Schizoanalysis in Practice: A Sketch…
Schizoanalysis or collective analysis is a method for provoking preexisting groups or arrangements (agencements) to actively question their composition as such. Every one of us participates in and is implicated in a large number of such groups: families, schools, workplaces, political organizations, religious organizations… and of course there are always subgroups of varying degrees of affinity and autonomous consistency: groups of coworkers, academic departments, groups of friends and comrades, neighborhoods…
These groups and their subgroups are very often constituted on the basis of a preexisting institutional structure that conditions and ‘makes room’ for them, and that participates in organizing and managing them to a given degree. They may also have various autonomous, self-organizing tendencies, and these may even be dominant tendencies. Yet even when this is the case, the purposes or goals of the group are very often taken as given; and the means at the group’s disposal are so equipmentally integrated that their use value is rarely reconsidered.
The simplest explanation of schizoanalytic praxis would be the following:
1) An analytic unit is established as adjacent to an already constituted group. This unit would extract from said group whatever people and other components (spaces, materials, technology, funding) it could, and thereby constitute itself as a kind of ‘sample’ or subgroup of that group.
2) The impetus of this unit would be to construct from the extracted components an analytic machine, or a collective analytic dynamic, that would then become the basis of organization and mobilization of that unit.
3) This group, as adjacent to and prosthetically adjoined to the original group, would thereby analyze itself as a specimen or case-study of organizational dynamics immanent in the original group and its institutional infrastructure. These can include everything from conscious or unconscious prejudices and coercions, to the assumed goals and motives of the group and its members qua members, to the possible ways of mobilizing the means at the groups disposal (these include both material and semiotic means, as well as the labor power of the members).
4) The analytic unit never directly analyzes or intervenes in the original group, but only on itself as a proxy. Nonetheless, because this proxy is itself integrated into the original group, the effects of analysis would bear directly upon the functioning of the original group, and constitute a kind of ‘collateral intervention’.
5) The purpose of analysis is to not only analyze the assumed and often unreflected organization of the group, but to actively take organization into one’s own hands. The analytic unit doesn’t only reflect how the group happens to be organized, but uses these analyses to open up new and unconsidered goals, organizational methods, uses of means, and so on.
6) This auto-organizational self-appropriation constitutes the analytic unit not as a means to fixing or curing the group of collective neuroses, but as an end-in-itself, becoming a destination of libidinal and social production.
Critique of Familialism
A remark must be made here about the critique of familialism, Oedipus, and (really existing) psychoanalysis that makes up the majority of Anti-Oedipus. Deleuze and Guattari do not see the family structure as a bad thing or evil in itself, despite what their polemical vitriol might indicate. It is my conviction that the polemical character of that text had an intended performative value, meant to demonstrate the tangible character of libidinal investment. A dry, detached treatment of the same problems would certainly not have spawned the same kind of enthusiasm and devotion, for better or for worse.
Nonetheless, the goal of that text was not to get its readers to shit-talk Lacan and Freud. Rather, it was, after demonstrating the dynamics of libidinal investment, to introduce a method of analyzing and intervening in such investments. In this light, it becomes easy to see that for the vast majority of the public, from the most destitute to the most wealthy, the end, the goal, the point or meaning of life and all of the toil and labor it involves is one’s family, one’s loved ones, and one’s legacy in the flesh (children and grandchildren).
Now of course not everyone has a family or treats their family as an end in this way, but those who deviate from this pattern tend to either be totally self-concerned hedonists, or devoted to some religious or political cause that completely dominates their social production. The actual statistics here are not that important, because however prevalent, familialism serves as a model for all forms of unreflected or unanalyzed libidinal production and social production. It stands for all modes of such production whose goal is taken for granted without question. And it stands, moreover, for analytic praxes (really existing psychoanalysis, anti-psychiatry) that seek to minimize deviations in libidinal investment and reintegrate ‘deviants’ back into pre-constituted structures like the family or the clinic.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the family as destination of libidinal investment in itself, nor is the goal of schizoanalysis to dissolve families and establish new reproductive units or some horror like that. Rather, the goal is to shake libidinal production out of the monopolistic propriety of the family form, and thereby to open it up to other destinations. The family is never excluded as a possible destination, but must become one of many such possible destinations to be considered.
If you think about why most people are involved with the social production systems they are, be they workplaces, companies, schools, etc, it is to make money, to make a living, and preferably to make a lot of money. Yet there are likely very few people who sincerely consider such accumulation as an end in itself. There are also likely very few who have excessive, hedonistic consumption as their end. The majority partake of this type of social investment precisely to sustain their families, to provide for them and improve their standard of living, and to leave their children a legacy, giving them ‘what I never had when I was a kid’.
Schizoanalysis seeks to undermine the family as the exclusive destination of such libidinal investment by way of constructing social units themselves capable of becoming such destinations. These units can be to varying degrees political, economic, artistic, amorous, religious… in principle the basis of their cohesion is indifferent, so long as it is organized within the unit itself, rather than extrinsically by the dyad of familial investment and capitalist organization.
So schizoanalysis criticizes familialism insofar as the family becomes the exclusive end-in-itself of libidinal production, the only legitimate and recognized reason or meaning for continuing to live. There can be others, other reasons, and these can find support in all sorts of social arrangements in which we are already invested. The point is to discover one’s investments in the social field and transform them, as far as possible, into ends, rather than exclusive means to familial reproduction.
Schizoanalysis as Prefigurative Praxis
In this light, we can see to what extent schizoanalysis is a political praxis, and particularly a prefigurative praxis. Prefiguartive praxis refers to any form of political organization in which the goals of that organization are identical with the form of the organization itself. Rather than using a political organization as a means to achieve a new form of society, this organization is already in-itself an expression of this new form. In other words, the organization becomes its own end realized, ‘in the flesh’.
Schizoanalysis as organizational method explicitly aims to transform social organizations of all types into ends in this very manner. Rather than subordinating social production to familial investment, such sites of social production obtain their own libidinal specificity. The primary problem at stake here is that for the majority of people, the only end is the family, or selfish pleasures, or at best some more or less vague political goal. What schizoanalysis aims to do is to provoke the production of new ends, the investment of new figures, and moreover, to situate these ends immanently within given sites of social production.
Prefigurative praxes are generally opposed to two dominant forms of organization: instrumental organizations and withdrawn organizations. An instrumental organization is one that places its end entirely outside of itself, thereby wholly divorcing itself from the realization of this end. Such organizations include what we have been referring to as sites of social production subordinated to familial investment, as well as political groups that do not include their own organization as a figure of their end or goal. Such groups instrumentalize themselves and their members, such that the attaining of the goal would include the dissolution of the group as such. We can think here of the adult finally coming home from work at the end of the day, as much as the Bolshevik State finally dissolving into post-state perfect communism.
Withdrawn organizations, on the contrary, are groups that do figure as ends for their own activities, but that do so in such a way as to isolate themselves from the network of social production. The family is, in this case, a typical figure of such an organization, but this can include others, such as various cases of communes and utopian experiments that are more concerned with their own consistency and satisfaction than with social production at large.
Schizoanalysis, on the contrary, refuses to subordinate group organization to an external end as much as it refuses to isolate itself from social production. The analytic unit aims to become an end in itself, a site of libidinal investment for its members, that is not subordinated to any other purpose. Yet at the same time, as adjacent to and prosthetically dependent upon an already existing site of social production, this unit is inseparable from such external instances of social production.
The analytic unit, as analyzer of itself, thereby also analyzes external instances of social production insofar as they become implicated in the composition of the unit, and has definite concerns and interests in such instances. Any member of an analytic unit, as bound up with social production processes other than the original site of analytic extraction, will thereby always be looking for new sites for analytic intervention. The analytic unit is therefore an end in itself, but only as a local instance of analytic intervention in general as an end in itself.
Guattari and Negri on Organization
For these reasons, I agree with Nick’s criticisms of anarchist organization:
The problem with all this, however, is that anarchism has self-consciously withdrawn from all the levers of power that might actually make a significant and concrete difference! The result, I would argue, is that at best, anarchism merely opens up small and often temporary spaces of community that escape the logic of capitalism or the state-form. And at worst, these small and temporary spaces only function to mitigate capitalism’s worst excesses, thereby undermining their own goals by perpetuating capitalist relations even further. There is no way in which anarchism can effect a concrete social change on any significant scale. It is left believing in the power of its ideas and hoping that others will agree and join in.
While anarchist organizations may, more than any other political movement, embody prefigurative praxes (to whatever extent), they nonetheless tend toward withdrawal, insofar as they refuse to involve themselves with the ‘levers of power’. Anarchist organizations too often demand to build themselves from scratch, outside the walls of the State and Capital, and thereby refusing to participate in ‘repressive’ social production altogether. Yet the weakness of this approach is that anarchists must woo the masses into withdrawing as well, when most have no tangible reason to do so: the State and Capital have done a reasonable job ensuring them a happy family life, and even where they’ve failed, the alternative would almost certainly be worse.
What is missing from the anarchist prefigurative ethic is a praxis of infiltration, intervention and transformation of existing sites of social production. Without this, anarchist organizations will only attract people already disillusioned with existing socially productive apparatuses. Rather than waiting around for people to grow disillusioned, schizoanalysis seeks to intervene in the illusions directly.
In this way, schizoanalysis owes a lot to the model of union organizing. Indeed, the anarchist movement was at its peak in this country when it was intimately bound up with unionism, and since the radical decline of the latter, anarchist movements have seemed, understandably, disoriented. And this goes not only for anarchists, but all stripes of leftist radicals, and for the labor movement itself.
What does schizoanalysis owe to the union model? Labor unions were truly innovative in their ability to latch onto already constituted groups (workplaces, industries), organize an adjacent group for the purpose of analyzing and rearticulating the goals of its members, and redeploying the resources at its disposal for the purpose of pursuing these goals. Of course, there were all sorts of problems with the union model: it restricts such intervention to workplaces, even certain workplaces over others; it became dependent on large national organizations and their hierarchical structures (AFL, NLRB, etc); it was for too long uncritical of racist, sexist, and other detrimental habits.
Yet the biggest problem was perhaps the articulation of ends external to the union group itself, ends like better pay and working conditions, ends ultimately directed toward the improvement of family life. At a certain point, when capital began meeting most or all of these demands, the union group itself became unnecessary, and hence revealed itself to be instrumental. This is in contrast to European variants of the model, in which the ultimate goal is for the union to appropriate the means of production. Nonetheless, there is no denying that unions, for quite a long time, proved to be remarkably potent sites of libidinal investment for their members, hinting at new modes of social organization distinct from those complicit with capitalism.
At this point I should mention Toni Negri, who appears to be one of the foremost thinkers of communism today. At least as long as he has been collaborating with Michael Hardt, Negri’s version of communism has come down to a kind of passive declaration that the new forms of social organization already exist, and are simply being constricted by ‘global Empire’. While many leftists might find the notion that the revolution is already happening to be comforting, it is nonetheless highly suspect.
Nate at What in the Hell… does a good job calling out Negri on the weakness of this position. While there may be something to the argument that contemporary post-industrial social production contains in utero new forms of organization capable of breaking with capitalist complicity, Negri seems to use this as an argument against active organizational intervention.
Negri: “there is no revolution without organisation”
Nate: Yes, absolutely.
Negri: “historical materialism and the immanence of the revolutionary project show us a subject that goes against capital and a multitude of singularities that organises into anti-capitalist power [forza], not formally, as a party, a mature and accomplished organisation, but, by virtue of its existence, as a resistance that is stronger and better articulated the more the multitude is a whole of singular institutions in itself. The latter include forms of life, struggle, economic and union organisation, strikes, the rupture of social processes of exploitation, experiences of re-appropriation, and nodes of resistance.”
Nate: So we don’t want a mature and accomplished organization? Or is this simply to say that the multitude hasn’t made one yet? There seems to be little role here for political organization, and a lack of adequate distinction between types of mass organizations as well as between organizations and events (though events are of course organized) such as strikes. Fine, but an argument would be nice rather than an assertion of the adequacy of all this. Likewise this sounds more like what Negri favors is movement building rather than organization.
Negri seems to exclude discussion of active mobilization of these ‘innate’ forms of resistance, which begs the question of how they are really ‘resistent’ in any meaningful sense of the term. In contrast to the anarchists, who want to actively organize, but completely outside of existing social production, Negri seems to valorize existing social production while refusing to actively organize.
Nate really hits the nail on the head here:
Negri: “The multitude is a group of institutions that takes on different political compositions time after time and in relation to the shades and vicissitudes of power relations.” and “it is a whole made of institutions.”
Nate: That’s useful. The multitude is something like the class for itself. Some assessment types of institutions – strategy and tactics – would be nice; most of this seems to amount to a sophisticated presentation of appreciating institutions of whatever type (except the party, of course). That’s useful, but in a limited way.
What Nate finds lacking here in Negri is precisely what Guattari is attempting to provide with schizoanalysis: a strategy for mobilizing latent potentials of resistance within existing institutions of social production.
Back in the mid-80s, Guattari and Negri actually collaborated on a short book, translated into English as Communists Like Us. It is more of an attempt at popularization than a rigorous theoretical text, but it nonetheless has numerous points of interest. It is particularly fascinating to see Negri’s vague valorization of the ‘multitude’ supplemented by an actual organizational model (although in this text it is only a sketch). For example, rather than resting on statements like this:
Obviously, we have no model of organizational replacement, but at least we know what we no longer want. We refuse everything which repeats the constitutive models of representative alienation and the rupture between the levels where political will is formed and the levels of its execution and administration. (p 104)
They go on, clearly directed by Guattari, with the following:
But, up to this point, our attempt at redefinition has only progressed negatively: more positively, what signifies the organization of revolutionary subjectivity? Let’s advance a step at a time and try to better answer the question. (p 105-6)
What is at stake here then is a functional multicentrism capable, on the one hand, of articulating the different dimensions of social intellection, and on the other hand of actively neutralizing the destructive power of capitalist arrangements. This is the first positive characteristic of the new revolutionary subjectivity. Its cooperative, plural, anti-centralist, anti-corporatist, anti-racist, anti-sexist dimensions further the productive capacities of the singularties [i.e. analytic units]. Only qualified in this way will proletarian struggles be able to reconstitute coherent and effective fronts of struggle. These organizational processes should be conceived as being essentially dynamic: each singularity is given impetus by objectives which are not only local but which themselves expand more and more until they begin to define points of transsectoral contact nationally and internationally. (p 107-8)
The invention and construction of these new organizational schemas imply the creation of permanent mechanisms for analyzing the internal goals of the social subjectivity’s own processes of self-production. This is the sine qua non for guaranteeing a real questioning of the modes of collective functioning and for preventing the emergence of sectarian tendencies.
This seems to us to be the positive starting-point of a revolutionary method of organization adequate to the collective subjectivity bearing it: a scientific method in its mode of analysis, yet open to historical processes and capable of imagination. “Work in progress” in the chain links of singularities, all oriented toward their self-production and multiplication . A method, therefore, which is constitutive of an organization which continually remakes itself, a method thereby conjoined to the productive forces which have made the singularities and their development the basis of material and spiritual wealth. [p 109-10]
While these statements are certainly vague, they are at least more practically oriented than those Negri has made since. I hope I’ve begun to fill in the details of what schizoanalysis as an organizational method looks like and why it is valuable, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Guattari provided a lot of sketches, some more detailed and useful than others, but schizoanalysis still is and will always be a work in progress.
In the next few posts in this series I’ll deal more explicitly with the topics of the method of analysis itself, the figure of the ‘analyst’ and ‘analytic organization’ (as distinct from analytic units adjacent to preexisting organizations), and anti-capitalism and ‘payment’.
Finally, I’d like to say that this isn’t something I can do alone. If anyone reading this is interested in schizoanalytic praxis and would like to collaborate in developing this praxis, or if you are already doing so, please let me know.