Cartels: One of the two "lungs of the School" [1]


"One does not enter the school to rest, but to work there and work more: The School is 'the organism where a work must be accomplished…The teaching of psychoanalysis can only be transmitted from one subject to another by way of a transference of work" [2]


Inspired by Bion's method of the 'group without a leader' Lacan created the 'work group', which he named, cartel. The cartel first appears in 1964 in the 'Founding Act' of the École Freudienne de Paris (EFP) and is suggested as an original mode of working for psychoanalysts and those who want to study psychoanalysis.[3] During that time, the question for Lacan was how to get everyone to work without a master or hierarchy and as such the cartel is conceived of as a small work group whereby everybody works together and at the same level around a project centred on 'psychoanalysis'.[4] The "dismantling of the massiveness of the leader" is one of the cartel's principles achieved through the installation of the 'plus-One', a function occupied by an individual, who rotates thus preventing an identification of the individual with the function.[5]

The plus-One is chosen by the cartelisands and is "responsible for the selection, the discussion and the outcome to be accorded to the work of each".[6] His or her work is to intervene at different levels to facilitate a useful group dynamic. This can be done either through interpretation or theoretical intervention. We could say that the plus-One feminises the cartel by allowing the transition from the masculine logic of the all (i.e. the leader, "at least one") to the feminine logic of the not-all, which de-completes the collective by adding himself or herself to the group as plus-One and supports the principle of "sustained elaboration". [7]

In its relationship to the school, the cartel is one of its "organs"… "something that makes it lively, or… moribund if the organ is sick".[8] The work conducted in the cartel is in the form of an elaboration that is sustained by each and which is submitted to the attention and criticism of peers in a small group. It is work that can lead to a production and to transmission, as the plus-One supports the outcome of the work.


The cartel has several organising principles

Four people choose each other to work
Lacan indicated that the cartel is composed of a minimum of three, maximum of five and four people being the "right measure". The frequency of the meetings is decided by the cartelisands.

Chosen by the cartelisands.

The theme of work
Each cartelisand chooses a specific theme of work. This may be the reading of a seminar, the elaboration of a concept or of a case, the connection between psychoanalysis and other fields, etc. The cartel derives its title from a common theme that is added to each individual's theme.

Everyone's product
The work of the cartel does not lead to a collective production of knowledge. Rather, it is a matter for each one, according to the moment of his or her relation to psychoanalysis, to emit what was able to be modified in his or her relation to analytic knowledge.

A cartel should not last longer than one or two years. Its necessary conclusion allows the avoidance of inertia noticeable in working groups, which become eternal and hinder the appearance of a new knowledge for the subject.


Forming a cartel

The most important element is to form cartels of 4 and a plus-One. Once you have formed a cartel, please fill in the declaration form and send it to me at

If you would like to join a cartel or would like help in joining a cartel please indicate your interest and your theme of work by writing to me and I shall put you in touch with individuals who are also seeking to form a cartel.


A note on "digital cartels"

"Digital Cartels" are a recent invention and variation on the use of cartels. They are used to promote the work of preparation towards the Annual NLS Congress, which is made up of several individual societies and affiliated groups from across Europe and beyond. Here a group of four people come together, either face-to-face or over the internet, and work together on the theme of the Congress within a specified format for a maximum period of eight/nine months.

Further information on cartels can be found on the website of the New Lacanian School.

Peggy Papada, June 2015


  1. Holvoet, D. "Presentation at the SLP Congress in Milan." Email circulated via the NLS Messager. 12 May 2013.
  2. Lacan, J., "Founding Act", transl. by D. Hollier, R. Krauss, & A. Michelson, in Television/ A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment (London & New York: Norton, 1990), pp. 97-106. Acte de fondation, 1964, in Autre écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, pp. 229-241.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Laurent, E. "The Real and the Group", transl. by V. Voruz, in Psychoanalytic Notebooks, 4, Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis, London, 2000, pp. 34-48.
  5. Ibid., pp: 43-44.
  6. Lacan, J., "Founding Act", op.cit., p. 97.
  7. Holvoet, D. "Presentation at the SLP Congress in Milan", op.cit.,
  8. Ibid.