Gilles Deleuze: Dialogues II

14 October 2019


Historically, psychiatry does not seem to us to have been constituted around the notion of madness but, on the contrary, at the point where this notion proved difficult to apply. Psychiatry essentially ran up against the problem of cases of delirium where the intellectual faculty was intact. On the one hand, there are people who seem to be mad, but who are not ‘really’ so, having kept their faculties, and first and foremost the faculty of properly managing their money and their possessions (paranoid conduct, the delirium of interpretation, etc.). On the other hand, there are people who are ‘really’ mad and yet don’t seem to be, suddenly committing an outrageous act which nothing led us to foresee, arson, murder, etc. (monomaniac conduct, the delirium of passion or revenge). If the psychiatrist has a bad conscience, it is because he has had one since the outset, because he is implicated in the dissolution of the notion of madness: he is accused of treating as insane certain people who are not exactly so, and of not seeing in time the madness of others who clearly are. Psychoanalysis slipped between these two poles, saying that we were at once all insane without seeming to be, but also that we seemed mad without being so. A whole ‘psychopathology of everyday life.’ In short, it is around the failure of the notion of madness that psychiatry is constituted and that psychoanalysis has been able to link up with it. It is difficult to add anything to the analyses first of Foucault, then of Robert Castel, when they show how psychoanalysis has grown in the soil of psychiatry. By discovering between the two poles the world of neurotics, their intellectual faculties intact, and even absence of delirium, psychoanalysis, at its inception, succeeded in bringing off a very important manoeuvre: getting all sorts of people to go through the liberal contractual relationship who had until then seemed excluded from it (‘madness’ put all those it afflicted outside all possible contracts). The specifically psychoanalytic contract, a flux of words for a flux of money, was going to make the psychoanalyst someone able to insert himself into every pore of the society occupied by these doubtful cases. But the more psychoanalysis saw it was gaining ground , the more it turned towards the deliriums concealed behind neuroses, the less it seems to have been happy with the contractual relationship – even if, on the face of it, it was retained. Psychoanalysis had in fact achieved what was the source of Freud’s anxiety at the end of his life; it had become interminable, interminable in principle. At the same time, it assumed a ‘mass’ function. For what defines a mass function is not necessarily a collective, class or group character; it is the juridical transition from contract to statute. It seems more and more that psychoanalysis is acquiring an untransferable, inalienable, statutory fixity, rather than entering into a temporary contractual relationship. Precisely by setting itself up between the two poles where psychiatry came up against its limits, by enlarging the field between these two poles and exploring it, psychoanalysis was to invent a statute law of mental illness or psychic difficulty which constantly renewed itself and spread out into a systematic network. A new ambition was being offered to us: psychoanalysis is a lifelong affair.

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