Anti-Œdipus (1972) is a book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It is the first volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the second volume being A Thousand Plateaus (1980). It presents an analysis of human psychology, economics, society, and history, showing how "primitive", "despotic", and "capitalist regimes" differ in their organization of production, inscription, and consumption. It claims to describe how capitalism ultimately channels all desires through an axiomatic money-based economy, a form of organization that is abstract, rather than local or material.

Key Concepts

Desiring Machines & Social Production

Michel Foucault writes in the introduction, "...Anti-Œdipus is an introduction to the nonfascist life. Where capitalist society trains us to believe that desire equals lack and that the only way to meet our desires is to consume, Anti-Œdipus has a different take: desire does not come from lack, as in the Freudian understanding. On the contrary, desire is a productive force. "It is not a theater, but a factory". The opposition to the notion of lack is one of the main criticisms Deleuze and Guattari make both to Freud and Marxism. Desire is a productive, real force — whereas psychoanalysis limits desire to imaginary fantasies.

Like their contemporary, R.D. Laing, and like Wilhelm Reich before them, they link personal psychic repression with social repression. In such a framework, Deleuze and Guattari describe the productive nature of desire as a kind of Desiring-Machine that functions as a circuit breaker in a larger "circuit" of various other machines to which it is connected. And the Desiring-Machine is at the same time also producing a flow of desire from itself. Deleuze and Guattari imagine a multi-functional universe composed of such machines all connected to each other: "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." Thus, they opposed Freud's concept of sublimation, which led to a necessary dualism between desiring machines and social production, which had trapped Laing and Reich. Their book is hence both a critique of Freud and Lacan's psychoanalysis, and also of Freudo-Marxism. They oppose an "inhumane molecular sexuality" to "molar" binary sexuality: "making love is not just becoming as one, or even two, but becoming as a hundred thousand." Deleuze and Guattari's concept of sexuality is not limited to the connectivity of just male and female gender roles, but by the multi-gendered flows that a "hundred thousand" Desiring-Machines create within their connected universe.

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. 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. It must be noted, however, that they oppose a non-clinical concept of "schizophrenia" as deterritorialization to the clinical end-result "schizophrenic" (i.e. they never intended to romanticize "mental disorders"; instead, they show, as Foucault, that "psychiatric disorders" are always second to something else... maybe to the "absence d'oeuvre"?).

Body without organs

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari begin to develop their concept of the BwO - body without organs, their term for the changing social body of desire. 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, Mille Plateaux (1980), Deleuze and Guattari eventually differentiate between three kinds of BwO: cancerous, empty, and full. Roughly, the empty BwO is the BwO of Anti-Oedipus. This BwO is also described as "catatonic" because it is completely de-organ-ized; all flows pass through it freely, with no stopping, and no directing. Even though any form of desire can be produced on it, the empty BwO is non-productive. The full BwO is the healthy BwO; it is productive, but not petrified in its organ-ization. The cancerous BwO is caught in a pattern of endless reproduction of the self-same pattern.


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 (ie. his/her beliefs, models, etc.), subsequently leading to a reterritorialization (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.

See also



  • Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1972. Anti-Œdipus. 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 0826476953.
  • ---. 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 litterature mineure. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit. ISBN 0816615152.
  • ---. 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 0826476945.
  • Foucault, Michel. 1972. Preface. In Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Œdipus xiii-xvi.
  • Guattari, Félix. 1984. Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics. Trans. Rosemary Sheed. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 0140551603.
  • ---. 1992. Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1995. Trans. of Chaosmose. Paris: Editions Galilee. ISBN 0909952256.
  • ---. 1995. Chaosophy. Ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Ser. New York: Semiotext(e). ISBN 1570270198.
  • ---. 1996. Soft Subversions. Ed. Sylvère Lotringer. Trans. David L. Sweet and Chet Wiener. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Ser. New York: Semiotext(e). ISBN 1570270309.

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