I’ve just read an interesting paper by Fredric Jameson on Deleuze and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and I thought I’d just give some comments and highlight some important ideas from it. The paper, ‘Deleuze and Dualism’, comes from Jameson’s recent collection Valences of the Dialectic (London: Verso, 2010) and addresses a wide range of themes and issues, but the essence of the paper is a discussion of the place of Marxism in Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
Marxism as (a) problematic
The first thing to note is Jameson’s view of the status of Marxism here. Marxism, Jameson tells us, is a problematic (190). Thus, Jameson’s concern is
to determine to what degree the thought of Deleuze [and Guattari, given that Jameson's primary concern is with their co-authored works] moves within and endorses that problematic; or, the other way round, to what degree the problematic of Deleuze [and Guattari] includes the Marxian problematic and endorses Marxian problems and questions as urgent ones within its own field of inquiry. (190)
Marxism then is a certain distibution and orientation of problems, questions and concerns; it is the interconnection and interpenetration of this Marxian problematic field and the Deleuzo-Guattarian problematic field that Jameson is concerned to articulate. Perhaps this dynamic/problematic way of understanding ideas and ideologies isn’t terribly original by this point (no small thanks due to the impact of Deleuze and Guattari’s joint and solo work), but it bears repetition. Where it seems to remain controversial is in its (Deleuzean) foregrounding of the problematic over solutions and the process of solution. Perhaps all great ideas, at least philosophical ideas, are openings onto fields of problems more than they are solutions to pre-existing problems.
Jameson sees the interweaving of Marxist and Deleuzo-Guattarian problematics happening in Deleuze and Guattari’s problematisation of any compartmentalisation of thinking into mutually insulated areas of inquiry (the psychological, the social, the political, the economic etc.). Whereas ‘bourgeois’ thought operates under the ideological pretense of the separability of these different areas and their autonomous investigability, Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘schizoanalytic’ thinking refuses to acknowledge the originary legitimacy of such isolations. Where the ‘bourgeois’, ‘liberal’ trend that Jameson identifies involves
the repression of [Marxist] problems themselves and the disappearance of inquiries that seek to position the logic of social life today (commodification) and the novel operation of a globalizing finance capital within the description we are called upon to make of aesthetic production, the functioning of ideology, and the role of intellectuals and their conceptual innovations[,]
Deleuze and Guattari’s work
displays a prodigious polymorphous coding in which desire restlessly invests across the boundaries; indeed, in which the libidinal cannot be confined to the narrower realm that bourgeois thought calls subjectivity or psychology (or even psychoanalysis), but shows how the social is also a tissue of phantasms, and the narrowly libidinal itself a web of social and political representations. (190)
I agree with Jameson that this sort of problematisation of the compartmentalisation of thinking is at least one important feature of the Marxist problematic: it is essential to Marx’s approach that the social, the political, the historical, the ideological and the economic be problematically interwoven in a complex network of interdetermination. Even if we take an orthodox Marxist view on the economic ‘base’ as the key determinant of historical process, it is nonetheless the case that for Marx economic relations are social relations, and thus that the relationship between the economic and the social is more complex that one of mere unidirectional determination. If Deleuze and Guattari have a distinctive contribution to make to this problematic, Jameson is quite right to identify it as lying in their working of the notions of desire and libido into this conceptual complex. That is to say, their contribution is to see the dynamic, problematic interactions of economic, political, social, historical, libidinal etc. forces as the productive unconscious itself. The unconscious isn’t some inner realm, but the great heaving productivity (virtuality?) of social reality itself.
Another point of interest in Jameson’s paper is his discussion of the relation of Capitalism and Schizophrenia to good old fashioned Marxist Ideologiekritik. Deleuze and Guattari say some fairly critical things regarding the concept of ‘ideology’ in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, essentially because they regard the traditional concept of ideology as bound up with a problematic of representation which they are concerned to critique. That is, ideology is, for them, a concept which belongs to a problematic concerned with the subjective distortion of some otherwise unaffected objective reality, and such a straightforward gap between the subjective and the objective is inimical to Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘materialism’, their peculiar multiplicitous monism. However, Jameson sees a Deleuzo-Guattari alternative to the critique of ideology in what the authors term ‘noology’: ‘the study of images of thought and their historicity’ (TP, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987, 376; quoted by Jameson at 192). To what extent is noology fulfilling the role of Ideologiekritik in Deleuze and Guattari’s work?
The notion of an ‘image of thought’ is a nuanced and complex one, which Deleuze develops throughout the course of his solo work and which he and Guattari continue to transform right through the course of their collaborative ventures. To give a rather impoverished summary, an image of thought is, for present purposes, a set of assumptions regarding what it is to think, and consequently what it is possible and/or legitimate to think about and how. As such, the concept of an image of thought is close to that of an ideology in the functional role it plays in Deleuze and Guattari’s system.
What is more problematic – and this is something Deleuze and Guattari continually wrestle with – is whether and how we could treat of the pathological connotations of the traditional Marxist concept of ideology (as false consciousness) within the framework of noology. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze is concerned to push thinking away from ‘image’, to try to think without image. Similarly, in Anti-Oedipus, where notions of Oedipalisation and neuroticisation take the place of representation simpliciter, there is a push towards something like a ‘pure’ thinking, without ‘image’ (Oedipus), in the form of the ‘schizo-process’ (schizophrenia as process). In their later works, however, Deleuze and Guattari come to problematise these earlier conceptions, treating an image of thought as something inescapable, a precondition of any thinking whatsoever; what is at stake is not a pure thought without image, but a change in how thought relates to its image.
Whether or not Deleuze and Guattari can articulate an account of the pathological character of the image of thought or of particular images of thought will depend on the way in which that concept’s development plays out in their work. But it seems to me not to be terribly important to capture this dimension. This has been one of Slavoj Žižek’s key contributions to the Marxist problematic: to conceptualise ideology as distortion, but a necessary structural distortion the alternative to which is only another distortion. In fact, the notion of distortion here makes sense only against the background of an explicitly imaginary ideal of an undistorted access to social reality. In Žižek’s work, this constitutive ‘distortion’ of social reality is due to the dialectical relation between subject and object, whereby the subject’s perspective is itself a constitutive part of the object. As such, the subject’s ‘change of perspective’ regarding the object is in fact a change in the object itself, and social reality is constituted from the tension of the various objective perspectives and their shifting interactions. (These themes are addressed most clearly and thoroughly in The Parallax View.) That Žižek sees himself as revitalising a traditional concept of ideology whilst Deleuze and Guattari see themselves as transcending the notion is perhaps only a cosmetic difference: as Jameson notes (190), both are concerned to problematise the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity that lies at the root of more traditional concepts of ideology, and which conditions the epistemological conception of Ideologiekritik which accompanies it.
Given, then, that Deleuze and Guattari can offer us a functioning alternative to the critique of ideology, but without any particularly satisfactory account of the pathological character of ideology or even of particular ideologies, how are we to think about the political dimension of their work? Essentially, I think this normative element is something of a blind spot in Deleuze and Guattari’s work, and it may be necessary to turn to other sources to resolve it. Between them, Alain Badiou and Žižek have plausibly defended the view that we are required here to make recourse to the notion of a decision on the undecidable. That is, nothing in the situation will ultimately justify the decision made, since the objective constitution of the situation is inseparable from the ideological position of the choosing subject. Hence, this depathologisation of the concept of ideology requires us to understand political orientation decisionistically, as the choosing wholesale of an entire world. Whether this is an interesting consequence, a worrying symptom or a reductio is an issue I’ll leave for another occasion.
The hors-classe as revolutionary agent
One final issue to make some comments on: A key way, Jameson notes (197), in which Deleuze and Guattari transform the Marxist problematic (or perhaps exit it) is in their identification of the agencies of revolution and emancipation from capitalist social relations not with the working class or any other class for that matter, but precisely with what Jameson terms the hors-classe, i.e. those who fall outside of the hierarchies and class structures of social reality altogether (schizophrenics, minorities, experimenters with the limits of experience…). Jameson seems to see this development cautiously as a positive one, ‘perhaps more congenial to the current climate of identity politics at the same time that it clings to an older political value of subversion and contestation in order to rewrite it and give it a new theoretical justification’ (197). But I have some worries about this deviation from the Marxist problematic of resistance from within the system.
The crux of the Marxist task of identifying agencies of resistance is to identify groups exploited by capitalist social relations but who, in virtue of their very exploitation, are in a position to control the means of production (whether that be industrial production or some other form of social production). It is this ambiguity in the structure of exploitation, whereby power is put in the hands of the exploited precisely in order to exploit them, that lies at the heart of a Marxist conception of resistance. The worry is of course that Deleuze and Guattari’s extra-systemic agent lacks the necessary involvement in capitalist social relations to be in a position to do the capitalism harm, to reconfigure social relations. This issue is at the heart of the ongoing debate between anarchists and Marxists regarding the relationship between anti-capitalism and the state. Whilst I don’t want to decide this issue here, I’ve yet to hear anything too persuasive said by anarchists against the Marxist on this issue, so comments are welcome!
 The first chapter of Miguel de Beistegui’s Immanence: Deleuze and Philosophy contains an illuminating discussion of the concept of the image of thought and its role in Deleuze’s philosophy.