Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Deleuze and the Contemporary World$

Ian Buchanan and Adrian Parr

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748623419

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623419.001.0001

Show Summary Details

Affective Citizenship and the Death-State

Affective Citizenship and the Death-State

(p.161) Chapter 9 Affective Citizenship and the Death-State
Deleuze and the Contemporary World

Eugene W. Holland

Edinburgh University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's concept of desire as it figures in schizoanalysis, and addresses the issues of affective citizenship and Death-State. It explores how economic and familial determinations in a modern capitalist society reinforce one another and state politics along with it, and argues that the sovereign state is long gone, and that what prevails in its place is the biopower state. The chapter explains that the biopower state represses death in order fully to exploit the production of surplus, which capital in turn appropriates in order to generate more capital, and shows the connection between the Death-State and the current war on terrorism.

Keywords:   desire, schizoanalysis, affective citizenship, Death-State, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, capitalist society, biopower state, state politics, sovereign state

I take it as an axiom of post-structuralist social theory that various determinations of social life – the economy, the family, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and so on – are to be considered in principle independent of one another: not just relatively autonomous, but completely autonomous from one another, with no privilege being automatically assigned to any one instance over all the others. This axiom is perhaps most evident in Foucault, who took his teacher Althusser’s notion of the ‘relative autonomy’ of social determinations (politics, economics, ideology and so on) one step further to insist on their absolute autonomy from one another (Foucault 1972). But it is also evident in Derrida’s insistence that the structurality of structure be understood not to harbour any centre that would privilege one structural element or instance over the others (Derrida 1972, 1994). In Deleuze and Guattari, finally, the axiom appears under the rubric of immanence: determinations are immanent within the social field they determine, without any transcendent instance determining all the others (Deleuze and Guattari 1994). But it then becomes an empirical or conjunctural question as to how these various instances intersect and interact with one another in specific circumstances, for even absolute autonomy definitely does not entail complete isolation. So if one were able to show that, let us say, familial and economic determinations under certain circumstances in fact reinforce one another, that would be an important result of examining them in relation to one another, as parts of what we might call an undetermined or non-deterministic whole. What if the political terms ‘Motherland’ and ‘Fatherland’ are more than just quaint or colourful expressions, but actually express a deep-seated connection between affective investments children make in family members and the kinds of affective investments citizens make in the nation-states to which they belong? What if the private and public spheres that seem so distinct in modern societies secretly resonate with one another? Then tools (p.162) developed for the analysis of ‘family romance’, of the affective life of the private sphere, could prove useful for the analysis of the affective life of citizens in the public sphere, and vice versa.

Schizoanalysis is uniquely positioned to provide tools for such an analysis of affective citizenship that would take into account the resonance between the public and private spheres. For one of the signal contributions of schizoanalysis is to show that in modern capitalist societies, socio-economic and familial determinations tend to be distinct from, yet mirror and thus reinforce one another: the privatisation of production coincides with the privatisation of reproduction, such that Oedipal relations foster and support capital relations and vice versa. This is more than a mere formal homology – although it can be expressed as such. Adding the figure of the child to a quotation from Marx, Deleuze and Guattari assert at one point in Anti-Oedipus that ‘Father, mother, and child … become the simulacrum of the images of capital (“Mister Capital, Madame Earth, and their child the Worker”)’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1972: 265). The structures of the nuclear family and the capitalist economy thus mirror one another: just as capital separates the worker from the means of life (Mother Earth) and defers access to the goods and ensuing gratification until after work, pay-day, and/or retirement, so the Father separates the child from its means of life (the Mother) and defers access to the opposite sex and ensuing gratification until after puberty and the founding of a new family through marriage. Deleuze and Guattari insist that the nuclear family and Oedipal psychoanalysis are strictly capitalist institutions for this reason: the dynamics of both the nuclear family and standard therapeutic transference effectively programme the Oedipal psyche to accept and even relish the structure of capitalist social relations. They go so far as to say that capitalism delegates the social reproduction of subjects to the nuclear family, since in their view capital is a quantitative calculus and not the kind of meaningful system of representation required to foster subjectivity. But this is either an overly casual formulation, or it implies that the family and psychic life are mere effects of an economic cause – which flies in the face of the post-structuralist axiom with which we started.

In this connection, the analysis offered by the late Norman O. Brown in Life Against Death (1959) is especially important. Like Deleuze and Guattari, Brown focuses on the relationship between psychoanalysis and history (‘The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History’ is his sub-title), and like them, he is especially interested in the relations between the domestic and public spheres (or between the family and economics) in determining social conduct. But where Deleuze and Guattari tend to (p.163) favour sociohistorical determination (with capital ‘delegating’ the reproduction of subjects to the nuclear family), Brown insists on unilateral psychological determination. In fact, he explicitly sets out to replace what he considers to be inadequate historical (Hegelian, Marxist) explanations for society-wide human neuroses with a purely psychological, Freudian explanation – albeit by reading Freud somewhat against the grain and insisting that the repression of death (about which Freud said relatively little) is at least as important as the repression of sexuality (about which he said a great deal).

Now in order for Brown to parry effectively the historicising thrust of schizoanalysis, he would have to specify some determining feature of family life that escapes the historical variability of family forms that Deleuze and Guattari insist on so strenuously and demonstrate so convincingly.1 And he does so: it is prolonged infantile dependency, which is understood as a biological condition that is invariably true of all family forms (regardless of how extended or privatised they may be), and that has direct and profound repercussions for the human psyche. The human animal, Brown reminds us, is utterly dependent on adults for its very survival for an extended period of time after birth – much longer than most other mammals. This period of dependency of human infants on (let’s call them) ‘care-givers’ (rather than mother, father or even parents – for it makes no difference who) fosters exaggerated expectations for physiological and psychological gratification, intense separation anxiety (since separation from care-givers at this stage means death), and a consequent repression or refusal of death. In effect, the repression of death leaves humans fixated on all the impossible infantile projects they refused to let die in the past, leaving them unable to live in the present and giving motive force to an obsessive orientation toward the future. So the ‘psychoanalytic meaning of history’ is that humans sacrifice ‘that state of Being which was the goal of [human] Becoming’ (Brown 1959: 19) and compulsively rush headlong into a future they can never attain.

Now from a schizoanalytic perspective, this analysis is suggestive because it coincides with Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis of capitalism, which also entails a ‘refusal of death’ – what they call the subordination of anti-production and the corresponding transformation of death into an instinct (Deleuze and Guattari 1972 and Holland 2000). As in the case of the Oedipus complex itself, Deleuze and Guattari don’t deny the (relative) truth-value of Freud’s death instinct: both are understood to be effects or products of the capitalist mode of production, rather than indelible features of the eternal human psyche. Like the Oedipus complex, the death instinct merely expresses the ‘apparent objective (p.164) movement’ of capitalist society; under capitalism, death does become an instinct. And this is because capital systematically sacrifices social expenditure in favour of accumulation. Economies, according to Deleuze and Guattari, always involve processes of both production and antiproduction, both the production of resources for the maintenance of life and the wasteful or useless expenditure of such resources in ways that do not contribute to life, but in fact risk death (Deleuze and Guattari 1972, Holland 1999). In all other societies, anti-production prevails over production, but the advent of capitalism reverses this relation: as the imperative to produce surplus-value comes to dominate society, the risk of death through expenditure becomes subordinate to the overproduction and accumulation of means of life, and even more perversely, to the overproduction of further means of production. Of course, the repressed always returns – death returns, now as an instinct – but capitalism manages to yoke even the production of means of death to its own selfrealisation and self-expansion, so that the arms race and weapons production usurp public spending and contribute massively to capital accumulation. Indeed, from this perspective, bombs are the perfect capitalist commodity and an ideal solution to capital’s notorious crises of overproduction, inasmuch as they blow up and immediately call for the production of more bombs to replace them; the death that was refused within the bounds of a state now devoted not to glorious expenditure but merely to furthering capital accumulation gets projected and inflicted outside the bounds of the state through military expenditure in the service of what Eisenhower today would have to call the military/fossilfuel/industrial complex.

These are two very powerful accounts of the state of death in the psychic and social registers, but each assigns causal priority to a different register. So how are we to understand the relation between them? Clearly, an obsessive psychological future-orientation in search of an impossible state of complete gratification gets captured by – or does it produce? – a society-wide consumerism that contributes directly to, and is indeed required for, the realisation of surplus value and the accumulation of capital, which in turn requires wage-suppression so that the drive for gratification is perpetually frustrated – whatever role our analysis assigns to the mediation of advertising, whether as expression of a psychic compulsion or as mechanism of an economic imperative: the least we can say is that they are mutually reinforcing. And no doubt the Solomonesque solution – a solution perfectly consonant with the poststructuralist principle stipulated above – would be simply to grant psychic compulsion and economic imperative equal determinacy.

(p.165) The Freudian concept of nachtraglichkeit or ‘deferred action’, however, suggests a very different resolution: rather than conceiving of infantile dependency and all its repercussions as determining social conduct and economic dynamics in linear fashion, as Brown’s analysis would have it, this concept suggests that it is the refusal of death in social life under capitalism in particular that enables the refusal of death as one infantile complex among many to take centre stage in contemporary psychic life. There may be an innate psychological tendency in humans to sacrifice the present for an infinitely-deferred and impossible future, but it is capitalism that creates the historical conditions for that tendency to flourish and indeed become a predominant dynamic of social life. The separation-anxiety over the loss of parental love (which early in life means losing access to nourishment supplied by parents or care-givers) mirrors and reinforces the separation-anxiety over the loss of one’s job (which later in life means losing access to nourishment supplied by the market): part of what is anti-Oedipal about schizoanalysis is the way it reads Freud against Freud this way – or rather; Freud against his own Oedipus complex – by suggesting in line with Brown’s analysis that, under capitalism anyway, separation anxiety is far more important than castration anxiety.

But this does not mean that market-induced separation-anxiety causes infantile separation-anxiety (for which biology is clearly the cause), nor that capitalism delegates the breeding of anxiety-ridden subjects to the family so as to prepare them for psychic life under market capitalism (which grants capitalism far too much totalising prescience and agency). I would prefer to say simply that the capital-economic and Oedipal-familial instances, which are in principle autonomous, turn out in fact to resonate with one another under certain conditions, and that they do so today in a mutually reinforcing way that makes the task of transforming Oedipal-capitalist social relations all the more difficult.

Now let us suppose that, in addition to these two instances of mutually reinforcing resonance, the economic and the familial, there were a third: let’s call it the political, here construed narrowly to refer to affairs of the state. The state plays a key intermediary role between the abstract calculus of capital and the concrete reproduction of subjectivity, although it has not always played such a role. The shift from what Foucault calls the sovereign state to the biopower state – to a form of power ideally suited to industrial capitalism, as Foucault himself insists – (or what Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus call the shift from barbarism to civilization)2 entails an important recalibration of the state’s relation to other instances in society, most notably the economic.

(p.166) Whereas the sovereign state had been a locus of transcendence imposing order from above (through overcoding), the biopower state has become subordinate to capital, and henceforth organises social processes in the service of capital (through recoding)3. Where the sovereign state was content to wield death and terror to impose order and merely extract whatever surplus was available for useless glorious expenditure, the biopower state in principle represses death so as to maximise the production of surplus appropriated by capital in order to reinvest and pursue further accumulation. But repressed death in fact returns, giving rise to a regime of biopower I call the Death-State.4 The question then becomes: how do the particular flows of psychic and capital investment resonating in the domestic and economic spheres find another register of resonance in politics, in the Death-State?

Schizoanalysis approaches this question on the basis of a Nietzschean power-principle: libidinal investment in the state depends on the degree to which belonging to a state enhances citizens’ feelings of power – or as sociologists might put it: loyalty-quotients to the state depend on the reward-structures offered to its citizens. Citizen loyalties have often been parsed along an axis of inclusion and exclusion: fellow-citizens are included within the bounds of the state, while non-citizens are more or less forcibly excluded; classically, the state on one hand provides for those included among its citizens, and on the other hand protects them from non-citizens who have been excluded, and feelings of power arise from both. More specifically, the modern nation-state has, at least since Fichte (1922), been understood in terms of these two aspects or layers: one aspect (which Fichte calls ‘the nation’) involves the feeling of belonging together with fellow-citizens in a shared, enclosed space and common culture. Feelings of connection with and responsibility for fellow citizens combine with trust that the Motherland as a community will provide for the wellbeing of its members. The other aspect (which Fichte calls ‘the state’) involves the sense of order imposed on the nation from above by the state, in order to bolster and ensure the web of relations comprising the community, but also to relate the nation as one people to other nation-states, and so that the Fatherland can protect the nation from threats to its wellbeing coming from outside its borders.5

So Motherland and Fatherland can be understood as dual aspects of the affective investment in nation-states, which operates on a continuum marked at the extremes by categories such as inclusion/exclusion, positive/negative, affirmative/defensive, constructive/destructive and immanent/transcendent. But each pole of fantasy-investment also involves a distinctive sense of justice, which we can call (following Iris Marion (p.167) Young) ‘the social-connective’ and ‘the individual-retributive’. Whereas the former views questions of justice systemically rather than individu-alistically, and seeks corrective measures in systemic transformation through collective action involving perpetrators, intermediaries and victims alike, the latter seeks categorically to separate victims and perpetrators, and targets discrete individuals for blame in order to punish and/or exact retribution from them. Given these collective fantasies about the Motherland and the Fatherland, the question then becomes what conditions would induce investment in one more than the other, or even in one to the exclusion of the other? Critics have spoken, often in the context of a vaguely-defined globalisation, of the declining salience of the state to many of its citizens. But that is only half the story. It is the Motherland that has increasingly ‘negative salience’ for citizens, as we shall see, while the salience of the Fatherland on the contrary continues to increase. Indeed, it will be possible to argue that wounded feelings of abandonment by the Motherland fuel a vindictive rage to punish some foreign Other that is blamed for the betrayal, thereby provoking a compensatory and pathological overinvestment in the Fatherland as rewards from the Motherland diminish: these, in a nutshell, are the psychodynamics of the Death-State.

We can see why this would be the case by examining the state’s relations with citizens in three major domains of social life – production, reproduction and anti-production – in each of which we see a pattern of decreasing rewards and loyalty-quotients. Starting with the domain of reproduction, it is clear that the nuclear family has suffered severely under neo-liberalism, so that families require not one but two, three and sometimes four jobs to support themselves. At the same time, the provision of social services in support of reproduction more broadly conceived – including most notably public education, but also civil amenities, public health and safety, urban and transportation infrastructures, and so on – has declined radically in quantity and quality. This is no doubt due to capital’s successful reduction of its share of reproduction costs and their displacement onto beleaguered citizens, who now shoulder a proportionally larger share of the tax burden than ever before. But in any case the result is that citizens feel the Motherland is no longer functioning as public provider, and this feeling translates into diminished citizen-loyalty, if not outright resentment and/or a search for alternative and mostly private forms of ‘provisioning’ elsewhere. This is the context in which feelings of abandonment by the Motherland provoke compensatory investments in compulsive consumerism, among other things. Foreign policy based on expropriating scarce resources around the globe, (p.168) meanwhile, is perfectly consonant with insistence on the private right to drive a Sports Utility Vehicle; in fact, one function of the Death-State is precisely to align a psychological compulsion to consume, instilled in subjects since prolonged infancy, with the economic imperative to expand production and consumption in the service of capital-accumulation – an imperative that often enough requires military action to fulfil.

In the sphere of production, the situation is more complicated, even if the resulting pattern is more of the same. In the context of ‘global competition’ and ‘post-fordism’, income guarantees and, more importantly, job security itself have been drastically curtailed. That is why what T. H. Marshall has famously called ‘social citizenship’ as the ‘third stage’ in the evolution of modern citizenship – otherwise known as the welfare state – was either not a stage but a variable within an older stage, or if it was a stage, is now over: for social citizenship itself is steadily getting stripped away (Marshall 1964). At the same time, the state is losing economic sovereignty in the face of a number of institutions, including most notoriously the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, but also trade agreements such as NAFTA and GATT. Especially when it is clear that their government actively supports shipping their jobs overseas, citizens feel neither internally well-provided-for nor well-protected from external competition in the sphere of production – and their affective investment in the state diminishes as a result.

In the sphere of anti-production, things are more complicated still. Generally speaking, war is a prime mover of citizenship affect, as innumerable polls in recent decades have shown. Indeed, ‘giving one’s life for one’s country’ may be the ultimate sign of loyalty to the state. And yet, the ‘citizen-soldier’ is virtually nowhere to be found. War is fought instead with mercenary soldiers – and everyone, especially the politicians, knows what would happen if the draft were reinstated. What was once supposed to be positive affective investment in the Fatherland – the noble fight for freedom in World War II, for instance – has become a more or less purely instrumental exchange relation: I volunteer for the Army Reserves (expecting to sacrifice my weekends, not my life) in exchange for higher educational opportunities I otherwise couldn’t afford.

At the same time, however, the Death-State needs war more than ever, and indeed, waging war has become its primary function. For even though wars no longer mobilise positive affective investment (willing sacrifice for a noble cause), they certainly mobilise negative affective investment – that is to say, investment based on trauma and fear. An unending war on some vaguely-defined ‘terror’ fits the bill perfectly: citizens are made to feel the need for the state-as-protector more than ever before, (p.169) even if the protection it affords is illusory at best. War thus kills at least three birds with one stone: it solves the crisis of overproduction of economic goods by producing endless demand for more weaponry; by commandeering the lion’s share of public expenditure, it provokes a compensatory libidinal investment in private consumerism; and it solves the crisis of underproduction of citizenship goods by producing endless demand for mere protection by the Fatherland and a willingness to sacrifice or indeed disparage almost any form of nourishment by the Motherland. It doesn’t take a second George Orwell to see the second George Bush as Big Brother, for the dynamics outlined in 1984 have never stopped becoming true.

Theoretically speaking, we can consider the Death-State as one ‘model of realisation’ or regime of capital accumulation among others. According to schizoanalysis and so-called ‘regulation school’ theorists (Boyer 1990), the role of the modern state is to organise the contents of a given society so as to enable the accumulation and concentration of capital: such organisation includes, in the productive sphere, establishment and protection or expansion of markets (their regulation and/or deregulation); in the reproductive sphere, formation and training of labour power, purchasing power, and specific modes of citizenship; and in the anti-productive sphere, management of forms of non-productive expenditure (wars, advertising, and so on) conducive to the realisation of surplus value. At the same time that the state organises these (and other) contents of social activity, the authority-structures of various institutions can resonate with one another. We have already seen this to be the case regarding the formal structure and dynamics of the nuclear family, capital and the state itself; but what if other institutions were to resonate in tune with these? What if the authorities of church groups, school systems, civic groups, and so on begin to align themselves on the authority-structures of capital and the state? In principle, according to schizoanalysis, the greater the degree of resonance among social authorities in various institutions, the greater the tendency toward fascism in the social formation.6

In this context, the term ‘Institutional state Apparatuses’ coined by Althusser risks obscuring important differences in degree, if not a difference in kind. While a tyrannical or totalitarian régime simply imposes its authority top-down on other institutions via the force of the state and state institutions (government bureaucracies, military, police, et al.), the fascism identified by schizoanalysis designates a convergence of authority-structures from social institutions and instances that are in principle autonomous from one another and from the state. Of course, (p.170) any concrete historical example of fascism will combine imposition and convergence in varying degrees. The Bush régime curtails academic freedom via direct imposition of its directives through the NEA, the NEH, and Title IV Area Studies programmes, while also making appeals to the convergence of its views with that of various fundamentalist Christian sects completely independent of the state apparatus. But what is truly distinctive about Death-State fascism is that George Bush is not making the trains run on time, as Mussolini did; he is not restoring the economic and symbolic wellbeing of a nation brought to its knees by military defeat and to the brink of bankruptcy by the Treaty of Versailles, as Hitler did. On the contrary, Bush is gutting public services of all kinds and spending the country into bankruptcy: his is a politics of fear rather than triumph, an almost exclusive appeal via the Fatherland rather than the Motherland – yet no less effective for being so. At the same time, and no doubt as a consequence, the appeal of Death-State fascism is to the mere survival of individuals in isolation, not to the advancement of the people as a whole: its rhetoric functions to atomise the population through fear-mongering rather than unify it through appeals to a greater social good (the way Mussolini and Hitler did). Once again, it is not T. H. Marshall’s but George Orwell’s vision that becomes truer under Junior Bush than ever before, inasmuch as the Death-State is predicated not on prosperity, growth and a burgeoning, inclusive ‘social citizenship’, but on austerity, retrenchment, terror and isolation.

The importance of schizoanalysis, then, lies ultimately in its ability to make correlations among the Oedipal psyche, the capitalist economy and the contemporary state. It is all too easy – but no less relevant or less true for being so – to construe the Junior Bush invasion of Iraq as an obsession with avenging his father’s ‘defeat’ or compromise in the first Iraq war. But the correlations between family romance and state policy, between private-sphere psychology and public-sphere politics, go far deeper than that. In a context where both an all-pervasive, monopolycontrolled mass media and a grossly under-funded public education system utterly fail to provide citizens with the knowledge and critical reading and writing skills required to make mature and informed decisions about the complexities of global geopolitics, and cultivate instead a juvenile sports-culture and two-party electoral system where complex historical narrative and multi-sided debate give way to a simplistic usagainst-them, winner-take-all mentality, citizens identify with a figure they feel is a lot like them: even a lazy, immature, ignorant, petulant and patently inarticulate puppet who takes pride in his intellectual mediocrity and his faux-cowboy swagger.

(p.171) Here, the Junior Bush personality-profile is not irrelevant: intolerant of ambiguity, rigid in world-view, incapable of handling complexity, unwilling to entertain dissent or alternative points of view, requiring absolute loyalty and uncritical assent from those around him – for all too many North Americans, these are the personality-traits of a saviour (Jost et al. 2003). A citizenry more or less completely overwhelmed by events will react to situations they are ill-prepared to understand with a craving for simplicity and a puerile loyalty to a strong-man leader who promises to protect them; the Fatherland’s retributive model of justice separating perpetrator from victim becomes even more totally Manichean, and converges with the religious credos of Christian fundamentalism regarding absolute ‘good and evil’. This is the significance of 9/11, which couldn’t have been more salutary for the Junior Bush régime if it had been planned for him by Bush Senior, the Saudi princes, and other members of the Carlyle Group oil cartel: for many Americans, it seemed to reduce the overwhelming complexities of the Middle East and long-standing US complicities with its most heinous monarchs and dictators to an absolutely clear-cut, black-and-white stance: ‘We’re good, they’re evil, and if you’re not with us, you’re against us’. A staggeringly complex situation had by all appearances shrunk to fit the measure of the cowboy president who just happened to be in power to face it.

But such a citizenry feels not just overwhelmed by events apparently beyond its control and understanding, it also feels guilty for those same events. Schizoanalysis goes beyond merely denouncing the rank hypocrisy of claiming to defend our freedoms against attacks from abroad while curtailing those very freedoms at home, by diagnosing a virulent social pathology that is perhaps as widespread as it is complex and unacknowledged: punitive projective identification, whereby one projects onto and punishes in the other something one dislikes or fears about oneself. So it is that calls for defending the ‘sanctity’ of heterosexual marriage are strongest in states where divorce rates are highest; calls for protecting ‘unborn children’ are strongest in states and nation-states where spousal and child abuse rates are highest; calls for sealing the coastline against refugee boat-people are made by people who were themselves once refugee boat-people, as happened recently in Australia (Buchanan 2003); calls for vengeance are made at New York’s ‘ground zero’ in the name of protecting the very state that perpetrated the original ‘ground zero’ at Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the first place (Davis 2001, 2002). Punitive projective identification is precisely what is at work in the officially-promulgated geopolitical fantasy according to (p.172) which ‘they’ – Islamic fundamentalist militants – hate us for our freedom and for what they consider American secular decadence. But so do the Christian fundamentalists in the United States, who despise and decry any freedom of choice that goes beyond selection of toothpaste brands and touches on whether to bear children or not, to live free from orthodox religious doctrine and control, to choose marriage partners based on love rather than gender stereotypes, and so on – choices that they consider decadent and sinful. There is thus a fateful mirror-symmetry between the fundamentalist religio-political rhetoric of jihad and the fundamentalist religio-political rhetoric of crusade, between the Bin Laden jihad against the United States and the Junior-Bush crusade against Iraq. We punish them for what Bush is doing to us: depriving us of our freedom and material wellbeing – even though the punishment only deprives them of their freedom, too, whether in direct subservience to American domination or to a strong-man saviour of their own devoted to protecting them from us.

The diagnosis schizoanalysis offers through conjunctural analysis of our present moment is not a rosy one. But the aim here is not to erect a new theory of ‘the’ state, but to produce the concept of an Event: the advent of the shrink-to-fit presidency of George W. Bush, and the emergence of a twenty-first-century form of fascism in the United States. It is important to take not passive consolation but active encouragement from the fact that the United States of America may be doing better than Nazi Germany at a similar stage of historical development: only about 20 per cent of eligible voters elected George Bush in 2004, and slightly more or less than half of those who did vote (depending on who’s counting and even more on who got to vote in the first place) voted against him. To what degree Death-State fascism will approximate – or surpass – its twentieth-century predecessors remains to be seen, but its potency and dangers need to remain on our radar screens.


Bibliography references:

Boyer, R. (1990), The Regulation School: A Critical Introduction, New York: Columbia University Press.

Brown, N. O. (1959), Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.

Buchanan, I. (2003), ‘August 26, 2001: Two or Three Things Australians Don’t Seem to Want to Know About “Asylum Seekers” ’, Australian Humanities Review 29 (May-June): http://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/AHR/archive/Issue-May-2003/buchanan.html

Davis, W. A. (2001), Deracination: Historicity, Hiroshima, and the Tragic Imperative, Albany: State University of New York Press.

(p.173) Davis, W. A. (2002), ‘Death’s Dream Kingdom: the American Psyche after 9/11’, CounterPunch (6 January): http://www.counterpunch.org/davis01062002.html

Dean, M. (2001), ‘Demonic Societies: Liberalism, Biopolitics, and Sovereignty’, in T. B. Hansen and F. Stepputat (eds) (2001), States of Imagination: Ethnographic Exploration of the Fostcolonial State, Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 42–64.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1972), Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1994), What is Philosophy?, trans. G. Burchell and H. Tomlinson, New York: Columbia University Press.

Derrida, J. (1972), ‘Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’, in R. Macksey and E. Donato (eds) (1972), The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Derrida, J. (1994), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, New York: Routledge.

Fichte, J. G. (1922), Addresses to the German Nation, London and Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company.

Foucault, M. (1972), The Archaeology of Knowledge, New York, Harper and Row.

Hage, G. (2003), Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society, Annandale and London: Pluto Press and Merlin Press.

Holland, E. W. (1999), Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis, New York: Routledge.

Holland, E. W. (2000), ‘Infinite Subjective Representation and the Perversion of Death’, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 5 (2): 85–91.

Jost, J. T., Glaser, J. Kruglanski, A. W. and Sulloway, F. J. (2003), ‘Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition’, Psychological Bulletin 129 (3): 339–75.

Marshall, T. H. [1949] (1964), ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, in T. H. Marshall (1964), Class, Citizenship, and Social Development, Garden City: Doubleday, pp. 65–122.

Mbembe, A. (2003), ‘Necropolitics,’ Public Culture, 15 (1): 11–40.

Poster, M. (1978), Critical Theory of the Family, New York: Seabury Press.

Protevi, J. (2000), ‘A Problem of Pure Matter: Fascist Nihilism in A Thousand Plateaus’, in K. A. Pearson and D. Morgan (eds) (2000), Nihilism Now! Monsters of Energy, London: Macmillan Press, pp. 167–88.

Young, I. M. (forthcoming), ‘Responsibility and Structural Injustice’, Philosophy and Public Affairs.


(1.) On the historical variability of family forms and their effects on psychic structure and dynamics, see Deleuze and Guattari 1972, and Poster 1978.

(2.) See Deleuze and Guattari 1972, especially Chapter 3, and Holland 1999, Chapter 3.

(3.) On overcoding and recoding, see Holland 1999, Chapter 3; for more on the transition from the sovereign state to the biopower state, see Holland 2000.

(4.) For other reconsiderations of the relations of Foucault’s biopower and death, see Mbembe 2003 and Dean 2001.

(5.) On fantasies of Motherland and Fatherland, see Hage 2003 and Davis 2001.

(6.) I refer here to the schizoanalytic concept of fascism, highlighted by Foucault in his preface to the English translation of Anti-Oedipus (1972); this is a philosophical (p.174) concept, not a social-scientific one: the relation of this concept to actual historical fascism in Germany, Italy or Spain would require much further investigation along lines only sketched here (in terms of imposition/convergence). The concept of fascism developed in A Thousand Plateaus is significantly different. See Protevi (2000) for a valiant attempt to construct a concept of fascist nihilism based on A Thousand Plateaus.


(1.) On the historical variability of family forms and their effects on psychic structure and dynamics, see Deleuze and Guattari 1972, and Poster 1978.

(2.) See Deleuze and Guattari 1972, especially Chapter 3, and Holland 1999, Chapter 3.

(3.) On overcoding and recoding, see Holland 1999, Chapter 3; for more on the transition from the sovereign state to the biopower state, see Holland 2000.

(4.) For other reconsiderations of the relations of Foucault’s biopower and death, see Mbembe 2003 and Dean 2001.

(5.) On fantasies of Motherland and Fatherland, see Hage 2003 and Davis 2001.

(6.) I refer here to the schizoanalytic concept of fascism, highlighted by Foucault in his preface to the English translation of Anti-Oedipus (1972); this is a philosophical (p.174) concept, not a social-scientific one: the relation of this concept to actual historical fascism in Germany, Italy or Spain would require much further investigation along lines only sketched here (in terms of imposition/convergence). The concept of fascism developed in A Thousand Plateaus is significantly different. See Protevi (2000) for a valiant attempt to construct a concept of fascist nihilism based on A Thousand Plateaus.