the holy fools

The Romance of ‘Schizo-Politics’

Like other gurus of the New Left, Deleuze and Guattari believed that the state itself was the source of all oppression. According to their foundation myth, the state and its allies had been using top-down tree-like structures to subjugate people ever since the dawn of agrarian civilisation. Described as a process of ‘territorialisation’, they claimed that the media, psychoanalysis and language were the primary ‘machinic assemblages’ used by the state to control everyday life in the modern world. In contrast with Marxist analyses, Deleuze and Guattari believed that economics was only one manifestation of the state’s primordial will to dominate all human activity.

Facing the transhistorical enemy of the state was a new opponent: the social movements. Deleuze and Guattari thought that the traditional style of left-wing politics was now obsolete. As part of the ‘guaranteed’ sector of the economy, private and public sector workers not only had been bought off by the system, but also had their desires manipulated by the family, the media, the dominant language and psychoanalysis. Like much of the post-’68 New Left, the two philosophers instead looked to social movements of youth, feminists, ecologists, homosexuals and immigrants to ‘deterritorialise’ the power of the state. As part of the ‘non-guaranteed’ sector, people in these movements were excluded from the system and were therefore supposedly eager to fight for the revolution. [8]

In A Thousand Plateaus, the nomads poetically symbolised the ‘molecular’ social movements which were making the anarcho-communist revolution against the ‘molar’ tyranny of political power. Far from trying to seize political power, nomads used their mobility to avoid the ‘territorialised’ control of the authoritarian state. Similarly, the social movements formed a multiplicity of hippie tribes which were autonomous from all centralising and hierarchical tendencies, especially those supported by the mainstream Left. Along the ‘lines of flight’ mapped out by the New Left, the oppressed would escape from the control of the authoritarian state into autonomous rhizomes formed by the social movements. In A Thousand Plateaus, the rhizome became the poetic metaphor for this nomadic vision of direct democracy.

For Deleuze and Guattari, the overthrow of political power was only the beginning of the anarcho-communist revolution. They believed that political domination was only made possible through personal repression. The anarcho-communist revolution therefore had to liberate the libidinal energies of people from all forms of social control. The individual ‘delirium’ of schizophrenics prefigured the chaotic spirit of collective revolution. This meant that radicals not only had to detonate a social uprising, but also personally live out the cultural revolution. The New Left revolutionary was symbolised as the Body-without-Organs: a person who was no longer ‘organised, signified, subjected’ by the rationality of the state. [9] Such individuals were forerunners of the new type of human being who would emerge after the anarcho-communist revolution: a hippie equivalent of Nietzsche’s Superman. For Deleuze and Guattari, anarcho-communism was therefore not just the realisation of direct democracy and the gift economy. In their ‘schizo-politics’, the revolution would destroy bourgeois rationality so each individual could become a holy fool.

‘[The Fool]...is the vagabond who exists on the fringe of organised society, going his own way, ignoring the rules and taboos with which men seek to contain him. He is the madman who carries within him the seeds of genius, the one who is despised by society yet who is the catalyst who will transform that society.’ [10]

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