February 21, 2004

Marxism and Schizophrenia

Social machines make a habit of feeding on the contradictions they give rise to, on the crises they provoke, on the anxieties they engenger, and on the infernal operations they regenerate. Capitalism has learned this and has ceased doubting itself, while even socialists have abandoned belief in capitalism's natural death by attrition. No one has ever died from contradictions. And the more it breaks down, the more it schizophrenizes, the better it works, the American way.

- Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia part 1

Diving into Anti-Oedipus once again and I'm left wondering if perhaps the capitalism/schizophrenia connection of the title is merely a manifestation of the schizoanalysis process they take themselves through. Its not capitalism itself that is schizophrenic, but the marxist/leftist critique of it.

As Deleuze and Guattari begin to emerge from their schizophrenic journey in A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia part 2 both the capitalism and schizophrenia of the subtitle are conspicuously absent from large portions of the book. The analysis is no longer schizophrenic, we have left the marxist plane of immanence and entered into Delueze and Guattari's own. And in this plane capitalism perhaps does not even exist. And in its place we have a whole host of concepts through which a new economic analysis can be built.

The obligatory irony is that Delueze and Guattari were never willing to give up their own marxism as Delanda has pointed out:

Marxism is Deleuze and Guattari's little Oedipus, the small piece of territory they must keep to come back at night after a wild day of deterritorializing. Who could blame them for needing a resting place, a familiar place with all the reassurances of the Marxist tradition (and its powerful iconography of martyrs and revolutionaries)?

And of course this is not a problem limited to just Deleuze and Guattari. The left of today has dismissed most of marxism in little bits and pieces. But when it comes to larger analysis they retreat right back to its core assumptions. Faith that capitalism exists as some sort of worldwide system. Belief that that system contains internal contractions that make it evil or wrong, and perhaps might lead to collapse. Hope for some sort of larger scale revolution overthrowing said system. Desire for continuous resistance against the system. All without much real evidence that said system actually exists in anyway like the manner it is conceptualized...

Posted by Abe at February 21, 2004 01:37 PM


Well, I think capitalism *does* exist in ATP, however, its formulation, as you note, is simply written in ways that attempt to conceptualise entirely different strategies of encountering what are the bases of *any and all* repression. I'm not so sure why you've got a beef against Marx -- have you read Marx? He acts as a straw man to your post, as if Marx has no value, nothing of worth to say. I think Marx deserves much more of a break than that. As for De Landa's comment, sure, I'd agree. Marxism remains more or less as a haunting in Deleuze and Guattari, a haunting that takes its place as a home. Marx himself and his legacy is forever changed, as your beginning quote demonstrates. Marxism in the EU is, I would say, something beyond a simple retreat into theory, if one takes Marxism to act as such. Marxism is also an association, a network, it offers not only its martyrs and histories but resources and shelters. And I think it would be disingenious to believe that one cannot act or take on analyses of global issues of 'capital'--however one thinks economy, exchange, and so on--without some network of support. tV

Marxism does not equal Marx. Never once did I say anything about Marx himself, who is of course both brilliant and infuriating... What I'm talking about is a much larger animal of marxism, those numerous unfolding, interweaving and unraveling fabrics generated by a century plus of people trying to make sense of Marx. Its not Marx himself that I have a problem with, but the marxist network in general. And even then there is plenty of quality within that network worth extracting.

As for the need for shelters and a network of support, DeLanda actually address both issues in the sentences following that quote, here is the longer version:

"Well, frankly, I think Marxism is Deleuze and Guattari's little Oedipus, the small piece of territory they must keep to come back at night after a wild day of deterritorializing. Who could blame them for needing a resting place, a familiar place with all the reassurances of the Marxist tradition (and its powerful iconography of martyrs and revolutionaries)? The question is whether we need that same resting place (clearly we need one, but should it be the same? Shouldn't each of us have a different one so that collectively we can eliminate them?).

"I believe that the main task for today's left is to create a new political economy (the resources are all there: Max Weber, T.B. Veblen and the old institutionalists, John Kenneth Galbraith, Fernand Braudel, some of the new institutionalists, like Douglass North; redefinitions of the market, like those of Herbert Simon etc) based as you acknowledged before, on a non-equilibrium view of the matter? But how can we do this if we continue to believe that Marxists got it right, that it is just a matter of tinkering with the basic ideas?"

Now DeLanda seems to have left the task of building "a new political economy" to others as he focus on a more abstract side of philosophy. And personally I'd like to think I'm picking up some of the slack, but of course that remains to be seen.

There are threads everywhere far beyond the base that DeLanda mentions: economic sociology, philosophy of science, the whole earth/wired breed of west coast hippie capitalism, anarchist and libertarian theory, D&G themselves, sustainable development NGOs, transaction cost economists working out of law schools, complexity theorists, etc etc. The task is to weave them together into a new network, one to dance with the marxists and "free" market capitalists.

"The task is to weave them together into a new network, one to dance with the marxists and "free" market capitalists."

Well, I think the task is to weave .. which is the essence, if there is one, the structure or form, of ATP.

But I think fundamental to this weaving is a consideration of the proper: property, possession, what it means to have, own, but also to be at home, to be where one should be, the ought of the proper, what is proper to this, and what is proper to the proper, etc. This isn't wordplay -- it has more to do with how we understand a fundamental aspect of not only who owns what, but how we construct ownership, property, as a value, right, and so on. The wars over copyright are only the latest manifestation of the violence of the proper. And this weaving has little force unless there's some solid ideas on that. And at points this weaving becomes impossible -- incommensurable -- between capitalism and socialism. What's your take?


Total agreement that proper and property are issues of major importance. Not convinced that they are as essential as you make them. Plenty can be done starting from other vantage points.

Not 100% sure where you are going with "at points this weaving becomes impossible -- incommensurable -- between capitalism and socialism." Certainly there will be spaces and points where various flows come into some sort of conflict, but the resolution, continuation or impossibility of such a conflict is not exactly predictable from our present vantages.

I]m at a friend's dinner party .. XP machine..
And French at that . In any case: between socialism and capitalism lie intractable positions on property. Individual vs. communally owned and distributed. This division remains. Which is not to say that the same logic of the proper--to own, to have, to possess, the home, etc--does not underlie both systems. There is a general logic. However, its pragmatic implementation is at odds. Before this pragmatic implementation can be forced, in any situation, we need to come to terms with the proper, to at least acknowledge the force of what this means. And in a manner that will remain always in negotiation. This is perhaps a little theoretical. But it has the most dire consequences--the basic aspects of territory. So this is where I am going .. we can start from any direction but without coming to terms with the proper, we bury primary conflicts. All directions or places, homes or starts, presume the proper. Thus D and Gs primary home, Marxism. I comment here somewhere between D and G and Marxism, D and G and phenomenology, D and G and deconstruction ..

I think I understand what you are getting at. Well at least I have my own understanding of your words that hopefully is in sync with what you are trying to say.

But I'm at loss as to why property takes such a privileged role. You seem to be making an assumption that something is deeply wrong with the current construction. And that very well might be true, but its far from a certainty. Its an issue no doubt, but is it critical? You mention burying. When something is buried all sorts of things may happen. It may be forgotten, it may sprout up, it may be transformed by the soil into a new set of organisms.

Is there something inherently wrong with burying a "primary conflict"? Perhaps that is what needs to happen. Perhaps these conflicts need to be laid to rest. Buried, passed into memory, time to move on.


There is no question that at this moment, property is a major issue. But there are plenty of issues around, and all call for addressing. Is it wrong to address something else first? And if we do, by the time we return to the proper, can we be certain its still a problem, an issue?

To ventriloquize mr. D: 'Cause property is the foundation of the nation-state, the foundation of the foundation: the very ground we stand on. And property is the foundation of a certain nationalist rhetoric, and of all rhetorics of essence and purity. In Germany in the '30s & '40s they said: blood and soil. And what is essential to the nation-state is its property. It is what is proper to the nation-state. The "logic" of the proper is proper to itself, as its self-essence, its own property.

This is a logic that cannot be buried, moved on; as soon as it is, one ends up with certain situations of violence, coups, struggles over property. Property returns and haunts. It is everywhere and it is essential (tied in as ground, or essence of essence). Property and copyright. Property and borders. These are all very pressing issues -- hence No Borders, analyses of Empire, analyses of the impact of teletechnologies on the dissolution of the nation-state and the resurgence of nationalisms, fundamentalisms (fundament--the ground, the property, what is proper to religion, to god, theos), etc.

foundation = teleological, no?

this emphasis on order, it seems a touch out of character for you, no?

ironically enough Mr. Marx provides one counter argument to you, albeit in his very teleological manner. He of course saw capitalism and its property values as a necessary stage that must be passed through before the communist revolution. It was with the capitalists capital that the factories of communism would be build... It was for this reason he never viewed Russia as a site for the first revolution. Lenin of course is the main force to argue that the workers could wield the capital themselves and build the industry...

Me personally, I won't argue that you are wrong, merely that you are potentially wrong. I don't have faith in this "essence". And I was under the impression Delueze was an anti essentialist philosopher as well, but will to defer to your more in depth knowledge of the man's thought. But yes personally I am willing to entertain the possibility that there is no essence to "the State" and that as situations change the properties of property may change without them being attacked at the root. and in fact there may well not be any root, foundation or essence at all.

Yikes .. fuck you are in Texas, dingbat, otherwise I'd be seeing you in a week or two in NYC and I could make sense to you over another hot rum session, with all the morning headaches and slurred words that accompany.

The logic of the proper is the logic of logos, the logic of logic, basically. The ground and the essence appear througout philosophy, and manifest overtly in all racisms (Nazism is an easy target here). The deconstruction of ground can happen several ways, there's Deleuze's approach -- deterriotorialization -- but I'm a bit more into Derrida, so I get more into the involvement of language in the proper, the property, and so on.

Yeah, so in this colloquial manner, now I can say that yes Deleuze affirms anti-essentialist thinking, but it's not like you can say that you are anti-essentialist, that would confirm essence, of course (it would mean that there is an essence to essence that one is against). Thus "anti-essentialism" is a bit of a misnomer, the better way to think about this is more or less how essentialism is a homogenizing tactic, of the polis, of the ground, of whenever people are brought together to unify, in the sense of power relations that Foucault meant, as subjectivity is the product of the system, of interpellation in some Althusser sense .. so rap this with me -- it's more like you've got to thread through essence, weave it, poke holes in it. And to do that on the pragmatic level, it requires this hole level of questioning of capitalism that might entail not a purity from the market but a sense that there still might be a difference in the proper, from current property laws, than what we have, and that such difference can only be actualized by changing the entire formation of the state. That was the original point. But not only the state as such, but deconstructing that whole chaing of the proper, of territory, of this logic, that makes us hang onto the pragmatics of territory. And all of this here is off the cuff in some attempt to play the explanation game, but i think you get it, actually .. I think we've just lost track of what the hell we are talking about.

Comment on by blog, dammit, I've done enough talking here.



I tried to comment on your site, and wrote an essay. And then something happened, and now its lost. next time.

I should be back in NYC in maybe 2 weeks, maybe sooner. Maybe montreal sometime soon too...

Slight chance I am in NYC for the armoury show .. otherwise I will be coming down end of the month or April.

Now what the hell I am doing using blog comment forms to write personal communiques?

There's something being said here. Quick Abe, sum it up, we require the new media commentator. Where's Anne when you need her?



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