Appraising the radical legacy of two French intellectuals
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari:
Intersecting Lives (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism)
by Francois Dosse
translation by Deborah Glassman
Columbia University Press
$37.50 List Price
Bringing together Marx and Freud in a united theoretical front was an urgent task for radicals throughout much of the twentieth century, with benefits that would flow to historical materialism and psychoanalysis alike. The stakes were already clear in Wilhelm Reich's ill-fated efforts of the 1920s and '30s: The central but under-developed notion of class consciousness (about which Marx himself had written just a few suggestive pages) might be put on better footing by annexing a theory of the mind that was, after all, materialist in its basic assumptions. And revolutionary expropriation would be good for psychoanalysis itself—it would rescue the original radicalism of Freud's work, which was otherwise obscured by both the commodification of treatment and the founder's more conservative moods.
Reich's Sex-Pol movement was instrumental in the radical reclamation of Freud. Reich and his associates offered therapy and sex education in working-class neighborhoods in Germany and thereby created a bridge between the Communist movement and the International Psychoanalytic Association; but neither side really wanted such a bridge, and Reich was expelled from both in the early 1930s, within about a year of each other. He would go on to develop even more distinctive theories about how psychic energy worked and what you could do with it. But by that point, he had abandoned scientific socialism and was living within science fiction, via inventions like his renowned orgone box, which professed to harness libidinal energy for alleged scientific applications.
REGISTERED USERS of bookforum.com and BOOKFORUM SUBSCRIBERS have access to this article, but must be logged in to view it. If you are not a registered user of bookforum.com, please create your free login here. If you are a subscriber, but haven’t activated your online account, please do so here.
SUBSCRIBE NOW for access to our online archives,* and receive the printed magazine for the discounted rate of $18 a year.**