The Cartel

The cartel is a small group that works together individually on a common theme in order to discover, create, teach, and learn something new. The “cartel” is a special analytic group that exists somewhere between a “work group” and a “play group.” Jacques Lacan started the use of this practice in his Freudian School of Paris in order to further the process of psychoanalysis in extension beyond the intensive consulting room into the social relation. It is an attempt to found an analytic group. 


A predecessor to the cartel is Bion’s creation of the work group beyond the neurotic social forms of the “dependency, fight, and pairing groups” that compose the developmental stages of the individual, family, and society of bourgeois modernity marked by the Freudian “Oedipus Complex” in its broadest sense and the Hegelian “master-slave” relation.  A method developed in parallel with the cartel was Guattari’s schizoanalytic group – which we now call an “assemblage” – in which the place of analysand and analyst circulate with the larger group.


While intensive analysis works on the question of 1 and 2 in subjectivity, the cartel works on the question of 3 and 4 – even if the cartel is expanded to 5 and 6 or more. Thus it works on the odd and the even and the addition of the +1 that alters all small groups and relations subject to countable numbers. The schizoanalytic assemblage on the other hand works with the large group which is beyond countability and moves toward the transfinite. The cartel is countable and the subjectivity of the cartel is accountable. 


The various Lacanian schools following this lineage have practiced and experimented in different ways with this method. A simple method is to find subjects who desire to come together to work on a common theme in singular ways for a set amount of time to create something. 3+1=4 may be considered an ideal number but 5+1=6 or perhaps higher is an extended form. The function of the +1 who occasional attends the group from outside may serve to understand aspects of odd and even number in groups, as well as adding a forced position of the analyst into the group to assist with the operation and dynamics of the cartel. This function of the +1 may however become an internal operator especially after having been understood from the forced method. 


The group may meet in person or in some combination of other methods including remote audio phone, video Skype, or written email formats. The group may meet weekly, monthly, or on a schedule suiting the group. The group may produce writings, lectures, performances, or other creations – either internally or to be transmitted to the school or public at large. 


In a broad sense the cartel acts as crucial bridge from psychoanalysis in intension to psychoanalysis in extension, from the subject of self analysis to the infinite generic subject. It also extends Bion’s analytic “work group” beyond the limited economy of production and reason to play, desire, and creativity – passing through the object, the phantasy, the symptom, and the void of subjective destitution, en route to a new relation other than that imagined by relational psychoanalysis. 


The cartel may also be created by means of “vectorization.” A vector has magnitude and direction and thus experiments with both aspects of desire in the group. Individuals may send in a number of topics they wish to work on in a cartel, and then a blind other may assemble the individuals into cartels of common themes occurring in the entires. Individuals can then add and subtract themselves from this assemblage. In this case desire is more “blind” and not subject to the mimesis of “desire as the desire of the other.” This and other methods help to prevent the cartel from becoming a technical reading group subject to the discourse of the university, a hierarchical group dominated by the discourse of the master, or a hysterical group of hearsay, relativism, and chaos. Rather the circulation of the discourse of the analyst is the aim. In its highest form the cartel aims even beyond the discourse of the analyst to the position of the analysand in which each takes responsibility for his desire in constructing, demonstrating, and transmitting it to the other.