Notes on: Osborne, P. (2011) 'Guatareuze?' ( A review of Dosse F.  (2010) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives.  New York: Columbia University Press).  New Left Review 69: 139 -151.

Dave Harris

Biography is controversial in philosophy, since the work of philosophers seems to make their life irrelevant, yet it is common to describe work with the names of individual philosophers.  Usually, the banalities of every day life simply do not reveal the secret of the thought.  However, sometimes biography can be used itself in a philosophical manner, by philosophers.  Instead, we usually get 'the cultural history of ideas' applied to individual lives, a chronological succession of events as an attempted context.  Inevitably, others are involved, except for particular recluses. Some good examples are given (140), including biographies of Althusser, Foucault, and Lacan.  Here philosophical ideas are presented in a suitable way.  Some other good examples have addressed collectives.

Dosse is a pioneer with this double biography.  His early work on the history of structuralism was controversial, and attacked by the likes of Balibar.  He used interviews, 'racy' narratives, and 'limpid' prose, to attempt to popularize opaque debates, and counter '"hyper formalism"'.  This work comes at the height of public attention for Deleuze.  It proceeds by cheerfully ignoring the work of Deleuze and Guattari on the dissolution of the subject, and this is a problem.  This technique arose from 'a commercial decision'(141), and from a technique to manage, in an 'industrial manner', huge amounts of material including interview material found in other work.  The high work rate can itself be seen as 'a literary effect of sorts', somewhere between journalism and history.  There also unintended comic moments, probably from the translation.

The work on Guattari is the most interesting, probably because he is less well known, and as an activist, he was more connected to the events of the day, especially compared to  Deleuze's own phantasy about living like an 17th century philosopher [in the second book on Spinoza, apparently].  Nietzsche is central to the connection with Guattari, and helped Deleuze connect to the times.  In return, Guattari was able to briefly live the life of philosophy.

In terms of biography, Deleuze's father was a petty bourgeois dabbling with fascism.  His elder brother Georges was a resistance martyr, and Gilles seemed mediocre by comparison.  He broke totally with his family as a result.  He was brilliant at lycée and became a member of various elite salons frequented by philosophers.  He studied at the Sorbonne and subsequently taught in some elite lycées.  Guattari was in a family that moved around France, first in his father's search for somewhere to convalesce after being gassed in the War, and then to run a series of small businesses, each of them unsuccessful.  His father was a right winger as well.  Guattari was precocious politically, and attended pcf meetings at the age of 14, although he was temperamentally drawn to anarchism.  He got into psychiatry through the brother of one of his school teachers, and ended at La Borde.  He read Lacan to escape from the boredom of his studies in pharmacology.

Dosse relates Guattari's life in terms of the history of a 'relationships, groups and events', and Deleuze's 'as a series of texts'(143).  The intersections are difficult to narrate, and Dosse resorts to 'stock narrative tropes'- the two were unlikely to meet because they live in different worlds, and when they did, this produced some magic consequences.  'This is the theory of Deleuze-Guattari the surrealist object', like the famous chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella.  However, the meeting was actually brokered by a mutual friend, and the two exchanged letters for several months before they actually met, with Guattari sending some articles on Lacan, having been impressed by Logic of Sense.

This happens quite a lot, where the stock narrative is contradicted by the actual stories.  Dosse pursues a thematic account rather than a chronological one, and has a privileged story to tell which does not always correspond to the mass of information he has worked with.  Dosse himself seems 'to more or less disappear from his text'[a realist trope, 'modernist impersonalism'].  The real interest, how philosophy and psychoanalysis became intrinsically connected, is not well treated, and has to be examined by looking at the actual material. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Guattari was originally a disciple of Lacan, and was one of the first to be admitted to take the seminar without medical training.  As a result, Lacan is the real 'hinge of this story', constituting the very 'and' that connects Deleuze and Guattari, for Osborne [literarly referring to the 'and' relation in Logic of Sense, the series, the conjunctive disjunction].  In Logic of Sense, Lacan appears in the discussion of serialization, referring to the communication between two separate series by something that's always in excess to one and lacking in the other.  The model is Lacan on Poe, where a missing letter [epistle]  helps link two episodes in the story.  The relation between D and G is similarly, 'a strange double headed thing: both lacking and in excess' (145), but Dosse misses this.

Both Deleuze and Guattari are interested in Lacan's position 'at the limits of structuralism'.  Guattari helps Deleuze move away from 'ambivalent structuralism' in L of S, by replacing the idea of structure with that of machine.  However, Deleuze was already exploring the limits of structuralism for himself in an earlier essay, referring to the elements of structures as impersonal singularities rather than subjects.  Guattari helped Deleuze to explore the implications for therapy and political practice.  The notion of the unconscious as a machine provided the breakthrough for the collaboration, and apparently Guattari got this from a Lacan seminar.  It replaced structuralist theory, and also 'carried with it the hopes of a practice of permanent therapeutic and political revolution'(146): Guattari embodied this practice.

Deleuze prefaced section of essays by Guattari, noting that political activism and psychoanalysis combined in his person: there was no simple meeting of people.  This is what inspired Guattari to relate to Deleuze, and initiated his own philosophical explorations in the jointly written pieces.  Political militancy affected his own psychotherapeutic practice, which in turn into 'novel philosophical problems about subjectivity, desire and the social'.  Deleuze was distant from psychotherapeutic practice, and elaborated Guattari's designs into concepts [apparently, this is how Deleuze himself described it].

When they composed Anti Oedipus, 'Deleuze obliged Guattari to write each day, mailing him the results after 4.00, for Deleuze to rework.  They would then meet on Tuesday afternoons.' [Here G apparently had writer's block, although he is described elsewhere as a manic writer, working in rushes] There is nothing in the myth that Guattari was an idiot savant.  Guattari formed relations with a number of groups, from the pcf to the Fourth International, moved between institutional analysis of the clinic and reading Lacan, creating his own study and research groups.  Before meeting Deleuze, his intellectual trajectory 'was largely a journey from Sartre to Lacan', trying to develop the notion of the group subject.  Guattari was notorious for forming and breaking up groups, because the intellectual effort to apply Lacan directly to political groups was unstable (147) [there is a nice example of Lacan-based policy in one group to refuse the separation of public and private lives, and to take responsibility for desire by asking for a salary that you thought you could justify.  There also endless meetings, 'experimental practices of collective reflexivity']

It's possible to see psychological themes in Guattari's life, like 'maternal fixation', the fear of loving your mother displaced and dispersed on to multiple objects.  This led to promiscuous sexual practice within La Borde, also justified as egalitarianism, which produced 'a string of emotional casualties'.  Radical equality between psychologists, porters and patients led to job sharing, but the overall 'method was "militant centralism"'Guattari admitted, produced by his 'charismatic authoritarianism'.  Everyone found it difficult, but it did have some good therapeutic effects and some conceptual productivity, especially in developing 'the concept of "transversality"'. 

This emerged in the discussion about the difference between groups subjects and subjected groups [big in AO and explained in Chaosmosis].  That was to replace the Freudian idea of transference, and to build a group unconscious.  The organizations Guattari founded turned the idea into working methods,, including transdisciplinary work in the humanities and social sciences [especially his Centre for Institutional Study, Research and Training  -- CERFI].  They even got some government research contracts in urban planning or community development, and publications were produced that were well read.  Osborne sees a parallel with the Frankfurt Institute.

The relationship with Lacan is seen as oedipal, with the relationship with Deleuze breaking it.  After this, Lacan appears as 'an abusive monster' (148), mistreating patients.  Once, Guattari insisted that anyone working at La Borde underwent analysis with Lacan and attended the seminars.  Lacan treated them with his notoriously really brief sessions.  He also tried to poach a paper by Barthes which Guattari had offered to sponsor - and then never published it.  Lacan also appointed his son in law as his successor rather than Guattari, all of which prompted the term to Deleuze.

Deleuze met Lacan in Lyon, where he also met Francis Bacon.  L behaved strangely, refusing all alcohol, and asking to be taken home, then, later drinking half a bottle of vodka at dinner.  He behaved rather churlishly, and back at Deleuze's house displayed '"paranoid recriminations against everyone wanting to steal his ideas"'.  The meeting with Bacon took place just after Deleuze's book on him was published.  Again, there was a disastrous discussion, but competitions set in between them to dominate the discussion.  Osborne thinks this is more than just problems when two specialists meet, and displays an 'image of rivalrous -- even sadistic --- self sufficiency' (149).  Deleuze described Bacon afterwards as displaying power and violence as well as charm and restlessness, reflecting 'an unconscious desire to reduce the artist to a figure in one of his own paintings', a further sign of 'underhand rivalry'.  This was rooted in Deleuze's identification of his own philosophy and Bacon's art, with its Nietzschian concept of art as a matter of forces, percepts and affects.  Deleuze was in competition with Bacon.  Bacon might have let him win because he had already owed a lot to Deleuze for his reputation.  Osborne also identifies an 'ironic revenge' in connecting philosophy and artistic practice, because it implies that Deleuze's claims to have developed a properly contemporary philosophy looks weak compared to the radical forms in contemporary art.

Deleuze then left to go to Paris 8, established after the events of 1968.  'Deleuze played no part in the protests', and spent the summer away from Paris working on his doctoral thesis.  He also lost a lung to tuberculosis.  He met Guattari while convalescing.  He moved to Vincennes, where Foucault ran the department, and there met followers of Althusser and Lacan including Badiou, Balibar, and Rancière.  It was a Maoist dept, intending to make sure that theoretical Marxism Leninism dominated as an official department policy, producing extensive surveillance of the political content of other classes.  Deleuze was a particular target, which might explain Badiou's own 'self serving book on Deleuze' (150).  The Department could be seen as a kind of academic version of Guattari's experiment in group analysis, and was similarly both authoritarian and radically libertarian, as well as in permanent crisis.  Deleuze thrived, apparently.

This was when they wrote AO and Thousand Plateaus, although Rhizome was published first as a separate book.  They also wrote the book on Kafka.  These were 'spectacularly successful, highly original, theoretical works' (150), focusing on the workings of desire within the social, prompted by May 1968.  The works can be described as 'at once founding and exhausting their own genre'.  Later, in What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari argued that philosophy was all about producing concepts, and that's what these texts did. AO produced concepts like desiring production, desiring machines and BWO, before criticizing oedipal mystification and developing the notion of deterritorialization.  The coding of flows of desire was seen as important to the formation of the social, producing a new history of state forms, and a 'semiotic account of value and the money form'.  There were notions like schizoanalysis, the molar and the molecular.  Desire was freed from the notion of lack and individuals, and turned into an investigation of 'the libidinal investment of the social field'.  The arguments were both philosophical and transdisciplinary.

TP is both more radical and more 'avowedly pragmatist', with its serial montage of singular concepts, like the rhizome [Osborne sees this as the 'anti dialectical equivalent of the negative dialectical "constellation"'].  Concepts were offered like segmentarity, the abstract machine, faciality, becoming, the minoritarian, refrain, war machine and smooth spaces.  Massumi suggested that the point was not whether all this was true but whether it worked [the rejection of simple truth in favour of what is interesting or singular is explained best in the Deleuze book on Leibniz in my view].  The question is what it works for, though, a question which can lead back to the connection between truth and practice again.  The book on Kafka celebrates the concept of the minor in the context of Kafka's writing, and introduces other conceptual singularities like connectors, assemblage and agency.

These works have been extensively commented upon by 'the middle tier of an academic publishing industry' (151), increasingly marketing its works 'via authorial branding'.  They have not as yet produced 'theoretically significant new productions', unlike post Foucaldian approaches.  Instead we get 'largely, simply fetishistic terminological repetition'.  The conditions of both reception and production have degenerated in academic life, but Guattari remains particularly obscure.  What Dosse should have done is offered a philosophical reading of Guattari's contributions.

However, some other material Dosse borrowed can provide an intellectual sketch to show how much more we need to know about Guattari, and how his thoughts went beyond 'the historical conditions of their production'.  This might reverse the usual view of the importance of the two, producing what Lauzier called not 'Delari' but 'Guattareuze'.

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