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Some notes on Michel Foucault's

preface to Anti-Oedipus
by Muindi Fanuel Muindi
(My notes are in red and excerpts from Foucault's text are in black)

Paying a modest tribute to Saint Francis Sales, one might say that Anti-Oedipus is an
Introduction to the Non-Facist Life.

The art of living counter to all forms of fascism, whether already present or impending, carries
with it a certain number of essential principles which I would summarize as follow if I were to
make this great book into a manual or guide to everyday life.

• Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia

Do not develop actions using slogans and theories that rely on the concept of one (e.g., "we are one
people", "we need to act as one", "we must speak with one voice").

Do not develop actions using slogans and theories that rely on the concepts of everything, all, and everyone
(e.g., "everything must change", "everyone must contribute", "we all are going to suffer", "we must all take
responsibility").

Gestures done for the sake of "all", "everything", "everyone", and "one" suppress concrete differences
between people and within particular persons in the interest of a reified generality.

Instead, develop actions using slogans and theories that rely on the concept of connection. Connections do
not suppress concrete differences between entities or within a particular entity. A connection is established
between two or three or n different entities. A connection between a set of entities does not exhaustively
determine the particular entities involved nor does it not combine those entities in order to form one super-
entity. Rather, it determines common notions between the entities, relations of agreement or disagreement.
Moreover, references to connections demand some measure of specificity that allow for some form of
empirical verification—one acts on the basis of the connection between taxes and social infrastructure, the
connection between education and income inequality, or the connection between the compensation of
CEOs, corporate bailouts, and the federal deficit.

• Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and
not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.

Subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization, i.e. logic trees, the system of dissemination that these trees imply,
and their restrictive "either/or" logic. Subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization of a set of entities reduces the
set of possible connections that those entities can utilize.

Think and act through proliferation—to be used as a model: contagion, the spread of digital and biological
viruses, memes.

Think and act through juxtaposition—take seemingly opposed positions or seemingly divergent approaches
and put them in proximity to one another, attempt to discover zones of indiscernability between them, to
identify flows of energy and information from which they mutually draw sustenance, and to locate points of
terminal disconnect.

Think and act through disjunction—don't use the "either/or" that "claims to mark decisive choices between
immutable terms (the alternative: either this or that)", utilize the inclusive disjunction of "either... or... or ..." ("a
system of possible permutations between differences that always amount to the same as they shift and slide
about").

• Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack,
lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to
reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities,
mobile arrangements over systems. Believe what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.

Not freedom from, but freedom to.

Always seek out the positive assertion that lies behind negative assertions of the sort "it is against the law", or
"there is no law", or "it is beyond the limit", or "we lack the resources". A statement of this sort always has
an affirmation at its core (e.g., "insider trading undermines stock markets and therefore it is against the law",
"we have chosen to prioritize defense spending and tax cuts and thus we lack the resources for welfare
initiatives"). We gain an understanding of social arrangements and the flows of information and energy that
constitute them when positive assertions are extracted from negative assertions. Positive assertions
demonstrate the tentativeness of the arrangements in place, providing room for us to ask whether there are
alternative arrangements that are solutions to the problem, and to go even further and question the validity of
the problem itself.

• Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is
fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the
forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.

Here it will suffice to quote from a lecture given by Deleuze on on December 9, 1980 in a seminar Spinoza :

...what Spinoza calls the impotent ... a mode of existence, what is it? The impotent are the slaves. Good. But what
does the slaves mean? Slaves of social conditions? We feel, well, that the answer is no! It is a way of life. There are
thus people who are not at all socially slaves, but they live like slaves! Slavery as a way of life and not as social
status. Thus there are slaves. But on the same side, the impotent or the slaves, he puts who ? It will become more
significant for us: he puts tyrants. Tyrants! And oddly, there will be plenty of stories, the priests. The tyrant, the priest
and the slave. Nietzsche will not say more. In his more violent texts, Nietzsche will not say more, Nietzsche will
make the trinity: the tyrant, the priest and the slave. It’s Odd that it is already literally so in Spinoza. And what is
there in common between a tyrant who has power (pouvoir), a slave who does not have power, and a priest who
seems only to have spiritual power. And what is there in common? And how are they impotent since, on the
contrary, they seem to be, at least for the tyrant and the priest, men of power.

This something in common is what is going to make Spinoza say: but they are impotent; it is that, in a certain way ,
they need to sadden life! Curious, this idea.

Nietzsche will also say things like this: they need to make sadness reign! He feels it, he feels it very deeply: they
need to make sadness reign because the power that they have can only be founded on sadness. And Spinoza
makes a very strange portrait of the tyrant, by explaining that the tyrant is someone who needs, above all, the
sadness of his subjects, because there is no terror that doesn’t have as its basis a kind of collective sadness. The
priest, perhaps for completely other reasons, has need of the sadness of man on his own condition. And when he
laughs, it is not more reassuring. The tyrant could laugh, and the favorites, the counselors of the tyrant could also
laugh too. It is a bad laugh, and why is it a bad laugh? Not because of its quality, Spinoza would not say that, it is
precisely a laughter which has for its object only sadness and the communication of sadness. What does this
mean? It is bizarre. The priest, according to Spinoza, essentially needs an action motivated by remorse. Introducing
remorse. It is a culture of sadness. Whatever the ends, Spinoza will say that at that moment the ends are equal to
us. He judges only that: cultivating sadness. The tyrant for his political power needs to cultivate sadness, the priest
needs to cultivate sadness

...there is a complicity, and this is Spinoza‚s intuition: there is a complicity of the tyrant, the slave, and the priest.
Why? Because the slave is the one who feels better the more things go badly. The worse it goes , the happier he
is. This is the mode of existence of the slave! For the slave, whatever the situation, it is always necessary that he
sees the awful side. The nasty stuff there. There are people who have a genius for this: these are the slaves. It
could be a painting, it could be a scene in the street, there are people who have a genius for it. There is a genius of
the slave and at the same time, it is the buffoon. The slave and the buffoon. Dostoyevsky wrote some very
profound pages on the unity of the slave and the buffoon, and of the tyrant, these are tyrannical types, they cling,
they do not let you go. They don’t stop shoving your nose into whatever shit. They are not happy, they always have
to degrade things. It is not that the things are necessarily high, but it is always necessary that they degrade, it is
always too high. They must always find a small disgrace, a disgrace in the disgrace, there they become roses of
joy, the more repulsive it is the happier they are. They live only like this; this is the slave!

• Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to
discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of
thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of
political action.

In a 1977 interview published under the title 'Truth and Power' in the book Power/Knowledge, Foucault puts
forward a few "'propositions'—not firm assertions, but simply suggestions to be further tested and
evaluated." They are as follows:

'Truth' is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution and
operation of statements. ["I do not mean ‘the ensemble of truths which are to be discovered an accepted’, but
rather ‘the ensemble of rules according to which the true and the false are separated and specific effects of power
attached to the true’"]

'Truth' is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power
which extend it. A 'regime' of truth.

The regime is not merely ideological or superstructural [to quote Deleuze's book on Foucault, "ideologies explain
nothing but always assume an organization or 'system' within which they operate"]

The essential political problem for the intellectual is not to criticize the ideological contents supposedly linked to
science, or to ensure that his own scientific practice is accompanied by a correct ideology, but that of ascertaining
the possibility of constituting a new politics of truth. The problem is not changing people's consciousnesses — or
what's in their heads — but the political, economic, institutional regime of the production of truth. '

It is not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already
power) but of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic, and cultural, within
which it operates at the present time.

These propositions bear heavily on the principle in question. Using thought to ground political action in 'Truth'
is to ground your action within the system of power that determines "the ensemble of rules according to
which the true and false are separated and the specific effects of power attached to the true". To utilize
analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action is to "criticize the
workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent, to criticize and attack them in such
a manner that the political power that has always exercised itself through them will be unmasked so that we
can fight against them".

In thinking of political action of an intensifier of thought, it is worth quoting Slavoj Žižek's article on WikiLeaks
in the April 2011 issue of Harper's Magazine:

There has been from the outset, something about [WikiLeak's] activities that goes way beyond the liberal
conceptions of the free flow of information. We shouldn't look for these differences at the level of content. The only
surprising thing about the WikiLeaks revelations is that they contain no surprises. Didn't we learn exactly what we
expected to learn? ...

... What WikiLeaks threatens is the formal functioning of power. The targets weren't the dirty details and the
individuals responsible for them; in other words, not those in power so much as power itself. We shouldn't forget
that power comprises not only institutions and their rules but also legitimate (normal) ways of challenging it (an
independent press, NGOs, etc.) — as the Indian academic Saroj Giri put it, WikiLeaks "challenged power by
challenging the normal channels of challenging power and revealing the truth."

Indeed, to use political action to intensify thought / analysis / information is to "challenge power by challenging
the accepted channels of challenging power and revealing the truth".
• Do not demand of politics that it restore the ‘rights’ of the individual, as philosophy
has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to ‘de-
individualize’ by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The
group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant
generator of de-individualization.

"The individual is a product of power". An individual is a particular totality separate from other distinct
particular totalities, the delimitation of a sphere of assumed responsibility and a sphere of abdicated
responsibility, a sphere of assumed activity and a sphere assumed passivity. These spheres are almost
always drawn without regard to the actual connections that take place between them or in an attempt to
obfuscate those connections. Hollywood's legal and political thrillers — not to mention real life legal and
political thrillers we follow in the media — are full of instances in which a person skirts the laws designed to
punish an individual by placing another person between him and the illegal action, and there are also to be
found networks of actors that use their individuality to shield themselves from receiving "explicit" knowledge of
the actions that are perpetrated by the workings of the group to which they belong. We find in these
scenarios the usage of the status of individuality as a technique for the exercise of power. One might argue
that the problem posed should be that of the proper delimitation of the space interior and the exterior to the
individual's activity and responsibility. However, the only way to generate this proper delimitation would be to
obtain an exhaustive knowledge of the possible types of connections between individuals. An impossible task!
Everyday we find individuals creating new techniques and technologies that connect one with another, and
the rate of innovation outpaces the speed at which data can be collected, analyzed, and judged.

The problem then is de-individualization. It is important to be adamant about the fact that de-individualization
is not the negative of individualization, but rather the indefinite of individualization. What does this mean?
quote Slavoj Žižek's The Parallax View:
Kant introduced a key distinction between negative and indefinite judgment: the positive judgment "the soul is
mortal" can be negated in two ways, when a predicate is denied to the subject ("the soul is not mortal"), and when
a non-predicate is affirmed ("the soul is non-mortal") - the difference is exactly the same as the one, known to
every reader of Stephen King, between "he is not dead" and “he is un-dead." The indefinite judgment opens up a
third domain which undermines the underlying distinction: the “undead" are neither alive nor dead, they are
precisely the monstrous “living dead." And the same goes for "inhuman": "he is not human" is not the same as "he
is inhuman" - "he is not human" means simply that he is external to humanity, animal or divine, while “he is
inhuman" means something thoroughly difference, namely the fact that he is neither human nor inhuman, but
marked by a terrifying excess which, although it negates what we understand as "humanity," is inherent to being-
human.

De-individualization is the excess inherent to being individualized. To view arrangements in respect to the
connections which constitute them is to de-individualize the arranged entities. To reiterate a point made
earlier, a connection is established between different entities, it does not exhaustively determine the particular
entities involved nor does it combine those entities in order to form one super-entity; a connection determines
common notions between the entities it involves. Connections affirm individuality as a non-predicate—i.e.
connections de-individualize.

• Do not become enamored of power.

What is power? There are some quotes from Deleuze's book on Foucault that are helpful here:

Power is a relation between forces, or rather every relation between forces is a 'power relation'

..less a property than a strategy, and its effects cannot be attributed to an appropriation 'but to dispositions,
maneuvers, tactics, techniques, functionings'; 'it is exercised rather than possessed; it is not the "privilege",
acquired or preserved, of the dominant class, but the overall effect of its strategic positions.

...a technology, that traverses every kind of apparatus or institution, linking them, prolonging them, and making
them converge and function in a new way
The power to be affected is like a matter of force, and the power to affect is like a function of force. But it is a pure
function, that is to say a non-formalized function, independent of the concrete forms it assumes, the aims it serves
and the means it employs: as a physics of action, it is a physics of abstract action.

Power 'produces reality' before it represses. Equally it produces truth before it ideologizes, abstracts or masks.

Think of power as action acting upon another action, action that determines another action, an action that
can force another action, divert another action, or cripple another action.

The maintenance of the mechanisms of power—systems and tools designed to force/divert/cripple certain
actions—are not to be viewed as a goal. The ability to act is the goal. Indeed, it is possible that in order carry
out a certain action you will need to force/divert/cripple certain actions of others, but that is a secondary/
subordinate effect. Do not prioritize the utilization and development of mechanisms of power in over your
ability to act.