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Goldbach on Drug Categorization

From “Editorial: Technology in Reverse” (2012):

If we accept Ostow’s categorization of drugs, we then have to ask new questions about psychoanalysis itself as a drug. Goldbach, equating technological gadgets (supplements, prostheses, etc.) with drugs, poses two questions for us - Is psychoanalysis a toxin? What is a toxicology that includes psychoanalysis?


To address the first question we should note that for Goldbach a drug seems to be that to which we are addicted, by definition. On one hand an addiction is something which one can overcome, but on the other hand people are fundamentally addicts to something, which we call their ‘drug.’ In the first case the overcoming of the addiction seems to require cleansing the ego of drug influence, and in the second case the overcoming of the addiction seems to require strengthening the ego’s control despite the continued influence of the drug. In neither case, then, could psychoanalysis allow itself to be a toxin, because each case demands an ego tonic therapy. Both optimism and pessimism lead to the tonic principles of ego psychology.

However, psychoanalysis seems to be less tonic than we might think when including psychoanalytic theory itself in our toxicology. Goldbach seems to hold both sides of the antinomy to be true - overcoming addiction can only mean transforming oneself to a new addiction. Insofar as psychoanalysis aims to mobilize the dialectic of one’s desire or re-roll the dice on one’s fundamental fantasy, psychoanalysis could be understand as a toxin, since psychoanalysis would require itself to decenter the ego function as a toxin does.

Here tonic and toxic functions are related to two different ways of ‘getting off’ that are reflected in Kant’s distinction between the motive to be happy and the motive to be worthy of happiness. The tonic function, which strengthens the ego, promotes happiness or sexual interest; hence such goals are principles for ego psychologists today (as my non-analytic therapists never failed to remind me). The toxic function, which decenters the ego, promotes a subjective revolution of interest or “bypasses the affliction of symbolic castration, signifying speech, and sexuality, not to mention the always problematic encounter with the desire of the Other, to produce anonymous, autistic, addictive, and asexual jouissance” (8). Thus we can understand why Goldbach understands himself to be a Lacanian, since “There is no other definition of a drug, Lacan contends, than that which makes it possible to break the marriage with le petit-pipi, and whereas Freud considers addiction in terms of a relation with the phallus akin to masturbation, in which the libidinal being finds autoerotic satisfaction without a sexual partner in the social link, Lacan sees it as a break with the relation to the phallus, whereby the speaking-being finds alloerotic satisfaction or jouissance in the death-driven disarticulation of discourse and the detumescence of the organ” (8). In other words we can understand drugs, or fundamental subjective supplements, either as the prosthesis to which we are fixated (we do not separate ourselves from it because it makes us happy) or as the tool to which we may be faithful by renewed identification (we do not separate ourselves from it because it is our consolation for being self-insufficient).

However, Lacan’s own account of drugs in therapy is less than favorable, as we will see.
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