Deleuze and Guattari: An Introduction to the Politics of Desire
Publication Year: 1996
This accessible book examines critically the writings of Deleuze and Guattari, clarifying the ideas of these two notoriously difficult thinkers without over-simplifying them. Divided into three sections - Knowledge, Power, and Liberation of Desire - the book provides a systematic account of the intellectual context as well as an exhaustive analysis of the key themes informing Deleuze and Guattari's work. It provides the framework for reading the important and influential study Capitalism and Schizophrenia and, with the needs of students in mind, explains the key concepts in Deleuze and Guattari's discussion of philosophy, art and politics. Definitive and incisive, the book will be invaluable in situating the philosop
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part I: Knowledge
- Chapter 1: The Emergence of Desire
- Problem 2: Crack Open Words …
- Problem 3: On Truth and Illusion
- Problem 4: On Judgement and Justice
- Chapter 2: The Abstract Machine
- Problem 5: On Knowing the Social Unconscious
- The Plane of Immanence
- The Creation of Concepts
- Conceptual Personae
- Chapter 3: Geophilosophy
Part II: Power
- Chapter 4: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
- Problem 6: On Psychogenesis and Perversion
- Psychic Repression
- The Psychic Production of Oedipus
- Social Repression
- The Social Production of Oedipus
- Chapter 5: Escaping Dominant Discourses
- Oedipalized Representation
- Theoretical Discourses
- Chapter 6: Against the Strata
- Problem 7: On Materialism
- Organization and Segmentarity
Part III: Liberation of Desire
- Chapter 7: The Revolution of Desire
- The Schizoanalytic Unconscious
- The War-Machine
- Problem 8: On the Revaluation of Values
- Chapter 8: The Liberation of Work
- Repression of Work
- Work and Art
- Art and Liberation
- Chapter 9: The Society of Desire
- Collective Activity
- The Illusion of Ends
- Virtual Utopia of Immanence
- Problem 9: On Ethics and Becoming-Deleuzean
Theory, Culture & Society[Page ii]
Theory, Culture & Society caters for the resurgence of interest in culture within contemporary social science and the humanities. Building on the heritage of classical social theory, the book series examines ways in which this tradition has been reshaped by a new generation of theorists. It will also publish theoretically informed analyses of everyday life, popular culture, and new intellectual movements.
editor: Mike Featherstone, Nottingham Trent University
series editorial board
Roy Boyne, University of Durham
Mike Hepworth, University of Aberdeen
Scott Lash, Lancaster University
Roland Robertson, University of Pittsburgh
Bryan S. Turner, Deakin University
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Risk, Environment and Modernity
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© Philip Goodchild 1996
First published 1996
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without permission in writing from the Publishers.
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I hesitate before signing my name to this work. This is not because of some general critique of the role of an author (Foucault, 1986b), nor because of my shame and embarrassment at the book's clear inadequacies. It is rather because in this book I report what I have heard, rather than what I have read or thought. This book is therefore written in several different voices, although it is not always clear which one is speaking. Those who hallucinate unindividuated voices may report the speech they hear as indirect discourse: ‘It was said that …’ One stumbles over questions of the truth, value, authenticity, or authority of such a discourse. For whenever I attempted to write in my own voice – from the position of a majoritarian subject, a self-appointed ‘authority’ on Deleuze and Guattari, speaking to a majoritarian readership – the meaning and force of their thought evaporated in my representations. The scholarly apparatus of references to the primary texts, along with other rhetorical strategies, may endow this book with an aura of authority and authenticity, but take care not to be fooled. I imagine this book becoming a disembodied voice haunting those who read and study the combined work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari – if you let it, if you read it, if it has any power. It places less emphasis on summarizing and repeating what Deleuze and Guattari have written than on enunciating the implicit presuppositions that whisper on the margins of their texts; page references merely locate the whispers. How would one evaluate such a discourse? What use would one make of it?
Certainly, I have busied myself with the selection and ordering of this discourse. The aim was to produce a book that functions as a transformer – converting the high potentials and intensities of Deleuze and Guattari's work into a safe and manageable form where they might begin to be of use to many who would otherwise find them inaccessible. It focuses mainly on their cooperative publications – the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (first published in French in 1972; cited here as translation published in 1984) and A Thousand Plateaus (first published 1980; translation 1988), as well as What is Philosophy? (first published 1991; translation 1994). The book aims to relay Deleuze and Guattari's social and philosophical thought to an English-speaking readership who might lack many of the conceptual landmarks and points of reference that Deleuze and Guattari orientate themselves on before putting such points to flight. Most of the intensity of their thought has been annihilated here by a flawed mode of expression, so as to accentuate a few motifs that recur as [Page viii]refrains – for this I make no apologies, but merely refer readers back to the primary texts. The potential of Deleuze and Guattari's thought should be evaluated by their own texts, not mine – but one must take care that it is their own thought that is evaluated rather than one of the many caricatures or simulacra that abound. This book intends to be self-effacing, therefore, but only on condition that it makes a productive return to the primary texts possible.
Several different voices speak in this text – and each reader will find some more accessible than others. In order to show the forces and philosophical strategies at work behind the main collaborative texts, attention has been paid to Deleuze's early philosophical work and development. The reader will be introduced to the underlying problems that motivate Deleuze's thought, and the reasons why certain theoretical strategies are adopted – this is undertaken in Part I: Knowledge. In order to indicate some of the consequences for social and cultural theory of the main collaborative texts, some attention has been paid to Guattari's later works, while also drawing out that which is implicit in the combined work – this is mainly undertaken in Part III: Liberation of Desire. Part II: Power includes an exposition of the differing discussions of the workings of power in society from Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, and contrasts the theoretical moves made by Deleuze and Guattari with those of their contemporaries. In addition, the text is interrupted at various points by voices that take off from Deleuze and Guattari's thought, along lines of flight, by considering several problems of a philosophical nature. These shed some light on different aspects of the text, but also gain a consistency when considered together.
Since Deleuze and Guattari's other works are taken to be the best commentaries on Capitalism and Schizophrenia, little discussion of the secondary literature, and the debates on how Deleuze and Guattari's thought is to be interpreted and evaluated, has been included. This is because interpretation and evaluation are not modes of thought adopted by Deleuze and Guattari. All too often, their statements and concepts have been translated into and represented within a heterogeneous mode of discourse by eminent readers who presume that such a process constitutes ‘comprehension’; the resulting shadows and simulacra are then admonished for their clear theoretical and moral inadequacies. This is all well and good, but the conscientious student of Deleuze and Guattari should not assume that such an activity constitutes a proper critical assessment of the theoretical content of their texts. The sense and function of Deleuze and Guattari's thought only emerges when considered in relation to the problems and processes that are at work in it; it is such an explicitly philosophical reading that has been attempted here. Another frequent practice in secondary literature is to follow one or more lines of experimentation within Deleuze and Guattari's thought, but fail to fold these lines back upon each other, to let lines affect and augment each other, understanding and changing each other from their separate perspectives: to fail to give the rhizome consistency, emphasizing difference without repetition. This is a failure of humour: one may understand [Page ix]the literal sense of the texts, but fail to produce a virtual, abstract, and imperceptible sense. Of greater significance than what Deleuze and Guattari say is what they actually do on the ‘outside’ of their own thought.
This book emerged from chance encounters with Scott Lash in the local supermarket. I am grateful to him for his initiative and encouragement. The work was funded by a research grant from the Department of Religious Studies and Social Ethics at the University College of St Martin, Lancaster. I am particularly grateful for two publisher's readers' reports that forced me to shed just a little of my complacency and think a bit harder, as well as for support from Chris and Robert Rojek. David Herbert contributed long lunch-time conversations. Dan Welch and Drew Hemment explored some of the same problems. Mariam Fraser contributed in many ways throughout the time of writing.[Page x]
Supposing thought should function on an ecological plane … There is no other conclusion that follows from pluralism, multiplicity. The modern rational ideal of a thought that seeks the truth is broken once more. Thoughts survive if they work, if they propagate, if they exchange fragments of code with other thoughts, if they mutate randomly, if they find an appropriate milieu, a welcoming territory. Thoughts are the genes of the spirit. They will only maintain their appeal if they can form some kind of alliance with what we do.
Thoughts are in competition for the scarce resources of our attention. To gain affective value, each thought has to make use of its intellectual milieu. There are thoughts that pass and fade. There are thoughts that conjugate with an experience that lends them validity. There are thoughts which repeat themselves over and over again, positing themselves as unquestionable absolutes. There are thoughts that attempt to ground themselves in other, successful thoughts, and share a little of their glory. There are rebellious thoughts that bring an affective reward. There are thoughts that organize human life so successfully that they manifest their own truth in their performance. There are thoughts that are merely tools of non-thinking powers. There are thoughts that evaporate, but become martyrs to their own evaporation: Evaporation is all! Non-thinking is all!
Perhaps thought has been admired too much. Gilles Deleuze, who has shown himself as one of the most intense thinkers of this century, has a formula of reversal: ‘Life will no longer be made to appear before the categories of thought; thought will be plunged in to the categories of life’ (Deleuze, 1989: 189). Theory can never be purified from its cultural, political, and psychological conditioning. Renunciation of an idolatrous worship of thought, and its pretensions to truth, involves many sacrifices. There will never be a thorough knowledge of society and culture. There will never be a perfect pragmatic or political strategy expressed in thought. There will never be Utopian political progress heralded by theory. There will never be a perfect insight into unconscious conditioning. There will never be definitive rational moral guidance. The theories that have hitherto promised such possibilities have prospered largely through their success in gaining adherents, constructing partial visions of the world, functioning as a resource into which emotions can be invested. The time is coming when one will question the value of such pleasant activities.
[Page 212]Thought is a virtual environment, a plane in which we dwell. If we do not master thought, then thought may master us, and we will become its servants, or the servants of abstract machines that do not think, but govern thought. Each time we appeal to thought to solve our problems, we lend it an authority that it does not possess by itself. We allow it the pretension of participating in infinite comprehension as an angel of the rational God. If infinite comprehension becomes a prerogative or aspiration of man, so that thought speaks on behalf of man, then man becomes a form of imprisonment for humanity. We do not know what a thought can do. We do not know what each thought is up to, what it produces, what forces it serves – one only discovers these by experimentation and experience.
To have done with the judgement of thought: this is to strip thought of its infinite pretension. For a ‘will to truth’ is nothing more than a ‘will to power’: it is an act of metaphysical presumption, of vicarious conquest – even if I cannot grasp the whole world, at least I may participate in a thought that grasps the whole of experience, or fully grasps one tiny area of experience. By appealing to a potentially infinite power of comprehension, thought mediates relations between the thinker and the thought environment that leave both unaffected, yet fragmented. Under such conditions, autonomous, self-propagating ideas come to mediate relations within humanity, and between humanity and environment, that construct their own extrinsic, machinic purposes. The world becomes governed by impersonal abstract machines, the success of which depends purely on their ability to propagate themselves.
One will accomplish little in such an ecological context by struggling for the rights of man. For it is this very struggle that, appealing to the infinite, becomes a form of imprisonment for humanity. Instead, it is necessary to renounce the possibility of attaining the absolute in order to regain it actually, to find the absolute where it is. If knowledge is finite, then it is merely a modification amid a plane of modifications. The task of thought changes: one aims to increase in power rather than know the truth. One engages in a political and ecological struggle, motivated by a desire to create and become.
Political action itself has its own appeal to an infinite that is never evident: a will to dominate. One attempts to enclose the entire world within one's territories and representations so that one can predict and control each move, each gesture, each becoming. One wards off all unforeseeable relations, unnatural participations, becomings, and complex emergences. One stratifies and segments, fragments and compartmentalizes, decreeing opinions as though they were judgements of God. Nevertheless, there remains an ‘outside’ to the world that one does not control; failure to think about such an outside does not prevent it from acting. By expressing a will to dominate, one becomes subject to extrinsic machinic forces that make use of one's decrees for inhuman purposes. The appeal to the infinite, motivated by a paranoid fear of the future, judging life from the perspective of one's own death, enables one's own domination to be sealed.
[Page 213]To accept one's ecological finitude in respect of thought and action is to affirm the innocence of existence. It is the one ethical act, above all others, that is needed in our time. While masquerading as despair or nihilism, it rejoins one to the absolute. Identity and world-view become fragmented and partial. One identifies oneself as a complex adaptive system within a generalized ecology of body and mind: the only goals become repetition, random mutation, autocatalysis, exchange of codes, and heterogeneous emergence. A will to dominate is replaced by a will to power, where power is the capacity to affect and be affected. One relates to the other finite modes that constitute one's environment, milieu, and territory.
Deleuze and Guattari have constructed the first ethic appropriate to such an ecological vision of the world. The interest of their thought is determined not by its validity as knowledge, nor by its critical power, but by its capacity to form an immanent plane in which one may dwell: an ethos. Such an ethos constitutes a style, a way of living and relating, that is collectively constructed in the bonds between people. As a mode of relating, it is a politics of desire. Deleuze and Guattari offer a possibility for social and cultural revolution through a form of collective action. This operates on the social unconscious of desire by changing the way in which thought and meaning are produced. One enters this collective action not by following what Deleuze and Guattari have said, but by being infected by their desire. One gains little from reading Capitalism and Schizophrenia in order to critically assess expressed opinions; one gains much from reading it to experience its intensities, to build a memory of ideas, to put its ideas to work in various contexts, and to explore the paths that lead off in all directions. One gains even more from reconstructing its consistency: each movement of thought, wherever it is stolen from, is repeated in a different context to change implicit presuppositions and construct an unthinkable plane, a ‘plateau of intensity’, that gives birth to new ways of thinking, living, and relating. Deleuze and Guattari have no privileged position to speak on behalf of this unconscious of desire; yet their theory is able to show it in operation. Knowledge becomes a memory of techniques and resources for overcoming segmentation and returning to relation. Power becomes a capacity to produce new social relations between differentiated and fragmented terms. Desire becomes a drive to live a life of relation, creation, and intensity.
It is possible that such an ethos opens itself once more to an absolute: one that is no longer claimed by right, but discovered in experience, surging within immanent relations between people. It is possible that such an ethos opens the way to voyages in intensity, strange becomings, altered states of subjectivity and consciousness, disguises and displacements that dramatize the absolute amid everyday experience. Of such a possibility, little can be said – yet much can be done. Try it and see.
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