Thursday, December 04, 2008

The masculine side is the logic of the transcendent, the feminine side is the side of the immanent

Deleuze and Guattari avec Lacan from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects
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... I would argue that there are at least eight Lacanian claims or concepts that were indispensable to Guattari’s own radicalization of psychoanalysis and the formation of schizoanalysis.

1) The critique of the unified ego or subject.
One of the main themes throughout Anti-Oedipus is the critique of the molar and paranoid pole of desire. One primary form this takes is the idea of a unified self or subject. Clearly, one of the motives for this critique is the aggressivity that accompanies unified identity or the unified self. It seems that the more we strive to maintain ourselves, the more aggressive towards otherness we become. On the one hand, this is because of the manner in which this unity obstructs the pulsation of the drives. On the other hand, this is due to the nature of specular identification which turns to rivalry with the semblable or alter. This critique comes directly out of Lacan’s account of the Imaginary and the mirror stage.
2) The critique of the idea of totality or wholes.
Another central theme of Anti-Oedipus is the critique of all wholes or totalities as both paranoid and molar structures. From one end of his work to the other, Lacan is perpetually demonstrating the ruin of any and all totalities and how the pursuit of totality generates antagonism and fascist tendencies.
3) The critique of Oedipus.
It is assumed that if one falls under the label “psychoanalysis”, one must be an advocate of the Oedipus. Throughout his work, Lacan not only complicates the Oedipus– through his forays into ethnography and the focus of his work on psychosis rather than neurosis –but also critiques the Oedipus. In many respects it could be said that for Lacan, unlike Freud, the Oedipus is not central to Lacan’s theoretical edifice at all. More importantly, in one respect the ultimate aim of analysis is to move beyond the neurotic’s fantasy of the Oedipus. Where Freud constantly defended the father, Lacan constantly emphasizes the failure of the father and the manner in which the father functions as a veil in neurosis for something else. Where Freud constantly defended the father as the ground of social order, Lacan perpetually showed the deadlocks this particular formation created in the social sphere. In Deleuze-speak, Lacan buggered Freud in his return to Freud.
4) The critique of unified drives.
The ego-psychologists or orthodox psychoanalysts had argued that there are stages through which the drives develop and that a healthy subject is one in which the drives become unified around a single object. Thus, for example, part of neurosis for the orthodox psychoanalyst would consist in the subject becoming fixated at one stage. For example, the subject might become fixated on the anal drive. A healthy subject, by contrast, would be a subject in which all the drives were unified. For the male subject this would culminate in the phallus, while for the female subject this would culminate in the acceptance of vaginal intercourse. Lacan demonstrated that the drives are in and of themselves partial, without forming a global and integrated totality. They each go in their own directions, as it were. This conception of the drives would be crucial for Guattari’s understanding of desiring-machines and their endless process of synthesis and lack of unity.
5) Mobile desire and productive desire.
Deleuze and Guattari are famous for arguing that desire is mobile and productive, that it doesn’t want anything, that it represents nothing, and that the unconscious is a factory. This concept of desire is already central to the Lacanian concept of desire. First, Lacan characterizes desire as an endless metonymy or displacement that “desires to desire” or to keep desiring, without any object functioning as the ultimate object of that desire. Second, in his account of fantasy as well as metaphor, Lacan emphasizes the productivity or creative nature of desire. Finally, third, Lacan shows how the unconscious is not a theatre, but a series of endless signifying substitutions producing effects of sense or meaning and even objects themselves (cf. Seminar 5: The Formations of the Unconscious). Deleuze and Guattari will radicalize this thesis, extending the field of desire well beyond language, while still remaining deeply indebted to this Lacanian principle.
6) The social unconscious.
Perhaps one of Lacan’s most significant contributions is the idea of the social or cultural nature of the unconscious. Insofar as the unconscious is a product of our introduction into language, it is not a private or personal sphere like a sack in the mind, but is social and cultural through and through. Indeed, he goes so far as to argue that the effects of some unconscious processes can only be seen in the case of the third generation as in the case of psychosis where the foreclosure of the name-of-the-father’s effects aren’t encountered until the third generation. “The Seminar on the Purloined Letter” would be another example of the social unconscious, insofar as the various positions of the people in the story are interrelated through social structure, not private experiences of the mind. Guattari significantly deepens and radicalizes this idea in his work at La Borde, developing a far broader account of transference and the unconscious that ranges across everything from the architecture of clinics, the roles of patients and staff, activities, etc. However, it’s notable that Lacan’s understanding of the unconscious as social in nature already extends it far beyond the domain of the private family that makes up the object of critique in the second chapter of Anti-Oedipus.

7) The symbolic or semiotic nature of the unconscious.
The tendency among orthodox psychoanalysis was to biologize and personalize the unconscious. Lacan’s great contribution was to discern the role of language or the signifier in the unconscious. Guattari rightly radicalizes this notion of the unconscious, developing a far more complex and elaborate account of the semiotic.
8) Sexuation
In A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Deleuze and Guattari constantly emphasize the necessity of passing through the stage of “becoming-woman”. A lot of ink has been spilled over this and there’s been a great deal of difficulty understanding just what they might be claiming. This claim cannot be understood outside Lacan’s account of sexuation in Seminar 20: Encore (1972). There it will be noted that the masculine side of the graph of sexuation is a highly formalized version of the Oedipus, in addition to being the side that aims at totalization and identity in the social field. The feminine side of the graph of sexuation, by contrast, is premised on the logic of the “not-all” and the absence of anything like totality. Where the masculine side is the logic of the transcendent, the feminine side is the side of the immanent.
The common critique of Lacan one hears from Deleuzians is that Lacan focuses too much on lack and castration. It seems to me that this is a confusion of levels of analysis. If Lacan talks of lack and castration then this is because neurotics perpetually talk about lack and castration. But the aim of analysis in the final instance is to move beyond this. This is impossible to do in the absence of conceptual tools that articulate just how these structures of subjectivity emerge and how we come to experience ourselves as lacking in a universe where there is no lack. It seems to me that Deleuzians are mistaken in treating Lacanian thought as the enemy.

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