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A Castrated Oedipus: A Manifesto of Desiring Nothing

Round One, the Platonic Ideal. Then arises a whole cluster of posh copies – of God and Divine Intervention (The Renaissance). Faith and Images here require a real representation. And now God dies. Forgiving sin becomes political propaganda as Jesus becomes real via his portraits. There is only the hyper-real, the Simulacrum is Latin for glorified copies.

Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), Marcel Duchamp, 1912, oil on canvas

Image Credits: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Such is the plight of politics and state philosophy – the consummation of signifiers and a signified in the name of establishing logos – among the subject, a concept, and an exterior object. The thinking subject creates concepts onto exteriorities that create representational reality. Policing these analogical simulacra is internally structured judgement. The rational order operates on negation: a = a = not b. Plato has been an orgasmic favourite of the State and its propagandists. State philosophy is false consciousness. The insidious form of this conscious is the State-form bourgeoning into a reproduction of institutions. The University and Government propagating representational thinking in curricula, nationalism as the propagation of the perfect spiritual State. Institutional logic is also devoid of regulated extension (liberalism and citizenship).

Herein lies the crux of this column – desiring idealism. The quest to achieve ideal societies, efficient market equilibria, perfect freedom. It is heretic and repressive to think ideally, that is in itself a sacrilegious hyper-reality with no strings attached. It is this desire for repression that is Oedipal. Desire as it is known is a definition and acquisition of a lack. The lack of representation creates a desire to produce. Production for the sake of a lack is inherently nihilistic and asocial, a phenomenon that cannot constitute social production. This lack is the representation of something unattainable and hence reality constrains and thwarts itself in fantasy. Representational fantasy represses the social into a hypnotic trance. Fetishizing repression through idealism is what makes us fascists, it creates an Oedipal neurosis.

“If desire is repressed, it is because every position of desire, no matter how small, is capable of calling into question the established order of a society: not that desire is asocial; on the contrary. But it is explosive; there is no desiring-machine capable of being assembled without demolishing entire social sectors.”

- Mark Seem, Introduction to Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze and Guattari)


Round Two, a militant ego-loss. The id is a machine – ubiquitous machines at work, an oral machine, an anal machine. Machines as partial objects that obstruct the flow of the circuit – the oral machine grafted onto the breastfeeding rib machine. Desiring-production is thus a binary-linear network of partial breakdowns that interact and produce desire. Desiring-production creates us as an organism whose predicament is such a “dehumanised” organisation. This third product of a binary system is non-productive in itself. This is the death instinct, for “desire desires death”, a tendency to be sterile and inorganic. It is in desiring-production and a body without organs where we find the perfect break for idealist transactions. Here, man and nature subsume each other. The natural instincts of man and the humane persona of nature coagulate into a frenzy of production and consumption which are the same sphere.

Boy with Machine, Richard Lindner, (1954, oil-on-canvas)/Image Credits: arthur.io

What Nietzsche called “gay science” and Artaud called “crowned anarchy” is what Foucault calls “outside thought”. This is the perverted mimesis of this column. Instead of analysing discrete pockets of disjoint concepts (x = x = not y), I sum an open equation (…+ x + y +…). Hence, one can take a marble and either sculpt reason or fling it across a window. What is the subject of this marble? The hand throwing it? The body grafted to it? The mind that ignites the hand? All and none of the above. What is the object of the marble? The window? The building of reason? The society of carpenters that made the window? All and none of the above. The extant concept is the circumstance that matters. It needs no subject or object: it is an act in itself.

It is here that the circuit of capital shall play some relevance to schizophrenia. Fredric Jameson’s articulation of schizophrenia parallels Lacan when it is defined as “the failure of the infant to subsume to speech and language.” The inability to subsume into cultural and ideological signifiers leads to the absence of an ego and hence, the schizophrenic stays external to the oedipal triad (daddy-mommy-me). For Freud’s horror, reinforcing the oedipal circuit is a solution to normalise the patient, which is seen as terrorism for Deleuze and Guattari. Jameson compares schizophrenia with late capitalism. The post Fordist experience of diversified and unsaturated commodities creates discontinuous, un-harmonized and isolated signifiers that fail to form coherence.

It is a schizophrenic that fails to perceive the lack that represents desire. For Freud’s unconscious, the schizoid is a nightmare. The ability of the schizoid to override normalised signifiers is what is likened to capitalism, for capital creates its logic within each nation’s cultural fabric – it lacks an intrinsic I. However, as Deleuze and Guattari opine, schizophrenia is not a mirror to capitalism – it is its exterior limit. As capital deterritorialises a cultural milieu, it reaches a limit after which it must re-emphasise the state apparatus. The schizophrenic never reaches such a limit, just as they resist symbolic reterritorialization of an oedipal psychiatrist.

A Castrated Oedipus is thus, an attempt to capture anti-fascism. It attempts to capture the subaltern, oeuvres that need resonance. For the schizoid in all of us is the subversive desiring-machine that can resist despotism and oedipal oppression. Postmodern politics needs a new yoke which is radical, revolutionary, and nomadic.


By Kunal Panda

25th April 2021

Pune, Maharashtra

Kunal Panda is a final year undergraduate majoring in Economics from Hindu College, University of Delhi. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he strives to pursue intersectionality in his research. His academic interests include Political Economy and Gender Studies, having recently reviewed the psychoanalytic façade of ideology and aesthetics, under a broad view of fetishism and gender performativity. He is also an ardent reader of epic literature. He aims to be an educator one day.

References and Further Reading

1. Giles Deleuze, Felix Guattari (2000 ed.), Capitalism and Schizophrenia – Anti-Oedipus, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis

Brian Massumi (1996 ed.), A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia – Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari, The MIT Press.

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