Subject to Nature: a comparative study of the bodily dimension in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus and 1905 Freud's Three Essays on Sexuality

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The article examines Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus with regard to its relation to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. The aim is to present a reading that looks more closely at the relationship between the Anti-Oedipus and Freud, going beyond the ever present polemical tone of the work against the latter, fact that can disguise the possibility of another interpretation. I will focus on two aspects which might serve as a bridge between Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of desire and the theory of sexuality in the early Freud: the primacy of sexuality and the particular role within it played by primary repression. My claim is that, while retaining Freud’s basic structure, their originality lies in giving a completely new meaning and perspective to the natural paradigms embedded in the Freudian theory. It is possible to identify both where there is continuity and where difference arises between these two ways of conceiving desire as being embedded in nature: in Freud this means fundamentally, first, the distinction between biological functions and sexuality and, second, human subjectivity as grounded in the changes within sexuality brought by primary repression. Deleuze and Guattari maintain a biological terminology in describing the basic natural elements, the organs. At the same time, however, they do not equate desire with sexuality but rather with the relation occurring between organs and social phenomena, for which also the role of primary repression changes significantly. Ultimately, although the distances can be only reduced while not overcome, I think that by taking this detour through the early Freud and by fostering a dialogue between him and the two French authors, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of some of the key features of Anti-Oedipus in a way that helps us move beyond the initial polemic impact of the text.
Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen