Response to Chris Oakley review of The Anti-Oedipus Complex, Lacan, Critical Theory and Post-Modernism
The cover of The Anti-Oedipus Complex depicts the labyrinth carved into the wall of the Cathedral of St. Martino in Lucca, Italy. Hermann Kern (Kern 2000) speculates about the precise placement of the Lucca labyrinth, suggesting is a game for the fingers of the faithful as they enter the Cathedral, analogous to the French pavement labyrinths, supposed to help spiritually prepare the devout for the religious experience that they were about to have. He also noted that the labyrinth is placed opposite the Fall of Man, suggesting it represented the way back out of sin into a state of grace.
Oakley begins his review with a comment from Martin McDonagh, the director of the award winning ‘Three Billboards’: “I’m coming from a punk rock background: The Clash and the Pogues. It’s all about trying to shake things up. You are taking people to places that they hadn’t thought about before” (the latter claim a potential rallying call for psychoanalysis)” (Oakley 2018, 117 italics added). Agreed! This is the labyrinth on the cover. But this labyrinthine wandering and shaking up takes place in the context of our deepest traditions. Thus ‘shaking things up’ presupposes something to be shaken up, something foundational. This book lies astride these two positions and my claim is that psychoanalysis itself has been in this place of between, until recently.
Clearly the book was taking Oakley to places he would never go and his review seemed intended to make sure no one else goes their either, notwithstanding that his very definite ire might work as a temptation for some. Thus, as for the Radical Orthodoxy[i] which features in the book’s tentative conclusion, this is a priori out of the question for Oakley. There is an anti-Catholic joke: “I was leaving a coffee shop in Miami a few years back and I came across a bumper sticker proclaiming ‘Not all Catholic priests are paedophiles’ – to which the obvious rejoinder might be: ‘But a lot of them were’”. Actually, the real figure is about 5%. We might add many of the rest are working tirelessly for the social good. But here is the difficulty: Oakley like