Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives

François Dosse
Translated by Deborah Glassman
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/doss14560
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  • Book Info
    Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
    Book Description:

    In May 1968, Gilles Deleuze was an established philosopher teaching at the innovative Vincennes University, just outside of Paris. Félix Guattari was a political militant and the director of an unusual psychiatric clinic at La Borde. Their meeting was quite unlikely, yet the two were introduced in an arranged encounter of epic consequence. From that moment on, Deleuze and Guattari engaged in a surprising, productive partnership, collaborating on several groundbreaking works, including Anti-Oedipus, What Is Philosophy? and A Thousand Plateaus.

    François Dosse, a prominent French intellectual known for his work on the Annales School, structuralism, and biographies of the pivotal intellectuals Paul Ricoeur, Pierre Chaunu, and Michel de Certeau, examines the prolific if improbable relationship between two men of distinct and differing sensibilities. Drawing on unpublished archives and hundreds of personal interviews, Dosse elucidates a collaboration that lasted more than two decades, underscoring the role that family and history-particularly the turbulent time of May 1968-play in their monumental work. He also takes the measure of Deleuze and Guattari's posthumous fortunes and the impact of their thought on intellectual, academic, and professional circles.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51867-3
    Subjects: History, Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: Betwixt or Between
    (pp. 1-17)

    Four-handed. The work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari remains an enigma, even today. Who was the author? One or both of them? How could two such different men, with such distinct sensibilities and styles, pursue their intellectual agenda together for more than twenty years (1969–1991)? How could they have been so close—yet so distant that they used the formal vous to address each other (though both used the informal tu quite easily with others)? How do we describe the propulsive energy of this unique adventure? How did the collaboration between these two writers function? It is often...

  5. Part I. Folds:: Parallel Biographies
    • 1 Félix Guattari: The Psychopolitical Itinerary, 1930–1964
      (pp. 21-39)

      Little Pierre, as he was called at home, was born on March 30, 1930, the third of three sons: Jean, Paul, and Pierre-Félix. His family quickly realized that he was surprising and strange, although they certainly did not anticipate his intellectual career. “Félix was the little duckling in the nest,” remarked Jean, nine years his elder and somewhat of a father figure to Félix.¹ In this rather traditional, conservative family, the last-born child enjoyed more freedom than his brothers and was more independent at an earlier age. His oldest brother had to go to work when he was seventeen; Pierre-Félix,...

    • 2 La Borde: Between Myth and Reality
      (pp. 40-54)

      Set in the heart of the Sologne in the Loir-et-Chair, the La Borde chateau was a mythical place, an unorthodox psychiatric clinic where mental illness was treated unconventionally. Over time, it became a real utopia where the psychiatric movement both proved itself and continued to evolve. Rejecting the traditional approach of isolating people with psychiatric disorders, La Borde took the preclinical approach of mixing patients and their pathologies with normal people—without forgetting that psychotic patients needed medical treatment.

      Located in the Centre Region’s commune of Cour-Cheverny, not far from two well-known Loire River chateaus—Chambord and Blois, which was...

    • 3 Daily Life at La Borde
      (pp. 55-75)

      Life at La Borde was scheduled around innumerable meetings that organized all the groups—the “locals,” the “barbarians,” the medical staff, and the patients. A new meeting could be created at the drop of a hat, but one meeting in particular became an institution: the Daily Activities Commission. Created in 1955, the DAC met like clockwork every day after lunch in the large living room to organize every detail of daily life.

      When he arrived at La Borde, Guattari immediately took over the DAC. In addition to the myriad kinds of information and activities that had to be organized, the...

    • 4 Testing Critical Research Empirically
      (pp. 76-87)

      When Félix Guattari created the Federation of Institutional Study Groups and Research (FGERI) in 1965, he was at a strategic turning point and clearly leaving La Voie Communiste and its Trotskyite associations behind. He wanted to transform intellectual work into a nonacademic research program by bringing together specific competencies from the independent groups composing the federation and organizing things such that individual contributions circulated as much as possible. All of this was done out of a desire to shake up entrenched habits of mind and received ideas in each established discipline.

      The FGERI adopted Guattari’s principle of transversality¹ in those...

    • 5 Gilles Deleuze: The Hero’s Brother
      (pp. 88-107)

      It is the summer of 1928, at the Deleuzes’ vacation spot in Deauville. Five-year-old Georges is standing with his hand on his younger brother Gilles’ shoulder. Both boys are dressed in clown costumes. Again in Deauville, we see them again; it is 1934, and nine-year old Gilles is pretending to smoke a rolled paper cigarette. The next year, the two brothers are posing for the camera once again, both dressed in tennis clothes and holding rackets. Georges’ hand is still on Gilles’ shoulder. After that, nothing: the older brother disappears without a trace.

      This older brother played a major role...

    • 6 The Art of the Portrait
      (pp. 108-128)

      Deleuze discussed his philosophical work on several occasions. Initially, he wrote monographs about well-known philosophers. Typically, his work is divided into two periods: his classical publications on the great authors in the philosophical tradition, including Hume, Bergson, Nietzsche, and Spinoza; and his later, personal work. Deleuze himself suggested this way of reading his work in his discussions with Claire Parnet, when he compared the acts of a philosopher and a painter. Just as Van Gogh began painting portraits before undertaking landscapes, so too the philosopher should begin by trying to re create the singularity of his predecessors so that, once...

    • 7 Nietzsche, Bergson, Spinoza: A Trio for a Vitalist Philosophy
      (pp. 129-149)

      Nietzsche was fundamental for Deleuze as he was formalizing his own philosophical positions. He read Nietzsche as he read other philosophers. First, he repaired the error of interpreting the eternal return as a simple return of the same in obedience to a cyclical law. Then, he and others helped restore the critical, corrosive, progressive aspect of Nietzsche’s thinking, which had been primarily used, until that point, to comfort reactionary and elitist positions. Finally, he drew his major concept of difference from Nietzsche as resulting from the liberation of the will to power.

      The Germanist Jacques Le Rider aptly described Nietzsche’s...

    • 8 An Ontology of Difference
      (pp. 150-169)

      When Deleuze defended his doctoral thesis in 1968–1969, the time had come for him to show his colors publicly. The author of Difference and Repetition distanced himself from the dominant philosophical tradition by arguing for an overthrow of Platonic thinking. His remarks occurred during the 1960s, a decade during which Hegelianism, the reigning force in the history of philosophy, was coming under fire. This was clearly a time of change: in literature with the New Novel, in the social sciences, and in the growing appreciation of Heideggerian thinking; it was an era of “generalized anti-Hegelianism.”¹

      Plato held the front...

    • 9 The Founding Rupture: May 1968
      (pp. 170-179)

      In May 1968, the March 22 Movement was meeting daily to plan expanded and increasingly combative demonstrations. When Anne Querrien, a student in Nantes, active CERFI researcher, and friend of Guattari, arrived on the evening of May 8 at the home of Evelyne July, Serge July’s wife, she found a note on the locked door: “We are at Félix’s house.” The movement’s militants were meeting at the CERFI office, at 7, avenue de Verzy, in the seventeenth arrondissement.

      The CERFI dissolved fortuitously into the March 22 Movement at a critical point during the May demonstrations. On this May 8 evening,...

  6. Part II. Unfolding:: Intersecting Lives
    • 10 “Psychoanalysm” Under Attack
      (pp. 183-205)

      In the 1950s, Guattari would stroll through the halls of the Sorbonne swearing strictly by Lacan, the teacher who had inspired him. He knew Lacan’s work virtually by heart and encouraged his friends to read him. He was a loyal celebrant at the weekly ceremony of the Seminar. In fact, Lacan so inspired him and he imitated him to such a degree that his friend Philippe Girard referred to him as “Lacan” in the Sorbonne halls. When Lacan created the Freudian School of Paris in 1964, Guattari was one of his lieutenants and even suggested creating a school newsletter, which...

    • 11 Anti-Oedipus
      (pp. 206-222)

      In the spring of 1972, a bomb dropped in the intellectual and political world. Coming a mere four years after May ’68, Anti-Oedipus still bore the marks and effects of the period. Daily demonstrations of public unrest kept the events of May ’68 fresh in the popular imagination. Political leftism was alive and well and even occasionally managed to surmount divisions, as, for example, on March 4, 1972, when two hundred thousand people attended the funeral of the Maoist Pierre Overney.

      In the same year that Anti-Oedipus came out, Guattari published Psychoanalysis and Transversality, a collection of articles describing his...

    • 12 Machine Against Structure
      (pp. 223-240)

      Between 1966 and 1969, Deleuze and Guattari were both very close to structuralist authors and works. However, they were also keenly aware of structuralism’s dead ends. They challenged every closure on meaning and simple reduction to binary thinking, and at the same time they resisted the processes of temporalization and the pragmatic dimension of language.

      As a Lacanian and member of the Freudian School of Paris, Guattari was fully involved in the expansion of structuralism in psychoanalysis. Deleuze, who wanted to move beyond the history of philosophy, was very receptive to the debates in the human sciences and found the...

    • 13 “Minor” Literature as Seen by Deleuze and Guattari
      (pp. 241-248)

      Between 1972 and 1980, along the path from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus, the 1975 publication of Kafka was an important milestone.¹ It was both an extremely original and refreshing reading of a writer whom both Deleuze and Guattari admired tremendously, and, more importantly perhaps, it was an opportunity to experiment with key concepts later developed in A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze and Guattari went from a critical denunciation of psychoanalysis to an affirmation of their own unusual approach. They tested it on a great literary work.

      Kafka was the first time Deleuze and Guattari used their notion of the “rhizome,”...

    • 14 A Thousand Plateaus: A Geophilosophy of Politics
      (pp. 249-266)

      In 1980, after the polemical, critical phase of Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari published the more positive second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus, which argues for a philosophy of spatial logics. Even today, the book remains deeply original and rich. In it, Deleuze and Guattari radically reject nineteenth-century historicism and its theodicy and teleology, which had prevailed well into the twentieth century. Rather than taking a Hegelian approach to time, they argue for spatial relationships among the many forces manifesting themselves over time.

      The two volumes are deeply connected. In Anti-Oedipus, the authors want to show that psychosis...

    • 15 The CERFI at Work
      (pp. 267-283)

      For a few years after it was created in 1967, the CERFI network and researchers were rather somnolent. Although CERFI members were deeply involved in the radical protests, it was only in 1970 that the CERFI itself really “took off .” The moment was fortuitous. Having signed two small contracts for a study on creating an educational television station in Côte d’Ivoire and another on the FNAC bookstores, Anne Querrien, the general secretary at the time, happened to run into a woman who worked at the Ministry of Public Works in the stairwell of her apartment building, after having picked...

    • 16 The “Molecular Revolution”: Italy, Germany, France
      (pp. 284-305)

      In 1976, the Basque country was restless—certainly on the Spanish side of the border, where ETA,¹ the Basque separatist movement, was engaged in an armed struggle against the powers of Madrid. Félix Guattari was dreaming of building a federation of regional protest movements, which could open up secondary fronts and weaken the Nation-State. Despite his extensive network of contacts, he never managed to realize this perilous project, which was located on the cusp between democratic combat and terrorist action.

      Guattari and his friends were, however, bathing in a veritable fountain of youth under the Italian sun. Roughly a decade...

    • 17 Deleuze and Foucault: A Philosophical Friendship
      (pp. 306-330)

      “Perhaps one day this century will be known as Deleuzean.”¹ Michel Foucault’s lucid remark, made in 1969, has often been repeated. As for Deleuze, “Gilles deeply admired Michel Foucault.”² Although they saw each other frequently and fought alongside each other for the same political causes, they never really worked together. Yet as the final tributes were being paid to Foucault at La Salpêtrière before a crowd of several hundred mourners, it was Deleuze who stood and read an excerpt from the preface to The Use of Pleasure. Some basic disagreements were surely motivated by a certain rivalry as to who...

    • 18 An Alternative to Psychiatry?
      (pp. 331-343)

      Antipsychiatry and La Borde have often been presented as if they were interchangeable—as if the Loir-et-Cher clinic exemplified the French version of the movement. However, according to Jean Oury, La Borde’s director, institutional psychotherapy and antipsychiatry are incompatible. At La Borde, psychiatry was practiced and the responsibility for everything that it entailed was accepted. “At about that same period, he [Félix] was fascinated by the antipsychiatrists. That’s how La Borde and antipsychiatry became confused in the minds of people who didn’t really know anything about it. It always infuriates me.”¹ Oury viewed the antipsychiatrists as “very dangerous aesthetes. I...

    • 19 Deleuze at Vincennes
      (pp. 344-361)

      At the end of 1969—the year he met Guattari—Deleuze was offered a teaching position to replace Michel Serres in the philosophy department of the new experimental university at Vincennes that had opened in the fall of 1968. In Lyon, Deleuze had been on the fringes of the May ’68 activism, but from 1970 on, he was deep in the heart of the “reactor.”

      The microcosm at Vincennes was completely unlike traditional academic universities. It was a radical enclave, set in the middle of Vincennes Woods, next to a military firing range. The Ministry of Defense had ceded some...

    • The illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 20 The Year of Combat: 1977
      (pp. 362-379)

      Midway between Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Deleuze and Guattari wrote a small, fundamental, programmatic text some hundred pages long entitled Rhizome,¹ which insisted on the many possible entries into a work: “no one entry is favored over another . . . so we’ll enter from any end.”² The rhizome is thus conceived as a theory of reception, or of reading, justifying an active role for readers in relation to authors and their presumed intentionality. It is seen as the possible expression of a pragmatic theory of reading: “the rhizome, as a theory of reading, takes the act...

  7. Part III. Surplices:: 1980–2007
    • 21 Guattari Between Culture and Ecology
      (pp. 383-396)

      In May 1981, it finally seemed that François Mitterrand would embody the long-nurtured hope of “changing life” through politics. He had represented the left since 1965 and appeared to be the only politician who could challenge General de Gaulle. The thrust of May ’68, blunted by the Gaullist triumph in the legislative elections of June 30, finally affected national politics. The uninterrupted postwar domination by the right was over. Mitterrand’s 1981 victory thus ended the right’s uncontested power, and the elections elicited tremendous enthusiasm in France.

      Deleuze and Guattari were also buoyed by the political euphoria. Deleuze attended Mitterrand’s jubilant...

    • 22 Deleuze Goes to the Movies
      (pp. 397-422)

      On November 10, 1981, Deleuze gave the first lecture of his morning course on cinema; little could he know what would ensue. He devoted three academic years,¹ 250 class hours, and two books to film.² This new cycle of studies began immediately after his collaboration with Félix Guattari had drawn to a close. In working on a topic not typically addressed by classical philosophy, was Deleuze taking a respite from philosophy? Not at all. As was often the case, moving into new areas of reflection was the result of both contingent, external factors and the internal necessities of his philosophical...

    • 23 Guattari and Aesthetics: Consolation During the Winter Years
      (pp. 423-433)

      In the mid-1980s, the indefatigable Guattari, ever in search of new ideas, lost his footing. Several events engulfed him, although in his public lectures (the number of invitations kept growing) he appeared unchanged. His inner circle knew that he was sinking into a deep depression and tried vainly to keep him afloat. No single reason triggered his decline, but various things affected him, including many psychological frailties that had never been sufficiently addressed.¹

      Suddenly, it seemed, Guattari was totally bereft of his territory: he lost the rented Dhuizon chateau, located near the La Borde clinic, and its three hundred hectares,...

    • 24 Deleuze Dialogues with Creation
      (pp. 434-455)

      Deleuze presented himself as a pure philosopher and metaphysician. But what distinguished him was that he incorporated the worlds of percepts and affects and literary and artistic creation into his philosophical reflection. This was where he found the sources of his philosophical thinking, and he did not limit himself to being an outside observer. He also worked with artists so as to understand the creative process. For both Deleuze and Guattari, aesthetics was not a separate realm; the philosopher-artist looks at the creative act as being endowed with a special status. Defined as the “creation of concepts,” philosophy must be...

    • 25 An Artist Philosophy
      (pp. 456-464)

      Deleuze and Guattari’s collaboration culminated in a classical question, which, by arguing for the primacy of “and” over “is,” the two authors seemed to have spent their careers avoiding. What Is Philosophy? was published in 1991, to the general surprise of the public. Indeed, ever since A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze had been saying that he wanted to work on this theme; his closing words to his final class at Paris-VIII in 1980 were, “Next year, I have to find something new. My dream would be a course on ‘what is philosophy?’ ”¹ His students thought he was joking and broke...

    • 26 Winning Over the West
      (pp. 465-478)

      America wasn’t conquered in a day. Disseminators had to do some preliminary groundwork. When Deleuze and Guattari first set foot on American soil in the mid-1970s, American campuses were already partial to French theory.¹ The stars of the moment were Barthes, Foucault, and Derrida, who had been teaching in the United States on a regular basis since 1966. Despite the spectacular stir in France over Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari were still the poor relations of French theory. Deleuze, who did not enjoy traveling and hated conferences, had not crossed the Atlantic, but an auspicious encounter eventually led to a trip...

    • 27 Around the World
      (pp. 479-491)

      The reputation and influence of Deleuze and Guattari extended well beyond North American shores. From Asia to Latin America and via Europe, their work spread worldwide. Guattari often traveled to promote and discuss his new publications; Deleuze, with few exceptions, observed the effects of his work from his observatory at Paris-VIII, where students came to him from around the world.

      In England, there were some Deleuzean institutions, such as the University of Warwick, where Keith Ansell-Pearson and Nick Land, both well known throughout the Anglophone world for their dynamism, were teaching. Deleuze had made his empirical positions clear since his...

    • 28 Two Deaths
      (pp. 492-501)

      On Friday, August 28, 1992, the regular meeting took place at La Borde. Jean Oury, who ran the clinic, was gone, but Guattari, his second in command, was there, as usual, listening to patients and their various recriminations about the way he assigned responsibilities. There was, among other things, the disparity between assignments and training. Guattari had a team of volunteers look into the problem. One of the patients said, “I would like us to look at condiments. I’m sick of linden. I read a book about this and we could pick the flowers ourselves. The club would have to...

    • 29 Their Work at Work
      (pp. 502-518)

      Deleuze and Guattari’s work continued to be read both internationally and in France after the two authors’ deaths. Indeed, their oeuvre drew commentary even before 1995, the year that Deleuze died. This first group of “disciples”—Deleuze and Guattari rejected the notion—included people who had met one or both of the authors or had taken courses at Paris-VIII. However, virtually all of the earliest publications on their work, with the exception of that of Éric Alliez, referred only to Deleuze.

      The first major publication was written by thirty-three-year-old Jean-Clet Martin, who intended to lay out the whole of Deleuze’s...

    • 30 Conclusion
      (pp. 519-524)

      Between 1969 and 1992, the year of Guattari’s death, two authors with very different backgrounds, personalities, and sensibilities collaborated on an exceptional oeuvre. During this long period, a “disjunctive synthesis,” or collective arrangement of enunciation—a term that they defined in a portentous way in their first article, published in 1970, on Klossowski—functioned well. It was an improbable marriage of the orchid and the wasp.

      Our study may help correct few blind spots that have led to minimizing and even eliminating Guattari’s role, leaving only Deleuze’s name. We have seen that, before the two met, Guattari was already a...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 525-616)
  9. Index
    (pp. 617-652)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 653-656)