International Psycho-Analytical Association

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Sigmund Freud

The International Psycho-Analytical Association (IPA) was founded by Freud in 1910 as an umbrella group for the various psychoanalytic societies that were springing up around the world at that time. The first headquarters were in Zurich, and later moved to London, but the Association has been dominated by its American members ever since the 1930s, when most of the Viennese analysts emigrated to the United States.

Jacques Lacan


After resigning from the IPA-affiliated Société Psychanalytique de Paris (SPP) in 1953, to join the newly founded Société Française de Psychanalyse (SFP), Lacan was informed by letter that this also meant that he was no longer a member of the IPA.

From that moment on until his death, Lacan and the IPA were at loggerheads. During the SFP's subsequent campaign for IPA member­ship (which Lacan seems to have supported) Lacan was regarded by the IPA as the principal obstacle blocking negotiations. The main bone of contention was Lacan's use of sessions of variable duration, which he continued to practise despite repeated IPA admonitions.

In 1963 Lacan was expelled from the IPA. Eventually, in 1963, the IPA agreed to grant membership to the SFP on condition that Lacan be stripped of his status as a training analyst. Many of the leading analysts in the SFP agreed, but to many others (including Lacan) this was unacceptable. Lacan resigned from the SFP and, followed by a number of other analysts and trainees, founded his own school in 1964. From this point on, Lacan became much more vocal in his criticism of the IPA, accusing it of being a kind of church and comparing his own fate to Spinoza's "excommunication" from the synagogue.[1]

Lacan's Criticism

Lacan criticized both the institutional structure and the dominant theoretical tendencies of the IPA.

Institutional Level

As regards the institutional structure, he accused its bureaucratic procedures of producing nothing but mediocrities, and mocked its stuffy hierarchies.[2]


Lacan argued that Freud had organised the IPA in such a way because this was the only way of assuring that his theories, misunderstood by all his first followers, would remain intact for someone else (Lacan) to disinter and resuscitate later on. The IPA, in other words, was like a tomb whose only function was to preserve Freud's doctrine despite the ignorance of the members of the association, the implication being that once Lacan had breathed new life into the doctrine, the IPA no longer had any valid function at all.[3]


Even more important than this were Lacan's criticisms of the IPA training programme, which he accused of ignoring Freud's emphasis on the need for instruction in literary and cultural studies,[4], and for reducing the training analysis to a mere ritual.


The specific organisational structures on which Lacan organized his own school, such as the cartel and the pass, were aimed at ensuring that this school did not repeat these errors of the IPA.

Theoretical Level

On a theoretical level, Lacan levelled various criticisms at all the main theoretical tendencies in the IPA, including Kleinian psychoanalysis and [[[object]]-relations theory]], but his most sustained and profound criticisms were reserved for the school of ego-psychology which had achieved a dominant position in the IPA by the 1950s.


He accused the IPA of having betrayed Freud's most fundamental insights, renaming it the SAMCDA (société d'as­sistance mutuelle contre le discours analytique, or society for mutual assis­tance against analytic discourse[5]), and attributed this betrayal largely to the fact that the IPA was dominated by the USA.

Return to Freud

Lacan regarded his own teaching as a return to the insights that the IPA had betrayed .

See Also


  1. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 3-4
  2. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 474-86
  3. Lacan, Jacques. "Situation de la psychanalyse et formation du psychanalyste en 1956." 1956a. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966: 459-91.
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 473
  5. Lacan, Jacques. Télévision. Paris: Seuil, 1973 [Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment. Ed. Joan Copjec. New York: Norton, 1990]. p. 27