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Freud’s Group, Lacan’s Cartel and The Toric Organisation

The Letter, Issue 45, Autumn 2010, Pages 71 - 85

Freud’s Group, Lacan’s Cartel and The Toric Organisation

Tony Hughes

Lacan put the work of the cartels at the core of the transformation of the analyst. His design follows Freud's model of hierarchical organisations but modifies it in order to establish it on a rigour and logic which would facilitate each member of the cartel to develop his/her own subjective intuition in pursuit of their own transformation as analysts. This paper follows the trajectory of Freud's analysis of groups, to Lacan's circular organisation. The author suggests that if Lacan had used a model of the torus as a basis for his invention, that the results might have been more in line with what he aimed to achieve.

Keywords: Freud's schema of the group, Identification, transference, o object


Cormac Gallagher's paper The Founding Act, the Cartel and the riddle of the PLUS ONE in Issue 44, Summer 2010 of The Letter points out the failure of the cartels over the last fifty years. He attributes this failure to the "confusion, partly cultivated by Lacan, around the real or imaginary status of [the] plus one and its function in promoting the work of the cartel.‟[1] This failure causes us to ask ourselves the following questions - if the cartels have failed for this of time and for this reason, why has the Irish School for Psychoanalysis (ISLP) set them up again? Is this an arrogance or a foolhardiness or a repetition which will result in the same failure?

The experiment is too embryonic length for us to be able to answer these questions based on the experience of the working of the cartels. It may take five or ten years before we can come to the correct evaluation, providing of course, the ISLP cartels last that long.

By approaching the matter from a more theoretical perspective it might help us to better understand the confusion (if indeed that is what it is) surrounding the way in which the cartels should function. My starting point is to take Freud's Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921) and to aim to understand what Freud's model of group behaviour was about. Specifically what type of group was he describing and what would be the primary task of such a group and how does it affect the members of the group? I will show how Freud's group differs from the cartel of Lacan as formulated in the The Founding Act, the Adjunct and the Preamble. I will also suggest a modification to Lacan‟s circular organisation which is more in accordance with the logic of the process which he envisioned.

Freud and Group Psychology

Le Bon

Freud's work on group psychology is an attempt to understand why people's behaviour undergoes such a radical change when they become members of a group. He distinguishes between many types of groups and is at pains to explain that the type of group to which one belongs has an effect which results in many variations in the way in which members of the group act. There is a certain confusion caused by Strachey in the English translation because he uses the word "group‟ instead of "crowd‟ when referring to the work of Le Bon, entitled in French Psychologie des Foules (1895). For the purposes of this paper I will use "crowd‟ to reflect Freud's usage, in certain circumstances, which suggests something of a short-lived nature, which lack a clearly defined organisational structure such as one finds in vertical, horizontal, circular, or virtual organisations which are operative in local or global organisations of the twenty first century. Le Bon's research was based on the short-lived unorganised collectives of the French Revolution, which although having some aspects of "organisation‟ also contained many elements of autonomous behaviour without regard to a formal hierarchy, as such, – something in the nature of a rabble.

Whilst Freud held Le Bon's work in high esteem, he did not think that it added anything new to what had previously been written about groups. In summary, Le Bon, observed how members of a crowd of the type he was thinking about, were given to extremes of behaviour and in which the individual underwent such dramatic changeas to suffer a loss of his/her own subjectivity and become absorbed within the ethos of the group to such an extent that little if anything was left of the characteristics of individual thought and intelligence. Le Bon did also note that on occasion the crowd were able to facilitate its members to perform acts of outstanding achievement, as in the case of the development of language, and acts of courage where they would fight to the death in order to sustain the beliefs of the crowd of which they were a member.

Freud was particularly impressed by Le Bon's awareness of the racial unconscious, although he notes that "there is some difference between Le Bon's view and ours owing to his concept of the unconscious not quite coinciding with the one adopted by psychoanalysis.‟ [2]

This difference is between the racial unconscious and the repressed unconscious, and Freud saw the question of the racial unconscious as being outside the analytic discourse, although it basically serves to extinguish difference between members of crowds.

Le Bon speaks of three new characteristics which the individual takes on as part of a collective. Freud accounts for the first characteristic - attaining a sense of invincibility – as being due to the manifestation of the unconscious which has thrown off the repressions and thereby allows polymorphous perversity to be seen in all its glory.

The second characteristic of Le Bon - that of contagion - Freud attributes to hypnotic phenomena, which enablesan individual to act in ways contrary to his/her usual mode.

The third characteristic of Le Bon – suggestibility - Freud attributes to the effect of contagion. Suggestibility has its groundings in hypnosis but it leads to „irresistible impetuosity [which] is more irresistible in the case of groups than in that of the hypnotised subject, from the fact that, the suggestion being the same for all individuals in the group, it gains in strength by reciprocity.‟[3]

Freud agrees in large part with Le Bon's assessment of crowd behaviour, which is both pessimistic and optimistic, and accepts the paradox at its very core. He notes the similarity between the crowd mind and that of the mind of primitive people and children, where unconscious contradictions exist side by side.

Curiously Le Bon has very little to say on the leaders of crowds, except to note how quick individuals are to seek a leader and put themselves under the spell of the master. He also specifies that the master is simultaneously the puppet of the crowd who makes his/her presence felt by the forcefulness with which he/she pursues their own beliefs. Ideas and leaders each possess their own distinctive fascination which Le Bon calls "prestige‟, a concept which finds a resonance in the notion of "charisma‟ in the popular discourse of the twentieth century. Freud is critical of Le Bon‟s ability to fully explain this aspect of "prestige‟, in so far as it appertains to the role of leadership.

McDougall Freud also looks at the work of McDougall who wrote The Group Mind (1920). McDougall takes the contradictions highlighted by Le Bon as his starting point but he makes a significant and important shift in order toavoid some of the paradoxes of Le Bon's crowds. He uses the signifier "organisation‟ as the springboard for his analysis of how crowds can move into a more coherent and effective structure, in order to achieve their primary task. This helps the individual avoid the pitfalls of intensive emotion and compulsion such as those in Le Bon‟s simple "unorganised group‟.[4] McDougall describes the behaviour of a highly organised group by enumerating "five “principal conditions” for raising collective mental life to a higher level‟.[5] In summary, they are as follows:

  1. There should be some degrees of continuity of existence.

  2. The individual within the group should be aware of the purpose for which the group has been formed, so that he may develop an emotional relation to the group as a whole.

  3. There should be rivalry between groups of a similar nature.

  4. There should be conditions, customs, and habits to determine the relations of members amongst themselves.

  5. The group should have a definite structure, which facilitates differentiation and specialisation of its members.

Thus Freud's precise assessment of McDougall's principles is that by such a structure the individual is enabled to regain his own distinctiveness, which has been lost within the "unorganised group‟. Again, it is worthy of note that McDougall makes no mention whatsoever of the role of the leader, and this is the reason that Freud then goeson to discuss two organisations which are exemplary, in order to demonstrate the presence of the leader and the importance of such a role in organisations.

The Church and the Army Freud describes the Catholic Church and the army as two highly organised groups which were long lasting, andwhich are "artificial groups‟ [in which] "a certain external force is employed to prevent them from disintegrating.‟[6] He observed that, despite their apparent dissimilarities, they have one thing in particular which makes them similar. That is "the same illusion holds good of there being a head – in the Catholic church, Christ, in the army its Commander-in-Chief – who loves all the individuals in the group with an equal love.‟[7] Both organisations have a vertical hierarchical structure in the nature of a pyramid which has the leader at the apex. Although there are different layers of hierarchy, nevertheless the illusion is maintained. The tie to the leader is, according to Freud, the tie which links them to each other. The importance of this tie to the leader explains the reason why group psychology strips the individual away from his own freedom of expression, and gives rise to the alterations which Le Bon particularly identified.

Identification Why then does this tie have such power to alter individual behaviour? Freud attributes this to identification which "is the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person.‟[8] Freud identifies three modes of identification – identification with the loved object, identification with a rival, and hysterical identification. In the first two cases the identification may result in the development of a unary trait which is partial as in the case of Dora's cough. It isworthy of note that Lacan takes the unary trait to be "a primordial symbolic term which is introjected to produce the ego-ideal.‟[9] This function of the unary trait as the support of the ego ideal is a matter of great importance for understanding both Freud's and Lacan's models of collectives.

Freud’s Primary Group Freud extrapolates from his research into groups the schema which has become a by-word for his theory. "The formula for the libidinal constitution of groups …namely those that have a leader and have not been able by means of too much "organisation‟ to acquire secondarily the characteristics of an individual. A primary group of this kind is a number of individuals who have put one and the same object in the place of their ego ideal and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego. This condition admits of graphic representation.‟[10]

Freud extrapolates from his research into groups the schema which has become a by-word for his theory. „The formula for the libidinal constitution of groups …namely those that have a leader and have not been able by means of too much „organisation‟ to acquire secondarily the characteristics of an individual. A primary group of this kind is a number of individuals who have put one and the same object in the place of their ego ideal and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego. This condition admits of graphic representation.

Figure 1.[11]

Freud's emphasis is on the role of the leader and keeping a fairly structured approach which ensures that the individual is unable to exert much of his/her own decision-making process. The members of this group are by and large puppets of the will of the leader because they introject him/her as part object in the form of the unary trait at the level of the ego- ideal. This unconscious secondary identification is supplemented by the identification of the members of the group to each other in a conscious way, namely, at the level of the ego, which also explains why this tie is of much lesser importance as far as the cohesion of the group is concerned.

This graphic representation of Freud correctly formulates organisations such as the churches, armies, totalitarian and indeed other types of hierarchical organisations, such as exist in a lot of psychoanalytic and psychotherapy groupings of the present day.

One important aspect of these organisations is that they are sustained by the illusion of each member beingequally loved by the leader. Freud revisits this notion in his exploration of the group and the primal horde.

We may further emphasise, as being specially instructive, the relation that holds between the contrivance bymeans of which the artificial group is held together and the constitution of the primal horde. We have seen that with an army and a Church this contrivance is the illusion that the leader loves all of the individuals equally andjustly. But this is simply an idealistic remodelling of the state of affairs in the primal horde, where all of the sons knew that they were equally "persecuted‟ by the primal father, and "feared‟ him equally.[12]

This insight provides clarity as to why, for example members of organisations who are not themselves true perverts (in the sense of a perverse structure) nevertheless engage in perverse practices which are encouraged by leaders who may or may not themselves be perverse. This is the introjection of the unary trait at the level of the superego injunction “to enjoy”.

Freud's formula of group behaviour thus is extremely valuable in describing one type of organisation – a vertical hierarchical structure. This type of structure, which has a leader who takes up extreme positions of sadism, is the paradigm of totalitarian organisations, such as Freud was aware of with the rise of fascism in Europe at the time when he wrote his insightful paper in 1921. It should be said however, that Freud's model has been unfairly criticised as only being representative of totalitarian organisations. Much research has been done in the area of vertical hierarchies and it is important to point out that when led by leaders who base their approach on reason and equity, and are operating within the law, they can be effective at a certain level in achieving their goals. The price, however, that is paid for this is a loss of subjectivity at the level of the individual member.


The Beyond of Identification On the 24th June 1964, three days after Lacan had launched the Founding Act, he concluded his seminar on the Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanlaysis. In this seminar he discusses the beyond of science, the beyond of religion[13], the beyond of identification, and the beyond of the transference. In doing so, he stressed the special status of the o object in the transference. The "liquidation‟ of the transference occurs at the moment when there is a "permanent liquidation of that deception of the closing up of the unconscious.‟[14] The subject tries to convince the analyst that he (the analyser) is "worthy of love. Freud designates for us its natural culmination in the function known as identification.‟[15].

There is a connection between this final seminar of 1964 and the Founding Act.

Lacan notes that Freud dealt with the question of identification with great subtlety, and he urges his listeners to read two chapters of Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego – the first being Identification and the second Hypnosis and the State of Being in Love.

The three types of secondary identification outlined by Freud, whilst giving support to the primary identification of the mirror stage, are the moment of the coming into being of the ego ideal. "The point of the ego ideal is that from which the subject will see himself, as one says, as others see him which will enable him to support himself in a dual situation that is satisfactory for him from the point of view of love.‟[16]

This love of which Lacan speaks is a deception, and accords with Freud's assertion of the illusion that all the members of a church or army are loved by the leader. The analyst notes the element of deception in the transference and discovers something „paradoxical, unique, which is specified as the o object.‟[17] Lacan stresses that the "analysand says to his partner, to the analyst, what amounts to this – I love you, but, because, inexplicably I love in you something more than you, the o object – I mutilate you. I give myself to you …but this gift of my person – as they say – Oh, mystery! is changed inexplicably into a gift of shit.‟[18]

In order to describe the way in which the o object operates in the transference he illustrates it with a fable which he had read as a child

When I was a child, in these early forms of strip cartoon, the poor beggar at the restaurant door feasted himself on the smell of the roasting meat. On this occasion, what we are dealing with is the smell of the menu, that is to say, signifiers, since we are concerned with speech only. Well! There is this complication – and this is my fable – that the menu is written in Chinese, so the first step is to order a translation form the patronne. She translates – the imperial pâté, spring rolls, etc. It may well be, if it is the first time that you have come to a Chinese restaurant, that the translation does not tell you much more than the original, and in the end you say to the patronne – “Recommend something.” This means: “You should know what I desire in all this.

But is so paradoxical a situation supposed, in the final resort, to end there? At this point, when you abdicate your choice to some divination of the patronne, whose importance you have exaggerated out of all proportion, would it not be more appropriate, if you felt like it, and if the opportunity presented itself, to tickle her breasts a bit? For one goes to a Chinese restaurant not only to eat, but to eat in the dimension ofthe exotic. If my fable means anything, it is in as much as alimentary desire has another meaning. It is here the support and symbol of the sexual dimension, which is the only one to be rejected by the psyche. The drive in its relation to the part-object is subjacent here.[19]

The demand to the patronne disguises desire which always remains hidden, although it finds its motive force in the o object. In the fable, desire underlies the demand to be told what to eat. Lacan notes how the o object is sought to fill the gap caused by the primordial division of the subject. The o object never crosses this gap – it "cannot be swallowed, as it were, it remains stuck in the gullet of the signifier. It is at this point of lack that the subject has to recognise himself.‟[20]

However the analyser faces enormous difficulty in coming to this point. Failure to understand the importance of this fact has led many analysts into the erroneous position of believing that the end of analysis comes about at the moment of identification with the analyst. In referring to this position in the transference Lacan uses the typological model of the interior eight to indicate how this happens.

However the analyser faces enormous difficulty in coming to this point. Failure to understand the importance of this fact has led many analysts into the erroneous position of believing that the end of analysis comes about at the moment of identification with the analyst. In referring to this position in the transference Lacan uses the typological model of the interior eight to indicate how this happens.

Figure 2.[21]

This is shown by the merging of the line of demand with the line of identification – similar to what can happen in some analytic situations, where the transference is ended at this moment – at point 'I'. The broken line d of desire represents the part of the disc of the interior eight which is hidden. This function of being hidden picks up on what is at stake in the fable of the Chinese menu. An analyst who is unaware of the need "never to give up on your desire‟, mistakenly makes the end of analysis the moment of identification with the analyst. This problematic of identification is equally operative in groups, and despite Freud's brilliance in highlighting the importance of identification there, he may have not have been sufficiently aware of the factor of the beyond of identification, and its relevance for group theory. Lacan notes in his commentary that "any analysis that one teaches as having to be terminated by identification with the analyst reveals, by the same token, that its true motive force is elided. There is a beyond to this identification, and this beyond is defined by the relation and the distance between the o object and the idealising capital I of identification.‟[22]

Lacan reproduces Freud's schema from Group Psychology but makes one fundamental change to it. Here is Lacan's model:

Lacan freud's schema group psychology ego ideal object

Figure 3. [23]

The alteration is an attempt to show the beyond of identification, and it is easy to miss the importance of what he is attempting to distinguish here, perhaps because it only changes one element of Freud's schema. It can in part be explained as the difference between primary and secondary identification. Primary identification gives rise to the narcissistic introjection of the image of the other – i(o). This is precisely what happens in Freud's group where the other is the leader. Hence the replacement by Lacan of the i(o) with the o object is shown in the new schema. By eliding the image of the other – i(o), the o object is now identified with at the level of the ego ideal. We now get a situation where the secondary identification at the level of the ego ideal is with the o object and not with the image of the other in the guise of the leader of the group. The absolutely essential point resulting from this change is that the beyond of identification is "defined by the relation and the distance between the o object and the idealising capital I of identification.‟

The emphasis here is twofold, firstly with the relation to the o object and secondly with the distance between the ego ideal and the o object. The distance is maintained because the o object remains stuck in the gullet of the signifier, as previously mentioned. It is akin to the distance which is imposed by the Name of the Father, the consequence of which is to allow the child to begin to enter into its own subjectivity.

Lacan goes on to discuss Freud's chapter on Hypnosis and the State of Being in Love where he takes great pains to distinguish between the two states. He emphasises the essential difference between the object defined as narcissistic, the i(o), and the function of the o object. It is remarkable that Freud's schema denotes both hypnosis and collective fascination.

This graph (as modified by Lacan) contains the o object, the ego and the ego ideal. As the curves "mark the conjunction of the o object with the ego ideal, Freud gives its status to hypnosis by superposing at the same placethe o object as such and this signifying mapping that is called the ego ideal.‟[24]

The o object may be identical with the gaze and in this case with the gaze of the hypnotist, which resurrects the gaze as stain and which fascinates us before we fascinate it. Lacan defines hypnosis "as the confusion, at one point, of the ideal signifier in which the subject is mapped with the o object.‟[25] In other words, there is no distance maintained between them, hence the need for Lacan‟s insistence that this gap is maintained in the group.

It is therefore likely, given the proximity of the time between the publishing of the Founding Act and the delivery of this seminar on 24th June 1964, that Lacan had this model in mind when designing the Founding Act. He would have taken great care, in the light of his modification of Freud's schema and his remarks about the two aforementioned chapters in Group Psychology, to attempt to ensure that his school was founded on a principle which would have attempted to achieve a beyond of identification in terms of the architecture of his new organisation. This would have taken as it's fundamental centrality the importance of establishing a distance between the o object and the ego ideal of the members of the school. It would also have had a requirement that no leader would exist in such a school who would be the focus of the identification by the members so that they would descend to the type of crowd which Le Bon so effectively elaborated.

The Founding Act The Founding Act is an attempt to set up an organisation which does not suffer from the shortcomings of Freud's vertical structure which, among other things, undermines both the creativity and intellectual rigour of individual members of the group. The Founding Act combines some of the aspects of Le Bon but its structured approach is much more reminiscent of the work of McDougall. Lacan's model is a nuanced approach to the design of an organisation which is artificial in the sense used by Freud, but is neither anarchical nor hierarchical.

The primary objective of the Ecole Freudienne de Paris (EFP) is the formation of analysts, which isindissoluble from the objective to produce a body of work by each member of the cartels, operating under both internal and external supervision. The work is to be done in a small group of three to five people with a PLUS ONE. This emphasis on the number in the cartel reflects the logic of decision making which Lacan developed in his 1945 paper Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty - A New Sophism. The fact that there are three prisoners and also that there are three moments in the decision-making process gives an insight into the importance of number in Lacan's thinking about the collective. He ends this paper by emphasising that there is a fundamental form of collective logic based on subjective assertion. The logic of a collective which has as its outcome subjective assertion is based on the number within the group, and this explains his requirement for no less than three members of the cartel.

Lacan sets himself up as a director of the EFP for the next four years. This is an important role concerned with overall direction of the school but was not designed to be filled in an autocratic manner.

The PLUS ONE has been the source of much controversy and mystification, and has never operated in the wayin which it was intended by Lacan. There may be many reasons for this. Is it the case that the members of the psychoanalytic groups who have tried to use the PLUS ONE have been so tied to the need for a leader, as outlined by Freud, that they have not managed to break out of this mould? The controversy and anxiety provoked by the role of the PLUS ONE may suggest something of this sort.

Lacan specifies that the school would be a circular organisation. This may give us a clue to some of the problems with the PLUS ONE. He does not specify what precisely he meant by a circular organisation. Certainly itis a flat structure without any hierarchical levels. In a sense he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. He did not want an overarching leader, he did not want a leaderless organisation, so how to answer this dilemma?

One of the problems of the circular organisation it that it conveys a sense of an inside and an outside, which is directly opposed to the thinking of Lacan in his explication of topology. Perhaps it would be more useful to replace his "circular organisation‟ with the idea of a toric organisation. By switching our thinking to the torus we now can get a better grasp of the PLUS ONE. The difficulty with trying to think through the role of the PLUS ONE as to whether he/she is part of the cartel, inside or outside is a blockage to our conception of what Lacan was trying to do. The torus like the circle has a genus of one, but can be transformed into many different shapes provided it is not cut, and provided it always maintains its unitary genus (a genus refers to the number of holes which a toplogicalsurface has). The inherent flexibility of the torus is much more congruent with the cartel than the circle, and furthermore allows for the unique approach that each and every member of each and every cartel is called upon to maintain, an approach which is driven by his/her own desire as he/she pursues the road to transformation as an analyst.

The torus also allows us to think of the role of the PLUS ONE, as being very specific in terms of structure, whilst simultaneously recognising that the process allows for an expression of the subjectivity of the person filling that role at any point in time. Some have suggested that the PLUS ONE does not have to be a person, as such, arguing that the role can be adequately filled by an idea, which as we have already seen can have as an intense a fascination as having a leader. There are two reasons why this is a misunderstanding. Firstly, the tasks the PLUS ONE is called upon to do are are spelled out in the Founding Act, and therefore must be carried out by somebody, and not by something. Secondly, if the role is to be characterised by an absence of a person, how does one then ensure that the essential distance is maintained between the o object and the ego ideal of each member of the cartel? The maintenance of such distance is precisely what the PLUS ONE can and ought to do.

The PLUS ONE is "charged with the selection, with the discussion and with the outcome to be reserved to the work of each [member of the cartel].[26] This is neither a position which involves much if any aspect of leadership. These tasks are clear and to the extent that we have had some success in the ISLP in the running of the cartel's may well be due to the fact that these duties have been discharged, to some degree at least, as they were intended, and perhaps, inadvertently or otherwise, have been done within a toric organisation.


[1] C. Gallagher. The Letter. The Founding Act, the Cartel and the riddle of the PLUS ONE. Issue 44, Summer 2010, p. 1. [2] S. Freud. Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. SE XVIII, p. 75.

[3] Ibid, p. 76. [4] Ibid. p. 85.

[5] Ibid. p. 86. [6] Ibid. p. 93.

[7] Ibid. p. 94.

[8] Ibid. p. 105.

[9] D. Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. London, Routledge, 1996. P. 81. [10] Op cit. P. 116

[11] Freud. SE XVIII, p. 116. [12] Ibid. p. 124-125. [13] Lacan states that „in every religion that deserves the name, there is in fact an essential element reserved for something operational, knownas a sacrament‟. (Four Fundamental Concepts , p. 265). Hence, he suggests, we get an operational and magical beyond of religion

[14] J. Lacan. Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. London, Penguin, 1979. P. 267.

[15] Ibid. p. 267.

[16] Ibid. p. 268. [17] Ibid. p. 268.

[18] Ibid. p. 268.

[19] J. Lacan. Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. London, Penguin, 1979. P. 270. [20] Ibid. p. 270.

[21] Ibid. p. 271. [22] Ibid. p 271.

[23] Ibid. p. 272. It should be noted that this is not exactly the diagram shown in Seminar XI. It is my understanding of what Lacan described -which in effect inserts the o object as the object of the ego. [24] Ibid. p. 272.

[25] Ibid. p. 273. [26] The Founding Act. p. 1.

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