Review: The Anti-Oedipus Complex: Lacan, Critical Theory and Postmodernism by Rob Weatherill, Routledge, 2017
Martin McDonagh, the director of the award winning ‘Three Billboards’ film had this to say, “I’m coming from a punk rock background: The Clash and the Pogues. It’s all about trying to shake things up. Writing is about lying, telling tales. You are taking people to places that they hadn’t thought about before” (the latter claim a potential rallying call for psychoanalysis). Now, that may not be to everybody’s taste but, sadly, such considerations are a long way off for Weatherill at so many moments in this ill-tempered sneer of a book. Setting off with an eager enthusiasm to examine the alleged afflictions of our contemporary world, with the unnuanced verdict that, as we all head for hell in a handcart, all blighted by simultaneous alienation and unacknowledged despair, we are called upon to admit to a catastrophic social and spiritual crisis. According to him, there are two principal events that are critical in having spawned such a jaundiced and ultimately pessimistic world view: one was the student uprisings and libidinal unleashing of the 1960’s, the other, apparently, are the ideas stemming from Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Anti Oedipus’ book published in 1972. Now, one might hold that the latter had considerable bearing on the emergence of Schizoanalysis, somewhat marginal within the multiplicities of forms that psychoanalysis may take, but whatever else, hardly mainstream within the concerns of what Weatherill sees as the anti-authoritarian Left. It is they who are principally held responsible for what is read off as the seemingly unstaunchable ‘victory of the inhuman.’
The basic assumption is that via this orgy of cultural and sexual revolution, the Left has been complicit in promoting, despite claims to be concerned with disrupting the Capitalist System, a collusive acquiescence in the commodification of our lives by valorising our enjoyment (aka jouissance) at all costs. The Anti Oedipus book is understood to be rejecting the ‘basic matrix of marriage and family’ in favour of a ‘freewheeling individualistic mode of pleasure,’ all sustained by an unmitigated 122
hatred of all authority, tradition and morality. There is much that has the vein of a Daily Mail article about the looney Left, where he situates the complexities and the variations that inform the writings of Baudrillard, Badiou, Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Nietsche to name but a few – for so many of us the luminaries of post-war Western thought – all under the rubric of these Anti Oedipal initiatives, all co-opted into an undifferentiated mass. In fairness, he makes a perfectly decent fist of bringing much of Levinas’s ideas to life but, for the rest, he compulsively displays a will to ignorance. At one point, he nails his colours to the mast when citing Christopher Hitchens and his claim that “it becomes more than a moral duty to betray the Left. It becomes a pleasure.” ‘Betray’ being the operative word. Much that is being peddled are the worn out tropes of a Richard Littlejohn/Jordan Peterson universe: the anti-feminism, anti-Islam, anti-trans, anti-abortion assertions. A mere example of these sensibilities will have to suffice; Weatherill writes: “Just think of the many achievements to be notched up for feminism. 42 per cent of marriages in the UK end in divorce, mostly initiated by courageous, intelligent women, who are then free to live lives of sexual freedom again” (71). In other words it is feminism’s fault that the patriarchal orthodoxies are no longer so straightforwardly upheld.