AO, an Ethical Book?

I will admit freely and openly, that I haven't finished reading Anti-Oedipus. In fact, at the beginning of the series I was only on page 148. I suspect a large part of the passages that I "present" will be from where ever I happen to be in the book, (likely pages 150-200, at my current rate) but from time to time, I think I'll also pull from the first 150 pages if something strikes my fancy. All this by way of saying that this week's passages will come, not from Deleuze, but from Foucault's preface to the book. He summarizes Delueze and Guatteri's project:

"How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in our behavior? The Christian moralists sought out the traces of the flesh lodged deep within the soul. Deleuze and Guattari, for their part, pursue the slightest traces of fascism in the Body."

I have to say that I think this is why I like this book so much. Rather than say "fascism" [1] is all in the individual and/or "collective" "unconscious," "soul," or in the historical moment, the statement that fascism is "in" our "behavior," "speech" and "acts," I think makes a great deal of sense. This makes it at least vaguely observable [2], and it means that we can take what they say about "fascism," and apply it to other features of our actions, behaviors, beliefs, and speech. While I think leads to all sorts of other problems, like "are all cultural/social constructions and conventions then fascist?," and the more basic issue that fascism is a rather unspecfic and imprecise term that I think could get in the way of the text's ability to be applied more widely. So while this is, very much a book about fascism, I'm finding it helpful to ignore "the fascist" part of statement, and instead think of "it," as "culture," and "society," because this seems to both be more widely useful. Also, the body of research on culture and society is I think more accessible and wide than the body of research on "fascism," however variously interpreted.

In a related point, I'm really drawn to theories of embodiment, and I like the way that they, both in Foucault's estimation in the preface, and through what I've read, continually ground their work in an understanding and acknowledgment of the body and material reality (such as it is.) The sort of endless metaphysical crap [3] for the sake of metaphysical crap is irksome, and not incredibly productive in the application. Having said that, D&G spend a lot of time doing what can only be described as the metaphysics of the body, in attempt to synthesize psychoanalysis and materialism, and that can be hard to take. But in all the attempt to locate all these theories in the context of the body is, I think productive.

Later, Foucault speaks of the book as a kind of "manual" for anti-oedipal "non-facist" living, and I think that I'll likely return to his tenets in time, but the principal that strikes me as the most interesting and important at the moment reads: > "Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic."

As an ethical statement, I think this is one of the more important ones. I've been known to complain a great deal about "positive psychology," [4] and I think there are ways that this "ethical" statement mirrors that "movement," but I think that it also goes further, to explore diversity, difference, and the ways that we (as individuals and groups) change. I think that's a really productive goal and point, and reading the book with this in mind I think makes it a more productive enterprise. Furthermore, the edict to think about diversity and change, rather than conformity and certain truth, I think has productive implications in other debates: in favor of publishing null-hypothsis data, and in-favor of qualitative and grounded theory approaches to research.

In conclusion I have to say that I think that Foucault's preface is really interesting, because we are able to see a side of Foucault (almost certainly late in his career,) where he looks a lot more like a philosopher and an intellectual historian than any of the other fields that he's sometimes associated with (eg. history, psychology, sociology etc.). It's also a really clever bit to read, and particularly going back and reading over the preface, I'm struck with how well it encapsulates and frames the book. Because my root [5] to this theory is through women's studies and queer theory, I've been consistently more exposed to Foucault, so the relationship and dynamic between Deleuze--who I find inspiring, in a way that Foucault never is--and Foucault has always been intriguing.

Anyway, that's all I have space for this time, I look forward to hearing from you [6] soon and I'll pick something cool for next week, I promise.

Cheers, tycho

[1]The book jacket refers to fascism as "the desire to be led," and while I think I would take issue with this definition a little bit I do like the way that the book can be read--and often is, because of Foucualt in part--as an ethical text, in a very strange sort of way. Having said that, this is the book jacket, and I think we could generate a very workable but less pithy definition, should we want to).
[2]I had a professor who would often claim that the best part of any great theory (Freud, g-d, etc.) is the invisible part. It's good that D&G seem to avoid this as much as possible.
[3]A technical term, I assure you.
[4]Positive psychology is the field of psychology that says that psychology has studied abnormalities and focused on "fixing" negative experience (eg. depression, anxiety, etc.) for too long, and that instead we should focus on "optimum experience" and "happiness," which is incredibly hard to take, and I don't think it does very much to get rid of the "order/disorder" paradigm or any of the other short fallings of the field. But that's just me.
[5]A reference to "But I'm a Cheerleader"
[6]I've installed, if you haven't noticed, a threaded comments system that will let you discuss not simply with my entry but also with each other in an organized manner.
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