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The 21st Century Will Be Lacanian Or It Will Be Barbarian!

The Letter, Issue 19, Summer 2000, Pages 32 - 41


Jean-Pierre Lebrun

During his seminar of 9th January 1997 Charles Melman made the following remark:

The 21st Century will be Lacanian or it will be barbarian. What people call barbarian can be given a very strict, very rigorous definition. It is not simply a metaphor for vaguely designating the foreigner or the Barbaros, the person who could only say bar-bar-bar! Barbarism deserves a rigorous definition and I am happy to propose it to you. It consists in a social relation organised by a power that is no longer symbolic but real. From the moment that established power is supported, takes as reference its own force and nothing else, and does not try to defend or to protect anything other than its existence as power, well then we are barbarian.

What is proper to democracy, is that the real power, the real forces by which it is supported, the police, the army, this real power is at the service of an authority that has a purely symbolic reference. Barbarism, for its part, is outside discourse, it is not based on a discourse, it is based only on the number of agents that are at its service.

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