From email@example.com@21:1/5 to All on Wed Jan 24 12:00:46 2018
Bedtime reading these days: Deleuze and Guattari’s *A Thousand Plateaus*, the second volume of *Capitalism and Schizophrenia*. I’m going where thousands of Borders customers have gone before, but, as with my aforementioned cessation of Lacan-reading,
I previously didn’t think my “febrile” mental illness would be improved by dipping into Marxist antipsychiatry. (An “identity-political” reclamation of the schizophrenic status is rendered impossible by the fact that the schizophrenic is not
only not an expert on what it is to be a schizophrenic, in certain cases they are not considered to even be experts on what it is like to be one.) However, as I learned when I picked up Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze is not that Marxist and Guattari not that
antipsychiatric; in fact, the works can profitably be read as adumbrating a loose-texture analysis of the form rationality took during the 1970s — this loose texture (only mildly critical of late capitalism and open to the idea that some people are
just mad) being essential to avoiding the ‘hysteria of reason’ one might well attribute to over-enthusiastic taking-up of Althusserian or Habermasian ideals.
I’m only about a third of the way through A Thousand Plateaus, but I want to say something about Deleuze and Guattari’s use of the term “pragmatics”. “Pragmatics” came into use as a linguistic term in the early 20th century, the result of
pragmatist semiotician Charles Morris’ tripartite distinction between syntax, the non-context-dependent features of meaning treated by semantics, and the context-dependent features not previously studied as an independent class: “pragmatics”. Early
essays by logical positivists like Rudolf Carnap gave formal treatments of “indexical” or “token-reflexive” terms like “I” and “here”, and this strain of thought persists to this day in the work of Montagovian semanticists; there are also
those who have attempted to provide overarching rules for pragmatics to some philosophical point (e.g., the “universal pragmatics” of Habermas and the “normative pragmatics” of Robert Brandom).
Pragmatics in the hands of Deleuze and Guattari, however, is fully identified with their program of “schizoanalysis”; taking “regimes of signs” and nonreductively tracing their “rhizomatic” lines of filiation and influence upon the
subjectivity of the subject. In the hands of a Sokal this instantly could become laughable (without any desire to, say, read David Kaplan instead cropping up) but it seems to me there is a perfectly acceptable point D&G, who are not ignorant of the
history of semantics, are trying to make. Their schizoanalysis is an insistence upon the material reality of language, not a Platonism akin to Frege’s third realm but (as with Agamben) a Stoic-influenced awareness of the two-sidededness of the
scratches and sounds that incarnate language. Unlike Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari are not fighting to liberate the text from constructions, but to situate all utterances as part of the total social matrix; the “schizo’s stroll” or his ravings are
not part of some Robinsonade of the neurologically unfortunate, but interact with the dominant regimes of signification and the social systems which they enable in material, real ways.
In this sense Deleuze and Guattari’s pure pragmatics is a socioanalysis as well: the eclipse took place even though Dean Swift said it would not, but his declaration was clearly not ominous Unsinn of the sort those who assimilate every linguistic
failing — including the famous “failure to communicate” — to dementia or aphasia might desire it to be.