Body without organs (BWO)

If you read AntiOedipus and Thousand Plateaus first, the references to the body without organs are a bit puzzling.  I did my best with it here (from Thou Plats) :


‘The body’ in the BWO seems to operate in a number of ways, I reckon.

Literal bodies. Drug addicts and perverts discover new and unconventional erotic pleasures by sidelining the conventional routes (but see below). Masochists get a good press (sic) here – they sidestep the usual routes to pleasure by exploring their identities in perverse rituals, even if it causes real pain. There is a weird echo of the first chapter and ‘becoming-horse’ since one of the masochists described gets pleasure out of being treated like a horse, bridled, whipped and bound etc, which is described as ‘becoming–horse’ here too. Was this what they would have wanted for Little Hans?

Theoretical bodies. This metaphor can be applied to social bodies, which can be configured differently (eg not Oedipalised). Artists show us the way here. Describing their work as ‘micropolitics’ fits this sort of level. This is individual deviance as politics, so it is liable to be seen as politicising deviants to defend their identity (and assuage their guilt?), and it is also functionalist (or gloomily determinist) since the only oppositional politics comes from groups of deviants – no room for ’serious’ conventional politics.

Philosophical bodies. The BWO stands for Spinozist notions of matter as some sort of universal substratum which acts as the potential for actual material to be instantiated by it via various (structuration?) activities based on desire. Once instantiated, the ‘organs’ can become subject to coding and despotism and all that stuff –territorialized. No doubt this is of interest to those who wish to rescue Spinoza for modern philosophy, but it leaves me cold, I fear. I could see the point when Althusser (and Balibar?) wanted to import Spinoza to develop some kind of ‘structural causality’ to avoid the determinist stuff in Marx.

The enemies are the 3 strata – ‘ the ones that most directly bind us: the organism, significance and will articulate your body –otherwise you’re just depraved. You will be signifier and signified, interpreter and interpreted – otherwise you’re just a deviant. You will be a subject, nailed down as one, a subject of the enunciation recoiled into a subject of the statement –otherwise you’re just a tramp’ ( 177)

There is another classification used by D&G themselves (apart from all the rhubarb of AntiOedipus about full, naked variants etc]  – empty bodies (violent self-destructive attempts to get to a BWO via drugs or masochism); fascist bodies (cancerous bodies) where one of the strata takes over and destroys all the rest – the conventional identity or the Freudian unconscious. Instead we should proceed cautiously to get in touch with our BWO:

Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flows of conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times (178)

Reading the Logic of Sense gives you a different set of implications though.  The body without organs seems to be a construction specifically mentioned by famous schizophrenics like Antonin Artaud, and the idea of having no organs appears in the Schreber case as well.  Schreber seems to regard God’s attack on his internal organs in a rather paranoid way (!), but Artaud takes a more positive line: ' At my autopsy they will need to remake anatomy.  Man needs to be scraped off, of the residue of god and therefore of his organs.  We need to make a man into a body without organs to remove automatic reactions and restore freedom.  Then he will be able to 'dance wrong side out', and this will restore his true place' [My paraphrase] .  Having a body without organs is a way of defending yourself against the painful business of introjection and projection of external objects, as in Klein.  The Wikipedia quote from Artaud describes it as a form of liberation, gaining freedom.  This helps add something to the political argument, of course, especially if we project it on to debates about consumerism and the strong desire for, followed by guilt and dissatisfaction about, buying consumer goods.  The depressive stage which follows the schizoid/paranoid position in 'normal 'development is also important in preparing the scene for the oedipal triangle.So going back to the BWO is a way of shifting things back before the oppressive Oedipal hang-ups – cf the semiotic chora of Kristeva and others trying to do the same thing re Lacan. (although full schizophrenic fixation or relapse arrests development at an earlier stage?)

Here are my notes from L of S:

For Artaud, the classic schizophrenic symptoms included the absence of surface, especially with bodies.  Apparently Freud also noticed this tendency for schizophrenics to see their body as ‘punctured by an infinite number of little holes’ (87).  The body therefore incorporates everything into its depths, everything becomes corporeal and physical.  The surface no longer limits the extension of the body.  ‘Hence the schizophrenic manner of living the contradiction: either in the deep fissure which traverses the body, or in the fragmented parts which encase one another and spin about’ (87).  The world loses its meaning and sense [because it can no longer split sensation into a signifying and signified separated by a surface?] Words become physical and affect bodies, or they burst into components [which relates back to the Wolfson example].  Schizophrenics experience ‘a pure language–affect’ (88) [sic --affect not effect].

Schizophrenics manage this by overcoming the effects of language, as in the strange translation activity in the Wolfson example.  In Artaud’s case the solution was to create special words expressing ‘values which are exclusively tonic and not written’ (88).  ‘To these values a glorious body corresponds, being a new dimension of the schizophrenic body, an organism about parts which operates entirely by insufflations, respiration, evaporation, and fluid transmission (the superior body or body without organs of Antonin Artaud)’ (88).  This solution can never be complete because there can never be a total separation between suffering [‘passion’] and [remedial] action, and passion can be reintroduced, and the body corrupted-- a schizophrenic body is therefore a constant mixture of two actions or principles.

...So two sorts of words related to two sorts of bodies, one fragmented and one without organs.  There are also two theatres or two types of nonsense implied here: one where ordinary words are decomposed into nonsense, and one where tonic elements alone form nonsensical words.  They are produced by things happening beneath the surface, unlike Carroll's playful superficiality.  The two signifying and signified series disappear, and non sense engulfs signifiers and signified.  There is no surface division to separate the expressivity of words and the attributes of actual bodies [which regulates ordinary language]. In schizophrenic language there is no grammar or syntax either, although both are preserved in Carroll.  Nevertheless, it is Artaud who has ‘discovered a vital body and the prodigious language of this body…  He explored the infra sense which is still unknown today’ (93).  However, Caroll has explored those important surfaces, on which ‘the entire logic of sense is located’ (93).

...Everything starts with ‘an oral – anal depth—a bottomless depth’ (188).  However, there are problems with introjection of good objects—apparently it is not easy, even in Klein, for the infant to split good from bad.  As a result, the schizoid position is always unstable.  Instead of opposing bad objects with good ones, ‘What is opposed is rather an organism without parts, the body without organs, with neither mouth nor anus, having given up all introjection or projection, and being complete, [but] at this price’ (188).  To add to the mixture of solid fragments of objects, a more liquid mixture is offered, without parts, capable of melting.  Solid excrement represents [aggressive expulsion of] organs and morsels, but urine offers a smooth mixture, ‘surmounting such a breaking apart in the full depth of the body (finally) without organs’ (189).  [note 3, 351, says that Klein does not distinguish between the body substances in this way, fails to grasp the significance of ‘urethral sadism’, and thus misses the importance of the theme of the body without organs, which is connected to this notion of ‘liquid specificity’.
...[Roughly], schizophrenics split the introjected and projected normal body with the more peaceful and empty body without organs which does neither. 

It’s possible to see some normal political and personal implications as well, possibly not surprisingly since we have all had experience of schizoid states according to Klein.  Yearning for liberation from the body is actually rather common, surely, wanting liberation from the decay of our organs, or liberation from our drives, including sexual drives.  This is the reverse (?) of the argument in Zizek that our organs become liberated from us, as when the phallus becomes the most important symbolic signifier in its own right.

This yearning is detectable in some of the enthusiasm for online interaction?  The body without organs might be Haraway’s cyborg, interacting in a pure way,  away from the possession of a gendered body with all its tedious social limitations and stereotyped interactions.  Electronic interaction is another possible way at least of attempting to navigate back to the body without organs in order to become something else? See Land in Fuglsang on this. See also Buchanan in Fuglsang  on the political role of the BWO when it acts as a socius and takes part in the illusion that it is the natural origin of all the labour that goes on on the surface of it. There is a diff take again in Alliez (in Fuglsang)  where it marks a crucial stage in Deleuze's later work, especially the collaborations with Guattari, in the concretisation or embodiment of concepts.

There is also a section in Deleuze's Essays in the context of a discussion about judgment. Obscure stuff on the BWO emerges (130—1) -- non-Divine judgment acts on bodies and their organs [here meaning something which is organized], especially sense organs[so slippage back to biological organs?]. We escape from the eternal guilt and obligation of (Christian)  judgment through not being an organism made for God’s purposes but one which is active and living – ‘God has made us into an organism, woman has turned us into an organism’ [Artaud's view?] (131). We should recapture original BWO as ‘affective, intensive, anarchist body that consists solely of poles, zones, thresholds, and gradients’ (131). Implied in DH Lawrence too, and in the powerful organic dimensions in his characters –they gain intense vitality from relation of body to ‘imperceptible forces and powers’ (131) . For Artaud it leads to becomings. Becoming a BWO is the will to power in Nietzsche. It informs the contrast between official justice bureaucracy and more vitalist justice in Kafka. [Surely over-philosophized here? Lawrence had the conventional notion of 'natural' irrepressible sexuality in mind?]

All this is fine, except that the schizophrenic body without organs is a fantasy, and the cyborg a utopian figure.  Anti Oedipus represents the militant hopes of 1968 and of Guattari.  Maybe this works politically as a counterfactual?  Again it seems very 60s, and indicates, as does Negri, the curious absence of real politics in Deleuze.  In the background, there is a shadowy and dominant capitalism, but almost no specific analyses of ideological apparatuses: instead, the oedipal triangle stands for this analysis.  Strangely, there is not even any serious Foucault, although power and desire may well complement each other as Baudrillard suggests.  Maybe in Deleuze we get the idealised version of Foucault suggestion that power is everywhere, and, having said that, we don’t really need to analyse it in any detail or actual circumstances?

Finally, and even further back, we find a reference to the BWO in Deleuze's book on Proust, right at the end in a bizarre piece which begins with summarizing Deleuze's view of Proust's text as a machine. The text itself denies all normal kinds of integrative devices in telling its enormous and complicated story and offers instead dispersed themes connected by transversality. We can think of it as schizophrenic in the general sense Specifically, the theme of madness is addressed here, the different types of madness (paranoia and erotomania) illustrated by two main characters. Thus (and this dead witty) schizophrenia acts as a machinic structure to evoke, even create  other kinds of madness.

Then we shift metaphors to consider spiders and their webs. Deleuze tells us that spiders have no sense organs (only true when considering ears) but detect tensions (on the web) which spring them into action. Then we discuss the narrator (not the hero - the narrator speaks for several people and sometimes explains even the hero's actions). Here,  we are told, the narrator 'has no organs insofar as he is deprived of any voluntary and organized use of such faculties' (117), a 'spider body', reacting to signs without filtering them through organs. Deleuze cites a passage in Proust's text to begin this account of narrators, where the hero is overwhelmed by his first kiss with his girlfriend, and, as he closes in, the narrator  talks about the inadequacy of his organs to report the sensations:
the 'narrator there is an enormous Body without organs'.

I have said in my sceptial notes that this is  amisunderstanding of spider anatomy, and of the role of the narrator in a realist text -- who has to expound the views of each character and also comment on them, and address the viewers, sometimes directly, as does Proust himself off-stage, or as a disembodied voice. Deleuze needs a good commentary on realism here!

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