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by Parmenides Saturday, Apr. 26, 2003 at 10:13 AM


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 adversary. 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 indifference... 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 accumulation.

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