Quora answer: What do I need to know before reading Capitalism & Schizophrenia by Deleuze & Guattari?

I would say that you should know first and foremost that he is attempting to construct the philosophy in this book at the Wild Being meta-level of Being as defined by Merleau-Ponty in The Visible and Invisible. This is the fourth meta-level of Being and is almost impossible to think at. This determines much of the structure of the philosophy that is contained in Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 

Second you should realize that they are trying to offer an alternative to Lacan, and so almost everything in their psychoanalytic theory is a counterpoint to Lacan in some way.

Third you should know that the individual organism is down graded in this philosophy and two other levels below and above are emphasized called Desiring Machines and the Socius. Desiring machines are “partial objects” in the sense that Melanie Kline uses the term. The Socius is the social milieu, starting with the tribe, then Sovereignty, then the Capitalist market.

Fourth you should know that machines is an unfortunate term, what they really mean is something like a tattva in Tamil philosophy or a Me in Summarian mythology, that is a “mechanism” which is prior to the differentiation of the body from the artificial machines that enhance what we can do with our bodies. It is best to think about what Foucault calls practices rather than machines, just like Heidegger uses the term Dasein for what is before the differentiation of Subject and Object, Deleuze and Guattari are using the term “machine” for what is prior to the differentiation of body from machines. They mean something like the sucking response of the baby or the rooting as it seeks the breast.

Fifth you should know that it is very nihilistic on purpose, they are driving toward an extreme position that is antipodal to Lacan, and which is vehemently anti-Freudian. Of course along the way, they admit that they are really not completely against the Oedipus complex. But rather they are against psycho-therapy only dealing with the personal, and not being rooted in the social. So they tie together the partial objects or desiring practices and the social forgetting the boundary of the body of the individual in what they call a rhizome network. A rhizome is not hierarchical but grows every which way so you are always entering in the middle of it, and it is fundamentally disorganized but still is a traversable network.

Sixth you should know that the key word is difference, and that they are trying to enact a philosophy of Difference as it was defined in Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. Capitalism and Schizophrenia is a kind of testcase for the prior defined philosophy of difference that Delueze has done on his own. Difference and Repetition is a much deeper work.

Seventh you should know that the key phrase to look out for is the univocality of Being, and that behind all the fanfare about Difference there is a kind of strange monism as pointed out by Badioiu.

Eighth, you should know that they have a strange idea called the body without organs. They say that the desiring machines hang off of this virtual body without organs like metals hanging off the chest of a general in full uniform. This image is very interesting. But virtuality is important and you should perhaps read DeLanda’s book on Deleuze and Complexity theory before reading Capitalism and Schizophrenia just to get some idea of how the concept of the virtual works in other fields which DeLanda explains very well.

Ninth, you should know that Zizek develops the counter idea of an organ without body as a way of interpreting Lacan and countering Deleuze and Guattari, and the two concepts are interesting to think about in relation to each other because it brings out the difference between Lacan and them.

Tenth you should know that their philosophy is a great image of Special Systems theory, because that theory has three levels just like theirs.

Reflexive Social Special System = Socius

Autopoietic Symbiotic Special System = individual organism suppressed by them

Dissipative Ordering Structure ala Prigogine = Desiring Machine (Practice)

This makes their philosophy posed at the Wild Being level a good place to start when theorizing about how to apply Special Systems Theory to various situations that are encountered in practice, for instance psychotherapeutic practice.


Posted February 1, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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