Cartels: One of the two "lungs of the School"

"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" (Jacques Lacan, Founding Act)

Photograph by VDcollective ©


Inspired by Bion's method of the 'group without a leader', Lacan created the 'work group' that 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. 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 in which everybody works together and at the same level around a project centred on 'psychoanalysis'. The "dismantling of the massiveness of the leader" is one of the principles of the cartel and this is achieved through the installation of the 'plus-One', a function occupied by an individual for the duration of the cartel, in a role which rotates thus preventing an individual from identifying or being identified with that function.

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" (Lacan, "Founding Act"). 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, de-completing the collective by adding him- or herself to the group as plus-One while supporting the principle of "sustained elaboration".

In its relationship to the school, the cartel is defined as being one of its "organs"… "something that makes it lively, or… moribund if the organ is sick". The work conducted in the cartel takes the form of an elaboration sustained by each member, 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.

Peggy Papada (updated July 2018)


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.

The plus-one is 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 person's individual theme.

Each person's own product
The work of the cartel does not lead to a collective production of knowledge. Rather, it is a matter for each person, according to where they are in relation to psychoanalysis, to draw out what it had been possible to change in their relation to analytic knowledge.

A cartel should not last longer than one or two years. Its necessary conclusion makes it possible to avoid the 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 online declaration form.Please also send me a copy 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.



"4+one", the NLS Cartels' Newsletter is a recent invention and a tool of the School for the dissemination of the ongoing work done in cartels by their members.

Cartel members who wish to send a paper should send it to Frank Rollier, NLS cartel delegate: who will submit it to the Reading Committee. Papers should be short (up to 3,500 characters maximum) and punchy, written either in English or in French.

For more information, click here.


Peggy Papada, updated July 2017



Cartel Study Day
With Frank Rollier, NLS Cartel Delegate

5th October 2019 (14:00-17:30)

Cartel Study Day

Are you interested in reading Lacan, working on a seminar, a theoretical concept or a clinical question? Are you new to the Lacanian orientation of psychoanalysis and want to find your way into learning more about it or studying it more methodically? Working with others in a cartel might be what you are looking for.

Lacan established the cartel device at the same time he created his School. What is it that makes the cartel so fundamental and central to our orientation?

To learn more about cartels join us for our special event on the 5th of October, about this Lacanian innovation and crucial device for the study of psychoanalysis.

There will be an opportunity:
a) to hear the product of various cartels and discuss the elaborations of cartel members:
“Time in Psychoanalysis” - Oriol Cobacho
"The Logic that Haste Determines" - Henrik Lynggard
“Psychoanalysis and Truth” - Nikos Skarvelis
“The Political Economy of Jouissance” – Scott Wilson

b) to learn more about cartels in a question and answer session on cartels where you can ask all that you ever wanted to know about cartels – chaired by Frank Rollier, the NLS Delegate for Cartels.

c) and finally, to hear an introduction to the NLS 2020 theme on Interpretation: from truth to body event, by Frank Rollier. This is a theme that we will be developing throughout the year, as we’ll be working towards the next NLS congress to be held in Ghent on 26 and 28 June 2020.

You can read the orientation text to the theme, by Eric Laurent, on the NLS website: as well as Bernard Seynhaeve’s argument which emphasizes that the analyst interprets with his body.

This is an opportunity to remind everyone that the start of the year is a great time to form a cartel. The plus-ones of cartels need to register new cartels, as well as those continuing for a second year, so that they can appear in the 2019 cartels catalogue. Plus-ones are invited to register their cartels on the NLS website using the cartel declaration form.

Please also keep in mind the « 4 + one », the NLS cartels’ Newsletter, the latest issue (No12) of which has just been published and you can find here. In this issue you will find the incisive and beautiful text Patricia Tassara presented to us here in London at our cartel study day last year, in which she speaks about the elusive function of the Plus One. « 4 + one » offers a fantastic opportunity to disseminate the work done in cartels.

To purchase a ticket for this event please click the link below:


Peggy Papada, Cartel coordinator & Secretary of the London Society


Cartel Day
6th October 2018 (2-6pm)

Are you interested in reading Lacan, working on a seminar, a theoretical concept or a clinical question?

Join us on 6th October to hear more about the work done in cartels, Lacan's methodological innovation and primary mechanism for the study of psychoanalysis in a way that introduces and sustains an awakening, insofar as each cartel member's desire for knowledge is called upon.

The study day consists of a highly varied programme of brief presentations whereby each participant will say something about the "bits of knowledge" they have gained via their work in their respective cartels.

The event will be chaired by Vincent Dachy, member of the London Society and the New Lacanian School.

We are delighted that Patricia Tassara, current Analyst of the School (AS) will be returning to London, to participate in our study day with a presentation on the role of the Plus one.

Towards the end of the day, there will be opportunities to form cartels, either towards this year's NLS theme Urgent! or other topics of interest and why not by "random draw" for those who dare to bet on surprise. Anyone who is interested in reading Lacan can participate in cartels.

Please contact Peggy Papada for any queries related to this event or to cartels overall at

We look forward to seeing you there



Texts on Cartels

"The Founding Act" - 21 June 1964 Jacques Lacan (extract)
Jacques Lacan presents the principles of the cartel for the first time.

"Those who enter this School will undertake to fulfil a task that is subject to both internal and external supervision. In exchange they are assured that nothing will be spared in order that anything valuable they do gets the attention it deserves and in the appropriate place. To carry out this work we shall adopt the principle of sustained elaboration in small groups. Each group (we have a name to designate them) will be composed of at least three people, five at most, four is the right balance. PLUS ONE responsible for the selection, the discussion and the outcome to be accorded to the work of each. After a certain period of functioning the elements of the group will find themselves invited to permutate into another group. The position of responsibility will not constitute a hierarchy for which service rendered might be capitalized into access to a higher grade, and no one will have to regard himself as demoted for entering into the rank of work at the base. For the reason that every personal endeavour will place its author under conditions of critique and supervision to which all work undertaken will be submitted in the School."


"D'écolage" ­– 11 March 1980, Jacques Lacan
This is a short extract from a text written by Lacan on the dissolution of the École Freudienne de Paris and the founding of the École de la Cause Freudienne. In it he reaffirms the cartel as the primary mechanism for conducting work in the School and makes some further procedural clarifications:

" […] with them, without delay, I inaugurate the Cause Freudienne and, on their behalf, restore the fundamental device taken from the foundation of the School, namely the cartel, the formalisation of which, having been tested, I refine.

Firstly, four people choose each other to pursue a work which must have its product. I specify: a product proper to each one and not collective.

Secondly, the conjunction of four is accomplished around a plus-one who, while he is anyone, must be someone. It is his responsibility to watch over the internal effects of the enterprise, and to provoke its elaboration.

Thirdly, to prevent the glue effect [l'effet de colle], there must be a permutation at the end, set at one year, maximum two.

Fourthly, no progress is to be expected, other than by periodically bringing the results as well as the crises of the work to light.

Fifthly, a random draw will ensure the regular turnover of established points of reference in order to vectorise the whole."