The function of the language of ANTI-OEDIPUS is performative, it attempts to effectuate in its enunciative style the break with (Freudian, Lacanian) psychoanalysis that it talks about in the enounced content. For example, the removal of the definite article from the pronoun “it” id), its pluralisation and personification (It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits, it fucks) constitute a radical conceptual transformation of analytcal discourse. However, the break accomplished is a modest, transitional step compared with what is to come.
Let us examine the incipit to A THOUSAND PLATEAUS, published eight years after ANTI-OEDIPUS:
The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as farthest away. We have assigned clever pseudonyms to prevent recognition. Why have we kept our own names? Out of habit, purely out of habit. To make ourselves unrecognizable in turn. To render imperceptible, not ourselves, but what makes us act, feel, and think. Also because it’s nice to talk like everybody else, to say the sun rises, when everybody knows it’s only a manner of speaking. To reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.
The same self-consciousness about language (“clever pseudonyms”, “it’s only a manner of speaking”) and the same move of pluralisation and of de-personalisation (“We are no longer ourselves”, “we have been…multiplied”) by means of multiple personification are present, yet much has changed. The de-sibjectivation by means of “it” has been dropped, as its allusive transgression of psychoanalytical vocabulary is no longer necessary.
Retrospectively we can see that the transgressive and derisory incipit to ANTI-OEDIPUS is still under the influence of the psychoanalytic problematic. Later in the book (ANTI-OEDIPUS, 161) D&G will tell us that transgression and derision are themselves derisory, and that: “revolutions have nothing to do with transgressions“.
ANTI-OEDIPUS’s first technical term is “machine”. This is immediately differentiated into “organ-machine” and “source-machine”, each defined in terms of their action: “one emits a flow and the other cuts it“. The machine ontology is undercut by another ontology, one of flows and cuts: “all the time, ﬂows and cuts“.
The first example is rather abstract as it is not about a concrete case of anorexia, but a case of “the anorexic in general”, reduced to “the anorexic’s mouth”. It’s function is to show that the differentiation of organ-machine and source-machine is not an absolute dualism but a relative pragmatic distinction.Strangely this first example is not so much illustrative of their machine ontology as deconstructive.
This poses the question of the relation between the examples given in the text and its theoretical apparatus. If they wish to avoid abstractions and speak concretely (an ideal claimed by D&G in their last book WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?) D&G should probably have given more space to specific examples and to singular cases, however indirectly and, to coin a term, deterritorialisedly related.
The second example, that of Schreber, is even less of a fit to the machine ontology than the first. True, they talk of “divine rays in his ass”, but he is not reduced to his anus in the way that “the anorexic” was reduced to his or her mouth. The Schreber example is set forth to show that his delirium is not metaphorical, too be interpreted by the analyst in terms of his Oedipal drama, but machinic, speaking in his own name of his experiences.
Thanks to the comparison with A THOUSAND PLATEAUS we can see even more clearly the unresolved tensions at work in the incipit to ANTI-OEDIPUS. D&G talk of themselves as multiplicities acted by more than human forces, but these multiplicities and forces are specified in terms of “its” (later spelled out as “partial objects”). There is a self-reflexivity about language, we can already deduce that in their machine ontology a book is a “little machine”, and that writing is a “flow”, but this is said explicitly only in later works.
There is also the privileging of pathological examples. Machinic ontology is illustrated by the anorexic’s mouth and Schreber’s ass. Later in the incipit to WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? D&G will speak of how “all the parts of the machine come together” in the paintings of Titien, Turner and Monet, in the writing of Chateaubrian, in the films of Ivens, and even in the third Critique of Kant. Here the “machines” are artitstic, and we are situated on a different plane than the reductive one of anorexics’ mouths and paranoiacs asses. The pathologising is maintained, rightly so as we need a good dose of pathological experience to free us from the mediocrity of normal experience.
Even here the pathologising is indirect, as D&G talk in the name of the experience of old age, when both of them are physically ill rather than old. No doubt they are right to want avoid the trap of biographical empiricism. Compared to the transgressive language of the incipit to ANTI-OEDIPUS they have gained in sobriety and can “speak concretely” at last. This was their aim from the beginning, but they declare in their own evaluation of their work:
“We were not sober enough”