Guattari’s Oedipus

I don’t really agree with Steven as to assert with him [here] that Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus is somehow a book of ‘riddles’ or a kind of ‘dreamwork’ of sorts… because this is like reproducing the idea that the book’s stylistic aim is mysterious, that it has ‘secrets’ to discover, that there is a lot to ‘reveal’ about its content, that it is just revolting and provocative, just as if what Deleuze and Guattari wrote would not really be speaking by itself and with enough clarity and loudness. Of course, it is not but in reason of what I do understand about the book that I certainly don’t take it in this superfluous way, so there is no excuse for me to fill this lack by creating any asylum for my word to make it playfully resonate with it. While it is difficult to read what they say with the same degree of literalness that they apply to the text, which precisely is what the reader is invited to do through it, another thing is to give the text some obscure properties that it does not have, just as to read only whatever our own intimate word wants to get from it. Anyhow, I would admit that the book contains a good lot of conceptual syncretisms that are not quite meant to please any poetic science fiction of a world-after-death, but all the contrary: for those who can track them right from Deleuze’s previous philosophical work, these syncretisms really mean the reader to think desire as a full intensive experience of life in a reborn-materialized-world. However, as Deleuze and Guattari say in their book: a bad reading is better than not reading anything at all, and to my mind, the word of who might be behind Deterritorial Investigations seems to have a clearer idea of the book despite of being also agreeable with Steven’s:

“Its celebration of the schizophrenic experience is certainly controversial, but people overlook the fact that at the bottom of schizophrenia is a rejection of any system that promotes a master signifier… Schiz, as in schizophrenia, schizo-analysis, means to “break,” “separate,” or divide; the schizo-analytic practice is to locate find these breaks, wherein the potential for bifurcation resides, and use them to jump in a new production of subjectivity, a new place full of beings and becomings.

So I find this entry at Deterritorial investigations worth to repost because it brings the question of how Guattari finally broke with Lacan and got rid of his very own attached lacanian subjections.

“Guattari’s contributions to Anti-Oedipus, his conjoining with Deleuze on the level of desiring-machines, then would be, as he puts it, a procedural disengagement leading to the final schiz, the break from Lacan – the exiting of this mini Oedipal triangle and becoming-schizophrenic.”

Deterritorial Investigations Unit

Noir Realism has put up a thought-provoking post on Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, describing the work as a “Black Book of Riddles,” a “dreamwork” that doesn’t so much offer a strict revolutionary praxis, but opts instead for an extended poetic science-fiction of a world existing only moments away where death’s pale figure hovers, a chilled wind in the air. And it is a book of riddles indeed! So many interpretations and opinions move around it: Lyotard used it as a platform for his leap from doctrinaire Marxism, Zizek sees it as a corrosion of Deleuze’s abilities as a philosopher, and Manuel DeLanda calls it the duo’s “worst book.” Nick Land finds a how-to guide in hacking into capitalism’s artificial intelligence, Bifo rereads it as a book of warnings. Baudrillard assaults it as a justification for capitalism’s destructive tendencies, but Foucault applauds it as a guide to living a non-fascist…

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21 Comments on “Guattari’s Oedipus

  1. And, yet, it was Deleuze himself who said in Difference and Repetition that he was seeking a Dionysian value according to which the Idea is necessarily obscure in so far as it is distinct… Distinction-obscurity becomes here the true tone of philosophy, the symphony of the discordant Idea.” (146) It’s this sense of the symphony of the discordant Idea that I was seeking to portray in my tonal proem ….


    • Hi Steven:
      I am not referring to Deleuze’s word here but to your word. I don’t see what one has to do with the other, not how one can help to make the other more pertinent or plausible. It is a confusion to justify your word invoking the power of the text with regards to what Deleuze said there, because it is always better to do such speaking in one’s own name. However, between D&R and AO a post-Deleuze emerged with the aim to overcome his scholastic constrictions. And he did: the result is not referred anymore to the sufficient reason that he applied in D&R to ground his philosophy of pure difference (as obscure and distinct as the Idea might be) but to the Dionysian excess that he applied to it as a groundless affirmation, which is the same that he put radically into play in AO. This is why it is important to take Deleuze’s philosophy beyond any textualization and more as a material for thought, this is why is important to have a broader panorama of his whole work in terms of the very post-Deleuze that Deleuze himself became within the schizoanalytic project.


  2. I should clarify the way I view any ‘riddles’ present in AO… when I first picked up the book, I find it excruciatingly difficult (especially not coming from a philosophy background), and the easiest way for me to begin to grasp it was to view Deleuze and Guattari’s attempts to visualize lines of flight from disciplinary power as requiring them to strip themselves of the power inherent in being an author giving a discourse. There is so much that is literal in AO, but it wouldn’t be right to view it as compacted inward – instead, it seems to operate to me like an open system that calls the reader to allow his or her own flows to conjoin with theirs. The concepts to be drawn out onto halfway, gaps appearing at the moments where concrete explanation would normally be critical. Learning to read AO is like learning to drive a manual transmission car – body and machine/self and book linked into assemblage that is propelling both us forward, but not telling us where to go exactly. Actually, I guess riddles and secrets may not be the best descriptions, but I think there is a sort non-linear, non-deterministic puzzle-like nature to the work.


    • Edmund, welcome to Schizosophy. Thanks for your comment: I agree with everything you say: ‘riddles’ and ‘secrets’ are definitely not the best spoon to eat D&G’s schizoanalytic potage.


  3. You said: “It is a confusion to justify your word invoking the power of the text with regards to what Deleuze said there, because it is always better to do such speaking in one’s own name.”

    The great judgment has been passed, the law laid down. I’m not sitting around trying to justify my own work. Dang… lighten up! Do you always take everything to heart? So serious? If I’ve said or done something to offend you are your sensibility then I’m sorry for it… I apologize, but what is this all about?

    In point of fact the reasoning behind my post and using the Black Book of Riddles was in my own mind not some critique of Deleuze, but actually that D&G’s work reminded me of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake which has been described along the way as that black book of riddles and dreambook… why I thought of that, who knows? I didn’t mean it as some kind of satirical defamation of their brilliant work. Why is it that you seem always so touchy and personal about blog posts? One does riddle out the puzzling aspects of their work in AO and Plateaus…


    • Hey Steven, please don’t take this a problem of mine: it is not quite like that, you did not offend my sensibility, so you don’t have to apologize. I think the idea to admit that there are conceptual syncretisms in their work rather than ‘riddles’ is pretty suggestive and that’s precisely what my comment is about. I think your use of words was not fortunate in this occasion, and I just wanted to point out why and in which sense. This has nothing to do with me being touchy about this matters, that is another story.


    • Ok, thanks…. yes, I probably went over the top as usual in my hyperbolic foray. I do tend to fall into a satiric bluntness, and hyperbolic or even gothic display. So, point, well taken!


  4. and yet…D&G devote so much to the secret and becoming-clandestine in ATP…there is not secret key to unlocking anti-oedipus, but there is an illicit engagement with the text that produces secrets (or perhaps secretions)


    • Definitely better to speak of syncretisms rather than riddles, of secretions rather than secrets. That is right. But while Deleuze never disconsidered nor underestimated (with Nietzsche) the power of what is occult, of what remains unsaid, and of what can be said in effect with other words, etc, I would not say that he ‘devote so much to the secret and becoming-clandestine in ATP’ neither in AO. Like I say: his interest was more to put into play a whole horizon of conceptual syncretisms which drama would be useful for us to think by our own experience and in a way to force us to exert thought itself through them.


    • idk, I guess while I find the “conceptual syncretisms” helpful for thinking about Deleuze’s philosophical project (eg, “cartography”)…I’m not so willing to move away from the concepts of secret/becoming-clandestine/anonymity from his oeuvre.(and of course these appear in some of his solo authored works as well as with Guattari and Parnet, so that escape route is blocked as well). I guess I just don’t understand what the benefit of arguing “his interest was more in…” is.

      If you stomach Deleuze Studies, Claire Colebrook’s article “The Secret of Theory” is more along the lines that I find useful. But you know your D&G so you probably know what I’m talking about without citations.


    • Thanks, sounds fair enough. I think the core issue I am defending here is not quite to take Deleuze and Guattari’s books bluntly as a sort literature to be placidly read while sitting in our bourgeois couch and using our own favourite bourgeois lamp. The issue for me is to take their work as the kind of material that would give some direct answer to many of our own philosophical and unexpected necessities, far from any self-complacency and individual pleasure.


  5. If there are riddles to be found in AO, its not the kind of riddle that the Sphinx forces Oedipus to answer; such riddles are bound by hierarchy, a formal command to enter into a trap. We should talk about Deleuze and Guattari’s riddles as openings onto the plane of immanence, not concrete answers but becoming processes. A game, perhaps, but we should follow Foucault’s advice in his preface to AO – “The book often leads one to believe it is all fun and games, when something essential is taking place, something of extreme seriousness.”

    Maybe a reframing of the question of the riddle itself: “Schizos neither ask riddles nor answer them; they are riddles.”


    • “…but we should follow Foucault’s advice in his preface to AO – “The book often leads one to believe it is all fun and games, when something essential is taking place, something of extreme seriousness.””

      I guess this seriousness that Foucault refers moves me a lot against those who says things about D&G’s schizoanalytic project but just on the very vapour of their reading. Thanks for sharing it (and I think that the way you have put and reframed ‘riddles’ is pretty close to what I have referred as conceptual syncretisms).


  6. Pingback: Deleuze’s Politics: Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, and Nomadology | synthetic_zero

  7. You say: “I think the core issue I am defending here is not quite to take Deleuze and Guattari’s books bluntly as a sort literature to be placidly read while sitting in our bourgeois couch and using our own favourite bourgeois lamp. The issue for me is to take their work as the kind of material that would give some direct answer to many of our own philosophical and unexpected necessities, far from any self-complacency and individual pleasure.”

    I take offense that you deem my reading as some bourgeois lamp reading of D&G. Bullshit! My whole point of using the riddle metaphor was not to make it obscure or part of some occult crap as you put it. The general technique of the riddle form is to refer obliquely to the subject by kenning and other sorts of figurative language; since kennings formed such an important element of alliterative verse forms in the Germanic languages, the riddles served the dual empirical purpose of puzzling the poet’s audience and teaching the lore needed to successfully use or understand the poetic language. But riddles also served a more abstract role in Anglo-Saxon education, for they taught their listeners how to track two (or more) meanings at once in a single semantic situation, and a fortiori their very existence demonstrates that the Christian Anglo-Saxons were not inhabiting a thought-world lacking in subtlety and complexity. There are at least eighteen distinct Anglo-Saxon words describing aspects of cognitive skill [frod, ferð, onhæle, degol, cunnan, dyrne, hyge, hygecraft, hylest, heort, þencan, gleaw, sceolon, giedd, mod, sawol, heofodgimme, wis, snot(t)or, wat, swican – the list could be extended], a fact which attests to a culture valuing cognitive skills, albeit in an oral and not literate context.

    The whole point of their work was that they were creating something new, creating a new language and way of describing the very important things they wanted to say. I accept that. I’m not trivializing their work. Coming out of an Irish heritage where riddles were used as learning devices that held significant information about history, psychology, etc. And thinking of that other great book of riddles by James Joyce Finnegan’s Wake that he himself called, the Black Book of Riddles, I was trying to complement D&G not degrade them. Obviously our cultural backgrounds have caused misapprehensions of each others use of words. But please don’t think I’m some bourgeois writer sitting back on my couch. That possesses me off to say the least.


    • Steven, thanks for expressing your thoughts. I think you are taking this in the bad way: I have been very explicit saying that my objection is not personal, but as such I understand that is charging some affects on you, which is something that I respect and appreciate. So far, i dont think i have misapprehended any of your words, on the contrary, and I have never said that you trivialized D&G’s work, you were the one that concluded that. Regards to the question you specify here, I was not referring to you, or interpellating you in a sort of way, I was just expressing my main general position, which is not new. If you read Spanish, you can take the gist of it here


  8. Ok, sorry, that I caused a ruckus, I overacted and on the spur of the moment spoke my mind, as usual. I read your piece and see your point. Something I need to add: I’m not an academic, not a professional philosopher, just a short story, essayist, commentator, and poet. Not always in that order. Blogging has provided me a way to reach out to communities of thinkers that in my day to day physical life I would probably of never touched base with, which has been for me a great opening out of freedom that allows me to listen in on those, like yourself who truly are part of that higher calling in philosophy and the academy, etc.

    Being just an intellectual worker, and one for whom the path of academia was not affordable when growing up I sometimes feel a sense of shame in not having had formalized education like many of the young philosophers I see around me. My education was self-education, and was not disciplined by any profession, or guided by academic formalism. That’s a fact, not a judgment.

    I’ve read deeply and long in most of the great traditions, but it’s a deux mixture rather than formal training, so at times I’m sure my writing style is based not on academic excellence, but rather on the strictures of such creatures and Samuel Johnson and the great literary stylists of the world. So my essays do reflect my eclectic approach and cross fertilization of ideas. I’m sure this way of writing probably bothers certain well-trained educators who might perceive in my style a looseness of thought that I do not directly intend.

    Anyway, sorry, if I mistook your statement. I admire your work on the web and have learned from you about D&G in many ways that I did not understand before. Which seems to me the greatness of blogging… I apologize for my anger of the last evening, and hope we can remain cordial in our dialogues. thanks!


    • Steven, there is nothing to apologize for, I think you are great as you are 🙂 I am neither a professional philosopher, and despite my formation I don’t consider myself an academic of any sorts (fortunately, I am more reflexive, my mind is more ductile and restless, and I write better than that). It was not a choice, it happened to me to be a philosopher, and as a social researcher I do have furnished my head with all kind of rigour and discipline, including the way to expose and write (somehow systematically) about the things I think and research. Thanks for your words, coming from a poetry warrior like you it is a great compliment for me, and encourages me to do better with my written English 😉 Salutes


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