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Anti-Oedipus (L'anti-Oedipe) is a 1972 book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It is the first volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the second being A Thousand Plateaus (1980).

Anti-Oedipus analyses the relationship of desire to reality and to capitalist society in particular; it addresses questions of human psychology, economics, society, and history. The book is divided into four sections. The first outlines Deleuze and Guattari's "materialist psychiatry" and its modelling of the unconscious in its relationship with society and its productive processes; in this section they introduce their concept of "desiring-production" (which inter-relates "desiring machines" and a "body without organs"). The second section offers a critique of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis that focuses on its theory of the Oedipus complex. The third section re-writes Karl Marx's materialist account of the history of society's modes of production as a development through "primitive," "despotic," and "capitalist" societies and details their different organisations of production, "inscription" (which corresponds to Marx's "distribution" and "exchange"), and consumption. In the final section, the authors develop a critical practice that they call "schizoanalysis."

The book draws on and criticises the ideas of many thinkers; in addition to Marx and Freud, these include Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Wilhelm Reich, R. D. Laing, David Cooper, Carl Jung, Melanie Klein, Jean Oury, Georges Bataille, Karl Jaspers, Louis Hjelmslev, Charles Sanders Peirce, Gregory Bateson, Pierre Clastres, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Pierre Klossowski, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Monod, Lewis Mumford, Victor Turner, Karl August Wittfogel, Charles Fourier, Immanuel Kant, and Baruch Spinoza. Deleuze and Guattari also draw on a wide range of creative writers and artists during the course of their argument; these include Antonin Artaud, Samuel Beckett, Georg Büchner, Samuel Butler, Franz Kafka, Jack Kerouac, Heinrich von Kleist, D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Marcel Proust, Daniel Paul Schreber, and J. M. W. Turner. Foremost among its influences, however, stands Friedrich NietzscheAnti-Oedipus may be considered a kind of sequel to The Antichrist.

Some of Guattari's diary entries, correspondence with Deleuze, and notes on the development of the book were published posthumously as The Anti-Oedipus Papers (2004).




Deleuze and Guattari argue that Richard Lindner's painting "Boy with Machine" (1954) demonstrates the schizoanalytic thesis of the primacy of desire's social investments over its familial ones: "the turgid little boy has already plugged a desiring-machine into a social machine, short-circuiting the parents."

Deleuze and Guattari's "schizoanalysis" is a militant social and political analysis that responds to what they see as the reactionary tendencies of psychoanalysis. It proposes a functional evaluation of the direct investments of desire—whether revolutionary or reactionary—in a field that is social, biological, historical, and geographical.

Deleuze and Guattari develop four theses of schizoanalysis:

  1. Every unconscious libidinal investment is social and bears upon a socio-historical field.
  2. Unconscious libidinal investments of group or desire are distinct from preconscious investments of class or interest.
  3. Non-familial libidinal investments of the social field are primary in relation to familial investments.
  4. Social libidinal investments are distinguished according to two poles: a paranoiac, reactionary, fascisizing pole and a schizoid revolutionary pole.

In contrast to the psychoanalytic conception, schizoanalysis assumes that the libido does not need to be de-sexualised, sublimated, or to go by way of metamorphoses in order to invest economic or political factors; for "the truth is," Deleuze and Guattari explain, "sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records, a judge administers justice, a businessman causes money to circulate; the way the bourgeoisie fucks the proletariat; and so on. [...] Flags, nations, armies, banks get a lot of people aroused." In the terms of classical Marxism, desire is part of the economic, infrastructural "base" of society, they argue, not an ideological, subjective "superstructure."

Unconscious libidinal investments of desire coexist without necessarily coinciding with preconscious investments made according to the needs or ideological interests of the subject (individual or collective) who desires.

A form of social production and reproduction, along with its economic and financial mechanisms, its political formations, and so on, can be desired as such, in whole or in part, independently of the interests of the desiring-subject. It was not by means of a metaphor, even a paternal metaphor, that Hitler was able to sexually arouse the fascists. It is not by means of a metaphor that a banking or stock-market transaction, a claim, a coupon, a credit, is able to arouse people who are not necessarily bankers. And what about the effects of money that grows, money that produces more money? There are socioeconomic "complexes" that are also veritable complexes of the unconscious, and that communicate a voluptuous wave from the top to the bottom of their hierarchy (the military–industrial complex). And ideology, Oedipus, and the phallus have nothing to do with this, because they depend on it rather than being its impetus.

Schizoanalysis seeks to show how "in the subject who desires, desire can be made to desire its own repression—whence the role of the death instinct in the circuit connecting desire to the social sphere." Desire produces "even the most repressive and the most deadly forms of social reproduction."

Desiring machines and social production


The traditional understanding of desire assumes an exclusive distinction between "production" and "acquisition." This line of thought—which has dominated Western philosophy throughout its history and stretches from Plato to Freud and Lacan—understands desire through the concept of acquisition, insofar as desire seeks to acquire something that it lacks. This dominant conception, Deleuze and Guattari argue, is a form of philosophical idealism; the importance that it gives to the notion of "lack," Foucault explains, places desire under the category of the Negative. Alternative conceptions, which treat desire as a positive, productive force, have received far less attention; the ideas of the small number of philosophers who have developed them, however, are of crucial importance to Deleuze and Guattari's project: principally Nietzsche's will to power and Spinoza's conatus.

Deleuze and Guattari argue that desire is a positive process of production that produces reality. On the basis of three "passive syntheses" (partly modelled on Kant's syntheses of apperception from his Critique of Pure Reason), desire engineers "partial objects, flows, and bodies" in the service of the autopoiesis of the unconscious. In this model, desire does not "lack" its object; instead, desire "is a machine, and the object of desire is another machine connected to it." Since desire produces reality, social production, with its forces and relations, is "purely and simply desiring-production itself under determinate conditions."

Like their contemporary, R. D. Laing, and like Wilhelm Reich before them, Deleuze and Guattari make a connection between psychological repression and social oppression. By means of their concept of desiring-production, however, their manner of doing so is radically different. They describe a universe composed of desiring-machines, all of which are connected to one another: "There are no desiring-machines that exist outside the social machines that they form on a large scale; and no social machines without the desiring machines that inhabit them on a small scale." When they insist that a social field may be invested by desire directly, they oppose Freud's concept of sublimation, which posits an inherent dualism between desiring-machines and social production. This dualism, they argue, limited and trapped the revolutionary potential of the theories of Laing and Reich. Anti-Oedipus develops a critique of Freud and Lacan's psychoanalysis, anti-psychiatry, and Freudo-Marxism (with its insistence on a necessary mediation between the two realms of desire and the social).

Deleuze and Guattari's concept of sexuality is not limited to the interaction of male and female gender roles, but instead posits a multiplicity of flows that a "hundred thousand" desiring-machines create within their connected universe; Deleuze and Guattari contrast this "non-human, molecular sexuality" to "molar" binary sexuality: "making love is not just becoming as one, or even two, but becoming as a hundred thousand," they write, adding that "we always make love with worlds."

Reframing the Oedipal complex

The "anti-" part of their critique of the Freudian Oedipal complex begins with that original model's articulation of society based on the family triangle of father, mother and child. Criticizing psychoanalysis "familialism", they want to show that the oedipal model of the family is a kind of organization that must colonize its members, repress their desires, and give them complexes if it is to function as an organizing principle of society. Instead of conceiving the "family" as a sphere contained by a larger "social" sphere, and giving a logical preeminence to the family triangle, Deleuze and Guattari argue that the family should be opened onto the social, as in Bergson's conception of the Open, and that underneath the pseudo-opposition between family (composed of personal subjects) and social, lies the relationship between pre-individual desire and social production.

Furthermore, they argue that schizophrenia is an extreme mental state co-existent with the capitalist system itself and capitalism keeps enforcing neurosis as a way of maintaining normality. However, they oppose a non-clinical concept of "schizophrenia" as deterritorialization to the clinical end-result "schizophrenic" (i.e. they do not intend to romanticize "mental disorders"; instead, they show, as Foucault, that "psychiatric disorders" are always second to something else).

Body without organs

Deleuze and Guattari describe the BwO as an egg: "it is crisscrossed with axes and thresholds, with latitudes and longitudes and geodesic lines, traversed by gradients marking the transitions and the becomings, the destinations of the subject developing along these particular vectors."
Body without organs

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari develop their concept of the "body without organs" (often rendered as BwO). Since desire can take on as many forms as there are persons to implement it, it must seek new channels and different combinations to realize itself, forming a BwO for every instance. Desire is not limited to the affections of a subject. In their later work, A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Deleuze and Guattari differentiate between three kinds of BwO: cancerous, empty, and full.

Criticism of psychoanalysts

Deleuze and Guattari address the case of Gérard Mendel, Bela Grunberger and Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, who were prominent members of the most respected psychoanalytic association (the International Psychoanalytical Association). They argue that this case demonstrates that psychoanalysis enthusiastically embraces a police state:

As to those who refuse to be oedipalized in one form or another, at one end or the other in the treatment, the psychoanalyst is there to call the asylum or the police for help. The police on our side!—never did psychoanalysis better display its taste for supporting the movement of social repression, and for participating in it with enthusiasm. [...] notice of the dominant tone in the most respected associations: consider Dr. Mendel and the Drs Stéphane, the state of fury that is theirs, and their literally police-like appeal at the thought that someone might try to escape the Oedipal dragnet. Oedipus is one of those things that becomes all the more dangerous the less people believe in it; then the cops are there to replace the high priests.

Bela Grunberger and Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel were two psychoanalysts from the Paris section of the International Psychoanalytical Association. In November 1968 they disguised themselves under the pseudonym André Stéphane and published L’univers Contestationnaire, in which they argued that the left-wing rioters of May 68 were totalitarian stalinists, and proceeded to psychoanalyze them as suffering from a sordid infantilism caught up in an Oedipal revolt against the Father. Jacques Lacan regarded Grunberger and Chasseguet-Smirgel's book with great disdain; while they were still disguised under the pseudonym, Lacan remarked that he was certain that neither author belonged to his school, as none would abase themselves to such low drivel. The IPa analysts responded with an accusation against the Lacan school of "intellectual terrorism." Gérard Mendel published La révolte contre le père (1968) and Pour décoloniser l’enfant (1971).

Fascism, the family, and the desire for oppression

In a preface written for the English-language edition, Michel Foucault describes Anti-Oedipus as a contribution towards the fight against fascism—he suggests that it may be called "an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life." The book attempts to track down "all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everyday lives." Thus, it is concerned "not only [with] historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini," he stresses, "but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploit us."

Desiring self-repression

Deleuze and Guattari address a fundamental problem of political philosophy: the contradictory phenomenon whereby an individual or a group comes to desire their own oppression. This contradiction had been mentioned briefly by the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza: "Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?" That is, how is it possible that people cry for "More taxes! Less bread!"? Wilhelm Reich discussed the phenomenon in his 1933 book The Mass Psychology of Fascism:

the astonishing thing is not that some people steal or that others occasionally go out on strike, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice, and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike: after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, that they actually want humiliation and slavery not only for others but for themselves?"

To address this question, Deleuze and Guattari examine the relationships between social organisation, power, and desire, particularly in relation to the Freudian "Oedipus complex" and its familial mechanisms of subjectivation ("daddy-mommy-me"). They argue that the nuclear family is the most powerful agent of psychological repression, under which the desires of the child and the adolescent are repressed and perverted. Such psychological repression forms docile individuals that are easy targets for social repression.

By using this powerful mechanism, the dominant class, "making cuts (coupures) and segregations pass over into a social field", can ultimately control individuals or groups, ensuring general submission. This explains the contradictory phenomenon in which people "act manifestly counter to their class interests—when they rally to the interests and ideals of a class that their own objective situation should lead them to combat". Deleuze and Guattari's critique of these mechanisms seeks to promote a revolutionary liberation of desire:

If desire is repressed, it is because every position of desire, no matter how small, is capable of calling into question the established order of a society: not that desire is asocial, on the contrary. But it is explosive; there is no desiring-machine capable of being assembled without demolishing entire social sectors. Despite what some revolutionaries think about this, desire is revolutionary in its essence — desire, not left-wing holidays! — and no society can tolerate a position of real desire without its structures of exploitation, servitude, and hierarchy being compromised.

The family under capitalism as an agent of repression

The family is the agent to which capitalist production delegates the psychological repression of the desires of the child. Psychological repression is distinguished from social oppression insofar as it works unconsciously. Through it, Deleuze and Guattari argue, parents transmit their angst and irrational fears to their child and bind the child's sexual desires to feelings of shame and guilt.

Psychological repression is strongly linked with social oppression, which levers on it. It is thanks to psychological repression that individuals are transformed into docile servants of social repression who come to desire self-repression and who accept a miserable life as employees for capitalism. A capitalist society needs a powerful tool to counteract the explosive force of desire, which has the potential to threaten its structures of exploitation, servitude, and hierarchy; the nuclear family is precisely the powerful tool able to counteract those forces.

The action of the family not only performs a psychological repression of desire, but it disfigures it, giving rise to a consequent neurotic desire, the perversion of incestuous drives and desiring self-repression, as also said by Foucault in the preface, loving power and desiring "the very thing that dominates and exploit us." The Oedipus complex arises from this double operation: "It is in one and the same movement that the repressive social production is replaced by the repressing family, and that the latter offers a displaced image of desiring-production that represents the repressed as incestuous familial drives."

Capitalism and the political economy of desire

Territorialisation, deterritorialisation, and reterritorialisation

Although (like most Deleuzo-Guattarian terms) deterritorialization has a purposeful variance in meaning throughout their oeuvre, it can be roughly described as a move away from a rigidly imposed hierarchical, arborescent context, which seeks to package things (concepts, objects, etc.) into discrete categorised units with singular coded meanings or identities, towards a rhizomatic zone of multiplicity and fluctuant identity, where meanings and operations flow freely between said things, resulting in a dynamic, constantly changing set of interconnected entities with fuzzy individual boundaries.

Importantly, the concept implies a continuum, not a simple binary - every actual assemblage (a flexible term alluding to the heterogeneous composition of any complex system, individual, social, geological) is marked by simultaneous movements of territorialization (maintenance) and of deterritorialization (dissipation).

Various means of deterritorializing are alluded to by the authors in their chapter "How to Make Yourself A Body Without Organs" in A Thousand Plateaus, including psychoactives such as peyote. Experientially, the effects of such substances can include a loosening (relative deterritorialization) of the worldview of the user (i.e. his/her beliefs, models, etc.), subsequently leading to an antiredeterritorialization (remapping of beliefs, models, etc.) that is not necessarily identical to the prior territory.

Deterritorialization is closely related to Deleuzo-Guattarian concepts such as line of flight, destratification and the body without organs/BwO (a term borrowed from Artaud), and is sometimes defined in such a way as to be partly interchangeable with these terms (most specifically in the second part of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus).

The authors posit that dramatic reterritorialization often follows relative deterritorialization, while absolute deterritorialization is just that... absolute deterritorialization without any reterritorialization.

Terminology borrowed from science

During the course of their argument, Deleuze and Guattari borrow a number of concepts from different scientific fields. To describe the process of desire, they draw on fluid dynamics, the branch of physics that studies how a fluid flows through space. They describe society in terms of forces acting in a vector field. They also relate processes of their "body without organs" to the embryology of an egg, from which they borrow the concept of an inductor.


Joel Kovel credits Anti-Oedipus with providing a definitive challenge to the mystique of the family, but objects that Deleuze and Guattari did so in the spirit of nihilism, commenting, "Immersion in their world of 'schizoculture' and desiring machines is enough to make a person yearn for the secure madness of the nuclear family." Douglas Kellner describes Anti-Oedipus as its era's publishing sensation, and, along with Jean-François Lyotard's Libidinal Economy, as a key text in "the micropolitics of desire."

David Cooper called Anti-Oedipus, "a magnificent vision of madness as a revolutionary force, the decoding, deterritorializing refusal of fixity and outside definition by schizophrenia (they insist on this term) as opposed to a paranoid-capitalist pole and as a depassment of the oedipian, familial neurotic state of non-existence (paranoid-fascist as opposed to revolutionary schizophrenia - but clearly showing that 'the schizophrenic' is not 'the revolutionary', nor the revolutionary schizoid). These authors effectively used the psychoanalytic language and the discourse of Saussure (and his successors), linguistics against itself in what is already proving to be an historic act of depassment."

Frederick Crews writes that when Deleuze and Guattari "indicted Lacanian psychoanalysis as a capitalist disorder" and "pilloried analysts as the most sinister priest-manipulators of a psychotic society" in Anti-Oedipus, their "demonstration was widely regarded as unanswerable" and "devastated the already shrinking Lacanian camp in Paris."

See also


  • Deleuze, Gilles. 2004. Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953-1974. Trans. Michael Taormina. Ed. David Lapoujade. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents ser. Los Angeles and New York: Semiotext(e). ISBN 1-58435-018-0.
  • Deleuze, Gilles and Michel Foucault. 1972. "Intellectuals and Power." In Deleuze (2004, 206-213).
  • Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1972. Anti-Oedipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of L'Anti-Oedipe. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit. ISBN 0-8264-7695-3. Preview available on Google Books
  • ---. 1980. A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of Mille Plateaux. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit. ISBN 0-8264-7694-5.
  • Foucault, Michel. 1977. Preface. In Deleuze and Guattari (1972, xiii-xvi).
  • Guattari, Félix. 1992. Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1995. Trans. of Chaosmose. Paris: Éditions Galilée. ISBN 0-909952-25-6.
  • ---. 2004 The Anti-Oedipus Papers. Ed. Stéphane Nadaud. Trans. Kélina Gotman. New York: Semiotext(e), 2006. ISBN 1-58435-031-8.
  • Holland, Eugene W. 1999. Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-11319-9.
  • Seem, Mark. 1977. Introduction. In Deleuze and Guattari (1972, xvii-xxvi.

Further reading

  • Abou-Rihan, Fadi. 2008. "Deleuze and Guattari: A Psychoanalytic Itinerary." London/New York: Continuum. ISBN 1-84706-371-3.
  • Alliez, Éric. 2004. "Anti-Oedipus – Thirty Years On (Between Art and Politics)." Trans. Alberto Toscano. In Deleuze and the Social. Ed. Martin Fulgsang and Bent Meier Sorenson. Deleuze Connections ser. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2006. 151–68. ISBN 0-7486-2093-1.
  • Badiou, Alain. 2004. "The Flux and the Party: In the Margins of Anti-Oedipus." Trans. Laura Balladur and Simon Krysl. Polygraph 15/16: 75–92.
  • Buchanan, Ian, ed. 1999. A Deleuzean Century? Durham, NC: Duke UP. ISBN 0-8223-2392-3.
  • ---. 2008. Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: A Reader's Guide. London and New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-9149-9.
  • Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari 1975. Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature. Trans. Dana Polan. Theory and History of Literature 30. Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesota P, 1986. Trans. of Kafka: Pour une literature mineure. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit. ISBN 0-8166-1515-2.
  • Flieger, Jerry Aline. 1999. "Overdetermined Oedipus: Mommy, Daddy and Me as Desiring-Machine." In Buchanan (1999, 219–240).
  • Guattari, Félix. 1984. Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics. Trans. Rosemary Sheed. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-055160-3.
  • ---. 1995. Chaosophy. Ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Ser. New York: Semiotext(e). ISBN 1-57027-019-8.
  • ---. 1996. Soft Subversions. Ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Trans. David L. Sweet and Chet Wiener. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Ser. New York: Semiotext(e). ISBN 1-57027-030-9.
  • Hocquenghem, Guy. 1972. Homosexual Desire. Trans. Daniella Dangoor. 2nd ed. Series Q ser. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1993. ISBN 0-8223-1384-7.
  • Jameson, Fredric. 1999. "Marxism and Dualism in Deleuze." In Buchanan (1999, 13-36).
  • Lambert, Gregg. 2006. Who's Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? London and New York: Continuum.
  • Massumi, Brian. 1992. A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. Swerve editions. Cambridge, USA and London: MIT. ISBN 0-262-63143-1.

See also

"Why did the masses desire fascism?"

In Anti-Œdipus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari followed up Reich's problem: "why did the masses desire fascism?", which led them to a critique of Freudo-Marxism.

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