A true politics of psychiatry, or antipsychiatry, would consist therefore in the following praxis: (1) undoing all the reterritorializations that transform madness into mental illness; (2) liberating the schizoid movement of deterritorialization in all the flows, in such a way that this characteristic can no longer qualify a particular residue as a flow of madness, but affects just as well the flows of labor and desire, of production, knowledge, and creation in their most profound tendency. Here, madness would no longer exist as madness, not because it would have been transformed into 'mental illness,' but on the contrary because it would receive the support of all other flows, including science and art...It seems unavoidable that Anti-Oedipus would be read as a revolutionary text. Its arrival in the wake of May '68, its broad-ranging critical project, and--this above all--Michel Foucault's stunning preface to the English edition have shaped its image as a Capital for the post-'68 era. The rhetoric Deleuze and Guattari deploy in their vindication of the desiring machines seems undoubtedly to imply that the cause and effect of their deterritorialization is a cataclysm.
- Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
But I think that it is more productive, more interesting to read it as an ethics and not a politics. The depth of our real or feigned commitments to radical politics make it difficult to separate the two--you can just see Mark Seem, the translator, nervously making the Sign of the Cross as he hastens to claim that the book is about a collective project and not, god forbid, an individual one. It is impossible to appreciate the book's philosophical power, however, without distancing oneself from the implicitly political.
For what kind of revolution is really being advocated here? To hear the academic establishment tell it, it's just another reconnaissance raid on the Culture War battlefield, the queer-theory wing of the identity politics corps (my book jacket insipidly calls it "an important text in the rethinking of sexuality and sexual politics spurred by the feminist and gay liberation movements"). In short, it is a kind of arcane alchemy: an alloy, not of Marx and Freud, but of hippies and New Left. "Desire," here, becomes just another slogan, a plea for free love or gay marriage or what have you. If this is a true interpretation, then Deleuze must stand or fall with the revolution, just like any other revolutionary theorist.
I think this view belies the complexity of the Deleuzian critique. The key to a different approach lies in a snarky paragraph in "Nomad Thought," Deleuze's best written and most powerful essay:
If we consider the evolution of Marxism or Freudianism (rather than taking Marx or Freud literally), we see that they are paradoxically launched in an attempt at recodification: recodification by the state, in the case of Marxism ("You have been made ill by the state, and you will be cured by the state"--but not the same state), and recodification by the family, in the case of Freudianism ("You have been made ill by the family, and you will be cured by the family"--but not the same family). Marxism and psychoanalysis in a real sense constitute the fundamental bureaucracies--one public, the other private--whose aim is somehow or other to recodify everything that ceaselessly becomes decodified at the horizon of our culture.After reading this, we can no longer think that Deleuze is simply using Marx against Freud. We come to appreciate what he really is: a Nietzschean. And a Nietzschean strives always to see beneath the surface of the inevitably shallow (despite all of Badiou's whining to the contrary) revolutionary Great Event, to the transvaluations swimming blindly beneath it like prehistoric fish.
Can we not see, beneath the critique of one reductive territorializing schema, the concurrent indictment of another--a binary one? Revolution (even one decked out with the fashionable slogans of Continental philosophy) is still an affair of classes (even if they look like Multitudes). Hardt and Negri's attempt is to alleviate the territorialization of the concept of class-consciousness by embracing a rhizomatic politics of difference. But they miss the mark; the creation of a revolutionary subject, which is what the Multitude really is, is inevitably un-Deleuzian. It fantasizes about agency, it makes believe that a multitude can act as a unity--whereas even the molecules (not atoms!) of the multitude cannot do so. An ideological smokescreen, in short.
And so I am tempted to find an ethics here, and to blame the Marxism that remains on Guattari. It is, so far, an unfulfilling reading--but that's the price of avoiding the apparatus of obviousness.
[incidentally, if you read this far, would you please comment on the new theme?]