From the study of Freud’s work, Lacan will highlight how polymorphous the relation to the father is in Freud. The vanishing of the father, noticed by Lacan in 1968 in a reply to Michel Certau, calls for new inventions of his place as transmitter of castration. The new forms of family, which emerged in recent decades in cultures that began to question the so-called patriarchy, account for a displacement of the figure of the Oedipal father to the operator of castration located in a family functioning that subverts what is expected of a mother or a father, or even dispenses with either of them. The most reticent people had warned that these changes would produce a disorientation in children about the distinction between the sexes and would erase the shared sense of what a family should be. However, psychoanalysis allows us to see today that the distinction between the sexes uses the imaginary and the symbolic to deal with the real sexual difference; and that children, from very early on, will seek to locate this difference in the unions that their parents have established, whatever sex they may be. The real father, as the agent of castration, is then the operator of a sexual distribution in which difference can be located.
Thus, families currently create diverse modes of shared sense of family. Cinema, literature, social organizations, reflect with an inventive style the new fictions: recomposed families, homoparental, extended families, of gay fathers or lesbian mothers, of parents who have changed sex or of parental unions with more than two adults. Psychoanalysis allows us to follow these changes hand in hand with the mutations on the father that Lacan elaborated throughout his teaching, and to note that the new discourses also produce phenomena of segregation. Children’s anxieties are still today, not the consequence of the longing for an oedipal family, but the effect of the place of the object to which they are relegated by the fact that the new family novels continue to be semblants with which to repair the non-existence of the Other.
In his 1969 “Note on the Child”, Lacan referred to the conjugal family as that which sustains and maintains a function of residue. The residue in question is that of the irreducible in the transmission that is expected from family ties, and which cannot be assimilated to the fulfillment of vital care. The function of residue then entails a subjective constitution, implying a relationship to a desire that is not anonymous, Lacan will say. If the operator of castration will not depend on the role assigned to the father, neither will the relation to a desire need a standard of parenting, as long as the one who fulfills it is not anonymous. And by non-anonymous, we can understand both the subject in his own name and the naming subject.
We find in today’s families many ways of naming -sometimes extremely sophisticated- what they do so that the child can definitively abandon the pacifier, what they do to name the sexual difference or what death implies. But naming, as a major effect of language, happens without being sought. It is to the father of Lacan’s last teaching that the function of naming is reserved, that is to say, to make an S1 enter into the functioning of communication. Jacques-Alain Miller, thus, says that the mission of the father is to teach communication, that is, to elucidate a language, to introduce a routine that makes the signifier coincide with the signified. We can say then that there is a relation to desire that implies its humanization and that passes through the nomination that arises from the routinization of the signifier with the signified. Although it is a function of language that happens alone, it needs a father or a mother to embody it.
In Seminar 20, Lacan refers precisely to routine as that which produces this association between signifier and signified. He recalls that the Copernican revolution produced a substitution in what occupied the center of the universe, understood as a system: where the earth was, Copernicus placed the sun. In the creation of this analogical discourse, the dominant point of the sphere, Lacan points out, is found at its center. And, thus, he refers to routine: What remains at the center is the fine routine that is such that the signified always retains the same meaning (sens) in the final analysis. That meaning is provided by the sense each of us has of being part of his world, that is, of his little family and of everything that revolves around it. What value then for routine if not that of establishing a center around which things revolve and thus establish a feeling of belonging?
Children’s fascination with the solar system, the stars, or the natural cycles of the seasons or day and night, which arises from their routine functioning, is well known. At the same time, families often use this to establish a narrative about a certain order of things. Family routines are supported by a few rituals that aim to place at the center an object around which revolves a cult determined by those who share this sense of center. The rituals necessary to achieve sphincter regulation, the strategies to make feeding an eminently shared moment, or the instructions to make children responsible for their hygiene or learning habits, are all part of a family’s task of making the order of the world function, even if it is reduced to these moments of routine. How to make the routine work when the conception of the center is no longer occupied by the classically stipulated roles of man and woman?
The child must perform one more operation, because the nomination that produces this routine function of the signifier leaves an open margin for a balance of jouissance, and thus the need to find a knotting. Then, this knotting is not the one that could be derived from the Copernican notion of the center as the foundation of the system. This is why Lacan privileges the perspective introduced by Kepler, which precisely corrects the image of the center and replaces it with the focus that is found at a point in an orbit. The Keplerian orbit will no longer be circular, around a center, but in an ellipse, or even in a straight trajectory. Lacan states that the consequence of this new perspective is that what is central is not what turns but what falls. At this point it is a matter of finding what goes wrong, what is presented as discontinuity: our recourse, in lalangue, is to that which shatters it (la brise)
Therefore, we could say that the challenge of the various forms of family, based on alliance rather than kinship and organized around the care of children, is to build a world of their own for the child, while at the same time taking care of what arises there in the form of discontinuity. Its major task is to construct a routine meaning that configures a small world to refer to, a family novel based on the privileging of a few signifiers in relation to others and to awaken, with this, the child’s interest in the enigmatic of the signifiers with which the relationship, in his or her parents, with a non-anonymous desire, has been named. Thus, this function of naming is open to anyone who is in a position to assume it, for it will be the operator that will knot and make a piece of the real enter into a signifier that names it. This operation of nomination is carried out in a double way: the name produces a hole at the level of meaning and at the same time it knots. This is the way Éric Laurent refers to names, which indicate both the place of jouissance and the subject’s defense against it..
From all this, one would expect the appearance of symptoms as an expression of the different types of knotting produced. In fact, the symptom is still, today, the effect of the fact that the real to which a son or daughter comes has been named. The new family forms leave behind the predominance of the Freudian Oedipus, but continue to have symptomatic ways of making family in their children. Lacan says it with a simple twist of the very terms used by him until the seventies: “Everything is sustained in so far as the Name-of-the-Father is also the Father of the Name, which doesn’t make the symptom any the less necessary”.
It is true that with this Father of the Name Lacan preserves the reference to the real father, but it is also true what we see in the new family configurations; that this function of nomination can be occupied by anyone who takes it upon himself. The next PIPOL 10 Congress, Wanting a child? Desire for Family and Clinic of Filiations, will be the occasion to shift the question from the Name of the Father to the Naming Father, and thus ask ourselves: What names does the desire for family bear today? And who is in charge of naming, in today’s families, the elements that are part of the universe of children?
Translation: Ana Inés Bertón
Revision: Belén Vigil Mendoza
Photography: ©Véronique Servais
 Lacan, J. «1968. Note on the Father and Universalism», in The Lacanian Review, no 3, 2017: 11
 Lacan, J. «1968. Note on the Father and Universalism». Op. cit.
 Lacan, J. «Note on the Child», in The Lacanian Review no. 4, 2018: 13
 Lacan, J. «Note on the Child», in The Lacanian Review no. 4, 2018: 13.
 Miller, J.-A. Piezas sueltas. Los cursos psicoanalíticos de Jacques-Alain Miller. Ed. Paidós, Buenos Aires, 2013: 38
 Lacan, J. Encore: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX. New York, WW Norton & Company, 1999: 42
 Lacan, J. Encore: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX. New York, WW Norton & Company, 1999: 44
 Laurent, É. Síntoma y nominación. Colección Diva, Buenos Aires, 2002: 139.
 Lacan, J. The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII. UK, Polity Press, 2016: 13