1974. About Anti-Oedipus by Monique David-Ménard
The 1972 publication of Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, marks the unexplained distancing between psychoanalysis and the philosophical critiques of the “Oedipus complex”, considered as a myth forged by Freud. Reading three of the positions on “Oedipus” which have emerged following this publication – that of Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault and Wladimir Granoff – this paper aims to assess today’s relevance of a debate which, forty years ago, failed to happen.
Do we need sexual politics1? And if so, should it be pursued in the name of desire or in the name of pleasure? This question may help us introduce the disagreement between Deleuze-Guattari and Foucault, following the publication of Anti-Oedipus. It also concerns the fact that since it was perceived as a violent attack on psychoanalysis, the 1972 text was in fact not read by many psychoanalysts. Today, when a number of contemporary readings emphasize the “late Lacan’s” own efforts to relativize the primacy of the Oedipus complex as the sole model of the symbolic function, I would like to discuss the various reactions to Anti-Oedipus, at the time of the work’s firstly reception in France of 1974. The book was in fact published already in 1972 and it is very interesting to see the way in which those where were able to read what certainly did seem a scathing attack on psychoanalysis reacted to its appearance.
Why then 1974? This was the year of the Brazilian publication of Foucault’s lectures on “Truth and Judicial Forms,” which he had given at the Pontifical University of Rio the previous year. In the second of these lectures, Foucault undertakes a reading of Sophocles’ King Oedipus: as an indirect answer to Deleuze and Guattari but also to encourage, within this catholic Brazilian university, an uncompromising debate with the psychoanalysts, who refused to understand how can Foucault, precisely on the subject of Oedipus, completely disregard Freud and Lacan. At the same time, 1973-1974 was also the period of Lacan’s increasingly explicit criticism of his own earlier theory of Oedipus. He published L’Étourdit and Encore and his seminar of that year was called “Les non-dupes errent,”* which tells us quite clearly that the reconsideration of the theory of the Name-of-the-Father did not spell its abandonment. The question of sexuation is redefined as well, using firstly logic and then topology, in order to unravel the previously established yet all-too-strong connections between the Oedipus complex, the symbolic as the key to the paternal function and the forms of sexuation. In Lacan’s “formulas of sexuation,” the question of thecontingent is decisive and it is understood as what does not cease to not write itself, i.e. to not inscribe itself – were it merely by contradiction – in the universality of the function characterizing the “masculine” side of Lacan’s diagram. Is Lacan here responding, in his own way, to Anti-Oedipus? Or does his criticism of the Oedipal myth – as representing only one of the possible articulations between the real, the symbolic and the imaginary and enabling the subject of desire to avoid psychosis – only depend on the internal movement of his own thought? We must assume that we cannot really know: yet, the simultaneity of these works is in itself instructive. After all, 1974 is also the date of the publication of Wladimir Granoff’s seminar on Filiations: the future of the Oedipus complex, which explicitly mentions Anti-Oedipus, while simultaneously critiquing the aspects of Lacan’s teaching which try to employ the mathemes of sexuation precisely in order to do without what remains contingent in the history of psychoanalysis: the contingency of Freud’s singular relationship to his own father. The less psychoanalysis knows about what it owes to this singular factor – Granoff uses the term foreclosure – the deeper the confusion between the analyst’s role and the figure of the master, which pervades the psychoanalytic institutions, at that time particularly the Ecole Freudienne de Paris. The more we develop general theories of the paternal function and of sexuation, whether it is formalized or not, the harder it is for us to see that it is precisely through each analyst’s resistances to bisexuality and to sexual difference that the Oedipus plays its role in the transmission of psychoanalysis. The subtitle of Granoff’s work is here particularly suggestive: Filiation: the future of the Oedipus complex. (...)
1- A version of this text was presented during the conference “Politique du sexuel,” organized by Laurie Laufer, Françoise Neau and SandraBoehringer in April 2010; it was later developed in Chapter Five of my book Éloge des hasards dans la vie sexuelle, forthcoming from Hermann in 2011.