Ecosophy over at Soft Subversions has written a very interesting riff on my post about the relationship between Guattari and Lacan:

In his personal diary (published in The Anti-Œdipus Papers) the self-styled schizoanalyst Felix Guattari details a meeting with Jacques Lacan (whose method of psychoanalysis Guattari trained in) prior to the publication of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Œdipus. In the meeting, Guattari articulated his concerns about psychoanalysis: “The point is to know if analysts will be agents of the established order or if they will stand up to their political responsibilities.” According to Guattari, Lacan replied: “I don’t care if there are any analysts. I’ve spent my whole life denouncing them.” Lacan’s point was that, by making this demand, Guattari was revealing his desire for a political form of psychoanalysis. What we find in Guattari’s work is not a desire to cure (a desire met with disapproval in Lacan’s essay ’Variations on the Standard Treatment’), but a desire to militate.

In schizoanalysis we are not, of course, negating the dominance of the effects of the castration complex. For Freud, this complex is desire that blocks itself, scares itself… But blocks itself on what? The body… Neurotics hang onto remainders, recompose rites, on their own bodies, and the Oedipus. (The Anti-Œdipus Papers, p.123-4)

The political responsibility which Guattari places on the analyst is to not allow the neurotic patient to recompose Oedipal rites on their bodies. This view can be easily translated back into Freud’s own vocabulary of binding and primary and secondary processes. If primary processes are bound on the body of Oedipus in a secondary process, then the analyst’s political responsibility is to avoid reifying Oedipus into a transcendent structure within which the individual finds a position. This is a political responsibility because it is the reification of Oedipus which then allows capitalism to suppress desire for its own purposes. For this reason, Guattari places the concept of “assemblage” (which implies a temporary, nomadic formation) in opposition to Freud’s use of the term “complex”. Perhaps a productive dialogue may begin between Guattari’s work and recent, psychoanalytically-informed political theory (Laclau, Zizek, Butler et cetera) if we found a way to talk of an Oedipal assemblage, but not a reified Oedipal complex.

Read the rest here.

Ecosophy puts the issue brilliantly– truly brilliantly –when he remarks that perhaps it would be possible to open a more fruitful dialogue between psychoanalytically inflected political theories and schizoanalysis were the question to be posed in terms of Oedipal assemblages (or in my language, networks) rather than Oedipal structures (cf. my post on this distinction here). One of the major accomplishments of Anti-Oedipus was both the linkage of Oedipal networks to the broader social and historical context, showing how the formation of subjectivity is not a private family affair, and their demonstration in chapter 3 that kinship and socio-political organization take on very different structures, are organized by very different machines, in different periods.

Here Deleuze and Guattari are targeting a central psychoanalytic dogma surrounding the transcendence and eternality of Oedipal structure. If this issue is of crucial importance, then this is because where the Oedipus is treated as a transcendent structure, were faced with what Lacan called a “forced vel of alienation”. That is, we’re faced with an either/or alternative where either choice is bad and the only choice is the lesser of two evils. In the case of treating Oedipus as a structure, were faced with a choice where, just as we must choose our life when the mugger says “your money or your life”, therefore sacrificing our jouissance, Oedipal structure gives us the stark alternative of neurotic resignation to castration or incoherent psychosis. In other words, we can choose meaning (the order of the signifier and the social) or being (jouissance), but cannot have both. As a consequence, the Oedipus becomes an apologetics for both capitalist structure and a support for the reigning status quo: “Either you accept neurosis and the reigning social order or you fall into anarchic and mute psychosis!”

I have encountered this myself in discussions with Lacanians. Thus, a year ago I got into it with two prominent Lacanians over whether or not other discourses beyond Lacan’s four were possible, and whether or not there were other forms of social organization not premised on the masculine and feminine graphs of sexuation with respect to the real and jouissance. Much to my surprise I was informed that these structures are eternal– like Platonic forms –and then that “other structures are not needed even if they are possible”, despite clear textual evidence to the contrary that Lacan himself envisioned the possibility of other discourse relations and saw neurosis as something unique to contemporary kinship structures. In other words, there was an extreme hostility to the treatment of these things as assemblages that, by virtue of being assemblages, could be changed and reorganized in a variety of ways.

In my view, the advantage of treating the Oedipus as an assemblage rather than as a structure is two-fold. On the one hand, it opens the possibility of other social formations, significantly increasing the number of political possibilities on the table. On the other hand, it responds to certain shortcomings I believe to be at work in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. Based on my understanding, Anti-Oedipus poses the right question– “why do people will their own oppression” –and even gives the right answer– because of Oedipal or paranoid social structure –but it fails to give an adequate genetic or morphological account of just how subjects come to be Oedipalized or to accept the Oedipal order. If, as Deleuze and Guattari rightly argue, desire is productive, affirmative, and perpetually mobile, how does it come to occur that desiring-machines come to experience themselves as subjects, experience themselves as lacking, experience themselves as castrated, and yearn for a master? I’ve read Anti-Oedipus up and down and I simply can’t, for the life of me, find an answer to this question. The closest we get is something that sounds as if it is blaming theorists that discuss lack, castration, and the self-identical subject for these things. However, if 1) we can theorize Oedipal assemblages, and 2) we can give an account of how lack is manufactured or produced within affirmative and connective desire, then we can begin to build such an account and develop strategies for undermining this structure. The mistake, which is all too common among Deleuzians, lies in thinking that the illusions of lack and negation do not nonetheless have real effects and consequences. No doubt this mistake arises from a failure to read Kant on the topic of transcendental illusions.


In response to my post “Deleuze and Guattari avec Lacan“, Reid asks “What is the Borromean Clinic?” I confess that I am working through this myself, so I do not have a completely adequate answer. In many respects, this is the most and dense and difficult period of Lacan’s teaching, but it is also a period where he completely exceeds what he had developed in prior years, developing both an entirely new diagnostic system and new possibilities for the end of analysis.

In his Borromean period, Lacan shifts to a topology of the subject based on the borromean knot:


The first thing to notice with this curious knot is that no two of the rings are directly tied together as in the case of a Hopf chain:


Consequently, in the borromean knot, if any one of the rings are severed the other two rings fall away as well. In short, the consistence of the borromean knot arises only from the knotting of the three and the manner in which the strings pass over and under one another in the proper way. Lacan equated each of the three rings with one of his three orders– the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary (RSI) –corresponding to the order of ex-sistence (the real) or that which exists outside the symbolic, the order of the hole or lack introduced into being (the symbolic), and the order of consistency (the imaginary). However, it will be noted that each of the rings overlaps with the others forming points of intersection with the other rings like a Venn diagram:


Consequently, we can think the different orders together getting various combinations between the elements. Thus, for example, there can be a hole in the real, just as there is an ex-sistence in the symbolic (the letter as opposed to the signifier). Likewise, there can be a consistence in the symbolic (meaning), just as there can be a hole in the imaginary. And so on. As I said, I am still working through this myself, so I have not yet worked out the implications of all this.

Read on


In what sense can Guattari’s thought be understood as a radicalization of Lacanian psychoanalysis? And what does it mean to say that Guattari’s thought is a radicalization of Lacanian psychoanalysis? First, to characterize Guattari’s relationship to Lacan as a radicalization of Lacanian thought is not to claim that Guattari was an orthodox Lacanian. Rather, Guattari’s schizoanalysis is a radicalization of psychoanalysis in the sense that Hegel is a radicalization of Kant or Spinoza is a radicalization of Descartes. Just as Hegel and Spinoza deeply transform the thought and projects of their most important predecessors, Guattari significantly transforms Lacanian thought. However, before such a question can even be posed it is first necessary to determine just where Deleuze and Guattari share common ground with Lacan.

While it is certainly true that Guattari transforms Lacan’s thought in radical ways, it is also true that this relationship between the two has been presented as being one that is deeply antagonistic and hostile. Nietzsche pointed out that we arrive at the perspective of substance ontology, that there are substantial things composed of predicates, due to a set of illusions produced through language where words create the belief that there are unchanging things corresponding to these words. In the secondary literature on Deleuze and Guattari, one gets the sense that something similar occurs with reference to psychoanalysis. Often psychoanalysis is treated as if it is a monolithic entity, as the arch-enemy, characterized by homogeneity, despite the fact that psychoanalysis is characterized by a heterogeneous diversity of different schools and orientations often at odds with one another.

This is extremely odd for two reasons: First, it is odd that followers of the champions of difference would require identity in their enemy. It is as if somehow the ontological claim of the ontological primacy of multiplicities gets entirely forgotten and the target gets reduced to a molar and simplified identity without heterogeneous vectors and tendencies of its own. Second, it is especially odd that American Deleuzians seem so intent on toppling psychoanalysis, as if it were the most pressing political struggle within the American situation. Psychoanalysis is hardly anywhere to be found in the United States at the level of practice or predominant theory. Indeed, what we instead get in the States is the complete exorcism of the subject from the clinical setting, treating diagnostic categories as if they were natural kinds and signs, the ignorance of anything like a symptom, and a therapy that tends to be premised on the normalization of its patients so that they might tolerate normal, married, heterosexual conjugal relations, go to work and produce, and be good little consumers. One would think that were Deleuzians looking for a worthy project along the lines of Anti-Oedipus, they would begin not with psychoanalysis– which at least provides the possibility of providing a space where all that resists the “normal” might at least be enunciated, where the treatment isn’t 8 meetings with a cognitive-behavioral psychologist with tried and trusted methods to get rid of the symptom, where the solution isn’t a chemical straight-jacket –but rather with a Foucault and Bourdieu style analysis of the evolution of the DSM-IV, the relationship between therapeutic practice and insurance companies, the relationship between therapeutic practice and the legal system and work, an analysis of the statistical methods through which certain diagnostic categories are produced and generalized, and an analysis of the discourses through which certain attitudes towards life, the body, and mental health are produced. This sort of critique would potentially reveal something about American life in general, something un-thought and at the level of the unconscious in the structural or systematic sense, and would have potential for generating more active struggles, transforming what appear to be individual problems into collective symptoms. But alas, apparently psychoanalysis is the arch-enemy.

Read on