I would say that Anti-Oedipus (may its authors forgive me) is a book of ethics, the first book of ethics to be written in France in quite a long time (perhaps that explains why its success was not limited to a particular "readership:" being anti-oedipal has become a life style, a way of thinking and living.) How does one keep from being fascist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant? How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out this fascism that is ingrained in our behavior? The Christan Moralists sought out the traces of the Flesh lodged deep within the soul. Deleuze and Guatteri, for their part, pursue the slightest traces of fascism in the body.
-- Michel Foucault, writing in the preface to Anti-Oedipus, by Giles Deleuze and Felix Guatteri.
I've spent a while away from Academia and geeky theoretical academic thoughts for a while. Then I discovered this twitter account and I got drawn back into it. I read the tweets and I thought, "you know," these are hilarious on their own because they are so off the well, but I think I actually understand what's going on. I'd have conversations with unsuspecting coworkers about little bits of Deleuzian theory. H.S. came for a visit and we had a rather long conversation about Deleuze and theory. I don't know that "I'm back," is exactly the right way to phrase this, but I definitely enjoy the added perspective that I'm able to bring to this stuff now.
I was never a very good theorist or philosopher, though I enjoy watching from a far, I tend want answers to different kinds of questions. I'm not, nor have I ever been "a scholar" of the "Capitalism and Schizophrenia" diptych--I haven't even read it in its entirety--but it's been a great influence me. Of the things that I read and interacted with in college, I'd have to say that Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus are the texts that I return to with the greatest frequency. And I never even took a class that assigned D&G!
I've read a fair number of papers and other pieces that have attempted to use Deleuze's work as theoretical framework or some such, and I've always been disappointed by what happens as a result. For starters, the chance of Deleuze citations being: of the Rhizomatics essay at the beginning of "A Thousand Plateaus," or from his collections of film criticism are overwhelming. This is unsurprising as this probably represents the most accessible of portions of Deleuze's work. Also unsurprising is my sense that no matter what the paper is about, the Deleuzian theory overpowers whatever the author is trying to say. Deleuze's thought is pretty darn heavy, and there's no way around it.
And from some perspectives this is actually pretty funny: when you read Anti-Oedipus it's not "fluffy," but it's pretty playful. There are lots of metaphors and images that draw out the logic and the point. There's a lot going on, but it's not dense (certainly not in the way that Derrida is dense.) This has lead me to ask a two important questions:
- If the writing is not very difficult or opaque, why do (Americans) who attempt to use the work fail to capture the playfulness, and seem too fall flat?
- Why am I (and clearly others as well) so intrigued by this work, and why do I (we?) keep returning to this text? Particularly since it's so difficult to use in support of other arguments.
The answers, I think bring us back to Foucault's assertion in the preface, that Anti-Oedipus is (counter to first impressions) a book of ethics rather than a book of cultural and social theory or even a commentary on Marxist and Freudian theory. When reading the texts, Anti-Oedipus (and A Thousand Plateaus) don't feel like ethical manifestos, but I think that this explains why it's so difficult to use and remains so intriguing.
That's enough for now, but I hope you'll pardon my impulse to blog about Deleuze for a little longer, as I think there's another post or two here.