Maurice Nadeau: Could you briefly explain how your collaboration came into being?
Félix Guattari: This collaboration is not the product of a simple meeting of two individuals. Aside from a combination of circumstances, we were also led to it by a whole political context. Initially it was less a question of pooling knowledge than the accumulation of our uncertainties, and even a certain distress in the face of the turn of events after May ’68.
We are part of a generation whose political consciousness was born in the enthusiasm and naiveté of the Liberation, with its conspiratorial mythology of fascism. And the questions left hanging by the other failed revolution that was May ‘ 68 were developed for us based on a counterpoint that was all the more troubling because, like many others, we were worried about the future being readied for us, one that could make you miss the fascism of yore.
Our starting point was to consider that during these crucial periods something along the order of desire manifested itself on the scale of society as a whole, then was repressed, liquidated, as much by the forces of power as by political parties and so-called worker unions and, to a certain extent, by leftist organizations themselves.
And we would no doubt have to go back in time even further. The history of betrayed revolutions, the history of the betrayal of the desire of the masses is becoming identified with the history of the Workers’ Movement plain and simple. Whose fault is that? Beria’s, Stalin’s, Khrushchev’s! It was not the right program, the right organization, the right alliance. We did not re-read Marx in the original text … there is no doubt about that! But the raw evidence remains: the revolution was possible, the socialist revolution was within reach, it really exists, it is not a myth weakened by the transformations of industrial societies.
Under certain conditions the masses express their revolutionary will, their desires sweep aside all obstacles, open unheard-of horizons, but the last to notice it are the organizations and men who are supposed to represent them. Leaders betray, it’s obvious. But why do those who are led continue to listen to them? Wouldn’t that be the result of an unconscious complicity, of an interiorization of the repression, operating on several levels, from power to bureaucrats, from bureaucrats to militants and from militants to the masses themselves? We certainly saw this after May ’68.
Fortunately, the recouping and the brainwashing spared tens of thousands—maybe more—who are now immune to the ravages of bureaucracies of all categories, and who intend to retaliate against the dirty tricks of power and bosses as well as against their maneuvers of dialogue, participation, integration, which rely on the complicity of traditional workers’ organizations.
We have to recognize that current attempts to renew forms of popular struggle are still hard to extricate from tedium and revolutionary boy-scoutism, which, to say the least, is not too concerned about the systematic liberation of desire. “Desire, that’s all you ever say!” That ends up irritating serious people, the responsible militants. So we are certainly not going to recommend that desire be taken seriously. It is rather urgent to undermine the spirit of seriousness. A theory of desire in history should not strive to be serious. And, from this point of view, perhaps Anti-Oedipus is still too serious a book, too intimidating. Theoretical work shouldn’t be reserved for specialists. A theory’s desire and its statements should stick as closely as possible to the event and to the collective enunciation of the masses. In order to come to that, it will be necessary to forge another breed of intellectuals, another breed of analysts, another breed of militants, with the different types blending and melting into each other.
We started with the idea that one should not consider desire as a subjective superstructure which phases in and out. Desire never stops shaping history, even in its worst periods. The German masses had come to desire Nazism. After Wilhelm Reich, one cannot avoid facing that truth. Under certain conditions, the desire of the masses can turn against their own interests. What are those conditions? That’s the whole question.
In order to answer that, we realized that one cannot simply attach a Freudian wagon to the Marxist-Leninist train. First one must get rid of a stereotyped hierarchy between an opaque economic infrastructure and social and ideological superstructures conceived of in such a way that they repress questions of sex and expression on the side of representation, as far away as possible from production. The relations of production and the relations of reproduction participate in the same pairing of productive forces and antiproductive structures. We should move desire on the side of the infrastructure, on the side of production, and the family, the ego and the person on the side of antiproduction. This is the only way to prevent the sexual from remaining permanently cut off from the economic.
There exists, according to us, a desiring-production which, before all actualization in the familial division of sexes and persons as well as the social division of work, invests the various forms of production of jouissance and the existing structures in order to repress them. Under different regimes, it is the same desiring energy that we find on the revolutionary face of history, with the working class, science and the arts, and that we find on the face of relations of exploitation and of state power insofar as they both presuppose the unconscious participation of the oppressed.
If it is true that social revolution is inseparable from a revolution of desire, then the question shifts: under what conditions will the revolutionary avant-garde be able to free itself from its unconscious complicity with repressive structures and elude power’s manipulation of the masses’ desire that makes them “fight for their servitude as though it were their salvation”? If the family and family ideologies assume a nodal role, as we think they do, then how should one assess the function of psychoanalysis which, the first to raise these questions, was also the first to abandon them again by promoting a modern myth of familial repression with Oedipus and castration?
In order to move in this -direction, we think it necessary to stop approaching the unconscious through neurosis and the family, in order to adopt the more specific approach of the schizophrenic process of desiring-machines—which has little to do with institutional madness.
A militant struggle is necessary against reductive explanations and adaptive techniques of suggestion based on Oedipal triangulation. Refusing to grasp compulsively a complete object, symbolic of all despotism. Drifting towards real multiplicities. Ceasing to dismiss both man and machine whose relationship, on the contrary, constitutes desire itself. Promoting another logic, a logic of real desire, establishing the primacy of history over structure; another analysis, extricated from symbolism and interpretation; and another militancy, with the means to free itself from fantasies of the dominant order.
Gilles Deleuze: As for the technique of this book, writing it between the two of us did not create any particular problem, but had a specific function, of which we gradually became aware. One thing is very startling in books on psychiatry or even on psychoanalysis, and that is the pervasive duality between what an alleged mental patient says and what the doctor reports. Between the “case” and the commentary or the analysis of the case. Logos versus pathos: the mental patient is supposed to say something, and the doctor to say what it means in terms of symptom or meaning. This allows for the complete distortion of what the mental patient says, a hypocritical selection.
We don’t claim to have written a madman’s book, just a book in which one no longer knows—and there is no reason to know—who exactly is speaking, a doctor, a patient, an untreated patient, a present, past, or future patient. That’s why we used so many writers and poets; who is to say if they are speaking as patients or doctors—patients or doctors of civilization. Now, strangely, if we have tried to go beyond this traditional duality, it’s precisely because we were writing together. Neither of us was the madman, neither of us the psychiatrist; there had to be two of us in order to find a process that was not reduced either to the psychiatrist or his madman, or to a madman and his psychiatrist.
The process is what we call a flux. Now, once again, the flux is a notion that we wanted to remain ordinary and undefined. This could be a flux of words, ideas, shit, money, it could be a financial mechanism or a schizophrenic machine: it goes beyond all dualities. We dreamed of this book as a flux-book.
Maurice Nadeau: Precisely, starting in your first chapter, there is this notion of “desiring-machine” which remains obscure for the layman and that we would like to see defined. All the more so that it answers everything, suffices for everything …
Gilles Deleuze: Yes, we give the machine its greatest extension: in relation to the fluxes. We define the machine as any system that cuts the fluxes. Thus, sometimes we speak of technical machines, in the ordinary sense of the word, sometimes of social machines, sometimes of desiring-machines.
Because, for us, the machine does not in any way conflict with either man or nature (to argue that forms and relations of production are not related to the machine would really require a lot of convincing). On the other hand, the machine is not in any way reduced to mechanics. Mechanics refers to the protocol of some technical machines; or else the particular organization of an organism. But machinism is something else entirely: it designates every system that cuts off fluxes going beyond both the mechanics of technology and the organization of the organism, whether it be in nature, society, or man.
For example, the desiring-machine is a nonorganic system of the body; it is in this sense that we speak of molecular machines or micro-machines. More precisely in relation to psychoanalysis: we hold two things against psychoanalysis—not understanding what delirium is, because it does not see that delirium invests the entire social field; and not understanding what desire is, because it does not see that the unconscious is a factory and not a stage.
What is left if psychoanalysis understands nothing about either delirium or desire? These two reproaches really make one: what interests us is the presence of machines of desire, molecular micro-machines in the great molar social machines. How they operate and function within one another.
Raphaël Pividal: If you had to define your book in terms of desire, I’d like to ask: how does this book respond to desire? What desire? Whose desire?
Gilles Deleuze: It’s not as a book that it can respond to desire, but according to what surrounds it. A book cannot be worth anything on its own. Still the fluxes: there are a lot of people working in similar directions, in other fields. And then there are the younger generations: it’s unlikely they’ll buy a certain type of discourse, now epistemological, now psychoanalytical, now ideological. It’s beginning to tire everyone out. We say: Oedipus and castration, make the best of them, because it’s not going to last. Until now psychoanalysis has been left alone: there have been attacks on psychiatry, the psychiatric hospital, but psychoanalysis seemed untouchable, uncompromised. We are trying to show that psychoanalysis is worse than the hospital, precisely because it operates through all the pores of capitalist society and not in special places of confinement. And because it is profoundly reactionary in its practice and theory, not only in its ideology. And because it fulfills specific functions.
Felix says that our book is addressed to people who are now between 7 and 15 years old. Ideally, because in fact it is still too difficult, too cultivated, and makes too many compromises. We have not been able to be direct enough, clear enough. Nevertheless, I must say that the first chapter, which has seemed difficult to many favorable readers, does not require any prior knowledge. In any case, if a book responds to a desire, it is insofar as there are already a lot of people who can’t stand a current type of discourse. It helps refocus a number of efforts, and make works or desires resonate. In short, a book can only respond to a desire politically, outside the book. For example, an association of angry users of psychoanalysis wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
François Chȃtelet: What seems important to me is the irruption of such a text amidst books of philosophy (for this book is thought of as a book of philosophy). Now Anti-Oedipus smashes everything.
In its appearance, first, through the “form” of the text itself: ‘curse words’ are used starting with the second line, as though a provocation. One believes, at first, that this won’t go on, and then it does. That’s all they talk about: “coupled machines,” and “coupled machines” are singularly obscene, or scatalogical.
Moreover, I experienced it as a materialist irruption. It’s been a long time since this happened. One has to admit that methodology is becoming a pain in the ass. With the imperialism of methodology, any research work or deepening of a subject is ruined. I’ve fallen into that trap so I know what I’m talking about. In short, I evoke a materialist irruption because I’m thinking of Lucretius. I don’t know if that will please you. Too much or not enough.
Gilles Deleuze: If that’s true, that’s perfect. That would be wonderful. In any case, there is no methodological problem in our book. Nor any problem of interpretation. Because the unconscious doesn’t mean anything; because machines don’t mean anything. They merely work, produce arid break down, because all we’re looking for is how something functions in the real.
There is no epistemological problem either: we couldn’t care ‘ less about returning to Freud or Marx. If someone tells us that we have misunderstood Freud, we won’t argue about it, we’ll say too bad, there is so much to do. It’s curious that epistemology has always hidden an imposition of power, an organization of power. As far as we’re concerned, we don’t believe in any specificity of writing or even of thought.
Roger Dadoun: Up until now, the discussion has taken place on a “molar” level—to use a dichotomy that is fundamental in your interpretation—that is, on the level of great conceptual ensembles. We have not managed to take the plunge that would lead us to the “molecular” level, that is, to microanalyses that would help us understand how you have “engineered” your work. This would be particularly valuable for the analysis—the schizoanalysis, perhaps?—of the political cogs of the text. It would be particularly interesting to know how fascism and May ’68, the dominant “note” of the book, intervened, not “molecularly,” that would be too banal, but “molecularly,” in the fabrication of the text.
Serge Leclaire: Actually I get the impression that this book is engineered so that every intervention “on the molecular level” will be digested by the machine of the book.
I think that, by your own admission, your intention to come up with “a book where all possible duality would be suppressed” was achieved beyond your wildest hopes. That puts your readers, if they are somewhat perceptive, in a situation that leaves them only the prospect of being absorbed, digested, tied up and quashed in the admirable operationality of this machine.
So there is a dimension here that I question, and that I would be willing to ask you about, namely, what is the function of such a book-contraption [livre-machinJ?1 Because at first it seems to be perfectly totalizing, absorbing, liable to integrate and absorb all the questions one might attempt to raise, by backing the interlocutor into a corner by the very fact that he is speaking and asking a question.
Let’s do this experiment right away, if you will, and let’s see what happens.
One of the major parts of the desiring-machines, if I have understood you properly, is “the partial object,” which, for someone who has not yet managed to get rid altogether of the psychoanalytic uniform, calls to mind a psychoanalytical concept, namely, the Kleinian one of the “partial object.” Even if one claims, as you do, not without humor, to “make fun of concepts.”
In this use of the partial object as an essential part of the desiring-machine, one thing seems to me very significant: you still try to “define” it. You say: the partial object can only be defined positively. That’s what surprises me. First of all, how does the positive description differ essentially from the negative imputation that you denounce?
Above all: the slightest psychoanalytical experience makes it clear that the partial object can only be defined “differently” and “in relation to the signifier.”
Here, your “contraption,” if I may say so, can only be “lacking” its object (the banished lack pops up again!). Even though it is written, as a book is, it claims to be a text without a signifier, a text that would tell the truth about the truth, keeping close to an alleged reality, quite simply. As though that were possible without distance or intention of all duality. Very well. A contraption of this sort can have its use; the future will tell. But as for desire, the good news of which it claims to bring to society more effectively than psychoanalysis, I repeat, it can only be lacking its object.
I believe that your desiring-machine which should only work by breaking down, that is, skipping and backfiring, happens to be disarmed: a “positive” object, devoid of any duality as well as of any “lack,” it ends up working … like a Swiss clock!
Félix Guattari: I don’t think that one should situate the partial object either positively or negatively, but rather as a participant of nontotalizable multiplicities. It is only in an illusory fashion that it is inscribed in reference to a complete object such as the body proper, or even the fragmented body. By opening the series of partial objects, beyond the breast and the feces, to the voice and the gaze, Jacques Lacan signified his refusal to close them off and reduce them to the body. The voice and the gaze escape the body, for example, by becoming more and more adjacent to audio-visual machines.
I’ll leave aside the question of how, according to Lacan, the phallic function, insofar as it overcodes each of the partial objects, does not give them back a certain identity, and, by assigning them a lack, does not call for another form of totalization, this time in the symbolic order. Whatever the case, it seems to me that Lacan has always tried to extricate the object of desire from all the totalizing references that could threaten it: beginning with the mirror stage, libido escaped the “substantialist hypothesis” and symbolic identification supplanted an exclusive reference to the organism; tied down to the function of speech (parole) and to the field of language, the drive shattered the framework of topics that were closed in on themselves; whereas the theory of the “a” object perhaps contains the seed that allows to liquidate the totalitarianism of the signifier.
By becoming an “a” object, the partial object detotalized, deterritorialized, and permanently distanced itself from an individuated corporeity; it is in a position to swing over to real multiplicities and to open itself up to the molecular machinisms of every kind that are shaping history.
Gilles Deleuze: Yes, it’s curious that Leclaire would be saying that our machine works too well, and is capable of digesting everything. That’s exactly what we held against psychoanalysis. It’s curious that a psychoanalyst would reproach us with that in turn. I’m saying this because we have a special relationship with Leclaire: he wrote a text called “the reality of desire,” which, before we did, goes in the direction of a machine-unconscious and uncovers final elements of the unconscious which are no longer either figurative or structural.
It seems our agreement does not go all the way, since Leclaire reproaches us for not understanding what a partial object is. He says it’s not important to define it positively or negatively, because, in any case, it’s something else, it’s “different.” But we are not really interested in categories of objects, even partial ones. It’s not certain that desire has to do with objects, even partial ones. We are talking about machines, flux, sampling, detachments, residue. We are doing a critique of the partial object. And surely Leclaire is right to say that it doesn’t really matter if the partial object is defined positively or negatively. But he is only right theoretically. For if we consider the way it functions, if we ask what psychoanalysis does with the partial object, how it makes it work, then knowing whether it enters a negative or positive function is no longer inconsequential.
Is it true or not that psychoanalysis uses the partial object to base its ideas of lack, absence, or signifier of absence, and to legitimate its use of castration? Even when it invokes the notions of difference or the different, it’s psychoanalysis that uses the partial object in a negative way in order to fuse desire to a fundamental lack. What we hold against psychoanalysis is that it resorts to a pious conception, based on lack and castration, a sort of negative theology that involves infinite resignation (the Law, the impossible, etc.). It is against this that we propose a positive conception of desire, desire that produces, not desire that is lacking in something. Psychoanalysts are still pious.
Serge Leclaire: I won’t challenge your criticism any more than I acknowledge its pertinence. I’ll simply emphasize that it seems based on the hypothesis of a somewhat … totalitarian reality. Without signifiers, without flaw, splitting, or castration. Ultimately, one wonders what makes the “true difference” you invoke. It should be situated, you say, not between … let’s see …
Gilles Deleuze: Between the imaginary and the symbolic …
Serge Leclaire: … between the real on one hand, which you present as the ground, the underlying element, and something like the superstructures that would be the imaginary and the symbolic.
Now, I think the question of “true difference” is, in fact, the question raised in the problem of the object. Just now, Felix, in referring to Lacan’s teachings (and you came back to them), situated the “a” object in relation to the “ego,” to the person, etc.
Félix Guattari: … the person and the family …
Serge Leclaire: Now, the concept of the “a” object in Lacan is part of a quaternary which includes the signifier, which is dual (S1 and S2), and the subject (the crossed out S). True difference, if this expression were to be used, would be situated between the signifier on the one hand and the “a” object on the other.
I don’t mind that at no moment it would be advisable, for either pious or impious reasons, to use the term of signifier. Whatever the case, I don’t see how you can challenge some duality and promote the “a” object as self-sufficient, like some substitute for an impious God. I don’t think you can support a thesis, a project, an action, a “contraption,” without introducing somewhere a duality, and all it entails.
Félix Guattari: I’m not at all sure that the concept of the “a” object in Lacan is anything but a vanishing point, an escape, precisely, from the despotic character of signifying chains.
Serge Leclaire: What interests me most, and what I am trying to articulate in a way quite obviously different from yours, is how desire is deployed in the social machine. I don’t think we can go without a precise clarification of the object’s function. Then it will be necessary to specify its relationship with other elements at work in the machine, “signifying” elements (symbolic and imaginary ones, if you prefer). These relationships don’t operate in a single direction, that is, the “signifying” elements have a backlash effect on the object.
If we want to understand something about what is happening in terms of desire in the social machine, we have to go through that narrow pass that the object constitutes right now. It’s not enough to assert that everything is desire, but show how that happens. I will add a final question: what do you use your “contraption” for?
What relation can there be between the fascination of a flawless machine and the true excitement of a revolutionary project? That’s the question I’m asking you, on the level of action.
Roger Dadoun: In any case, your “machine”—or your “contraption” [machin]—works. It works very well in literature, for example, for capturing the flow or the “schizo” circulation in Artaud’s Heliogabalus; it works for entering more deeply into the bipolar schizoid/paranoid oscillation of an author like Romain Rolland; it works for a psychoanalysis of dreams—for Freud’s dream, known as “Irma’s injection,” which is theatrical in an almost technical sense, with its staging, close-ups, etc., it’s like a film. It remains to be seen how this works for the -child …
Henri Torrubia: Working in a psychiatric ward, I would especially like to emphasize one of the nodal points of your theses on schizoanalysis. You assert—with arguments that, to me, are very illuminating—the primacy of social investment and the productive and revolutionary essence of desire. This raises such theoretical, ideological, and practical problems that you should expect a general outcry.
We know, in any case, that to undertake an analytical psychology in a psychiatric establishment, without the possibility for “each” person to keep questioning the institutional network itself, is either a waste of time or, in the best of cases, won’t go very far. In the current climate, moreover, nothing can go very far. That being the case, when an essential conflict emerges somewhere, when something goes wrong, which is precisely the sign that something like the desiring-production is liable to emerge, and which, of course, questions the social and its institutions, we immediately see reactions of panic and formations of resistance. This resistance takes various forms: meetings of synthesis, coordination, declarations, etc., and, more subtly, classic psychoanalytical interpretation with its usual effect of exterminating desire as you conceive of it.
Raphaël Pividal: Serge Leclaire, you have made several remarks, most of them in discrepancy with what Guattari says. Because the book, in a fundamental way, examines the analytical practice, your profession in a sense, and you have taken the problem in a partial way. You’ve only accepted it by submerging it in your own language, with theories that you’ve developed, where you give greater importance to fetishism, that is to say, precisely, to the partial object. You take refuge in this sort of language to reduce Deleuze and Guattari to details. Everything in Anti-Oedipus that concerns the birth of the state, the role of the state, schizophrenia, you say nothing about. You say nothing about your daily practice. You say nothing about the true problem of psychoanalysis, that of the patient. Of course, you, Serge Leclaire, are not being put on trial, but this is the point to which you should respond: the relationship of psychoanalysis to the state, to capitalism, to History; to schizophrenia.
Serge Leclaire: I agree with the aim you propose. When I emphasize the precise point of the object, I mean to highlight, through an example, the type of operation the contraption produced can perform.
Granted that the criticism of Deleuze and Guattari concerning the change of direction, the thwarting of psychoanalytic discovery, the fact that nothing or scarcely anything was said concerning the relations of the analytical practice or schizophrenia with the political world, or the social, I do not object entirely. It is not enough to signal one’s intention to do it, it has to be done pertinently. Our two authors have tried, and it’s their attempt that we are discussing here.
I simply said, and will say again, that the proper approach to the problem seems to me to go through an extremely specific pass: the place of the object, the function of the drive in a social formation.
I simply said, and will say again, that the proper approach to the problem seems to me to go through an extremely specific pass: the place of the object, the function of the drive in a social formation.
Just a remark in regard to the “it works” which is put forward as an argument in favor of the pertinence of the machine, or the book in question. Of course it works. And I was going to say that for me, too, in a certain sense, it works. One may note that any theoretically invested practice initially has a good chance of working. This is not a criterion in itself.
Roger Dadoun: The main problem that your book raises is no doubt this: how will it work politically, since you acknowledge the political as a principal “machination.” Witness the scope or the meticulousness with which you dealt with the “socius” and, notably, its ethnographic, anthropological aspects.
Pierre Clastres: Deleuze and Guattari, the former a philosopher, the latter a psychoanalyst, are reflecting together on capitalism. In order to conceive capitalism, they go through schizophrenia, in which they see the effects and limits of our society. And in order to conceive schizophrenia, they go through Oedipal psychoanalysis, but like Attila: in their wake, nothing much is left standing. Between the two, between the description of familialism (the Oedipal triangle) and the project of schizoanalysis, there is the biggest chapter in Anti-Oedipus, the third, “Savages, Barbarians, Civilized Men.” This essentially concerns societies that are usually the ethnologists’ object of study. What is ethnology doing here?
It ensures the consistency of Deleuze and Guattari’s undertaking, which is very strong, by shoring up their argument with non-Western examples (an examination of primitive societies and barbaric empires). If the authors were merely saying: in capitalism, things work this way, and in other types of societies, they work differently, we would not have left the realm of the most tedious comparatism. It isn’t that at all, because they show “how things work differently.” Anti-Oedipus is also a general theory of society and of societies. In other words, Deleuze and Guattari write about Savages and Barbarians what until now ethnologists have not written.
It is certainly true (we didn’t write it, but we knew it) that the world of Savages relies on an encoding of fluxes: nothing escapes the control of primitive societies, and if there is a slip—it happens—the society always finds a way to block it. It’s also quite true that the imperial formations impose an overencoding on the savage elements integrated into the Empire, without necessarily destroying the encoding of the flux that persists on the local level of each element. The example of the Incan Empire illustrates Deleuze and Guattari’s point of view perfectly. They say impressive things about the systems of cruelty such as writing on the body among the Savages, about writing’s place in the system of terror among the Barbarians. It seems to me that ethnologists should feel at home in Anti-Oedipus. That does not mean that everything will be accepted right away. One should expect a certain reticence (to say the least) in the face of a theory that asserts the primacy of the genealogy of debt, replacing the structuralism of exchange. One might also wonder whether the idea of Earth does not somewhat crush that of territory. But all of this means that Deleuze and Guattari are not taking ethnologists lightly: they ask them real questions, questions that require reflection.
Is this a return to an evolutionist interpretation of history? A return to Marx, beyond Morgan? Not at all. Marxism kind of found its way to the Barbarians (the Asiatic mode of production) but never quite knew what to do with the Savages. Why? Because if, in the Marxist perspective, the passage from barbarism (Oriental despotism or feudalism) to civilization (capitalism) is thinkable, on the other hand nothing allows one to think of the passage from savagery to barbarism. There is nothing in territorial machines (primitive societies) that would allow one to say that it anticipates what will come after: no caste system, no class system, no exploitation, not even work (if work, by essence, is alienated). So where does History, class struggle, deterritorialization, etc., come from?
Deleuze and Guattari answer this question, for they do know what to make of the Savages. And their answer is, in my view, the most vigorous, most rigorous discovery in Anti-Oedipus: it concerns the theory of the “Urstaat,” the cold monster, the nightmare, the state, which is the same everywhere and “which has always existed.” Yes, the state exists in primitive societies, even in the tiniest band of nomad-hunters. It exists, but it is constantly being warded off, it is constantly being prevented from becoming a reality. A primitive society is a society that devotes all its efforts to preventing the chief from becoming a chief (and that can go as far as murder). If history is the history of class struggles (in societies where there are classes, of course) then one can say that the history of classless societies is the history of their struggle against the latent state, it’s the history of their effort to encode the flux of power.
Certainly, Anti-Oedipus does not tell us why the primitive machine has, here or there, failed to encode the flux of power, this death which keeps rising from within. There is indeed not the slightest reason for a tribe to let its chief act the chief (we could demonstrate this through ethnographic examples). So where does the Urstaat so completely and suddenly come from? It comes from the outside, necessarily, and one might hope that the follow-up to Anti-Oedipus will tell us more about this. Encoding, overcoding, decoding and flux: these categories establish the theory of society, whereas the idea of Urstaat, whether warded off or triumphant, establishes the theory of History. This is radically new thought, a revolutionary way of thinking.
Pierre Rose: To me, what proves the practical importance of Deleuze and Guattari’s book is that it challenges the virtue of commentary. It is a book that wages war. It concerns the situation of the working classes and Power. The angle is the critique of the analytical institution, but the question is not reduced to that.
“The unconscious is the political,” Lacan said in ’67. Analysis made its claim to universality through that. It is when it gets close to the political that it legitimates oppression most blatantly. It is the trick by which the subversion of the Subject who allegedly knows, turns into submission in the face of a new transcendental trinity of Law, Signifier, Castration: “Death is the life of the Spirit, what use is there in rebelling?” The question of Power was erased by the conservative irony of tightest Hegelianism which undermines the question of the unconscious, from Kojève to Lacan.
This legacy, at least, had high standards. We’re also done with the more sordid tradition of the theory of ideologies, which has haunted Marxist theory since the Second International, that is, since Jules Guesde’s thought crushed Fourier’s thought.
What the Marxists did not manage to break down was the theory of reflection, or what has been done with it. Yet the Leninist metaphor of the “little screw” in the “big machine” is radiant: the overthrow of Power in people’s minds is a transformation that is produced in all the cogs and wheels of the social machine.
The way in which the Maoist concept of “ideological revolution” breaks with the mechanistic opposition of ideology and the politicoeconomic sweeps aside the reduction of desire to the “political” (Parliament and party struggles) and politics to the speeches (of the leader) in order to restore the reality of multiple wars on multiple fronts. This method is the only one to come near to the critique of the state in Anti-Oedipus. It is impossible for a critical work that starts with Anti-Oedipus to become a university operation, a lucrative activity for the whirling dervishes of Being and Time. It takes back its effect, conquered against the instruments of Power, in the real, it will help all the assaults against the police, the courts, the army, the power of the state in the factory, and outside.
Gilles Deleuze: What Pividal said earlier, what Clastres just said seems absolutely right to me. The essential thing for us is the problem of the relationships between machines of desire and social machines, their different gears, their immanence in regard to each other. That is: how unconscious desire is an investment in social, economic and political fields. How sexuality, or what Leclaire perhaps would call the choice of sexual objects, only expresses such investments, which are in fact investments of flux. How our loves are derived from universal History and not from mommy and daddy. Through a beloved woman or man, a whole social space is invested, and can be in different ways. So we are trying to show how the fluxes flow into different social fields, what they flow on, what they are invested with, encoding, overcoding, decoding.
Can one say that psychoanalysis has touched upon all this in the slightest way, for example with its ridiculous explanations of fascism, when it makes everything stem from images of father and mother, or familialist and pious signifiers like the Name of the Father? Serge Leclaire says that if our system works, that’s not a proof because everything works. That’s certainly true. We say so as well: Oedipus, castration, that works very well. But what are their effects, at what cost do they work? That psychoanalysis appeases, relieves, that it teaches us resignation we can live with, that is certain. But we are saying that it has usurped its reputation of promoting, or even of participating, in an effective liberation. It has crushed phenomena of desire on a familial stage, crushed the whole political and economic dimension of the libido in a conformist code. As soon as the “patient” begins to talk about politics, to rave about politics, look at what psychoanalysis does with it. Look at what Freud did with Schreber. politics, look at what psychoanalysis does with it. Look at what Freud did with Schreber.
As for ethnography, Pierre Clastres said it all or, in any case, the best for us. What we are trying to do is to put the libido in relation with the “outside.” The flux of women among primitives is connected to the fluxes of herds, flows of arrows. All of a sudden, a group becomes nomadic. All of a sudden, warriors arrive at the village square, look at the China Wall. What are the flows of a society, what are the fluxes capable of subverting it, and what is the position of desire in all of this? Something always happens to the libido, and it comes from far off on the horizon, not from inside. Shouldn’t ethnology, as much as psychoanalysis, be in contact with this outside world?
Maurice Nadeau: We should perhaps stop here .. . I would like to thank Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari for their elucidations regarding a book that is likely to revolutionize many disciplines and that seems even more significant to me in terms of the particular way in which its authors approach questions that concern us all. I also thank François Chatelet for having organized and presided over this discussion and, of course, the specialists who were kind enough to participate.
TEXTS AND INTERVIEWS 1972-1977
Edited by Sylvère Lotringer
Translated by David L. Sweet, Jarred Becker, and Taylor Adkins
© 2009 Félix Guattari and Semiotext(e)