notes on desire and pleasure
Arianna BoveThere are elements of Deleuze and Guattari that stubbornly retain a certain unfamiliarity.
Deleuze and Guattari rescue desire from the rethoric of lack and basically remind us that desire is productive. Now with desire they use similar twists and turns of logic as Foucault does when describing power. That is why Deleuze asks in 'desire and pleasure': how can power be desired? Remember Foucault's manifesto-style prose in the intro to their Anti-Oedipus? Don't become enamoured of power! He says. So Deleuze's conclusion that power is an affection of desire is unsatisfactory and seems to only place a semi colon on this rhymeless poetry of immanence that still waits to be written.
What is Foucault's pleasure? We know that Foucault ascribes the overemphasis on desire to a progressive scientisation of the ethical discourse that derives directly from a sorrowful idea of the subject practised in early Christianity. This idea finally culminates into the psychoanalytical category of the Ego, a subject that has a particular relation to truth and to the practices of the self modulated on the subjugating coordinates of self-negation and self-deciphering.
See for instance his 'Sexuality and solitude', when he decribes Augustine's libidinisation of sex.
Foucault continuously problematises the disappearance of pleasure from philosophical discourse and this is doubtlessly a reinstatement of his criticism of the repressive hypothesis. But it is more than that. It is also a formulation of the constitutive aspect of freedom within power relations. Foucault counterposes practices of freedom to processes of liberation. In fact, by recognising that power can only operate on the terrain of freedom, those practices allow us to understand current forms of subjectivation as much as the possibilities intrinsic to power relations themselves.
So pleasure is as productive for Foucault as desire is for Deleuze and Guattari.
Back to square one.
Then, what is desire for Deleuze and Guattari, really? In the interview on desire and pleasure, Deleuze keeps distinguishing between the emphasis of desire on deterritorialisation, and the emphasis of pleasure on re-territorialisation. Do you see this dynamics in the use of these concepts by D&G and F? I don't. Bodies and pleasures are the 'rallying points of counterattack' against the noise of the bourgeois economy of christian ascetism, Foucault says in The will to truth. And they are the field of the aesthetics of existence that is a deprise de soi, or a line of flight from subjectivation, whichever language you speak. So, bodies and pleasures do produce deterritorialisations. But they are also the field of play for ethics. Now, for Deleuze and perhaps Guattari it is the conjunction or conjugation of these lines of flights into a 'veritable diagram' that constitutes the assemblage produced by desire. A clear picture.
But what does Foucault's pleasure leave us with instead? 'Just' experience, it seems. Or Bataille's upturned orb?
For Foucault on this: "Why do we recognise ourselves as subjects of desire and not as agents of pleasure?", see youtube and my transcript of the recordings