Monday, October 15, 2012

Félix Guattari - On the Production of Subjectivity

Félix Guattari's "On the Production of Subjectivity" is the first essay in his final book Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm (1992/1995). In it he lays out in detail a conception of subjectivity that he had been developing, often with Gilles Deleuze, over more than two decades. The essay also explores and amplifies his conception of schizoanalysis, one of the central ideas in his philosophy of subjectivity.

None of this is light reading, but it's interesting if you focus on it and follow his reasoning.

Here is a definition of schizoanalysis from Wikipedia.

From Wikipedia 
Schizoanalysis (Schizo from Greek skhizein meaning to split) is a concept created by philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari and first expounded in their book Anti-Oedipus (1972). Its formulation was continued in their follow-up work, A Thousand Plateaus. Schizoanalysis acquires many different definitions during the course of its development in their collaborative work and individually in the work of Guattari. 
Schizoanalysis was developed over a long period of time as a response to the perceived shortcomings in the basic premises of psychoanalytic practice. Guattari was directly confronted with such problems in the work of Sigmund Freud -- namely, the use of the Oedipus Complex as a starting point for the analysis, and the authoritarian role of the psychoanalyst in relationship to the patient. Guattari was interested in a practice that could derive from given systems of enunciation and preexisting subjective structures new "assemblages [agencements] of enunciation" capable of forging new coordinates of analysis and to bring into existence unforeseen propositions and representations. 
In Chaosmosis, Guattari explains that "rather than moving in the direction of reductionist modifications which simplify the complex," schizoanalysis "will work towards its complexification, its processual enrichment, towards the consistency of its virtual lines of bifurcation and differentiation, in short towards its ontological heterogeneity."[1] 
Schizoanalysis can be represented by four circular components that bud and form rhizomes:[2] 

  1. The generative component: the study of concrete mixed semiotics; their mixtures and variations. Making a tracing of the mixed semiotics.
  2. The transformational component: the study of pure semiotics; their transformations-translations and the creation of new semiotics. Making the transformational map of the regimes, with their possibilities for translation and creation, for budding along the lines of the tracings.
  3. The diagrammatic component: the study of abstract machines, from the standpoint of semiotically unformed matters in relation to physically unformed matters. Making the diagram of the abstract machines that are in play in each case, either as potentialities or as effective emergences. 
  4. The machinic component: the study of the assemblages that effectuate abstract machines, simultaneously semiotizing matters of expression and physicalizing matters of content. Outlining the program of the assemblages that distribute everything and bring a circulation of movement with alternatives, jumps, and mutations.
Schizoanalysis is also analysis of "non human sex" on sexuality.[3] 
  1. Anywhere the microscopic transsexuality, which makes women contain man, and man woman, being able to enter each others, in relation to the desiring production that turn away the statistical order of sex. Making love is not act by one, even two sexes, but act of hundred thousand. The desiring machines or non human sexes are. The schizo-analysis is the varitable analysis of the n... sexes in a subject, beyond the anthropomorphic representation that the society imposes this subject and with which it represent its own sexuality. The schizo-analysic slogan of the desiring revolution will first of all to each own sexes.
With that background, here is the excerpt from Chaosmosis.

From "On the Production of Subjectivity" - in Chaosmosis
A long time ago I renounced the Conscious-Unconscious dualism of the Freudian topoi and all the Manichean oppositions correlative to Oedipal triangulation and to the castration complex. I opted for an Unconscious superposing multiple strata of subjectivation, heterogeneous strata of variable extension and consistency. Thus a more "schizo" Unconscious, one liberated from familial shackles, turned more towards actual praxis than towards fixations on, and regressions to, the past. An Unconscious of Flux and of abstract machines rather than an Unconscious of structure and language. I don't, however, consider my "schizoanalytic cartographies" (4) to be scientific theories. Just as an artist borrows from his precursors and contemporaries the traits which suit him, I invite those who read me to take or reject my concepts freely. The   important thing is not the final result but the fact that the multicomponential cartographic method can co-exist with the process of subjectivation, and that a reappropriation, an autopoiesis, of the means of production of subjectivity can be made possible.

Of course, I am not equating either psychosis to the work of art or the psychoanalyst to the artist! I am only emphasising that the existential registers concerned here involve a dimension of autonomy of an aesthetic order. We are faced with an important ethical choice: either we objectify, reify, "scientifise" subjectivity, or, on the contrary, we try to grasp it in the dimension of its processual creativity. Kant established that the judgement of taste involved subjectivity and its relation to the other in a certain attitude of "disinterestedness."

But it is not enough to designate the categories of disinterestedness and freedom as the essential dimension of the unconscious aesthetic without clarifying their active mode of insertion into the psyche. How do certain semiotic segments achieve their autonomy, start to work for themselves and to secrete new fields of reference? It is from such a rupture that an existential singularisation correlative to the genesis of new coefficients of freedom will become possible. This detachment of an ethico-aesthetic "partial object" from the field of dominant significations corresponds both to the promotion of a mutant desire and to the achievement of a certain disinterestedness (5). Here I would like to establish a bridge between the concept of a partial object (object "a" as theorised by Lacan) that marks the autonomisation of the components of unconscious subjectivity, and the subjective autonomisation relative to the aesthetic object. At this point we rediscover a problematic highlighted by MikhaIl Bakhtin in his first theoretical essay (6) of 1924: the function of enunciative appropriation of aesthetic form by the autonomisation of cognitive or ethical content and the realisation of this content in an aesthetic object - what I will call a partial enunciator. I am attempting to draw the psychoanalytic partial object that is adjacent to the body - the point of coupling of the drive - towards a partial enunciation. The expansion of the notion of partial object, to which Lacan contributed with the inclusion of the gaze and the voice in the object "a", needs to be followed up. This entails expanding the category to cover the full range of nuclei of subjective autonomisation relative to group subjects, and to instances of the production of subjectivity (machinic, ecological, archictectural, religious, etc.); Bakhtin described a transference of subjectivation operating between the author and the contemplator of a work of art - the "spectator" in Marcel Duchamp's sense. According to Bakhtin, in this movement the "consumer" in some way becomes co-creator; the aesthetic form only achieving this result through the device of an isolating or separating function of such a kind that the expressive material becomes formally creative. The content of the work of art detaches itself from its connotations that are as much cognitive as aesthetic: "isolation or detachment relates not to the material, not to the work as thing, but to its significance, to its content, which is freed from certain necessary connections with the unity of nature and the unity of the ethical event of being" (7). There is thus a certain type of fragment of content that "takes possession of the author" to engender a certain mode of aesthetic enunciation. In music, for example, as Bakhtin emphasises, isolation and invention cannot be axiologically related to the material: "It is not the sound of acoustics that is isolated, and not the mathematical number of the compositional order that is made up. What is detached and fictively irreversible is the event of striving, the axiological tension, which actualises itself thanks to that without any impediment, and becomes consummated" (8). In the domain of poetry, in order to detach itself, autonomise itself, culminate itself, creative subjectivity will tend to seize upon:
1. the sonority of the word, its musical aspect;
2. its material significations with their nuances and variants;
3. its verbal connections;
4. its emotional, intonational and volitional aspects;
5. the feeling of verbal activity in the active generation of a signifying sound, including motor elements of articulation, gesture, mime; the feeling of a movement in which the whole organism together with the activity and soul of the word are swept along in their concrete unity.
And it is this last aspect, declares Bakhtin, that encompasses all the others (9).

These penetrating analyses can lead to an extension of our approach to partial subjectivation. Equally, we find with Bakhtin the idea of irreversibility of the aesthetic object and implicitly the idea of autopoiesis -notions truly necessary to the analysis of Unconscious formations, pedagogy, psychiatry, and more generally to a social field devastated by capitalist subjectivity. Thus it is not only in the context of music and poetry that we see the work of such fragments detached from content, fragments which I place in the category of "existential refrains." The polyphony of modes of subjectivation actually corresponds to a multiplicity of ways of "keeping time." Other rhythmics are thus led to crystallise existential assemblages, which they embody and singularise.

The simplest examples of refrains delimiting existential Territories can be found in the ethology of numerous bird species. Certain specific song sequences serve to seduce a sexual partner, warn off intruders, or announce the arrival of predators (10). Each time this involves marking out a well-defined functional space. In archaic societies, it is through rhythms, chants, dances, masks, marks on the body, ground and totems, on ritual occasions and with mythical references, that other kinds of collective existential Territories are circumscribed,"(11). One finds these sorts of refrains in Greek Antiquity with the "nomes" that constituted, in a way, the "signature tunes" the banners and seals for professional associations. But we all familiar with such crossings of subjective thresholds triggered by a catalysing temporal module that plunges us into sadness or indeed, into an ambience of gaiety and excitement. What we are aiming at with this concept of refrain aren't just massive affects, but hyper-complex refrains, catalysing the emergence of incorporeal Universes such as those of music or mathematics, and crystallising the most deterritorialised existential Territories. This type of transversalist refrain evades strict spatio-temporal delimitation. With it, time ceases to be exterior in order to become an intensive nucleus [foyer] of temporalisation. From this perspective, universal time appears to be no more than a hypothetical projection, a time of generalised equivalence, a "flattened" capitalistic time; what is important are these partial modules of temporalisation; operating in diverse domains (biological, ethological, socio-cultural, machinic, cosmic...), and out of which complex refrains constitute highly relative existential synchronies.

To illustrate this mode of production of polyphonic subjectivity, where a complex refrain plays a dominant role, consider the example of televisual consumption. When I watch television, I exist at the intersection: 1. of   perceptual fascination provoked by the screen's luminous animation which borders on the hypnotic (12), 2. of a captive relation with the narrative content of the program, associated with a lateral awareness of surrounding events (water boiling on the stove, a child's cry, the telephone...), 3. of a world of fantasms occupying my daydreams. My feeling of personal identity is thus pulled in different directions. How can I maintain a relative sense of unicity, despite the diversity of components of subjectivation that pass through me? It's a question of the refrain that fixes me in front of the screen, henceforth constituted as a projective existential node. My identity has become that of the speaker, the person who speaks from the television. Like Bakhtin, I would say that the refrain is not based on elements of form, material or ordinary signification, but on the detachment of an existential "motif' (or leitmotiv) which installs itself like an "attractor" within a sensible and significational chaos. The different components conserve their heterogeneity, but are  nevertheless captured by a refrain which couples them to the existential Territory of my self, In the case of neurotic identity, sometimes the refrain develops into a "hardened" representation, for example, an obsessive ritual. If for any reason this machine of subjectivation is threatened, the whole personality may implode; this occurs in psychosis where the partial components move off on delirious, hallucinatory lines .... The paradoxical concept of a complex refrain will enable us, in psychoanalytic treatment, to refer an interpretive event, no longer to Universals or mathemes, nor to preestablished structures of subjectivity, but rather to what I call a constellation of Universes. This does not involve Universes of reference in general, but incorporeal domains of entities we detect at the same time that we produce them, and which appear to have been always there, from the moment we engender them. Here is the real paradox of these Universes: they are given in the creative moment, like a hecceity freed from discursive time - nuclei of eternity lodged between instants. What's more, over and above the elements of the situation (familial, sexual, conflictual), they involve accounting for the projection of all the lines of virtuality opening up from the event of their appearance. Take a simple example: a patient in the course of treatment remains stuck on a problem, going around in circles, and coming up against a wall. One day he says, without giving it much thought: "I've been thinking of taking up driving lessons again, I haven't driven for years"; or, "I feel like learning word processing." A remark of this kind may remain unnoticed in a traditional conception of analysis. However, this kind of singularity can become a key, activating a complex refrain, which will not only modify the immediate behaviour of the patient, but open up new fields of virtuality for him: the renewal of contact with long lost acquaintances, revisiting old haunts, regaining self confidence .... In this, a rigid neutrality or non-intervention would be negative; it's sometimes necessary to jump at the opportunity, to approve, to run the risk of being wrong, to give it a go, to say, "yes, perhaps this experience is important." Respond to the event as the potential bearer of new constellations of Universes of reference. This is why I have opted for pragmatic interventions orientated towards the construction of subjectities, towards the production of fields of virtualities which wouldn't simply be polarised by a symbolic hermeneutic centered on childhood.

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