The Problem with Anti-Oedipus

This posting is nominally in respoonse to section 3.3 of Deleuze and Guatteri's Anti-Oedipus, but I think, given that this section doesn't cover particularly new territory, and the fact that I think I need to take a step back and talk about my perspectives and reasons for approaching this book. So there won't be quotes this week.

But first, for my records as much as anything, 3.3 entitled "The Problem with Oedipus," and it basically takes a bit of traditional psychonalaitic canon (ish), and explains more or less on it's own terms, how it doesn't hold together. Oedipus doesn't work, because kinship relationships are social constructions; Oedipus doesn't work because heterosexuality doesn't work (for anyone,) Oedipus doesn't work.... We've been over parts of this argument before, and while it's a compleatly necessary part of the book. I'm in favor of taking it and moving on to greener pastures.

Next week's section (3.4) is entitled "Psychoanalysis and Ethnology," which sounds greener to me.

Anyway, back to why I like the book, why I think it's important to read a 30 (!) year old book of, what was surely in its day, trendy philosophy.

  • I think it's difficult to say "reality is socially constructed," without having a framework. Judith Butler is a good start (did'ya know that she opens her oft-reprinted essay "Imitation and Gender Insubordination" with a Delueze quote?) but I think it's important to go further. And though it all started with queer theory for me, the truth is that those arguments aren't tactically a good place to start for the kinds of questions and arguments I'm interested in building on.
  • I enjoy the possibility and opportunity to look at psychoanalysis and say "rubbish!" outside of empiricism, and still say "you know these ideas are still useful." It's not apologizing for Freud, I mean I think even when you extract the 19th century from Freud, it's not all that good; but it creates the possibility for me (and others I hope) to say "look what people working in a psychoanalytical framework have done" and it's pretty nifty. Think about attachment theory, think about Levi-Struss and structuralism, and one can't help but admit that "interpolation" (Althusar) is pretty nifty. I'm still throwing out ideas by the bale , but at some point that just has to happen, I suppose.
  • It's a book about psychoanalysis that is unabashedly materialist, and that's an incredibly helpful position to have a grasp of.
  • It's funny. I tried reading Derrida about a year ago. Dear g-d. I think Derrida gets taken a little more seriously than Deleuze and Guatteri, but it's harder to read, and I think less broadly applicable.

And then the background. Now lets remember, I'm no specialist in this stuff, so what I've been able to piece together is just that: a mishmash.

  • AO is a synthetic project. Like a lot of so called radical philosophy (usually french, usually from the late 60s and 70s), it's a melding of Freud and Marx. I've heard also (and agree) that it uses Nietzsche synthesizes Freud and Marx.
  • Deleuze and Guatteri are, at least as I read them, post-structuralists, which is basically an epistemological position. That to understand our culture/society, one need to under stand the underlying systems and "structures" [1]. Structuralists assume that structures are basically transcendent/ahistorical/etc. Post-structuralists, say no, that they're contextually/historically/culturally constructed.
  • I've often thought, though I don't have a lot of textual evidence to back this up on (but hey, blog) that post-structualism pivots on linguistics/semiotics, in the tradition of Saussure. That is: the break the bonds between words (signs) and the idea what they represent (signifiers) and refer to, ripples out to affect other representations and knowing(s).

That's rough, of course. I guess this is the notebook edition of the Delueze theory, but I hope that exposing my thinking is useful for you all.

Have a good weekend and think good thoughts.

cheers, tycho

[1]Structures are systems beyond just models, for instance Levi-Struss' seminal (ha!) work is on kinship, for instance.
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