The Symptom: Then & Now

From I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing, by Christopher Bollas.

In the essay he traced the origin of the idea of citizenship and, having outlined some of its properties, he concluded that ambivalence towards the contemporary state had seeped down into a private loathing of being a citizen in the first place. Thus those who acted on behalf of civitas were seen as creeps who were upsetting the apple-cart, that cart now being a world composed of state-sanctioned anarchism. (p. 6)
He subsequently wondered in his essay whether the police had gone beyond accepting crime as a way of life [...] and had moved on to a more disturbing vision: that crime was life. To live a life of crime was therefore imply to be alive, to live like everyone else. (p. 7)

Bollas is not a Lacanian, but this seems similar to how Lacanians think about how the social order has been radically restructured since psychoanalysis was created.

In addition, it seems to me that Bollas and many Lacanians are saying a version of the same thing: In the past, symptoms were created as a reaction to castration/the law castrating or prohibiting jouissance. Today, there is a new demand to get as much jouissance as possible (e.g., "Do what makes you happy!" "Follow your dreams!" "Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something!" etc.).

Thus, there is this massive difference between the past, when symptoms were created in an attempt to sneak bits of jouissance, and today, when symptoms are a reaction to the demand to accumulate as much jouissance as one can.

Later in this same text, there is this bit that made me laugh.

Maybe those who were depressed, he mused, were actually holding the state together. Maybe they were the quiet glue in a social fabric that was otherwise headed toward chaos as depression --in a way, protecting people from disorder, as they were too bummed to be anarchic. (pp. 7-8)

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