Current Events


On the Idea of a Radical[1] Emancipatory Project

 A Series of Public Seminars in Livingston, Montana

No knowledge prerequisites! Attend if you’re intrigued!

 What can happen in a small town in Montana when people who still dare dream of a radically better world get together to discuss the interfaces of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Hegelian philosophy, as articulated especially by Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek?

 In Livingston, Montana, we begin an ongoing series of public lectures and seminars which will take seriously the idea that today’s pervasive technocratic solutions to socio-economic and environmental injustices are short-sighted, inherently perverse, and ultimately ineffectual.  Even as they claim to be hopeful and creative responses to today’s problems, our dominant policies and worldviews only serve to perpetuate our current deadlock.  Here are a few examples: The disdainful dismissiveness for any serious critique of capitalism. Control of the public message in terms of what is possible through psychoanalytic treatment, over and against the cognitive and neuro-sciences and psychopharmacology. Educational policies which cloud over the most crucial questions regarding equal educational opportunity. Whether our current global politico-economic trajectory is capable of saving the Earth.  In these matters and so many others, there is no place in the public discourse for deep psychological and philosophical analysis of contemporary society.

The ongoing lecture and seminar series offers an exception to this silence.   We will bring philosophical and psychoanalytic tools to the table and together try to look through and beyond contemporary public rhetoric to what prevents us from collectively, truly dreaming of a better world, of a world in which there is an actual material Good and Justice for all; we will try to expose places in contemporary life where policies and programs which claim such noble aims actually amount to, and conceal, a mere guilt-relieving perpetuation of the status quo.

We will dare to dream of, and will try to flesh out the contours for, a radical emancipatory politics and social relations, the likes of which is usually dismissed as pie-in-the-sky.   We will dare to conjure up the possibility of a transformed human ethic, in which everyone would ask “What is good for all?” and not “What is good for me?”

Joseph Scalia III will present the grounding philosophical and psychoanalytic concepts and will lead the seminar discussions.  The first gathering of the series will be held at his office, 103 ½ South Main Street – Room 11, in Livingston, Montana, on Tuesday, July 3, 2012, 2:00 – 3:30 PM.

Joseph Scalia III is a psychoanalyst and cultural critic in Livingston, Montana.  He is a Psya.D. Dissertator in Psychoanalysis and Culture at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, Director of Northern Rockies Psychoanalytic Institute and its Center for Cultural Critique and Intervention, and a member of Groupe Interdisciplinaire Freudien de Recherche and d’Intervention Clinique et Culturelle.  He is the author of Intimate Violence: Attacks Upon Psychic Interiority, published by Columbia University Press, and, most recently and with Lynne Scalia, “Ideological Critique and Ethical Leadership”, in Philosophical Studies in Education.

[1] “Radical” here should be taken in the sense of both of its first two definitions, as appearing in the Oxford American Dictionary: 1) relating to the basic nature of something; fundamental, and 2) supporting [the potential for] complete political or social reform.


 In studying the phenomena which testify to the activity of the destructive instinct, we are not confined to observations on pathological material. Numerous facts of normal mental life call for an explanation of this kind, and the sharper our eye grows, the more copiously they strike us.  – Sigmund Freud (1937) from  Analysis Terminable and Interminable


It is not that psychoanalysis can be used to conduct an ethnographic inquiry.  That said, … in order to have perhaps a slight chance of conducting a correct ethnographical inquiry, one must, I repeat, not proceed by way of psychoanalysis, but perhaps, if there is such a thing, be a psychoanalyst.  – Jacques Lacan (1970) from The Other Side of Psychoanalysis: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XVII, pg. 92

If I could see things from your perspective, and you could see things from my perspective, instead of assuming that you’re wrong or I’m wrong, if we begin to turn it around, looking at it this way and looking at it that way, we may be able to develop a deeper appreciation for ourselves and for each other, an appreciation that instantaneous reactions that see things only one way can’t develop.     – Michael Eigen (2011) from Faith and Transformation

Project Description: For decades now, the Gallatin Mountain Range in Montana has been a focal point controversy, as competing stakeholders to the use of the Gallatin’s more than half-million acres of wildlands.  Wilderness designation (under the 1964 Wilderness Act), real estate and industrial development interests, motorized and mechanized recreation compete with each other in ways which seem insoluble and which often express themselves in enmity and hatred.  There have been numerous efforts of various sorts – “collaboration,” negotiation, public hearings, litigation, propaganda campaigns having failed so many times to settle matters definitively that disputants often despair at the state of affairs.

With my background in the environmental movement – and my efforts to reach out to, and develop rapport with, traditional “impossible” opponents – and my years practicing as a psychoanalyst and leader of a small psychoanalytic institute, I have been able to bring together a small group of stakeholders who ordinarily do not even speak to one another, much less do so in any meaningful way.  These include representatives of two virulently opposing environmental groups, and a representative of a motorized recreation group that is typically considered to be the most radical and strident of Montana’s motorized recreation advocates.  We have meet now three times, with participants being so far very pleased with what we have accomplished, and even valuing our work highly, I dare say.  We have agreed to build up a sense of trust in the group’s ability to work together before we invite more participants to join us.

Purpose of the “Gallatin Project”: What follows is a statement of CCCI’s notion of what I have termed cultural intervention and is what guides my work on this project.

In today’s society of such great antagonisms, ironically coupled with claims of collaborative undertakings to resolve them, “collaboration” often means something more like selective collaboration and the ignoring of prospective interlocutors who are deemed too strident or “ideological” to be included, as though those doing the excluding are not themselves embedded in an ideological matrix.

In truth, it must be said that all positions which present worldviews, or claims to be comprehensive views -be they anywhere from global to local – are precisely ideological.  Ideologies are not inherently bad; they organize our thinking and are actually necessary to human society.  Yet they also, always and by definition, are only capable of telling part of the story; we get ourselves into trouble when we fail to hold open a space for the untold’s emerging.  There is always an infinity of considerations, any of which might be critically overlooked by any of us, at any time.  There is always a gap in a narrative, there is always a leftover in any account.  All we can do is compose a viewpoint which does the best representational job of which we are capable at any given time, coupled with the maintenance of an abiding potential space for the untold to appear.

When all stakeholders to a contested viewpoint are included, when they are included in a radical[1], an as-complete as we know to make it, collaboration, what sort of outcome might be possible?  What if we begin with an effort at humanizing each other, radically, fully humanizing each other.  That is to say, suppose we take the time – considerable time – to give each other a hearing, while the one speaking addresses their listeners respectfully.   Suppose we each truly speak our views – not spit them, as too often happens – and we fully hear why each party cherishes the view that he or she does, what place that view occupies in their lives, why it matters to them; suppose we do that fully enough that we come to understand, in a nonjudgmental way, how their viewpoint makes sense for them.  What if all discussants do that with each other?  What if the great psychological effort involved in such an undertaking actually succeeds?

And then, only then, after that considerable time and effort has been invested, suppose we subject our own and each other’s narratives, our own and each other’s accounts of a particular contested viewpoint, to critical scrutiny.  Suppose we ask ourselves and each other to take account of gaps, remainders that might have been exposed in the humanizing of each other, or exposed in questioning of ourselves and each other, after we have first achieved a mutual radical humanization.  Or, with proper meeting leadership, interlocutors might move back and forth in these positions and aims as a conversation evolves over time; one might share a life view here, be asked to reflect on an oversight there, etc.

Imagine the possibility that any or all – we will not be able to know beforehand – of the worldviews that we will have taken into this undertaking, this undertaking that is here called cultural intervention, imagine that any or all of the viewpoints with which we began have been exposed to possible ruptures in their coherence.  In fact, imagine that we might actually emerge with new thinking, with fundamentally altered points of view that none of us could have anticipated at the beginning.

Such an effort is a far cry from anything like mediation, facilitation, or negotiation.  It aims at something much more far-reaching, but something which may be necessary in order to break up longstanding logjams and to have any lasting success, to be owned by a societal collective, a true community that aims to exclude no one from what life has to offer.

It is not for the faint-of-heart or for anyone wishing only to win a place for his own point of view.  It is only for those willing to make the multifariously strenuous psychological effort whose gains we would hope to be great and ground-breaking.