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Schizoanalysis, The Internet, and You.

Why do the people fight for their own servitude as stubbornly as if it were their salvation? Such an arresting question was first posed by unconventional psychoanalyst William Reich in his 1933 book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism. In the book, Reich makes the case that psychic repression depends on social oppression, and as a result, the modern conception of the fascist state has been taken up not by sinister external forces but internally, by the masses themselves. What this means psycho-politically is that the success of a political movement or revolution are dependent on a precedent revolution of the psyche. After all, to tear down a factory or revolt against a government is to attack the effects of fascism rather than causes, and as long as any attack is focused solely on effects, no structural political change is possible. For Reich, what is truly fascistic is our present construction of systematic thought, of 'rationality' itself. If a factory is torn down, but the rationality that produced it is left standing, we will simply produce another factory. If a political revolution overthrows a despot, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced the despot remain, those patterns will repeat themselves in a succeeding government.

Consider the example of surveillance: the Wikileaks' Cablegate, the Snowden Documents, the Afghanistan War Logs, the recent Panama Papers—if massive leaks such as these are any indication, the present construction of systematic thought alluded to by Reich operates in a highly securitised and surveilled political climate—a diffuse matrix of new information gathering algorithms, where our information is tracked and then ordered into categories of acceptable or unacceptable activities. We know that we are always being tracked—touch off enough markers in Internet activity by going to certain sites or using certain words and you will be placed on a 'watchlist.' Rather than being spurred into anxiety by this unnerving realisation, the vast majority of us 'choose' to ignore it, to continue on with existence as 'usual' and as a result, we tacitly give our endorsement to the notion that those who are breaking the rules will be brought to 'justice.' But first let's look back at the panama papers where 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. ... The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private.

Inadmissible behaviours are largely unrecognised as existing, or situated under the category of the 'criminal,' a concept we rarely take the time to call into question. As a result, a divide is created—a class that falls outside the 'we' who have freedom—and deep thought about the shared subjectivity of these 'categories' is strongly discouraged. We are under control precisely to the extent we think of those subjugated to the effects of power as anything other than 'us.'

By rendering the world in this way, our society of control maintains an illusion of freedom. We are 'free' to say and do what we want—within pre-circumscribed desires. Since the only forms of speech prohibited in the public discourse are radical indictments of our political system and calls to 'terrorist' or insurrectionary action, most of us fall within such parameters without even thinking about it, and so experience ourselves as free to express our views and live our lives.

What is Schizoanalysis?

For all of his vital insights into the socio-psychological nature of power and control, Reich never adequately addresses his own question. As Deleuze and Guattari point out in their introduction to schizoanalysis, Anti-Oedipus, Reich was content to answer by invoking the ideological, the subjective, the irrational, and the inhabited because he too remained a prisoner of effect. In other words, Reich fell short of the materialist psychiatry that he dreamed up because his project overlooked the multiplicitious functions of desire in the fascist personality under capitalism.

Drawing from the work of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, schizoanalysis is a revolutionary political process that seeks to expand upon Reich's materialist-psychiatric critique of psychoanalysis so as to include the full scope of multiplicitious social and historical factors in its explanations of cognition and behaviour in order to map and thus undermine the causal groundings of fascism.

Schizoanalysis has acquired many different definitions during its development in the philosophic works of Nietzsche, Artaud, Deleuze, and Guattari, as well as literary figures such as Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs, Henry Miller, and Jack Kerouac. What connects these thinkers as schizoanalysts is that they have been able to uproot themselves from the social's causes and traditions in order to conduct physical exoduses from the ideological territories that harboured them through much of their previous lives. Furthermore, each of them is in tune with heightened degrees of empathy and perception—they have been able to focus their gaze on something and tease out the intangible in it—an intangible that transforms something within each of them.

Indeed, literature is akin to schizoanalysis in the way that there is no ultimate goal, no attainable summit that it is reaching towards, and in itself it is only a process, a production of something. A previously held fact is destroyed by each of these authors: for Huxley, it was the deterioration of an anti-psychedelic political climate, for Burroughs, it was the destruction of traditional norms of control, and for Miller and Kerouac, it was the ability to explode the bourgeois morality system.

In a similar manner, the schizophrenic, even in their delirium, finds themselves 'tuned in' to things around them:

'It's a given that in the practice of institutional psychotherapy that the schizophrenic who is most lost in himself will suddenly burst out with the most incredible details about your private life, things that you would never imagine anyone could know, and that he will tell you in the most abrupt way truths that you believed to be absolutely secret. It's not a mystery. The schizophrenic has lightening-like access to you; he is focused, so to speak, directly on those links that constitute a series in his subjective system.'(1)

In many ways, this description of the interaction between the therapist and the schizophrenic is reminiscent of philosopher Peter Sloterdijk's answer to the question 'where is the individual?': "First of all and most often it is part of a couple." (2) This is not just a physical couple per se, though it can take on this form; it is the coupling with the 'self' and the 'other,' various manifestations of alterity that the self relates to. The 'individual' becomes a question of space, but a non-physical space of 'inbetweenness' situated at the fluctuations between one thing and another. Thus Deleuze and Guattari's understanding of the schizophrenic experience, and one of the essential aims of schizoanalysis, is a proliferation of the interconnected state of all things in order to cultivate a 'break' or fracture that allows the entity we mistakenly refer to as the 'individual' to make a jump, a leap onto the plane consistency where processes of becoming can take place.

One asks: How is the schizophrenic able to so lucidly articulate the inner-workings of the self before them? Because they deterritorialise themselves right down to the flows that actually create the individual. For schizoanalysis, schizophrenia is not seen as the disease or mental disturbance that characterises or defines schizophrenics. Schizophrenics as clinic patients—and schizophrenia as a reductive psychiatric diagnosis—result from the vital incompatibility between the dynamics of schizophrenia unleashed by capitalism and the reigning institutions of society.

To be clear, schizoanalysis does not romanticise asylum inmates and their often excruciating and exploitative conditions of existence—conditions which are directly fostered by the 'mental health' institutions proliferated by capitalism. As opposed to an individualised psychological 'problem,' schizoanalysis re-conceptualises schizophrenia as a broad socio-historical system of control that results from the generalised production of psychosis and anxiety that are currently pervading capitalist society—a process that no single psychiatric patent could possibly embody.

In brief, capitalism fosters schizophrenia because the quantitative calculations of the market replace meaning and belief systems as the foundation of society. In this approximation then, we can define schizophrenia—both in the psyche and the socius—as a form of 'unlimited semiosis' that emerges when fixed meanings and beliefs are subverted by the cash-nexus under modern capitalism. Hence, schizophrenia constitutes an objective tendency of capitalist society and its historical development. By way of the simultaneous elimination of extant meanings and beliefs, every extension of capital—from the geographical (imperialism) to psychological (marketing)—manifests as a new layer of the perpetual state of alienated fear: "All that is solid melts into air." (3)

According to Deleuze and Guattari, the powerful capitalist counter-tendency to the emancipatory potentials of schizoanalysis—the driving force behind the resurgence of neo-fascist propensities in democratic states—is paranoia. For if we understand schizophrenia to designate an unlimited chain of semiotic signifiers—radically fluid and extemporaneous forms of meaning—paranoia, by contrast, designates an absolute system of belief where all meaning and all representation is permanently fixed. As a result of this ubiquitous paranoia, we perceive desire, that is, 'what we seek,' as a lack, a reaction, a void—something that must be constantly filled and refilled. Under capitalism desire is commodified, it becomes a libidinal economy—a prison in which what the libido seeks is temporarily satiation enabled by the further commodification of all facets of life.

For schizoanalysis, the terms paranoia and schizophrenia point to what Reich overlooked in his initial materialist-psychiatric critique of power: they are the fundamental organising dynamics of a capitalist society. Paranoia represents what is archaic in capitalism, the resuscitation of the obsolete, rigid, belief-centred modes of social organisation. Whereas schizophrenia embodies capitalism's positive potentials: freedom, ingenuity, and permanent revolution. Hence the schizo-moment is the ultimate subversion of paranoiac systematisation, of the desire to 'build walls,' to draw up psychological, ideological, and material borders between 'us' and 'them.' In deploying a highly figurative style of discourse that manifests in the development of concepts such as 'desiring-machines' and the 'body-without-organs,' schizoanalysis erodes the stifling distinction between metaphor and metamorphosis. In opposition to the paranoiac traditionalism of fascistic thought, schizophrenia's potential for radical freedom designates a revolutionary objective tendency of capitalism that opens up spaces to re-code the flows of desire in new ways.

'Rather than moving in a direction of the reductionist modifications of desire, which merely simplify the complexes of modernity, schizoanalysis works towards its complexification, its processual enrichment, towards the consistency of its virtual lines of bifurcation and differentiation—in short towards its ontological heterogeneity.' (4)

What most revolutionary politics lacks is a new psychology, an anti-psychiatry that will help us to undertake the task of gradually releasing our over-coded flows of desire from the grips of fascist ideologies without sending us straight into a mental institution. This is the primary aim of schizoanalysis: to take the preferable tendencies of schizophrenia to its limits in order to rupture the paranoiac foundations of modern capitalism. Indeed, to push through the limits imposed by capitalist alienation, to replace our position as poor, defenceless, guilt-ridden puppets in internal straight-jackets, with free, non-Oedipalised, non-individualised, uncoded subjectivities. In short, schizoanalysis is moved towards taking up the limitless potentials of conceptualising schizophrenia as a revolutionary breakthrough rather than a psychological breakdown.


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awesomely written and very articulate of what is imo the most urgent project for all of us right now.

im reminded of the psychiatrist R.D. Laing's thesis that (tw: im about to botch a paraphrase) schizophrenia amounts to an entanglement of interpersonal or tribal "impasses", that the knots of clinical schizophrenia are often the bungled thread of a communication that can never happen. the patient's mind is made up, but the clinician's is, too. (make-belief). this works in schizoanalysis as the art of "trespasses"

'Rather than moving in a direction of the reductionist modifications of desire, which merely simplify the complexes of modernity, schizoanalysis works towards its complexification, its processual enrichment, towards the consistency of its virtual lines of bifurcation and differentiation—in short towards its ontological heterogeneity.' (4)

i feel this amounts to a kind of schizosophy, where trespassing on moral and aesthetic and conventional (and so on and so on) grounds finds a wisdom wherein the value of ideas is not within-and-of themselves, but rather for their valences--their reactivity and explosivity, to the limit of omnivalence.

all too often, though, highly reactive ideas are repackaged by Good Media and made anodyne. sex drugs and rock and roll had to become dad rock so they could show it to their kids in polite society without "going there". (we don't want to think too hard about the line "This could be Heaven or this could be Hell" from Hotel California or else we'll go schizo or whatnot)

what we want is freedom of thought, but the Health Market has turned us into our own and each other's prison wardens. surely if i know what's good for you (some pill, probably), then i must know what good for me and im doing great, right? good thinking, me!
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Each other's, and our own. The real control comes from being able to get someone to self-censor consciously but even worse to actually not even realize it is happening. Those thoughts are just gone, like losing bits on the wire.
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