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desire / flux / globalism / guattari / machine / materialism / Politics




On Guattari. The first ecosopher has arisen — but how to read his writings? There is not a single answer, everyone disagrees. To read Guattari without Deleuze seems like violence to the polyphonous fury of their mutually-authored works; yet to read Deleuze and Guattari seems like according primacy to the philosopher, to the authority of philosophy over psychoanalysis — asserting the traditional prerogative of philosophy over science, with the usual absent-minded condescension, a perverse kind of triumphant naivete. Our new ecosopher shrinks into the background of the literary uproar he is unleashing.


The strange power of Guattari’s writings is such that his works are less collections than whirlwinds, less toolboxes than roaring vortexes one is apt to be drawn violently towards: to study Guattari is neither a coincidence nor an accident (for an English academic) but rather a symptom, even a political symptom. Perhaps simply an indication of the self-destructive desire inherent to global capitalism in which the dissemination  of essentially “anti-capitalist” literature is not simply allowed but in fact widely promoted — the faint glimmer of global Renaissance. But I think Guattari might remind us of something else.


Political struggle is more than a linguistic struggle, a struggle with texts and pure concepts. It is of course involved with these things, but even more than these signifying systems, political resistance connects with the a-signifying as well, an order of reality more primordial than human meaning, where the distinctions imposed upon reality by our signifying regimes are rendered irrelevant and secondary. Where the cosmos as a process of production becomes perceptible, where the inhuman asignifying order of reality emerges, we may perhaps catch a glimpse of the future dreamed by our first ecosopher.


To have to emphasize that the asignifying isn’t the insignificant, but the non-signifying, we realize that already, we have hit the white wall. Misunderstanding is a symptom both of the origin and the impossibility of meaning. The gap between us here is not simply an aspect of the mobile wall of obstacles Guattari has prepared for his students, but already of the even more intransigent obstacles of history, society, economy — in short, the entire political “problem” of desire. A history of desire is difficult yet not impossible, but it does not begin by asking what desire is, pretending some kind of perfect and external objective viewpoint.



It would approach desire materialistically — affirming a pure and limitless body without organs of desire upon which our individual passions are simply gradients, axes. An analysis of desire which depends not upon a minimalist metaphysics like Lacan’s or Heidegger’s, but a veritable schizo-physics, a machinic ontology of becoming. The basic postulates of such a metaphysic are, firstly, that “desire” is immersed in and ultimately composed of flows (of energy, matter) and channels (involved in combining, conjoining, disjoining fluxes); secondly, that “machines” are cutting these flows, writing, falling back upon the body without organs of desire itself. 



And in fact, we do not require recourse to metaphors, metaphysics; in effect a meaningless and self-indulgent transcendence. The truth is that the idea of desiring-machines is a fundamental one, a natural (but not simple) concept which renders possible a truly materialistic analysis of human desire — in short a new kind of science which resembles psychoanalysis only slightly, a rigorous mode of analysis capable of making radical leaps beyond all of the philosophy of desire preceding it. (It is clear Deleuze was at least equally lucky in discovering Guattari.)

The Author

mostly noise and glare


  1. Pingback: event mechanics » Blog Archive » Guattari: The Symptom?

  2. Pingback: Making links: John Thackara, Felix Guattari, Heath Bunting | The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts

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