Félix Guattari; The Anti-Œdipus Papers

Félix Guattari; The Anti-Œdipus Papers
Full book

Notes and journal entries document Guattari and Deleuze’s collaboration on their 1972 book Anti-Œdipus.

“The unconscious is not a theatre, but a factory,“ wrote Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Anti-Œdipus (1972), instigating one of the most daring intellectual adventures of the las half-century. Together, the well-known philosopher and the activist-psychiatrist were updating both psychoanalysis and Marxism in light of a more radical and “constructivist“ vision of capitalism:“Capitalism is the exterior limit of all societies because it has no exterior limit itself. It works well as long as it keeps breaking down.“ Few people at the time believed, as they wrote in the often-quoted opening senctence of Rhizome, that “the two of us wrote Anti-Œdipus together.“ They added, “Since each of us was several, that became quite a crowd.“ These notes, addressed to Deleuze by Guattari in preparation for Anti-Œdipus, and annotated by Deleuze, substantiate their claim, finally bringing out the factory behind the theatre. They reveal Guattari as an inventive, highly analytical, mathematically-minded “conceptur,“ arguably one of the most prolific and enigmatic figures in philosophy and sociopolitical theory today. The Anti-Œdipus Papers (1969-1973) are supplemented by substantial journal entries in which Guattari describes his turbulent relationship with his analyst and teacher Jacques Lacan, his apprehensions about the publication of Anti-Œdipus and accounts of his personal and professional life as a private analyst and codirector with Jean Oury of the experimental clinic La Borde (created in the 1950s).

 


Daniel W. Smith | Inside out (Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus Papers)

Félix Guattari met Gilles Deleuze in Paris shortly after the events of May 1968, through a mutual friend. Over the next twenty-five years, he would co-author five books with Deleuze, including, most famously, the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia – AntiOedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1981). Their collaboration, a kind of French version of Marx and Engels, sparked enormous interest and curiosity: what had led them to undertake their joint labour? How exactly did they work and write together? In 1972, Guattari had not yet written a book of his own; his first book, Psychoanalysis and Transversality, would be published shortly after Anti-Oedipus, with an introductory essay by Deleuze. Deleuze, by contrast, was already a well-known figure in French philosophy and the author of ten influential works, including the landmark Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962) and his magnum opus Difference and Repetition (1968). The nature of Guattariʼs influence on Deleuze, in particular, is still the object of debate. Was Guattari a bad influence, transforming the good Deleuze-as-philosopher (the solo Deleuze – dry and even dull, but rigorous and scholarly) into the bad and crazy Deleuze-asdesiring machine (the Deleuze of the D&G writing machine – irreverent and flamboyant, but philosophically suspect)? Or was it Guattari who compelled an aloof or even ʻelitistʼ Deleuze to go beyond his natural metaphysical tendencies and confront social and political issues directly? There remain, to this day, partisans on both sides of the issue.

The publication of Guattariʼs Anti-Oedipus Papers1 has opened up a new window on the Deleuze–Guattari collaboration. Editor Stéphane Nadaud – who provides a helpful introductory essay – has here gathered together the Guattari manuscripts that are archived at the Institut Mémoires de lʼEdition Contemporaine (IMEC) at the Abbaye dʼArdenne. The papers were written between 1969 and 1972, addressed to Deleuze, and they constitute the basis for much of the material in Anti-Oedipus (a few of the papers were written after the publication of Anti-Oedipus in March of 1972, and anticipate A Thousand Plateaus). The manuscripts were never meant to be published in their own right, and no doubt some will question their significance, much as the value of Nietzscheʼs vast Nachlass has been disputed. Authors are indeed assessed by their fruits, not their roots. Yet there is new and informative material here, at least for readers with the patience to toil through Guattariʼs jottings. The papers, as one might expect, vary widely in style, content and tone, ranging from fairly developed theoretical proposals to scattered notes on diverse topics to early chapter outlines for A Thousand Plateaus. Several texts are little more than notes on books Guattari was reading, including Leroi-Gourhanʼs Milieu et techniques, JeanToussaint Desantiʼs Les Idéalitiés mathématiques, as well as Deleuzeʼs own book on Spinoza, Expressionism in Philosophy, which Guattari had evidently not read prior to their collaboration. The final section of the book includes entries from a 1971–72 journal that Guattari was apparently encouraged to write at the suggestion of Deleuze and his wife Fanny. Not surprisingly, it includes the most personal and gossipy passages of the volume, recording the ups and downs of Guattariʼs relations with his girlfriends, patients and colleagues.

Kélina Gotman is to be commended for having produced a fluid and readable translation, making these texts easily accessible to English-speaking readers. The volume, however, is not without its editorial quirks. Strangely, Nadaud decided not to publish the papers in their chronological order (though some texts are dated by Guattari himself), but instead has organized the texts around six thematic sections of his own choosing. * Félix Guattari, The Anti-Oedipus Papers, ed. Stéphane Nadaud, trans. Kélina Gotman, Semiotext(e), New York, 2006. 384 pp., £11.95 pb., 1 584 35031 8.Moreover, although Nadaud notes that almost all of Guattariʼs texts ʻwere annotated by Deleuzeʼ, the footnotes only cite slightly more than twenty such annotations, many of which say little more than ʻunderlined by Deleuzeʼ. Obviously, Deleuzeʼs annotations were more extensive than that: at one point, for example, Nadaud indicates that Guattariʼs text ʻis followed by two pages written by Deleuze on the infinitiveʼ. Yet none of these more substantial responses by Deleuze is included in the volume. Both decisions are regrettable – Nadaud says he wanted to publish the texts in their ʻpureʼ form – since they make it difficult to follow the development of Guattariʼs own thinking or to get a sense of the creative give-and-take that took place between him and Deleuze. A well-constructed index would have made it easier for the reader to trace out various themes in these inevitably ad hoc texts. Nonetheless, we should be grateful to Nadaud for having undertaken the editorial work required to make these papers available in published form. Readers, depending on their interests, will find many paths to follow (and construct) through these texts; I will highlight a few of them.

Amis, pas copains

ʻIt is easier to follow the thread of a good authorʼ, wrote Leibniz in the preface to his great book on Locke, the New Essays, ʻthan to do everything by oneʼs own efforts.ʼ Such might have been Deleuzeʼs motto as well. He famously found it difficult to write ʻin his own nameʼ, and his usual modus operandi was to enter into a ʻbecomingʼ with the authors on whom he was writing (Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson), creating a kind of zone of indetermination between himself and them. His collaboration with Guattari seems to have functioned in exactly the same manner, albeit, of course, with a living author. ʻAt the beginning of our relation, it was Félix who sought me outʼ, Deleuze recalled in a 1991 interview. ʻI didnʼt know him.… My encounter with Félix took place around questions concerning psychoanalysis and the unconscious. Félix brought me a kind of new field, he made me discover a new domain, even if I had spoken of psychoanalysis beforehand.ʼ ʻIt was me who sought him outʼ, confirmed Guattari, ʻbut in a second period, it was he who suggested we work together.… I had been very impressed by the reading of Difference and Repetition and Logic of Sense.… He was struck by my marked dissidence in relation to Lacanianism, which was already dominant, and by my way of approaching political and social problemsʼ (Robert Maggiori, ʻSecret de fabrication: Deleuze–Guattari,

Nous Deuxʼ, Libération, 12 September 1991). Deleuze would later confirm that he ʻmade a sort of move into politics around May ʼ68, as I came into contact with specific problems, through Guattari, though Foucault, through Elie Sambarʼ (Deleuze, Negotiations [1995], p. 170. Elie Sambar was the editor of the Revue des études palestiniennes). Prior to his meeting Deleuze, Guattariʼs work had been dispersed primarily in four different areas: his involvement in leftist activism, his co-directorship of the La Borde Clinic (with Jean Oury), his attendance at Jacques Lacanʼs seminars, and his psychotherapeutic work with schizophrenics. For his part, he later explained, ʻI felt a need, not to integrate, but to make some connections between these four ways I was living, I had some reference points … but I didnʼt have the logic I needed to make the connectionsʼ (Negotiations, p. 15).

Deleuze and Guattari spoke freely about the working method that they worked out between themselves, or what they called their ʻwriting machineʼ. Initially they wrote letters, then had face-to-face meetings, and finally sent manuscripts back and forth, with constant corrections and revisions. Their collaboration was a working relationship, not a social one: they were friends (amis), but not buddies (copains), and continued to refer to each other with the formal vous rather than the familiar tu. One of the revelations of The Anti-Oedipus Papers is the important role that Deleuzeʼs wife Fanny played in the writing process, serving as both a go-between and an amanuensis, typing up Guattariʼs notes and funnelling the manuscripts between the two authors. Guattari speaks often of his affection for her – ʻIʼm supported by someone who types, corrects, readsʼ – but also of ʻher demanding natureʼ. Despite the definition of philosophy given in What is Philosophy?, Guattari did not always seem to conceive of his work as the production of concepts. ʻHis ideas are like drawings, or even diagramsʼ rather than concepts, Deleuze noted elsewhere. ʻFrom my perspective, Félix had these brainstorms, and I was like a lightning rod. Whatever I grounded would leap up again, changed, and then Félix would start againʼ (Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995 [2006], p. 238). Brainstorms harnessed by a lightning rod: such seemed to be the nature of the collaboration, with Deleuze functioning as a conceptual apparatus of capture in relation to Guattariʼs diagrammatic war-machine. In the end, it was Deleuze who ʻfinalizedʼ the text of Anti-Oedipus, although they both conceived of the ultimate result of their work as a truly ʻcollective assemblage of enunciationʼ. What The Anti-Oedipus Papers confirm is the degree to which their ʻwriting machineʼ functioned, as they themselves liked to say, only on the condition of constantly breaking down. ʻFélix sees writing as a schizoid-flow drawing in all sort of thingsʼ (Negotiations, p. 6), Deleuze said, and these texts now allow us to see Guattariʼs schizoid writing-flow in its raw state, as it were, in comparison to which the text of Anti-Oedipus seems to be a paragon of organization and systematicity. For his part, Guattari frequently bemoans the fact that his writing is a ʻmessʼ: ʻI want to make an outline this time, but I can tell that itʼs going to be a mess again!ʼ ʻEverything I do is a mess.ʼ ʻSame mess all over again. Iʼm so jealous of your ability to organize and classify things.ʼ Yet, in one of the more revealing passages of the volume, Guattari reacts against this predilection on Deleuzeʼs part to organize and classify, to conceptualize: ʻHe works a lot.… He always has the œuvre in mind. And for him this is all just notes, raw material that disappears into the final assemblage. Thatʼs how I feel a bit overcoded by AntiOedipus.ʼ Indeed, it would seem that for Guattari – and for many of his fans in the blogosphere – what counted the most was the mess itself, the schizo-flow:

Writing to Gilles is good when it enters into the finality of the common project. But for me, what matters, really, is not that. The energy source is in the mess. The ideas come after.… What I feel like is just fucking around.… Barf out the fuckingaround-o-maniacal schizo flow. (emphasis added)Nowhere do the divergent styles of these two unlikely co-authors appear more clearly: for Deleuze, the importance of the work lay in the ideas, the concepts; whereas ʻthe continuous–discontinuous text flow that guarantees my continuanceʼ, Guattari complains, ʻobviously he doesnʼt see it like that. Or he does, but heʼs not interestedʼ. After Anti-Oedipus is published, Guattari makes a note to himself on how to keep the writing machine going:

 

I donʼt really recognize myself in A.O. I need to stop running behind the image of Gilles and the polishedness, the perfection that he brought to the most unlikely book.… Digest A.O. Liberate myself from it. Itʼs the necessary precondition for writing the rest.

Indeed, throughout the papers, Guattari expresses his ambivalence and even insecurity about the entire collaboration. On the one hand, the work helped him disengage himself ʻfrom twenty years of LacanoLabordian comfort.… At La Borde, I have status, I have my role to play.ʼ On the other hand, he regrets being thrust into a new and unwelcome public role, and the breaks his writing may introduce into his life. ʻBoth books are finishedʼ, he writes in November 1971.

Which fascinates and irritates me. I will have to account for them. I will have to say things, answer questions. Things will be thought about them, and positions taken. What a pain! There will be consequences. I feel like scrunching myself up into a little ball, becoming tiny, putting an end to this whole politics of presence and prestige. Stay in a corner with little things that donʼt interest anyone.

To such an extent that I almost blame Gilles for having dragged me into this mess.… Now everything is inscribed: something irreversible with Lacan, and maybe with Oury and even La Borde.

Yet what The Anti-Oedipus Papers also makes clear is how productive these tensions became at the conceptual level. Although Deleuze declared that ʻneither of us assigns a paternity to conceptsʼ, both he and Guattari frequently talked about the complex genesis of their concepts. ʻI myself have a strong memory of the introduction of this or that notionʼ, Deleuze said, ʻFor example, the “ritournello” … was due initially to Guattari. I introduced the “body without organs,” taking it from Artaudʼ (Nous Deux, p. 17). It would not be difficult to continue the list: desiring machines, schizoanalysis, deterritorialization, black holes, faciality initially came from Guattari; the notion of the syntheses of the unconscious, as well as the analyses of capitalism and nomadism, were initially due to Deleuze. But the manner in which these concepts were finally articulated seems to have been equally ʻmessyʼ. Sometimes a division of labour seem to have been maintained. Deleuze, for example, seems to have been responsible for their revisionary concept of capitalism: ʻI have the feeling of always wandering around, kind of alone, irresponsiblyʼ, Guattari writes to him early on, ʻwhile youʼre sweating over capitalism. How could I possibly help you?ʼ (137).

At other times, the introduction of one concept would generate another: ʻDeterritorialization, a barbarous formula that I had articulatedʼ, Guattari recalled, ʻwas then articulated by Gilles in connection with the concept of the Earth [Terre], which was not, at the start, in my sightsʼ (Nous Deux, p. 17). In another passage, Guattari proposes an intriguing transformation of one of Deleuzeʼs basic concepts, but which seems not to have been pursued: ʻMaybe we shouldnʼt make multiplicity [multiplicité] a substantive but a verb: multiplicitate [multipliciter].ʼ Revealingly, Guattari indicates that, in September 1972, a mere six months after the publication of Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze was already hard at work on the ʻNomadologyʼ chapter of A Thousand Plateaus (ʻGilles is working like a madman on his nomadsʼ), almost as if Deleuze had realized, even before finishing Anti-Oedipus, that its tripartite typology of social formations (primitives, states, capitalism) was inadequate, and would have to be complemented with a fourth type – the nomadic war-machine. In the Papers, Guattari was himself developing an interesting notion of what he calls ʻaudio-visualʼ societies, which, for some reason, did not make it into the final draft of the book. Years later, in 1984, Deleuze revealed that ʻwe never did understand the “body without organs” in the same wayʼ (Two Regimes, p. 239), which is faint consolation, perhaps, to contemporary readers trying to comprehend the concept on their own. But this was precisely the ʻconcept of the conceptʼ that Deleuze and Guattari wound up formulating in What in Philosophy?, and that no doubt was itself the result of their collaborative efforts: ʻItʼs not a question of grouping things under a single concept, but of relating each concept to the variables that determine its mutationsʼ (Negotiations, p. 31).

Dinner with lacan

In the end, however, perhaps the most important contribution of Guattariʼs Anti-Oedipus papers will be the insights they provide into Deleuze and Guattariʼs complex relation to Jacques Lacan. Anti-Oedipus is sometimes characterized as an anti-Lacanian book, but it is clear from Guattariʼs notes that this is not the case. ʻAt first there was no hostility toward Lacanismʼ, Guattari writes: ʻIt was the logic of our development that led us to emphasize the dangers of an a-historic interpretation of the signifier.ʼ On this score, Guattari is indeed critical of Lacanʼs conception of the symbolic, which relies on what Guattari considers to be a ʻreally bad linguistics (Saussuro-Jakobsonian)ʼ: ʻLacan was wrong to identify displacement and condensation with Jakobsonʼs metaphor and metonymy on the level of primary processes.ʼ Even Foucaultʼs concept of discourse comes in for a similar criticism from Guattari: ʻIʼm trying to read The Archaeology of Knowledge by Foucault; but itʼs so hard for me to get through this kind of thing. It seems to me that your friend is getting lost in linguistics and other structures.ʼ In a prescient text entitled ʻHjelmslev and Immanenceʼ, we can see Guattari rethinking the signifier/signified distinction in terms of Hjelmslevʼs notion of language as a system of continuous flows of content and expression – a shift that would come even further to the fore in A Thousand Plateaus. But in the end, this negative critique is merely a propaedeutic to their positive appropriation of Lacanʼs work. ʻI donʼt personally think the linguistics is fundamentalʼ, Deleuze later noted; Thereʼs no question that weʼre all the more indebted to Lacan, once weʼve dropped notions like structure, the symbolic, or the signifier, which are thoroughly misguided [mauvaises], and which Lacan himself has always managed to turn on their head in order to show their inverse side. (Negotiations, pp. 28, 13–14)This ʻinverse sideʼ of the symbolic is what Lacan called the Real, and Anti-Oedipus presented itself, from start to finish, as a theory of the Real. Yet an orthodoxy had grown up around Lacan that understood the Real (via the objet petit a) simply as an internal gap or impasse within the symbolic. ʻHow many interpretations of Lacanianismʼ, Deleuze and Guattari asked, ʻovertly or secretly pious, have in this manner invoked … a gap in the Symbolic?.… Despite some fine books by certain disciples of Lacan, we wonder if Lacanʼs thought really goes in this directionʼ (Anti-Oedipus, pp. 82–3, 53). In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari attempted to follow a different path, but one they insisted had been marked out by Lacan himself. For Lacan, it was psychosis (and not neurosis or perversion) that was closest to the Real, since psychotics were ʻforeclosedʼ from the symbolic – so Deleuze and Guattari followed Lacanʼs lead and took psychosis (schizophrenia) as their model for the unconscious. ʻLacan himself says, “Iʼm not getting much help”ʼ, Deleuze later commented, so ʻwe thought weʼd give him some schizophrenic helpʼ (Negotiations, pp. 13–14). Moreover, they showed that there is an intimate link between psychosis and the social field. Far from being preoccupied with personal or familial concerns, psychotic deliriums are marked by an extraordinary political, geographic, and even world-historical content, which had often been ignored or explained away by psychoanalysts and psychiatrists. Itʼs the Russians that worry the psychotic, or the Aryans and Jews, or Joan of Arc and the Great Mongol, the circulation of money and the conspiracies of power – an entire unconscious investment of the social field. This is what allowed Deleuze and Guattari to establish a precise relation, indicated in their subtitle, between capitalism and schizophrenia, since capitalism itself, while perfectly rational in its axioms, is itself fully delirious in its functioning.

Guattari summarizes his and Deleuzeʼs relation to Lacan in a revealing text: ʻIt was at the end of his analysis of the representation of desire that Lacan found the objet a, the residual object. We started from the other end, production and desiring machines, and found all our figures of representation on the wayʼ (349). Many of Guattariʼs papers, as indicated by their titles, are attempts to rethink the status of Lacanʼs concept of the objet petit a: ʻIn Lacan, the Plays the Part of the Body without Organsʼ, ʻOf a Machinic Interpretation of Lacanʼs “a”ʼ. Throughout, Guattari exhibits an inevitable ambivalence towards Lacan. At times, he praises Lacanʼs efforts at ʻdeterritorializationʼ (ʻWhatʼs interesting about Lacan is that he is crazier than most people, and that, in spite of his efforts to “normalize” everything, he manages to slip, and slip back into deterritorializing the signʼ), while at other times he expresses his frustration that Lacan does not go far enough: ʻI think he has only gone halfway on the path to deterritorializationʼ; ʻhe interrupts his deterritorialization process to the letter (no doubt a defence against his own schizophrenia. It would be useful to reread his analyses of Schreber, and find where he gets stuck)ʼ. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari undertook extensive rereadings of the classic Freudian cases of Schreber, Little Hans and the Wolf Man in order to defend their position. And despite the disclaimer in Anti-Oedipus (ʻNo, we have never seen a schizophrenicʼ, p. 380), the Papers reveal that Guattariʼs reflections on psychoses were based on his experience with schizophrenic patients, which was rather considerable.

It seems to that it is much easier to help a schizophrenic patient than a neurotic one. Easy, on the condition that you work at it full time.… The case of R.A., my first schizo, took up at least four to five hours a day. It took over everything. Including my friends and even my girlfriends.

Revealingly, recent ʻNeo-Lacanianʼ interpreters of Deleuze, like Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek, have deliberately ignored Anti-Oedipus – a rather obvious avoidance of Deleuze and Guattariʼs critiques of Lacan. Instead, they have tended to focus on earlier psychoanalytic texts of Deleuze such as Masochism and Logic of Sense, even though Deleuze himself insisted that ʻAnti-Oedipus marks a breakʼ with these earlier works, which were still too timid (Negotiations, p. 144). (Among interpreters, only Eugene Holland, in his Deleuze and Guattariʼs Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis [1999], has dealt with Deleuze and Guattariʼs relation to Lacan systematically and sympathetically.) The publication of the Anti-Oedipus Papers will perhaps help focus these debates concerning the Lacanian heritage on what seems to be their true differend – namely, the status of the Real. Put crudely, in the ʻorthodoxʼ view, the Real marks the points of ʻimpasseʼ or ʻruptureʼ in the representative or discursive structure (the objet petit a as the ʻimpossible Realʼ). By contrast, Deleuze and Guattariʼs heterodox approach starts with the Real, and diagnoses the manner in which an immanent unconscious (the Real) comes to be represented, mediated and symbolized (transcendence), and yet is not an immediate or raw experience beneath its representations, but rather must itself be constructed and produced – the unconscious as a factory and not a theatre, or, desire as the production of the Real. In this sense, Anti-Oedipus could be said to have brought about an identification of the Real with the Idea (the syntheses of the unconscious).

A final surprise: Guattariʼs papers reveal that Lacan himself seems to have made efforts to monitor both the progress and the content of Anti-Oedipus. On 1 October 1971, Guattari received an ʻurgent convocation to Lacanʼs officeʼ: ʻWhat have you been doing over the past two years? Weʼve lost contact.ʼ … He wanted to see the manuscript. I retreated behind Gilles who only wants to show him something completely finished. I told him that I still consider myself to be a frontline Lacanian, but Iʼve chosen to scout out areas that have not been explored much, instead of trailing in the wake.

Lacan nonetheless insists on another meeting, where Guattari attempts to lay out verbally the entire argument of the book:

Dinner invitation, next week, to lay the cards on the table … Impossible to back out.… ʻSo what is schizoanalysis?ʼ [Lacan asks].… I laid it all out. The ʻaʼ is a desiring machine; deterritorialization, history.… He was pleased with our meeting.

Reassured. Or so he said! Stooped, evidently exhausted, limping imperceptibly, his silhouette disappeared into the night.

Several months after the publication of Anti-Oedipus, Lacan would similarly summon Deleuze to his office, telling him, ʻI could use someone like youʼ. We have no record, to my knowledge, of what Lacan actually thought about Anti-Oedipus, but Guattariʼs papers seem to indicate that he was anything but antagonistic towards them.

 

RADICAL PHILOSOPHY

 

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