Lately I’ve been working around the edges of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. There are a couple of thing in this strange book, first published in 1973, that are related to recent posts. Today the topic is desire.
Hegel proposed that everyone desires the desire of the other. That can mean two things. I desire whatever the other person desires, assuming that that’s what will make me a complete and autonomous self — just like the other. Or, my desire is to be desired by the other, to be whatever it is that makes the other a complete and autonomous self. Either way my desire is based on incompleteness or lack, both in myself and in the other. What I lack is some immaterial thing that turns me into my ideal image of myself as a self-sufficient being.
Deleuze and Guattari critique the Platonic logic of desire implicit in the Hegelian model. The feeling of lack creates its own impossible fulfillment in the object of desire. But there is no object that can make me complete; it does not exist in the real world; it is missing. Desire-as-lack thus produces an imaginary object that provides fulfillment, but because it exists only in an ideal world it can never be attained in this world.
Deleuze and Guattari argue that desire isn’t a lack that can be fulfilled only in an imaginary ideal world, but rather an innate mechanism of creative energy for producing. Desire doesn’t remain unfulfilled in reality; desire generates the reality that fulfills itself. Desire and its object are one and the same thing. Desire isn’t something that always fails to complete the individual self; rather, desire precedes and creates the self. In today’s parlance, and in Marx’s, desire is passion: sensual, spontaneous, natural. The end of desire isn’t lack or indefinite self-perpetuation but fulfillment.
In this post- (or pre-) Hegelian psychology lack is desire gone wrong; it is the loss of desire rather than its defining characteristic. When the flow of desire is shut off, desire then becomes this abject fear of lacking something. What is lacking is the flow of desire itself, not the (imaginary) object it seeks.
What is missing is not things a subject feels the lack of somewhere deep down inside himself, but rather the objectivity of man, the objective being of man, for whom to desire is to produce, to produce within the realm of the real… Revolutionaries, artists, and seers are content to be objective, merely objective; they know that desire clasps life in its powerfully productive embrace, and reproduces it in a way that is all the more intense because it has few needs.