psychoanalysis - family, Freud, and unconscious

psychoanalysis - family, Freud, and unconscious
  ---- by Alison Ross
  The 'family' has a pivotal conceptual role within psychoanalytic theory; its primacy in psychoanalysis is neither limited to the bourgeois nuclear family nor the therapeutic practice of analysis that deals with it. Rather, through the organising role given by Sigmund Freud to the Oedipus complex, the 'family' acts as an explanatory model for the organisation of desire in the individual - as seen in his therapeutic practice - but extends as well to the historical forces involved in the shaping of instinct described in his meta-psychological writings on civilisation.
  The Oedipus complex introduces the sense of an external prohibition under which infantile libido is definitively shaped. The significance of this complex is that unlike the other forces shaping the libido, which Freud describes as standing in a relation of psychical opposition to unrestrained expenditure and which appear to be internally generated, the Oedipus complex takes the form of an external prohibition and presupposes the triangular relation between the child and its parents. The universality of this complex is used by Freud to explain the agency against incest that sets up the necessary division for civilisation between wishes and the law. Its universality is also indicative of the primacy of the family unit as an explanatory category in psychoanalysis.
  The libidinal relations within the family have a crucial role to play as the prototype for adult relations, in which an external prohibition organises attempts at instinctual satisfaction. It is important to remember, however, that these libidinal ties are not dependent upon an actual nuclear family and thus an Oedipus complex can be formed with a paternal figure or structure of authority, or, in the work of Jacques Lacan, an institutional force such as language, rather than an actual father. Here, as in Freud's writings on phylogenesis, the important theme in the negotiation of libidinous relations within the family is the credence of the threat of the prohibition placed on incestuous relations. The writings on the topic of phylogenesis examine a similar theme in the prohibitive force of the 'primal father' over the 'primal horde'.
  In Deleuze's writing on psychoanalysis, he attacks the use of the model of the Oedipal family because he sees it as justifying a particular conception of desire. In the Anti-Oedipus, for instance, he and Guattari complain not only about the unhistorical projection of the familial structure across cultures and history, so that some psychoanalysts locate the figure of the 'primal father' in Neo- and Paleolithic times, but also, that the psychoanalytic use of a familial structure contains desire to sexual relations within the family. These relations do not simply constitute desire in relation to the shaping force of an external prohibition but also mark out intellectual, political and cultural formations as substitutes that compensate for the prohibition placed on desire by the incest taboo. Against the 'daddy-mummy-me' formation of desire described in Freud's case study of little Hans, or the explanation of Leonardo da Vinci's curiosity in terms of his infantile memories, they propose a defamilialisation of desire and consecrate those writers, such as D. H. Lawrence, who write against the trap of familialism. In particular, Deleuze and Guattari are critical of the interpretative licence given to psychoanalysis by its postulate of the familial organisation of desire: through this postulate, psychoanalysis neither explains desire nor renders cultural formations legible but, on their view, justifies the misinterpretation of desire as a libidinal force captured within and shaped by familial dynamics.
  This critique of the psychoanalytic account of the family derives its force from Deleuze and Guattari's analysis of the reterritorialising function of capitalism in the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Capital operates according to a logic of deterritorialisation in which the flows of capital are no longer extracted from agricultural labour, but, rather than being tied to the produce of the land, are transnational or global. Although capital tends toward a deterritorialisation of geographical, familial and social ties, it defers this limit by reiterating artificial territorialities. In this context psychoanalysis, but particularly its use of the family as an explanatory unit for desire, is criticised as one of the paradigmatic movements by which the family is reiterated and the logic of deterritorialising flows is captured by a function of reterritorialisation.
  Freud, Sigmund (1856-1939)
  Sigmund Freud wrote conventional medical case histories; studies in the particular categories of psychoanalytic research: the unconscious, narcissism, dreams and infantile sexuality; as well as analyses of cultural institutions and practices such as art and religion. His postulate of a repressed infantile sexuality at the core of the pathologies of civilised life led to his isolation from the medical establishment. This postulate, which formed the basis for the interpretative posture taken by psychoanalysis toward cultural and therapeutic material, also underpinned its counter-cultural status. Freud's approach to art and religion was, for instance, a radically demystifying one, which held that religious belief was an infantile desire for an irreproachable father figure and that the products of high culture were financed by, and legible as, displaced libidinal drives. Deleuze, however, is sceptical of the radical status claimed by Freudian psychoanalysis. His criticisms of Freud relate to the way he insists on the Oedipal ordering of desire, even despite the questions raised against it by clinical evidence and the researches of other psychoanalysts.
  Nonetheless, important points of departure for some of Deleuze's ideas can be found in Freud's thought. In the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari try to marry Freud's conception of libidinal flows with Karl Marx's conception of capital. This project, which refuses the dualism between psychic and material reality, involves a recuperation of some of the elements in Freudian thought. Hence they reject the way desire's productivity is confined to a psychical reality, but in so doing they develop and radicalise the Freudian insight that wrests desire from pre-ordained functions such as reproduction.
  Aside from rejecting the impotent, psychical confinement of desire, the constant complaint of the authors in this study against Freud concerns his willingness to accept Eugene Bleuler's negative account of schizophrenics as autistic figures who are cut off from reality. Even here, however, Freud also provides an important point of departure for their defence of schizophrenia. They argue against confusing, as Freud does, the 'clinical' schizophrenic who is rendered ill and autistic with the connective practice of desire, which fuses conventionally segregated states and produces assemblages that they believe are modelled in schizophrenia. In this project, they follow the practice in some of Freud's writing in which literary and cultural productions become the diagnostic source able to correct and develop 'clinical' terms. Hence, the evidence of the schizo pole of desire is found in Antonin Artaud and Henry Miller, rather than the clinical context that pathologises and renders impotent connective desires.
  This strategy, which formed the basis for Deleuze's unfinished 'critique and clinical' project, calls into question some of the central diagnostic categories of Freudian psychoanalysis. Freud's conception of 'sadomasochism' as a couplet, for instance, is refuted by Deleuze's examination of the writing of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in which he shows sadism and masochism to be completely distinct, rather than inverse and complementary disorders.
  Finally, Deleuze's critical relation to Freud can be summarised in terms of the Freudian drive to teleology. In his meta-psychology and therapeutic practice, what was of interest to Freud was an account of the 'origins' underpinning current circumstances. For the psychoanalyst 'origins' play a role in two distinct senses: as an explanatory model that the analyst, blocked from direct access, had to fathom - in this sense finding the origin for the symptoms of neurosis also has a curative function. But Freud's mode of access to these origins, the interpretative frame he used to locate the events that had become pathogens in an individuals' life, ought not to obscure the fact that the interpretative force he gave to these originating events came to be used as a predictor for development and a theory, therefore, of the different courses it was possible for psychic life to follow. It is this teleological orientation and its installation of a dualism between 'nature' and 'civilisation' that Deleuze rejects and that underpins his critical reworking of key Freudian ideas.
  The 'unconscious' in psychoanalytic terminology refers to the accretion of instinctual drives that are repressed by the individual in the process of adaptation to social demands. Nonetheless, these drives remain active forces on the psyche and behaviour of individuals. Dreams, parapraxis and somatic displacements of instincts in cases of hysteria provide Freud with the proof of the unconscious not as a sealed off locality, but as processes and laws belonging to a system. In Freud's first topography of the psychical apparatus (unconscious, pre-conscious, conscious), the unconscious designates those contents banished by repression from the pre-consciousconscious system. In his second, dynamic conception of the psyche (id, ego, superego) the unconscious is replaced by the id or instinctual pole of the psyche. Here instincts have the status of agencies in the psychical apparatus. In both cases, the dynamic role of the unconscious or instincts takes psychoanalysis away from a descriptive, phenomenological approach to the 'facts' of psychic life, and designates the active role of the analyst in the interpretation of the work of systematisation performed by the unconscious.
  In Deleuze's thought, he uses aspects of this psychoanalytic account of the unconscious to argue against both the conception of desire as configured in psychoanalysis in relation to a transcendent principle of 'lack', and the interpretative relation to psychic life that this relation licenses. In Anti-Oedipus the 'desiring machine' is modelled on a conception of the unconscious, which is without the regulating function of a limit that contains it to an individual subject. The processes ascribed by Freud to the unconscious - that it operates without conceding to the demands of social acceptability - dovetail with the features that Deleuze and Guattari ascribe to the desiring machines - these machines form, for instance, conjunctive syntheses that operate according to an expansive sense of possibility. However, instead of an impotent manifestation of unrealisable wishes, interpretable by psychoanalysis in the form of their distorted manifestation in conscious life, the desiring machines are defined in terms of their capacity to forge links to an outside and therefore in terms of their capacity to surpass the regulating force of a higher principle (such as the superego) or natural limit. Reinterpreted in these terms, the unconscious is not an interior locale only able to be interpreted in its impotent and distorted formations, but is the logic according to which anarchic connections are assembled or made.
  Although desiring machines give a positive account of the psychoanalytic category of the unconscious, the term 'unconscious' is not directly transposable to that of the 'desiring machine', or the term 'assemblage' used in A Thousand Plateaus. This is because the unconscious designates what gets left over in the process of the construction or shift from one machine/assemblage to another. In such uses, however, the unconscious is not reconcilable to the Freudian conception of a register of submerged affects, but refers to prior, fractal, material components of desiring machines/assemblages.
   § desire
   § partial objects

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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