The Disaffected Individual in the Process of Psychic and Collective Disindividuation

Version imprimable
This text is an extract from the third chapter of Mécréance et Discrédit: Tome 2. Les sociétés incontrôlables d'individus désaffectés (Paris: Editions Galilée, 2006), published as a working paper for the Ars Industrialis seminar, “Suffering and consumption,” 25 February 2006, translated by Patrick Crogan and Daniel Ross, August 2006.



Bernard Stiegler


The Disaffected Individual in the Process of Psychic and Collective Disindividuation





“One is not serious when one is seventeen.” Rimbaud


“Whoever wants to hang his dog pretends that he's angry.”



24. The Hypermarket


The political economy of spiritual value is that of the libidinal economy—where value is in general only worth something for one who desires it. It is only worth something inasmuch as it is inscribed in the circuit of desire, of one who only desires what remains irreducible to the commensurability of all values. In other words, value is only worth something inasmuch as it evaluates what has no price. It cannot, therefore, be completely calculated: there is always a remainder, which induces the movement of a différance, through which alone can be produced the circulation of values, that is, their exchange—value is worth something only to the extent that it is inscribed in the circuit of individuations and transindividuations which can only individuate singularities.


But in the hyperindustrial political economy, value must be completely calculable; which is to say, it is condemned to become valueless—such is its nihilism. The problem is that it is the consumer who not only is devalued (for he is evaluated, for example, by the calculation of his “life time value”) but who equally is devalorized—or, more precisely, he is disindividuated. In such a society—which liquidates desire, desire which is, however, energy, libidinal energy—value is what annihilates itself and, with it, those who, evaluating it, are themselves evaluated. This is why it is society as such which appears finally to its members, themselves devalorized (and melancholic), as being without value—and this is also why society fantasizes its “values” that much more noisily and ostentatiously, “values” which are only deceptions, compensatory discourses, and consolations. Such is the lot of a society which no longer loves itself.


The scene of this devalorizing devaluation is not simply the market: it's the hypermarket, emblem of the hyperindustrial epoch, where markets, managed “just in time” by barcodes and by purchasers endowed with credit and debit cards, become commensurable. Such is the “Commercial Activity Zone” (ZAC) of the Saint Maximin hypermarket, not far from Creil, built by the Eiffage corporation—which has just purchased one of the roadworks companies recently privatized by the French government—a ZAC where Patricia and Emmanuel Cartier would pass Saturday afternoons with their children. Up until the day they ended up deciding to kill these children, in order to lead them, their father explained, toward a “better life”—a life after death, a life after this life which no longer produced anything but despair, such despair that these parents were driven to inject their children with fatal doses of insulin.


“We all had to die.” They intended to put an end to their days, “to depart for a better world.” “For a long time we had this hope.” [Florence Aubenas, Liberation, 17 October 2005.]


They were great consumers. The prosecutor and children's rights advocate, Madame Pelouse Laburthe


reproached Patricia and Emmanuel Cartier pell mell for smoking too much, for letting their children drink too much Coca Cola, …for giving them too many video games. [Florence Aubenas, Liberation, 17 October 2005.]


And then, crushed by debt—they held some fifteen credit cards—they decided, a little like the parents of Petit Poucet abandoning their children in the forest, to inject insulin into their little ones, then to commit suicide themselves: they were hoping to find their children again in this “better world.” Only Alicia, who was 11 years old, died from the injection, after three weeks in a coma.


Does this mean that these parents no longer loved their children? Nothing is less sure, except to say that everything was done to ensure that they would no longer be able to love them, if it is true that to love, which is not a synonym of to buy—although the hypermarkets want their customers to believe that if I love, I buy, and that I only love to the extent that I buy, and that everything is bought and sold; love, therefore, becomes only a sentiment—is a relation, a fashion of being and of living with the one loved, and for them. To love is to form the most exquisite savoir-vivre.


It is just such an exquisite relation that the mercantile organization of life destroyed in the Cartier family. As I tried to show in the last chapter, children are being progressively and tendentially deprived of the possibility of identifying themselves through their parents; they are being deprived by the diversion of their primary identifications toward industrial temporal objects, since their secondary identifications (in exactly the same way as the secondary identifications of their parents) are diverted, precisely with the goal of making them adopt behaviour exclusively submitted to consumption (and each member of the Cartier family had their own television). In the same way, and reciprocally, parents—incited in this way to consume more and more by the combined power of television, radio, newspapers, advertising campaigns, junk mail, editorials, and political speeches, all speaking only of “boosting levels of consumption,” not to mention the banks—find themselves expelled from a position where they could love their children truly, practically, and socially. What results is an ill-love [mal-aimer] of a terrifying ill-being [mal-être], which becomes, little by little, a generalized unlove [désamour]—from which Claude Lévi-Strauss himself has not escaped.


Our epoch does not love itself. And a world which does not love itself is a world which does not believe in the world—we can only believe in what we love. It is this situation which renders the atmosphere of this world so heavy, stifling and anguished. The world of the hypermarket, which is the effective reality of the hyperindustrial epoch, is, as the place of barcode readers and cash registers, where “to love” must become synonymous with “to buy,” a world, in fact, where one no longer loves. Mr and Mrs Cartier thought their children would be happier if they bought them game consoles and televisions, but the more they bought these things, the less happy their children were, and the more they were driven to even greater expenditure, and the more they lost the very meaning of filial and familial love—the more they were disaffected by the poison of hyperconsumption. Since marrying and beginning a family in 1989, they were inculcated into the belief—to their misery—that a good family, a normal family, is a family which consumes, and that happiness lay in that direction.


The Cartiers, who were condemned to ten to fifteen years in prison, are as much victims as perpetrators. They were victims of the everyday despair of the intoxicated consumer, victims who suddenly, here, passed to the act, into this terrifying act of infanticide, because they were trapped by an economic misery engendering symbolic misery. Perhaps it is necessary to condemn them. But there is no doubt, in my view, that if it is true that one must condemn them, nevertheless such a judgment must precisely analyze and detail the circumstances attending the crime, and can only be just inasmuch as it also and perhaps above all condemns the social organization capable of engendering such a disgrace. But such an organization is that of a society itself infanticidal, a society where childhood is in some way murdered in the womb.



25. Intoxication, disintoxication


Consumption is intoxication: this has today become obvious. And it is underlined in an article written by Edouard Launet during the trial of Patricia and Emmanuel Cartier. They lived close to


Saint Maximin…the largest commercial zone in Europe…at once El Dorado and terrain vague, abundance and social misery. The market, nothing but the market, and these little adrenaline rushes that come with the purchase of a television or a sofa. [Edouard Launet, Liberation, 17 November 2005.]


…days before the drama of Clichy-sous-bois which triggered riots across France lasting several weeks, in the Cora hypermarket, scene of a “huge social melting pot” where the working class people of Beauvais mix with the “comfortable” Parisians, among them the Cartiers, who spend their weekends in their holiday houses around Gouvieux and Chantilly, in this hypermarket where 40000 people walk every day past the 48 cash registers and their barcode machines.


Jean-Pierre Coppin, head of store security, observes: “We know that we are sitting on a pressure cooker.”


For the immediate consumption of life today provokes suffering and despair, to the point where a profound malaise reigns henceforth in the society of consumption. As I have already noted, a large study conducted by the Institute IRI conjures the figure of the “anti-consumer,” within the proliferation of other symptoms of this crisis of hyperindustrial civilization—including anti-advertising and anti-consumption movements, and the decline of sales of brand-name products, etc. I have often heard people reject these findings on the grounds that in reality there has been no verifiable decline in overall consumption (even though the IRI study was commenced following a reduction in sales of consumer durables), and therefore that there is no real crisis, and that in fact anti-consumers, that is, those who call themselves consumer malcontents, those who purport to desire to live otherwise, often turn out to be among the largest consumers—tantamount to hyperconsumers. It is thus then concluded that this malaise, this evil development, is only an illusion.


Yet there is no contradiction in the fact that a hyperconsumer denounces consumption, no more than in the responses to the study by Telerama comparing the television habits of the French to the judgments they made about programs, a study which revealed that if 53% of respondents considered television programs to be detestable, most of them nonetheless watched these programs which they thought so terrible. There is no contradiction here because both cases concern addictive systems, and we know well that a system is addictive precisely to the extent that one who is caught in the system denounces it, and suffers that much more to the extent that he cannot escape it—this is the well-known phenomenon of dependence.


The “adrenaline hit” that an important purchase procures is produced by the addictive system of consumption, and the same thing goes for the tele-spectators interrogated by Telerama, who condemn the programs and nevertheless watch, like the heroin addict who, having arrived at the stage where consuming a dose no longer procures anything except further suffering, because the natural production of dopamine, seratonin and endorphins in his brain has been blocked, finds only temporary relief in a supplementary consumption of the cause of this suffering—an immediate consumption of life which can only further aggravate the pain, until it is transformed into despair. This is why, exactly like the tele-spectator who no longer likes his television programs, if one asks an addict what he thinks of the toxic substance on which he depends, he will speak the greatest ill, but if one asks him what he needs right now, he will again and always reply: heroin.


Again and always: at least to the extent that he lacks the means to detox.


Televisual stupefaction, which in the beginning was the hashish of the poor, replacing the opiate of the people, becomes a hard drug when, having destroyed desire, it targets the drives—because the desire which balanced and linked them has disappeared. This is the moment when one passes from cheerful consumption, which believes in progress, to miserable consumption, where the consumer feels he regresses and suffers from it. At this stage, consumption releases more and more compulsive automatisms, and the consumer becomes dependent on the consumption hit. He suffers, then, from a disindividuating syndrome that he only manages to compensate for by intensifying his consumer behaviour, which at the same time becomes pathological.


Things turn out this way because in hyperindustrial society, where everything becomes a service—that is, marketed relations and objects of marketing—life has been completely reduced to consumption, and the effects of psychic disindividuation completely rebound upon collective individuation, it being understood that in the processes of psychic and collective individuation, psychic individuation is only concretized as collective individuation and transindividuation, the converse also being the case. When everything becomes a service, transindividuation is completely short-circuited by marketing and advertising [la publicité]. Public life is, then, destroyed: psychic and collective individuation become collective disindividuation. There is no longer any us; there is only the they, and the collective, whether it be familial, political, professional, confessional, national, rational or universal, is no longer the bearer of any horizon: it appears totally void of content, what is called, according to the philosophers, kenosis, a term which also signifies that the universal is no longer anything but the market and the technologies it spreads out over the entire planet—to the point that the Republic, for example, or what pretends to replace it, or bolster it, or reinvent it, for example Europe, is no longer loved or desired.



26. Disaffection


Hyperindustrial society is intoxicated, and the premier political question is that of disintoxication. Intoxication is produced by phenomena of saturation, which affect in particular higher functions of the nervous system: conception (understanding), sensibility and imagination, that is, intellectual, aesthetic, and affective life—spirit in all its dimensions. It is here that the source of all forms of spiritual misery can be found. We can describe these as cognitive and affective forms of saturation typical of hyperindustrial society.


Just as there is a cognitive saturation (we have observed for more than ten years now the effects of “cognitive overflow syndrome,” which has the paradoxical result—paradoxical, that is, for a narrowly informational conception of cognition—that the more information is delivered to the cognitive subject, the less he knows), there is also in effect an affective saturation. The phenomena of cognitive and affective saturation engender individual and collective, neurological and psychological [cerébrales et mentales], cognitive and personality, congestion, which one could compare to the paradoxical effects of urban congestion engendered by the excess of automobile traffic, of which bottlenecks are the most banal experience, and where the automobile, thought to facilitate mobility, produces on the contrary a noisy and polluting—that is, toxic—slowing down and paralysis. In the same way as cognitive saturation induces a loss of cognition, that is, a loss of knowledge, and a bewilderment of minds [esprits], a stupidity of consciousnesses [consciences] more and more mindless [inconscientes], affective saturation engenders a generalized disaffection.


Cognitive and affective saturation are therefore cases of a much larger phenomenon of congestion, striking all hyperindustrial societies, from Los Angeles to Tokyo and passing through Shanghai. When Claude Lévi-Strauss told us to prepare ourselves to quit a world that he no longer loved, citing the example of demographic explosion, he presented a case of this generalized intoxication:


The human species lives under a sort of regime of internal poisoning.


In all these cases of congestion, humanity appears confronted by a phenomenon of disassimilation, comparable to that which Freud described in protistas, referring to the work of Woodruff:


[I]nfusoria die a natural death as a result of their own vital processes. […] An infusorian, therefore, if it is left to itself, dies a natural death owing to its incomplete voidance of the products of its own metabolism. (It may be that the same incapacity is the ultimate cause of the death of all higher animals as well.) [Freud, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” Penguin Freud Library, vol. 11, p. 321.]


Moreover, and I shall return to this in the final chapter, the sclerosis that is able to become the superego, as morality, can also engender such an auto-intoxication. However, the intoxication produced by affective saturation (an indubitable element at the origin of Patricia and Emmanuel Cartier's crime) constitutes a case of congestion intrinsically more serious and worrying than all the others: a congestion affecting the capacities for reflection and decision-making in psychic and collective individuals, but also affecting their capacity to love their neighbours as much as their own, their capacity to love them effectively, practically, and socially, leading necessarily, by the same token, and in the end, to the very serious phenomena of political hatred and violent conflicts between social groups, ethnicities, nations, and religions. This renders properly inconceivable any possible solutions to the other cases of congestion that intoxicate all the dimensions of life on the entire planet.


Affective saturation results from the hypersolicitation of attention, and in particular that of children, and aims, through the intermediary of industrial temporal objects, to divert their libido from their spontaneous love objects exclusively toward the objects of consumption, provoking an indifference toward their parents and to everything around them, and provokes as well a generalized apathy supercharged with menace—of which the monstrous heroes of Gus Van Sant's Elephant are the symbols, or rather the “dia-boles.”


In Japan, where I find myself at this moment writing this chapter, the congested reality of psychic and collective disindividuation leads to passages to the act, televisual and criminal mimetisms, devoid of shame, that is, of affection (for instance the two young Japanese criminals who, asked to say something by way of repentance for the killing of their victims, respectively a 64 year-old woman and some very young children from a primary school, replied that they felt no regret), such as the hikikomori and the otaku, who constitute two typical cases of disaffected youth, examples which have taken particularly worrying proportions. It is believed there are more than one million hikikomori, hundreds of thousands of whom have totally abandoned schooling, and are profoundly cut off from the world, living a sort of social autism, shrivelled up in their domestic and televisual milieu, and absolutely hermetic within a social milieu which is in large part ruined:


His family life overwhelmed, Mr Okuyama, 56 years old, recounts: “We were obliged to move last May, for it was becoming too dangerous to stay with my son, due to his violence.” Despite the parents' willingness, communication is quasi-absent. “I try to meet with him once a week to have a normal discussion, but it's very difficult. He talks only in insults and unintelligible words,” explains his father. “Also, I'm scared: he's twice as strong as me.” []


For the most part totally cut off from the education system, it eventuates that they pass to the act, supplying in this way the significant and disturbing format of diverse items in Japanese newspapers:


In 2000 a 17 year-old boy who was living as a recluse for six months, having been the victim of bullying and hazing at school, stopped a bus and with a kitchen knife murdered a passenger.


Otaku is the term for young people who no longer live anywhere but in a closed, virtual world of computer games and comics (the word otaku initially meant a manga hero), in the interior of which alone they can encounter their kind: other otaku, equally disaffected, that is, disindividuated psychically as much as socially, or in other words perfectly indifferent to the world:


In his latest novel Kyosei Chu, a title that may be translated as The Daily Life of the Worm, Ryu Murakami analyses which kind of adolescents refuse to confront reality, constructing a purely fictional universe inspired by comics or animated movies. It is a universe into which they enter thanks to more and more sophisticated gadgets, with which Japanese industry saturates them. Unable to communicate with others, these youth spend the best years of their lives in front of a games console or computer, rarely going out. [Bruno Birolli, Le Nouvel Observateur, Hors Série no. 41, 15 June 2000.]


Certain otaku practice a cult of objects, in particular, objects of consumption:


They organize their existence around a passion which they push to extremes. This might be for an object: for instance the otaku who keeps in his room old computers purchased over the internet, or the teenager who possesses several hundred Chanel bags. Some of these bizarre cults pose a problem, like the one which has subtly developed around Juyo, the spokesperson of the Aum sect, guilty of the sarin gas attack which killed twelve people in the Tokyo metro in May 1994.


We, city-dwellers (and we have all, or nearly all, become city-dwellers), suffer from this psychic and collective congestion, and from the affective saturation which disaffects us, slowly but ineluctably, from ourselves and our others, disindividuating us psychically as much as collectively, distancing us from our children, our friends, our loved ones and our neighbours, from our own [des notres], all of whom are moving further and further away from us. And this disaffects us from everything dear to us, everything which is given to us by charis, by the grace of charisma, from the Greek kharis, and from a charisma of the world from which proceeds all caritas, which is given to us and without doubt from the beginning (primordially, from the outset) as ideas, ideals, and sublimities. We, we others, we who feel ourselves being distanced from our own, feel ourselves irresistibly condemned to live and think like pigs.


Those among us who still have the chance to live in the city centre, and not in the outlying suburbs, try to survive spiritually by assiduously frequenting museums, galleries, theatres, concert halls, art cinemas, etc. But such people suffer from another ill: that of cultural consumption, where one must absorb even more cultural merchandise, as if another form of addiction installs itself, without ever being able to re-establish the slow time of a true artistic experience, the time of the amateur, which has been replaced by the consumer suffering from a dazed cultural obesity.


When we have a chance to escape to the country—although we don't find this on Saturday afternoons coming from Gouvieux or Chantilly, in the Cora hypermarket of Saint Maximin, the largest ZAC in Europe, right next to the beautiful abby of Royaumont—when we “resuscitate” in the country, therefore, we suspend these innumerable, permanent and systematic affective solicitations which characterize contemporary life, in which everything has become a service, almost totally submitted to marketing, including “cultural” marketing. We return, then, to the primary affective solicitations of the greenery, of flowers, animals, the elements, solitude, of the village market, of silence and of slow time—slowness and silence lost today: the absolutely incessant character of the addressing of the senses, which has the goal, precisely, of never ceasing, inducing a saturation which ends in the time of disaffection—and of disaffectation.


This loss of consciousness [conscience] and affect, induced by cognitive and affective saturation, constituting the appalling reality of spiritual misery, at the very moment when the planet must confront and resolve so many difficulties, characterize the lost spirit of capitalism. There are today disaffected beings like there are re-purposed factories [usines désaffectées]: there are human wastelands like there are industrial wastelands. Such is the redoubtable question of the industrial ecology of the spirit. And such is the enormous challenge which befalls us.



27. Disturbances


Beyond disaffection, which is the loss of psychic individuation, disaffectation is the loss of social individuation, which in the hyperindustrial epoch threatens disturbed children, who are tending to become disaffected individuals. Now, since the completion of a large study by INSERM, inspired by the American classification of pathologies and by cognitive methods linking psychiatry, psychology, epidemiology, and the cognitive, genetic, neurobiological and ethological sciences, disturbed children fall under the nosological category of “behavioural problems” [Report of INSERM: “Troubles des conduits chez l'enfant et l'adolescent”].


These “behavioural problems” are systematically associated with attention problems. For attention is also, as Rifkin underlined, the most extensively researched merchandise—for example, by TF1 and its managing director Patrick Le Lay, who explained moreover that attention, which consists of “available brain time,” and which constitutes the quantifiable audience of television, is perfectly controllable and controlled, thanks to the techniques of the audimat. It is


the only product in the world where one “knows” its clients down to the second, after a delay of 24 hours. Each morning, we see in large scale the result of the exploitation of viewing. [Les dirigeants face au changement, p. 93]


The disaffection produced by affective saturation, which is therefore also a disaffectation, that is, the loss of recognizable social spaces and their involvements, resulting from the loss of individuation which strikes the disaffected individual, translated into the process of collective disindividuation, is directly connected to the fact that the capturing of attention destroys it. Attention means, equally, the quality of being attentive, which is social, and not only psychological, and which is called, very precisely, shame, a meaning particularly well preserved in the Spanish word vergüenza.


This destruction proceeds in this way because attention is what organizes and is organized by retentions and protentions, but today these are massively and incessantly controlled by the retentional and protentional processes of television. From the childhood stage of primary identification to the secondary identifications of the adult, these processes seek to substitute the secondary collective retentions elaborated by the process of transindividuation (which is nothing other than the vital process of psychic and collective individuation), with secondary collective retentions entirely fabricated according to the results of market studies and prescriptive marketing techniques, as much as by the specifications of designers, stylists, developers and ergonomists, together realizing the accelerated socialization of technological innovation.


This is why the study which invented this pathology of “behavioural problems” (inspired by North American categorizations) is largely unreliable, to the extent that it fatally neglects this fact: that attention has become a form of merchandise. Moreover, “behavioural problems,” designating behaviour which transgresses social rules, are considered mental problems accompanied by various symptoms, in particular, attention deficit and “oppositional defiant disorder.”


One of the psychiatric pathologies characterized by behavioural problems is attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity, along with oppositional defiant disorder.


Children or adolescents suffering from these also frequently suffer from depression and anxiety, and they progress easily to the act of suicide.


The study presumes to have identified a demonstrable, empirical, probability of the appearance of a disorder in connection with the following factors:


Antecedent behavioural problems in other family members, criminality within the family, very young mothers, substance abuse, etc…


Based on this,


the group of experts recommend the identification of families presenting these risk factors in the course of the medical monitoring of pregnancy.


It also recommends


The development of an epidemiological study of a representative sample of children and adolescents in France… [and] the undertaking of targeted studies of populations at high risk (a history of imprisonment, children in special education, indicated urban areas).


The real question concerns the destructive effects on psychic individuation as much as on collective individuation, provoked by affective saturation and the diverse forms of congestion which intoxicate contemporary society, in particular television, which ravages the attentional faculties of children as much as of adolescents and their parents, along with adults in general, and in particular politicians—and no doubt also the INSERM researchers who themselves watch television.


The study, which has as its point of departure cognitivist hypotheses granting an essential role to genetics, and therefore to hereditary factors, is not ignorant of the fact that it is necessary


to evaluate the specific role of both genetic and environmental susceptibility in behavioural problems.


And while recommending research into “genetic vulnerability,” it also recommends


the study of the influence of parental attitudes.


If what is not being suggested here is the sterilization of parents presenting risk factors, we cannot, however, refrain from recalling that many states in the USA, the country whose classification of mental diseases was clearly the inspiration of this INSERM study, practised this kind of sterilization before the war, and that this ceased only after the revelation of the Nazi horrors.


But above all, why not propose the study of the influence of television and of the innumerable techniques of incitement to consumption which cause, precisely, the affective saturation syndrome? Television does indeed receive a mention:


Recent studies confirm that the exposure to televisual violence from the age of 8 is highly predictive of aggressive behaviours in the long term. This relation holds independently of the IQ and the socio-economic status of the subjects, and is uniquely determined by the factor of violent scenes.


But the influence of television is not properly apprehended for what it is: as the effect of an industrial temporal object which permits the capture of attention that “the enemy of the beautiful” [l'ennemi du beau] calls “available brain time.” How much credence should be given, then, to the psychopathological study which pretends to describe the phenomena of loss of attention, but which itself gives no attention to the techniques for capturing attention?


The question of the psychosocial environment is that of the process of psychic and collective individuation, itself overdetermined by the process of technical individuation, above all in that epoch when technics has largely become an industrial system of cognitive and cultural technologies, that is, what I call along with my associates at Ars Industrialis, “technologies of spirit.” It follows that the dysfunction of the psychic, collective and social process of individuation must be treated as a question of sociopathology rather than psychopathology.



28. From psychopathology to sociopathology


That some psychopathological terrains are more fragile than others, and therefore more sensitive and reactive to sociopathologies, is not in question. But if it seems that new forms of pathology are appearing, as we saw for example in Japan, this concept of new psychopathologies is denied by numerous psychiatrists, on the basis that what is really in question here is sociopathological—that is, it is question of political economy.


What's more, psychopathological fragility, as a default affecting one psyche, is very often, if not always, what is originally—through compensatory processes at once well known and intrinsically mysterious—derived from the most singular individuations, and therefore the most precious for the life of the spirit, both on a psychic and collective level. I have already shown how various handicaps were at the origin of artistic genius, like the paralyzed fingers with which Django Reinhardt invented modern guitar, or that of Joe Bousquet, who became a writer through wanting to become his wound, or again, the anti-social characteristics always qualifying the perversions of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and so many poets, not to mention the madness of Hölderlin, Nerval, Artaud, Van Gogh, etc. And let's add here the deafness of Thomas Edison.


The discourse of INSERM, completely ignoring these questions, rests on an exclusively normative and hygenist conception of the neurological apparatus, as much as of life in general, and human being in general, which does not seem to take any account, moreover, of Canguilhem's analyses of the normal and the pathological, and which does not see that it is the articulation between the nervous, technical, and social systems which constitutes the total human fact, that is, the real—hominization, which, since Leroi-Gourhan, can be understood as technogenesis and sociogenesis. It is true that psychoanalysis has itself gravely neglected these dimensions, without which there would be no psychogenesis, which I have begun to analyse through the concept of a general organology, to which I will return in the following chapter.


The INSERM inquiry does venture, however timidly, some perspectives on these questions, when they emphasize that the primary question concerning the genesis of the pathology is language, a question which should always also include, more generally, all the circuits of symbolic exchange:


Inadequate linguistic development impedes the construction of healthy sociability, limits the quality of communication and promotes the expression of defensive reactions in the child.


The “group of experts” recommend, however, in their conclusions,



the development of new clinical trials, using various combinations of medication, and new chemicals.


But to what end? Without, it seems, being able to recommend the use of Ritalin—since that chemical which serves precisely to “take care of” American children suffering from “behavioural problems” has become the object of an infamous trial—for INSERM it is obviously about, on the one hand, instituting diagnostic techniques aimed at categorizing and listing children as a priori potentially “subject” to disorder and, on the other hand, about proposing that the solution is a chemical straitjacket, that is, a technology of pharmaceutical control, which both opens a new market, and avoids the question of sociopathology, which is here the only genuine question.



29. Blaming parents and children is a smokescreen which dissimulates the question of the industrial political economy and leads to the chemical straitjacket


This process of blaming parents and children enables them to be indicted, rather than the shamelessness of society, a society which drives them mad and which we no longer like, and in which we no longer like ourselves, in which disbelief, discredit, cynicism, and stupidity reign. The behavioural disturbances induced by generalized disindividuation are not provoked by genetic causes, even if they obviously also possess genetic bases—no more nor less than some beneficial chemicals which, crossing a certain threshold, suddenly become toxic. For the genetic bases of irritability are the same as of sociability, and are more precisely what Kant called unsocial sociability:


By antagonism, I mean in this context the unsocial sociability of men, that is, their tendency to come together in society, coupled, however, with a continual resistance which constantly threatens to break this society up. This propensity is obviously rooted in human nature. Man has an inclination to live in society, since he feels in this state more than a man [this is my emphasis], that is, he feels able to develop his natural capacities. But he also has a great tendency to live as an individual, to isolate himself [in Japan: hikikomori], since he also encounters in himself the unsocial characteristic of wanting to direct everything in accordance with his own ideas. […] Nature should thus be thanked for fostering social incompatibility, enviously competitive vanity, and insatiable desires for possession or even power. Without these desires, all man's excellent natural capacities would never be roused to develop. Man wishes concord, but nature, knowing better what is good for his species, wishes discord. [Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, Fourth Proposition.]


This unsocial sociability is therefore the true eris:


In the same way, trees in a forest, by seeking to deprive each other of air and sunlight, compel each other to find these by upward growth, so that they grow beautiful and straight [...]. All the culture and art which adorn mankind and the finest social order man creates are fruits of his unsociability. For it is compelled by its own nature to discipline itself, and thus, by enforced art, to develop completely the germs which nature implanted. [Fifth Proposition.]


Unsocial sociability is Kant's way of articulating the psychic and the collective as a process of individuation which puts singularity—and the eris that this supposes as emulation, that is, as elevation and transmission—in the heart of its dynamic. So, it is this that the normalizations and classifications of the American-inspired mental nosology wants to control, in order to reduce it to a behavioural model entirely normalizable, that is, calculable.


Man—which is the present name of the processes of psychic and collective individuation—is a being in becoming, that is, by default, and his defaults are essential [il faut] to man's future, that is, as what constitutes his chances. Just as in biological life, as we know, it is the mistakes in the replication of DNA which allow evolution and the negentropic characteristics of the living. Chemotherapeutic normalization wants to eliminate this essential default: it seeks a faultless process. But such a process would be without desire, for the object of desire is that which is lacking [fait defaut]. Now, a process without desire is an irrational process, which leads to a society demotivated by chemical straitjackets and electronic bracelets, or to a politics of terror, or, more likely, to both at the same time. For these beings without desire see their drives loosen, and society no longer knows how to contain them except by repression—except, that is, through a regression which unchains these drives.


Not only are we able to do the perfectly sociable things, through genetic irritability which is the molecular basis of unsocial sociability, but we can only do the truly sociable things, that is, the individuating, inventive and civilized things, on this basis. As for the pathological disturbances from which society suffers—a society which in effect no longer loves itself and where stupidity reigns—these are engendered by a system of which this behavioural therapeutics is an element: this system is that of industrial populism which has made attention a product that has lost all value, and which engenders in the same stroke behaviours that are in effect socially non-attentive, on the part of disaffected individuals, human wastelands in a general situation of symbolic, spiritual, psychological, intellectual, economic and political misery.


It is fortunate for disturbed children that they do have their failings, their de-faults. But the libido of these children, which is energetically constituted by these same failings, is diverted from the love objects that their parents are, and more generally from social objects—that is, from objects of the idealization and sublimation of this love, as objects constitutive of collective individuation, for example, objects of knowledge, or objects of law, as social concretizations in default of justice which does not exist. The libido of these children, thus diverted, then becomes dangerously impulsive and aggressive, and suffers terribly from no longer eventuating in the love of parents or the world, as much as the parents no longer come to love their children—they no longer have the means.


These children demand, then, more game consoles, more television, more Coke, more brand-name clothes and school items, and their parents, submitted to this pressure to which the social apparatus is in totality henceforth submitted, are deprived of their parental roles. It was in such circumstances that Patricia and Emmanuel Cartier were able to pass to the act, taking their children with them—in just the same way as the London suicide bombers took themselves to be martyrs, affirming that there is a life after death, and that it is worth more than this life of despair.


I claim that such circumstances powerfully attenuate the culpability of the Cartiers, and I would add that in analyzing the conditions in which the apparatuses for capturing attention and more generally inciting consumption cause behavioural problems, including having led some parents to infanticide, the question is not to attribute guilt, but to try to think from out of these problems what there is of justice and injustice in the hyperindustrial epoch, and from this to deduce some new political propositions with a future, that is, with the capacity of opening a passage beyond the horizon of despair.


Children, adolescents and parents are seriously unbalanced in their relations, that is, in their being. The passage from the psychic to the collective begins with this relation, which is not therefore secondary but primordial, weaved into the primary identification whereby the child, like his parents, is in a transductive relation with his familiars. Currently, this relation is seriously perturbed by industrial temporal objects capturing and diverting attention, profoundly modifying the play of retentions and protentions, and above all producing secondary collective retentions which short-circuit the work of transmission between generations, work which is the only possibility of dialogue, including and above all through the modes of opposition and provocation. These questions constitute the problematic foundation of what I have called, in the preceding chapter, the Antigone complex, signifying as well that these questions return to the question of justice, law, and of the hyper-superegoistic desire of youth, a desire which can turn, if it is mistreated, into a process of negative sublimation—becoming, in some cases, a particularly dangerous, martyrological phantasm.


The control and channelling of primary and secondary processes of identification reveals an obvious connection between the trial of the Cartiers and the tests done on children accused of being disturbed—for it is indeed a trial which determines them as diseased, just as we know that in the USA such children are treated as diseased—children that we sacrifice in this way on the altar of consumption, which is a scandal, a disgrace, and an infamy. For these ways of treating them, answering to the common interests of the pharmaceutical industry, television, and the hypermarkets—which a security chief assured us that he knew to be “sitting on a pressure cooker”—is a way of making fall onto the little shoulders of children the decadence of a society intoxicated by its excretions and its products of disassimilation: a society sickened by an auto-intoxication, amounting to a mental destruction and the ruin of the “spirit of value” [“valeur esprit”—Valery, 1939].


The INSERM inquiry, which pretends to scientifically establish that these children are pathologically disturbed and suffering an attention deficit, thus appears for what it is: one more artifice concealing the fact that these children are rendered disturbed by a society which has become profoundly pathological and, through this, inevitably pathogenic. From this perspective, the results of the inquiry are no doubt not false, but the premises through which these results are interpreted certainly are—and the conclusion drawn from these results, recommending chemical treatment for this social malaise, a diagnosis which is clearly a scam, is catastrophic. It is that much more catastrophic to the extent that it can only lead to a repetition of what has already occurred in the USA with Ritalin.



30. Losses of attention—or toxicomania as social model


In the course of an action brought against the pharmaceutical industry, which had put Ritalin on the market, the question of attention deficit became central, and the pathology it was supposed to lead to in children and adolescents:


“We cannot continue to peddle psychotropics to our children, while at the same time asking them to say no to drugs,” declared Andrew Waters, who accuses the American Psychiatric Association of “having conspired to drive American youth to the consumption of tranquilizers.”


What was to be calmed was ADD, that is, attention deficit disorder, and the calming pills were methylphenidate, that is, Ritalin, a “chemical similar to amphetamines.” Its range of possible prescription


had a definition so broad that any disturbed or slightly troubled child could be included. Result: the number of prescriptions for Ritalin saw a growth rate of 600% between 1989 and 1996.


Coincidence: Ritalin is put on the market at the moment the Cartiers were married. The guidelines for its recommended use are so broad that it can be applied to all children who, in Europe, America, Japan, and soon China, are becoming more and more disturbed, deficient in psychological terms as much as they are non-attentive in social terms, stupefied by television, video games, and other disorders, emerging from hypermarkets and hyperindustrial society, that is, from the industrial populism which poisons the world.


How, then, can one not be troubled to see the “group of experts” recommend a follow-up survey of “diagnosed” children, to be carried out by the nurses of the PME and the PMI [small businesses and large businesses], and by schoolteachers, educational specialists, etc.? For in the face of “pathologies,” which also affect the nurses (for example Patricia Cartier, who was a nurse), as much as the teachers and the parents of the children “diagnosed” as suffering from behavioural problems (for example parental pathologies with names such as credit, addictive consumption, the abandoning of one's children in front of the television, etc.), how can we have confidence in the institutional structures of this “survey of diagnosed children” to confront the difficulties of these children—unless it is to make them take Ritalin, or a more recently authorized equivalent?


For Ritalin was recalled after a lawsuit—but only after it had done serious damage. So that I'm clearly understood: we had confidence in Ritalin—and we were wrong. Let us now carefully reflect, therefore, on this:


in certain American states, such as Virginia, North Carolina or Michigan, between 10 and 15 percent of school-age children swallow their obedience pills on a daily basis, often after having been identified by their teachers, teachers who invited the parents to a consultation. The chemical control of teenagers has thus assumed alarming proportions. An Albany, NY couple had decided to interrupt, provisionally, the treatment of their 7 year-old, who reacted badly. The parents were denounced by social services as “negligent” and led before a judge. The judge ordered a resumption of the treatment.


Can we have confidence in INSERM's recommendations for pharmaceutical and institutional measures or, rather, is it not necessary to combat the real problem, namely, the ecological disorder of the spirit in the epoch of cultural and cognitive technologies, monopolized by industrial populism, to which it would be necessary to oppose an industrial and political economy of the spirit, which is innovative, and capable of bearing a future, of inaugurating a new age of psychic and collective individuation, and concretizing, what's more, this knowledge society or this information capitalism that so many of our leaders, or their advisors (such as Denis Kessler), identify today as their goal—while always calling for a “re-enchantment of the world”?


What INSERM recommends leads towards a functional articulation between psychiatry and justice in order to manage the catastrophic ravages that the society of control causes in parents and their children. So, what is this really about? The relation between dike and aidos. To the loss of shame in the symbolic apparatus, which has become diabolical, that is, a factor of social unravelling, of diaballein, systematically feeding the regression consisting of the unchaining of the drives, the study recommends the addition of a repressive system leading to a pure and simple renunciation of the possibility of the superego: the medical fraternity interiorizes here the possibility and the legality of the fact that society would no longer be sociable at all, and that unsociability can no longer produce any sociability, except by a chemical lobotomization of suffering singularities.


Now, this chemical control, which is a generalization of the utilization of addictive systems, preconizes the youngest disturbed children as having already lost their parents, that is, as having lost the possibility of primary identification, through which their imago is formed. Evidently this installs a new vicious circle, which can only produce a psychopathology leading directly to the catastrophe of a society that has become absolutely uncontrollable. Such an absurd spiral installs itself, in effect, when the children labelled disturbed, hyperactive, or suffering from an attention deficient, with behavioural problems, and put on Ritalin, are seen as strangers among us, and are


also treated with other psychotropics, such as Prozac or anxiolithics, to deal with their respective problems. Last January (2000), two parents in Ohio launched an action against Ciba-Geigy following the death of their 11 year-old daughter, treated with Ritalin, and killed by cardiac arrest: the autopsy revealed a change in the coronary blood vessels characteristic of cocaine addicts… Children treated with Ritalin have three times the risk of becoming drug addicts.


Toxicomania is the secret model of social control which has renounced a psychic and collective individuation that believes in the future of unsocial sociability. Confronted by these conclusions, psychiatrist Peter Breggin, an expert witness in the Dallas trial, affirmed that


There is no existing medical proof of attention deficit disorder: most children treated with Ritalin exhibit perfectly normal behaviour…[These children] simply need a little attention.


In other words, attention deficit comes from society, which, however, accuses the children who suffer from it, to whom it is not attentive, and which, at the same time, captures and channels their attention toward the objects of consumption. The diagnosis is overwhelmingly clear. And it is frightening.[Author ID0: at ]

[Author ID0: at ]

[Author ID2: at Sat Aug 19 18:12:00 2006 ]

Translated by Patrick Crogan and Daniel Ross

.[Author ID1: at Sat Aug 19 19:36:00 2006 ]