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Anti-Œdipus (1972) is a book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It is the first volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the second volume being A Thousand Plateaus (1980). It presents an eclectic account of human psychology, economics, society, and history, showing how "primitive", "despotic", and " capitalist regimes" differ in their organization of production, inscription, and consumption. It claims to describe how capitalism ultimately channels all desires through an axiomatic money-based economy, a single-minded form of organization that is abstract, rather than local or material.

Key Concepts Edit

Desiring Machines & Social Production Edit

Michel Foucault writes in the introduction, "Anti-Œdipus is the guide to the nonfascist life."[1] Where capitalism society trains us to believe that desire equals lack and that the only way to meet our desires is to consume, Anti-Œdipus, has a different take: desire does not come from lack, as in the Freudian understanding. On the contrary, desire is a productive force. The opposition to the notion of lack is one of the main criticisms Deleuze and Guattari make both to Freud and marxism.

Like their contemporary, R.D. Laing, and like Wilhelm Reich before them, they link personal psychic repression with social repression. In such a framework, Deleuze and Guattari describe the mechanistic nature of desire as a kind of Desiring-Machine that functions as a circuit breaker in a larger "circuit" of various other machines to which it is connected. And the Desiring-Machine is at the same time also producing a flow of desire from itself. Deleuze and Guattari imagine a multi-functional universe composed of such machines all connected to each other: "There are no desiring-machines that exist outside the social machines that they form on a large scale; and no social machines without the desiring machines that inhabit them on a small scale." Thus, they opposed Freud's concept of sublimation, which led to a necessary dualism between desiring machines and social production, which had trapped Laing and Reich. They oppose an "inhumane molecular sexuality" to "molar" binary sexuality: "making love is not just becoming as one, or even two, but becoming as a hundred thousand." Deleuze and Guattari's concept of sexuality is not limited to the connectivity of just male and female gender roles, but by the multi-gendered flows that a "hundred thousand" Desiring-Machines create within their connected universe.

The "anti-" part of their critique of the Freudian Oedipal complex begins with that original model's articulation of society based on the family triangle. Criticizing psychoanalysis "familialism", they want to show that the oedipal model of the family is a kind of organization (meme) that must colonize its members, repress their desires, and give them complexes if it is to function as an organizing principle of society. Instead of conceiving the "family" as a sphere contained by a larger "social" sphere, and giving a logical preeminence to the family triangle, Deleuze and Guattari argue that the family should be opened onto the social, as in Bergson's conception of the Open, and that underneath the pseudo-opposition between family (composed of personal subjects) and social, lies the relationship between pre-individual desire and social production. Furthermore, they argue that schizophrenia is an extreme mental state co-existent with the capitalist system itself and capitalism keeps enforcing neurosis as a way of maintaining normality. It must be noted, however, that they oppose a non-clinical concept of "schizophrenia" as deterritorialization to the clinical end-result "schizophrenic" (i.e. they never intended to romanticize "mental disorders"; instead, they show, as Foucault, that "psychiatric disorders" are always second to something else... maybe to the "absence d'oeuvre"?).

Body Without Organs Edit

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari begin to develop their concept of the BwO - body without organs, their term for the changing social body of desire. Since desire can take on as many forms as there are persons to implement it, it must seek new channels and different combinations to realize itself, forming a BwO for every instance. Desire is not limited to the affections of a subject.

In their later work, A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Deleuze and Guattari eventually differentiate between three kinds of BwO: cancerous, empty, and full. Roughly, the empty BwO is the BwO of Anti-Oedipus. This BwO is also described as "catatonic" because it is completely de-organ-ized; all flows pass through it freely, with no stopping, and no directing. Even though any form of desire can be produced on it, the empty BwO is non-productive. The full BwO is the healthy BwO; it is productive, but not petrified in its organ-ization. The cancerous BwO is caught in a pattern of endless reproduction of the self-same pattern.

Deterritorialization Edit

Although (like most Deleuzo-Guattarian terms) deterritorialization has a purposeful variance in meaning throughout their oeuvre, it can be roughly described as a move away from a rigidly imposed hierarchical context, which seeks to package things (concepts, objects, etc.) into discrete categorised units with singular coded 'meanings', towards a zone of multiplicity and flux, where meanings and operations flow freely between said things, resulting in a dynamic, constantly changing set of interconnected entities with fuzzy individual boundaries.

To use an example given by the authors, the mouth was historically territorialized when its functions were conclusively defined as eating and talking. Partial deterritorialization occurred when the mouth learned and adapted birdsong through transgression of its imposed categorization as 'a human mouth' and subsequent sharing of meaning/operation with birds. Deterritorialization is closely related to Deleuzo-Guattarian concepts such as lines of flight, destratification and the body without organs/BwO (a term borrowed from Artaud), and is sometimes defined in such a way as to be partly interchangeable with these terms (most specifically in the second part of Capitalism And Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus). Whether this partial interchangeability of the authors' terms is itself meant to serve as a highly abstract instantiation of deterritorialization remains unclear.

Notably, the authors hypothesise that dramatic reterritorialization often follows relative deterritorialization, while absolute deterritorialization is just that... absolute deterritorialization without any reterritorialization.

Endnotes Edit

  • ^  (Introduction of the English edition)

See also Edit

.fr:L'Anti-Œdipe

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