To understand what our practice of psychoanalysis specifies, it may be useful to look at ourselves from the outside, addressing our critics. There is an orientation in the Lacanian galaxy that sees the Freudian Field and its Schools centred around the thesis – which they consider ideological – of the “decline of the Father.” They consider it ideological because they attribute it to the Lacan of the thirties, that of Family Complexes . It is here that Lacan refers for the first time to a decline of the paternal image and a contraction of the traditional family into the smaller dimension of the conjugal family. According to these critics, the first of whom is Markos Zafiropoulos , we would have in this text a Durkheimian Lacan. It is Durkheim in fact who highlights this contrast between the ancient patriarchal family and the modern conjugal family . Lacan would then move away from Durkheim in the 1950s, after meeting Lévi-Strauss, giving life to the structuralist approach. From Lévi-Strauss, Lacan would have detected the idea of ”floating signifier,” which Lévi-Strauss, in the preface to the book by Marcel Mauss  indicates as the zero symbol, making it the pivot, according to Zafiropoulos, for the construction of the Name-of-the-Father signifier, and distinguishing from here the symbolic paternal function of the Father’s presence. On this assumption Zafiropoulos considers that our entire clinic focuses on the decline of the Name-of-the-Father, the theme of new symptoms with all that follows as an exercise in applied psychoanalysis. Since, according to his interpretation, contemporary pathology derives from a weakening of the symbolic function of the Father, the remedy could only be its strengthening, and the consequent restoration of this function.
This reading presents an evident distortion of our clinic, since in our practice we have not at all taken as objective the restoration of the Name-of-the-Father, rather the opposite. However, it is interesting to understand the logic from which this mystification derives.
The key point is precisely in the interpretation that Zafiropoulos makes of the zero symbol as Name-of-the-Father. It is true that Lacan, in Function and Field, mentions this zero symbol  after a paragraph in which he introduces the Name-of-the-Father, and the Name-of-the-Father is, up to the Seminar, a sort of supplementary, metalinguistic signifier, which has the function of coordinating the whole of the Other. Immediately afterwards however, in Seminar VI, Lacan asserts that there is no Other of the Other, that is, there is no signifier that sutures the symbolic system.
In the text to which Lacan refers, Lévi-Strauss interprets mana – the Melanesian term that generally indicates a life force of supernatural origin – as a floating signifier, as an index of what he considers an overabundance of signifiers with respect to signifieds. He therefore considers it equivalent to those French blanket terms such as truc, machine, what we in Italian would call a contraption, a deal, a stuff. (In English: a thingamabob, a whatchamacallit, a gizmo).
Ultimately, they are terms that express that indefinable something that if in the Polynesian world it is indicated with the term mana, it is nevertheless absolutely equivalent to a term from the ancient Scottish that we have adopted in the Western world: glamour . Like mana, glamour also belongs to the semantic field of magic, and the spell that makes a person appear more beautiful, taller, stronger. In Italian it is fascino (charm), it is that certain something, something undefinable that a person possesses and that makes it attractive.
Moreover, the term fascino comes from the Latin fascinum, which generally indicates an amulet against the evil eye, or a spell to bewitch something or someone. It is mostly a phallic amulet.
Priapus is in fact also called Fascinus. In all the forms in which it is expressed it is something that goes beyond the classifications of the symbolic, or that is not comprehended therein. Basically, therefore, Lacan and Lévi-Strauss approach the problem of the symbolic in a similar way: they start from the idea of a lack of harmony between signifier and signified, but then take two different paths .
For Lévi-Strauss, the disharmony between signifier and signified manifests itself in an overabundance of signifiers that cannot be placed in a meaning. From his point of view, the surplus is on the side of the signifier. However, things can also be seen from the other side, meaning that the disharmony consists of a scarcity of signifiers with respect to what there is to signify.
From here we see that if Lévi-Strauss makes the supplementary signifier a sort of anchoring point that establishes the relationship between signifier and signified, it compensates for the inequality, for Lacan this zero symbol is rather something that becomes an index of the lack in the Other, that which he marks as:
In the language of the 1950s, Lacan speaks of lack, and lack is something that ultimately finds its place in order. Based on this, he defines the end of the analysis, the acceptance of castration considered as a lack that nothing can fill.
In the last Lacan, however, the perspective changes, one speaks rather of a hole, and the hole has no place in any order, it is a sort of undertow in the system, a power of destabilisation, that maintains a differential, and this shift from lack to hole also shows how the drive has rediscovered its function in Lacan’s last teaching.
Ultimately, therefore, we see that Lévi-Strauss goes in the sense of anchoring, fixing, balancing, regulating the symbolic system. Hence the conception that is made of mental illness, completely bringing it back to a condition that can be defined as sociogenetic. According to him, it is a question of subordinating the psychological fact to the sociological fact. Thus, he considers that individual psychopathological behaviours consist in the formation of a weakened symbolism, different from the social one. It is clear that in this perspective the treatment of mental problems can only consist in bringing mental deviations back to the mainstream of collective symbolism.
In this sense, taking this perspective, it is clear that the Name-of-the-Father becomes that whose prerogatives must be re-established to lead the deviant subject to healing. This reveals what is the basic limit of the socio-genetic conceptions of mental illness: the perspective they offer is that of adaptation.
This is also true if we take things in the opposite direction to that of Lévi-Strauss, as in the case of Basaglia. In the history of Italian psychiatry and beyond, Basaglia has played a fundamental role. Starting from a sociogenetic conception of mental illness, he made it his own and carried out a reform drive that transformed the situation of psychiatric care in Italy. Basaglia in fact, came to the conclusion that it is not the patient who must be fixed, but society, and that mental illness would disappear in a just society. It is a more interesting perspective than that of Lévi-Strauss, but still part of the premise of a total suturing between subject and society.
The ultimate aim of the sociogenetic theory is adaptation, both in the conservative version of Lévi-Strauss, where it is a matter of tuning the subject to the dominant signifiers of social symbolism, that is, to what acts as the Name-of-the-Father, and in the revolutionary version of Basaglia, where it will be a matter of agreeing on what will be, when it happens, the symbolism of the just society.
Translation: Carla Antonucci
Review: Caroline Heanue
Picture: ©Véronique Servais.
 Jacques Lacan (1938), Family Complexes in The Formation of the Individual, 2003, Paperback.
 Markos Zafiropoulos, Lacan e le scienze sociali, Alpes, Roma 2019.
 Emile Durkheim (1982), “La famille conjugale,” in Revue philosophique, 1921.
 Claude Lévi-Strauss (1950), “Introduzione all’opera di Marcel Mauss,” in Marcel Mauss, Teoria generale della magia, Einaudi, Torino 2000.
 Jacques Lacan (1966), “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis,” in Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English, Transl. by Bruce Fink, W.W. Norton and Co., New York, 2006, p. 231
 Marco Focchi, Il glamour della psicoanalisi, Antigone editore, Torino 2012
 Jacques-Alain Miller, 1,2,3,4, Unpublished course, lesson of 7 March 1985