Autism and Politics: A ramified segregation


The cause of autism has for years now become a great cause for psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, we know all too well the more or less virulent attempts to legislate the field of therapy in a way that excludes, or prohibits, psychoanalysis. At a certain moment the behavioural therapies were not satisfied with dominating the universities and the hospitals but sought also to dominate the legislator. A great mobilisation of forces has been necessary in order to rein in these attempts that have quite rightly been characterised as inimical to liberty.

Why is there such insistence on the eradication of psychoanalytical practices in the treatment of autism? Why are the developments of psychoanalysis in relation to the clinic not accepted? Nor the exhaustively documented critiques of the misleading use made of the scientific evidence? It is not difficult to recognise in this the pressure of the ABBA and behavioural lobbies in alliance with the neuro-psychiatric and neurological authorities. Nor that this situation can only be understood within the framework of a clear democratic deficit in Europe, as Eric Laurent has indicated, in which bureaucracy and pressure groups have been substituted for democratic debate at an enormous cost, all too well known, which manifests itself in very diverse ways in the regulations of the different countries of Europe.[1]

The battle for autism is a symptom of the era of numbers and norms. The behavioural therapies aim to dominate the jouissance of the speaking being by way of reducing the speaking being to its behaviours. But let us not deceive ourselves, the ideology of the norm expects the same of all speaking beings, autistic or not. The citizen disappears behind the cipher that counts his jouissance. That is, the cipher/number that measures the behaviours controlled by the legislator, who is in turn controlled by who knows which pressure groups. Behaviourism – in its different modalities – is without doubt the loyal servant of this politics. Psychoanalysis, in contrast, aims at the direction of the speaking being, concerned with the always singular effects of language on the body. The practice of psychoanalysis, in its radical humility, thus questions the pillars of ideology of the norm. Perhaps we should see in this humility the force that various lobbies wish to see disappear.

In his “Note on the Father” from 1968 Lacan affirmed that the 20th century – and we can now add the 21st century – would be characterised by “a ramified segregation, reinforced at all levels, which does nothing more than multiply barriers” [2]. In this sense, the debate about autism should also give rise to effects of segregation produced by the therapies that aim at the uniformity of jouissance. Why is it, for example, generally infantile autism that is spoken about when we speak of autism? Where are the adults? What has become of them? Especially those who on reaching puberty have not found a way to confront the new forms of irruption of jouissance. What happens to those speaking beings that no-one expects to “improve”? Faced with the politics that divides speaking beings into those that “behave well” and the rest, psychoanalysis has much to say. It is up to us to find ways to make this heard.

[1] Eric Laurent, “Psychanalyse : la pertinence de la HAS n’est pas démontrée” en La Règle du Jeu, nº 61.
[2] Lacan, J., “Nota sobre el Padre” en El Psicoanálisis nº 2016, p. 6. (« Note sur le père et l’universalisme », La psicoanalisi, n° 33, Rome, juin-juillet 2003).

Translated by Roger Litten & Joanne Conway

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