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  • A Traversal Beyond the Pleasure PrincipleFrom Pervert to Schizophrenic
  • Michael Williams (bio)

Deleuze's work is properly viewed as a (revolutionary) supplement to the Freudian project in his text Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) wherein Freud intuits an horizon on the underside of the ordinary pleasure principle that regulates excitation in the human organism. There are three dimensions at work: the pleasure principle (the simple neurotic), beyond the pleasure principle (the masochistic pervert), and the beyond of the beyond of the principle itself (the schizophrenic). The Freudian deadlock consists in the theorization of this beyond to the regulated play of tension and release (the simple neurotic); it is toward another logic, namely the masochistic tendencies of the ego, that Freud gestures in his theorization of the beyond of the pleasure principle (the masochistic pervert). Deleuze's work supplements Freud's traversal from the pleasure principle (the simple neurotic) to the beyond of the pleasure principle (the masochistic pervert) to the beyond of the beyond of the principle itself in the figure of the schizophrenic. In this traversal – from the principle to the beyond to the beyond of the beyond of the principle itself – the concept of desire is transformed from Freudian negativity (rearticulated in Kojeve's reading of Hegel and in Lacan's reinterpretation of Freud) to Deleuzean positivity. In this article I first examine Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) in an articulation of the pleasure principle (the simple neurotic) and the beyond of the pleasure principle (the masochistic tendencies of the ego). I then turn to Deleuze's theorization of perversion (sadism and masochism, respectively) in his essay "Coldness and Cruelty" (1967) in a delineation of the beyond of the pleasure principle in the masochist's pact with the oral mother. I then claim that Deleuze's early reading of Nietzsche and his later critical work on psychoanalysis (with Guattari) theorize a figure of an anti-centered schizoid subject that supplements the social logic and psychical orientation of perversion. I contend that whereas the pervert (masochist, specifically) in Deleuze sustains the ego, the schizophrenic in Deleuze and Guattari suspends the ego altogether. My conclusion is that this difference – between a perversion with an ego and a schizophrenia without an ego – explains the divergent orientations toward the law in the pervert and the schizophrenic put in sharp relief in Lacan's reading of the structures of perversion and psychosis.

Freud's short essay "On Negation" (1925) outlines the defensive mechanisms of negation that patients deploy in the obfuscation of the unconscious – of the mystification of the secret desire, the hidden wish, the repressed truth. The modus operandi of the analyst consists of the defusion of the negativity that haunts the analysand's conscious discourse. As Freud puts it: "So in our interpretations we take the liberty of disregarding the negation and seizing on the pure content of the thought" (Freud 2006: 96). The force of negation – neurotic repression, psychotic foreclosure, perverse disavowal – is itself negated from the impossible position of the analyst. The "liberty" that animates the psychoanalytic endeavor consists of this radical negativity – or impossible positivity – that delivers the patient from negative judgments unto positive affirmations. These liberated modes of "interpretations" represent the unconscious in its pure state – sans knowledge and negation. As Freud says at the end of the essay: "We never find a 'no' in the unconscious" (Freud 2006: 99). If Oedipus reigns all too humanly in the conscience of man, then the forces of anti-Oedipus unleash the positive content of the "liberty" of the unconscious. If psychoanalysis theorizes its own nightmare in the form of the various mechanisms of negation – neurotic repression, psychotic foreclosure, and perverse disavowal – then psychoanalysis finds its dream in an unconscious "liberty" in which all negation transforms into affirmation no matter the mechanism that the symptom deploys in order to substitute and displace, in the work of the symptom in its barren form. Indeed, as Freud writes in his "Constructions in Analysis" (1937): "It is well known that the object of analytical work is to bring the patient to the point of removing the repressions – in the widest sense of the term – of his early development" (Freud 2006...

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