Deleuze Notes: Desiring Production, Desiring Machines, Coding and Decoding of Fluxes

A starting point for understanding Anti-Oedipus are the 2 concepts of Desiring-Production and Desiring-Machines. The concept of ‘fluxes’ or flows is close to desiring-production and from there one discusses how flows are ‘coded’ and ‘decoded’. Deleuze and Guattari see history from the point of view of how societies code and decode these flows, with capitalism being a superb machine for decoding flows. D&G view the psychic and the social as interpenetrating, thus they have a lengthy discussion of the relationship between schizophrenia and capitalism (hence the subtitle of this book).

So the ideas that must be clearly understood to get a foot-hold on this book are: desiring-production, desiring-machines, fluxes, coding, decoding, deterritorialization.

Desiring-Production

The key term of Anti-Oedipus is “desiring-production,” which crisscrosses Marx and Freud, putting desire in the eco-social realm of production and production in the unconscious realm of desire.

Deleuze and Guattari will call desiring-production a “universal primary process” underlying the seemingly separate natural, social and psychological realms. Desiring-production is thus not anthropocentric; it is the very heart of the world. Besides its universal scope, we need to realize two things about desiring-production right away: (1) there is no subject that lies behind the production, that performs the production; and (2) the “desire” in desiring-production is not oriented to making up a lack, but is purely positive. Desiring-production is autonomous, self- constituting, and creative: it is the natura naturans of Spinoza or the will-to-power of Nietzsche.

[1]

The highlights are mine. They are key points. In fact a ‘subject’ only occurs in the 3rd synthesis, the Machine Miraculante, the production of consumption/consumation. See my previous post on this.

“Desire does not lack anything; it does not lack its object. It is, rather, the subject that is missing in desire, or desire that lacks a fixed subject; there is no fixed subject unless there is repression. Desire and its object are one and the same thing: the machine, as a machine of a machine. Desire is a machine, and the object of desire is another machine connected to it”.[8]

Deleuze: “The great discovery of psychoanalysis was that of the production of desire, of the productions of the unconscious.” [7]

“the unconscious does not mean anything…. the unconscious constructs machines, which are machines of desire… The unconscious does not speak, it engineers. It is not expressive or representative, but productive. A symbol is nothing other than a social machine that functions as a desiring-machine, a desiring-machine that functions within the social machine, an investment of the social machine by desire.”

Desiring-Production/Desiring-Machines

Deleuze and Guattari oppose the Freudian conception of the unconscious as a representational “theater”, instead favoring a productive “factory” model: desire is not an imaginary force based on lack, but a real, productive force. They describe the machinic 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. Meanwhile, the desiring-machine is also producing a flow of desire from itself. Deleuze and Guattari conceptualize 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[1].” Desiring-production is explosive: “there is no desiring-machine capable of being assembled without demolishing entire social sectors”.

The concept of desiring-production is part of Deleuze and Guattari’s more general appropriation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s formulation of the Will to Power. In both concepts, a pleasurable force of appropriation of what is outside oneself, incorporating into oneself what is other than oneself, characterizes the essential process of all life. Similarly, a kind of reverse force of “forgetting” in Nietzsche and the body without organs in Deleuze and Guattari disavows the Will to Power and desiring-production, attempting to realize the ideal of an hermetic subject.

[2]

Deleuze: “Desiring-machines are … the microphysics of the unconscious, the elements of the microunconscious. “[9]

Coding and Decoding the Flux

So we have the Desiring Production and Desiring Machines interrupting flows and producing flows.

There is a great article in the revue Cités, by Charles Ramond that lays out very clearly the core concepts of ‘coding’, ‘decoding’ and so forth. You should read the article (in french), but here is my very loose translation of some excerpts:

For Deleuze and Guattari, reality is made of fluxes, (or flows) in the most vague sense of that term: forces, élans, moving objects, and above-all: ‘desires’. So the fluxes are are a form of universal energy (that we could also call ‘production’). One can find equivalents to this notion in some of Deleuze’s favorite authors: Bergson, Spinoza (“the effort to preserve the being”), and Nietzche’s Dionysus. These fluxes don’t exist on their own, they are always presented as framed, or informed, or structured, or to use Deleuze’s term: ‘coded’…. In the same manner as Lacan and Freud refer to the ‘real’ which doesn’t appear directly but only if ‘coded’ by the imagination, or in a dream….

So this idea is rather simple and natural. There is an interpenetrating duality between the ‘flux’ on one hand: fluid, free, creative – but which which, left to itself, represents the risk of shapelessness and chaos. And on the other hand: the rigid, the framework, the structure, the law, the “code” (which often means something like a “law”, for example in “Civil Code”), which comes to frame and hinder to a certain extent this “power” (another Spinozist name for the Deleuzian “fluxes”), which is both a life force and a force for the destruction of “codes”.

A society, like an individual, can live and survive only in the “coding” of “flows”. … It seems to the authors that humanity has progressed, albeit in a non-linear way, towards the current capitalist situation, that is to say towards a complete, destructive decoding of fluxes. There is a fairly widespread and fairly intuitive perception of capitalism in its essence as a regime or a type of economic, political and social functioning in which the old, traditional “codes” collapse. What we sometimes call “globalization”, the [modern, technological world] that promises us a quasi-ubiquity, allows us to detach ourselves more and more from the “earth”, to fly to heaven as gods, or to become “deterritorialized”, to use Deleuze’s term. Capitalism and globalization indeed appear as a sort of generalized “decoding” of “flows” (nothing must be opposed to the circulation of flows and to their free propagation): frontiers, customs, laws or local customs become, in a capitalistic world, archaisms destined to be suppressed or folklorized.

Now, the “schizo”, breaking the old codes, the old laws, the old conventions, “decodes the fluxes”. In a coded system, he will usually be held for “crazy”. On the contrary, Deleuze and Guattari prefer to see a “prophet”, that is to say a “creator”, capable of bringing out the future in the present, like Artaud, Beckett, Van Gogh, Chaplin, Proust, Hölderlin, Turner, or Balzac.

Which brings us finally to the “Body without Organs” (Le Corps Sans Oganes). I will discuss this in my next post.

But his quote from Deleuze directly, illustrates the relationship between the Body without Organs and the deterritorialized socius.

“The body without organs is the deterritorialized socius, the wilderness where the decoded flows run free, the end of the world, the apocalypse. …[This is] what all societies dread absolutely as their most profound negative: namely, the decoded flows of desire.”[4]


[1] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/deleuze/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiring-production

[3] Ramond Charles, « Deleuze : schizophrénie, capitalisme et mondialisation », Cités, 2010/1 (n° 41), p. 99-113. DOI : 10.3917/cite.041.0099. URL : https://www.cairn.info/revue-cites-2010-1.htm-page-99.htm

[4] A-O, english pdf. page 176 on.

[5] Ibid, page 19.

[7] A-O, english pdf, page 24.

[8] Ibid, page 26.

[9] Ibid, page page 183.