The Exterminating Angel: The Dark Flows of Capital

The schizophrenic deliberately seeks out the very limit of capitalism: he is its inherent tendency brought to fulfillment, its surplus product, its proletariat, and its exterminating angel.

– Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia


The State and its bureaucracies, the forces of law and order, try to stem the tide of these flows – split them among the dark contours of accumulated violence: the schizophrenic pulse accelerating onward toward oblivion on the extended wings of an exterminating angel. “When we say that schizophrenia is our characteristic malady, the malady of our era, we do not merely mean to say that modern life drives people mad. It is not a question of a way of life, but of a process of production” (34).1 Yet, as they continually remind us, there “is only one kind of production, the production of the real” (32). But what is produced by its inversion in capital is the production of fantasy – a group fantasia for zombies, a consumers purgatory where even angels dare to tread.

In another context they tell us desire produces reality, but that one might also say, “desiring production is one and the same thing as social production” (30). The production of the socious they contend is tripartite: the body of the Earth, the body of the Despot, and the body of Money (33). Under capitalism all three forms can be found intermixed among the codes of a wandering flow within States, nations, and families. Capitalism founded on abstract quatities, on things, on the lack of impossible objects and of the acquisition of those objects as our desires. In nihilistic delirium we yearn for those impossible substances that capital produces in parody of real desires. At the heart of capital is the production not of the real but of the unreal, of fantasies, impossible dreams. We follow these impossible dreams as zombies in a consuming cannibalistic frenzy, the flesh of the world dripping from our mouths as we build our towers of Babel to strange gods.

Our public relations experts realize the truth. We lack nothing, and our needs are deposited in the world like so many broken toys. Shaped by a false desire we chase after phantoms rather than the needs our desire desires. Caught in the trap of Capital’s fantasia we seek out the endless illusions of need in objects that are emptied of substance. We consume empty worlds like vampires in an endless night of blood letting. We are the hollow ones who live in abject fear of a delirious truth. The lack we try to fill is an interminable recording device. It erases as it records our being leaving us hollowed out knowing only the emptiness self-knowledge.

Capital is that lack, it infiltrates the dead body-without-organs, the hollow body like a dark god animating it with illusionary desires, producing that which entices us, allures us toward our enslavement. “The deliberate creation of lack as a function of market economy is the art of a dominant class. This involves deliberately organizing wants and needs amid an abundance of production; making all of desire teeter and fall victim  to the great fear of not having one’s needs satisfied; and making the object dependent upon a real production that is supposedly exterior to desire (the demands of rationality), while at the same time the productions of desire is categorized as fantasy and nothing but fantasy” (28).

Deleuze and Guattari agree with Spinoza and Wilhelm Reich that the fundamental problem of political philosophy is: “Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” (29). Reich would wonder why those having been exploited for centuries would willingly let themselves be enslaved in a system that kept them on a bare subsistence, that allowed them to be demeaned and humiliated by those above them, that allowed them in the name of pride and nationalism to starve themselves and their children at the expense of oligarchs who offered them nothing but the crumbs of a life rather than its fruits. Reich’s failure to understand the truth was the failure of all idealists who oppose the rational to the irrational, rather than discovering the common denominator or coextension in the social field and desire (30). Reich would succumb to the schizo-orgone rhizome of an energia that could liberate even the State itself, but the State forbade any such liberatory practices and crushed and silenced this maverick and burned his books in a great bonfire to their fear of truth and wisdom. Reich would die in prison. Utopianist fall before the one thing the State produces: terror.

The truth of it is that desiring-production is social production – and, the production of reality when subverted by capital produces fantasies instead. As Deleuze and Guattari affirm fantasy is never individual – but rather, group fantasy. Yet, it can be shaped to other worlds, too. “The great socialist utopias of the nineteenth century function, for example, not as ideal models but as group fantasies – that is, as agent of the real productivity of desire, making it possible to disinvest the current social field, to “deinstitutionalize” it, to further the revolutionary institution of desire itself” (30-31).

Capitalism is the utopia of the oligarchs. Its prime function is to produce a socious in which it can decodify the flows of desire inscribed in it by former despots, record these flows in probabilistically efficient paths, and seeing that no flows exists that are not properly deregulated by the bureaucratic order that spawned it. (34)  Yet, as time goes on and capital begins to circulate and recirculate beyond the control of the oligarchs of this new system new flows will be set loose in the deterritorialized spaces of the global commons decoding new liquid paths whose limits were only the accelerated boundaries of the schizophrenic energies that were the productions of its fantasy but have now become the horizon of its unfounded nihilism. As Deleuze and Guattari state it:

Capitalism does not confront this situation from the outside, since it experiences it as the very fabric of its existence, as both its primary determinant and its fundamental raw material, its form and its functions, and deliberately perpetuates it, in all its violence, with all the powers at its command. Its sovereign production and repression can be achieved in no other way. (33)

To step outside the Oedipal triangle is to leave the family behind and wander through the earth like a schizophrenic angel whose winged flows find no resting place. Capital intervenes and harnesses those flows without interrupting them, rather it guides them forward through its own endless mazes, circulating round and round the globe recording its own devices and reproducing the fantasies that will keep those powers locked in a self-perpetuating accelerated flow to the moon:

We’ll never go to far with deterritorialization, the decoding of the flows. For the new earth … is not to be found in the neurotic or perverse reterritotializations that arrest the process or assign it goals; it is no more behind than ahead, it coincides with the completion of the process of desiring-production, the process that is always already complete as it proceeds, and as long as it proceeds. (362)

1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (Penguin, 1977)


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