As the agony of waiting continues, I continue rereading Anti-Oedipus. This waiting really is hell. Fortunately I’m caught up with grading at the moment. At any rate, I came across these passages today in Anti-Oedipus. At some point I think I’ll have to write a book on the relationship between Deleuze and Guattari and Lacan. Given my background, I think that I’m in perhaps a unique position to do this. In chapter 2, “Psychoanalysis and Familialism: The Holy Family”, Deleuze and Guattari write:
For us, however, the problem is one of knowing if, indeed, that is where the difference enters in [the difference between the symbolic and the imaginary]. Wouldn’t the real difference be between Oedipus, structural as well as imaginary, and something else that all the Oedipuses crush and repress: desiring-production– the machines of desire that no longer allow themselves to be reduced to the structure any more than to persons, and that constitute the Real in itself, beyond or beneath the Symbolic as well as the Imaginary? We in no way claim to be taking up an endeavor such as Malinowski’s, showing that the figures vary according to the social form under consideration. We even believe what we are told when Oedipus is presented as a kind of invariant. But the question is altogether different: is there an equivalence between the productions of the unconscious and this invariant– between the desiring-machines and the Oedipal structure? (AO, 52-53)
It is notable that Lacan developed a thesis similar to this as well. The domain of the imaginary is marked by the will towards totalization, completeness, and identity. By contrast, the domain of drives– which Deleuze and Guattari equate with desiring-machines –is characterized by being partial, acephalous, and ignoring any sort of unity or totality. There is thus a constant conflict between this will to totalization and identity, and the aleatory, acephalous, drift of the drives that pay no regard to the pretensions of completeness and totality. Ego, the imaginary, thus finds itself perpetually undermined from within by drive-satisfaction, leading to the production of all sorts of defenses and projections.
In a passage perhaps surprising to some, Deleuze and Guattari then go on to say that,
…despite some fine books by certain disciples of Lacan, we wonder if Lacan’s thought really goes in this direction. Is it merely a matter of oedipalizing every schizo? Or is it a question of something else, and even contrary? Wouldn’t it be better to schizophrenize– to schizophrenize the domain of the unconscious as well as the sociohistorical domain, so as to shatter the iron collar of Oedipus and rediscover everywhere the force of desiring-production; to renew, on the level of the Real, the tie between the analytic machine, desire, and production? For the unconscious itself is no more structural than personal, it does not symbolize any more than it imagines or represents; it engineers, it is machinic. Neither imaginary nor symbolic, it is the Real in itself, the ‘impossible real’ and its production. (AO, 53)
Deleuze and Guattari thus draw a distinction between Lacan and his disciples, claiming that his disciples have misappropriated his work by Oedipalizing everything. As I have pointed out before, this is a sentiment echoed by Lacan himself. Not only does later Lacan refer to Oedipus as “Freud’s symptom”, but his constant polemics against ego-psychology show the manner in which he rejects any totalization or mastery as defined by the master. As if to underline this point, Deleuze and Guattari quote a passage from what is either Lacan’s 17th or 18th seminar (they don’t give the precise date, but it looks like Seminar 17, due to the focus on Totem and Taboo). There Lacan remarks that,
Nevertheless, it is not because I preach a return to Freud that I am not able to say that Totem and Taboo is a twisted story. It is in fact for that reason that we must return to Freud. No one helped me to make this known: the formations of the unconscious… I am not saying Oedipus serves no purpose, nor that it (ca) bears no relationship with what we do. It serves no purpose for the psychoanalysts, that is indeed true! But since psychoanalysts are assuredly not psychoanalysts, that proves nothing… These are things I set forth in their appropriate time and place; that was a time when I was speaking to people who had to be dealt with tactfully– psychoanalysts. On that level, I spoke of the paternal metaphor, I have never spoken of an Oedipus complex. (Jacques Lacan in a seminar, 1970) (Anti-Oedipus, 53)
If this is from seminar 17, then it is in this same context where Lacan treats the Oedipus as Freud’s symptom. Indeed, Lacan’s focus in his work up through the 1950’s will not be on Oedipus, but on Freud’s early work, where the mechanisms of the unconscious are emphasized in their own right, without being subordinated to the totalizing schema of Oedipus as the interpretive matrix within which all psychic structures are to be interpreted. In this connection, Deleuze and Guattari’s remarks about the unconscious could be treated as descriptive of Lacan’s own work:
Laplanche and Pontalis note that Freud “discovers” the Oedipus complex in 1897 in the course of his self-analysis, but that he doesn’t give a generalized theoretical form to it until 1923, in The Ego and the Id, and that, between these two formulations, Oedipus leads a more or less marginal existence, “confined for example to a separate chapter on object-choice at puberty (Three Essays), or to a chapter on typical dreams (The Interpretation of Dreams).” They say that this is because a certain abandonment by Freud of the theory of traumatism and seduction leads not to a universal determination of Oedipus, but to the description as well of a spontaneous infantile sexuality of an endogenous nature. It is as if “Freud never managed to articulate the interrelations of Oedipus and infantile sexuality,” the latter referring to a biological reality of development, the former to a psychic fantasy reality. Oedipus is what all but got lost “for the sake of a biological realism.”
But is it correct to present things in this way? Did the imperialism of Oedipus require only the renunciation of biological realism? Or wasn’t something else sacrificed to Oedipus, something infinitely stronger? For what Freud and the first analysts discover is the domain of free syntheses where everything is possible: endless connections, nonexclusive disjunctions, nonspecific conjunctions, partial objects and flows. The desiring-machines pound away and throb in the depths of the unconscious: Irma’s injection, the Worlf Man’s ticktock, Anna’s coughing-machine, and also all the explanatory apparatuses set into motion by Freud, all those neurobiologico-desiring-machines. And the discovery of the productive unconscious has what appear to be two correlates: on the one hand, the direct confrontation between desiring-production and social production, between symptomological and collective formations, given their identical nature and their differing regimes; and on the other hand, the repression that th social machine exercises on desiring-machines, and the relationship of psychic repression with social repression. (AO, 53-54)
I don’t know if anyone finds these little observations interesting, though I do think they speak pretty strongly against a standard doxa surrounding the relationship between Lacan and Deleuze and Guattari. Not only has the careless use of the signifier “psychoanalysis” led to a distorted and sloppy reading of Lacan among enthusiasts of Deleuze and Guattari, but I would suggest that it’s also led to a distorted reading of Deleuze and Guattari as well. After all, perhaps the most important question Anti-Oedipus asks is that drawn from Reich and Spinoza, “Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their own salvation?” (AO, 29). Lacan’s specific understanding of desire allows us to answer a number of these questions, and seems to be appropriated for precisely these ends. Moreover, what interests me here as well, is a materialist theory of communications, signification, that sees networks of communications as a production of the real (though not the real in the Lacanian sense).