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on 28 January 2004
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. There's a lot of undefined concepts borrowed from other authors and a lot of references to traditions, themes and ideas with which some readers may be unfamiliar. I would advise anyone unfamiliar with poststructuralism to read an introductory text on Deleuze (such as Paul Patton's Deleuze and the Political) and something on poststructuralism (for instance, Structuralism and Poststructuralism for Beginners) before embarking on the original texts themselves. You have been warned!
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on 29 November 2005
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. You will need to remember Nietzsche to understand why this approach is being taken.
You may have guessed from this that if you are a fan of Focault, then you are going to love this. I would recommend giving it a go . The worst that can happen is that you will leave it on the shelf.
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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. It was this institutional silence which provided the cover for adults to take revenge on children because their outcries were deemed as nothing more than the cry of instinctual hormones wanting to exert their presence. The resonance of the Oedipus Complex was the appliance of power without restraint. The children are only acting out a complex if they complained. Its resonance however is still with us with the Diagnostic Procedures in the new labels ADHD and autism. The debate has merely shifted than been resolved.

This book is therefore 5 stars for ideas and 1 point for clarity.
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on 7 December 2015
Challenging read, but worth the effort.
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on 19 September 2014
Superarchaisedly mind altering
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on 5 October 2012
I have to confess that I understood little of this book. Not that I did not enjoy it - Deleuze writes well, and occasionally I catch some allusion, and indeed it is often very funny. I should re-read, and hope to do so, but tempus fugit, for art is long and life short.
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