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]

Photograph by VDcollective ©


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.



"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


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 mars 1980 Jacques Lacan (extract)
This is a text read by Lacan in his seminar whereby he formalizes the cartel

" […] with them, without delay, I inaugurate the Freudian Cause and restore in their favour the basic organ taken from the foundation of the School, that is to say the cartel, of which, having tested it, I refine the formalisation.
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, if he is anyone must be someone. On him falls the burden to watch over the internal effects of the enterprise, and to stimulate its elaboration.
Thirdly - To prevent the glue effect, there must be permutation at the end, set at one year, maximum two.
Fourthly - No progress is to be expected, other than from periodically bringing the results into the open as working crises.
Fifthly - The drawing of lots will ensure the regular renewal of the bearings created in order to vectorise the whole.



  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.