Affect and Contract

That the Law gives way to affect, surprises. Nothing seems further from the Law than the register of affects. One signs a contract. One cannot say the next day: “I no longer want anything to do with this gentleman, I tear up the contract” – at least not without penalty. The Law is constructed precisely so that affects do not affect contracts. Affects pass, the contract remains. However, if an affective condition has to be mentioned in a contract of association, it is perhaps that “the symbolic order” is not enough, that there is a “beyond of the contract”, with which the Law itself must cope.

Is it Imaginary?

Is this “something else” imaginary in nature? At the level of the imaginary, the standard relation is neither the contract, nor affection; it is an assassination, that is to say: you or me, me or the others. Recall the mirror stage. Aggressiveness persists, in one form or another, in the social bond; it arises as soon as the discourse which contains it weakens. Certainly, there is love, rooted in the imaginary. But affectio societatis is certainly not love.

Human Tapestry
Mix Media
Mila R. Haynes


Let’s say a word about marriage, which isn’t love either. Marriage is a contract. We accept as grounds for divorce what we call in French l’incompatibilité d’humeur[incompatibility of mood or temperament]. Look at Charles and Diana: when she wants to dance, he wants to go horse riding, when he comes in, she goes out, and vice versa. In terms of incompatibility – Lacan mentions the word in his Radiophonie, there is pathos: it is about suffering, about a certain way of suffering. Marriage is not just a contract; it is perhaps the desire to suffer together, of the suffering of the one by the other, with the other. The truth: it’s that the one is always incompatible with the other. When we no longer want to be [incompatible], that’s when we divorce. The mood of the one and that of the other are [then] said to be incompatible. But the incompatibility is established above all between mood and contract: a certain mood is incompatible with the contract.

And that’s what the contract provides for: the mood [humour] condition.