Anti-Oedipus Thirty Years On

(Between Art and Politics)

Conférence et séminaire au 5th International Summer Academy, Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt / »Anti-Oedipus – 30 Years On. Or, Can the Biopolitical Identity between Expression and Construction Give BODY to a New Aesthetic Paradigm ? » ).
A kind of entrance into politics took place for me in May 68…’
Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations

‘One must not look for a ‘philosophy’ amid the extraordinary profusion of new notions and surprise concepts: Anti-Oedipus is not a flashy Hegel. I think that Anti-Oedipus can best be read as an ‘art’. (…) Questions that are less concerned with why this or that than with how to proceed. How does one introduce desire into thought, into discourse, into action? (…) Anti-Oedipusis a book of ethics…’
Michel Foucault, Preface to Anti-Oedipus


This title was suggested to me some time ago by my best enemy – or my best fiend, to paraphrase Werner Herzog – who also happens to be a very good friend: Alain Badiou. It was originally intended for a lecture I was to deliver under the auspices of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Philosophy which Badiou recently set up at the École Normale Supérieure. The idea was to use the occasion to pursue our dispute – or chicane, to use a favourite expression of his – a dispute instigated by the publication in 1997 of Badiou’s Deleuze: The Clamor of Being.

Let it be noted in passing that this dispute prolonged a problematic that I had previously examined in a book-intervention entitled Of the Impossibility of Phenomenology: On Contemporary French Philosophy, first published in 1994. The intervention was aimed at the institutional partition of the philosophical world into two blocs, phenomenological and analytic, as well as against the repercussions of this division within France. In the book I showed that, ever since Husserl, this partition has been governed by an axiom of complementarity between the ‘phenomenology’ of the failure of logical formalism and the ‘analysis’ of the collapse of intentionality, in its theological reality as well as its philosophical impossibility. On this basis, I argued that the philosophical field with a grip on our present – in other words, contemporary philosophy as a political ontology of the present -could be, and must be, thought starting from the idea of a maximal ontological tension between Deleuze and Badiou. In my view, Deleuze and Badiou constitute the extreme polarities, not only of the contemporary domain of French philosophy, but perhaps of the real of thought as such, to the extent that thought, in accordance with the plurality of all its modalities, has no other choice today than to counter the pseudo-democracy of Empire with a materialist necessity that can no longer be elaborated except in terms of singularities and multiplicities. These are notions that our two philosophers entrust with absolutely antagonistic missions, renegotiating (remettant en jeu) the theoretical and practical sense of the very idea of materialism.

But we were indeed ‘Thirty Years On’ and a kind of fallout from a version of the Contemporary ‘made in Austria’ (but not only, since it was also a question of the postmodern dictatorship of the curator), leading to my eviction from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (where I had taught since 1997), forced me to decline Badiou’s generous invitation.

Badiou’s invitation could not but engender a stark and cutting quarrel, which the publication of Slavoj Zizek’s recent book, Organs without Bodies. On Deleuze and Consequences(2004), prompts me to reconsider here, but modifying, for you, its initial trajectory in order to extract some of its ‘aesthetic’ stakes.

Zizek’s ‘Lacanian book on Deleuze’ – and you will have understood that the Organ without Body is the Phallus as signifier of castration – this Lacano-Leninist book which borrows its dialectic from the French philosopher (its compulsive mottois ‘As Alain Badiou put it…’) has, in my view, the merit of focussing its argument on the ‘Body without Organs’ by reversing and combating the movement that presided over the emergence of this notion in ‘the inner tension of Deleuze’s thought between Anti-Oedipus(‘Deleuze’s worst book’) and The Logic of Sense, between the (‘Guattarised’) Deleuze who celebrated the productive multitude of Becoming against the reified order of Being and the Deleuze of the sterility of the incorporeal becoming of the Sense-Event’. This is a movement I tried to track in my essay ‘The BwO Condition or, The Politics of Sensation’. In that piece I could not refrain from recalling the way in which the Body without Organs ex-pulsed by Artaud dis-organ-ises the philosophical surface structurallydefined by the incorporeal univocity of Being and Language,leading the Logic of Senseinto a veritable breakdown.The breakdownof structure as a ‘machine for the production of incorporeal sense’ is followed, in Anti-Oedipus- we will return on this at length, of course – by the breakthroughof the incorporation of a machinic constructivism into a desire that commands becomings…

On the contrary, as you know, in his book Badiou erects an image of Deleuze as a metaphysician of the One, whose essential monotony- in itself indifferent to differences, subtracted as it is from the ‘inexhaustible variety of the concrete’ and from the anarchic confusion of the world – can and must cause us to dismiss the works co-authored with Félix Guattari, beginning with the Anti-Oedipus. It is only after having carried out this operation that one will be able to re-establish the philosophical truth of Deleuze-Thought against the ambient image (‘radical chic’, as Zizek puts it) of Deleuze as the proponent of a liberation of the anarchic multiplicity of desires which would invariably turn him – as Zizek once again notes – into the ‘ideologist of today’s ‘digital capitalism ». But it is also, and inevitably, only once Deleuze has been reduced to the monotony of the One – and/or once this pole will have been extricated from the vitalism with which it impossiblycoexists (Zizek) – that one will be able to oppose this ‘truth’ to the Nouvelle Alliance Deleuze-Guattari, to paraphrase the original French title of Prigogine & Stengers’s Order Out of Chaos… Or again, in accordance with Zizek’s speciously interrogative definition: ‘Therefore, was Deleuze not pushed toward Guattari because Guattari presented an alibi, an easy escape from the deadlock of his previous position?’ A position consisting in the ‘opposition of the virtual as the site of the productive Becoming (from the BwO) and the virtual as the site of sterile Sense-Event (= pure affect of the OwB, a smile without cat)’…

Badiou’s operation – the ‘truth’ of the Zizekian remake – cannot but pose a serious problem, on two levels whose difference is entirely relative:

Firstly, at the level of Deleuze’s trajectory, given that Deleuze himself presents his encounter with Guattari – in a horizon of life and thought opened up by 68, what he called an ‘irruption of becoming in its pure state’1 – as the reality condition for the constitution of his ownphilosophy (whence the necessity of returning to what happens in Logic of Sense, in which we end upreading that ‘we would not give a single page of Artaud for the complete works of Carroll’, and between Logic of Sense(1969) and Anti-Oedipus(1972), when Lewis Carroll, this putative father of the (structuralist) series of the logic of sense, is no longer anything but a ‘literary coward’2 – and to what happens to philosophywhen the question is no longer ‘to describea certain exercise of thought’ but rather to exerta ‘thought without image’3 by investing these micropolitical conditions of enunciation, in the in between(entre-deux) of Deleuze and Guattari, without which it would be impossible to respond to these ‘concrete questions’ (Foucault, in the preface to the American edition of Anti-Oedipus)).

Secondly, at the strictly speaking politicallevel, whose essential ambiguity in Deleuze is condemned by Badiou. In Badiou’s eyes, this ambiguity is corroborated by the fact that Deleuze does not endow politics with any kind of theoretical autonomy, thus leading to the permanent threat of a spontaneous deviation or drift (dérive), embodied by what he calls the ‘anarcho-désirants’. This is what Lenin long ago branded with the name of ‘leftism’ and which tends here to reduce Deleuze’s declared vitalism to the latest incarnation of Romanticism (after Phenomenology) – in other words, into a natural mysticism of the vitalist expression of the world, as Badiou affirmed in his review of The Foldfrom 1989.4 (This idea is taken up and developed by Zizek, painting Deleuze’s portrait as a ‘new Bogdanov’: ‘Lacan versusDeleuze: again, materialism versusempirio-criticism?’) But in this case, it is the very unity and identity/alterity of Deleuzean thought that finds itself gravely compromised after the Anti-Oedipus, precisely to the extent that the latter was, as Deleuze remarked, ‘through and through a book of political philosophy’.5 What’s more, it is hard to fathom how the biomachinic conception of desire in the Anti-Oedipus- which depicts desire as coextensive with the lines of flight of the socius- could ever translate anti-humanism into, as Badiou writes, ‘the infinite and inhuman resource of the One’, in which ‘everything is always “already-there”.’6 (Because he projects at the source, in Deleuze ‘himself’,the terms of the subtractioncarried out by Badiou, Zizek’s book can be read as a response to this problem.)Unless, of course, we wish to argue that Deleuzean leftism was nothing but a pure opportunism and that ‘Mitterandism’ revealed the underlying truth of this ‘soft rebellion’ – to speak like Guy Lardreau in his anti-Deleuzean pamphlet,7 a text thoroughly inspired by Badiou’s decisionism… ‘It is crucial to note – Zizek observes in turn – that not a single oneof Deleuze’s own texts is in any way directly political; Deleuze ‘in himself’ is (…) indifferent toward politics.’

In an article reacting to a set of objections that his own book did not fail to provoke, Badiou makes the following remark: ‘How is it that politics, for Deleuze, is not an autonomous form of thought, a singular section of chaos, unlike art, science and philosophy? This point alone testifies to our divergence, and everything could be seen to follow from it.’8 It might be interesting therefore to prolong the dispute, taking our cue from the manner in which it was carried on by Badiou in the two books of politics that follow his Deleuze, books in which what is at stake is investing singularity qua operator of universalism (in other words, to address the question: ‘What precisely is a universal singularity valid for everyone?’). These two books are Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalismand On Metapolitics- a metapoliticsof the dethronement of difference which is to be opposed to the micropoliticalprinciple that presides over the question of ‘becoming-revolutionary’ in Deleuze-Guattari, following the Anti-Oedipus. Having said that, it is imperative to remark straight away that what Badiou’s Paulinian allegiance rejects is precisely the anti-oedipal affirmation of desiring production as the social power of difference within a becoming-minoritarian, as well as the way in which this desiring production rejects, de jureand de facto, the principle of a separate sphere for politics. It is no wonder then that Badiou’s Saint Pauladvocates ‘love’ as that of which militant faith is capable of, when it seeks to extricate itself – I quote – from the ‘living autonomy of desire’… By the same token, the theorem of the militant amounts to a subjective fidelity to the event of the separation from the world, sustained by the universal communication of a subtractive foundation which can conceive of desire only as a Lack of the Law, in order to impose upon the subject, by way of a process of subjectivation, the universal grace of Signifier. Let us recall, in this regard, Saint Paul’s famous pronouncement, from Romans 7 (7-23): ‘I have known sin only through the Law’. Whence the following theorem: Lacanian psychoanalysis is the symptom of the refoundation of universalism when philosophy puts itself under the metapolitical condition of creating the event of Nothing addressed to All.

What is of most importance here is less the predictable, strict alternative with respect to Deleuze and Deleuzo-Guattarianism (immediately collapsed into one another, as is only right, within the dispute) than the prescriptive character of this universalism of the Subject-of-Truth declared by Badiou for all, and for everyonewho seeks the elimination of the leftism of the party of desire(to speak like Guy Lardreau, who is wholly faithful to the other party, the party, I quote, ‘of lack, of the One, of knowledge, of war’9). I say prescriptive because the universal is as such the truth of the subject who declares the Void of Being- from which Badiou knows how to draw immanentlyall the necessary consequences (including in its ‘inaesthetic’ necessity, to use the term proposed by Badiou in a book that complemented his On Metapolitics: the Handbook of Inaesthetics). After his Deleuze, it is to be expected that the militant objective of Badiou’s Saint Paulis to unfold the logic of the break with the movement of vitalist affirmation by demonstrating the inconsistency of becoming with respect to the excess of the Real over reality. This can only be grasped via a Lacan who posits the Real in the predication of the no (non) and of the name (nom) as subject-intervention.

As the founder of the figure of the militant, ‘Paul’s unprecedented gesture is to subtract truth from the clutches of communitarianism’. How extraordinarily contemporary! By involving the for all, the break of universal singularity with regard to the identitarian particularityof a closed sub-set is bereft of an alternative, given itsdescription of the present state of the ‘communitarianisation’ of a public space fragmented into closed identities which deliver so many new territories over to the market. And Badiou – more resourceful and crafty than Zizek in this regard – cannot write these lines without also inviting Deleuze to this wedding between capitalist logic and identitarian logic, a wedding whose stakes are precisely to refuse emancipatory reality to any kind of becoming-minoritarian- as Deleuze remarked ‘exactly’, Badiou says, ‘capitalist deterritorialisation needs a constantreterritorialisation’. The exactitude to which Badiou refers is entirely nominal, and ultimately represents a complete misunderstanding of Deleuze, since the reterritorialisation of capitalism is no longer practiced upon the absoluteform of deterritorialisation, without any assignable limit, whether external or internal, a form of deterritorialisation that capitalism can only put to work by subjecting it to the expanded reproduction of its own immanent limits. Furthermore, becomingis no longer related to flows of desire that flee, flows that cancause the process of capitalist valorisation itself to flee – for Badiou becoming turns out to be purely and simply the occasion for the ‘mercantile investments’ it gives rise to… This ultimately leads Badiou to accept de factothe point of view of Capital – while we know that desire reduced to the primitive accumulation of identitarian reterritorialisationsunder the name of ‘communitarianism’ is no longer Capitalism and Schizophrenia – it’s Capitalism and Paranoia… The minoritarian is frozen into the identitarian. I quote, from the same page in the Saint Paul: ‘What inexhaustible potential (devenir) for mercantile investments in this upsurge – taking the form of communities demanding recognition and so-called cultural singularities- of women, homosexuals, the disabled, Arabs!’10 Before examining the (in)aesthetic translation of this freezing(‘timeless coldness’ is a value Badiou lays claim to, as well as the defining mark of his writing), recall that Deleuze & Guattari’s question is that of a political ontology of becomingswhich never cease to undo the sedimentation of identities (‘the primacy of lines of flight’ – which has not failed to stir up furious clashes in the field of gender studies) and to produce ‘strikes’, sudden variations that affect every system by not allowing it to become homogeneous, variations as unpredictable to the sociologist as they are to the militant. Thus, as Deleuze remarks in Dialogues, there also exists, ‘a becoming-revolutionary which is not the same thing as the future of the revolution, and which does not necessarily need to go through militants’. This is because the constructions of the militant tend to cut themselves off from the creative ‘socio-cultural’ expressions of the world and from the propagation of the molecular becomings of real multiplicities -which as such are denied by Badiou under the postmodern rubric of the ‘total exposure of particularisms’ itemised into ‘ethnic and communitarian products, including their sexual sub-category, and egoic products’.11

It is to this ‘compound of mysticism and pornography’ – which Lenin had earlier denounced as the ‘sad arrogance of imperialisms (…) in those periods when critical and revolutionary political activity is very weak’ – to this ‘abolition of the universal’ tied to the ‘idea of the expressive value of the body’ (italics mine), that Badiou opposes ‘an axiomatic that sets itself the following task: at the dawn of a new century, we must return artistic will to its incorporeal rigour, to its anti-romantic coldness, to the subtractive operations whereby it holds itself as close as possible to this real without image which is the sole cause of art. A subtraction through which, by addressing the real to all, it annuls any hold that may be exerted by particularity.’ In so doing, Badiou denounces a romanticism degraded into ‘the pornographic stupidity of performances’. Thus, following in the great tradition of modernist purification(épuration, also possessing the political connotations of ‘purging’ or ‘cleansing’ in English), Badiou affirms this ‘dynamic of abstraction’ which has not ceased, in ‘the great 20th century’, to counter the naturalist and romantic vitalism whose contemporary formula would subject art to ‘the radiant and suffering exposure of the Flesh’… Against which we will affirmhere that the Anti-Oedipus- such as it mobilises, under the name of ‘Body without Organs’, the politics of sensationto which Artaud had devoted his convulsive constructions – grows out of all the movements which, in the art of the 20th century, ever since Jarry and Matisse the Hyper-fauvist knew how to free vitalism from the romantic expressiveness of the subject (therefore Dada rather than Surrealism, fauvism, a permanent fauvism, that of Matisse, as the rigorous alternative to cubism and to the Spiritual in abstract Art). In so doing, to borrow Foucault’s remark, the Anti-Oedipusworks as an ‘art’ – and an art of the self. ‘I shall reconstruct the man that I am’, Artaud affirms in this passage that Deleuze quotes in order to introduce us to this other world (‘We are in another world…’) which is that of the insurrection of the breath-wordsof the ‘body without organs’ of Artaud-the-Schizo against the language and surface effects of Carrollian structuralism: ‘Pas de bouche Pas de langue Pas de dents Pas de larynx Pas d’œsophage Pas d’estomac Pas de ventre Pas d’anus Je reconstruirai l’homme que je suis’ (‘No teeth No larynx No esophagus No stomach No intestine No anus I shall reconstruct the man that I am’).12 To reconstruct man, this machine which breathes,from that starting point, from a multiplicity of fusion, with ‘the fusibility as infinite zero, plane of consistency’ conquered on the primary order of schizophrenia, in the night of a pathological creation affecting bodies (the ‘body of the abyss’, Artaud writes in order to speak pure intensity, the a-signifying violence of ‘life’ precipitated against the signifying violence of the transcendence at work in immanence)… To start from there, then: not from a ‘real without image’ attained in the formalism of art by subtraction from the world (Badiou), but of a ‘body without image’ (pro-voked by the ‘rupture of the principium individuationis’, Nietzsche invoked with Artaud in the first chapter of Anti-Oedipus). For we need a ‘body without image’, that is to say, an Anti-Flesh, in order to replace every ‘image of the body’ (‘the latest avatar of the soul’, according to Deleuze & Guattari) and attain ‘the infinite of the decomposition of the socius’ on the basis of which one will be able to affirm‘the coextension of the social field and desire’13 and deny(deconstruct, destroy) the dominant structures, through a chaosmic immersion in the matters of sensation that these structures repress, and which will be put to work in the composition of mutant percepts and affects. What the Body Coststhe art that bears its name – Body Art, the art which has turned away from the stage (recall the anti-theatrical spirit of Nietzsche and Artaud)- a cost which it manifests in the unworldly squalor (l’im-monde) and the unruly dance of organs, or not(‘un corps neuf / où vous ne pourrez / plus jamais / m’oublier’, ‘a new body / in which you will never again / be able / to forget me’, Artaud announces), so that it may be able to produce Eventscapable of exceedingthe ‘democratic’ reformism of so-called ‘relational aesthetics’ (fill in the fissures in the social bond, etc.) by functioning as a fulcrum for a processual relaunch, between art and life. To cross, once again, Artaud with Guattari (a Guattari not ‘recuperated’ by Bourriaud and his ilk): the ‘dynamicinvestigationof the Universe’, endorsed by Artaud in his Revolutionary Messages, and the ‘going outside’ (beginning with this outside of language which structures every logic of sense)are inseparable from a critical investigationof the ‘Universes of reference’ that imprison life and demand that war be carried into the body itself(in the Anti-Oedipus, the Body Without Organs is the essential component in this dispositif that aims at extirpating the deus in machina)… There is here an extreme and permanent danger – do we even need to recall it? – of falling into an empty theatralisation of the ‘behavioural’ and/or ‘drive’ type (a falling back into representation- even if its inspiration is ‘Dionysian’, cf. Hermann Nitsch who capitalised on his forty years of Actionism in order to bring the butcher out into the open airin his latest Mystery). What is referred to, somewhat superficially, as Otto Muehl’s ‘return to painting’, would deserve a serious re-examination in terms of his ‘Konzept der aktionistischen Malerei’. Thus, for instance, isn’t the disqualification of painting, to which some have wanted to juxtapose Performance, in an openly held and phenomenologically affirmed (the lived body) anti-modernism, specularly derivative of this despised modernism, by way of the mediology that it takes up again so as to reverse its course…? Let us not forget that it is with regard to Action Painting, to the action on the canvas, that Harold Rosenberg evokes an artist who ‘organises his emotional and intellectual energy as though he were in a living situation’ because this ‘new painting has broken any distinction between art and life’, marking in space a vital movement which is performance- ‘not an image but an event’.14 To close this parenthesis, opened with Muehl: doesn’t he lead us today to reread Deleuze’s The Logic of Sensationwith an eye on Guattari’s Chaosmosisand its proposal of a ‘New aesthetic paradigm’? And inversely, since we are dealing here with two expressions of this politics of sensationwhich had led to the surpassing of the Logic of Sense, when ‘du sens, subsiste seulement de quoi diriger les lignes de fuite'(‘Of sense there remains only enough to direct the lines of flight’).15

We will not develop here, for their own sake, the questions inevitably raised by the ‘New aesthetic paradigm’ that Guattari lays claim to into Chaosmosis(1992), this book-intervention (like all the books published by Guattari ‘alone’ – but how could they fail to alsostem fromthe in-between (entre-deux) with Deleuze?), this book written in order to ‘go outside’, reading which we cannot ignore that it was assembled (monté) by drawing on this ‘toolbox’ (an expression of Foucault stolenfrom Guattari) from which the two volumes of Capitalism et Schizophreniaemerged.Except in order to register, as a simple clue, that the paradigmatic importance accorded to performance is not without reviving, as its plane of consistency (of the book andof performance), the Deweyian motif of Art as Experience(Dewey’s book was published in 1934) – such as this motif, by means of a vitalism renewed by its will to disclosethe art that had been subtracted from life(a subtractionthat by the same token reduces aesthetic experience to a formal and formalist purification (épuration), what Dewey calls the ‘museal conception of art’, ‘art as the beauty parlour of civilization’), entails Experience as art. For if, on the one hand, ‘esthetic experience is pure experience’, ‘experience freed from the forces that impede and confuse its development as experience’, on the other, ‘esthetic experience is always more than esthetic’, ‘the material of esthetic experience (qua experience) is social’.16 The fundamental point here, for us, is that this socialchallengeissued to art, and to the philosophy of art, which commands the ‘new aesthetic paradigm’ (Dewey’s influence on Kaprow, for instance, has been acknowledged for some time) does not go without a Challenge to Philosophy (according to the very title of the twelfth chapter of Art as Experience). I would like to suggest here that it is to this kind of social challengeissued to philosophy that the Anti-Oedipus responds.Foucault perceived this perfectly when he spoke of an ‘art’, an art which he expounds in three transitive(and communicating) forms, which serve here to fill in the cuts that I introduced in the epigraph, bringing it to a close : Ars erotica, ars theoretica, ars politica.

A return to Anti-Oedipus, therefore, and to the constant vis-à-visand versus Deleuzeadvocated by Badiou as the defining trait of his metapolitics and inaesthetics. One will remark in Badiou a total denegationof the Deleuzo-Guattarian thesis about desire, the thesis that ‘desire only exists when assembled or machined (machiné)’ and that one cannot ‘grasp or conceive of a desire outside a determinate assemblage, on a plane which is not pre-existent but which must itself be constructed’, in a process of liberation which never unifies parts into a Whole(even from the most closed of sets, some thingalways escapes). Here we must quote the lines with which Deleuze introduces this statement. He writes: ‘it is objected that by releasing desire from lack and law, the only thing we have left to refer to is a state of nature, a desire which would be natural and spontaneous reality. We say quite the opposite: desire only exists when assembled or machined.’ Whence the conclusion that desire ‘is constructivist, not at all spontaneist’, and the question: ‘How can the assemblage be refused the name it deserves, “desire”?’17 (Allow me to recall that the concept of ‘desiring machines’ will turn into that of ‘assemblages’ pure and simple after the Kafkabook, which can be regarded as the bridge between the Anti-Oedipusand A Thousand Plateaus). This is the key thesis of the Anti-Oedipus, according to which, from a materialist point of view, there can be no Expression (of the ‘full body’ of the world) without Construction of assemblages of desire or ‘desiring machines’, which free Life in the processual (i.e non-totalising) and performativeidentity between production and product. This non-romanticidentity is precisely opposed to:

1.    The ‘natural mysticism’ initially denounced by Badiou under the name of Deleuze, which ignores the fact that Deleuze himself will only evoke a ‘plane of Nature’ to better convey the point that we are dealing with ‘a nature which must be constructed with all the fabrications of the plane of immanence’ (in other words, the irrelevance of the nature/artifice distinction undermines any naturalist expressionism).18

2.    The ‘re-accentuated Platonism’ into which Badiou wishes to merge Deleuze by registering the production of differences under the heading of simulacra (in other words, a constructivism deprived of ontological reality).

But reciprocally, and this time against the grain of Badiou’s mathematical ontology, which declares the indifference of truth to the flow of the world, that ‘mathematics of being’ through which politics and aesthetic production can be made ‘equivalent’: Construction without Expression is voidof any real becoming, of any real-desirewhatsoever. So that if ‘the objective being of desire is the Real in and of itself’, ‘desiring production is one and the same thing as social production’,19 by virtue of the biopolitical identity between Expression and Construction, an identity that gives body to the theory of machinic desire and the affirmation of a universal contingency, according to which: ‘In desiring machines everything functions at the same time, but amid hiatuses and ruptures, breakdowns and failures, stalling and short circuits, distances and fragmentations, within a sum that never succeeds in bringing its various parts together so as to form a whole’.20 A biopolitical identity between Expression and Construction which also gives body to the new aesthetic paradigm. New with regard to the very three schemata outlined by Badiou at the outset of his Handbook of Inaesthetics- the didactic schema, the classical schema, the romantic schema – and to the synthetic ‘didactico-romantic’ schema in which he seeks to mergethe avant-gardes; new with regard to a romantic formalismthat we do not think defines contemporary art, but which, in and from contemporary art, has missed (raté) the politics of sensation opened up by the modern and anti-modernistidentityof Expression and Construction. This explains why the aforementioned romantic formalismsays and reads upside down (à l’envers) the constructivistexpressionismthat we oppose to it. This constructivist expressionism is set out in the face of the History and Philosophy of art because these two notions do notmean here the same thing as their current acceptation in these disciplines. And it’s no wonder, I would argue, if the artists who have made their own the practical principle of their experimental identity have produced so many alterations of the ‘standard’ opposition between ‘expressionism’ and ‘constructivism’, ‘romanticism’ and ‘formalism’ – since Construction is no longer that of an Object subtracted from the world ‘in the timeless coldness of its invented form’ (Badiou), and Expression is no longer that of a Subject or of a Nature saturating the artistic gesture of a double entry romanticism (that is why ‘expressionism’ and ‘impressionism’, in their ordinary sense, are ideally complementary).

Thus, it is due to its very constructivist alteration that the Anti-Oedipusadamantly affirms: ‘we cannot accept the idealist category of “expression”.’21 After all, production as process overflows (the romantic origin of) its notion by relating to desire qua immanent principle, not the principle of a given/giver of flows which it would naturally or spontaneously express, but rather of a flow-cut system that desire engineers, in such a way that the cut implies what it cuts, as a universal continuity which is expressedfrom an artificial ‘Nature’towards schizophrenic productivity. Lacking this continuum, this realimplication of the world singularised and machinically engineeredin each of its cuts-flows, the cut would count as a section (découpe), which is to say a separation (from ‘common’ reality),22 in accordance with the principle of a post-existential decision(decidere= to separate) constantly put forward by the Lacanising philosopher (the Real as the indifference of the pure event). As Deleuze & Guattari write, ‘It is not at all a question of the cut considered as a separation from reality’. With the Anti-Oedipus, the ontological monism of Deleuzean biophilosophy becomes the biopolitical fact of the machinic system of cuts and flows, relating the univocal plane of the living to desire as a ‘universal’ process of production. We thereby move from biophilosophical expressionism, such as it implies (after Spinoza) production qua affective affirmation in immanence, and (with Bergson) the creative affirmation of the full differentiating reality of the virtual, to biopolitical constructivism, which allows one in the presentto invest the created from the point of view of creation – it is this passage which makes it possible to comprehend Deleuze’s assertion, in the interview on Anti-Oedipus(reprinted in Negotiations), according to which up to that point he had only worked ‘in concepts, and still in a rather timid fashion. Félix spoke to me of what back then he was already calling desiring machines (…). It was then I had the impression that it was he who was in advance of me…’.23 In this phrase the very advanceof Anti-Oedipusis played out, the advance of a machinic ontology over the transcendental, as the latter is developed into a structuralism (of the kind that is experimented with in Difference and Repetitionand Logic of Sense).24 The machine will be defined on the basis of the cut-flow system which introduces production into desire by guaranteeing its real (and non-‘symbolic’) primacy qua immanent constitutive process. Unparalleled, except perhaps by the first chapter of Matter and Memory, it is the masterful opening chapter of the Anti-Oedipuswhich links the philosophy of multiplicity – employed as a vital substantive that ‘goes beyond the multiple just as much as the one’ (contrary to the kind of reading which will be offered by Badiou) – to the politics of desiring production, a politics that can be understood as the anoedipal reality condition of philosophy, between capitalism and schizophrenia. This all comes down to schizophrenising philosophy by treating writing as the machinic expression of constitutive desire, an expression which takes the real to the point at which it is effectively produced in bodies that are both biological and collective, and which imply the constitution of a field of immanence or ‘body without organs’ defined by zones of intensity, thresholds, gradients, flows, and so on.(The BwO is to be considered as the very body of desire, as its purest Expression, so absolutely inseparable from what it can do that it relates back to an unliveable power, a social anti-production which is as such the precondition of every real experience of desire, driven by the necessity of Constructions that cuts the BwO in and from itself.) Whence the ‘generational’ effect of this immense provocation – which no longer dissociates ontological production from the being of the micropolitical expression-construction of singularities – upon the way of thinking of a ‘life style’ (Foucault’s expression) from which the intellectual left and the political left and extreme-left have yet to recover (see their embarrassment when confronted with the real multiplicities of the anti-capitalist movement, its collective assemblages and their difference of style and action with regard to the mandatory forms of political ‘organisations’). The project laid out in the Anti-Oedipuswill begin by subverting the Freudo-Marxism fashionable at the time, by confronting structuralism head on (lines of flight are primary qua process, contrary to structure, conceived as the static genesis of the unconscious and the socius, and implying a complete determination of singular points), before moving on to critique the philosophies of ‘resistance’ by establishing the biopolitical primacy of desire qua ‘conjugation and dissociation of flows’ against the Foucauldian thesis of a biopower whose dispositifswould in some sense be constitutive (coming first, as they do, ‘lines of flight (…) are not phenomena of resistance or counterattack in an assemblage, but cutting edges of creation and deterritorialisation (points de création et de deterritorialisation)’25). Moving beyond its Foucauldian sense, biopolitics is thereby affirmed as the infinite tension that affects a process of constitution launched against all the strata of organisation that block becomings, by causing them to fall back on an anti-production that functions from the inside out (the psychoanalytic Oedipus, a State which turns into the Entrepreneurial State of the society of control) – and all this, not in the name of any kind of spontaneism or marginalism, but, on the contrary, by virtue of the dynamic of real multiplicities, as it is determined by the plane of immanence of desire qua social and intellectual power of production-creation. In this respect, and in accordance with the principle of a universal history revisited in ‘Savages, Barbarians, Civilized Men’ (the longest chapter in the Anti-Oedipus), it is legitimate ‘to retrospectively understand all history in the light of capitalism’26; a capitalism that does not put to work the decoded and deterritorialised flows it organises and axiomatises without, by the same token, liberating the forces of desire that animate it, forces that it must counteract by reintroducing the most merciless transcendence into the immanence of a person which has been rendered ‘private’ (privé, which is to say ‘deprived’) in order to keep these forces in a bound state. It follows that a fantastic death instinct always threatens to transform the Oedipal triangle – which invests the social re-territorialisation of ‘democratic’ capitalism into an ‘intimate’ territoriality of the paranoiac type – into a ‘micro-fascism’.

Here lies the greatness of the Vienna Action Group, which will have proven itself to be by far the most radical movement of the Sixties by having shownthis(it was not in vain that Muehl and Brus read Reich, a central reference, as you know, for the Anti-Oedipus).

But the Greatness of Deleuze, too, when he indicates the ‘turn’ of the Anti-Oedipusas the moment of the constitution of a philosophy – his own, caught up and freed by the New Alliance with Guattari – which does not work through concepts alone, but moves beyond the pure form of the determinable ‘in thought’, to finally become capable of physicalisingthe concept(the physicalityof the concept – as a ‘centre of vibrations’ – is developed as such in What is Philosophy ?, Deleuze andGuattari’s testament-book), and to incorporateitin the non-organic life of the world. Here is Deleuze’s answer, in an interview from 1980 : « The idea of a non-organic life is constant in A Thousand Plateaus.It’s precisely the life of the concept. »

Anti-Oedipusis the response to what the philosopher christened the ridiculousness of the abstract thinkerin the Logic of Sense, when it was a matter of attaining ‘this politics, this complete and utter guerilla’ required by the schizoid irruption of the Body without Organs which came to ‘tear the structuralist surface’ of the ‘psychoanalysis of sense’, throwing it into a ‘progressive and creative disorganisation’ inscribed ‘in the physical presence of bodies’.

This is also what the Anti-Oedipusstill tells us thirty years on: that we cannot oppose the will to resist the Empire of Digital Capitalism which finds expression in the Hyperstructuralism of a Badiou with any kind of ‘weak’ (debole) and late Poststructuralism, thus making room for a spontaneous democracy of desire and its pop-philosophical flights of fancy. Rather, we must counter it with a transversalist Biopolitics, ‘always to be conquered on a pragmatics of existence’ (as Guattari never ceased repeating); a Biopolitics generative of a heterogeneity whose socially constitutive character is the ontological creativity that sustains the constructivism of desire. The latter prohibits, in vivo, any projection of these questions into a ‘philosophical eternity’, into a ‘politics of Grace’ under the guidance of the militant, or, for that matter, into an ‘inaesthetics’ which is supposed to produce, ‘through the finite means of a material subtraction’, ‘an infinite subjective series’.27


(1) Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, New York, Columbia University Press, , p. .

(2) Anti-Oedipus, p. 140.

(3) Dialogues, p. 23, p. 20

(4) Alain Badiou, ‘Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque’, trans. by T. Sowley, in Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, ed. by C.V. Boundas and D. Olkowski, London, Routledge, 1994, pp. 51-69.

(5) Negotiations, p. .

(6) Alain Badiou, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, trans. by L. Burchill, Minneapolis, Minnesota University Press, 2000, p. 12.

(7) Guy Lardreau, L’exercice differé de la philosophie. A l’occasion de Deleuze, Lagrasse, Verdier, 1999.

(8) Alain Badiou, ‘Un, multiple, multiplicité(s)’, multitudes1, 2000, p. 196. Translated as ‘One, Multiple, Multiplicities’, in Theoretical Writings, ed. by R. Brassier and A. Toscano, London, Continuum, 2004.

(9) Lardreau, p. 84.

(10) Alain Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, trans. by R. Brassier, Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2003, p. 10 (my emphasis).

(11) Cf. A. Badiou, ‘Troisième esquisse d’un manifeste de l’affirmationnisme’ in Id., Circonstances, 2, Paris, Ed. Lignes, 2004, p. 81-105. Subsequent quotes are all drawn from this text.

(12) G. Deleuze, Logique du sens, p. 108; Logic of Sense,p. 82.

(13) See the whole of chapter 1 of Anti-Oedipus(‘Desiring machines’).

(14) H. Rosenberg, ‘The American Action Painters’, Art News, 51, n° 8, December 1952, p. 22-23.

(15) G. Deleuze, F. Guattari, Kafka. Pour une littérature mineure,Paris, Minuit, 1975, p. 39 ;Kafka : Toward a Minor Literature, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1986, p. 21.

(16) John Dewey, Esthetic as Experience, New York, Perigee Books, 1980, p. 274, p. 324.

(17) Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, trans. by H. Tomlinson and B. Habberjam, New York, Columbia University Press, 1987, pp. 96, 70. See also p. 103: ‘Desire is always assembled and fabricated (machiné) , on a plane of immanence or composition which must itself be constructed at the same time as desire assembles and fabricates.’

(18) Dialogues, p. 98.

(19) Anti-Oedipus, pp. 26-27, 30.

(20) Anti-Oedipus, p. 42.

(21) Anti-Oedipus, p. 6.

(22) Deleuze and Guattari write unequivocally that ‘these breaks should in no way be considered as a separation from reality’, Anti-Oedipus, p. 36.

(23) Negotiations, p. .

(24) See Gilles Deleuze, ‘A quoi recconaît-on le structuralisme’, written in 1967 and published in 1972, in which Deleuze writes: ‘Structuralism cannot be separated from a new transcendental philosophy’ (this text has been recently reprinted in Gilles Deleuze, L’île déserte et autres texts. Textes et entretiens 1953-1974, Paris, Minuit, 2002; an English translation has been published in appendix to Charles Stivale, The Two-Fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari,,, p.).

(25) Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, London, Athlone, 1988, pp. 530-531, note 39. See the letter that Deleuze sent to Foucault in 1977, published in 1994 under the title ‘Desire and Pleasure’ (now reprinted in Foucault and his Interlocutors, ed. by A.I. Davidson, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, , p. . In this text he writes: ‘if the dispositifsof power are in some sense constitutive, they can only be opposed by phenomena of resistance, etc.’ Deleuze will oppose to this the primacy of lines of flight which imply ‘no return to nature whatsoever, they are the points of deterritorialisation in the assemblages of desire.’

(26) Anti-Oedipus, p. 140.

(27) A. Badiou, ‘Troisième esquisse d’un manifeste de l’affirmationnisme’, p. 97.
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Alliez Eric

Philosophe. Senior Research Fellow à l'université de Middlesex (Londres). A notamment publié : Les Temps capitaux (préface de G. Deleuze), T.I, Récits de la conquête du temps ; T. II, La Capitale du temps, Vol. 1 : L'État des choses, Cerf, 1991/1999 ; La Signature du monde, ou Qu'est-ce que la philosophie de Deleuze et Guattari ?, Cerf, 1993 ; De l'impossibilité de la phénoménologie. Sur la philosophie française contemporaine, Vrin, 1995 ; (dir.) Gilles Deleuze. Une vie philosophique, Synthélabo, 1998 ; Chroma Drama et Biografie der Organlosen Körpers (dir., en collaboration avec E. Samsonow), Vienne, Turia + Kant, 2002/2003 et (avec Jean-Claude Bonne) de La Pensée-Matisse, Le Passage, 2005. Co-auteur (avec Jean-Clet Martin) de L'Œil-Cerveau. Nouvelles Histoires de la peinture, Vrin, 2007. Membre du comité de rédaction de Multitudes.