dialogues at greenwich: Reading Group Workshop 6 on Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Anti-Oedipus’

dialogues at greenwich

discussion and reports from the Volcanic Lines research group at Greenwich University

6 December 2007

Reading Group Workshop 6 on Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Anti-Oedipus’

4. Introduction to Schizoanalysis

Our discussion of the final chapter of ‘Anti-Oedipus’ began with the two poles that are put in place at the beginning of the chapter. These are the schizorevolutionary pole and the paranoiac fascisizing pole (page 277 in the old edition). They seem to be two ways of relating to matter as such, i.e. the body without organs. In the new edition at page 356 the first positive task is set out and it was suggested that the moment of destruction outlined here is similar to Derrida’s method of setting up and attacking dualisms. Thus a dualism is put forward, destroyed and then pulled back again, as shown here with schizophrenia and paranoia, relating to matter ultimately as either molecular or molar.

In a footnote to page 309 of the old edition and page 340 in the new edition we find partial objects qualified in the French as ‘partiaux’ rather than ‘partiels.’ The translators explain in the footnote that such objects are partial or biased like a biased judged rather than partial in the sense of being incomplete. They link this to the molecular and the sense in which Deleuze and Guattari seek ‘a concept of the partial objects as biased, evaluating intensities that know no lack and are capable of selecting organs.’ The chapter starts with a very strong dynamic of two poles but then seeks to destruct dualism seemingly in order to re-think the two terms as immanent to one another: social production as desiring-production under determinate conditions.

The difference in regime and scale between desiring-machines and social-machines was also discussed. Are these formal distinctions attributed to ultimate dispersion or flux?

Section two of the chapter, on the Molar Unconscious, is where Deleuze and Guattari move away from the rigidity of the distinction between the molar and molecular. It was suggested that whether you are invested in molar and molecular will determine the nature and value of your activity. This will provide the materials and energy of your activity.

Reference was made to Deleuze and Guattari’s use of the libido as the energy of desiring-production. Hence one loves worlds in the one whom one loves. Proust is used in this chapter and this refers us back to the depth of Deleuze’s engagement with him in ‘Proust and Signs’. The second half of this text was written in 1972-73 and reflects ‘Anti-Oedipus’ (published 1972) in being titled ‘The Literary Machine’. Deleuze and Guattari affirm a ‘liquid libido’ and write that ‘sexuality is everywhere’ (old edition p. 293). Thus ‘…our love addresses itself to this libidinal property of our lover, to either close himself off or open up to more spacious worlds, to masses and large aggregates.’ (old edition, p. 294) In Proust we love what emits signs that are drawn from the world of signs of love and which open up more spacious worlds than worldly signs do. At page 318 of the old edition Deleuze and Guattari refer to a ‘schizophrenic breakthrough’ achieved in Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time.’ This comes from traversing all the planes, all the worlds of signs set out in Deleuze’s ‘Proust and Signs’ (worldly, amorous, artistic…), until ‘the molecular line of escape is reached.’ They locate this ‘…in the kiss where Albertine’s face jumps from one place of consistency to another, in order to finally come undone in a nebula of molecules.’ Deleuze and Guattari write of the risk of seeking to locate the meaning or explanation of Proust’s work in a particular plane. This would be to stop with a particular world marked out by signs, with the molar, rather than with the molecular production of different worlds and different organisations of these worlds. When the narrator kisses Albertine for the first time this reveals her molecular make up because the matter of her face is revealed as full of molecular life, opening onto a possible world that he cannot grasp and which produces his jealousy. The narrator then descends into a paranoid relation to matter as it is revealed in Albertine, trying to grasp and identify her as a molar entity. He seeks to imprison here in this molar identity. It was pointed out that this links to the concern with faciality in Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘A Thousand Plateaus.’

We discussed the use of Samuel Butler’s ‘The Book of the Machines’ (page 284 in the old edition). We find the pure machinery of living set out and this raised a number of issues. It was suggested that at stake first of all is whether we have a break in the molar where new molecular dynamics coming into play in how the molar is organised, or whether there is no molar because it reducible to the molecular. There is a danger, it was argued, that in the analysis of Butler we have a slippage between mechanism and physicalism. The machinery of living proposed brings in scientific naturalism but there is a danger that this neglects the differences between physicalism and mechanism. Physicalism reduces entities to molecules and neural functions, as we find in the work of thinkers like Paul Churchland. This, it seems, would make the molar an epiphenomena and something unreal. It was pointed out that a non-reductive alternative might be found in the components systems proposed by George Kampis - machines as open ended, where the whole is another part.

Is this a sleight of hand? It was argued that Deleuze and Guattari perhaps use the power of natural science and physicalism without dealing with the problems it introduces. They call it machinism so as to move between the molar and molecular. Yet the power of the machine, and of their argument, comes from physicalism. It was argued, they would rejected physicalism because they want to account for the molar fully. A way of overcoming this problem was suggested in the form of the events of molar identity that Deleuze and Guattari invoke with the exclamations ‘it is’ and ‘I am.’ This seems to refer us also to ‘Difference and Repetition’ and the seminar entitled ‘The Method of Dramatisation’ (to be found in the ‘Desert Islands’ collection) where larval subjects embody an intense emotion, like ‘the jealous man’. This event must unify the molar entity without unifying or totalising its molecular state. It might be compared with the ‘sense events’ found in Deleuze’s ‘The Logic of Sense.’ The concern was raised that this involved ‘a totality to come’ or something like Derrida’s ‘supplement.’ In response it was suggested that it should be called a refrain or theme. In their third synthesis of desiring-production Deleuze and Guattari invoke ‘all the names in history’ as occurring in delirium and hallucination, the most productive point of subjectivity. These intensities are not all realised in the same way in extension but perhaps provide the events that unify the molar without totalising its components.

At page 289 in the old edition the first footnote refers to Jacques Monod and makes use of his physicalism. Deleuze and Guattari emphasise order, rule and necessity. It was argued that necessity is really only metaphorical in their account of machines. In physicalism necessity is absolute - a law and not an explanatory device. It is not mutable. We therefore have a physicalist direction to an absolute core of necessity, to the core of laws. Reference was made to Markov chains where each state is determined by the prior state and determines the next state. Would this formulation of phase states provide Deleuze and Guattari’s with a notion of necessity?

Deleuze and Guattari’s concern with death was explored. They argue that there is both a model and experience of death, and that from this it follows that Freud’s death drive is undermined. For them the body without organs is death because it is the element of anti-production, is ensures that flows break and that social organisation is disrupted.

A further issue raised was the methodology of schizoanalysis. How is this analysis carried out? It was suggested that for Deleuze and Guattari capitalism can undergo manifestations of interest but not manifestations of desire. This might inform the methodology of schizoanalysis.

Another concern was how affects were to be regulated such that a theory of mind can be constructed, enabling us to treat others as having minds. This is to establish inter-subjectivity by moving beyond receptivity to affects or feelings.

At page 380 in the old edition Deleuze and Guattari argue that it is not a matter of what socius will come out of revolution or of schiozanalysis being identical with the revolution itself. It was suggested that this understanding of schizoanalysis borders on making it a form of interpretation because it seeks to provide the ontology behind revolution. It gives the interpretation of the world that revolutionaries must be provided with. It would then be like psychoanalysis when it provides the correct way to Oedipalise. Schizoanalysis sounds here like it knows what it’s all about and can provide you with the means to align yourself with reality. Is it a better ontology than Oedipus? How can it be tested?

A possible response from Deleuze and Guattari might be the circuits they speak of in Samuel Beckett’s work. They exhaust spatial organisation and the investment of desire in social interests. In this way a revolutionary preconscious investment that is in fact a reactionary unconscious investment could be overcome. It was suggested that Deleuze and Guattari envisage subjects who come to identify with machines. This was characterised as an existential problem of how the individual relates to their sense of truth, making the machinic their ideal. This was referred to Deleuze and Guattari’s concern with an impersonal production of the subject, summed up in the poetic formula ‘I is another’ that Deleuze takes from Rimbaud when writing about Kant’s philosophy (see ‘Four Poetic Formulas which might Summarise the Kantian Philosophy’ in ‘Essays Critical and Clinical’).

The notion that desire is without intentionality was discussed. It was linked to Nietzsche’s notion of the will as something that always pushes towards life, even through distortions. It is better to will nothing than not to will because the will continues to push. This naturalism seems to be at the heart of Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding of desire.
On the last page of ‘Anti-Oedipus’ the second to last sentence makes ‘the new earth’ a ‘process that is always and already complete as it proceeds, and as long as it proceeds.’ This seems to resemble Deleuze’s notion of a ‘groundless ground’ in ‘Difference and Repetition.'

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