Psychoanalysis of Deleuze and Guattari

Deleuze and Guattari are unusual subjects for the study of Psychoanalysis  because their work has attempted to reveal the bourgeois ideology imbedded in the apparent “radicalism” of psychoanalysis. They therefore focus on the institutionalization of psychoanalysis in works like Anti-Oedipus ( 1977) and A Thousand Plateaus (1987).The concerns and targets of Deleuze and Guattari may be summarised as follows:

(a) To reveal that repression and castration are fundamental instruments of psychoanalysis itself.

(b) To reject the static model of the unconscious.

(c) To expose the psychoanalytic “situating” of discourse within the oppressive constraints of the Oedipal narrative.

Their arguments may be summed up thus.

(1) Deleuze and Guattari reject the idea of repression and castration as blanket conceptions.They argue that the castration idea (castration is the threat which is supposed to inform the unconscious) implies that there is only one sex—the masculine, in relation to which the woman is defined as the lack.

(2) In contrast to this molar concept of repression and castration, they suggest a “molecular” model of the unconscious, where the unconscious knows nothing about castration. Castration for them is an ideological construct; it is not a unifying concept.

(3) The unconscious, for Deleuze and Guattari, produce multiplicities and flows with (in their famous definition) “n sexes . . a hundred thousand.” This leads them to argue that even for Freud the unconscious was associated with static representation rather than production of myth, tragedy and dreams. This means that finally, the unconscious is linked to the family and other such ideological structures of Western civilization.

(4) Oedipus is not to be perceived as merely an ideological interpretation of psychological functions. For Deleuze and Guattari, Oedipus is the very hegemonic and limiting system of Western culture. They therefore propose a post-Oedipal world. This would be world without the “genital economy” that will produce a “body without organs” (BWO), full of flows and excesses. Instead of the dichotomous model of all Western culture (symbolised in the tree model of knowledge, life, heredity. The tree divides dichotomously, suggesting a binarism and linearity) they propose a “rhizome.”

(5) The rhizome is a-linear, multiple, spread out, all proliferating and without boundaries centres/margins or limits. This is what Deleuze terms a “horizontality” of thought. Rejecting the “Father Principle” or the principle of the otigin.-as-identity, Deleuze and Guattari argue that there is no distinction between the individual and the collective. Traditionally the individual has always been associated with desire and the collective with the law. Deleuze and Guattari instead propose a “social desire.” This suggests that desire is always in movement, always constituted by different elements depending upon the situation. This, they suggest, is machine-like rather than a drama (of Oedipal representation). Desire is not lack, which suggests negativity. It is affirmative in its state of movement and change. Thus the BWO is constantly in the process of formation, deformation and reformation. The BWO is itself rhizomatic, which loses a point/channel of desire (deterritorialisation) only to start off along a new path like a rhizome’s, spread (reterritorialisalion).