The Third International after Lenin

Monday, July 30, 2012

Marx and Freud via Gattari


Question: How, in your opinion, can or should the works of Freud and Marx
complement one another?

F Guattari: Can or should ... The problem is that they have effectively done
so. At least in the university , where the concoction of " cocktails" mixing the
two in various proportions seems to be the guarantee of an "appropriate"
political affiliation. Reread Marx, return to Freud, assure their peaceful
coexistence . .. a whole Program! And then isn't it marvelous to be able to
serve the people tllis way , on the sole front of "theoretical combat" without
having to leave our lecture-hall or our office?

No, definitely, this kind of question makes me very suspicious. FreudoMarxism
is the busy work of the Victor Cousin type of academics of our
time . The academician always returns to the same devices for shunning
reality, by taking refuge behind the exegesis and interpretation of texts. Bilt
behind Marx and Freud, behind "Marxology" and "Freudology," there is the
shitty reality of the Communist movement, of the psychoanalytic movement.
That's where we should start and that's where we should always return. And
when I speak of shit, it is hardly a metaphor: Capitalism reduces everything
to a fecal state, to the state of undifferentiated and unencoded flux, out of
which each person in his private, guilt-ridden way must pull out his part.
Capitalism is the regime of generalized interchangeability: anything in the
"right" proportions can equal anything else. Take Marx and Freud for
example, reduced to a state of dogmatic mush; they can be introduced into
the system without presenting any risk to it. Marxism and Freudianism,
carefully neutralized by the Institutions of the worker's movement, the
psychoanalytic movement, and the university , not only no longer disturb
anyone , but have actually become the guarantors of the established order, a
demonstration via reduction to the absurd, that it is no longer possible to
seriously unsettle that order. One might object that these theories shouldn't
be blamed for deviations in their application; that the original message has
been betrayed; that precisely it is necessary to return to the sources, review
the faulty translations, etc .... That's the trap of fetishism. There is no
comparable example in any scientific domain of a similar respect for the
texts and formulae pronounced by great scientists. Revisionism is the rule
here. The process of relativizing, dissolving, and dislocating these established
theories is permanent. Those which resist are constantly under attack. The
ideal thing would not be to mummify them, but to leave them open to
other constructs, all equally temporary, but better strengthened by such
experimentation. What counts in the long run is the use one makes of a
theory. Therefore , we cannot disregard the pragmatic implementation of
Marxism and Freudianism. We must start from existing practices in order to
retrace the fundamental flaws of these theories insofar as, in one way or
another, they lend themselves to distortions of that kind.

Theoretical activity escapes only with difficulty the propensity of capitalism
to ritualize and retrieve any minimally subversive practice by cutting
it off from its libidinal investments (cathexes); only by confronting real
struggles can theoretical activity hope to leave its ghetto. The primary task
of a theory of "desire" must be to discern the possible ways in which it can
invade the social field , rather than guarantee the quasi-mystical exercise of
psychoanalytical eavesdropping such as it has evolved since Freud. Correlatively,
any theoretical development bearing upon class struggle at this time
should be concerned primarily with its connection with libidinal production
and its impact on the creativity of the masses. Marxism, in all its versions,
excludes desire, and loses its guts with bureaucracy and humanism, while
Freudianism, from its very beginning, has not only been alien to class
struggle, but moreover has continued to distort its first discoveries about
desire by trying to lead it back, handcuffed, to the familial and social norms
of the establishment. The refusal to confront these fundamental deficiensies,
the attempt to mask them , lead one to believe that the internal limits of
these theories are actuilly insurmountable.

There are two ways to absorb these theoretical statements; the academic
one, which takes or leaves the text in its integrity, and the revolutionary
one which takes and leaves it at the same time , doctoring it to its requireme~
ts in an attempt to use it in order to elucidate its own co-ordinates and
guide its practice. The only question is to try to make a text work. And,
from this point of view, what has always been alive in Marxism and in
Freudianism, in their initial stages, is not the coherence of their statements,
but the fact that the very act of enunciating them represents a breaking off,
a way of telling Hegelian dialectics, bourgeois political economy, academic
psychology , and psychiatry of the time , etc. to go to hell.

Even the idea of the possible coupling of these two separate bodies,
Marxism and Freudianism, falsifies the perspective. Some bits of a "dismembered"
Marxism can and should converge with a theory and practice of
desire ; bits of a "dismembered" Freudianism can and should converge with a
theory and practice pertaining to class struggle. Even the idea of a separation,
between a private exercise of desire and public struggles between
opposite interests, leads implicitly to integration into capitalism. Private
ownership of the means of production is intrinsically bound up with the
appropriation of desire by the individual, the family , and the social order.
One begins by neutralizing the worker's access to desire, by familial castration
, by the lures of consumption, etc. in order to subsequently seize
without difficulty , his capacity for social work. To sever desire from work:
such is the primary imperative of capitalism. To separate political economy
from libidinal economy: such is the mission of those theoreticians who serve
capitalism. Work and desire are in contradiction only in the framework of
relations of production, of well-defmed social and familial relations: those of
capitalism and bureaucratic socialism.

There is no alienation of desire, no psychosexual complexes that may be
radically and permanently separated from repression and psychosocial complexes.
For example, to tell the present-day Chinese that their Maoism would
continue to depend upon a universal Oedipus would be the same as considering
Maoism itself as something eternal, always being reborn from its
own ashes. But, of course, history just doesn't work like that! A revolutionary
in France after May '68, with regard to desire is of a completely
different race than his father in June '36. There is no possible Oedipal
relationship between them! Neither rivalry, nor identification! No continuity
in change! And if it is indeed true that the rupture is as radical as that,
theoreticians of society and those of psychoanalysis would do well to
prepare themsel~es for a serious recycling.

Translated by Janis Forman

Intended for Le Nouvel Observateur, which never published it. The title is ours.

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