Félix Guattari interview broadcast on France 3 Régions, April 20, 1987 – in English

by Ed Kazarian


Last week, the good people over at Revue Chimères shared on Facebook a link to a short interview with Guattari that was broadcast on April 20, 1987 as part of an hour-long program devoted to “the thought and heritage of Freud at the end of the 20th Century.”

The interview was conducted by Sylvie Steinbach, and the broadcast helpfully includes a transcript, which I’ve translated into English below.

Generally, what Guattari says here will be familiar to those who’ve spent time with Deleuze and Guattari’s other published discussions of psychoanalysis. What is interesting here is primarily how Guattari inflects the significance of their critique, and how he identifies its target. Rather than representing a break with psychoanalysis per se, he claims, he and Deleuze should be understood to have broken with structuralism — or perhaps a Lacanian orthodoxy that in his mind was producing an increasingly impoverished version of psychoanalysis.


Interviewer [Sylvie Steinbach]: In 1972, you wrote Anti-Oedipus with philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Was this a rupture with Freudian orthodoxy?

Félix Guattari: Yes of course, but after all there were many others who had made this rupture, while speaking of aligning themselves with orthodoxy.  There was in particular Lacan and the Lacanians who made a rupture with Freudianism but who do not want it recognized, that’s their business.  But us, it was perhaps more a rupture with structuralism than psychoanalysis. That is to say precisely, we spoke of it at the beginning, the fact of reducing the productions of the unconscious to facts of language.  And of reducing analysis to a work relative to language.  And for that matter to a work that is very poor in the end because very often, sadly, structuralist psychoanalysts content themselves with listening without ever intervening, by basing an entire theory on the fact that it is like this that it must happen, only by listening and silence.  For my part, I don’t believe it at all. But after all this, we’re not going to get into this whole aspect of things.  So, rupture, because at bottom we were told [nous on disait] yes it was indeed very important this unconscious subjectivity, beyond norms, beyond ordinary frameworks [cadres].  But then, it is not only something that one is going to encircle, that one is going to grasp in the psychoanalyst’s office, above all with the turn that things have taken.  But it is something which arises just as well no matter where, in a class.  For example there is a whole current of thought around Fernand Oury in the wake of Célestin Freinet, who said that one can do a sort of psychoanalysis in school, in certain types of school.  The problem of analysis also arises in institutions like health care institutions for the mentally ill.  It also arises in cultural life, in the theater, in cinema, it arises all over.  And it will even arise more and more as and when subjectivity is flattened [écrabouillée] – if you will permit me the expression – by the system of mass media, by advertising and by these enormous collective equipments which produce the subject like they produce automobiles or shoes.  So, the problem of rediscovering not only a mastery but the sense of the singularity of one’s relationship to life, of one’s relationship to existence, well this is a problem that will arise more and more. More and more people will have less and less assurance in their work, in their social life, and will have more and more need to shape their own personalities [se construire], to fabricate themselves.  And this is the analytic problem par excellance.  So our attack against Freud and against Lacan is finally in the name of the psychoanalytic discovery.  This is why analysis continues and why it does not get stuck in this dogmatic quarrel, in these schools of thought [chapelles] which in the end present us a practice of analysis that is more and more impoverished, more and more sterile.

Interviewer: In other words it’s necessary to leave the office a little?

Guattari: Yes obviously.  And even when staying in the office, to leave the office, which is to say at least to open the windows of the office and to be prepared to hear all sorts of things, all sorts of other problems than the problems strictly of identification with the father, with the mother, the interfamilial problems or all these machinations [cuisine] that one calls the mathemes of the unconscious, such as the structuralists have developed.