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Deleuze was of course an absolute genius, but I think that Guattari should have been shot.
Slavoj Žižek allegedly[1]
haha human-machine go brrrrr
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Anti-Oedipus[2] is a 1972 acid trip book written by french thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. The book is the first half of the Capitalism and Schizophrenia series and is regarded as a critical work within postmodern philosophy and post-structuralism.

Like most works of postmodern philosophy, Anti-Oedipus covers many areas of study and is immensely cross-disciplinary. Deleuze and Guattari engage with philosophical problems (both modern and postmodern), politics, economics, linguistics, anthropology, marxism, and most apparent from the title, psychology. Even if it is seen as slightly outdated, the text is still a good framework for revolutionary change and puts forth many good insights into psychoanalysis and authoritarian culture.

It's also like most postmodern philosophy in how it is nearly incomprehensible.

Background[edit]

Wilhelm Reich and Hitler[edit]

In 1933, Wilhelm Reich published The Mass Psychology of Fascism, a psychological text that aimed to answer the question: "Why do people willingly submit to fascism and authoritarianism even though it is clearly against their own interests?"

The book compared Germany's descent into Fascism to the USSR's transformation into a communist state. Reich's main thesis is that Germany's conservative culture (particularly in regard to sexual conservativism), had repressed the libidinal desires of the population, making them accustomed to being docile and forcing their sexuality to be expressed in more masochistic ways. This is contrasted by Russia's more liberal views of sexuality, which in Reich's view led to more freed desire and hence, a less hierarchical society. Compared to the rest of Reich's much-disputed work, The Mass Psychology of Fascism was way ahead of its time and raised some serious objections to the nature of society and how it treats sexuality. One would expect a text like this to be post World War II, but it was actually a very sharp analysis for the era.

The Mass Psychology of Fascism is a key inspiration for Anti-Oedipus and a lot of it's major arguments can be seen as augmented versions of the ones presented in Reich's book.

May, 1968[edit]

Street barricaded off during the May 68 uprising

During the period of May 1968, France was in a place of massive civil unrest. Though some aspects were in opposition to capital, socialism wasn't their main goal. In essence, the protests and riots were a rebellion against the culturally conservative society in which they lived. It was a rebellion against traditional hierarchies in schools, businesses, and most importantly for D&G[note 1], the family.[3]

Everything was patriarchal, starting in the family, where you couldn't speak at the dinner table unless spoken to...You couldn't go out with friends, and never with boys. Everything was forbidden everywhere. You had to obey orders in the factories, in the schools. We were suffocating. There was this enormous need to talk and share. Everyone was fed up.
—Josette Preud'homme, a 20-year-old who took part in the riots[3]

Within the lens of Freudian psychoanalysis, and specifically through the framework of the Oedipus complex, it would be seen that the protesters were merely lashing out against the father (the metaphorical father that the state was taking the place of). Deleuze and Guattari were big supporters of the protests, and of course, strongly disagreed with the diagnosis that psychoanalysis provided. To D&G, the protests sidestepped the Oedipus complex by being about the abolition of states and authority and not the taking over of states and authority. The Oedipal complex implies an innate desire to kill the father and be with the mother, but the 68' protests were about tearing down hierarchies, not shifting them such as the Oedipal view would describe.

As stated earlier though, Anti-Oedipus is very broad topic-wise and cannot be merely simplified as a critique of psychoanalysis (as much as the title implies it). The events of May 1968, serve as a framework for the revolutionary character of the book. D&G want to lay out blueprints for a revolution and want to show the reader its possibilities.

Anti-Oedipus is often referred to as a "May 68'" book and many of the themes and goals of the work can be understood through its relation to the event.

Content[edit]

The Desiring-Machines[edit]

Judge Schreber has sunbeams in his ass. A solar anus.
—the first paragraph of Anti-Oedipus[4]

When first opening Anti-Oedipus, one thing becomes apparent: this book is really weird. Like really weird. Not necessarily in the content (though that also is a source of confusion), but mostly in the writing style. Sentences and ideas bleed into each other and putting the book into a series of syllogisms would be absolute hell. Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus (the second half of the Capitalism and Schizophrenia series), were deliberately written in a disjointed style to simulate schizophrenic thought.

A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst's couch.
—AO, 2[4]

The first part of Anti-Oedipus, named "The Desiring-Machines", starts with a description of the world. But, it's different from the descriptions provided by modern philosophy. It is a description of the world in motion. For example, within the Kantian view, the world is divided into many separate parts and categories (phenomena, noumena, a prior, a posterior, analytic, synthetic, etc.), it is seemingly static and final. Deleuze and Guattari don't explicitly argue against this view here, but they merely expresses a different perspective. What they would refer to as the schizophrenic or "machinic" perspective.

Machines[edit]

As put in the first paragraph:

It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id. Everywhere it is machines—real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections.
—AO, 1[5]
Sniff-Machine

Deleuze and Guattari believe that the world is infinitely divisible and that there is no definite, "true" division of things. For the purposes of describing the schizophrenic process, D&G divide and understand the world in terms of machines. For them, everything is a machine. Human-machines, eye-machines, computer-machines. From the smallest atomic machines to the largest "Celestial-machines". To Deleuze and Guattari, machines interconnect, produce reality (through their existence and through what they literally produce), and can be divided and redivided in any way. [6]

Just put any word before "-machine" and you'll be on the right track.

Deleuze is a big fan of Spinoza and is using this machinic perspective to parallel Spinoza's idea of god/nature. In short, Spinoza believes that everything is fundamentally one substance (that he referred to as "god"). Deleuze and Guattari make this most apparent with their analysis of the man/nature dichotomy.

we make no distinction between man and nature: the human essence of nature and the natural essence of man become one within nature in the form of production or industry, just as they do within the life of man as a species.
—AO, 4[7]

In essence, the distinction of man/nature doesn't make any sense within a machinic world view. The things man produces are based on nature just as man is a production of nature itself. If it hasn't been made clear, Deleuze and Guattari, like most postmodernists, are also post-humanists.[8]

Schizophrenia[edit]

One of the most controversial concepts within Anti-Oedipus is D&G's idea of schizophrenia.

First and foremost, Deleuze and Guattari DO NOT want to romanticize schizophrenia or any other mental illness. Within Anti-Oedipus, there is a distinction between schizophrenia as illness and schizophrenia as process/production. Deleuze and Guattari's idea of schizophrenia is one of their most criticized concepts within contemporary society. Even though D&G want to represent an abstract interpretation of schizophrenia (and strictly as a process), they are still often criticized for their understanding of schizophrenia as an illness. Deleuze and Guattari view the schizophrenic as a non-identity, an unsociable intensity that doesn't operate by any kind of internal or consistent logic. They also pertain that schizophrenics are beyond ideology (at least, social ideology), and exist "before the man-nature dichotomy".

He does not live nature as nature, but as a process of production. There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.

Even though their conception of schizophrenia and ontology of machines seem to line up, D&G still want to reinforce the idea that they are not promoting nor delegitimizing the harms that schizophrenia causes. Schizophrenic Delerium is debilitating and leaves the subject completely unsocialized.

For their immediate purposes, they view schizophrenia as beyond the Oedipal complex and the social forces that perpetuate it. In the words of Antonin Artaud, a schizophrenic they use as a case study:

I don't believe in father

in mother,

got no papamummy
—AO, 14[9]

Artaud is not the only case study D&G utilize.

Materialist Psychiatry and Desire[edit]

Deleuze and Guattari want to set out that they do not just oppose psychoanalysis unconstructively, they want to take the valuable ideas of psychoanalysis (namely, the unconscious mind and childhood's effect on desire), and reform psychoanalysis into a more effective method of psychology. They present their practice of psychology as a "materialist psychiatry" and contrast it from the idealistic psychology they claim has plagued the history of western thought. D&G refer to their practice as "schizoanalysis" and the last part of Anti-Oedipus is dedicated to a breakdown of the idea.

One of the easier concepts to understand in Anti-Oedipus is their conception of how desire works and operates within the human psyche. They first make a distinction between two types of desire that are represented in western philosophy.

1. Acquisition: described as a desire of "lack" and is the most common conception. Specifically, the view supposes that desire is a reaction to an absence or deficiency within the subject. Acquisition-based desire is the view psychoanalysis adopts since the Oedipus complex (the fundamental tenet of Freudian psychology and apparatus for which all desire follows), supposes that all desire is based on the desire to kill the father and to be with the mother.[10]

2. Production: a conception of desire that rejects the idea that lack is what forms desire. It posits that desire is a continuous process and that perceived lack is illusory. To supporters of a productive theory of desire, lack is merely a consequence/coexistence of desire. This view is utilized most famously by Friedrich Nietzsche in the form of the "will-to-power", a continuous striving Nietzsche believed to be fundamental to everything.[10]

Artistic depiction of a Desiring-Machine

Deleuze and Guattari believe that acquisition-based desire is contradictory and has crippled the progress of western thought. Their view of desire conforms more so to production and is aptly named "Desiring-Production". Thus derives the title of the chapter, "The Desiring-Machines". To Deleuze and Guattari, Desiring-Production is at the basis of consciousness and produces reality. We are desiring-machines.

Deleuze and Guattari's main criticism of acquisition-based desire is in the form of a Socratic challenge, "if lack is to precede desire, then how do you determine what you lack?" In essence, Deleuze and Guattari posit that the concept of a "lack" presupposes a desire to create that lack (i.e. what you lack is what you desire). There is no objective, outside "lacking" in which people conform, to determine what you lack, what you fundamentally desire must be a foundation to determine what you subjectively lack. Lack is seen as a byproduct of desire, the idea of desire being a reaction to a lack is an illusion. To Deleuze and Guattari, since psychoanalysis——both Freudian and Lacanian——rely heavily on acquisition-based desire, they are no longer viable forms of analysis and must be abandoned.[11]

Psychoanalysis and Familialism: The Holy Family[edit]

Psychoanalysis is like the Russian Revolution; we don't know when it started going bad.
—AO, 55[12]

The second part of Anti-Oedipus, "Psychoanalysis and Familialism: The Holy Family", runs with the ideas presented within the first part and applies them directly to psychoanalysis and the Oedipus complex. This is the chapter of Anti-Oedipus where most of the major arguments are made.

The Oedipal Theater[edit]

The first subsection looks into the background of Oedipus' development and its basic mechanisms. They begin with a way to view Oedipus, namely, the "Oedipal Triangle". Also referred to as the "daddy-mommy-me triangle", the Oedipus triangle is a visual guide created by Deleuze and Guattari that represents how psychoanalysis maps desire. First and foremost, Deleuze and Guattari view the Oedipal Triangle as limiting due to its overly reductionist nature. To D&G, the world is absurdly unpredictable and chaotic (they even refer to the universe as the "chaosmos"). In Anti-Oedipus, desire is seen as explosive and constantly transforming, so the idea that desire could be mapped onto a triangulation is ridiculous to the authors. Deleuze and Guattari believe that modernist thinking has made people want to believe in constants (logic/reason will always apply, history moves dialectically, "I think therefore I must be necessary"), and that drive for groundedness and consistency has led to limiting universal narratives, more specifically, the Oedipus complex.

Basically this
But who says that dream, tragedy, and myth are adequate to the formations of the unconscious, even if the work of transformation is taken into account?... It is as if Freud had drawn back from this world of wild production and explosive desire, wanting at all costs to restore a little order there, an order made classical owing to the ancient Greek theater... And not even an avant-garde theater, such as existed in Freud's day (Wedekind), but the classical theater, the classical order of representation. The psychoanalyst becomes a director for a private theater, rather than the engineer or mechanic who sets up units of production
—AO, 54-55[13]

The unconscious in D&G (desiring-production), is presented as a factory of desire. Desire is produced, and the idea of lack is thrown to the side. Though, in opposition, Deleuze and Guattari propose the idea of the Oedipal theater. The Oedipal theater is a multi-layered critique of psychoanalysis utilized throughout Anti-Oedipus. Instead of the factory-like view of desiring-production, the Oedipal theater develops desire through roles that are represented to the subject (the familial roles are played out and desire is derived). The idea of the Oedipal theater being a "classical theater" as opposed to avant-garde is a clear parallel to the opposition between Freud and D&G's thought (modernism and postmodernism respectively). It also presents the psychoanalyst as the "director", which plays into another critique of psychoanalysis: Deleuze and Guattari propose (very similarly to Karl Popper's criticism), that instead of the psychoanalysts conforming Oedipus and the unconscious to how the world actually operates, the psychoanalysts conform the world to how Oedipus operates. They are, to Deleuze and Guattari, stuck within their own ideology. And as directors of the Oedipal theater, psychoanalysts must make sure that the show runs as usual, with minimal variation.

Psychic and Social Repression[edit]

Within the world described by Anti-Oedipus, there are numerous forces/mechanisms at play.

First and foremost, there is desire. To Deleuze and Guattari, the world itself is tantamount to desire. It is constructed for us subjects via the experience of our consciousness (which to Nietzche and D&G believe to be merely a relation of desires/impulses)[14], and the entire social sphere is founded upon the desires of human beings. Desire runs the world, and humans are the #1 producers. Though most prevalent in part 2 of Anti-Oedipus, there exists another force: Repression. Repression exists in two different, but related manners.


We love our own oppression! Don't we, kids?

See also[edit]

  • Sigmund Freud coked-up old man who thought up the Oedipus complex
  • Lacan contemporary psychoanalyst at the time when Anti-Oedipus was published

Notes[edit]

  1. "D&G" is a common way of denoting Deleuze and Guattari.

References[edit]

  1. https://twitter.com/nxtlvluwb?lang=en
  2. Copy of Anti-Oedipus used for the article. Take one ;)
  3. 3.0 3.1 In France, The Protests Of May 1968 Reverberate Today — And Still Divide The French. NPR.
  4. 4.0 4.1 G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), p. 2.
  5. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), p. 1.
  6. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), pp. 1-4.
  7. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), p. 4.
  8. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), pp. 4-5.
  9. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), p. 14.
  10. 10.0 10.1 G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), p. 25.
  11. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), pp. 25-27.
  12. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), p. 55.
  13. G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (Academic: University of Minesota, 1983), pp. 54-55.
  14. Beyond Good and Evil, Part 2, Paragraph 36, https://kirbyyardley.medium.com/036-nietzsches-beyond-good-and-evil-one-paragraph-at-a-time-639d51280df6