Anti-Oedipus: Part 2

1. Expression vs Production At the end of the very first paragraph of the book D&G warn us against metaphors. "Something is produced: effects of a machine, and not of metaphors" (p. 2). Why are they so worried about metaphors, and why are metaphors the alternative to machinic production? I think these questions refer to a general problematic that is elaborated throughout the second part of the book in terms of the alternative between production and expression. Schizoanalysis declares itself for production and against expression -- but what exactly is expression? In his book Spinoza and the Problem of Expression written a few years earlier, Deleuze posed the concept of expression as the key to his entire reading of Spinoza. It was an unconventional concept to choose because Spinoza never uses the terms and it had never played an important role in the long history of Spinoza interpretation. In that work Deleuze gave "expression" a very precise definition. Spinoza's being, he said, which is one and universal, is expressed through the attributes of thought and extension. What is important in this expression is that being and the world have the same essence, being is not something outside of or separate from the world. Deleuze highlights the fact here that there is an immanent notion of causality at work in this expression, in which the cause is immanent to (rather than separate from) its effect. To say then in this framework that being is expressed in the modalities of the world means that being causes or creates these modalities but not in any exterior way; being remains always within these modes, as immanent cause. Expression is thus used to mark a certain kind of production--specifically, a production in which the producer remains immanent to what is produced, in which producer and produced share a common essence. (It is interesting to note that in that book Deleuze used this notion of expression in opposition to and as a critique of semiology, in the sense that signs and sign systems are external to what they represent or signify.) Now in Anti-Oedipus D&G use the term "expression" very differently, in fact almost in the opposite sense. (I don't have any good explanation to this change of usage nor do I attach any great significance to it. In fact this later usage might be closer to our everyday usage of "expression." In any case I only want to clarify how the term is used.) In Anti-Oedipus, expression is related to representation and signification, and thus it designates precisely what is not immanent to the term or thing. Expression poses a meaning outside of and detached from the real process and hence blocks the process. As such expression is the primary enemy of production. This is what Oedipus and psychoanalysis do: substitute representation or expression for process or production. "... the reproduction of desire gives way to a simple representation, in the process as well as theory of the cure. The productive unconscious makes way for an unconscious that knows only how to express itself--express itself in myth, in tragedy, in dream" (p. 54). The expressive unconscious is what destroys the productive unconscious: "The unconscious ceases to be what it is--a factory, a workshop--to become a theater, a scene and its staging" (p. 55). (And I should probably add, only to be obstinate, that factory, workshop, theater are not metaphors here but real forms or functions of the unconscious.) Expression destroys production, or displaces it, or takes away its power. D&G's preference for production over expression is posed not even in ethical terms (production is good, expression is bad) but in properly ontological terms: the being of the unconscious is production; expression is an alienation or falsification of that essence -- "the unconscious ceases to be what it is ...." This is not just a question of the unconscious or the being of the unconscious. D&G claim that reality itself, being itself is the product of desiring machines, or more precisely it is the process of their producing. I want to flesh out further this distinction and conflict between expression and production. D&G give a rather practical key to this difference when they maintain that analysis should regard the problems of the unconscious not in terms of meaning (sens) but in terms of usage. "The unconscious poses no problem of meaning, solely problems of use. The question posed by desire is not "What does it mean?" but rather "How does it work?"" (p. 109). Consider this rule of practice in the example of the boy who puts the train in the tunnel. If we analyse this as an expression and ask what does this mean, we get the answer (at least in the oedipal framework) that he wants to have sex with his mother. On the other hand, reading this act (putting the train in the tunnel) as a production, as a machine, and asking how does this work takes us in a completely different direction--how does this machine connect to other machines, etc. Such an analytical practice is proper to the factory (questions of production and usage) rather than the theater (questions of expression and meaning). From this practical perspective it might be useful to pose this distinction as the difference between materialist and idealist conceptions and practices. "Oedipus is the idealist turning point" (p. 55). Or even more clearly, Oedipus is an idea: "Oedipus is not a state of desire and the drives, it is an idea, nothing but an idea that repression inspires in us concerning desire" (p. 115). Here we have a textbook example of the contrast and conflict between idealism and materialism. The idealist perspective poses an idea or a system of ideas as primary over and determinate of the material state of things. (In this case the idea of Oedipus is posed over the state of desire and drives.) The materialist perspective, in defense or reaction, reverses the priority such the state of things (in this case the state of desire and drives) are primary over or prior to any ideas. Compare this to the classic reference for this in Marx: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness" (Preface to CPE). It's interesting to me, and I think important, that each of these propositions of materialism come in reaction to idealism, as an inversion or reversal of the causal process. In any case, this is the sense in which schizo- analysis is a materialist psychiatry in contrast to the idealism of Oedipus. A materialist psychiatry recognizes the state of desire and its production as primary and determinant whereas an idealist psychiatry rests on ideas and their expression. In other words, the distinction and conflict between production and expression corresponds to that between materialism and idealism along with that between usage and meaning. In fact, I think these correspondences make more clear the practical implications of the distinction. To understand the distinction between production and expression in a more general and complex way, though, we have to link it to the parallel distinction between immanence and transcendence (just as Deleuze did earlier to explain the notion of expression in the Spinoza book)--a distinction that has played a central role in the history of metaphysics and the history of the critique of metaphysics. This is the fourth set of correspondence. What we have so far is

production expression usage meaning materialism idealism immanence transcendence

Last class in reference to part 1 of AO I spoke of immanence in rather straightforward ontological terms. Being is immanent in the sense that it inheres in the world; the essence of being is identical to the essence of the modalities of the world. Being is not elsewhere, in some other world, beyond. In that way, I wanted to say that the notion of reality or being as constituted by machines is an immanent rather than a transcendent notion of being. Here in the second part of the book, D&G's use of immanent and transcendent is more difficult and refers specifically to the terminology of Kant's critique. They explain these terms in two passage, p. 75 and 109. "In what he termed the critical revolution, Kant intended to discover criteria immanent to the understanding so as to distinguish the legitimate and the illegitimate uses of the syntheses of consciousness. In the name of transcendental philosophy (immanence of criteria), he therefore denounced the transcendent use of syntheses such as appeared in metaphysics" (p. 75 top). What they are taking from Kant here is the principle that a legitimate use of a synthesis is defined by the immanence of the criteria to the field of the synthesis (the understanding or the unconscious). If the criteria are external or transcendental to the understanding or the unconscious then the use is illegitimate. The confusing part is that Kant then goes on to define transcendental philosophy by this immanence of criteria, and in its name denounce metaphysics because of its transcendent use of syntheses. I'm not so concerned with really understanding Kant here. All I want to point out is that transcendental philosophy operates on immanent criteria and critiques transcendent uses of syntheses. It is with this in mind that D&G pose their materialist psychiatry and schizoanalysis in terms of a "transcendental unconscious," which means precisely that it is "defined by the immanence of its criteria" (p. 75). Now, you should be asking, if it is defined the immanence of criteria what is transcendental about transcendental philosophy or about this transcendental unconscious? In this case I would say that the principles or logic or schema of the syntheses by which the unconscious functions (and their legitimate usage) are what transcend that functioning itself. In this specific usage, "transcendental" (not transcendent) is not contested by D&G but affirmed. In the later passage, D&G make more clear how this question of immanence and transcendence relates to the other distinctions I've been pointing to: production and expression, usage and meaning. They Malcolm Lowry who wants his novels to be regarded as machines. A novel can be anything you want it to be as long as it works. "But [that is true] on condition that meaning be nothing other than use, that it become a firm principle only if we have at our disposal immanent criteria capable of determining the legitimate uses, as opposed to the illegitimate ones that relate use instead to a hypothetical meaning and re-establish a kind of transcendence. Analysis termed transcendental is precisely the determination of these criteria, immanent to the field of the unconscious, insofar as they are opposed to the transcendent exercises of a "What does it mean?" Schizoanalysis is at once a transcendental and a materialist analysis" (p. 109). The search for meaning points outside the unconscious and thus establishes a transcendence; the analysis of use, on the other hand, involves the determination of criteria immanent to the unconscious. Following Kant you can call the first metaphysics and the second transcendental analysis. Or, more in our framework, relate the first to expression and meaning and the second to production and use. This entire discussion about expression and production, which involves distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate uses of the various syntheses, revealing and attacking paralogisms or false logics, began from an ontological or methodological imperative, but it comes down eventually to ethical consequences for D&G. There is a paralogism that corresponds to each synthesis (plus two extra), each paralogism or illegitimate usage leads to an error, and each error brings with it an ethical condition. "The three errors concerning desire are called lack, law, and signifier. It is one and the same error, an idealism that forms a pious conception of the unconscious" (p. 111 mid). (We should discuss later how lack results from extrapolation, law from the double-bind, and the signifier from application.) It is clear once again that the cause of the errors is a methodological error, an idealist rather than a materialist conception of the unconscious, transcendent rather than immanent criteria, a focus on expression rather than production. From these three errors, then, follow what D&G call their theological cortege: "insufficiency of being, guilt, and signification" (p. 111). Elsewhere in the text D&G characterize the ethical situation of schizoanalysis as joy and innocence. This seems to me the final payoff in the contrast between expression and production. It's true that they affirm production over expression because production is true to being (being is desiring-production) whereas expression distorts, displaces, and depotentializes being, but also and maybe more importantly the liberation of production rather than its repression in expression leads to joy. Before leaving the question of expression, I want to point to the fact that we already have in this second part the kernel of a theory of literary interpretation and evaluation. Literature (or maybe only good) literature is like schizophrenia in that it is really about production not expression; it's not important what it means but what it does, how it works. "That is what style is, or rather the absence of style--asyntactic, agrammatical: the moment when language is no longer defined by what it says, even less by what makes it a signifying thing, but by what causes it to move, to flow, and to explode--desire" (p. 133 mid-bot). Production is what is important in literature--not literary production in the sense of the socio-historical conditions of the writer and so forth, but the production of desire in or through literature. Literary interpretation, then, should only be about revealing these desiring-machines in literature: "reading a text is never a scholarly exercise in search of what is signified, still less a highly textual exercise in search of a signifier. Rather it is a productive use of the literary machine ..." (p. 106 top). Literary interpretation, like a materialist psychiatry and probably all other disciplines, should involve revealing the desiring-machines at work and putting them to use productively. This is a way to conceive of an immanent literary criticism, an interpretation that remains immanent to the text in the sense that it takes up the very desiring-machines that the text creates and sets them up to work. This isn't very clear yet, but I think we'll have an opportunity later, in coming weeks, to see some examples and get a more concrete idea what such reading would do, how it would operate.

2. Liberation / revolution D&G insist on using several concepts that many might think today discredited and antiquated--in fact, discredited precisely by arguments such as D&G's. I'm thinking for example of the concepts of alienation, universality, and totality. I want to say something briefly about totality. Actually, they don't use the term totality but I think it is implicit in the argument when they are contrasting two notions of the social field, 3+1 versus 4+n. They introduce the discussion by recalling Bergson's notion of a completely open movement in the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Now, 3+1 is the formula of Oedipus, because it traps all social phenomena in the triangle (mommy, daddy, me) and then subsumes that triangle into a single transcendent notion of order. This is a closed notion of the social totality twice over -- first because of trapping all phenomena in the triangle and second because the triangle is subsequently reduced to a unity. They oppose to this closed notion of the social totality what I would call an open totality. This alternative notion "opens to the four winds, to the four corners of the social field (not even 3+1, but 4+n)" (p. 96 mid-top). Now, one should object here that earlier, in part 1, D&G denounced totality in the name of multiplicity (p. 42). I would say, however, that what they denounced there was a specific kind of totality that reduces the heterogeneous parts to a transcendent unity. They affirm instead an immanent notion of totality constituted by multiplicities and by parts that never reduce to a homogeneous and transcendent whole. The antiquated and discredited concepts that I am really interested in, though, are repression, liberation and revolution. These are the explicit goals of the entire book. Desiring-machines themselves, the point of departure for the book, lead to revolution or rather they are the revolution -- or rather, that the liberation of desire is revolution. "no desiring-machine can be posed without demolishing entire social sectors .... desire is revolutionary in its essence ... and no society can tolerate a position of real desire without its structures of exploitation, servitude, and hierarchy being compromised" (p. 116 mid-top). And later on that same page: "Desire does not 'want' revolution, it is revolutionary in its own right, as though involuntarily, by wanting what it wants" (p. 116 mid-bot). Let me read a little farther on this same page because they quickly explain at least a little more clearly how in what sense desire is revolutionary. "From the beginning of this study we have maintained both that social production and desiring-production are one and the same, and that they have differing régimes, with the result that a social form of production exercises an essential repression of desiring-production, and also that desiring-production--a "real" desire--is potentially capable of demolishing the social form" (p. 116 bot). There is a lot to understand in that sentence. First of all, how are social production and desiring-production the same thing but belonging to different régimes. This question of régime is one we will have to confront seriously before too long, but I don't think we have the tools to do so yet. The second part of the sentence is equally difficult: repression involves the dominance of the social form over desiring-production and inversely the liberation of desiring-production from that repression destroys the social form, that is, it is revolution. I want to pose all this now as a question for the future, and instead of confronting the general theoretical claim I want to turn rather to three examples or axes of repression and liberation that they refer to, even if briefly, in this second part: with respect to sexual difference, sexuality, and race.

3. Invisible concepts Finally I want to point to a few concepts that I find interesting here but that are invisible because of translation difficulties. The first involves their use of the word "quelconque": any, whichever, whatever. They use it either as "nature quelconque" or "valeur quelconque." Here is the first example: "Whence the idea that the stimuli are not organizers, but mere inductors: ultimately, the nature of these inductors is a matter of indifference [de nature quelconque]" (p. 91 mid). Another example: "Yes, the family is a stimulus--but a stimulus that is qualitatively indifferent [de valeur quelconque], an inductor that is neither an organizer nor a disorganizer" (p. 98 bot). Ok. I don't exactly think the translation is wrong but I think that this notion of "quelconque" might not really have to do with indifference. I would like to relate it to the term I pointed out last week in part 1, "la vie générique" which was translated as species- life. I sense that "quelconque" and "générique" are both hinting at a technical concept that is not really indifferent. I have to keep working on this but I think it's a way to rethink the concept of "the general." Second: survol, overflight. This is a rather straightforward concept, or at least it doesn't pose any real translation problems. I just want to point it out and highlight its use. The origin is in a note that refers to Jean Oury: "In his presentation, Jean Oury calls Jayet 'the nondelimited," "in permanent flight [survol]" (p. 386 n.20). Then they take the term up in the text to explain the "or" of the schizo: "The schizophrenic is dead or alive, not both at once, but each of the two as the terminal point of a distance over which he glides [qu'il survole en glissant]" (p. 76). "He is and remains in disjunction: he does not abolish disjunction by identifying the contradictory elements by means of elaboration; instead, he affirms it through a continuous overflight [survol] spanning an indivisible distance. He is not simply bisexual, or between the two, or intersexual. He is transexual" (p. 76-77). Trans- here refers to the continuous overflight between the two. And from here on overflight will always be accompanied by indivisible distances. One final example: "But if the body without organs is indeed this desert, it is as an indivisible, nondecomposable distance over which the schizo glides [survole] in order to be everywhere something real is produced ..." (p. 86-87). Curious concept -- both for its maintaining together the disjunction and also for its distance from the plane over which it flies.