psychoanalysis + political theory


psychoanalysis + political theory
  ---- by Janell Watson
  As its title implies, Capitalism and Schizophrenia simultaneously engages radical political theory and psychoanalytic theory. A disciplinary combination of this kind is not unusual, Freud too used his own concepts and paradigms to analyse social and political life. In addition, psychoanalysis informs the political theories of Louis Althusser, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, and, more recently, Slavoj Ћiћek and Wendy Brown. Many less famous authors have attempted to synthesise Freud and Marx, comparing the libidinal economy to the political economy. Deleuze and Guattari differentiate themselves from the typical Freudo-Marxian synthesis by critiquing psychoanalysis just as vehemently as they denounce capitalism. They replace psychoanalysis with their own schizoanalysis, which is as much a political project as it is a clinical practice or analytic paradigm. For them there is only one economy, and it is both political and libidinal.
  According to schizoanalysis, politics revolves around desire, while madness is deeply political, as is the clinical treatment of madness. The result is a political theory which does not confine itself to questions of agency, subjectivation or inter-subjective relations. Deleuze and Guattari instead use desire and madness to theorise socio-political organisation, from militant cells to vast civilizations, especially that of contemporary capitalism. Rejecting Freud's classical thermodynamics of a finite quantity of libido bound up in a closed system, they describe the binding and unbinding of flows which have a propensity to leak in all directions.
  As both practising psychoanalyst and political activist, Guattari always understood psychoanalytic concepts to be deeply political. He developed the idea of transversality to describe the degree of hierarchisation within a clinic or organisation. The La Borde psychiatric clinic where he worked was an experiment in transversalising relations among patients, staff, and doctors. He was also involved in efforts to secure rights and benefits for mental health workers, and in anti-psychiatry movements across Europe even though he did not always agree with their aims or tactics.
  Deleuze and Guattari contend that psychoanalytic politics far exceed the bounds of the mental health sector. They argue that by reinforcing the Oedipal structures which characterise neurosis, psychoanalysis aids the capitalist state by taming the desires of its subjects. Oedipus thus serves as an instrument not only of psychic repression but also of social repression. Schizoanalysis consists in shifting the emphasis from neurosis to psychosis, which is to say from Oedipal paradigms to the non-Oedipal world of psychosis. Psychoanalysis defines psychosis negatively, in terms of what the psychotic lacks. The psychotic's biggest problem, in this view, is her inability to function within society's standard familial and social structures. Schizoanalysis redefines psychosis in positive terms, as a process of desiring production which operates outside the confines of the family and of the state. This does not, however, mean that schizophrenics are disengaged from politics, for as Deleuze and Guattari note, delusional psychotics rave universal history, evoking tribes, races, nations, classes, ethnicities, civilisations, continents. Moreover, each type of political regime is characterised by a specific form of madness. Primitive and despotic regimes correspond to various forms of paranoia, understood as types of investment in social formations. Although bourgeois society is grounded in neurosis, capitalism itself corresponds to schizophrenia, understood as a way of organising desire. It is a matter of, on the one hand, blocking, capturing, organising, encoding, or axiomatising flows, or, of liberating flows. Schizophrenia organises desires outside of mainstream Oedipal models, whose purpose is to block the flows of desire. When Deleuze and Guattari deploy the term in the political context, schizophrenia refers to both the system of liquidated flows on which capitalist deterritorialisation depends, as well as the tendency of these flows to leak from all sides even when they are blocked or captured by the analyst or the state. Schizophrenia provides a path toward liberation and it is the operative mode of capitalism, which now dominates the planet because it has understood, captured, and channeled desire more thoroughly than any other regime ever has.

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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