Félix Guattari  

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Pierre-Félix Guattari (March 30, 1930 – August 29, 1992) was a French psychotherapist, philosopher, semiologist, activist and screenwriter. He founded both schizoanalysis and ecosophy, and is best known for his intellectual collaborations with Gilles Deleuze, most notably Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia.



Clinic of La Borde

Guattari was born in Villeneuve-les-Sablons, a working-class suburb of north-west Paris, France. He trained under, and was analysed by, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan in the early 1950s. Subsequently, he worked at the experimental psychiatric clinic of La Borde under the direction of Lacan's pupil, the psychiatrist Jean Oury. One particularly novel orientation developed at La Borde consisted of the suspension of the classical master-patient, or analyst/analysand binome, in favour of open confrontation in group therapy. It was the practice of group-therapy and the study of the dynamics of a plurality of subjects in complex interaction, rather than the individualistic style of analysis of the traditional Freudian school, which in turn led him into a larger philosophical exploration of and political engagement with as vast an array of domains as possible (philosophy, ethnology, linguistics, architecture, etc.,) in order to better define the orientation, delimitation and psychiatric efficacy of the practice.

Guattari would later proclaim that psychoanalysis is "the best capitalist drug" because in it desire is confined to a couch: desire, in Lacanian psychoanalysis, is an energy that is contained rather than one that, if freed, could militantly engage itself in something different. He continued this research, collaborating in Jean Oury's private clinic of La Borde at Cour-Cheverny, one of the main centers of institutional psychotherapy at the time. La Borde was a venue for conversation amongst innumerable students of philosophy, psychology, ethnology, and social work. La Borde was Félix Guattari's principal anchoring until he died of a heart attack in 1992.

1960s to 1970s

From 1955 to 1965, Félix Guattari animated the trotskyist group Voie Communiste (Communist Way). He would then support anticolonialist struggles as well as the Italian Autonomists. Guattari also took part in the movement of the psychological G.T., which gathered many psychiatrists at the beginning of the sixties and created the Association of Institutional Psychotherapy in November 1965. It was at the same time that he founded, along with other militants, the F.G.E.R.I. (Federation of Groups for Institutional Study & Research) and its review Recherche (Research), working on philosophy, mathematics, psychoanalysis, education, architecture, ethnology, etc. The F.G.E.R.I. came to represent aspects of the multiple political and cultural engagements of Félix Guattari: the Group for Young Hispanics, the Franco-Chinese Friendships (in the times of the popular communes), the opposition activities with the wars in Algeria and Vietnam, the participation in the M.N.E.F., with the U.N.E.F., the policy of the offices of psychological academic aid (B.A.P.U.), the organisation of the University Working Groups (G.T.U.), but also the reorganizations of the training courses with the Centers of Training to the Methods of Education Activities (C.E.M.E.A.) for psychiatric male nurses, as well as the formation of Friendly Male Nurses (Amicales d'infirmiers) (in 1958), the studies on architecture and the projects of construction of a day hospital of for "students and young workers".

Guattari was involved in the events of May 1968, starting from the Movement of March 22. It was in the aftermath of 1968 that Guattari met Gilles Deleuze at the University of Vincennes and began to lay the ground-work for the soon to be infamous Anti-Oedipus (1972), which Michel Foucault described as "an introduction to the non-fascist life" in his preface to the book. Throughout his career it may be said that his writings were at all times correspondent in one fashion or another with sociopolitical and cultural engagements. In 1967, he appeared as one of the founders of OSARLA (Organization of solidarity and Aid to the Latin-American Revolution). It was with the head office of the F.G.E.R.I. that he met, in 1968, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Jean-Jacques Lebel, and Julian Beck. In 1970, he created C.E.R.F.I. (Center for the Study and Research of Institutional Formation), which takes the direction of the Recherches review. In 1977, he created the CINEL for "new spaces of freedom" before joining in the 1980s the ecological movement with his "ecosophy".

1980s to 1990s

In his last book, Chaosmose (1992), the topic of which is already partially developed in What is Philosophy? (1991, with Deleuze), Félix Guattari takes again his essential topic: the question of subjectivity. "How to produce it, collect it, enrich it, reinvent it permanently in order to make it compatible with mutant Universes of value?" This idea returns like a leitmotiv, from Psychanalyse and transversality (a regrouping of articles from 1957 to 1972) through Années d'hiver (1980 - 1986) and Cartographies Schizoanalytique (1989). He insists on the function of "a-signification", which plays the role of support for a subjectivity in act, starting from four parameters: "significative and semiotic flows, Phylum of Machinic Propositions, Existential Territories and Incorporeal Universes of Reference."

In 1995, the posthumous release Chaosophy featured Guattari's first collection of essays and interviews focuses on the French anti-psychiatrist and theorist's work as director of the experimental La Borde clinic and collaborator of philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Chaosophy is a groundbreaking introduction to Guattari's theories on "schizo-analysis", a process meant to replace Sigmund Freud's interpretation with a more pragmatic, experimental, and collective approach rooted in reality. Unlike Freud, Guattari believes that schizophrenia is an extreme mental state co-existent with the capitalist system itself. But capitalism keeps enforcing neurosis as a way of maintaining normality. Guattari's post-Marxist vision of capitalism provides a new definition not only of mental illness, but also of micropolitical means of subversion. It includes key essays such as "Balance-Sheet Program for Desiring Machines," cosigned by Deleuze (with whom he coauthored Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus), and the provocative "Everybody Wants To Be a Fascist."

Soft Subversions is another collection of Félix Guattari's essays, lectures, and interviews traces the militant anti-psychiatrist and theorist's thought and activity throughout the 1980s ("the winter years"). Concepts such as "micropolitics," "schizoanalysis," and "becoming-woman" open up new horizons for political and creative resistance in the "postmedia era." Guattari's energetic analyses of art, cinema, youth culture, economics, and power formations introduce a radically inventive thought process engaged in liberating subjectivity from the standardizing and homogenizing processes of global capitalism.


Works published in English

  • Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics (1984). Trans. Rosemary Sheed. Selected essays from Psychanalyse et transversalité (1972) and La révolution moléculaire (1977).
  • Les Trois écologies (1989). Trans. The Three Ecologies. Partial translation by Chris Turner (Paris: Galilee, 1989), full translation by Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton (London: The Athlone Press, 2000).
  • Chaosmose (1992). Trans. Chaosmosis: an ethico-aesthetic paradigm (1995).
  • Chaosophy (1995), ed. Sylvere Lotringer. Collected essays and interviews.
  • Soft Subversions (1996), ed. Sylvere Lotringer. Collected essays and interviews.
  • The Guattari Reader (1996), ed. Gary Genosko. Collected essays and interviews.
  • Ecrits pour L'Anti-Œdipe (2004), ed. Stéphane Nadaud. Trans. The Anti-Œdipus Papers (2006). Collection of texts written between 1969 and 1972.
  • Chaos and Complexity (Forthcoming 2008, MIT Press). Collected essays and interviews.

In collaboration with Gilles Deleuze:

  • Capitalisme et Schizophrénie 1. L'Anti-Œdipe (1972). Trans. Anti-Oedipus (1977).
  • Kafka: Pour une Littérature Mineure (1975). Trans. Kafka: Toward a Theory of Minor Literature (1986).
  • Rhizome: introduction (Paris: Minuit, 1976). Trans. "Rhizome," in Ideology and Consciousness 8 (Spring, 1981): 49-71. This is an early version of what became the introductory chapter in Mille Plateaux.
  • Capitalisme et Schizophrénie 2. Mille Plateaux (1980). Trans. A Thousand Plateaus (1987).
  • On the Line (1983). Contains translations of "Rhizome," and "Politics" ("Many Politics") by Deleuze and Parnet.
  • Nomadology: The War Machine. (1986). Translation of "Plateau 12," Mille Plateaux.
  • Qu'est-ce que la philosophie? (1991). Trans. What Is Philosophy? (1996).

Other collaborations:

  • Les nouveaux espaces de liberté (1985). Trans. Communists Like Us (1990). With Antonio Negri.
  • Micropolitica: Cartografias do Desejo (1986). Trans. Molecular Revolution in Brazil (Forthcoming October 2007, MIT Press). With Suely Rolnik.
  • The Party without Bosses (2003), by Gary Genosko. Features a 1982 conversation between Guattari and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the current President of Brazil.

Works untranslated into English

Note: Many of the essays found in these works have been individually translated and can be found in the English collections.

  • Psychanalyse et transversalité. Essais d'analyse institutionnelle (1972).
  • La révolution moléculaire (1977, 1980). The 1980 version (éditions 10/18) contains substantially different essays from the 1977 version.
  • L'inconscient machinique. Essais de Schizoanalyse (1979).
  • Les années d'hiver, 1980-1985 (1986).
  • Cartographies schizoanalytiques (1989).

Other collaborations:

  • L’intervention institutionnelle (Paris: Petite Bibliothèque Payot, n. 382 - 1980). On institutional pedagogy. With Jacques Ardoino, G. Lapassade, Gerard Mendel, Rene Lourau.
  • Pratique de l'institutionnel et politique (1985). With Jean Oury and Francois Tosquelles.
  • (it) Desiderio e rivoluzione. Intervista a cura di Paolo Bertetto (Milan: Squilibri, 1977). Conversation with Franco Berardi (Bifo) and Paolo Bertetto.

Select secondary sources

  • Abou-Rihan, Fadi, Deleuze and Guattari: A Psychoanalytic Itinerary. (Continuum, 2008).
  • Éric Alliez, La Signature du monde, ou Qu'est-ce que la philosophie de Deleuze et Guattari (1993). Trans. The Signature of the World: Or, What is Deleuze and Guattari's Philosophy? (2005).
  • Gary Genosko, Félix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction (2002).
  • Gary Genosko (ed.), Deleuze and Guattari: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers. Volume 2: Guattari (2001). ISBN 0415186781.

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