Anti-Oedipus: Part One
connective synthesis disjunctive synthesis conjunctive synthesis (and ... and) (or ... or) (it's me ...)
desiring machine body without organs subject (intensity=0) (zones of intensity)
schizophrenia paranoia machine célibataire pleasure
production enregistrement / coding consumption anti-production forme miraculeuse
libido Numen Voluptas .m:2
Let's start with machine production. Everything is machines, machines connected to other machines. I think we should read this as a properly ontological claim, a claim about the nature of reality. What does it mean to say that all is machinic?
All is ... Take just the first half of that statement: "All is ...." The form of this statement "All is ..." already implies an ontological claim that being is one, being is always and everywhere the same, or rather that being is univocal. Nietzsche uses the same form when he says "The world is will to power and nothing else." Spinoza says very much the same thing when he says that all being is striving (conatus). And I assume it is Lucretius and/or Aristotle that D&G are referring to when they use the term flow or the Greek word hylé , which means matter: being consists of flows or matter (rather than atoms, say). [Help me if this is wrong.] (Compare this too to how Marx would say that labor is the source of all wealth in capitalist society -- but let's leave that aside for the moment.) So what is common to these three ontological claims: the world is will to power, being is striving, and being is flows or becoming. Well, first of all, there is no other to the world, to being; being or the world is all there is. There is no other world or other realm beyond this one. Second, being is one; there is no difference in nature among its parts; it is all in some sense the same. Third, the unifying factor in each of these ontological claims is not a thing but a movement: will to power, striving, flows. Clearly D&G's notions of desire and production are meant to fit in this line of fundamental ontological concepts. So, what we have so far with the statement "All is ..." is that being is all (it has no other), being is one (always and everywhere the same), and being is a process (will to power, striving, flow, desire, production). I'll be coming back to this ontological point.
Machines Let's go on now to the second half of the claim: "All is machines." Our common notion of machines, first of all, is that they are asubjective and unnatural; that is, they are distinct from the human subjects and from nature. But this is precisely the first distinction that D&G want to attack. The human, the machinic, and the natural are all one. They are all processes of production. The first great advantage of the schizophrenic is its recognition of this unity. Here D&G are following Büchner's Lenz: "There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process of that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing- machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life [la vie générique]: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever" (p. 2). First of all, the schizophrenic recognizes correctly the ontological notion that all is one, that humans and nature are all one process. In other words, there is no such thing is a human nature that is separate from nature itself. (Spinoza: imperium in imperio.) Our first definition of schizophrenia, then, is simply the recognition of this fact of being. "Schizophrenia is the universe of productive and reproductive desiring- machines, universal primary production as 'the essential reality of man and nature'" (p. 5). Ok. So the schizophrenic can recognize the truth of being that there is no fundamental distinction between humans and nature -- but what about machines? Why say being is machinic? Normally we think of machines being even a third realm, not human and not natural. This might be the first advantage of the concept "machine" for D&G, a kind of negative advantage -- negative in the sense of highlighting what machines are not. A being of machines is a being that does not refer to either the human or nature. In fact, human subjects and nature will only arise as effects or products of machinic being. Being itself is asubjective and unnatural, being is anonymous and artificial. But really it goes farther than that, because machines are what demonstrate that humans and nature are really one. "... we make no distinction between man and nature: the human essence of nature and the natural essence of man become one within nature in the form of production or industry" (p. 4) that is, they become one in the conception of being as machine. Now, although machines themselves are asubjective and unnatural, however, we normally conceive of machines as connected to humans and nature. In fact, normally we would say that the subject that operates the machine is human and the object that the machine transforms is nature. Think of the way a human subject might use a bulldozer or a chainsaw. The human subject directs the machine to modify the natural object: to move dirt or cut wood. Now, this is not at all D&G's conception of machines. The machines here have no subject and no object, or at least not a natural object. This is the second important aspect of the concept of "machine" for D&G, a rather paradoxical aspect considering the way we normally conceive of machines. Begin with the subject part. When I say there is no subject of these machines I mean that there is no intelligence that stands behind them and directs their operation. This seems very close to a Nietzschean claim that you might be familiar with, that there is no doer behind the doing. Nietzsche means that there is no subject that stands outside of its actions as a foundation, directing them; what is primary is activity itself, or rather the field of forces. In very much the same way D&G's machines have no subject that is prior to them and directs them. The machines act of their own accord (they connect and cut), but we should not then think that the machines themselves are subjects. D&G want them to be anonymous and asubjective. Subjects do not stand behind these machines in another sense. Not only are there no human subjects that use or direct the operation of machines also the machines were not created by human subjects. If we look for their genealogy, all machines are created by other machines and back in an infinite chain of production. D&G write "desiring production is production of production, just as every machine is a machine of a machine" (p. 6). There is no original point that starts the production process; all production and machines are result of other production and machines. Now to the object part. I want to say that just as the machines have no subject behind them, they also have no objects -- but that is not quite right. Machines cut and connect. They operate on flows and on other machines. The anus is a machine that cuts the flow of shit or the infant's mouth is a machine that connects to the breast, which is a milk producing machine. These machines, then, don't operate on an object that is in any fundamental way other to or exterior to them; rather, together with the object the machine forms a new process, or a new machine. The infant's mouth connected to the milk producing breast form a new machine. A machine is a process and thus connected or cut apart the machines modulate. (Parenthetically I wonder here if there is a significant difference be a machine and a flow. Can a flow be conceived as a machine so that machines only act on other machines, connecting and disconnecting to form always new machines? Or are flows distinct because passive as opposed to the activity of machines? I would tend towards thinking they are at base the same, but I'm not sure about this.) In any case, this is all part of what I'm proposing as the second important aspect of the machines, that they do not have subjects or objects in the conventional sense. Let me read a passage that links this back to the first aspect of machines. "... man and nature are not like two opposite terms confronting each other ... rather, they are one and the same essential reality, the producer- product" (pp. 4-5). In other words, producer and product have the same essence, and that essence is production. Once again, the schizophrenic is the one who recognizes this truth about being. "The schizophrenic is the universal producer. There is no need to distinguish here between producing and its product. We need merely note that the pure "thisness" of the object produced is carried over into a new act of producing" (p. 7). All is production, and producer and product are indistinguishably absorbed into this process. The first two reasons I've given for why using the concept of "machine" were both really negative: first to separate it from the division between the human and the natural, and second to highlight the lack of subjects and objects (producer and product) in the functioning of the machines. The third and most important reason for using the concept "machine" is more straightforward and positive, and that is to emphasize the productivity of being. "Everything is production" (p. 4); or more conventionally being is becoming. Being is not a fixed thing but a continually modulating process. This third aspect seems clearer to me and not in need of much explanation. At this point the connective synthesis should be rather clear. Machines connect one to another to form together new machines. "...there is always a flow-producing machine, and another machine connected to it that interrupts or draws off part of this flow (the breast -- the mouth). And because the first machine is in turn connected to another whose flow it interrupts or partially drains off, the binary series is linear in every direction" (p. 5). All the machines are capable of potentially infinite connections in all senses.
Desire All of this about machines sets up the central question, which is about desire. I know that they don't always use it this way, but I think it makes no sense to talk about "desire" per se in this framework. There is no such thing as desire, only desiring-machines. I mean by this that desire has to be given the same attributes that I just claimed belong to machines. First of all, desire as desiring- machine is not a thing but a process, an act of producing. That's rather straightforward and not so different from other notions of desire. Second, desire as desiring machine has no subject and no object. For example, the statement "the boy desires to have sex with his mother" is completely out of context here. In this framework there is no subject that has the desire or the desiring-machine, nor can desire really function as a verb unless somehow it could be a verb refering to no subject. The subject does not exist before desiring-machines but only after, as an effect or residue of production. Perhaps precisely because desiring machines are asubjective, with no subject behind them, we cannot conceive of the object of desire in the same way. Desiring- machines cannot be conceived as a desire to do or have an object or even achieve a state. (Hence "the object of desire" really doesn't make sense here.) Desiring-machines have no object, or goal, or telos, but rather are completely invested in the process, the production. Desiring-machines can thus never be "satisfied" or come to a completion. In this sense, desiring-machines are again very like Nietzsche's notion of will to power. The will to power is not the will to have power (such as the will to be president of the United States) nor even really the will to be powerful. If it were then the will to power could be satisfied, it could come to an end. He is made president and thus his will to power goes away. The will to power does not have an object in that way. It is a driving force. Desiring- machines similarly are focused a movement or a production, not on a goal or an object. The only object of desiring-machines is production itself. "The satisfaction the handyman [bricoleur] experiences when he plugs something into an electric socket or diverts a stream of water can scarcely be explained in terms of "playing mommy and daddy." or by the pleasure of violating a taboo [transgression]. The rule of continually producing production, of grafting producing onto the product, is a characteristic of desiring-machines or of primary production: the production of production" (p. 7). So desire is always about production, or even the production of production. That is why I think that even when they use the work "desire" you should always read "desiring-machine." This is also why desire here has nothing to do with lack as it does in Freudian and Lacanian terminology. Since desiring machines are focused only on their own production, there is no object of desire and hence no object lacking. "Lack is created, planned, and organized in and through social production" (p. 28). Lack is not cause but a result. Third, I wonder if we can turn this question of desire always being desiring-machine around. In other words, if all desire should be read as desiring-machine, that is, if there is no such thing as "desire" itself, then should we also read all machines as desiring- machines? Are all machines desiring-machines? I'm not prepared to answer that but I think the answer is yes, all machines are desiring- machines. (Is a paranoiac machine a desiring-machine?)
Body without Organs What is a body without organs? Well, first of all they take the term from Artaud, who producing organs such as the mouth, the anus, the stomach, and so forth. D&G say that the body without organs is full. The body without organs is full in the sense that it is a blank surface without the interconnected functions or parts that organs would be. It is full precisely in the sense that it lacks any depth or differentiation. Without organs this body has no means of production, and precisely D&G write "The full body without organs belongs to the realm of antiproduction" (p. 8). Hence the "apparent conflict" between desiring-machines and the body without organs. It is important to D&G that the body without organs is actually produced by desiring machines and the connective synthesis, but I don't want to go into that. What seems interesting to me is the relation of the body without organs to paranoia on one hand and to capitalism on the other. First paranoia. "This is the real meaning of the paranoiac machine: the desiring-machines attempt to break into the body without organs, and the body without organs repels them, since it experiences them as an over-all persecution apparatus" (p. 9). While the schizophrenic follows desiring-machines everywhere on its errant walk, the paranoiac is hypersensitive, it suffers from desiring-machines, and wishes it could turn them all off. Desiring-machines are torment to the paranoiac. The body without organs is thus defined by the zero state of intensity: "intensity=0 ... designates the body without organs" (p. 21). The body without organs has no intensity, no production. Example of BwO: "eyes closed tight, nostrils pinched shut, ears stopped up" (pp. 37-38). Now the two aspects of the BwO that most interest D&G are its function of recording (enregistrement) and its apparent productive capacities, that is the miraculous form, the appearance of miracles. "The body without organs, the unproductive, the unconsumable, serves as a surface for the recording of the entire process of production of desire, so that desiring-machines seem to emanate from it in the apparent objective movement that establishes a relationship between the machines and the body without organs" (p. 11). First of all, in the first half of that sentence, the BwO is a surface on which the production of desire is recorded or really on which it is coded. Desiring-machines or production becomes signification. In the second half of the sentence, they claim that because of this recording or coding of production it appears that desiring-machines actually spring from the body without organs, even though we know that they really don't. This second part, this false appearance of production is what they call the "miraculating-machine." Miracle here seems only to refer to the appearance of an impossible production. These two aspects of the body without organs (recording production and miraculous production) are both also an aspect of capital, and I think more comprehensible in this domain. Capital is a body without organs and labor is a productive machine. Capital is thus the unproductive surface on which the production of labor is recorded or on which it is coded. We might say that in this case the recording or coding means that the value of labor/production is determined on capital. For the miraculous aspect they refer to Marx's concept of relative surplus value. Marx uses relative surplus value to name a strategy of capital to increase profits by increasing the value produced during a given amount of labor time. If the labor is more productive and wages remain the same there will be more profit. One rather crude strategy of relative surplus value might be to speed up the assembly line and thus produce more in the same amount of labor time. More often relative surplus value has to do with technological advances that make labor more productive. So what D&G pick up on in Marx here is the fact that with the development of relative surplus value it seems like capital not labor is what produces capital. "It [capital] makes the machine responsible for producing a relative surplus value, while embodying itself in the machine as fixed capital. Machines and agents cling so closely to capital that their very functioning appears to be miraculated by it. Everything seems objectively to be produced by capital as quasi cause. As Marx observes, in the beginning capitalists are necessarily conscious of the opposition between capital and labor, and of the use of capital as a means of extorting surplus labor. [And I would add, what they are most importantly aware of is the fact that capital is produced by labor, that capital itself is unproductive.] But a perverted, bewitched world quickly comes into being, as capital increasingly plays the role of a recording surface that falls back on all of production. (Furnishing or realizing surplus value is the right of recording.)" (pp. 10-11). Ok. Here, then, capital is a body without organs in these two respects. First, production or labor is recorded or coded or really given value in capital, on the surface of the body without organs (the role of money will be central here). Second, while capital is unproductive, it appears to be productive as if through a miracle and thus masks the real productive processes. This second aspect of capital as the body without organs is precisely what Marx calls commodity fetishism: the fact that the production process is masked or eclipsed. "... we cannot tell from the mere taste of wheat who grew it; the product gives us no hint as to the system and the relations of production. The product appears to be all the more specific, incredibly specific and readily describable, the more closely the theoretician relates it to ideal forms of causation, comprehension, or expression, rather than to the real process of production on which it depends" (p. 24). We have disjunction, then, between the way a commodity appears to have been caused and its real process of production. "Production is not recorded in the same way it is produced" (p. 12). This disjunction operated by the body without organs is what D&G call the disjunctive synthesis. "The disjunctive synthesis of recording therefore comes to overlap [cover over, recouvrir] the connective syntheses of production" (pp. 12-13). It seems that in this first example of capital as the body without organs the disjunction, the either/or, is between a real process of production and a false reinsription of that process: capital is really produced by labor, but it seems to be produced by capital. My sense is that this shouldn't be understood merely as a real process versus an illusion, but ... Finally here we can arrive at Oedipus, because in the process of recording or really in the disjunctive synthesis, Oedipus acts just like capital. "... does the recording of desire go by way of the various stages in the formation of the Oedipus complex [pass through oedipal terms]? Disjunctions are the form that the genealogy of desire assumes; but is this genealogy Oedipal, is it recorded in the Oedipal triangulation?" (p. 13). First of all, oedipalization and familialism involves a disjunctive synthesis in that it assigns to desiring production another (and false) genealogy. Well, I haven't talked at all about the third synthesis and its coordinated elements, but we can take that up later, along with the other questions that arise.