Outline of critical theory

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In the humanities and social sciences, critical theory has two quite different meanings with different origins and histories, one originating in social theory and the other in literary criticism. The former is theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only to understanding or explaining it. The latter is theory used in the critical analysis and understanding of literature and is discussed in greater detail under literary theory.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to critical theory:



Essence of critical theory

Branches of critical theory

Gender studies

Marxist theory







Psychoanalytic theory

Queer theory


Cultural anthropology

Theories of identity

Linguistical theories of literature

Major works

Major theorists

Theodor Adorno - Louis Althusser - Roland Barthes - Jean Baudrillard - Jacques Lacan - Gilles Deleuze - Jacques Derrida - Michel Foucault - Erich Fromm - Jürgen Habermas - Herbert Marcuse - Edward Said

Critical theory lists

See also

External links

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Author Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
Original title Capitalisme et schizophrénie. L'anti-Oedipe
Country France
Language French
Genre(s) Philosophy
Publisher Les Éditions de Minuit
Publication date 1972
Media type Print
Pages 496
ISBN 2.7073.0067.5
OCLC Number 255453227
Followed by Kafka: Pour une Littérature Mineure (1975)

Anti-Œdipus (1972) is a book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It is the first volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the second volume being A Thousand Plateaus (1980). It presents an analysis of human psychology, economics, society, and history, showing how "primitive", "despotic", and "capitalist regimes" differ in their organization of production, inscription, and consumption. It describes how capitalism channels all desires through an axiomatic money-based economy, a form of organization that is abstract, rather than local or material.



Key Concepts

The Family as the first cell of the fascist society

Michel Foucault, in its renowned preface, remarked how this works' primary focus is the fight against contemporary fascism.[1]

And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini [...] but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploit us.

In the family, the young develop in a perverse relationship, wherein they learn to love the same person that beats and oppresses them. The family therefore constitutes the first cell of the fascist society, as they will carry this love for oppressive figures in their adult life. Deleuze and Guattari's book, in its analysis of the dynamics at work within a family, consist in the "tracking down of all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everyday lives".[2]

Desiring Machines & Social Production

Michel Foucault writes in the introduction, "...Anti-Œdipus is an introduction to the nonfascist life."[3] Where capitalist society trains us to believe that desire equals lack and that the only way to meet our desires is to consume, Anti-Œdipus has a different take: desire does not come from lack, as in the Freudian understanding. On the contrary, desire is a productive force. "It is not a theater, but a factory". The opposition to the notion of lack is one of the main criticisms Deleuze and Guattari make both to Freud and Marxism.[citation needed] Desire is a productive, real force — whereas psychoanalysis limits desire to imaginary fantasies.

Like their contemporary, Ronald D. Laing, and like Wilhelm Reich before them, they link personal psychic repression with social repression. In such a framework, Deleuze and Guattari describe the productive nature of desire as a kind of Desiring-Machine that functions as a circuit breaker in a larger "circuit" of various other machines to which it is connected. And the Desiring-Machine is at the same time also producing a flow of desire from itself. Deleuze and Guattari imagine a multi-functional universe composed of such machines all connected to each other: "There are no desiring-machines that exist outside the social machines that they form on a large scale; and no social machines without the desiring machines that inhabit them on a small scale." Thus, they opposed Freud's concept of sublimation, which led to a necessary dualism between desiring machines and social production, which had trapped Laing and Reich. Their book is hence both a critique of Freud and Lacan's psychoanalysis, and also of Freudo-Marxism. They oppose an "inhumane molecular sexuality" to "molar" binary sexuality: "making love is not just becoming as one, or even two, but becoming as a hundred thousand." Deleuze and Guattari's concept of sexuality is not limited to the connectivity of just male and female gender roles, but by the multi-gendered flows that a "hundred thousand" Desiring-Machines create within their connected universe.[page needed]

The "anti-" part of their critique of the Freudian Oedipal complex begins with that original model's articulation of society[clarification needed] based on the family triangle of father, mother and child.[page needed] Criticizing psychoanalysis "familialism", they want to show that the oedipal model of the family is a kind of organization that must colonize its members, repress their desires, and give them complexes if it is to function as an organizing principle of society.[page needed] Instead of conceiving the "family" as a sphere contained by a larger "social" sphere, and giving a logical preeminence to the family triangle, Deleuze and Guattari argue that the family should be opened onto the social, as in Bergson's conception of the Open, and that underneath the pseudo-opposition between family (composed of personal subjects) and social, lies the relationship between pre-individual desire and social production. Furthermore, they argue that schizophrenia is an extreme mental state co-existent with the capitalist system itself[page needed] and capitalism keeps enforcing neurosis as a way of maintaining normality. It must be noted, however, that they oppose a non-clinical concept of "schizophrenia" as deterritorialization to the clinical end-result "schizophrenic" (i.e. they never intended to romanticize "mental disorders"; instead, they show, as Foucault, that "psychiatric disorders" are always second to something else... maybe to the "absence d'oeuvre"?).

Body without organs

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari begin to develop their concept of the BwO - body without organs, their term for the changing social body of desire.[citation needed] Since desire can take on as many forms as there are persons to implement it, it must seek new channels and different combinations to realize itself, forming a BwO for every instance. Desire is not limited to the affections of a subject.

In their later work, Mille Plateaux (1980), Deleuze and Guattari eventually differentiate between three kinds of BwO: cancerous, empty, and full. Roughly, the empty BwO is the BwO of Anti-Oedipus. This BwO is also described as "catatonic" because it is completely de-organ-ized; all flows pass through it freely, with no stopping, and no directing. Even though any form of desire can be produced on it, the empty BwO is non-productive. The full BwO is the healthy BwO; it is productive, but not petrified in its organ-ization. The cancerous BwO is caught in a pattern of endless reproduction of the self-same pattern.


Although (like most Deleuzo-Guattarian terms) deterritorialization has a purposeful variance in meaning throughout their oeuvre, it can be roughly described as a move away from a rigidly imposed hierarchical, arborescent context, which seeks to package things (concepts, objects, etc.) into discrete categorised units with singular coded meanings or identities, towards a rhizomatic zone of multiplicity and fluctuant identity, where meanings and operations flow freely between said things, resulting in a dynamic, constantly changing set of interconnected entities with fuzzy individual boundaries.

Importantly, the concept implies a continuum, not a simple binary - every actual assemblage (a flexible term alluding to the heterogeneous composition of any complex system, individual, social, geological) is marked by simultaneous movements of territorialization (maintenance) and of deterritorialization (dissipation).

Various means of deterritorializing are alluded to by the authors in their chapter "How to Make Yourself A Body Without Organs" in A Thousand Plateaus, including psychoactives such as peyote. Experientially, the effects of such substances can include a loosening (relative deterritorialization) of the worldview of the user (i.e. his/her beliefs, models, etc.), subsequently leading to an antiredeterritorialization (remapping of beliefs, models, etc.) that is not necessarily identical to the prior territory.

Deterritorialization is closely related to Deleuzo-Guattarian concepts such as line of flight, destratification and the body without organs/BwO (a term borrowed from Artaud), and is sometimes defined in such a way as to be partly interchangeable with these terms (most specifically in the second part of Capitalism And Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus).

The authors posit that dramatic reterritorialization often follows relative deterritorialization, while absolute deterritorialization is just that... absolute deterritorialization without any reterritorialization.

Charges of fascism to psychoanalysis

Deleuze and Guattari take the cases of Gérard Mendel, Bela Grunberger and Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, prominent members of the most respected associations (IPa), to show how traditionally psychoanalysis enthusiastically embraces a police state:[4]

As to those who refuse to be oedipalized in one form or another, at one end or the other in the treatment, the psychoanalyst is there to call the asylum or the police for help. The police on our side!—never did psychoanalysis better display its taste for supporting the movement of social repression, and for participating in it with enthusiasm. [...] notice of the dominant tone in the most respected associations: consider Dr. Mendel and the Drs Stéphane, the state of fury that is theirs, and their literally police-like appeal at the thought that someone might try to escape the Oedipal dragnet. Oedipus is one of those things that becomes all the more dangerous the less people believe in it; then the cops are there to replace the high priests.

Dr. Bela Grunberger and Dr. Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel were two psychoanalysts from the Paris section of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPa). In November 1968, disguising themselves under the pseudonym André Stéphane, they published L’univers Contestationnaire, in which they assumed that the left-wing rioters of May 68 were totalitarian stalinists, and psychoanalyzed them saying that they were affected by a sordid infantilism caught up in an Oedipal revolt against the Father.[5][6]

Notably Lacan, mentioned this book with great disdain. While Grunberger and Chasseguet-Smirgel were still disguised under the pseudonym, Lacan remarked that for sure none of the authors belonged to his school, as none would abase themselves to such low drivel.[7] The IPa analysts responded accusing the Lacan school of "intellectual terrorism".[5] Gérard Mendel, had instead published La révolte contre le père (1968) and Pour décoloniser l’enfant (1971).

See also


  1. ^ Foucault (1972, xiv).
  2. ^ Foucault (1972, xvi).
  3. ^ Foucault (1972, xv).
  4. ^ section 2.4 The disjunctive synthesis of recording p.89
  5. ^ a b Jean-Michel Rabaté (2009) 68 + 1: Lacan's année érotique published in Parrhesia, NUMBER 6 • 2009 pp.28-45
  6. ^ André Stéphane [Bela Grunberger and Janine Chasselet-Smirguel], L’Univers Contestationnaire (Paris: Payot, 1969).
  7. ^ Jacques Lacan, The Seminars of Jacques Lacan, Seminar XVI D'un Autre à l'autre, 1968-9, p.266


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