Deleuze and Guattari in the light of Spivak's critique

Image: Eugenio Barboza


Considerations on the concept of interest for Deleuze and a possible answer to the problem of the subaltern

Gayatri Spivak features in the book Can the subaltern speak? a very important theoretical construction about the postcolonial debates about subalternity. Such a contribution is due not only to denounce the constitution of the subaltern subject as an effect of the dominant discourse, but to criticize the way in which leftist intellectuals in the First World would be corroborating with such discourse by “systematically ignoring the issue of ideology” (SPIVAK , 2010, p. 27) and by assuming an “unrepresentable subaltern subject who can know and speak for himself” (ibid, P. 78).

The intellectuals in question are Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze (and, consequently, their collaborator Félix Guattari), analyzed from their conversation in Intellectuals and power: Conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. Spivak's critique focuses on an extensive set of themes discussed by Foucault and Deleuze; we will discuss here one of the central points of such criticism: the concept of interest for Deleuze.

Spivak's first reference to this problem appears in: “By failing to consider the relations between desire, power and subjectivity, Deleuze and Guattari are unable to articulate a theory of interests. In this context, his indifference to ideology — a theory that is necessary for understanding interests — is notable but consistent.” (ibid, P. 32).

Such disregard by Deleuze and Guattari for the relations between desire, power and subjectivity would be due to their theory of desiring machines in the unconscious, which machine connections, disjunctions and conjunctions with partial objects, the subject being: “… Produced as residue alongside the machine, appendix or piece adjacent to the machine (…) The subject himself is not at the center, occupied by the machine, but at the edge, without a fixed identity, always off-center, concluded from the states through which he passes” (DELEUZE, GUATTARI, 2011, p. 35) .

The concept of the subject as residue is produced from the critique of current subjectivism in psychoanalysis, a critique that is explicit in excerpts such as: “The unconscious does not follow the paths of a generation in progression (or in regression) (…) The only subject of reproduction it is the unconscious itself contained in the circular form of production” (ibid, p. 147). With this, subjectivity is not excluded, but it is thought of as produced from the conjunctive syntheses of the unconscious, which breaks with any anteriority of the subject in relation to the desiring process.

The subject of Deleuze and Guattari's theory of desiring production has no interference in the processes in which he is involved in order to adapt to Spivak's criticism against a conception of a subject "with a strong passport", although the author understands his character as a subject-effect (SPIVAK, 2010, p. 31). However, to understand the extent of Spivak's criticism, it is necessary to understand the position of this nomadic subject of Deleuze and Guattari in the debate on the theory of interests. For Spivak, the problem lies in the “mechanically schematic opposition between interest and desire” (ibid, p. 34).

It is then necessary to analyze this theory of interest as it appears in the anti-Oedipus: “It is not a matter of ideology. There is an unconscious libidinal investment of the social field, which coexists, though not necessarily coincidentally, with preconscious investments or with what preconscious investments “should be”.” (DELEUZE, GUATTARI, 2011, p. 142).

At the outset, the issue of ideology is by no means ignored, despite the controversial phrase that begins this quote. However, if the immediate appearances are surpassed and the meanings of such a conception are investigated, it becomes clear that the non-coincidental coexistence that Deleuze and Guattari describe indicates, not only that there is a field for ideology, but that this is related to the unconscious. . If the unconscious libidinal investments of the social field concern the instance of desiring production in which the subject is just a remainder, the preconscious investments absorb the meaning that Freud attributes to the preconscious: “… we call the system Cs [consciousness] also from “preconscious”. If it turns out that the becoming conscious of the preconscious is also co-determined by a certain censorship, then we will discriminate more rigorously between systems. pcs e Cs. For now, just keep in mind that the system pcs share system properties Cs and that strict censorship fulfills its role in the passage of ICs [unconscious] to the pcs.” (FREUD, 2010, p. 82).

To understand the relationship between what Deleuze and Guattari understand as unconscious and pre-conscious investments in their theory of interests, Freud will also be the reference: “On the border of pcs: ics is rejected by censorship, and derivatives of it can circumvent this censorship, organize themselves superiorly, grow in the pcs until they reach a certain intensity in investment, but after having surpassed it, in seeking to impose themselves on consciousness, they are recognized as derivatives of the ics and again repressed in the new frontier of censorship between pcs e Cs. "(ibid, P. 98-99).

For Freud, as well as for Deleuze and Guattari, the relationship between the preconscious (as part of the system of consciousness) and the unconscious is expressed through censorship and repression of the desire flows of unconscious production. Such libidinal economy will then guide Deleuze and Guattari's analysis towards a relationship that exceeds a mere mechanical opposition between the two: “For this reason, when subjects, individuals or groups manifestly go against their class interests, when they adhere to the interests and ideals of a class that their own objective situation should determine them to fight, it is not enough to say: they were deceived, the masses were deceived. It is not an ideological problem, one of ignorance and illusion, but a problem of desire, and desire is part of the infrastructure. Preconscious investments take place or should take place according to the interests of opposing classes. But unconscious investments occur according to positions of desire and synthetic uses, which are very different from the interests of the individual or collective subject who desires” (DELEUZE, GUATTARI, 2011, p. 142-143).

The non-coincident coexistence is not, therefore, an opposition, but a relationship between two fields of investments that have intersections and mismatches. After all, non-coincidence is not necessary, but there is nothing to indicate that it cannot occur. On the contrary, such a possibility is posed in Deleuze and Guattari, even if Spivak seeks to deny it through a citation that is symptomatically cut out. In Spivak's text, the last part of Deleuze's response to Foucault is hidden: “It is that perhaps in terms of investments, both economic and unconscious, interest is not the last word; there are investments of desire that explain that one can desire, not against one's interest — since interest is always a consequence and is found where desire places it — but to desire in a deeper and more diffused way than one's interest” (DELEUZE apoud FOUCAULT, 1979, p. 76).

The relationship between desire and interest for Deleuze, which does not coincide because it is possible that desire operates in a deeper and more diffuse way than the fundamentally oppositional character of the interest of the antagonistic classes, is the product of a repressive conflict between unconscious investment and “counter-investment”. ” preconscious, as Freud would say (FREUD, 2010, p. 88). Thus, it is not a matter of a desiring subject separated from class interests, but an unconscious desiring production that is not confused with the interests of the individual or collective subject. Instead of exclusion or ignorance, another dependency relationship: “ideology, Oedipus and the phallus have nothing to do here, because they depend on it, instead of being in its principle” (DELEUZE, GUATTARI, 2011, p. 143).

The accusation of reintroducing an “indivisible subject” (SPIVAK, 2010, p. 35) then loses its fundamental basis. The distinction between forms of representation that Spivak mobilizes to criticize the conception of an indivisible subject that would be supposed by the authors turns out to be somewhat similar to a series of their analyses, at least in the case of Deleuze: “The full class agency (if such a thing existed) (…) is a contesting substitution as well as an appropriation (a supplement) of something that is “artificial” to begin with – “the economic conditions of existence which separate their way of life.” (ibid, p. 49).

“Organizing a bipolarization of the social field, a bipolarity of classes, was the task of the revolutionary socialist movement. Of course, we can conceive of a theoretical determination of the proletarian class at the level of production (those from whom surplus value is extorted), or at the level of money (wage income). But such determinations are either too narrow or too broad; The objective being that they define as class interest remains purely virtual as long as it is not incarnated in a consciousness that certainly does not create it, but that actualizes it in an organized party, able to propose itself to the conquest of the State apparatus.” (DELEUZE, GUATTARI, 2011, p. 338).

As much in Spivak as in Deleuze and Guattari, the artifice that the proletariat builds in the political field, instead of a mere awareness of its position, is an agency. The difference between Spivak and Deleuze and Guattari is not located in a mere ignorance of the latter regarding issues of political representation, but that Deleuze and Guattari think of it in terms of the relationship between unconscious investments and pre-conscious investments: “It is that the interest of class continues to be of the order of large molar sets; it only defines a collective preconscious, necessarily represented in a distinct consciousness, about which one cannot even ask, at this level, whether it betrays this interest or not, whether it alienates or not, whether it deforms or not. The true unconscious is, on the contrary, in group desire, which brings into play the molecular order of desiring machines” (ibid, p. 340).

Therefore, the question of representation for Deleuze and Guattari is an epiphenomenon: if the Russian Revolution, for example, was successful in organizing such class bipolarity, that is, revolutionary preconscious investments, its problem was the mobilization of unconscious investments. reactionary, that is, “according to the interest of the dominant class”, since it organizes itself in terms of “the domination of its conscience or party vanguard, that is, (...) a bureaucracy or a technocracy that is considered by the bourgeoisie as “ great absence”” (ibid, p. 144; p. 339). A new political problem then appears: how to make revolutionary preconscious investments and revolutionary unconscious investments coincide?

With such an understanding of Deleuze and Guattari's theory of interest, it is possible to make a critique of Spivak's critique. If it can perhaps be applied to Foucault (which is not the responsibility of this text), it does not apply to Deleuze. It is also possible to understand why Deleuze criticizes those who speak for the oppressed: “It is the nature of the investments of desire in relation to a social body that explains why parties and unions, which would or should have revolutionary investments in the name of class interests , can have reformist or perfectly reactionary investments at the level of desire.” (DELEUZE apoud FOUCAULT, 1979, p. 76-77).

Spivak says that such a “post-representationalist paradigm hides an essentialist agenda” (SPIVAK, 2010, p. 76), which does not hold in view of Deleuze and Guattari's theory of interests. A post-representationist revolutionary politics does not bet on an identity between desire and interest, but on an incessant struggle against the fixity that collective agencies can take on by promoting identity political practices of integration to the majority: “In general, minorities also do not receive a solution to its problem by integration, even with axioms, statutes, autonomies, independence. His tactic necessarily goes through there; but if they are revolutionary, it is because they bring a deeper movement that calls into question the world axiomatics. The power of minority, of particularity, finds its figure or its universal consciousness in the proletarian. But, while the working class is defined by an acquired status or even by a theoretically conquered state, it only appears as “capital”, part of capital (variable capital) and does not leave the plane of capital. At most the plan becomes bureaucratic. On the other hand, it is by leaving the plane of capital, not stopping leaving it, that a mass becomes incessantly revolutionary and destroys the dominant balance of countable sets” (DELEUZE, GUATTARI, 2012, p. 188-189).

With Deleuze and Guattari, therefore, we have a possible answer to the problem of the subaltern: if this position is a mere effect of the dominant discourse and that is why the subaltern cannot speak, then its political task is to become a non-numerable set, to fight the simple integration and ceaselessly fighting against capital's plan. In this way, finally, Spivak's criticism of the monotonic character of representation in Deleuze is the basis for a critical rebound against the monotonic character of Spivak's theory of interest, which sees only pre-conscious investments, where there are, also and primarily, unconscious investments.

*Bernardo Joao do Rego Monteiro Moreira is studying political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).



DELEUZE, Gilles; GUATTARI, Felix. the anti-Oedipus. Sao Paulo: Ed. 34, 2011.

DELEUZE, Gilles; GUATTARI, Felix. thousand plateaus. Vol. 5. São Paulo: Ed. 34, 2012.

FOUCAULT, Michael. “Intellectuals and Power: Conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze”. In: Microphysics of Power. Rio de Janeiro: Edições Graal, 1979.

FREUD, Sigmund. “the unconscious". In: Complete Works Volume 12: Introduction to Narcissism, Essays in Metapsychology and Other Texts (1914-1916). São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2010.

SPIVAK, Gayatri Chakravorty. Can the subaltern speak?. Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG, 2010.


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