Good people say that we must not flee, that to escape is not good, that it isn’t effective, and that one must work for reforms. But the revolutionary knows that escape is revolutionary—withdrawal, freaks—provided one sweeps away the social cover on leaving, or causes a piece of the system to get lost in the shuffle. What matters is to break through the wall…
…the first thesis of schizoanalysis is this; every investment is social, and in any case bears upon a sociohistorical field.
—Deleuze/Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
For Deleuze and Guattari we are all caught in the glue of a temporal machine whose labors are those of Eternal return of the Same: a presentism that seeks to close us off in a dark world of capitalist familial aggression and theatre of cruelty. A social, political, and economic world system that seeks to freeze time in an eternal present of absolute presence. Within such a static world the powers of command and control manipulate and modulate the desires of their slaves without fear of reprisal; for they’ve created a system of such utter destitution and austerity that no one escapes or withdraws without hitting zero degree intensity (i.e., death). With the separation of politics and the economy, the last linkage of democracy was severed and what remained was an iron clad prison of circulating capital sucking at its citizenry from center to periphery of the earth the surplus value and profit it needed to continue in its isolated world of speed. In such a world the populace is fed just enough to keep them alive till such a time as the machines will replace them, and then they too will become obsolesced and excluded from the world system.
The schizo is not revolutionary, but the schizophrenic process — in terms of which the schizo is merely the interruption, or the continuation in the void — is the potential for revolution. To those who say that escaping is not courageous, we answer: what is not escape and social investment at the same time? The choice is between one of two poles, the paranoiac counterescape that motivates all the conformist, reactionary, and fascisizing investments, and the schizophrenic escape convertible into a revolutionary investment.1
There are such moments when the two poles snap, the center does not hold and the forces of fascism and revolution collide in massive upheavals rivaling the darkest periods of genocide and holocaust. We are entering such an age, and yet it will not be based on ethnic or racial modes of horror but will be shown to be a confrontation between superior and inferior descendants of Homo sapiens sapiens. As the rich and powerful invest in human enhancement for their children in the coming century there will develop a separation of wide (supernormal) humanity from its predecessor and parental branch or clade. The ensuing clash between biological castes – of those with enhanced intelligence and physical features versus the narrow humanity of our own era (i.e., the un-enhanced normals of clade Homo sapiens sapiens). Sadly such conflictual relations may end badly for our species.
Along with this manifestation is the other tendency of machinic governance and technicity. With the incorporation of the NBIC technologies the advancement of Automatic Society as seen in Bernard Stiegler and other thinkers, the emergence of what many term the Algorithmic Civilization is in the offing. As AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) and Robotics along with nanotechnology and other machinic systems of intelligence and physical prowess replace humanity in the world of work we will see again other forms of exploitation and exclusion emerge.
Obviously this is only one scenario, the scenario being underwritten by the world system of Capital. The other scenario is that of the schizorevolutionary world defined by Deleuze/Guattari in several works during the late twentieth century. Can or will such a line of revolutionary schizz’s escape or exit this darker scenario of the ruling biological castes? Or will the bitter rivalries of twentieth-century forms of racial, gender, and other identity politics bring about an even more embittered systems of destruction? So that instead of humanity coming together to define a struggle against the coming catastrophe they instead hasten it?
The populist politics of our era is that of the masses and packs, the wolf-delirium of the Alpha Leader who as Elias Canetti has clearly shown is a paranoiac organizing hungry and angry masses and “packs.” As D&G will say of it the “paranoiac opposes them to one another, maneuvers them. The paranoiac engineers masses, he is the artist of the large molar aggregates, the statistical formations or gregariousness’s, the phenomena of organized crowds. He invests everything that falls within the province of large numbers.” (ibid., p 298) He practices a macrophysics.
Yet, the two poles paranoia (fascism) and schizophrenia (schizorevolutionary) are “ultimate products under the determinate conditions of capitalism” (ibid., p. 300). These were not metaphors or tropes for D&G but rather the truth of an underlying energetic unconscious, a productive unconscious: “But in reality the unconscious belongs to the realm of physics; the body without organs and its intensities are not metaphors, but matter itself.” (ibid., p. 302) As they explain:
In the unconscious there are only populations, groups, and machines. When we posit in one case an involuntariness of the social and technical machines, in the other case an unconscious of the desiring-machines, it is a question of a necessary relationship between inextricably linked forces. Some of these are elementary forces by means of which the unconscious is produced; the others, resultants reacting on the first, statistical aggregates through which the unconscious is represented and already suffers psychic and social repression of its elementary productive forces. (ibid., p. 302)
A dynamism is at play of creation and destruction, a continuous cycle of excess and decay, production and composition. Throughout their combined production D&G would struggle against those who would reduce their machinism to the vitalist camp: “it should be noted that, in one way or another, the machine and desire thus remain in an extrinsic relationship, either because desire appears as an effect determined by a system of mechanical causes, or because the machine is itself a system of means in terms of the aims of desire. The link between the two remains secondary and indirect, both in the new means appropriated by desire and in the derived desires produced by the machines.” (ibid., p. 303) They would grapple and formulate to varying degrees of success a narrative that would stipulate the difference between such unities of desire in Bergson’s Élan vital, and their own sense of desire. Speaking of Samuel Butler, “The Book of the Machines,” they tell us that “He shatters the vitalist argument by calling in question the specific or personal unity of the organism, and the mechanist argument even more decisively, by calling in question the structural unity of the machine.” (ibid., p. 303)
It’s this questioning of “unity” in both the organism or machine that redefines D&G’s non-vitalist conceptuality as against all those neo-vitalist materialist reductions we’ve seen in recent philosophical circles.2 Speaking of the various symbiotic relationships of machine/man, or Bee/flower in the sense of reproductive relations D&G will remark:
We are misled by considering any complicated machine as a single thing; in truth it is a city or a society, each member of which was bred truly after its kind. We see a machine as a whole, we call it by a name and individualize it; we look at our own limbs, and know that the combination forms an individual which springs from a single centre of reproductive action; we therefore assume that there can be no reproductive action which does not arise from a single center; but this assumption is unscientific, and the bare fact that no vapour-engine was ever made entirely by another, or two others, of its own kind, is not sufficient to warrant us in saying that vapour-engines have no reproductive system. (ibid., p. 304)
In fact it is at this point they’ll return to Butler’s fable commenting that Butler encounters the phenomenon of surplus value of code, when a part of a machine captures within its own code a code fragment of another machine, and thus owes its reproduction to a part of another machine: the red clover and the bumble bee; or the orchid and the male wasp that it attracts and intercepts by carrying on its flower the image and the odor of the female wasp. (ibid., p. 304) This sense of a dyadic relation, of a process in which two separate and equally different biota or machinic being/process are enfolded into each others reproductive cycles and dependent of each other for this propagation. All this leads to the conclusive argument that:
Once the structural unity of the machine has been undone, once the personal and specific unity of the living has been laid to rest, a direct link is perceived between the machine and desire, the machine passes to the heart of desire, the machine is desiring and desire, machined. Desire is not in the subject, but the machine in desire—with the residual subject off to the side, alongside the machine, around the entire periphery, a parasite of machines, an accessory of vertebro-machinate desire. In a word, the real difference is not between the living and the machine, vitalism and mechanism, but between two states of the machine that are two states of the living as well. The machine taken in its structural unity, the living taken in its specific and even personal unity, are mass phenomena or molar aggregates; for this reason each points to the extrinsic existence of the other. (ibid., p. 304-305)
All this leads back to their concepts of the molar and molecular as a defining difference, no matter whether it is social, technical, or organic/machinic. In this way it is the way these machines, which are all the same machines, are organized: either under the paranoid-molar formation of politics (fascism), or under the schizorevolutionary-molecular formation of politics (non-fascistic). “It is not a matter of biologizing human history, nor of anthropologizing natural history. It is a matter of showing the common participation of the social machines and the organic machines in the desiring-machines” (ibid., p. 308) It’s this linkage that they will describe as schizoanalysis:
the theory of schizophrenia—is biological, biocultural, inasmuch as it examines the machinic connections of a molecular order, their distribution into maps of intensity on the giant molecule of the body without organs, and the statistical accumulations that form and select the large aggregates. (ibid., p. 308)
Accelerating the Process: The Murder of Democracy
The schizoanalytic argument is simple: desire is a machine, a synthesis of machines, a machinic arrangement—desiring-machines. The order of desire is the order of production; all production is at once desiring-production and social production. We therefore reproach psychoanalysis for having stifled this order of production, for having shunted it into representation.
A Thousand Plateaus
Shall we say it again? Yes. The Secular Age of Democratic Enlightenment is dead. Caput! The logic of the demos murdered it, the very civilization of the bourgeoisie killed it. It was our very belief in its Universalist ideology of tolerance, equality, happiness, justice that killed it. The very figure (Representation) of the Great Leader, the one who would lead us out of Golgotha, this representative figure of the heroic people, the folk, etc. who would restore the greatness of a Nation: this myth of redemption, salvation, the secular gospel of progressive liberalism. All this would kill democracy, strip it of its ancient power, bring the world of the demos to a populist mass of murderers. Left and Right in genocidal accord. “…the link between representation-belief and the family is not accidental; it is of the essence of representation to be a familial representation. But production is not thereby suppressed, it continues to rumble, to throb beneath the representative agency that suffocates it, and that it in return can make resonate to the breaking point.” (ibid., p. 315)
Big Daddy Trump (Oedipus) making a pact with the wolfish clan-worlds of the forgotten masses. The populist uprising of the decadent and resilient outcasts of the progressive demos returning to the home hearth to slaughter their kindred. Genocidal, cannibalistic, the zombification of a Nation – of a World. “…representation must inflate itself with all the power of myth and tragedy, it must give a mythic and tragic presentation of the family—and a familial presentation of myth and tragedy.” (ibid., p. 316) The more the Left strives against the Right, the more it plays into the hands of the dramatic mythos, captured by the very actions of its machinic desires. The Left has become its own nightmare, its own worst enemy. It has lost its way in the labyrinth of its own false consciousness. Even Marx is turning in his grave.
Destruction. This ideational rubbish out of which our world has erected its cultural edifice is now, by a critical irony, being given its poetic immolation, its mythos, through a kind of writing which, because it is of the disease and therefore beyond, clears the ground for fresh superstructures. (317) Only in this confusion, in-between acts, in the shambles and catastrophe of the present movement does the exaltation of the process as a schizophrenic process of deterritorialization that must produce a new earth; and even the functioning of the desiring-machines against tragedy, against “the fatal drama of the personality,” against “the inevitable confusion between mask and actor.” (318)
The movement of abstraction in economics (Ricardo to now) and psychoanalysis (Freud to Foucault) taught us that “subjective abstract desire, like subjective abstract labor, is inseparable from a movement of deterritorialization that discovers the interplay of machines and their agents underneath all the specific determinations that still linked desire or labor to a given person, to a given object in the framework of representation.” (ibid., p. 319) For it is myth and tragedy, these systems of symbolic representation that still refer desire to determinate exterior conditions as well as to particular objective codes—the body of the Earth, the despotic body—and that in this way confound the discovery of the abstract or subjective essence. (319) Representation hides the abstract truth hidden in the darkness of unconscious production.
It’s just here that psychoanalysis and capitalism touch each other: “the discovery of an activity of production in general and without distinction, as it appears in capitalism, is the identical discovery of both political economy and psychoanalysis, beyond the determinate systems of representation”. (321) The point here D&G make is that “the identity of desire and labor is not a myth, it is rather the active Utopia par excellence that designates the capitalist limit to be overcome through desiring-production.” (321) Capitalism knows of this and uses it to break these limits, overcome the very power of its own limitations, and as D&G will remark:
Capitalism is inseparable from the movement of deterritorialization, but this movement is exorcised through factitious and artificial reterritorializations. Capitalism is constructed on the ruins of the territorial and the despotic, the mythic and the tragic representations, but it re-establishes them in its own service and in another form, as images of capital.(322)
It’s this very power of re-presentation, of a re-enactment of myth and tragedy at the heart of the capitalist project that keeps it bound within a circle of symbolic accord, a temporal timelessness of presentism: some have termed this the “Whiggish” triumphalist mode of temporality, a historical telos that in a way uses the past to validate its own political beliefs. As David H. Fischer defines it this interpretation was presentist because it did not depict the past in objective historical context but instead viewed history only through the lens of contemporary Whig beliefs.3 In our age it can be seen through either the neoliberal or progressive lens, both Left and Right ordering the temporal void of politics under the duopoly of shared representationalism (i.e., managed perception and algorithmic governmentality).
Both capitalism and psychoanalysis would privatize the property of the Kantian inward turn, shaping desire from its external to internal systems of representation of the economic and desiring familial conflicts and figures of dream and myth. Rather than staging this as public event as in ancient Greece, the new world of secularized mythos turns into the private nightmares of individual citizenry bound to the cycles of capitalist desire, repression, and irruption. Ultimately “What is left in the end is an intimate familial theater, the theater of private man, which is no longer either desiring-production or objective representation. The unconscious as a stage. A whole theater put in the place of production, a theater that disfigures this production even more than could tragedy and myth when reduced to their meager ancient resources.” (324)
In this subjective theatre of the mind, the revolving door of an internalized world of simulated contrivance we’ve ended in a bizarre world of solipsism. As D&G remark: “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.” (327) It is the bedrock or foundation of psychoanalysis on castration, on “lack” that D&G will attack so ferociously:
Everything, the myth of the earth, the tragedy of the despot, is taken up again as shadows projected on a stage. The great territorialities have fallen into ruin, but the structure proceeds with all the subjective and private reterritorializations. What a perverse operation psychoanalysis is, where this neoidealism, this rehabilitated cult of castration, this ideology of lack culminates: the anthropomorphic representation of sex! In truth, they don’t know what they are doing, nor what mechanism of repression they are fostering, for their intentions are often progressive. But no one today can enter an analyst’s consulting room without at least being aware that everything has been played out in advance: Oedipus and castration, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, the great lesson of the inadequacy of being or of dispossession. Psychoanalysis as a gadget, Oedipus as a reterritorialization, a retimbering of modern man on the “rock” of castration [“Lack”]. (327)
The notion that in politics as on the couch of the psychoanalyst that one is repeating the gestures of a tragic myth, an eternal return of the same theatrical personages, the farce of a replay that is going nowhere, an infinite regression into abstraction and apathy. All this binds us to the presentist’s world of temporal impasse: a world without a future.
Beyond the Metaphysics of Lack: The Way of Destruction
Destroy, destroy. The task of schizoanalysis goes by way of destruction—a whole scouring of the unconscious, a complete curettage. … schizoanalysis must devote itself with all its strength to the necessary destructions. Destroying beliefs and representations, theatrical scenes. And when engaged in this task no activity will be too malevolent.
-Deleuze/Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
The base materialist approach to desire begins with the productive unconscious: it “lacks nothing, because it is defined as the natural and sensuous objective being, at the same time as the Real is defined as the objective being of desire” (303). They explain it this way:
For the unconscious of schizoanalysis is unaware of persons, aggregates, and laws, and of images, structures, and symbols. It is an orphan, just as it is an anarchist and an atheist. It is not an orphan in the sense that the father’s name would designate an absence, but in the sense that the unconscious reproduces itself wherever the names of history designate present intensities (“the sea of proper names”). The unconscious is not figurative, since its figural is abstract, the figure-schiz. It is not structural, nor is it symbolic, for its reality is that of the Real in its very production, in its very inorganization. It is not representative, but solely machinic, and productive. (330)
Psychoanalysis is itself the mirror image of capital, the internalization of its perverse capture system. “Psychoanalysis, no less than the bureaucratic or military apparatus, is a mechanism for the absorption of surplus value, nor is this true from the outside, extrinsically; rather, its very form and its finality are marked by this social function.” (331) In fact, “the whole of psychoanalysis is an immense perversion, a drug, a radical break with reality, starting with the reality of desire; it is a narcissism, a monstrous autism: the characteristic autism and the intrinsic perversion of the machine of capital.” (332)
The path of destruction is fraught with peril. “In its destructive task, schizoanalysis must proceed as quickly as possible, but it can also proceed only with great patience, great care, by successively undoing the representative territorialities and reterritorial-izations through which a subject passes in his individual history. For there are several layers, several planes of resistance that come from within or are imposed from without. Schizophrenia as a process, deterritorialization as a process, is inseparable from the stases that interrupt it, or aggravate it, or make it turn in circles, and reterritorialize it into neurosis, perversion, and psychosis.” (337) Even as we move along the line of flight out of the territory of capitalist capture there are forces that seek to reroute us, bind us, lure us back into the old paths, old habits. “In each case we must go back by way of old lands, study their nature, their density; we must seek to discover how the machinic indices are grouped on each of these lands that permit going beyond them. How can we reconquer the process each time, constantly resuming the journey on these lands—” (331)
The only path forward D&G tell us would be a political anti-psychiatry: One that would consist therefore in the following praxis: (1) undoing all the reterritorializations that transform madness into mental illness; (2) liberating the schizoid movement of deterritorialization in all the flows, in such a way that this characteristic can no longer qualify a particular residue as a flow of madness, but affects just as well the flows of labor and desire, of production, knowledge, and creation in their most profound tendency. (340) AS D&G in agreement with Foucault will explain:
In this perspective Foucault announced an age when madness would disappear, not because it would be lodged within the controlled space of mental illness (“great tepid aquariums”), but on the contrary because the exterior limit designated by madness would be overcome by means of other flows escaping control on all sides, and carrying us along. (340)
We’re accustomed to thinking of the technological singularity as that period of transitional phase shift with some superior intelligence suddenly emerges out of the artificial soup of our collective scientific projects, but what if instead it is this very collapse of the future on the present as the escape, exit, and line of flight out of the command and control systems that have for so long capture our desires, reterritorialized our schizophrenizing processes into the old molds and modulations. What if instead it promises the collective awakening of humanity from its deep sleep in representational tragedy, in the mythic circle of family romance? What if it is to emerge out of the clutches of both the political and economic captures systems that have fed of human surplus value and into a break through realm that cannot be reterritorialized or reduced to the Same but is finally an escape from all reductions, all territories, all authoritarian and paranoid systems of fascism?
Sheer fantasy? Utopian dream? Or, an actual path out of the nightmare of this false history of presentism? And, as they would say earlier in this book, they repeat it again:
It should therefore be said that one can never go far enough in the direction of deterritorialization: you haven’t seen anything yet—an irreversible process. And when we consider what there is of a profoundly artificial nature in the perverted reterritorializations, but also in the psychotic reterritorializations of the hospital, or even the familial neurotic reterritorializations, we cry out, “More perversion! More artifice!”—to a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of deterritorialization creates of necessity and by itself a new earth. (340)
The acceleration of a process of deterritorialization that is irreversible, one that cannot be reterritorialized in the same way, brought back into the capitalist capture systems of the family romance of Oedipus and Lack. A New Earth martialed out of this artificial movement through Singularity. “The schizoanalytic flick of the finger, which restarts the movement, links up again with the tendency, and pushes the simulacra to a point where they cease being artificial images to become indices of the new world. That is what the completion of the process is: not a promised and a pre-existing land, but a world created in the process of its tendency, its coming undone, its deterritorialization. The movement of the theater of cruelty; for it is the only theater of production, there where the flows cross the threshold of deterritorialization and produce the new land— not at all a hope, but a simple “finding,” a “finished design,” where the person who escapes causes other escapes, and marks out the land while deterritorializing himself. An active point of escape where the revolutionary machine, the artistic machine, the scientific machine, and the (schizo) analytic machine become parts and pieces of one another.” (341)
- Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Felix. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Penguin Classics (May 26, 2009)
- I’m thinking specifically of those new materialist who like Jane Bennett theorizes a “vital materiality” that runs through and across bodies, both human and nonhuman. see her: Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (a John Hope Franklin Center Book) Duke University Press Books (December 14, 2009)
- Historians’ Fallacies by David H. Fischer, 1970, p. 139