Since Deleuze is considered to be, says Parnet, a philosopher of desire, so what is it?
Deleuze starts by saying that "it's not what peole thought it was, even then. It was a big ambiguity and a big misunderstanding, or rather a little one." However, he then addresses the question in great, and often moving detail. First, like most people in writing a book, they thought that they would say something new,specifically that people who wrote before them didn't understand what desire meant. So as philosophers, Deleuze with Guattari saw their task as that of proposing a new concept of desire. And concepts, despite what some people think, refer to things that are extremely simple and concrete.
What they meant to express was the simplest thing in the word: until now, you speak abstractly about desire because you extract an object supposed to be the object of desire. Deleuze emphasizes that one never desires something or someone, but rather always desires an aggregate (ensemble). So they asked what was the nature of relations between elements in order for there to be desire, for these elements to become desirable. Deleuze refers to Proust when he says that desire for a woman is not so much desire for the woman as for a paysage, a landscape, that is enveloped in this woman. Or in desiring an object, a dress for example, the desire is not for the object, but for the whole context, the aggregate, "I desire in an aggregate." Deleuze refers back to the letter "B", on drinking, alcohol, and the desire not just for drink, but for whatever aggregate into which one situates the desire for drinking (with people, in a café, etc.).
So, there is no desire, says Deleuze, that does not flow into an assemblage, and for him, desire has always been a constructivism, constructing an assemblage (agencement), an aggregate: the aggregate of the skirt, of a sun ray, of a street, of a woman, of a vista, of a color... constructing an assemblage, constructing a region, assembling. Deleuze emphasizes that desire is constructivism. Parent asks if it's because desire is an assemblage that Deleuze needed to be two, with Guattari, in order to create. Deleuze agrees that with Felix, they created an assemblage, but that there can be assemblages all alone as well as with two, or something passing between two. All of this, he continues, concerns physical phenomena, and for an event to occur, some differences of potential must arise, like a flash or a stream, so that the domain of desire is constructed. So every time someone says, I desire this or that, that person is in the process of constructing an assemblage, nothing else, desire is nothing else.
Parnet links this to Anti-Oedipus in asking that it's the first book in which he discussed desire, so the first he wrote with another. Deleuze agrees; they had to enter into what was a new assemblage for them,writing à deux, so that something might "pass". And this something was a fundamental hostility toward dominant conceptions of delirium (délire), particularly against psychoanalysis. Since Guattari had been through psychoanalysis and Deleuze was interested in it, they found common ground to develop a constructivist conception of desire. So Parnet asks him to define better how he sees the difference between this constructivism and analytical interpretation. Deleuze sees it as quite simple, with psychoanalysts speaking of desire just like priests, under the guise of the greatwailing about castration, which for Deleuze is a kind of enormous and frightening curse on desire.
In Anti-Oedipus, they tried to oppose psychoanalysis on three mainpoints, none of which he would change at all:
1) Opposing the psychoanalytical concept of the unconscious as a theater, with its constant representation of Hamlet and Oedipus, they see the unconscious as a factory, as production. The unconscious produces, like a factory, exactly the opposite of the psychoanalytical vision.
2) Delirium, linked to desire, is the contrary of delirium linked solely to the father or mother; rather we "délire" about everything, the whole world, history, geography, tribes, deserts, peoples, races, climates, what Rimbaud referred to (in "Mauvais Sang," Une Saison en enfer) as "I am an animal, a Negro": where are my tribes, how are my tribes arranged, surviving in the desert Delirium, says Deleuze, is geographical-political, whereas psychoanalysis links it always to familial determinants. Psychoanalysis never understood anything at all, says Deleuze, about phenomena of delirium. We "délire" the world and not one's little family. And all this intersects, he continues: when he referred to literature not being someone's little private affair, it's not a delirium focused on the father and mother.
3) Desire is established and constructs in an assemblage always putting several factors into play, whereas psychoanalysis reduces desire to a single factor (father, mother, phallus), completely ignorant of the multiple, of constructivism, of assemblages. Deleuze refers to the animal, the image of the father, and then to the Little Hans example he and Guattari used, but also to a second example, how the animal (horse, in Little Hans) can never be the image of the father, since animals proceed usually in a pack. Deleuze refers to Freud's reduction of a dream that Jung told him, Freud insisting on "the bone", singular, that he believes he heard Jung say, when Jung actually said he dreamed of an ossuary, a multiplicity of bones. So desire constructs in the collective, the multiple, the pack, and one asks what is one's position in relation to the pack, outside, alongside, inside, at the center? All phenomena of desire.
Gilles Deleuze's ABC Primer with Claire Parnet / Directed by Pierre-André Boutang (1996) / Overview prepared by Charles J. Stivale Romance Languages & Literatures, Wayne State University / p.11 -13
Watch the video - D comme Désir, "L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, below.
Here he addresses his conception of desire, notably that he theorized with Felix Guattari in the Anti-Oedipus in 1972.
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