Deleuzeian: Desiring Machines

This is the second installment in my ongoing series on Anti-Oedipus by Giles Delueze and Felix Guattari. For more information read the Introduction _and my__ first installment regarding a part Foucault's preface to the book.

I didn't want to spend too much time going over "old territory" (for me) in Anti Oedipus, but I think a little bit more of background would be helpful as we produce. I've tried to pull out the parts of the first chapter that really stuck with me, now, almost a year after I read them for the first time. This post introduces Deleuze and Guatteri's ideas about desiring production, recording machines, and breakages. These, at least to me, are the fundamental ideas from chapter one [1], and some of the most useful ideas that I carried with me as I went on to read further in the book.

First off, desire and production. This stuff is the foundation of their Marx/Freud synthesis, and I think rather than unproblematically append parts of Freud to Marx (or vice versa), they treat psychoanalysis with the kind of skepticism that it deserves, and are able to establish a very workable "common language." Here's what they say:

Hence everything is production: production of productions, of actions and of passions; productions of recording processes, of distributions and of coordinates that serve as points of reference; productions of consumptions of sensual pleasures, of anxieties and of pain (pg. 4).

Thinking of everything as production, including anxieties and other "subject" experience, creates a sort of common language to talk about subjectivity, without needing to draw on subject formation vis a vis the mirror stage, unconsciousness, and so forth. Identities are produced, memories are produced, bodies are produced, just as this computer, this website, and the corn flakes you had for breakfast were produced. The computer, corn-flakes and website, are clearly productions, but more often than not we ignore the processes of production of memories, identities, and bodies. This gives us reason to look at the very smallest of effects and mechanisms and think about how their production, rather than to be simply satisfiied with the "truth" of their experience. Cool.

As a psychology type, the stuff about recording, is quite interesting. I was processing this chapter for the first time right as I was writing a paper on episodic memory (specifically autobiographical memory), so I was thinking a lot about this. Immediately following the above quote they say:

Everything is production, since the recording processes are immediately consumed, immediately consummated and these consumptions directly reproduced. This is the first meaning of process as we use the terms: incorporating recording and consumption within production itself, thus making them productions of one and the same process (pg. 4).

Recording processes--communication, writing, memories, and histories--are produced just like the corn-flakes, just like our identities, and can and should be explored on this level. For the record, I feel like this is an old argument that has permeated pretty well, I suspect many feel pretty comfortable with this kind of idea. This, though, lays the groundwork for another statement a few pages later:

Production is not recorded in the same way it is produced, however. Or rather, it is not reproduced within the apparent objective movement in the same way in which it is produced within the process of constitution (pg. 12).

We see variations on this in "Reader Response Theory" and also Biographical/Contextual readings of literature, that look at the contextual forces that affect the production and the consumption of a text. We could, of course, replace "text" with "memory without any real conceptual problem, in fact it seems more like Deleuze and Guatteri mean memory in their writing, when all the literary theorists are talking about texts, because that's what they do. Again, this, I think makes it possible to analize and address both the process and the content of memory, of recording on two very important levels: of its production on the micro level, and of its content on the macro level.

Ok, moving on to the final part of this already too long post on "breakages". At some point, Deleuze and Guatteri begin to describe production as the combination of desire, and a machine like process, I think I've gotten into that. I think somewhere I probably scribbled in my notes "everything is production > desire > machines." But here is a quote that I think descirbes how the machines [2] "work:"

Desiring-machines work only when they break down, and by continually breaking down. [...] (pg 8).

I take this as an epistemological point, more than anything, but I like how as a guiding principal this pushes us to not look toward normative data, but toward the abnormal cases, the exceptions. These "breakages" are interesting not only as special events, but also insofar as they help us describe the normative functions of the system. This is why Deleuze and Guatteri are so interested in the conceptual space of the schizophrenic, for instance. But I think the directive to look at breakages is a useful one [3].

And finally I'd like to leave you with the following quote which I found helpful and inspiring. The one thing that I have to say about this book is that it is--as these things go--incredibly enjoyable. It's light hearted, it's inspiring, and it's filled with a sense of hope. And if nothing else that's worth something...

The productive synthesis, the production of production is inherently connective in nature: "and..." "and then..."This is because there is always a flow-producing machine, and another machine connected to it that interrupts or draws off part of this flow [...] (pg. 5).

I'll see you all next week. I'd love to hear what you have to say. Don't be shy, I haven't a real clue about most of this stuff either, and I'd love to talk. So comment!

cheers, tycho

[1]Admittedly, the real idea from this part of the book that carries on throughout this and A Thousand Plateaus is the "Body without Organs," or in many notations BwO. This is something that seems so simple in their explanations but that I find incredibly hard to explain and explore, and quite frankly, hard to apply to other situations, thoghts and projects. Maybe some other week.
[2]The translators use the word "machine," throughout the book, and while I think this word makes a lot of sense in context of the book, in my own mind I've taken the word "machine" to refer to something more like a "mechanism" or a "widget".
[3]Clearly there is a space where anecdotal evidence isn't always a productive part of discourse, but I think this reiterates the value of case studies and qualatative methodologies. Balance in all things, after all.
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