1914: One or Several Wolves?

You don’t have to read very far in Deleuze and Guattari’s chapter “1914: One or Several Wolves?” in A Thousand Plateaus to sense their near universal abhorrence for Freud’s reductionist methods of psychoanalysis. I have yet to come across anything as antithetical to Freud (granted I haven’t read that much on Freud) as the material found in this chapter, and it’s quite fascinating. Deleuze and Guattari don’t really bother deconstructing Freud’s arguments inasmuch as they more or less completely disregard them. Always “on the verge of discovering a rhizome” (27) but never allowing himself to cross that threshold, Deleuze and Guattari modify the fundamentals of Freudian psychoanalysis in a way that allows for psychoanalysis to build upon their model of the rhizome, assemblage, de-territorialization and re-territorialization.

They begin by delineating Freud’s definition of neurosis and psychosis. Freud claims that neurotics are those who are “capable of making a global comparison between a sock and a vagina, a scar and Castration” (27), but that they are incapable of perceiving larger connections and assemblages within the world. Meanwhile, the psychotic sees the pores, threads, minute connections in large surfaces and this direction of perception will effectively “‘prevent [the psychotic] from using them as substitutes for the female genital’” (Freud qtd. Deleuze and Guattari 27). From here, they claim Freud implies that the psychotic’s perception is defective. Their inability to reconcile their perception with their unconscious is, in the Freudian sense, abnormal. Deleuze and Guattari subvert Freud’s theories suggesting that the ability to distinguish multiplicities in a larger whole is not madness at all, but a process of becoming on the part of individual. It becomes no longer a question of comparison for the neurotic, as it is no longer a question of deficiency for the psychotic. It is Freud’s own shortcomings in limiting the ways in which the unconscious is affected by its interior and exterior milieu that contributes to his inability to evolve beyond the singular (Mother, Father, Castration, etc.).

They propose that the preconscious and unconscious be examined as a body without organs; a vessel or plane in which the process of becoming, de-territorialization and re-territorialization can occur. That which serves as organs is distributed among many. The singularity of one’s body becomes a plane in which a multiplicity of objects, beings, molecules and intensities become an extension of the unconscious and where affective internal and external forces can manifest. Every doubling or multiple that appear in dreams should not be divisible back to the singular as Freud would characteristically move to do, but should be examined as merely a fragment of a multiplicity of forces. Deleuze and Guattari clarify that “the body without organs is opposed less to organs as such than to the organization of the organs insofar as it composes an organism” (30).  Here, the natural formation, placement and presence of organs is subtracted from the body, and instead exists as a plane populated by multiplicities. From this point Deleuze and Guattari transition into their concept of the rhizome and its relation to the multiplicities they contend are present in dream space. They suggest, “one of the essential characteristics of the dream of multiplicity is that each element ceaselessly varies and alters its distance in relation to the others” (30). Multiplicities, populations and intensities circulate freely in dream space without limitations or conventions. The unrestrictive ebb and flow of mass in the unconscious materializes as intensity—something which cannot be measured as lack (something Freud might instinctively suggest), just infinite moves towards and away from the body without organs (31).

They conclude that Freud’s problem was as inevitable as it was inherent in his framework; it grew out of the limitations of linguistics, semiotics and dialectic. He perceived psychoanalysis as a means to give a voice to the unconscious, but failed to realize it would never speak (36). Multiplicities were born out of the very restrictions of dialectic—“to escape… to succeed in conceiving the multiple in the pure state, to cease treating it as a numerical fragment of a lost Unity or Totality” (32). They come to encompass both preconscious and unconscious forces:

[f]or it is the assemblage of both these that is the province of the unconscious, the way in which the former condition the latter, and the latter prepare the way for the former, or elude them or return to them: the libido suffuses everything (35).

Deleuze And Guattari propose an alternative spectrum in which to examine perception and affect. One that accepts a free-play of relations without restrictions and without rigid links as to how their manifestation in the preconscious and unconscious be analyzed.

– Aïcha


3 Responses to “1914: One or Several Wolves?”

  1. You’re so interesting! I don’t think I have read anything like this before.
    So wonderful to discover someone with a few original thoughts on this subject matter.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one
    thing that’s needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

  2. Freud a reductionist? I thought he abandoned the somatic origin of neuroses, that consciousness can be afforded an exact localization in the brain like the phrenologists thought, as well as Wernicke and Broca, the subject of Freud’s early paper On Aphasia 1891. Not to mention the abandonment of the seducion hypothesis

    Interpretation of Dreams: “It is to be anticipated, in the next place, that these systems may perhaps stand in a regular spatial relation to one another, in the same kind of way in which the various systems of lenses in a telescope are arranged behind one another. Strictly speaking, there is no need for the hypothesis that the psychical systems are actually arranged in a spatial order”

    Outline of Psychoanalysis: “We know two kinds of things about what we call our psyche (or mental life) [Psyche, Seelenleben]: firstly, its bodily organ and scene of action, the brain (or nervous system) and, on the other hand, our acts of consciousness (…). Everything that lies between is unknown to us, and the data do not include any direct relation between these two terminal points of our knowledge. If it existed, it would at the most afford an exact localization of the processes of consciousness and would give us no help towards understanding them.”

    Psychoanalysis is also criticized as being unfalsiable pseudoscience. Though Karl Popper is called a positivist by those of the “continental” tradition, even though he was opposed to the Vienna logical positivists. So I guess anybody who is an empiricist is reductionist?

    • Freud was obsessed with immanence in his social and religious theories. He held along with Tylor and Frazer that the first religion of theory of the world was animism, in which we attribute agency (anthropomorphic as it is) to the entire world or at least certain non human objects or animals. The first weltanschauung was a psychological theory. Children do this to an extent even in “modern” society but it is repressed early in ontogeny. See the essay Animism, Magic, and the Omnipotence of Thoughts in Totem and Taboo 1913. Fairy tales have an animist mindset. Freud further seems to have argued that the mindset of neurotics is closer to the early human omnipotence of thoughts, making their mental life in a way more varied than for us non-neurotics who take a more narrow view of immanence.

      “If we may regard the existence among primitive races of the omnipotence of thoughts as evidence in favor of narcissism, we are to attempt a comparison between the phases in the development of men’s view of the universe and the stage of an individual’s libidinal development. The animistic phase would correspond to narcissism both chronologically and in its content; the religious phase would correspond to the stage of object-choice of which the characteristic is a child’s attachment to his parents; while the scientific phase would have an exact counterpart in the stage at which an individual has reached maturity, has renounced the pleasure principle, adjusted himself to reality and turned to the external world for the object of his desires.” Sigmund Freud, Totem and taboo 1913

      As adults Freud said we experience the uncanny, a feeling of dreadful familiarity, when we reencounter this mindset with objects we no longer attribute agency to.

      “We—or our primitive forefathers—once believed in the possibility of these things and were convinced that they really happened. Nowadays we no longer believe in them, we have surmounted such ways of thought; but we do not feel quite sure of our new set of beliefs, and the old ones still exist within us ready to seize upon any confirmation. As soon as something actually happens in our lives which seems to support the old, discarded beliefs, we get a feeling of the uncanny.” The Uncanny 1919

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