"To read Roustang is to meet psychoanalysis at its most familiar and most strange: an elusive therapeutic enterprise whose most basic tenets are open to question. In How to Make a Paranoid Laugh or, What Is Psychoanalysis? Roustang plays the provocateur as he ranges overtopics such as the suggestively titled "The Laboratory of Cruelty" and "On the End of Analysis and Self-Hypnosis as a Cure." His style is of close questions and poetic leaps; therefore, this book is not for cautious readers."—Canadian Journal of PsychoanalysisWhat happens in psychoanalysis? Why doesn't anything happen in psychoanalysis? In this sequence of fifteen essays, the distinguished French clinician and theorist François Roustang bursts the long-floating bubble of the pretension psychoanalysis has to scientific method and the production of objective theory.
Roustang centers his argument on the deflating yet liberating power of the laugh—specifically, the freedom that comes from an ability to laugh at oneself and whatever apparently dogmatic stances one adopts in the process of elaborating one's self and one's thought. Resituating the power of psychoanalysis in terms not of an unconscious it resurrects but of an imagination it liberates, Roustang praises Freud as a new and much-needed Hesiod, as the teller of the tales of those deities and forces making up the only mythology still pertinent to our modernity.
For Roustang, only when psychoanalysis is recognized as myth and mystery can it accomplish its most crucial function: helping people exist as individuals rather than as derivative illustrations of depersonalizing, supposedly objective theories. Roustang sees the root of psychoanalysis's current impasse in its obsession with establishing itself as a science and thus betraying its potential ever actually to cure those who undertake it, ever to accomplish something more liberating than recruiting practitioners and acolytes. Roustang eloquently calls upon the analytic community to recognize the anguish and uncertainty of life as the untheorizable foundation of all real individuality, liberation, and remission of suffering. His finely nuanced portrait of modern individuality is relevant to a community of readers extending far beyond the limits of those interested in psychoanalysis.
François Roustang is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Paris. Three of his six previous books have been published in English: Dire Mastery: Discipleship from Freud to Lacan, Psychoanalysis Never Lets Go, and Lacanian Delusion.