Volume 4, Number 2 (July, 2007).
Book Review: A Not so Aberrant Review
Gary Genosko has written an excellent
book about Félix Guattari. In it he captures the diversity of Guattari’s work
and describes something of his public life without resorting to the tropes of
Activist or Intellectual. Genosko is now the author of several works
which deal with Deleuze and Guattari, Including The Guattari Reader, as
well as Baudrillard and Signs: Signification Ablaze.
In this most recent work, Félix
Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction, Genosko approaches Guattari with a
healthy dose of respect, not as a Deleuzian sidekick, or a rabblerousing
protest hack, but as a serious thinker. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the
book comes early on. Genosko challenges the traditional paring of Deleuze and
Guattari, questioning why Deleuze always get star billing. The question can be
seen as trivial yet, as Genosko points out, it can sometimes result in the
eradication of Guattari (Deleuze studies etc). How rarely we see Guattari and Deleuze,
how often we hear Guattari blamed for the wacky bits in A Thousand Plateaus.
Why is it that Guattari always seems to be the stepchild of ‘Deleuze and
Genosko’s book puts a lie to this
thesis, not by being an exhaustive recapitulation of all of Guattari’s work,
but by touching upon some of his most effective concepts and most productive
periods. This “aberrant introduction” is something less than a biography, and
something more than greatest hits collection.
Genosko has chosen several topics in
an attempt to capture the diverse and active life Guattari lead. Some are
philosophical, such as his discussion of transversality in Guattari’s early and
latter periods; others are unique such as his overview of Guattari’s Japanese
Genosko draws a line through French
sociology, from Durkheim through Baudrillard and on to Guattari, all having
explored Japanese culture at one time or another. Guattari saw Japan as an
intersection of Integrated World Capitalism and a unique, archaic culture. The
development of Japanese capitalism created a hybrid species of modern
capitalism and archaic Japanese culture, resulting in Japanese singularity.
Guattari became increasingly interested in Japan, and in Japanese architecture
and his concept of Transversality later became popular in Japanese architecture
circles, having been introduced through one of Deleuze’s articles on Proust.
Genosko discusses Guattari’s views on Japanese singularity as opposed to
Baudrillard’s, as well as what he characterises as Japanese Infantilism, and
extensively on Transversality and Japanese architecture.
From Japanese Singularity, Genosko
moves on to Guattari’s work in the field of Semiotics. Building upon Hjelmslev
and Pierce, Deleuze and Guattari, and Guattari on his own, explored how
linguistics and semiology fit with the idea of a machinic unconscious. Genosko
states: “Guattari attempted to uncover the social and political determinations
of signifying phenomena through the use of modified versions of Hjelmslevian categories”.2
Genosko’s detour into
semiotics, following Guattari’s own, is a dense and intricate piece of work.
The casual reader without a background in Semiotics will not be able to easily
follow the discussion, but it is a deep summary of Guattari’s encounter with
Linguistics and Semiotics.
Guattari’s late work
was book-ended by A Thousand Plateaus and What is Philosophy?
Both books were co-authored with Deleuze and have largely overshadowed Chaosmosis
and its message. Genosko deals with Guattari’s attempts at a kind of
“schizoanalytic metamodelization” in his fourth chapter. This is Guattari at
his most diverse in terms of conceptualization. He either draws upon or rejects
dozens of thinkers and theories, and in doing so he creates a diagrammatic
representation which is incredibly complex and nuanced. Genosko says that it is
“…a work that reaches back to key concepts in order to give them new codings.
Decoding, recoding, mixing, hybridizing, distinguishing, typologizing. There is
a torrent of semiosic activity in Guattari’s thought and it tends toward
Later he says: “Guattari was always restlessly borrowing, redefining,
reapplying, crossing borders and orders, making him hard to pin down…”.4
Genosko explicates and
diagrams in an attempt to represent Guattari’s thought, his “Four Functors”.
Genosko spends some time explaining how Transversality, with its scattered
openness, allows a kind of communality that also involves a reordering of
status. Genosko places this in opposition to a kind of “multidisciplinary
fuzziness” that pretends to offer the benefits of Transversality without
confronting any of the ontological oppositions involved.5
In the way of conclusion Genosko
offers a closing statement. It is, like the semi biographical introduction and
the emotional first chapter dealing with Guattari’s role vis-à-vis Deleuze,
easy to read and whimsical. In it, Genosko deals with some of Guattari’s more
obviously political work, like his development of Integrated World Capitalism with
Eric Alliez, as well as Guattari’s work with Antonio Negri. He also quickly
moves through Guattari’s relationship with the 1, 2, 3, 4 series. In his
theorizing, Guattari resisted the molar, statist 1, the closed system of 2, the
oedipal triangulation of 3, and finally valorized 4, or really 3+n. Genosko’s
closing statement is like Guattari’s work in the best way: political, complex,
Genosko has chosen to show
us pieces of Guattari’s life; disparate chapters detailing some of his
concepts, interests, his semiotics, and in doing so has painted a nice picture
of Guattari’s effect. Perhaps when confronted with such a transdisciplinarian
(psychoanalyst/ intellectual/ activist/ Marxist/ ecologist), it is necessary to
be elusive; in the end we are left with a vital sense of the man and his work,
and the gaps in the portrayal of his thought are perhaps the very thing that
allow us to apprehend Guattari’s thought.
1 Gary Genosko is a Canada Research
Chair at Lakehead University and has written The Guattari Reader, Baudrillard
and Signs: Signification Ablaze, and edited Deleuze and Guattari:
2 Gary Genosko. Félix
Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction. New York: Continuum, 2002:161.