by Steven Craig Hickman
To be sure, we have never dreamed of saying that psychoanalysis invented Oedipus!
– Deleuze & Guattari: Anti-Oedipus
One of the key aspects of Deleuze & Guattari’s schizoanalytical analysis of Freud/Lacan tradition of psychoanalysis is not that Oedipus does not exist, but that it comes after social reproduction and social repression. That the family: Father, Mother, child triangulation that psychoanalysis fixates on comes as a partial truth, one that forces the actual truth into the strait-jacket of the Freudian framework.
Everything points in the opposite direction: the subjects of psychoanalysis arrive already oedipulized, they demand it, they want more. (p. 121)
This is where it gets tricky. D&G will tell us in speaking of the incest prohibition that seems to be a cornerstone to the Oedipal mythos is founded not on familial repression but rather on social repressive forces. “Social production would need at its disposal, on the recording surface of the socious, an agent that is also capable of acting on, of inscribing the recording surface of desire. Such an agent exists: the family. (p. 120)” One sees here the notion of the social body, the collective matrix of the socious, as a recordable medium of desire upon which certain agents can act on and inscribe the laws or norms of repression. The key is this concept of desire upon which the social agents, the family being one among a multitude act and inscribe these relations of repression.
One needs to understand this key concept of ‘desire’, and why both the social and the familial as its agent are forced to act on and inscribe the various laws, norms, regulatory mechanisms. And to understand the concept of ‘desire’ and how it is deployed within this critique of psychoanalysis we need to first understand how it is deployed in Freud, Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, and in Deleuzeguattari’s Anti-Oedipus. At the heart of the critique is Freud’s non-empirical turn, his belief that the problems in the life of his patients was not in the empirical realm of their everyday lives, but rather in the fantasy life of the patient’s themselves. What Deleuze and Guattari have attempted is to return us to the social world of the empirical relations in their actuality rather than to the Cartesian Theatre of the Lacanian / Freudian fantasy land of intentionality. In the one view (Freudian/Lacanian) the mind is a theatre of fantasy to be deciphered by the psychoanalyst as both priest and officiator, while in Deleuzeguattari the mind (unconscious) is a productive factory that produces not images and representations but the veritable tensions of a sociality that goes unrecognized in the patient’s empirical life.
As even Deleuze, in one of his last essays would attest: “I have always felt that I am an empiricist, that is, a pluralist.” (Gilles Deleuze. Pure Immanence Essays on Life Zone Books, 2001)
FREUD ON DESIRE
One of the things Freud discovered early on was that childhood traumas: rape, abuse, sexual predation that his patients spoke of in sessions – for women (hysteria), for men (neurosis) – were not as he had at first assumed – based in fact and actuality, but instead were based in the fantasy life of the patient themselves. Freud concluded that most of his hysteric/neurotic patients had not been abused. His theory shattered, he fell deeper into despair. Then, after agonizing days of self-analysis, Freud reached a conclusion that would transform the very nature of the theory of mental life he was still inventing: his patients, Freud now believed, had been reporting fantasies. In most cases, there had been no abuse – only conflicted wishes and desires. As he would say: “When I pulled myself together, I was able to draw the right conclusions namely that neurotic symptoms are not related directly to actual events but to fantasies embodying wishes.” By switching from actual seduction to seduction fantasies, Freud in his work entered the world of the mind and the world of imagination.
Displacing the problems of his patients from the real world to the inner psychic life of the patient led him to write The Interpretation of Dreams where he began to develop many of the early theories of wish-fulfillment, desire, unconscious, repression, condensation, etc. Freud would not be the first nor the last to instill intentionality or the notion of mental events into the internal world of the Mind. Several critics from Hans Eysenck’s Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (1985) to Richard Webster’s Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis (1995) have attacked this inward turn toward the Mind. Even at the extreme end of this Freudian critique in such books as Fredrick Crews The Memory Wars: Freud’s Legacy in Dispute (1995) Freud is brought back not as a scientist of the Mind, but the inventor of fantasies himself. And, yet, there are other works such as Peter Gay’s 1988 book Freud: A Life for Our Time who will give sustenance to the Freudians and their legends. Probably the best of the critiques of Freud came in 1984 with Adolf Grünbaum’s The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique where he will attack Freud on empirical grounds, while at the same time defending him against those like Karl Popper who thought Freud’s theories were a manifestation of pseudo-science. As one reads through most of these works one realizes it is the notion that Freud’s works are not based on scientific empiricism that seems to be the greatest issue; yet, most will agree that his speculative philosophical approach is still of value and that it is to this we should favor a reception of his ideas rather than to his imposition of scientism that should be explored.
My point being this: if one looks upon Freud’s works as speculative philosophy rather than science then his position within that stream of thought that arises out of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; along with the undertow of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and others remains a valid influence to this day within the philosophical community if not the psychoanalytical. It informs many of the debates concerning the various approaches to materialism one sees in philosophers as diverse as Badiou, Zizek, Meillassou and Johnston; as well as Deleuze, De Landa, Bradiotti, etc. – just to name a few. The great divide in materialism at this moment stems from these early notions of Freud, the German Idealists, and the counter-traditions of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bataille, Deleuze, and Land. Materialism is at a crossroad: split between scientific naturalism and its various forms of physicalism; the Freudian/Lacanian group based on structure and lack; and the philosophers of desire such as Deleuze and his followers under the rubric of new materialisms. One should add the Marxian tradition as well, but that is part of another battle that is inclusive to all of these various materialisms. In my own work-in-progress I’m dealing with this tradition that seems in our moment to be in turmoil as well as going through its own transformations and migrations into various materialisms. To understand this process one needs to clarify and separate, abstract out and critique the earlier forms of materialism. It’s this that drives my project at the moment.
It is to the figure of Freud as speculative philosopher rather than scientist that my understanding of Desire and Drives turns.
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