ZIZEK, DELEUZE, JUNG: the analogical self versus the digital ego

Zizek on ANTI-OEDIPUS: « my thesis is that in Anti-Oedipus Deleuze/Guattari do to Lacan what Carl Gustav Jung did to Freud ». (Zizek, Notes on a Debate“From Within the People”).

It is a good idea when reading Zizek to interpret his references to his major philosophical adversaries under the sign of the anxiety of influence. He proceeds by violent denegation based on micro-differentiation, i.e. whenever some thought is to close to (and I would add prior to) his own thought he concentrates on one little detail that differentiates the position that he himself defends from that of these predecessors and influences, then he proceeds to denounce them vociferously, ignoring both the affinity and the probable influence.

Zizek’s critiques of Deleuze , of Jung, and of Gnosticism are of this type: a smokescreen of quibbles and travesties serve to hide the family resemblance and the lines of influence. Some of his reflections on the Holy Spirit as the community of those who live beyond the death of the big Other could readily be co-signed by such gnostic thinkers as Carl Jung and  Philip K. Dick, yet Zizek fulminates against “gnosticism”.

In contrast, my thesis is that Deleuze and Lacan resemble each other to the extent that they follow in Jung’s footsteps of rejecting ego-psychology and of schizophrenising the unconscious. Both of these are key aspects of Jung’s RED BOOK which is the subterranean source of all the works that came after.

They differ in that Lacan provides a structuralist and linguistic encoding of such a break in the signifier, and he needed Deleuze and Guattari’s impulsion to begin to slowly and timidly schizophrenise in their wake. Lacan’s dissolution of the ego and his concept of subjective destitution take the same schizophrenic turn as Jung originally did with regard to Freud’s imperative “where there was id there shall be ego”. Even his signifiers are linguistically reductive versions of archetypes, once you take into account the difference between the archetype and the archetypal image. For Jung, there can be no fixed closed list of archetypes, and we can only speak of them analogically.

Jung is not trapped in the signifier, as Lacan is. The archetype is an ambiguous concept that can be interpreted biologically or intensively. Freud borrowed the biological version of archetypes from Jung. Further, his work is full of archetypes, despite his excoriations of Jung. What Freud didn’t borrow is the intensive aspect. Jung says over and over again that experience, autobiography, and individuation (i.e. intensities) have primacy over all theoretical formulations. Jung’s biologism is not at all essential to his vision and post-Jungians like Hillman have entirely discarded it.

It is impossible to read Deleuze and Guattari in terms of  the Freudian paradigm, which is based on the reduction of the fluid multiplicities of the unconscious to static monist categories. Jung gives us the vision of a pluralist unconscious where Freud systematically recodes everything in monist terms. Jung gives us a relation to the unreduced image, that he encourages us to amplify. Freud seeks to reduce it all. A Freudian reading of Deleuze and Guattari is possible but it leaves out the immersion in the world of intensities that Freud always resisted, and condemned in his more radical followers.

(The concept of « follower » is moot in the psychoanalytical movement, as Freud often recuperated ideas, and adulterated them, from those he persisted in positioning as followers until a rupture was provoked).

A Jungian reading of Deleuze gives us the non-philosophical leap out of the Continental Philosophy enclosure. Reading Deleuze as a successor to earlier German idealism is a valid academic research project, since for example Deleuze positions himself as an inheritor of Hegel for his espousal of the movement that deconstructs the dogmatic image of the dialectic. Yet Deleuze favours reading in terms of intensities (« everything is to be interpreted in terms of intensity », proclaims ANTI-OEDIPUS). That is the link to Jung. Not the ponderous Germanic Jung, but the pragmatic and hermetic Jung of THE RED BOOK and of MEMORIES, DREAMS AND REFLECTIONS.

Deleuze and Guattari elaborate an affirmative concept of desire as assemblage. This is far from Freud’s eros thanatos divide, which is a superficial coding of desire. Thanatos is just as important an ingredient of desire as eros is.

Deleuze and Guattari argue that Freud does not understand death. Deleuze following Blanchot distinguishes between death as the end of our physical life, and dying as an interminable event that is a component of every event in its virtuality. Writing with Guattari was dying as loving and being multiplied, death as transformative escape from the ego’s limits. This is the meaning of the body without organs: Death to the organism as unified totality that subordinates the parts to a socially constructed mode of functioning and signifying.

Deleuze and Guattari further argue that Freud does not understand multiplicity and is afraid of it. He must always have some robust unity that submits the multiplicity to its will and projects, domesticating the unconscious in the name of civilisation. In his book on Foucault, Deleuze talks about the Self as not the ego but the fold that permits us to maintain a fragile but minimal coherence in the outside of untamed singularities and multiplicities.

Their critique of Freud is total. Certainly, there remains the unconscious. However, this is not Freud’s discovery but something he got from the German idealists. Freud is utterly unoriginal, except for submitting everything immanent he borrows to transcendent codes.

Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard, Foucault, and Laruelle want to be both inside and outside the Continental tradition, i.e. to have a free relation to the tradition without being enclosed in it. Literature, politics, love, quantum theory, schizos, are all more than just subjects of reflection for philosophy, but concrete exemplars of its outside.

Read Deleuze and Guattari on the schizophrenic voyage and read THE RED BOOK and you will see that Freud is dragging far behind, and his system is unable to contain such experiences without distorting and reducing them to stereotypical categories. For our pluralist thinkers it must always be possible to slide from one philosophical vocabulary to another, to translate between worldviews.

At the same time what counts is practice, the practice of writing, of loving, of thinking, of resisting. There is no point in changing the words if the rest remains unchanged. This is why the correct reply to Freud’s « where there was id there shall be ego » is not its naive irrationalist inversion (« where there was ego there shall be id », or the « dictatorship of the unconscious »), but is Jung’s insight that the ego is a metaphor.

In the words of Deleuze and Guattari’s slogan from RHIZOME:

Not to reach the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I or not.

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10 commentaires pour ZIZEK, DELEUZE, JUNG: the analogical self versus the digital ego

  1. Ping : ZIZEK, DELEUZE, JUNG: the analogical self versus the digital ego | Research Material

  2. dmf dit :

    I like your extension of archetypal psychology via Deleuze but I think that you have missed how central the biologism (psychoid/synchronicity/etc) was not just to Jung but to this day to the orthodox Jungians, and really how telos (animus-mundi, acorns, and such) crept back into Hillman’s later work opening the door for his pivotal earlier pragmatic/phenomenological insights to be papered over by newagers (like @ CIIS where footenotes2plato and other Telos-enthusiasts/Pantheists are) much as the radical insights of the Buddha were later twisted back into the service of more conservative Hindus. Like Rorty and all one can have an appreciation for our powers of imagination, our poetic dwelling if you will, without projecting Self-ish/Cosmic intentions/concerns into the all-too-human realm of sublimation.
    ps even less overtly newage folks seem to be caught up in the spell:


  3. terenceblake dit :

    Biologism continues to be central to many Jungians, but they are not my concern (except that they are one reason that Jung’s work has not received the attention it deserves from « post-structuralist » style philosophers. They are reductionists, literalising psychic processes and reducing them to biological explanations. This is why Hillman criticises them. But he himself went through a literalising turn, where concepts such as « telos », which he formerly treated as metaphorical, are given literal explanatory force. Yet the later Hillman is not all bad, as his notion of soul-in-the-world seems to be a potential counter-force to the acorn theory which hovers between hermeneutic reimagining and literalist explanation. The danger of that turn was implicit from the beginning when Hillman gave « primacy » to the psyche’s images over concepts, and thus to psychology over philosophy. The acorn theory is too individualistic if taken alone, and is only really envisageable if it is taken up in the « anima mundi » vision.


    • dmf dit :

      Hillman’s early work is pivotal but he was at war with himself over the status/state of imagination fluctuating between (and for my money his better self) he saw rhetoric/poiesis as the all-too-human form of animal display and his more faithful/conservative Jungian (and after Corbin angelic) sense that Imagination was a kind of third plane/nexus of existence between the human and the Cosmos. I’m all for highlighting the radical/hinge ideas/potential in Jung and others but as you have pointed out in various posts the sociological/institutional factors are also in play, affordances and resistances, ever onward!


    • carlklemaier dit :

      i appreciated your comment. I find that the mytho/poetic language is much more relevant that the philo/scientific abstraction which as you say is reductionist in the hopes that secular sounding language we save it form sounding anything like « spiritual ».


  4. cheryl gilge dit :

    Reblogged this on deleuzianexcursus and commented:
    I like this: « There is no point in changing the words if the rest remains unchanged. « 


  5. Christian McMillan dit :

    I appreciate this article and the comments. The relationship between the archetype and Deleuze’s notion of the Problematic Idea has been developed by Kerslake in ‘Deleuze and the Unconscious’ (2006). When dealing with what Jung wrote (aside from post-Jungian’s and others who borrow aspects of Jung’s ideas) we should recall the role of the Self described as a both an archetype and a central process to the general functioning of the psyche as a whole (including the ego). The extent to which this structure escapes Deleuze’s critique of the ‘image of thought’ remains in doubt. If one reads Deleuze’s criticism of Kant’s transcendental subject and then applies this to Jung’s notion of the Self I feel the Self remains a transcendent structure which cannot complement Deleuze’s project of immanence. In classical Jungian theory the archetypes are governed by the Self, hence their potential immanent power remains curtailed or bootstrapped within a logic/relation of transcendence.


  6. very interesting article thank you


  7. Ping : Reading DISPARITIES (1): Zizek, China Miéville and the Ontology of the Kraken | AGENT SWARM

  8. Ping : AGAINST PSYCHO-IDEOLOGY: Zizek, Jung, Badiou, and (yes, quelle horreur!) Jordan Peterson | AGENT SWARM

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