I haven’t had much time to write lately as I’m inundated with grading and a host of other things. Basically I’ve been a nervous wreck waiting to find out about the job. I know, I know, it’s only been a week… After all, I just returned from Ohio on Friday 16th and the last candidate was interviewed on Monday the 19th, but nonetheless… The fun part of these things is that all my obsessional symptoms begin to come to the fore. In his case study on the Rat Man and elsewhere, Freud underlined the strong relationship between superstitious or magical thought and obsessional neurosis. For instance, the Rat Man would worry that thinking certain thoughts would lead to the death of his father, despite the fact that his father was already dead! I won’t trouble you with the sorts of connections playing about in my mind. They aren’t pretty.
At any rate, some of you might recall that one of my first posts here was about the relationship between Lacanian psychoanalysis and Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis. Indeed, it was the thoughts behind this post that motivated me to start this blog, on a whim one night, in the first place. My friend Melanie had been gushing about the whole blog phenomenon– in particular she had been lurking about on I Cite and Infinite Thought –so lest I lose my “hip factor” I decided, with bottle of wine in hand, to poke about one night while I was on vacation (it must have been Spring Break). I had participated for years on academic discussion lists– indeed I am even the moderator of a few such lists –but had never ventured forth into the daunting land of theory blogs. Was I hip enough to be a blogger, I wondered? Did I have what it takes to rant endlessly and in a self-absorbed fashion about the minor drama that is my life? Could I write freely and of my own accord, without having the instigation of other list members annoying the hell out of me with their particular thoughts and thus prompting me to respond? At any rate, as I poked about in my semi-drunken stupor, I came across a blog devoted to Deleuze and Guattari, and was enraged by the sort of standard claims you come across in these venues about psychoanalysis (this wasn’t, of course, on I Cite or Infinite Thought). When I tried to post my rejoinder, pointing out how heavily Deleuze and Guattari draw on Lacan and how Anti-Oedipus tends to except Lacan from the sorts of criticisms they level against folk like Melanie Klein and Freud, the computer froze and I lost the comment.
In that moment Larval Subjects was born. Basically I said screw it, quickly set up a blog with blogger, wrote a post on the death of god and then another on Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan. Having gotten it out of my system, I didn’t give the blog another thought, yet to my great surprise someone posted: Orla. “Whoa, perhaps people actually read these things!” A few days later I got the courage to post on Jodi Dean’s I Cite with a link to something I’d written. She frontpaged me and then a few other blogs followed in kind, and voila! So I kept writing. It would be no exaggeration to say that Jodi Dean and Sujet-barre made me in more ways than one when they front paged me. The traffic that ensued and the comments that arose encouraged me to continue writing and to explore my ideas in ways that I never had before, pushing me to develop my own thoughts rather than simply engaging in commentary. While my style is still very citational, I nonetheless continue to develop thoughts of some sort, for good or ill. My interactions here have motivated me to submit far more papers and have made me more confident in my professional interactions. Blogging has been, for me, a life changing event. Such is the power of networks. At any rate, my rage about an offhand comment from an enthusiast of Deleuze and Guattari was the result of years of frustration borne out of my own interactions with Deleuzians on various online discussion lists and at conferences. As Deleuze and Guattari point out,
Let us remember once again one of Marx’s caveats: we cannot tell from the mere taste of wheat who grew it; the product gives us no hint as to the system and the relations of production. The product appears to be all the more specific, incredibly specific and readily describable, the more closely the theoretician relates it to ideal forms of causation, comprehension, or expression, rather than to the real process of production on which it depends. (AO, 24)
Perhaps this is one of the quasi-transcendental sources of stupidity that I was lamenting in my recent post on learning: our tendency to think in terms of products and results, rather than processes of production. I always try to remind myself of this, that I do not know their field of individuation or from whence they have come, when I encounter someone who is responding to something in a particularly impassioned way, though I am seldom good at keeping this in mind. In a similar vein, if my irritation with the treatment of Lacan by American enthusiasts of Deleuze and Guattari is so impassioned, then this is due to years and years of hearing the same tired points trotted out again and again, when what is written there on the page in black and white says something completely different.
And, of course, there is my own sympathy towards psychoanalysis, having spent years in analysis myself, having struggled with Lacan’s own difficult and imposing theoretical edifice, and practicing as an analyst myself. Sometimes I cannot prevent myself from having dark and self-serving thoughts, smugly thinking of certain Deleuzians as academic dilettantes playing a game of letters, who have never sat before and been responsible to another genuinely suffering person and had to assume responsibility for the consequences of their own interventions. As Lacan remarks in his tenth seminar, L’angoisse, the analyst must learn, above all, how to use her own anxiety as a productive principle. And anxiety is certainly legion on the analyst’s end of things. It is my view that every thinker, every philosopher, should have a concrete practice so as to remind themselves of that little bit of the real, or so as to encounter a point of opacity and resistance within the otherwise “smooth” world of conceptual creation where we are all little gods. I know these are ugly thoughts and I try not to have them. Spinoza had his lenses to grind. Kant had his physics. Descartes had his mathematics. Leibniz all his inventions. And Lacan his patients. I do not like that I sometimes conceitedly think such things. Yet I get frustrated.
At any rate, in order to keep myself sane as I wait and as I grade, I’ve been distracting myself by rereading Anti-Oedipus. I thought, perhaps, with some distance in time between the heady days of heated polemical debates about Lacan in the various forums devoted to Deleuze and Guattari, I could approach the collaberative works with fresh eyes and less irritation. And indeed, I am finding the work to be productive and enjoyable in a number of ways. Yet still I wonder how the translation process has effected the reception of Deleuze and Guattari and tended to produce sterile debates between schizoanalysis and psychoanalysis in ways that aren’t reflective of what the text directly says. Thus, for instance, in a footnote we find the translators making the following remark:
Institutional analysis is the more political tendency of institutional psychotherapy, begun in the late 1950s as an attempt to collectively deal with what psychoanalysis so hypocritcally avoided, namely the psychoses. La Borde Clinic, established in 1955 by Jean Oury of the Ecole Freudienne de Paris, served as the locus for discussions on institutional psychotherapy, and Jacques Lacan’s seminars served as the instutitional basis for these discussions ‘in the beginning.’ Felix Guattari joined the clinic in 1956, as a militant interested in the notions of desire under discussion– a topic rarely dealt with by militants at the time. Preferring the term ‘institutional analysis’ over ‘institutional psychotherapy,’ Guattari sought to push the movement in a more political direction, toward what he later described as a political analysis of desire. In any case this injection of a psychoanalytical discourse (Lacan’s version) into a custodial instutition led to a collectivization of the analytical concepts. Transference came to be seen as institutional, and fantasies were seen to be collective: desire was a problem of groups and for groups. See Jacques Donzelot’s excellent article on Anti-Oedipus, “Une anti-sociologie” in Esprit, December 1972, and Gilles Deleuze’s detailed discussions of Guattari’s notions of groups and desire, “Trois problemes de groupe” in Felix Guattari, Psychanalyse et transversalite (Paris: Maspero, 1972). (Translators’ note.) (AO, 30)
The amount of commentary in this passage is simply bizarre. First, what is hypocritical here in psychoanalysis? Lacan’s doctoral thesis was on psychosis and he there did groundbreaking work in the analysis of the relationship between “cultural factors” and the phenomenon of psychosis. Second, Lacan devoted two entire years of his seminar to the study of the psychoses– first in 1995 and later in the twenty-third seminar, on the Sinthome. Third, one will find articles on psychosis in the Ecrits. And most importantly, fourth, Lacan was among the first to advocate the development of techniques– markedly different from those employed in working with neurotics –for working with psychotics. It seems that interest in psychosis was widespread within the Lacanian psychoanalytic community. Moreover, these discussions are just lively and vital today among Lacanians.
Things become more bizarre when we note the square quotes around “in the beginning”, when the translators speak of La Borde Clinic’s relationship to Lacan, as if the translators need to find some point of contention between Lacan and the engaged practitioners of La Borde. How are we to square this with the fact that Guattari was a member of Lacan’s school for his entire life? Wouldn’t Guattari have renounced his membership if there were some fundamental theoretical break here? Further, it would be rather odd for Deleuze and Guattari to present Lacan with a copy of Anti-Oedipus upon its publication were there not some theoretical sympathy between them. Moreover, it simply isn’t true that Lacan ignored the instutitional dimension of transference with regard to psychoanalytic groups. Anyone who has read the founding documents of Lacan’s various schools and pronouncements on the training of analysts in Television knows that these issues of group and institutional transference are front and center. Indeed, it could be said that Lacan’s central question where psychoanalytic organizations is concerned was that of how to form a group that isn’t premised on belief in the big Other and the primacy of either the master or university discourse.
Finally, how are we to square the apparently hostile attitude towards Lacan expressed in this footnote with passages from Anti-Oedipus such as the following:
Lacan’s admirable theory of desire appears to us to have two poles: one related to “the object small a” as a desiring-machine, which defines desire in terms of a real production, thus going beyond both any idea of need an any idea of fantasy; and the other related to the “great Other” as a signifier, which reintroduces a certain notion of lack. In Serge Leclaire’s article “La realite du desire” (Ch. 4, reference note 26), the oscillation between these two poles can be seen quite clearly. (AO, 27)
Why would they describe Lacan’s theory as admirable if they were thoroughly rejecting it. A little later, Deleuze and Guattari will say “There is no doubt that at this point in history the neurotic, the pervert, and the psychotic cannot be adequately defined in terms of drives, for drives are simply the desiring-machines themselves. They must be defined in terms of modern territorialities” (AO, 35). Confronted with this passage, it is difficult for the reader well acquainted with Lacan not to recall this passage from The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, given eight years before the publication of Anti-Oedipus:
Let me say that if there is anything resembling a drive it is a montage
The montage of the drive is a montage which, first, is presented as having neither head nor tail– in the sense in which one speaks of montage in a surrealist collage. If we bring together the paradoxes that we just defined at the level of Drang, at that of the object, at that of the aim of the drive, I think that the resulting image would show the working of a dynamo connected up to a gas-tap, a peacock’s feather emerges, and tickles the belly of a pretty woman, who is just lying there looking beautiful. (169)
Deleuze and Guattari describe the functioning of desiring-machines as decentered with regard to the subject, just as we see in this passage, where drive is described as having no head (drive is “acephalous”). But more fundamentally, it is impossible to miss the strong parallel between the connective nature of drive– dynamo-gas-tap-peakcock feather-woman –and the connective nature of desiring-machines. Finally, just as desiring-machines function by interrupting a flow– for instance, the mouth interrupting a flow of milk –drive or objet a results from a cut.
Further on Deleuze and Guattari will go on to remark that,
…every machine has a sort of code built into it, stored up inside it. This code is inseparable not only from the way in which it is recorded and transmitted to each of the different regions of the body, but also from the way in which the relations of each of the regions with all the others are recorded… All sorts of functional questions thus arise: What flow to break? Where to interrupt it? How and by what means? What place should be left for other producers or anti-producers (the place of one’s little brother, for instance)?… The data, the bits of information recorded, and their transmission form a grid of disjunctions of a type that differs from the previous connections. We owe to Jacques Lacan the discovery of this fertile domain of a code of the unconscious, incorporating the entire chain– or several chains –of meaning: a discovery thus totally transforming analysis. (The basic text in this connection is La lettre volee [The Purloined Letter].) But how very strange this domain seems, simply because of its multiplicity– a multiplicity so complex that we can scarcely speak of one chain or even of one code of desire. The chains are called ‘signifying chains’ because they are made up of signs, but these signs are not themselves signifying. The code resembles not so much a language as a jargon, an open-ended, polyvocal formation. (AO, 38)
Lacan himself will go on to emphasize exactly these points beginning around the time of the twentieth seminar, Encore, where he formulates concepts such as “linguistricks” and “linguisteries”, to distinguish the way in which the psychoanalytic relationship to language differs from that of linguistics. Indeed, just as Deleuze and Guattari formulate a trenchant critique of linguistics in “Postulates of Linguistics” in A Thousand Plateaus, Lacan will develop his own critique of the primacy of the code in linguistics from Encore on. This critique begins quite early in Lacan’s work– during the 50s –when he dispenses with the term “code” in the graph of desire in the Ecrits “Subversion of the Subject, where in seminars 4-6 where he developed the graph of desire he had referred to the code of language. That is, Lacan became increasingly skeptical of the idea of a code. This culminated, at the end of the six seminar, Desire and Its Interpretation, with the declaration that the Other does not exist or that there is no “code”. What is striking here is how enthusiastically Deleuze and Guattari, alleged to be sworn enemies of Lacan, speak of his work… Indeed, with regard to a vital aspect of their own conception of desire.
Passages such as this can be found all over the place in Anti-Oedipus, begging the question of whether or not there hasn’t been a missed encounter between Lacanian psychoanalysis and Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis. This would be as true of secondary scholarship on Deleuze and Guattari as it is of Zizek’s atrocious reading of Deleuze in Organs Without Bodies. As Aleatorist reminds us with regard to a passage in Difference and Repetition,
There is a crucial experience of difference and a corresponding experiment: every time we find ourselves confronted or bound by a limitation or an opposition, we should ask what such a situation presupposes. It presupposes a swarm of differences, a pluralism of free, wild or untamed differences; a properly differential and original space and time; all of which persist alongside the simplifications of limitation and opposition. A more profound real element must be dfined in order for oppositions of forces or limitations of forms to be drawn, one which is determined as an abstract and potential multiplicity. Oppositions are roughly cut from a delicate milieu of overlapping perspectives, of communicating distances, divergences and disparities, of heterogenous potentials and intensities. Nor is it primarily a question of dissolving tensions in the identical, but rather of distributing the disparities in a multiplicity. Limitations correspond to a simple first-order power– in a space with a single dimension and a single directin, where, as in Leibniz’s example of boats borne on a current, there may be collisions, but these collisions necessarily serve to limit and to equalise, but not to neutralise or to oppose. As for opposition, it represents in turn the second-order power, where it is as though things were spread out upon a flat surface, polarised in a single plane, and the synthesis itself took place only in a false depth– that is, in a fictitious third dimension added to the others which does no more than double the plane. In any case, what is missing is the original, intensive depth which is the matrix of the entire space and the first affirmation of difference: here, that which only afterwards appears as linear limitation and flat opposition lives and simmers in the form of free differences. Everywhere, couples and polarities presuppose bundles and networks, organised oppositions presuppose radiations in all directions. (DR, 50-51)
It is ironic that Lacanian psychoanalysis has so consistently been treated according to the logic of identity and opposition by the defenders of Deleuze and Guattari. What is needed is a far more differential and nuanced analysis of these relations, that avoid the molarities that have hitherto so dominated contemporary discussions of theory. Wasn’t Lacan himself the first to declare psychoanalysis anti-Oedipal when he announces that the Other does not exist, that there is no metalanguage, that there is no universe of discourse, that there is no Other of the Other, and finally when, in seminar 17, he declares that the Oedipus is Freud’s symptom, and in seminar 23, The Sinthome, that the name-of-the-father is only one way of tying the borromean knots or the orders of the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real?
My apologies, I realize this post is of little interest to those not deeply invested in Lacan and Deleuze and Guattari. I suppose that I’m letting off a bit of steam.