Saturday, 26 January 2013

Schizoanalytic Cartographies Part 3: Guattari on Postmodernity

This is part three of my series of blogs on Félix Guattari's Schizoanalytic Cartographies. Please click here for part one and two:
1 - Psychoanalysis and Religion
2 - Guattari on Enunciation

This extract includes some of Guattari's comments on postmodernity. Here he critiques the demise of social relations in a somewhat polemic fashion, but despite that this extract does highlight some of the themes associated with postmodernism - style over content, the decline of grand narratives, etc.:
A certain conception of progress and of modernity has gone bankrupt, compromising in its collapse collective confidence in the very idea of emancipatory social practice. In parallel, a sort of glaciation has taken over social relations: hierarchies and segregations have rigidified, poverty and unemployment tend to be accepted today as inevitable evils, the unions cling onto the last institutional branches conceded to them and are imprisoned in corporatists practices leading them to adopt conservative attitudes that are sometimes close to the of the reactionary milieus. The communist left is irremediably stuck in sclerosis and dogmatism, whilst socialist parties concerned to present themselves as reliable technocratic partners have given up any progressive questioning of existing structures. It is not surprising, after all that, if the ideologies that once claimed to serve as a guide to rebuilding society on a less unjust, less unequal basis have lost their credibility. (page 36)
Does it follow that we are henceforth condemned to stand around like idiots in the face of growth of the new order of cruelty and cynicism that is on the point of submerging the planet, with the firm intention, it seems, of staying? It is this regrettable conclusion that numerous intellectual and artistic milieus effectively seem to have reached, in particular those who invoke the fashion of postmodernism. (page 36)

Whether they are painters, architects or philosophers, the heroes of postmodernity share an assessment that the crises the artistic and social practices are experiencing today can no longer lead into anything other than irrevocable refusal of any collective projectuality of any scale. Let's tend our garden then and preferably in conformity with the habits and customs of our contemporaries. No waves. Just vogues, modulated on the markets of art and opinion by means of publicity campaigns and opinion polls. As for ordinary sociality, a new principle of 'sufficient communication' will have to provide for the maintenance of its equilibria and ephemeral consistency. If one thinks about it, how much distance has been travelled since the epoch in which one could read on the banners of French sociology: 'social facts are not things'! For the postmoderns, they are now nothing more than erratic clouds of floating discourse in a signifying ether! (page 39)

If you are interested in other philosophical discussions on postmodernity and culture, I would also recommend the following texts:

Jean-Françoise Lyotard The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
Fredric Jameson Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Schizoanalytic Cartographies Part 2: Guattari on Enunciation

This is the second of my series of blogs on Guattari's Schizoanalytic Cartographies. Please click here for part one: Psychoanalysis and Religion Thanks for all the hits on my first blog in the series, I hope this one is as popular.

I'd just like to define a couple of terms before I include an interesting section on enunciation by Guattari, where he provides a neat analogy with the conductor of an orchestra.

For Guattari (and Deleuze) individuals are multiplicities which come together briefly through movement and rest. The parts that make up the individual are not constant but are continually formed, disassembled and re-formed in different combinations. These parts do not belong to the individual, they only temporarily constitute her and emanate from the environment of that particular situation. This is an assemblage. Assemblages do not just refer to individuals but to any collection of this kind, and operate on a “plane of consistency”, which is not hierarchic in nature. At the point people are considered to be communicating, Guattari describe this as an “assemblage of enunciation”.

These types of topographical terms are what is great about Guattari's work in applying it to urban space and psychogeography, in the way that it enables me to do with schizocartography. Anyway...I am going to cheat with this definition as I don't have one of my own to hand. Here's Guattari's from The Anti-Oedipus Papers: "Territory describes a lived space, or a perceived system in which a subject 'feels at home'. Territory is synonymous with appropriation, subjectification closed in on itself. A territory can also be deterritorialized, i.e. open up, to be engaged in lines of flight, and even become deleterious and self-destructive. Reterritorialization consists of an attempt to recompose a territory engaged in a process of deterritorialization."

Enunciation is like the conductor who sometimes accepts his loss of control of the members of the orchestra: at certain moments, it is the pleasure of articulation or rhythm, if not an inflated style, which sets out to play a solo and to impose it on others. Let's emphasize that if an Assemblage of enunciation can include multiple social voices, it equally takes on pre-personal voices, capable of brining about aesthetic ecstasis, a mystic effusion or an ethological panic - an agoraphobic syndrome, for example - as much as an ethical imperative. One can see that all forms of concerted emancipation are conceivable. A good conductor will not attempt despotically to overcode all the parts on the score, but will be looking for the collective crossing of the threshold at which the aesthetic object designated by the name at the top of the score is attained. 'That's it! You've got it!' Tempo, accents, phrasing, the balancing of parts, harmonies, rhythms and timbres: everything conspires in the reinvention of the work and its propulsion towards new orbits of deterritorialized sensibility...(page 210)
Part three of the blog is here: Guattari on Postmodernity