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Capitalism, psychiatry, and schizophrenia: a critical introduction to Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus

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Published in 1972, Anti-Oedipus was the first of a number of collaborative works between the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze, and the French psychoanalyst and political activist, Felix Guattari. As the first of a two-volume body of work that bears the subtitle, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Anti-Oedipus is, to say the least, an unconventional work that should be understood, in part, as a product of its time – created as it was among the political and revolutionary fervour engendered by the events of ‘May 1968’. However, this paper will suggest that Anti-Oedipus – as a critique of psychoanalysis and the Oedipus complex, as well as being a study of the relationship between capitalism and schizophrenia – should also be understood in a less ‘time-bound’ fashion. In particular, the paper will examine Deleuze and Guattari’s formulation of a concept of ‘desire’ and its employment in relation to subjectivity, time, capitalism, representation, and the radical ‘therapeutic’ practice that they refer to as ‘schizoanalysis’. Moreover, nearly 40 years after the events of May 1968 and against possible doubts concerning the contemporary relevance of psychoanalysis, it will be suggested that psychoanalysis and the Oedipus complex are to be understood as symptomatic of a wider ‘malaise’ that can be discerned within psychiatry, psychotherapy, and contemporary capitalist society itself, and that it is this that forms the broader target of the book’s critique. Accordingly, by providing an accessible and critical introduction to Anti-Oedipus, the paper also hopes to stimulate further discussion and research regarding both the critique and the contribution that the work can make to contemporary psychiatry, psychotherapy, and mental health nursing generally.
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Keywords: capitalism; desire; psychiatry; psychoanalysis; schizoanalysis; schizophrenia

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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