just that the technologies do not match: Lacan said of Althusser's shot essay on the “Marxist Dialaectic” (produced afterwards in Pour Marx) that it raised similar question to his own, and made a cryptic reference to his own 'obscure researches on Marx, which have been going on for fifteen years.'
Roudinesco marks this moment well: Lacan for her is a cold and diffident creature who takes some time to warm up to Althusser. His letters to Althusser tell a similar story: here is a man who cannot effuse, cannot warm up without a slow and careful unveiling of the Other: who are you to me and what do you want?
Hey you, shouts Althusser, and Lacan stays silent, refuses to acknowledge the interpellation enacted on him by Althusser until the shouting becomes deafening...
The terms of the incommensurateness of the two's systems can be outlined thus: where Althusser might be said to engage Lacan's notion of méconaissance as a kind of unconscious without an unconscious ('twas ever thus on the left, it seems), Lacan offers no way of making that méconaissance available to dialectical solution, to a modelling of an exit trajectory. No way out, says Lacan.
In a sense, then, there is no progressive agency in the Lacanian economy, just a kind of fatal deadlock, a matrix in which revolution is always already merely spectral, merely a symptom.
In that nightwalk, that stalking, creeping, gangly encounter, Marx and Freud circle each other in radical discomfort. The name-of-two-different-fathers.
My dad can take yours...