Deleuze and the Utility of Materialism

(ETA: On second thought, perhaps this essay should have been called "Materialism and the Utility of Deleuze," but both work.)

Here's the second part in my (re)contemplation of Deleuzian theory. Here's part one.

Everything is a machine. Celestial machines, the stars or rainbows in the sky, alpine machines--all of them connected to those of [the] body. [...] There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all species of life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever. (p. 2)

-- Giles Deleuze and Felix Guatteri Anti-Oedipus Originally published in 1972, English translation 1977. Translated by Helen R. Lane, Robert Hurley, and Mark Seem.

I think one of the key reasons that I keep returning to Anti-Oedipus is that it provides a way to be a fierce materialist while addressing the kinds of questions that idealists (i.e. psychoanalysts) raise. This in itself isn't particularly unique (I suppose,) but I'm particularly taken with the way that they approach questions of subjectivity, identity, experience, and development without engaging or furthering the discourse of psychoanalytic thought.

Initially I think I was off put by all the psychoanalytic language in the text, and the way that they seem to argue incredibly fine points against Lacan and Freud. As I look at it more and more, I realize the point of Anti-Opedipus is to say "don't think about these issues in Freudian terms, and with Freudian assumptions! Think about subjectivity and identity as phenomena with material foundations and mechanistic underpinnings!"

I, perhaps unlike the milieu that Deleuze and Guatteri were writing in, was never particularly enchanted by psychoanalysis, but I have been incredibly interested in the kinds of issues that analytic thought engages, and Anti-Oedipus provides a way to entertain those kinds of discussions without engaging in a troublesome intellectual lineage.

But to tie this post back to the last one, this approach to thinking about ourselves as subjects, to our creativity and desire, to the cultural implications of our identity, is not something that's particularly useful addition to a theoretical framework. Right? I've not done a lot of this kind writing recently, but it strikes me that the call to be a materialist, and to think about the mechanics of social and personal phenomena is, as we say, "non-trivial." Being Anti-Oedipal isn't just something that you sprinkle here and there; it's not a grand-theory-of-everything, but once it seeps in a bit, it makes it possible to think about the world and experiences in--what I'd call--a more productive way. Perhaps it's true that Anti-Oedipus is a book of ethics after all.

I underlined the paragraph from the last post nearly four years ago. I think I've finally gotten it. I think, more than anything, that is a marker of my own development.

Onward and Upward!

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