Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Today I finally finished reading Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1973), which turned out to take most of the semester. It's the kind of book where at times one is intrigued by the lucid thoughts that percolate through the brain while reading, at other times one finds oneself looking askance at the entire enterprise. And that is partly to be expected as it's a book that aims at schizoanalysis, which is a way of saying that a stable, centered, rational response to the book or to one's own thoughts is not what the book promotes.

The main point of schizoanalysis is to try to overcome all the deleterious effects of psychoanalysis -- to some extent as a procedure, but mainly as an intellectual presupposition that dominates our collective educated Western thinking. How so? According to Deleuze and Guattari the oedipalization of the unconscious was one of the great disservices of our world; it has created a context in which sexuality and, more importantly, desire are tied to a myth of mommy-daddy-me, a viral famialism that perpetuates a reactionary space from which all sorts of desires -- which they term revolutionary -- are banished. This process does not begin with Freud, but Freud represents the reified version: the point at which a reactionary tendency toward repression becomes a condition for a 'cure' of what the schizo experiences as flows and breaks and what D & G call "the body without organs."

For myself, the point of reading this book is to grasp something which does exercise my mind in various ways: what, if anything, is the philosophical outcome of sex and drugs and rock'n'roll? In other words, IF one accepts that those patterns of behavior, those identifications and forms of expression alter not only some time-bound era of culture (e.g. "the 60s" or "the 70s" or what have you), but alter as well the subject or self, then what changes in the content of thought? How is the world transfigured? This question interests me when thinking about works that I believe to be marked by such changes -- whether Dylan of the mid-60s, Beatles of the late '60s, or Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, all of which I consider to be schizo texts in D & G's sense. While reading Anti-Oed, I'm constantly referring to those pop cultural forms that in some sense intrude between daddy/mommy and me: that libidinal liberation that occurs when one grasps one's "jetztzeit" -- to use Benjamin's term for that awareness of a temporal position as a "now" that fulfills a past and projects a future (or fulfills its future by projecting a past).

The question moves beyond that specific temporal, "alternative culture" challenge when one considers the degree to which D & G look to Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Beckett, Lawrence, Henry Miller, and Proust to help formulate their own conceptions: figures who all in their way marked to some degree a stage in early periods of my reading during those years when I might imagine myself -- now -- to have been best enacting the schizo purpose. A period, from '76 to '82 say, before the re-oedipalization that is parenthood began to have its effects on the degree to which I could fluidly re-imagine myself each waking day. So I find myself also applying D & G's conceptions to the work whose contemplation remained fixed in my mind during those years of more or less willful oedipalization (otherwise known as a college education): Finnegans Wake, a schizo text par excellence, and one that engages at every moment with the effort to reconfigure all the prevailing myths of daddy-mommy-me. Does JJ ultimately cure himself or us? No. Plus his daughter was nutty. Or was she simply schizo in D & G's sense?

Not a question I really mean to answer or entertain. I'm more interested in what D & G can offer me in ways of thinking about the reactionary, oedipal, paranoiac registers of thought as they come in conflict with the revolutionary, anti-oedipal, schizoid registers.

"We have repudiated and lost all our beliefs that proceeded by way of objective representations. The earth is dead, the desert is growing: the old father is dead, the territorial father, and the son too, the despot Oedipus. We are alone with our bad conscience and our boredom, our life where nothing happens; nothing left but images that revolve within the infinite subjective representation. We will muster all our strength so as to believe in these images, from the depths of a structure that governs our relationships with them and our identifications as so many effects of a symbolic signifier. The 'good identification.' We are all Archie Bunker at the theater, shouting out before Oedipus: there's my kind of guy, there's my kind of guy! Everything, the myth of the earth, the tragedy of the despot, is taken up again as shadows projected on a stage."--Deleuze and Guattari

Death seed blind man's greed
Poets' starving children bleed
Nothing he's got he really needs
Twenty-first century schizoid man
--Fripp-McDonald-Lake-Giles-Sinfield, 1969

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