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Félix Guattari


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Frenchpsychoanalyst, political activist, and philosopher. He is best known for the books he co-wrote with French philosopher Gilles Deleuze: L'Anti-Oedipe: Capitalisme et Schizophrénie (1972), translated as Anti-Oedipus (1977); Kafka: Pour une Littérature Mineure (1975), translated as Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature (1986); Mille Plateaux: Capitalisme et Schizophrénie 2 (1980), translated as A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1987); and Qu'est-ce que la Philosophie? (1991), translated as What is Philosophy? (1994). He was also the author of several important works in his own right: Psychanalyse et Transversalité (1972) (Psychoanalysis and Tranversality); La Révolution Moléculaire (1980), translated as Molecular Revolution (1984); and Cartographies Schizoanalytiques (1989) (Schizoanalytic Cartographies).

Before he met Deleuze, Guattari had already gained notoriety in France as a political activist. He was known in the French press as ‘Mr Anti-’ for his public campaigning for a range of causes from the decolonization of Algeria, the improved treatment of prisoners in French prisons (he was a member of Michel Foucault's Groupe d'Information sur les Prisons), the improved treatment of the mentally ill in French insane asylums, and the establishment of free radio, to gay rights and green politics. In 1973 he outraged national sensibilities by publishing a special issue of the journal Recherches edited by Guy Hocquenghem and René Scherer provocatively entitled ‘Trois milliards de pervers: Grande Encyclopédie des Homosexualités’ (Three Billion Perverts: An Encyclopedia of Homosexualities). French courts banned it and ordered all copies destroyed. Guattari was also fined 600 francs, but he proudly never paid. More controversially, he collaborated with the Italian Marxist theorist, Antonio Negri, who was arrested in 1977 on charges of terrorism for his association with the Red Brigades. Guattari also spoke against the extradition from Germany to France of Klaus Croissant, a German lawyer sympathetic to the Baader-Meinhof Group; and in the late 1950s and early 1960s he carried cash for the Front de Liberation Nationale Algérien (Algerian National Liberation Front), the guerrilla army fighting for independence from French rule in Algeria.

Guattari's activism was informed by his clinical practice as a psychotherapist in the private psychiatric clinic La Borde founded in 1953 by Jean Oury, with the aim of providing a radically new form of care which ‘de-institutionalized the institution’. At La Borde all staff, including cooks and cleaners, participated in providing therapy for the patients, many of whom were psychotic, and all staff, including doctors and nurses, participated in the maintenance of the hospital. Guattari was enlisted by Oury because of his ability to organize collective action and thus help break down the barriers between staff and patients. Guattari received formal training in psychoanalysis from France's most important interpreter of Freud, Jacques Lacan, achieving the status of ‘analyste membre’ (member analyst) in 1969. Although he remained a member of Lacan's school, the Ecole Freudienne de Paris, until its dissolution in 1980 shortly before the master's death, Guattari's relationship to Lacan and Lacanian psychoanalysis was at best ambivalent. The publication of Guattari's notebooks, The Anti-Oedipus Papers (2006), has made it clear just how strained relations were between them, especially after the publication of Anti-Oedipus (even though that work was, in the words of its authors, designed to save Lacan from the Lacanians).


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