A Journal of the Plague Year 2022: The libidinal economy—Capitalism and schizophrenia (a scaffolding)


Is it correct to say that in this sense schizophrenia is the product of the capitalist machine, as manic-depression and paranoia are the product of the despotic machine, and hysteria the product of the territorial machine?

Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari

by Sanjay Perera

The violence between Russia and Ukraine is yet another tragedy. But there is more to this than the narrative the mainstream media and some governments are pushing the world into believing. The attempt to ban Russia from using the Swift banking system should be noted carefully. The coordinated attempt by Oligarchy controlled governments and media are trumpeting this form of sanction because they are signalling that they have sway over the banking system. But this attempted intervention by the Oligarchy’s stooges through its banking cartel (wherein SWIFT has revealed its part in the set-up) will have repercussions other than what may be anticipated:

  • Russia has an alternative to SWIFT called SPFS which it is relying on.
  • There could be closer ties between Russia and China as a result (the latter has it own system called CIPS).

This is not to say that there are no tentacles reaching into Russia, China or India for there are factions within the Oligarchy vying for supremacy in different states.

But what should stand out is that Trudeau following the Oligarchy playbook pulled a similar stunt in attacking his fellow citizens who stood up to his fascist tendencies; the fellow is trying to freeze bank accounts of drivers who have no truck with his authoritarian measures.

All this is part of a world accelerating along a path of the fear-mongering virus scam, fascist vaccine-mask mandates, and attempted forced vaccinations that violate the Nuremberg Code: it is in this context that the piece below from 2012 should be considered.

Marc Ngui

[A draft fragment from an unfinished project.]

everything is rich – in other words, everything that is commensurate with the universe. I insist on the fact that, to freedom of mind, the search for a solution is an exuberance, a superfluity; this gives it an incomparable force. To solve political problems becomes difficult for those who allow anxiety alone to pose them. It is necessary for anxiety to pose them. But their solution demands at a certain point the removal of this anxiety.

The Accursed Share, Georges Bataille

There is something wrong with the world. We have apparently reached a point of great technological advancement where we can harness nuclear energy, and use it and all other scientific breakthroughs to innovate various ways to kill life through conflict and daily living; we can travel the air and outer space; we can land on the moon and send probes out into deep space; we can communicate with one another instantly and conduct economic transactions just as fast. We call ourselves modern and claim to be advanced.


  • we rely almost entirely on fossil fuels that are limited and pollute the environment
  • we cannot eradicate terminal and serious illnesses
  • there is world wide poverty and hunger
  • we cannot obviate the impact of natural disasters
  • we believe what we see on TV and the mainstream media
  • we allow ‘experts’, institutions and those in authority to sway our emotions and common sense easily
  • we believe with certainty that science is truth and vice versa
  • we buy into the claim that money is what life is about (for without it life is apparently impossible in the modern, sophisticated world guided by smart people)
  • we admire celebrities and want to be like them (sic)
  • we believe in a binary type of logic of either true or false and a restrictive idea of analysis which means you must agree to a form of linear thinking or you are plain unrealistic
  • we somehow believe that there are higher truths, emotions and explanations beyond what we tend to believe but somehow prefer to be guided often by materialism
  • we can see through the shenanigans of hoodwinkers if we just stay alert and watch our backs but continue in a thinking mode of global and societal indoctrination that continues to allows us to be bamboozled anyway
  • we think big banks, big corporations and big government and ideology is somehow a good thing
  • we think that living in fear and anxiety is normal (this last one is instrumental in resulting in most of what is listed above)
  • we think those who do not live in fear and anxiety are abnormal, and we say things are the way they are and nothing can be done about them

And the list does go on.

But everything is energy. Science seems to think that too. Spirituality has been blasting that about for eons. We believe in the exuberance and irrepressible energy of the universe and can see its effects everywhere, but for some reason think that we have to live in limitation. Abundance is the natural state of affairs of everything, but we are stuck in a mindset of lack and grappling for resources.

The universe is teeming with life. Just look at the earth (and all those microbes from outer space etc). You can have a plot of land untended for awhile and it sprouts weeds. You have some crack in the cement of buildings and you will have some life form crawling out of it. A thimbleful of soil has parallel cosmoses and worlds circulating in it.

If harnessed properly, you can tap into magnetic energy for vehicle levitation and movement. You can tap into hydro, solar and wind energy. You can place turbines in the sea to use tidal energy. There is incredible energy all around us without which we wouldn’t be able to exist not to mention have a stable environment to sit and read a book without things flying all over or crumbling into dust every few minutes. Something is going on here bigger than we can imagine, but we take for granted and then accept limited ideas and theories in science and economics and views of media pundits as the limiting factors of ‘reality’.

We confuse what is complicated with what is complex. We think complicated means Truth. But we find it difficult to accept that Truth can be simple yet complex. Complication is what leads to trouble. However, complexity cannot be avoided though actual realities can be quite simple.

Getting down to it

Most of what is here is based on the ideas from the two remarkable volumes by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (D&G) called Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus: collectively given the subtitle Capitalism and Schizophrenia (quotations are from the University of Minnesota Press translated editions).

A good way to give an idea of what is in store with D&G is to look at Foucault’s memorable preface to Anti-Oedipus. The man rightly points out that “Anti-Oedipus (may its authors forgive me) is a book of ethics…How does one keep from being fascist…How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in our behaviour?…one might say Anti-Oedipus is an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life.”

In fact, D&G have provided a moral work, and are trying, without much success, to veer it away from the spiritual to the humanist dimension as well.

Foucault adds (bold and italics mine):

This art of living counter to forms of fascism, whether already present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential principles which I would summarize as follows if I were to make this great book into a manual or guide to everyday life:

  • Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.
  •  Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.
  •  Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.
  • Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality…that possess revolutionary force.
  • Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.
  • Do not demand of politics that it restore the ‘rights’ of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to ‘de-individualize’ by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.
  • Do not become enamored of power.

…The book often leads one to believe it is all fun and games, when something essential is taking place, something of extreme seriousness: the tracking down of all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everyday lives.

Marc Ngui

Uncomplicating the Complex

Everything is energy. It is remarkable that we believe in most things scientific but fail to grasp that everything, the seen and unseen, the material that we take for real is nothing but energy. We are energy. Our thoughts, words and actions are energy. Emotions are nothing but energy: it can be defined as e-motion or energy-in-motion. Everything we do is energy. The universe and the world operates through the transference, transmission and use of energy.

What this means is that every aspect of our daily life, real or imagined, spiritual or secular, pleasant or otherwise is just energy. The life force running through all of us is, just that, force=energy. Our society, government and economy are manifestations of energy. The way we work and live is about the circulation of energy. Rather than incorrectly looking at ourselves and our world and way of life as something static, we must see it as flux, energy in action.

What prevents us from seeing this clearly is the inability to control emotions and the blockage provided by the ego. So rather than see ourselves in the third dimensional linear form of people who grow from children to adults and then die, we have to see ourselves as beings of energy forever in flux, driven by wants and needs. In this sense, it would be suitable to describe life forms or life as we know it (or ourselves) as desiring machines: as D&G would express it.

The ego is the filter that processes and also blocks the energy momentum. It can do so through misunderstanding itself, the energy flows and the way energy is transferred. Part of our misconstruction of the world as energy is due to the theories and indoctrination of the self that we have undergone. We believe that there is a fixed ego or ‘I’, that it is of primary importance above all else, that it is shaped by its environment, that it is a living entity and can be harmed, and that it is linked to mythical concepts like the Oedipal complex (and many others).

We have come to see ourselves stuck and driven merely by libidinal drives that must mean a restricted number of things, but all of which seem to lead to energy formations beyond ego. There is no doubt that mishandled human or libidinal energy leads to grief, but does it also lead to good? Must every aspect of the libidinal drive be trapped in negativity, guilt and as some would like to call it, ‘sin’?

D&G are ambiguous about a lot of things, as it is their manner of expression and also because in some way they imitate Nietzsche’s way of doing philosophy which can seem potentially inconsistent, contradictory and often deliberately set at an offensive angle to the way society is at any given time. This leads to difficulty at times in trying to make out what exactly is meant but as all three would point out, trying to specify meaning is part of the problem we and our world have gotten into.

D&G would say: ‘Why do we always have to insist that everything must actually mean something which then begs the issue as to what interpretation itself means and which form of interpretation should seek precedence over another (why on earth should there be precedence on interpretation anyway?).’ This would imply some form of hierarchical control being put in place to make people think and accept things one way rather than look and, more importantly, live life in as humanly a manner as possible – these are the incipient fascisms we must veer away from which we have failed to do time after time.

The triangular and pyramidal patriarchal structure of interpretation of the world as represented by the Oedipal complex, among many others, pushes us to an unnecessarily and silly restrictive way of living. It is more a convenient mode of trying to limit entropy (which humans think they can do being primarily ego driven that is the basis for all control mania), and it is perpetuated by society and its elements of control (basically society as we know it abetted diligently by the mass media).

Being driven to get what we want and need relentlessly is what makes us desiring machines. This is not to preclude any free will but that we are part of the flow of desire which we have invested in and used to shape a libidinal world, society and economy. But the fact that we get mired in fascist tendencies, incessant work, economic exploitation and political manipulation is not merely because it is imposed on us, but that we actually desire what comes to us.

This is important: we may be desiring machines but we are not automatons devoid of choice. We do ask for what usually comes our way; we get what we rightly deserve. This again does not mean that there are no other desiring forces at work making things difficult for us, but that we often combine our libidinal energy with those forces and so create the world we are trapped/live in.

The term libidinal economy (LE) is used in such a variety of ways that is not easy to determine what it means at any one time. But it could be used to refer to an organic desire that is underwritten by our drives, wants, needs and attachments that can be seen as a system applied to various aspects of our life such as the economy or society; and in this sense it is a desiring machine.

A desiring machine (DM) as used by D&G is an abstract machine and is imprecise in usage. One suspects that precision is not always what the two aim at for it may imply binding yourself down to something that must be defended at all costs through the ages: the kind of ideologies and strictures that the two are fighting against.

So a DM would refer to a person (as an inchoate form, rather than ‘individual’) or object or system that is an agglomeration of desires/wants/needs or place holder for libidinal drives. It gives some form to that which is an energy flux. When we individualize this flux we call it ‘I’, ‘he’ or ‘she’ thereby investing it with an ego and the separateness that this entails. This is the start of wanting to assert control over things and being made into a unit that is subject to control.

Marc Ngui

Moving beyond Ego

When we take the energy of desiring machines into form of a human being we coalesce the basis of the human personality, or body without organs (BwO). Upon this form of human energy we have the transcription of codes of other energy forms that shape and influence us. This social energy field of ourselves is the socius. The latter has encodings from other energy flows and influences which are described as deterritorialized codings which are now encoded on the socius that in turn impinge upon us as BwOs.

We are thus driven by wants and needs that develop and shape us into different forms or fields of energy depending on how various codes are activated. The societal energy codings and social transcriptions that are activated in us are like genetic codes and make us what we are as people and a society. Take a look at how D&G discuss things and try to unravel its essence (p33, Anti-Oedipus):

Capitalism does not confront the situation from the outside, since it experiences it as the very fabric of its existence, as both its primary determinant and its fundamental raw material, its form and its function, and deliberately perpetuates it, in all its violence, with all the powers at its command. Its sovereign production and repression can be achieved in no other way. Capitalism is in fact born of the encounter of two sorts of flows: the decoded flows of production in the form of money-capital, and the decoded flows of labour in the form of the ‘free worker’. Hence, unlike previous social machines, the capitalist machine is incapable of providing a code that will apply to the whole of the social field. By substituting money for the very notion of a code, it thas created an axiomatic of abstract quantities that keeps moving further and further in the direction of the deterritorialization of the socius. Capitalism tends toward a threshold of decoding that will destroy the socius in order to make it a body without organs and unleash the flows of desire on this body as a deterritorialized field. Is it correct to say that in this sense schizophrenia is the product of the capitalist machine, as manic-depression and paranoia are the product of the despotic machine, and hysteria the product of the territorial machine?

There is a lot going on here. For starters, codings which release a certain energy push people in a certain direction. For instance, a society that activates its circuitry via money-capital is one that has its ethos shaped by money creation, its perceived value and its exchange function. That entire society and most of its people will think and live according to the dictates and issues surrounding the use of money. Everything will be shaped by it.

Similarly, the idea of the ‘worker as a free agent’ or the basic component of labour will be seen as a decoded flow on society (or a code that has been activated) and will shape lives according to that pattern. These are essentially individual thought and societal thought patterns that make a society what it is. So a society will be living along the lines of a work cycle and schedule around which daily existence operates and is influenced deeply by.

So according to D&G this is how capitalism plays itself out within this context. Capitalism in itself has no codings but is a synthesis in a way of both the money-capital and labour/‘free worker’ codings which it in turn unleashes on the socius the money-capital energy with a vengeance as the idea of labour is intrinsically tied to that of money-capital (production). This process of unleashing the money code further leads to a decoding/deterritorial activity that denudes the socius into the basic form of the human energy template or BwO (body without organs). The socius that is acting as the BwO is not the actual BwO and the person gets confusing signals that the worn out/denuded or deterritorialized socius is who they are in essence.

In this sense, capitalism produces a form of schizophrenia. The person is split between realizing themselves as capitalist being and social form and as a human energy or essence. This tension and strain between an authentic self (BwO) and what is projected and falsified as ourselves (our capitalist/money circuited social beings) is in a way the source of so much of our mental, emotional and spiritual anxiety and imbalance that also manifests itself as physical ailments and all that is unhealthy in our lives and our world.

What does this mean in concrete terms? Take an ordinary guy, Joe, who is middle class and takes on a part-time job as well to help make ends meet. His wife also works part-time when she can managing their two kids at the same time. His whole life and how he relates to his family and work is relegated to operating within the capitalist codes prefigured by money circuitry.

So other than romance, his motivations to marry (or not) and have a family would include:

a.       cost of marriage and having a family

b.      cost of owning a home and paying off mortgage

c.       basic cost of having child/children (food and clothing)

d.      medical for kids when required

e.       schooling costs for kids

f.       entertainment costs for family

g.      in-laws and extended family related costs

h.      income taxes and hidden taxes that weaken income earned (e.g. inflation)

i.       cost of hi-tech gizmos which kids yearn for these days/miscellaneous stuff

This money circuitry determines how people relate to each other, as it is also factored in some cases for pre-nuptials and divorces and all the costs those entail. The social cycle of a human being is hardly that of a ‘free agent’ but a labour unit conditioned from birth to death by money circuitry. When you die there are still taxes and other costs that may have to be settled. You are not a free person as such, but a type of ‘flexed out digit’ within the money circuit.

This in turn inscribes on the socius or social form of Joe his ‘reality’ as he lives it. This so completely overwhelms him and his life that he comes to believe that all there is to himself and his world is the socius or his socially money circuited form. When his entire work life, daily grind decisions and tattered conscience becomes the substitute for his human energy essence, he lives his life as if his socius is his BwO.

It is the tension between his human essence as BwO and his socius that produces so much of the suffering and dysfunctional nature of his life. The capitalist circuitry creates his schizophrenia in this sense. He has to choose between buying a toy his child really wants, and his budget; a school his child should go to and his budget; the medical attention his family needs and his budget; an outing with his friends and his budget. Every thing the normal person does is influenced largely by his budgetary constraints.

This in turn impinges on the essence of who he truly is which tends to resonate with spiritual aspects of himself. Here D&G are schizoid themselves for they reach for a solution beyond three dimensions yet are quick to keep them within materialist limitations: they want to have their cake, eat it and insist that they did not try to eat it.

[Featured picture: wsimag.]

The writer is the founding editor of Philosophers for Change.

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