Anti-Oedipus was lobbed into the fray like an intellectual cluster bomb -- it had multiple targets, from the primacy of the signifier in linguistics to the dependency on lack in psychoanalysis, but its primary objective was (as Michel Foucault astutely points out in his highly influential preface to the English translation) to caution us against the fascist inside, the desire to seize power for oneself. The principle thesis of Anti-Oedipus, around which its many conceptual inventions turn, is that revolution is not primarily or even necessarily a matter of taking power. Insofar as taking power means preserving all the old institutions and ideas in which power is invested it could even be said that revolutions of this type are actually counter-revolutionary in purpose and intent because they change nothing essential. By the same token, Deleuze and Guattari were concerned about the allure of power, its apparent ability to drive us to desire to be placed under its yoke. The most important political question, as far as Deleuze and Guattari are concerned, is how it is possible for desire to act against its interest. (Buchanan, Ian. Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus. NY: Continuum, 2008: 21.)
Wikipedia summary of Anti-Oedipus
An introduction to the importance of May 1968 events in Paris and the rest of the world throughout that explosive year(as well as the aftermath) is essential to an understanding of this book and the development of late-20th Century French theory.
Guattari’s background as a radical psychiatrist is also very important.
Deleuze on their working relationship:
We are only two, but what was important for us was less our working together than this strange fact of working between the two of us. We stopped being “author.” And these “between the twos” referred back to other people, who were different on one side from on the other. ... In these conditions, as soon as there is this type of multiplicity, there is politics, micro-politics. (Deleuze and Parnet, 17)
Form/Style of the Book:
In D & G’s writings before and after Anti-Oedipus they develop an understanding of how theoretical perspectives can actually construct/create subjectivity. This is the critique of psychoanalysis in A-O.
Creating a theoretical model of subjectivity implies an ethical and aesthetic choice on the part of the theorist, in fact Guattari emphasizes this when he subtitles his later book Chaosmosis, “An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm”. Keeping this in mind how is the form/style of this book an attempt to create or construct a model of subjectivity? Is it successful in its attempt? Is Michel Foucault correct in calling this a ‘book of ethics’?
Mark Seem in his introduction following Henry Miller states that “No pain, no trouble—this is the neurotic’s dream of a tranquilized and conflict-free existence” and in reference to A-O that “What it attempts to cure us of is the cure itself” (xvi-xvii). Is the construction of this book centered around the authors’ resistance of the easy cure or strict (dogmatic) program? How are they attacking the “neurotic’s dream” ... keeping in mind that the psychoanalyst is the super-neurotic?
Claire Colbrook states that:
Rather than using reason and reasoned arguments, the book sought to explain and historicise the emergence of an essentially repressive image of reason. Rather than argument and proposition it worked by questions and interrogation: why should we accept conventions, norms, and values? What stops us from creating new values, new desires, or new images of what it is to be and think? This book was not a move within an already established debate; it shifted the entire criteria of the debate. Against justification and legitimation, it put forward the power of creation and transformation. It did not adopt the single voice of universal reason but, like a novel, ‘played’ with the voices of those traditionally deemed to be at the margins of reason ... (5)
It is often thought that Oedipus is an easy subject to deal with, something perfectly obvious, a “given” that is there from the very beginning. But that is not so at all: Oedipus presupposes a fantastic repression of desiring-machines. (A-O, 3)
One of the main questions raised in this quote and the accompanying footnote is: How did Freud appropriate the author(ity) of Greek tragedy to legitimize his psychoanalytic concepts? How does this relate to the second chapter's critique of the institution of psychoanalysis as a new secular religion set up by the followers of Freud and institutionalized by the military-industrial complex?
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. ... It is only little by little that he makes the familial romance, on the contrary, into a mere dependence on Oedipus, and that he neuroticizes everything in the unconscious at the same time as he oedipalizes, and closes the familial triangle over the entire unconscious. ... The unconscious ceases to be what it is—a factory, a workshop—to become a theater, a scene and its staging. And not even an avant-garde theater, such as existed in Freud’s day ..., 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, and grapples with collective agents of production and antiproduction. (54-55)
Has psychoanalysis shut down the (expanding on D & G) continuously evolving production of an unconscious in order to provide an all-encompassing, static analytic backdrop? What about their referencing of mechanics/engineers who facilitate the flows of production and recognize the collective processes?
For we must not delude ourselves: Freud doesn’t like schizophrenics. He doesn’t like their resistance to being oedipalized, and tends to treat them more or less as animals. They mistake words for things, he says. They are apathetic, narcissisitic, cut off from reality, incapable of achieving transference; they resemble philosophers—‘an undesirable resemblance.’ (A-O, 23)
This position of D & G seems unfair until we read the notes on the bottom of pages 56 and 59. How does the analyst construct a position free from doubt/criticism (leaving aside that they are supposed to submit to even super-super neurotics for analysis) in order to construct the patient’s world? (is this an unfair view of the analyst?—what does the two notes supply us as evidence of the analyst’s position—or how about the writings of Lacan)
It is not a question of denying the vital importance of parents or the love attachment of children to their mothers and fathers. It is a question of knowing what the place and the function of parents are within desiring-production, rather than doing the opposite and forcing the entire interplay of desiring-machines to fit within the restricted code of Oedipus. (47)
Is it possible that, by taking the path that it has, psychoanalysis is reviving an age-old tendency to humble us, to demean us, and to make us feel guilty? ... [is it] completing the task begun by nineteenth-century psychology, namely, to develop a moralized, familial discourse of mental pathology ... keeping European humanity harnessed to the yoke of daddy-mommy and making no effort to do away with this problem once and for all.... Hence, instead of participating in an undertaking that will bring about genuine liberation, psychoanalysis is taking part in the work of bourgeois repression at its most far-reaching level. (50)
D & G set out to develop schizoanalysis as their answer to this problem.
First important distinction is to remember that they are proposing an active schizophrenia that differs from the incapacitating medical designation of schizophrenia. D & G’s schizoanalysis grows out of their resistance to institutionalized psychoanalysis that has infiltrated all parts of society with a totalizing theory that masks humanity’s true relationship to the world:
From the moment we are measured in terms of Oedipus—the cards are stacked against us, and the only real relationship, that of production, has been done away with. (A-O, 24)
We cannot say that psychoanalysis is very innovative in this respect: it continues to ask its questions and develop its interpretations from the depths of the Oedipal triangle as its basic perspective, even though today it is acutely aware that this frame of reference is not at all adequate to explain so-called psychotic phenomena. (14)
A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic laying on the analyst’s couch. A breath of fresh air, a relationship with the outside world (A-O, 2)
We no longer believe in the dull gray outlines of a dreary, colorless dialectic of evolution, aimed at forming a harmonious whole out of heterogeneous bits by rounding off their rough edges. We believe only in totalities that are peripheral. And if we discover such a totality alongside various separate parts, it is a whole of these particular parts but does not totalize them; it is a unity of all of these particular parts but does not unify them; rather, it is added to them as a new part fabricated separately. (42)
To withdraw a part from the whole, to detach, to ‘have something left over,’ is to produce, and to carry out real operations of desire in the world ... The whole not only coexists with all the parts; it is contiguous to them, it exists as a product that is produced apart from them and yet at the same time is related to them. (41, 43-44)
An important part of schizoanalysis is the development of a “schizoanalytic cartography” (A-O, 273-382). Guattari in another work states:
From my own perspective, which is guided by a shift of human and social sciences from “scientistic” paradigms to ethico-aesthetic ones, the question is no longer one of knowing if the Freudian unconscious or the Lacanian unconscious offers scientific solutions to the problem of the psyche. The models will only be considered as one among others for the production of subjectivity, inseparable from the technical and institutional mechanisms that support them, and from their impact on psychiatry, on university teaching, the mass media. ... In a more general way, one will have to admit that each individual, each social group, conveys its own system of modelling unconscious subjectivity, that is, a certain cartography made up of reference points that are cognitive, but also mythic, ritualistic, and symptomatological, and on the basis of which it positions itself in relation to its affects, its anxieties, and attempts to manage its various inhibitions and drives. Moreover, today, our question is not only of a speculative order, but has practical implications: do the models of the unconscious that are offered us on the “market” of psychoanalysis meet current conditions for the production of subjectivity? Is it necessary to transform them, or to invent new ones? What processes are set in motion in the awareness of an inhabitual shock? How do modifications to a mode of thinking, to an aptitude for the apprehension of a changing external world, take effect? How do representations of the external world change as it changes? The Freudian unconscious is inseparable from a society that is attached to its past, to its phallocratic traditions, and its subjective variants. Contemporary upheavals undoubtably call for a modelization turned more toward the future and to the emergence of new social and aesthetic practices in all areas. On the one hand, the devaluation of the meaning of life provokes the fragmentation of self-image: representations of self become confused and contradictory while, on the other hand, the conservative forces of resistance oppose themselves to all change, which is experienced by a secure, ossified, and dogmatic consciousness as an attempt at destabilization. (Guattari, “Subjectivities”: 197)
... the diagram is no longer an auditory or visual archive but a map, a cartography that is coextensive with the whole social field. (Deleuze, Foucault: 34)
After setting up the problem as they see it in A-O they will later attempt in A Thousand Plateaus to propose a mutable method for approaching this problem. Of course this will not be a solution that must be seized and made one’s own in order for it to have any effect:
The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing. Make a map, not a tracing. The orchid does not reproduce the tracing of the wasp; it forms a map with the wasp, in a rhizome. What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It fosters connections between the field, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency. It is itself a part of the rhizome. The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a mediation. (A Thousand Plateaus, 12)
Capitalism is schizophrenic because it is interested in profit and it must subvert/deterritorialize all territorial groupings such as familial, religious, or other social bonds. At the same time it relies on the continuous appearance/mythification of social groupings in order to continue functioning smoothly and to re-enforce social ordering needs. Thus, capitalism attempts to re-constitute the need for traditional/nostalgic, or, even, newer forms of social groupings or religious/state institutions. This deterritorialization/reterritorialization and decoding/recoding is happening at the same time—thus the schizophrenic nature of capitalism.
Does this schizophrenia of...
1) mindless consumption, selfish individualism, may the best man win, the cream rises to the top, the romantic creative individual, sacrifice/gorge ...
2) religious revivalism, family values (valuing no one else's family), community values (at the expense of other communities), moral majority, neighborhood watch (and snitch), etc...
...cause some of us to break under the strain of an absurd society?
... desire is revolutionary in its essence ... and no society can tolerate a position of real desire without its structures of exploitation, servitude, and hierarchy being compromised. (A-O 116)
Primitive territorial machine:
Everything is coded and ritualized. Territory is clearly marked out and understood. Everything is social.
Barbaric territorial machine (despot):
The social group is somewhat deterritorialized by the despot who continues to maintain order through a re-inscription of a highly coded production centered around the ruler (what he says goes). Part of the coding (ordering) process is carried out through ritualized dramas of bodily punishment that (re)territorialize (re/produce) the despot’s authority (for a good description of this read the first section of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. NY: Pantheon Books, 1977.)
Civilized capitalist machine (disciplinary society):
Radically deterritorializes and reterritorializes social life. This radical deterritorialization is played out in conjunction with a continuous reterritorialization (re-coding) of traditional/ancient/nostalgic forms of authority. The nation (state), the family (father), God (religion or ideology), education (schools), media (societal super-ego?), etc ... re-appear in modified forms to shore up a shaky social grid and continue the smooth process of production/consumption. (A-O, 33-35) This society creates order through disciplinary institutions that house both the young initiates in order to train them to operate according to custom and the failed individuals that opt to pursue non-legitimized occupations/identities (for the moment let me use this designation—I’m fully aware that there are those who present a serious danger to others and thus must be dealt with, but the disciplinary society represents and treats them as morally weak individuals rather than as products of this society). The development and celebration of the myth of the private individual comes into play in this territorial situation.
Although some excitable critics (both from the left and right—e.g Baudrillard/Fukuyama) see this stage as the ‘end of history’, Deleuze, expanding on Foucault, sees us moving into a new socius stage (plateau?):
It is true that we are entering a society that can be called a society of control. A thinker such as Michel Foucault has analyzed two types of societies that are rather close to us. He calls the former sovereign societies and the latter disciplinary societies. He locates the typical passage of a sovereign society to a disciplinary society with Napolean. Disciplinary society is defined—by the accumulation of structures of confinement: prisons, schools, workshops, hospitals. Disciplinary societies require this. This analysis engendered ambiguities in certain of Foucault’s readers because it was believed that this was his last thought. This was certainly not the case. Foucault never believed and indeed said very precisely that disciplinary societies were not eternal. Moreover, he clearly thought that we were entering a new type of society. To be sure, there are all kinds of things left over from disciplinary societies, and this for years on end, but we know already that we are in societies of another sort that should be called, to use the term put forth by William Burroughs—whom Foucault admired greatly—societies of control. We are entering into societies of control that are defined very differently from disciplinary societies. Those who look after our interests do not need or will no longer need structures of confinement. These structures—prisons, schools, hospitals—are already sites of permanent discussion. Wouldn’t it be better to spread out the treatment? Yes, this is unquestionably the future. The workshops, the factories—they are falling apart everywhere. Wouldn’t systems of subcontracting and work at home be better? Aren’t there means of punishing people other than prison? Even the school. The themes that are surfacing, which will develop in the next forty or fifty years and which indicates that the most shocking thing would be to undertake school and a profession at once—these themes must be watched closely. It will be interesting to know what the identity of the school and the profession will be in the course of permanent training, which is our future and which will no longer necessarily imply the regrouping of school children in a structure of confinement. A control is not discipline. In making highways , for example, you don’t enclose people but instead multiply the means of control. I am not saying that this is the highway’s exclusive purpose, but that people can drive infinitely and “freely” without being at all confined yet while still being perfectly controlled. This is our future. (Deleuze, “Having An Idea of Cinema”: 17-18)
For more on this also check out Deleuze’s essay in October #59 (1992): 3-8 and excerpts of D & G’s writings in Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory. ed. Neil Leach (NY: Routledge, 1997: 309-18.)
D & G resist a molar politics that frames its operations in a “already” determined future, thus they keep to the idea of a molecular politics that is open to change:
Schizoanalysis, as such, has no political program to propose. If it did have one it would be grotesque and disquieting at the same time. It does not take itself for a party, and does not claim to speak for the masses. No political program will be elaborated within the framework of schizoanalysis. (380)
D & G see a central paradox in our fascisms:
As Reich remarks, the astonishing thing is not that some people steal or that others occasionally go out on strike, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice, and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike: after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, that they actually want humiliation and slavery not only for others but for themeselves? (A-O, 29)
This makes all authoritarian and dogmatic movements suspect in that they dictate and predict:
... no, the masses were not innocent dupes; at a certain point, under a certain set of conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for.” (A-O, 29)
Traditionally many writers have posited that subjects of bloody states are ignorant of the true processes behind-the-scenes that produce orderly societies ... D & G are contradicting this belief ... why do they see fascism as answering a perverted desire of the masses? What causes this perverted desire? Can we see any signs of fascism in the contemporary American culture/societies? Can we recognize the fascist impulse in totalizing revolutionary theories? Is this another problematic of the “totalizing” impulse as manifested in liberatory/resistive movements? Is this a legitimate complaint from marginalized groups?
D & G are calling for a resistance that is molecular, not molar (machinic, not mechanistic). Universal mass movements are not the goal, but they are not denying their potential, rather that mass movements would be forged through alliances/bridges, that are temporary, mutable, and situational.
Pgs. 36-41 introduces the “three breaks” or interruptions of machines. When thinking of the bodies in these operations we must learn to alter our emphasis on the individual ‘body’ and recognize social, economic, political, juridical, etc ... bodies in these descriptions.
Claire Colebrook on “machines” in A-O and Deleuze’s theory in general:
In Anti-Oedipus they insist that the machine is not a metaphor and that life is literally a machine. This is crucial to Deleuze’s ethics. An organism is a bounded whole with an identity and end. A mechanism is a closed machine with a specific function. A machine, however, is nothing more than its connections; it is not made by anything, is not for anything and has no closed identity. So they are using ‘machine’ here in a specific and unconventional sense. Think of a bicycle, which obviously has no ‘end’ or intention. It only works when it is connected with another ‘machine’ such as the human body; and the production of these two machines can only be achieved through connection. The human body becomes a cyclist in connecting with the machine; the cycle becomes a vehicle. But we could imagine different connections producing different machines. The cycle becomes an art object when placed in a gallery; the human body becomes an ‘artist’ when connected with a paintbrush. The images we have of closed machines, such as the self-contained organism of the human body, or the efficiently autonomous functioning of the clock mechanism, are effects and illusions of the machine. There is no aspect of life that is not machinic; all life only works and is insofar as it connects with some other machine.
We have already seen the importance Deleuze gives to the camera; it is important as a machine because it shows how human thought and life can become and transform through what is inhuman. By insisting that the machine is not a metaphor Deleuze and Guattari move away from a representational model of language. If the concept of machine were a metaphor, then we could say that we have life as it is, and then the figure of machine to imagine, represent of picture life. But for Deleuze and Guattari there is no present life outside its connections. We only have representations, images or thoughts because there have been ‘machinic’ connections: the eye connects with light, the brain connects with a concept, the mouth connects with a language. Life is not about one privileged point—the self-contained mind of ‘man’—representing some inert outside world. Life is a proliferation of machinic connnections, with the mind or brain being one (sophisticated) machine among others.
Neither philosophy, nor art, nor cinema represent the world, they are events through which the movement of life becomes. What makes philosophy and art active is their capacity to become not just mechanistically, being caused by outside events, but machinically. A mechanism is a self-enclosed movement that merely ticks over, never transforming or producing itself. A machinic becoming makes a connection with what is not itself in order to transform and maximize itself. (56-57)
D & G denounce the human/nature division and insist that humans cannot be thought separate from nature. Or as they later paraphrase Karl Marx “he who denies God does only a ‘secondary thing,’ for he denies God in order to posit the existence of man, to put man in God’s place” (A-O, 58). Guattari later re-emphasizes the importance of this attempt to recognize the falsity of the division of human/nature:
Our survival on this planet is not only threatened by environmental damage but by a degeneration in the fabric of social solidarity and in the modes of psychical life, which must literally be re-invented. The refoundation of politics will have to pass through the aesthetic and analytical dimensions implied in the three ecologies—the environment, the socius and the psyche. We cannot conceive of solutions to the poisoning of the atmosphere and to global warming due to the greenhouse effect, or to the problem of population control, without a mutation of mentality, without promoting a new art of living in society. (Chaosmosis, 20)
Buchanan, Ian. Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus. NY: Continuum, 2008.
Colebrook, Claire. Gilles Deleuze. NY: Routledge, 2002.
Deleuze, Gilles. Foucault. trans. Sean Hand. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988.
---. “Having An Idea In Cinema.” trans. Eleanor Kaufman. Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy and Culture. eds. E. Kaufman and K. J. Heller. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1998: 14-22.
Delueze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus. trans. Robert Hurley, et al. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983.
---. A Thousand Plateaus. trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.
Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet. Dialogues. NY: Columbia U P, 1987.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. NY: Grove P, 1967.
Guattari, Felix. Chaosmosis. Bloomington, IN: Indiana U P, 1995.
More online resources