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Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia [Paperback]

Gilles Deleuze , Felix Guattari , R. Hurley , etc.
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb 1984
'A major philosophical work by perhaps the most brilliant philosophical mind at work in France today.' Fredric Jameson Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris VIII. He was a key figure in poststructuralism, and one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. Felix Guattari (1930-1992) was a psychoanalyst at the la Borde Clinic, as well as being a major social theorist and radical activist. Anti-Oedipus is part of Deleuze and Guattari's landmark philosophical project, Capitalism and Schizophrenia - a project that still sets the terms of contemporary philosophical debate. Anti-Oedipus is a radical philosophical analysis of desire that shows how we can combat the compulsion to dominate ourselves and others. As Michel Foucault says in his Preface it is an 'Introduction to Non-Fascist Living'. Preface by Michel Foucault. Translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane >
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (Feb 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0485300184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0485300185
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 630,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Gilles Deleuze was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris VIII. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly radical poststructuralism 28 Jan 2004
By ldxar1
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Most poststructuralists hedge their bets and stop short of writing anything which amounts to a positive theory of their own; they also stop short of criticising the status quo. Deleuze and Guattari cannot be faulted on either count. Their theory of desire represents an original contribution which synthesises elements of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche with crucial poststructuralist themes such as the critique of the subject, and they provide a set of original concepts which offer potential for all kinds of applications. Their critique of representation and of the imposition of systems of meaning is uncompromising and, unlike so many poststructuralist critiques, does not hold itself back by insisting on the necessity of that which it critiques.
A couple of words of warning are in order, however. Firstly, this is not the book where Deleuze and Guattari develop most of the concepts for which they are famous. Ideas such as smooth and striated space, rhizomes, molar and molecular assemblages, etc., appear in this work but only intermittently. Also, most of the book is about psychoanalysis rather than politics; its central focus is a critique of the Oedipal family and of psychoanalytic practice as an institutional sypport for this particular system of repressive overcoding. In the course of this critique, they also develop a genealogy of capitalism, a theory of coding and a lot more besides, but readers looking to understand their theory would do better reading A Thousand Plateaus.
Secondly, this is a very difficult book - fine for specialists in poststructuralist theory, but a real problem for anyone else.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining - If you are ready for it! 29 Nov 2005
By Shut Up
I have no institutionally based education with regard to philosophy. I read philosophy because I simply enjoy both the challenge and ultimately the novel and fresh outlook which it inspires me to adopt in my life. I was new to Deleuze and Guatarri prior to reading this but I did have at least a familiarity with Nietzsche, Freud and Marx. If you are attempting to read this then this is the minimum you will require. Added to this, some knowledge of Lacan, semiology and Levi Strauss are required. The last author is important for the section 'Barbarians and Civilised men', while the first two are essential for the first two chapters. You hence need a thorough understanding of psychoanalysis and it's critics. Those aside, there are many more references to literature, I remember three references to Shakespere alone. I find that the sheer number of references are the most difficult aspect of this book to get to grips with. The writing is relatively lucid and entertaining and it is certainly designed to attract someone looking to be entertained. Often the authors will make willfully misleading and shocking comments only to explain what exactly was meant by them later on to heighten the impact. The reader gets the feeling, perhaps through being misled a little, that he is unearthing something truly revelatory.
Crudely put, the message of the book is that the mindset which creates the structure of capitalist society is that which creates the structure of the conventional family and 'conventional' thinking on sexuality, mental illness and normal conduct. The capitalist mindset, if I can call it that, passes much deeper than purely economic concerns. I found the first few chapters the most difficult because they introduce the structure of the approach in a very indirect way.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity equals Understanding equals change 16 Sep 2009
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
The challenge of all post modernists and philosophy is to shift away from the ivory towers of academia and connect with the experiences of the ordinary man and woman. Deleuze and Guattari want to change the way we think and feel. The problem with this book is its obtuseness. It resides in university libraries not in the discourse of the everday world. In their project of change Deleuze and Guattari are destined to fail. How do their concepts translate to Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street. This by default ensures only an elite can read and appreciate the concepts.

In stating the obvious the concepts which do arise pose distinct challenges to taken for granted thinking, its just they should be made clearer. Take one example which I use in my everyday therapeutic practice, historical events and their after effects have as much impact on families and individual psychologies as traditional concentration on the unfolding of instincts. If one wants to look at how psychologies are constructed look to history, the after effects of WW2, the Spanish Civil War, the Vietnam War, Yugoslavia etc. All of these conflicts have caused psychic tremors in those directly affected as well as the long terms effects of colonisation, the internalisation of feeling less than, the grinding poverty of the inter war years and austerity. The loss of a job and status has a psychological impact caused by the economic meltdown. The Oedipus complex is a fiction compared to the effect of "real" events.

They also trace how the Oedipus Complex arose and is maintained. Although largely discredited, children's voices and psychologies have only recently been recognised as existing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
131 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deleuze's book on Society 12 Feb 2003
By Adrian Chan - Published on
If you're into sociology, and you're curious about Deleuze, then read this one first. Skim some of the bits on psychoanalysis. But read the opening and the sections on representation closely. This is the book that gives birth to Empire, currently a hot one in the anti-globalism movement. It's in this one that D/G show how any social order requires a means by which to articluate desire. They argue that desire is fundamentally productive, creative. But that it must be harnessed if a society is going to survive it's chaotic impulses and forces.
Anti Oedipus is really a book of anthropology. It shows how "primitive," "despotic," and finally "capitalist" regimes differ in their organization of production, recording (inscription, representation), and consumption. It's also a history insofar as it covers the process by which capitalism ultimately commands all the flows and chains of production, submitting them to a form of organization that is abstract (money is abstract) rather than local and physical.
The oedipal part of it is a critique of the Oedipal complex insofar as the complex articulates a model of society based on the family triangle. They want to show that the family is a kind of organization that must colonize its members, repress their desires, and give them complexes if it is to function as an organizing principle of contemporary society.
Their alternative, to be taken literally, is schizoid: subvertive, resistance, and always escaping capture by slipping in between the categories that organize capitalist society and its way of thinking.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the 10 Best Books of Postmodern Philosophy 20 Jan 2012
By John David Ebert - Published on
Published in France in 1972, Anti-Oedipus was the first of several collaboartions between Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. A few years later they would go on to write the even larger and more complex A Thousand Plateaus, perhaps Deleuze's most famous work. Zizek argues that Deleuze's collaborations with Guattari represent his weakest work, and that his best books are actually The Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition, works written in the years prior to Anti-Oedipus. Since I have not yet read these latter two books, I cannot judge their merits, but I must say I was very impressed with Anti-Oedipus, though I think A Thousand Plateaus is the better book.

Whereas A Thousand Plateaus ranges through the disciplines, Anti-Oedipus is more narrowly focused upon psychoanalysis and its relationship to capitalism. Provocatively, they argue that schizophrenia is embedded in capitalism, a sort of by-product of its axiomatic political metabolism. The schizophrenic out for a walk, they point out, is a better model for their 'schizoanalysis' than the neurotic stretched out on the psychoanalytic couch. The schizophrenic is immune to neurosis, they insist, because he has already transcended it: the desiring machines within him link him to the outer world in a series of assemblages and flows that it is normally the job of psychoanalysis to repress.

Deleuze and Guattari substitute polyvocality and multiplicity for unity: not the Id or the ego, but machines and many of them. Their model for the unconscious is that of a factory of production, as opposed to the Freudian theater enacting the tragic dramas of Oedipus. The individual is not a true individual but a multiplicity of desiring machines, which are always coupled with other desiring machines: the breast machine, the anal machine, the phallic machine, and so forth. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari imagine the body to be full of organ machines motivated by desire, and it is precisely such desire that gets repressed in capitalist society as well as in Freudian analysis, which attempts to reduce all psychological problems to the mommy-daddy-infant triangle.

This is also where they first flesh out their interesting idea of the Body Without Organs. The BwO is no mere metaphor, they insist, but actual matter, a sort of virtual phase space that the actual body presupposes as a zone of potentialities across which flows are directed. Indeed, it is not all that dissimilar from Rupert Sheldrake's morphogenetic fields or Waddington's chreodes. In A Thousand Plateaus, they will call the outer correlate to this idea in the physical world the 'plane of immanence,' which is a zone of zero intensities upon which all flows are played out. The partial organs of Lacan and Freud constitute the degrees of the Body Without Organs.

Heidegger may have pronounced metaphysics dead and philosophy to be over, but Deleuze and Guattari proceed to build an ontology with a very complex cosmology built up out of metaphysical planes and strata of varying degrees of intensity. We have to imagine them thinking and inhabiting a mental field that would be the equivalent of a Paul Klee painting: that is to say, they see through reality to a formative realm of self-organizing metaphysical singularities that are at work to shape matter everywhere. In this respect, Deleuze is closer to Aristotle than to Heidegger, who wasn't interested in ontology, since that very thing had been bracketted by his mentor Husserl.

But the main insight of Anti-Oedipus is its sketching out of what they call three distinct regimes of representation that civilization has passed through: the primitve territorial representation; the despotic imperial representation; and the capitalist representation. Each of these regimes constitutes an internally complete structure that very much reminds one of the Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser's structures of consciousness: the primitive territorial mode codes flows on the full body of the earth (which, note, is not the full body without organs, but a differentiated socius, now, upon which social production is recorded and played out); the imperial representation, which is more or less equivalent to the rise of the first city states and empires, overcodes flows on the full body of the deterritorialized despot; while in the capitalist regime, flows are not coded at all, but rather decoded and deterritorialized on the full body of capital.

In each of these structures, there is a different medium of communication, a different form of paranoia and a different mode of synthesis. In the primitive regime, for example, which is dominated by the voice, it is not that writing does not exist but rather that it exists in the form of inscriptions on the body in the form of tattooes, scarification, mutilation, initiations, etc. Writing is not aligned with the voice until the next regime, the despotic regime, in which inscription shifts to the media of clay tablets, stone and other surfaces, all of which receive their authority from the deterritorialized body of the despot himself. By the time of the rise of the capitalist regime, however, Deleuze and Guattari (rather originally, I think) insist that writing is now an archaism, despite the printing press and McLuhan's Gutenbergian Galaxy, for it is something that capitalism as such no longer needs.

In A Thousand Plateaus, these three regimes will be expanded to five, and in this respect, Deleuze reminds me of a sort of French equivalent of Jean Gebser, a neglected Swiss philosopher who modelled history in terms of internally consistent structures of consciousness. But it's all in the discourse: whether you call them 'structures of consciousness' in the old-fashioned style of the German master narrative, or 'sign regimes' in the French philosophical schools of the 1960s depends on whether you are in or out of po-mo theory. Gebser's out; Deleuze is in. A shame, because Gebser in his way is just as brilliant.

In the concluding section of Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari insist that schizoanalysis, by contrast with psychoanalysis, does not try to interpret the subject's neuroses, dreams and images, but rather the task is to find and identify his or her particular desiring machines, find out what they want, why they want it, and help to clear a path for them. Their vision of the unconscious is analogous to abstract art; Freud's unconscious to Symbolist art. "A pure abstract figural dimension" composed of "flows, schizzes" as opposed to statues, images, dreams and signifiers. In this respect, Deleuze and Guattari recall James Hillman's famous insistence in Revisioning Psychology not to interpret the images of the unconscious, since to interpret them is to pin down and kill them with a pre-fixed meaning.

The book is Anti-Oedipus because it is, of course, a thorough critique of Freudian psychoanalysis which is far too restrictive, repressive and dogmatic for their taste. The psyche is much more polyvocal, alive and full of desiring machines attempting to forever link the psyche of the individual to one assemblage or another in the outer world around him. Capitalism, with its bourgeois ethos, merely serves to repress these desires and keep the individual in line, manipulable and in servitude to the machine.

Of course, their vision of the body as a kind of desiring machine, a plenitude of micromolecular structures that go to make up the molar aggregation of the social machine (or "megamachine" as they term it, borrowing from Mumford) is mechanistic, but it is mechanistic not in an unpleasant way, but rather in the way that William Gibson in his novels see the body as one machine that is inserted as a component amongst many other technical and electronic machines. Indeed, Anti-Oedipus is almost the philosophical equivalent of cyberpunk. Everything, for Deleuze and Guattari is a type of machine: there are social machines, celibate machines, miraculate machines, organ machines, etc. Everything is flowing and producing, motivated by desire, and it is the social machine of capitalism that checks and dams all the flows.

The schizophrenic, for Deleuze and Guattari, is an ideal only because of the multiplicitities, the many egos and machines, that inhabit him, and not because of any romantic idea that the madman is more truly sane than the rest of us. The schizophrenic is more interesting than the neurotic simply because he is plugged in to so many more assemblages than the neurotic, who is too blocked up to plug into anything.

Admittedly, I cannot pretend, on a first reading, to have understood all the subtleties and complexities of Deleuze and Guattari's arguments. I don't think anyone can. The writing is so dense and complex that each page would have to be examined with a magnifying glass, like a page of Finnegans Wake, in order for all its meaning to be wrung out.

But if you like complexity, and enjoy moving about in a mental phase space that is dazzling with fresh ideas, you might wish to try Anti-Oedipus. Save A Thousand Plateaus for later, for it is even more forbidding and complex.


--John David Ebert, author of "The New Media Invasion" (McFarland Books, 2011) and "Dead Celebrities, Living Icons" (Praeger, 2010)
66 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, brilliant... insightful, but distorted in perspective. 4 Feb 2006
By Vinay Varma - Published on
Why am I giving this book a five star rating? Because this work is an effort at a new theory that is systematic and terminologically consistent and must have been a torture for the writers to conjure up in their head.

It certainly is a torture to read this work. Not because I can't understand hard-core philosophy - I have read, understood and liked Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre and Derrida, considered amongst the most abstruse stylists - but because it is difficult to empathize with writers who characterize themselves and their readers as 'desiring machines' rather than as subjects with consciousness and will.

Is desire the only thing that defines human beings - what about will, thinking, compassion, judgment? And further why am I supposed to be a machine and in what sense? These are the questions that came to my mind. The authors never explain. The question of the subject is dismissed in one sentence.

It is also difficult to agree with writers who dismiss all seeking of power and all active resistance by implication as fascism and preach escape/flight as the most radical ideology of resistance and hope.

And it is difficult to find hope in the vain jargon of molecular vs. molar, in the lines of escape or flight, or in a schizoid approach to life (a schizophrenic has no control over himself - is a machine and hence is the authors' favorite).

The authors fail in their synthesis of Marx and Freud although they come close and fail to understand Nietzsche, one of their favorite philosophers. Marx, Freud and Nietzsche would turn violently in their graves, if they ever know what Deleuze/Guattari did to their philosophies. They speculations on incest, kinship etc., are just too weak, sketchy and merely assertoric to be taken seriously.

I do not endorse the philosophy of Deleuze/Guattari. To be sure they offer brilliant insights but their line of argument has as many holes as Swiss cheese.

Yet there are a few things that are brilliant in the work and it certainly remains an original and challenging work. Having, stated my disappointment with the work, now let me also state the better aspects of this work. This work has a very well argued theory of control mechanisms in primitive, barbarian and capitalist societies.

The authors rightly point out that capitalism governs well because it always generates new rules to survive (new axiomatic) and controls because all social codes are 'decoded' (de-codified) into flows (loose, lawlike systems of control) and de-territorialized. (Other writers have explained the same things in simpler jargon, but Deleuze-Guattari need to be given due credit for the brilliance of their analysis of capitalism, although their libidnalization of economics doesn't add anything valueable to the analysis of either libido or economics and seems forced).

The other hallmark of this work is that it offers one of the more interesting critiques of Freud's Oedipal complex, psychotherapy and its role in making humans conformist. They demolish the Daddy-Mommy-Me triangle and its implications in making us conformists quite effectively.

However, it may be borne in mind that there have been better criticisms of Freud's theories and Deleuze/Guattari are in some respects more Freudian than Freud with their libidinal interpretations of human beings as desiring machines and of economy as investment of desire (libidnal economy).

To sum up, this work is worth reading for its analysis of capitalism, and to some extent for its critique of psychoanalysis. However this is not a work that offers hope for the oppressed or an agenda for political action although followers of Deleuze/Guattari like Antonio Negri and Alain Badiou take their philosophy in a more positive direction. The best portion is the third section, followed by second. The least satisfactory portions and the last and the first, although they are essential to read in order to understand the relevant middle portion of the work.

And of course human beings are not desiring machines no matter what Deleuze/Guattari say. Beyond a metaphor, machinism is delusory. We are what we are. Happy to be human and animal rather than machines. Much as post-structuralist and post-modernists dismiss the question of the subject, the question remains - alive and active and kicking.
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually four and a half stars 27 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Extremely dense, muddy prose slung half way between poetic delerium and hardened theory, this vast experiement in writing is fascinating in its ability to have turned over seemingly everything- and liberally shaken. This can be a masochistic experience for any reader, although I think that it is one of the most interesting philosophical texts written this century. Certainly seems essential reading for budding psychoanalysts, intending social theorists and anybody interested in the problem of fascism. 'Dip in and out of it', as has been suggested by another reviwer.
39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars boundaries? we don't need no stinking boundaries! 23 Mar 2002
By David P. Keys - Published on
Deleuze (and Felix Guattari)are fasinating, but their prose appeals to only the sophisticated and open-minded. These men test and subsequently abolish the hierarchies on which elitism, superiority, and exclusion are built and return the world to a "horizontality" that has not existed since humans came out of the trees. They begin be striking at the heart of modern psychology, the Oedipus Complex, seeking to destroy what they believe to be the source of dominance and difference. They supplement this radical notion by equating individual desire with social desire and have no use for repression. Superegos and overactive egos have no place in their society of unbridled and unexcused desire. Because desire takes as many forms as there are persons to implement it, its is a constantly changing thoroughly innovative idea seeking new channels and different combinations to realize itself, or as they term it, a "body without organs," the changing social body of desire. This is wild stuff and worth the time it takes decifer it.
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