Anti-Oedipus by Deleuze & Guattari: Radical Psychoanalytic Theory Explained

by | Mar 7, 2024 | 0 comments

What is Anti Oedipus and Why is it Important

Are you looking to understand Anti-Oedipus, the groundbreaking 1972 book that introduced “schizoanalysis” as an alternative to Freudian psychoanalysis? This in-depth guide covers the key ideas, impact, and psychotherapy themes from French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s controversial work.


  • What is Anti-Oedipus?
  • Schizoanalysis and Desiring-Production Explained
  • Capitalism and the Body Without Organs
  • New Approaches to Psychotherapy
  • Impact Across Philosophy and Psychology
  • Anti-Oedipus’s Controversial Reception

What is Anti-Oedipus About?

Félix Guattari (1930-1992) was a radical activist, anti-psychiatry leader and analyst influenced by anti-capitalist politics, philosophy, ethnology and the arts. Anti-Oedipus by Deleuze and Guattari launches a radical critique of the Oedipal complex central to Freud’s theories. Gilles Deleuze was a highly influential French philosopher who lived from January 18, 1925, to November 4, 1995. His work spans a wide range of subjects, including philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. Deleuze is best known for his contributions to post-structuralism and postmodern philosophy, though he was careful not to align himself strictly with any particular philosophical movement or school of thought.

They argue this model fails to grasp the free-flowing multiplicity of desire before the self is socially coded. Instead, the authors view desire as a positive, productive force constantly seeking new connections and “becomings” – not rooted in lack or negation. We are “desiring-machines” producing flows before becoming self-contained individuals. Schizoanalysis and Desiring-Production Defined Traditional psychoanalysis only integrates societal demands, not authentic desire, Deleuze and Guattari claim. Their alternative “schizoanalysis” aims to unleash desire’s “schizophrenic” trajectory from capitalist coding. At its core is “desiring-production” – desire as an ontological energy producing multiplicities and intensive processes, not mere fantasies. Schizoanalysis maps how desire moves and produces, not how it’s represented.

Capitalism and the Restrictive “Body Without Organs”

The authors view capitalism as imposing a restrictive “body without organs” that overcodes and constrains the free flows of “schizophrenic” desiring-production into regulated production/consumption systems. Oedipus itself becomes a capitalist tool subordinating revolutionary desire to familial identity and sexuality norms. Anti-Oedipus advocates a “schizorevolutionary” escape from such psychical inscriptions. New Therapeutic Approaches: Micropolitics of Desire For psychotherapy, Anti-Oedipus reimagines the analytic approach. Clinicians must engage desiring-production directly by adopting a “schizophrenic” process attuned to pre-subjective singularities, sensations and “becomings.” Rather than resolve Oedipal representations, therapy should follow desire’s “rhizome” through schizoanalytic “micropolitical” perception, facilitating new modes of existence beyond capitalist subjectivities.

Impact on Philosophy, Psychology and Beyond

Anti-Oedipus kicked off post-structuralism’s transdisciplinary revolution in political theory, feminism, subjectivity studies and more with its anti-capitalist currents and theories of difference.

Post-structuralism is a broad intellectual movement that emerged in the late 20th century, primarily as a response to and development of structuralism, a theoretical paradigm that sought to understand the underlying structures that govern human culture, language, and society. Post-structuralist thinkers  share a skepticism towards the fixed, binary oppositions (such as signifier/signified, culture/nature, mind/body) that structuralism tended to assume as given. They argue that meanings are not predetermined or static but are produced through differences and relations, which are themselves fluid and contingent. This perspective leads to a critical stance towards any claim to absolute truth or universal meaning, emphasizing instead the contingent, constructed, and negotiated nature of knowledge, identity, and reality.

In psychotherapy, it opened new frontiers for approaching desiring flows, non-Oedipal relationalities, schizoanalysis, and the therapeutic possibilities of a “schizophrenic” approach liberated from codified identity.  Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was an iconic 20th century French postmodern philosopher applying unconventional perspectives across metaphysics, psychoanalysis, literature and more.

Anti-Oedipus’s Controversial Reception

Upon release, Anti-Oedipus drew intense criticism from both conservative and some progressive theorists who viewed its rejection of psychoanalytic semiotics as ahistorical and naive. However, its immense impact radically expanded horizons for rethinking subjectivity, materiality, social systems and desiring flows across numerous disciplines. Even today, over 50 years later, Deleuze & Guattari’s provocative concepts remain highly relevant for clinicians aiming to enhance their scope and understanding of subjectivity’s fluxes. Let us know your thoughts on this influential psychoanalytic work below!

Psychotherapeutic Approaches Aligned with Anti-Oedipal Theory

While highly abstract, the concepts of desiring-production, schizoanalysis, and the challenges to subjective coding introduced in Anti-Oedipus have had a profound impact across various psychotherapeutic modalities. Several traditions resonate with the book’s radical rethinking of subjectivity, desire, and counternormative approaches to psychic life:

Existential Therapy

Existential therapy’s focus on subjective human existence and creating one’s essence through lived experience harmonizes with Anti-Oedipus’s process ontology of constant self-production and “becomings.” Existential therapy rejects rigid delineations of self, instead viewing the client as continually emergent and responsible for authoring their world.

This mirrors schizoanalysis’s attunement to the pre-subjective flows of desiring-production always exceeding and de-stratifying codified identities. Both frameworks privilege an open, indeterminate perspective on selfhood and meaning-making.

Person-In-Environment Approaches

The person-in-environment approach central to social work directly considers how external systems, environments, and power structures inculcate and condition the developmental self – a core concern of Anti-Oedipus.

Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of capitalism’s subjugation of desire into regulated production/consumption speaks to this approach’s analysis of socioeconomic forces shaping identity. Practitioners aim to schizoanalytically perceive and intervene in the rhizomatic networks and desiring flows impacting clients’ self-construction.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

With its focus on relating to multiplicitous “parts” comprising individual phenomenological systems, IFS mirrors Anti-Oedipus’s machinic model of subjectivity as a dynamic interplay of partitive drives and desiring processes, not a unitary self.

The non-pathologizing stance toward these parts, instead welcoming their insights and roles in the client’s psyche, reflects schizoanalytic principles of remaining open to difference and avoiding overcodings. IFS facilitates self-leadership akin to navigating desiring flows.


Psychosynthesis openly incorporates perspectives from diverse traditions in service of personal and transpersonal growth – an archetypal anti-Oedipal move against disciplinary stratification. Its philosophical grounding in synthesizing disassociated psychic elements resonates with schizoanalytic integration.

Moreover, psychosynthesis techniques like dis-identifying from conditioning and recognizing self as a pure conscious “I” parallel Anti-Oedipus’s quest to dismantle subjective coding and rediscover the conscious choices we make in spite of of immanent desiring flows.

While not derivative philosophies, these therapeutic modalities display profound resonances and overlaps with the revolutionary ideas seeded in Anti-Oedipus. Each develops practices and perspectives for engaging the heterogeneous, dynamic processes underlying selfhood and personal formation in ways that constructively de-strat and open new possibilities for therapeutic exploration and self-actualization.

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Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. This groundbreaking collaborative work by Deleuze and Guattari introduces the concept of “schizoanalysis” as an alternative to Freudian psychoanalysis, challenging traditional notions of subjectivity, desire, and the role of capitalism in shaping the human psyche.

Guattari, F. (1984). Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics. Penguin Books. Guattari’s influential work explores the intersection of psychiatry, politics, and social transformation, laying the foundations for the development of schizoanalysis and his collaborative project with Deleuze.

Guattari, F. (1995). Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Indiana University Press. In this later work, Guattari expands on the concepts introduced in Anti-Oedipus, delving deeper into the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of his radical approach to subjectivity and the production of desire.

Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference and Repetition. Columbia University Press. Deleuze’s seminal work on the philosophy of difference and repetition provides essential context for understanding the ontological underpinnings of the concepts developed in Anti-Oedipus.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. This follow-up to Anti-Oedipus further explores the authors’ conception of “rhizomes,” “assemblages,” and the deconstruction of traditional notions of subjectivity and social organization.

May, T. (2005). Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. This comprehensive introduction to Deleuze’s philosophical thought offers valuable insights into the broader context and influence of his collaboration with Guattari.

Buchanan, I. (1997). The Problem of the Body in Deleuze and Guattari, Or, What Can a Body Do?. Body & Society, 3(3), 73-91. This scholarly article delves into Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptualization of the body and its relationship to desire, subjectivity, and the political implications of their theory.

Genosko, G. (2002). Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Semiotics: Towards a Post-Signifying Regime of Signs. Social Semiotics, 12(1), 7-24. This in-depth analysis of Guattari’s schizoanalytic approach to semiotics offers a deeper understanding of the theoretical foundations of Anti-Oedipus.

Stivale, C. J. (2005). Gilles Deleuze’s Abecedary. Discourse, 20(3), 113-141. This article explores Deleuze’s own reflections on his philosophical concepts and their application, providing valuable context for interpreting the ideas presented in Anti-Oedipus.

Goodchild, P. (1996). Deleuze and Guattari: An Introduction to the Politics of Desire. SAGE Publications. This introductory text examines the political dimensions of Deleuze and Guattari’s collaborative work, including the implications of their critique of capitalism and their vision for social transformation.

Further Reading:

Lacan, J. (1977). Écrits: A Selection. Tavistock Publications. Lacan’s influential work on psychoanalysis and the formation of the subject provides an important counterpoint to the Deleuzian and Guattarian approach developed in Anti-Oedipus.

Freud, S. (2010). The Interpretation of Dreams. Basic Books. Freud’s seminal work on the unconscious and the role of dreams in psychic life forms the foundation upon which Deleuze and Guattari build their critique of traditional psychoanalysis.

Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Pantheon Books. Foucault’s analysis of power, sexuality, and the construction of the subject offers valuable context for understanding the political and social implications of Anti-Oedipus.

Žižek, S. (1989). The Sublime Object of Ideology. Verso. Žižek’s engagement with Lacanian psychoanalysis and its intersection with political theory provides a useful counterpoint to the Deleuzian and Guattarian perspective.

Lyotard, J. F. (1984). The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. University of Minnesota Press. Lyotard’s influential work on the postmodern condition and the critique of grand narratives illuminates the broader philosophical context in which Anti-Oedipus was situated.

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