The law and the unconscious 57
principle of equality before the law. For Freud, it is sufficient for the process of
psychological development to evolve relatively normally, that is to say, the
symbolic order is internalised for the rule of law to function.
Instead, the desire to break the law in a psychoanalytic key, the desire to
destroy authority, is the central subject of Peter Goodrich's famous legal study of
psychoanalysis „The Unconscious is a Jurist”20 that actually resumes the study of
his predecessor, Pierre Legendre21. Both studies start from the same political event,
namely the attempt of corporal Lortie to kill the Prime Minister of Quebec. Lortie,
corporal in the Canadian army until the date of the attack, a seemingly psychically
normal individual, with vague skews considered within the limits of lax normality,
without a legal or clinical history, begins abruptly in an episode of decompensation
through a violent and seemingly inexplicable venting. Upon the medical history,
those who investigated the attack find out that the venting reaction started from a
leave requested by the corporal and refused by the superior. Apparently weird,
Lortie says the sergeant who refused to grant him the leave had the face of his
father. The violent venting in fact concerns the Prime Minister as an image of
authority and implicitly the image of the father.
Lortie's obsessive invocation of the image of his father who orders, refuses, or
hurts does not evoke only a Freudian interpretation of authority, but is also a legal
reference. The Roman law has given absolute power, power over life and death, to
the father of family, pater familias. The father's rights to rule, the almost
discretionary right from the private law, finds its pair in the discretionary right of
the Imperator in the public law22. Therefore, the Freudian comparison or
approximation in interpreting the history of corporal Lortie is not forced, and finds
even a historical justification; while in the public law institutions, the Lèse-majesté
is the murder of the Emperor, in private law the equivalence is the killing of the
father. Once again, in a psychoanalytic interpretation, the suppressed desire to
destroy authority is hidden and unleashes, as the hidden repressed desires emerge
in the killing of the pater famiIias as an embodiment of the Authority. Legendre
interprets Lortie's attempt to kill the Prime Minister as being in fact the attempt to
kill the Authority, just as Oedipus, killing his father actually killed the authority
that prevented him from fully accomplish his desire. The Authority refuses to the
subject the plenary access to enjoyment. The Lacanian term of enjoyment is more
appropriate, having a more intimate connection with the forbidden desire,
although Legendre and Goodrich are Freud's disciplined followers. The confluence
of the two stories lies at the level of patricide as a denial of authority or the forcing
of its limits.
20 Goodrich, Peter, The Unconscious Is a Jurist: Psychoanalysis and Law in the Work of Pierre Legendre,
in Legal Studies Forum 20/3, 1996, pp. 195-228.
21 Legendre, Pierre, Le crime du caporal Lortie: Traite sur le pere, Fayard, 1989.
22 For a broader study on dichotomy of public law - private law see also Lazar, Public Finance
Law, Universul Juridic Publishing, Bucharest, 2016, pp. 81-83.