Père-version and the decline of patriarchy
Lacan refers to the decline of patriarchy – paternalism is the word he uses in « Guiding Remarks for a Convention on Female Sexuality » of 1958. In the last section he wonders whether the maintenance of marriage in the decline of paternalism is due to the transcendent place of women in the social bond. At this point in his teaching, Lacan has formalised the Freudian Oedipus with the Name of the Father as the establishment of the law: namely, as the signifier that operates on jouissance and regulates it. In the seminar that follows, Seminar 6, Lacan begins a transformation of the notion of the Name of the Father that will go from the father as symbolic guarantee to the father as function. The question posed in « Guiding Remarks » somehow finds its answer in the logical development of the notion of the father. When Lacan asks why marriage is maintained despite the decline of paternalism, he finds the answer in the transcendent place occupied by women. That is to say, the desire of the Other is embodied in women, even in the decline of paternalism. This point will become central and will be clarified by the notion of the perversely oriented father and his place in the family. It is, in fact, a journey that goes from the Freudian father whose murder institutes the alliance between men and the interdict on the women of the clan, to the Lacanian father whose civilising function is based on a père-versely oriented desire. Père-version occurs when a man makes « a woman the object a that causes his desire ». It is, in effect, the father « who singularises his desire in relation to one woman among all the others; he is only normative if his desire is singular. » In other words, it is through his symptom that he will be able to exercise his civilising function.
Thus, in Lacan, the father finds his place in the decline of patriarchy. If a woman can embody the desire of the Other for a man, then the father can be deduced as a function in the regime of the non-existence of the sexual relation. The paternal function is not based on interdiction, but on that which allows access to jouissance. The perversely oriented father performs his civilising function in the one-by-one regime : « Now it is a question of making a woman the cause of the father’s perversion. Through this particular alliance, the subject can have access to the real of the jouissance at stake. » It is in this context that the paternal function exercised as « wowing the family » [épater la famille] comes to the fore. It is not the pater familias who imposes the authority and the law, but the one who can carry out his function through the surprise of the symptom. Here the father has his place beyond patriarchy. Also, beyond genealogy as it was known in patriarchal societies.
Indeed, with psychoanalysis, it is possible to read the singular solutions of each subject in a civilisation in which the family is inscribed in the regime of the one by one and each family romance has its genealogical tree, to be sketched each time.
Coming out of the age of the father
However, it may be that we are even further as far as the father is concerned. This is what Jacques-Alain Miller has called the « fed up » with the father : « We are in the phase of coming out of the age of the father. » It may be that today’s civilisation is the beginning of the end of the era of the father. We see it in the failure of every discourse that wants to establish an order, let alone a hierarchy. The doctor is not above the patient, nor the teacher above the pupil. Nor are parents above children. Within these effects of generalised democratisation – as well as of generalised segregation – we find what has been called « depathologisation », which coexists without contradiction with the request for a particular diagnosis, which should not be discriminatory but a guarantee of a right.
In terms of sexual distribution, virility and femininity must be resolved in different ways than in the past if « the ideal type of sex » is missing. Thus, alongside the feminisation of men, there are frequent passages to the act such as gang rapes. Outside of the father, the relationship between women and modesty changes ostensibly. It is no longer women who maintain a close relationship with modesty as a barrier before the real. Quite the contrary, as is shown by the forms and means of current exhibitionism, decidedly favoured by technology. Then there are the singular solutions that are grouped under the term gender fluid, to which a subject can resort to name their symptomatic solution faced with the signifier that is missing in sexuality.
For all this, we are called upon to elucidate how psychoanalysis is preparing today for the exit from the era of the father. Lacan left us a compass to orient ourselves: the symptom as an attempt at a solution to reknot the subject’s link with the jouissance of the body. The variety of these attempts can take place outside the father, but not without the father. Although Lacan also warned us that this logic goes « from the father to the worst ». Indeed, the clinical question in the critique of patriarchy involves elucidating what will come to take the place of the father – even more : what is already taking his place. Moreover, we are called upon to know more about this « worse » of which we are warned. What is the operator of the civilising function in the exit from the era of the father? By what mechanism is maternal desire humanised in the coming out of the age of the father? In short, by what means does the subject obtain the necessary knotting that allows access to jouissance, that which – with Lacan – we have learned to call desire?
Translated from the Spanish by Florencia F.C. Shanahan
Reviewed by Linda Clarke
Picture: @Fred Treffel
 In French in the original. Lacan’s way of writing « père-version », « perversion » and « version of the father ». [TN]
 « why does the social instance of women remain transcendent to the contractual order propagated by labor ? And, in particular, is the status of marriage maintained by its effect, despite the decline of paternalism ? », Lacan J., Écrits, London/New York, Norton & Co., 2006, p. 620.
« Pourquoi enfin l’instance sociale de la femme reste-t-elle transcendante à l’ordre du contrat que propage le travail ? Et notamment est-ce par son effet que se maintient le statut du mariage dans le déclin du paternalisme ? », Ecrits, Paris, Seuil, 1966, p. 736.
 For an excellent reflection on the father in Lacan, see Éric Laurent’s article « A New Love for the Father », in The Dead Father. A Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Ed. By Lila J. Kalinich, Stuart W. Taylor, London, Routledge, 2008, p. 75-90.
 Lacan J., Seminar 22, « RSI », lesson of 21st January 1975, unpublished. In French in Ornicar ?, nº3, p. 107.
 Miller J.-A., L’Un-tout-seul [The One all alone], lesson of 4th May 2011, unpublished.
 Laurent É, op. cit., p. 82.
 Lacan J., Seminar 21, … or Worse, Polity Press, 2018, p. 184.
 Miller J.-A., « Nous n’en pouvons plus du père » [We are fed up with the father], in Lacan Quotidien, n° 317, 26th April 2013, available online. http://www.lacanquotidien.fr/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/LQ317.pdf
See also : « Coming out of the age of the father », Lacan Web Télévision, available online : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S020Zoy9XQ