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Capitalism : A very special delusion~G. DeLeuze

by Parmenides Saturday, Apr. 26, 2003 at 2:53 PM

Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium an interview with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium

an interview with

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

in: "Chaosophy", ed. Sylvere Lothringer, Autonomedia/Semiotexte 1995

with permission by the publishers

ACTUEL: When you describe capitalism, you say: "There isn't the

slightest operation, the slightest industrial or financial mechanism that

does not reveal the dementia of the capitalist machine and the pathological

character of its rationality (not at all a false rationality, but a true

rationality of *this* pathology, of *this madness*, for the machine does

work, be sure of it). There is no danger of this machine going mad, it has

been mad from the beginning and that's where its rationality comes from.

Does this mean that after this "abnormal" society, or outside of it, there

can be a "normal" society?

GILLES DELEUZE: We do not use the terms "normal" or "abnormal". All

societies are rational and irrational at the same time. They are perforce

rational in their mechanisms, their cogs and wheels, their connecting

systems, and even by the place they assign to the irrational. Yet all this

presuposes codes or axioms which are not the products of chance, but which

are not intrinsically rational either. It's like theology: everything about

it is rational if you accept sin, immaculate conception, incarnation. Reason

is always a region cut out of the irrational -- not sheltered from the

irrational at all, but a region traveresed by the irrational and defined

only by a certain type of relation between irrational factors. Underneath

all reason lies delirium, drift. Everything is rational in capitalism,

except capital or capitalism itself. The stock market is certainly rational;

one can understand it, study it, the capitalists know how to use it, and yet

it is completely delirious, it's mad. It is in this sense that we say: the

rational is always the rationality of an irrational. Something that hasn't

been adequately discussed about Marx's *Capital* is the extent to which he

is fascinated by capitalists mechanisms, precisely because the system is

demented, yet works very well at the same time. So what is rational in a

society? It is -- the interests being defined in the framework of this

society -- the way people pursue those interests, their realisation. But

down below, there are desires, investments of desire that cannot be confused

with the investments of interest, and on which interests depend in their

determination and distribution: an enormous flux, all kinds of

libidinal-unconscious flows that make up the delirium of this society. The

true story is the history of desire. A capitalist, or today's technocrat,

does not desire in the same way as a slave merchant or official of the

ancient Chinese empire would. That people in a society desire repression,

both for others and *for themselves*, that there are always people who want

to bug others and who have the opportunity to do so, the "right" to do so,

it is this that reveals the problem of a deep link between libidinal desire

and the social domain. A "disinterested" love for the oppressive machine:

Nietzsche said some beautiful things about this permanent triumph of slaves,

on how the embittered, the depressed and the weak, impose their mode of life

upon us all.

Q: So what is specific to capitalism in all this?

GD: Are delirium and interest, or rather desire and reason,

distributed in a completely new, particularly "abnormal" way in capitalism?

I believe so. Capital, or money, is at such a level of insanity that

psychiatry has but one clinical equivalent: the terminal stage. It is too

complicated to describe here, but one detail should be mentioned. In other

societies, there is exploitation, there are also scandals and secrets, but

that is part of the "code", there are even explicitly secret codes. With

capitalism, it is very different: nothing is secret, at least in principle

and according to the code (this is why capitalism is "democratic" and can

"publicize" itself, even in a juridical sense). And yet nothing is

admissable. Legality itself is inadmissable. By contrast to other societies,

it is a regime born of the public *and* the admissable. A very special

delirium inherent to the regime of money. Take what are called scandals

today: newspapers talk a lot about them, some people pretend to defend

themselves, others go on the attack, yet it would be hard to find anything

illegal in terms of the capitalist regime. The prime minister's tax returns,

real estate deals, pressure groups, and more generally the economical and

financial mechanisms of capital -- in sum, everything is legal, except for

little blunders, what is more, everything is public, yet nothing is

admissable. If the left was "reasonable," it would content itself with

vulgarizing economic and financial mechanisms. There's no need to publicize

what is private, just make sure that what is already public is beeing

admitted publicly. One would find oneself in a state of dementia without

equivalent in the hospitals.

Instead, one talks of "ideology". But ideology has no importance whatsoever:

what matters is not ideology, not even the "economico-ideological"

distinction or opposition, but the *organisation of power*. Because

organization of power-- that is, the manner in which desire is already in

the economic, in which libido invests the economic -- haunts the exonomic

and nourishes political forms of repression.

Q: So is ideology a trompe l'oeil?

GD: Not at all. To say "ideology is a trompe l'oeil, " that's still

the traditional thesis. One puts the infrastructure on one side-- the

economic, the serious-- and on the other, the superstructure, of which

ideology is a part, thus rejecting the phenomena of desire in ideology. It's

a perfect way to ignore how desire works within the infrastructure, how it

invests in it, how it takes part in it, how, in this respect, it organizes

power and the repressive system. We do not say: ideology is a trompe l'oeil

(or a concept that refers to certain illusions) We say: there is no

ideology, it is an illusion. That's why it suits orthodox Marxism and the

Communist Party so well. Marxism has put so much emphasis on the theme of

ideology to better conceal what was happening in the USSR: a new

organization of repressive power. There is no ideology, there are only

organizations of power once it is admitted that the organization of power is

the unity of desire and the economic infrastructure. Take two examples.

Education: in May 1968 the leftists lost a lot of time insisting that

professors engage in public self-criticism as agents of bourgeois ideology.

IT's stupid, and simply fuels the masochistic impulses of academics. The

struggle against the competitive examination was abandoned for the benefit

of the controversy, or the great anti-ideological public confession. In the

meantime, the more conservative professors had no difficulty reorganizing

their power. The problem of education is not an ideological problem, but a

problem of the organization of power: it is the specificity of educational

power that makes it appear to be an ideology, but it's pure illusion. Power

in the primary schools, that means something, it affects all children.

Second example: Christianity. The church is perfectly pleased to be treated

as an ideology. This can be argued; it feeds ecumenism. But Christianity has

never been an ideology; it's a very specific organization of power that has

assumed diverse forms since the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, and which

was able to invent the idea of international power. It's far more important

than ideology.

FELIX GUATTARI: It's the same thing in traditional political

structures. One finds the old trick being played everywhere again and again:

a big ideological debate in the general assembly and questions of

organization reserved for special commissions. These questions appear

secondary, determinded by political options. While on the contrary, the real

problems are those of organization, never specified or rationalized, but

projected afterwards in ideological terms. There the real divisions show up:

a treatment of desire and power, of investments, of group Oedipus, of group

"superegos", of perverse phenomena, etc. And then political oppositions are

bilt up: the individual takes such a position against another one, because

in the scheme of organization of power, he has already chosen and hates his


Q: Your analysis is convincing in the case of the Soviet Union and

of capitalism. But in the particulars? If all ideological oppositions mask,

by definition, the conflicts of desire, how would you analyze, for example,

the divergences of three Trotskyite groupuscules? Of what conflict of desire

can this be the result? Despite the political quarrels, each group seems to

fulfill the same function vis-a-vis its militants: a reassuring hierarchy,

the reconstitution of a small social milieu, a final explanation of the

world.... I dont't see the difference.

FG: Because any resemblance to existing groups is merely fortuitous,

one can well imagine one of these groups defining itself first by its

fidelity to hardened positions of the communist left after the creation of

the Third International. It's a whole axiomatics, down to the phonological

level -- the way of articulating certain words, the gesture that accompanies

them -- and then the structures of organization, the conception of what sort

of relationships to maintain with the allies, the centrists, the

adversaries.... This may correspond to a certain figure of Oedipalization, a

reassuring, intangible universe like that of the obsessive who loses his

sense of security if one shifts the position of a single, familar object.

It's a question of reaching, through this kind of identification with

recurrent figures and images, a certain type of efficiency that

characterized Stalinism--except for its ideology, prescisely. In other

respects, one keeps the general framework of the method, but adapts oneself

to it very carefully: "The enemy is the same, comrades, but the conditions

have changed." Then one has a more open groupuscule. It's a compromise: one

has crossed out the first image, whilst maintaining it, and injected other

notions. One multiplies meetings and training sessions, but also the

external interventions. For the desiring will, there is --- as Zazie says--

a certain way of bugging students and militants, among others.

In the final analysis, all these groupuscules say basically the same

thing. But they are radically opposed in their *style*: the definition of

the leader, of propaganda, a conception of discipline, loyality, modesty,

and the asceticism of the militant. How does one account for these

polarities without rummaging in the economy of desire of the social machine?

>From anarchists to Maoists the spread is very wide, politically as much as

analytically. Without even considering the mass of people, outside the

limited range of the groupuscules, who do not quite know how to distinguish

between the leftist elan, the appeal of union action, revolt, hesitation of


One must explain the role of these machines.. these goupuscules and their

work of stacking and sifting--in cr*shing desire. It's a dilemma: to be

broken by the social system of to be integrated in the pre-established

structure of these little churches. In a way, May 1968 was an astonishing

revelation. The desiring power became so accelerated that it broke up the

groupuscules. These later pulled themselves together; they participated in

the reordering business with the other repressive forces, the CGT [Communist

worker's union], the PC, the CRS [riot police]. I don't say this to be

provocative. Of course, the militants courageously fought the police. But if

one leaves the sphere of struggle to consider the function of desire, one

must recognize that certain groupuscules approached the youth in a spirit of

repression: to contain liberated desire in order to re-channel it.

Q: What is liverated desire? I certainly see how this can be

translated at the level of an individual or small group: an artistic

creation, or breaking windows, bnurning things, or even simply an orgy or

letting things go to hell through laziness or vegetating. But then what?

What could a collectively liberated desire be at the level of a social

group? And what does this signify in relation to t"the totality of society",

if you do not reject this term as Michel Foucault does.

FG: We have taken desire in one of its most critical, most acute

stages: that of the schizophrenic--and the schizo that can produce something

within or beyond the scope of the confined schizo, battered down with drugs

and social repression. It appears to us that certain schizophrenics directly

express a free deciphering of desire. But now does one conceive a collective

form of the economy of desire? Certainly not at the local level. I would

have a lot of difficulty imagining a small, liberated community maintaining

itself against the flows of a repressive society, like the addition of

individuals emancipated one by one. If, on the contrary, desire constitutes

the very texture of society in its entirety, including in its mechanisms of

reproduction, a movement of liberation can "crystallize" in the whole of

society. In May 1968, from the first sparks to local clashes, the shake-up

was brutally transmitted to the whole of society, including some groups that

had nothing remotely to do with the revolutionary movement--doctors,

lawyers, grocers. Yet it was vested interests that carried the day, but only

after a month of burning. We are moving toward explosions of this type, yet

more profound.

Q: Might there have already been a vigorous and durable liberation

of desire in hostpry, apart from brief periods. a celebration, cartnage,

war, opr revolutionary upheavals? Or do you really believe in an end of

history. after millenia of alienation, social evolution will suddenly turn

around in a final revolution that will liberate desire forever?

FG: Neither the one nor the other. Neither a final end to history,

nor provisional excess. All civilizations, all periods have known ends of

history--this is not necessarily convincing and not necessarily liberating.

As for excewss, or moments of celebration, this is no more reassuring. There

are militant revolutionaries who feel a sense of responsibility and say: Yes

excess "at the first stage of revolution," serious things... Or desire is

not liberated in simple moments of celebration. See the discussion between

Victor and Foucault in the issue of *Les Temps Modernes* on the Maoists.

Victor consents to excess, but at the "first stage". As for the rest, as for

the real thing, Vicotr calls for a new apparatus of state, new norms, a

popular justice with a tribunal, a legal process external to the masses, a

third party capable of resolving contradictions among the masses. One always

finds the old schema: the detachment of a pseude-avant-garde capable of

bringing about syntheses, of forming a party as an embryo of state

apparatus, of drawing out a well brought up, well educated working class;

and the rest is a residue, a lumpen-proletariat one should always mistrust

(the same old condemnation of desire). But these distinctions themselves are

another way of trapping desire for the advantage of a bureaucratic caste.

Foucault reacts by denounding the third party, saying that if there is

popular justice, it does not issue from a tribunal. He shows very well that

the distinction "avant-garde-lumpen-proletariat" is first of all a

distinction introduced by the bourgeoise to the masses, and therefore serves

to crush the phenomena of desire, to *marginalize* desire. The whole

question is that of state apparatus. It would be strange to rely on a party

or state apparatus for the liberation of desire. To want better justice is

like wanting better judges, better cops, better bosses, a cleaner France,

etc. And then we are told: how would you unify isolated struggles without a

party? How do you make the machine work without a state apparatus? It is

evident that a revolution requires a war machine, out this is not a state

apparatus, it is also certain that it requires an instance of analysis, an

analysis of the desires of the masses, yet this is not an apparatus external

to the synthesis. Liberated desire means that desire escapes the impasse of

private fantasy: it is not a question of adapting it, socializing it,

disciplining it, but of plugging it in in such a way that its process not be

interrupted in the social body, and that its expression be collective. What

counts is not hte authoritarian unification, but rather a sort of infinite

spreading: desire in the schools, the factories, the neighborhoods, the

nursery schools, the prisons, etc. It is not a question of directing, of

tatalizing, but of plugging into the same plan of oscillation. As long as

one alternates between the impotent spontaneity of anarchy and the

bureaucratic and hierarchic coding of a party organization, there is no

liberation of desire.

Q: In the beginning, was capitalism able to assume the social desires?

GD: Of course, capitalism was and remains a formidable desiring

machine. The monary flux, the means of production, of manpower, of new

markets, all that is the flow of desire. It's enough to consider the sum of

contingencies at the origin of capitalism to see to what degree it has been

a crossroads of desires, and that its infrastructure, even its economy, was

inseparable from the phenomnea of desire. And fascism too--one must say that

it has "assumed the social desires", including the desires of repression and

death. People got hard-ons for Hitler, for the beautiful fascist machine.

But if your question means: was capitalism revolutionary in its beginnings,

has the industrial revolution ever coincided with a social revolution? No, I

don't thing so. Capitalism has been tied from its birth to a savage

repressiveness; it had it's organization of power and its state apparatus

from the start. Did capitalism imply a dissolution of the previous social

codes and powers? Certainly. But it had alread established its wheels of

power, including its power of state, in the fissures of previous regimes. It

is always like that: things are not so progressive; even before a social

formation is established, its instruments of exploitation and repression are

already there, still turning in the vaccuum, but ready to work at full

capacity. The first capitalists are like waiting birds of prey. They wait

for their meeting with the worker, the one who drops through the cracks of

the preceding system. It is even, in every sense, what one calls primitive


Thanks to Athens Indymedia

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