Introducing a" deleuze effect" into psychiatry Academic Article uri icon


  • You have to keep small rations of subjectivity in sufficient quantity to enable you to respond to the dominant reality. We are very pleased with the variety of responses our article has generated thus far and hope that it continues to provoke dialogue. That was, we think, our in tent—should we be allowed to hold on to any such “thing” as an intention. We also take the diversity of these responses to reflect one of our key challenges in using Deleuze’s thought to reform (as op posed merely to inform) psychiatric practice: How to make a radical philosophy accessible enough to a broad enough audience for it to bring about substantive, real change in an existing culture in the hic et nunc, the here and now. That is why we chose the quotation above from Mille Plateaux. Even Deleuze (with Guattari) encourages us to keep “small rations” of subjectivity at hand if we are interested in responding to the “dominant reality.” And that has been our main agenda; to engage with the dominant reality of deficit-based psychiatric theory and practice to overturn it, or, in Clegg’s terms, “explode” it from within. In this regard, we certainly agree with Evangelista and Clegg that much more remains to be done, both in developing our position and in exploring its implications for practice. We view our “Deficit to Desire” paper as simply a first step in this direction (e.g., Shahar and Davidson, in press). We thought it necessary first, as we wrote in the original paper, to articulate the theoretical underpinnings of an action model for clinical understanding and practice “at a philosophical level of discourse on the one hand, but also in such a way that they provide a concrete, substantially different point of departure for empirical studies of psychopathology, on the other.” But why is this important, and what implications does it have for our response to these three thoughtful commentaries? A first implication is that our primary aim is not to provide a comprehensive exposition of Deleuze’s thought. In our opinion, even attempting to give a comprehensive exposition of Deleuze’s thought would actually go directly against its main thrust, which we view as to ignite and propagate ever new and creative lines of flight which carry desiring-production into “a small plot of new land at all times” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 161). “Experiment,” entreats Deleuze, “don’t interpret” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 139). We would guess, in fact, that Deleuze no more wanted to produce Deleuzeans than Kierkegaard wanted disciples going around the Danish countryside after his death spreading the word that Kierkegaard did not want disciples going around the Danish countryside after his death (one of our favorites among his many ironies). So although we agree that there is much more in Deleuze’s thought than what is contained in our paper, we think that to some degree it misses its point. In Deleuzean fashion, we want to use the “Deleuze effect” to bring radical change to psychiatry (and we appreciate the irony of that too). Although both Evangelista and Clegg seem to welcome this effort, despite their misgivings, Weiner clearly is worried. Weiner also seems to have had the most intimate experience of the psychiatric system—that is, is most familiar with the world we are trying to change—so we focus in particular on his very understandable concerns. It also happens to be the case that focusing on Weiner’s concerns brings us immediately back to the nature of the effect we were hoping to have. Weiner explains that people with serious mental illnesses are “oppressed from within” and that their affliction seems to be coming “from a seemingly autonomous place” that is “within us, but not ultimately of us.” We could not agree more, and appreciate the lucidity and eloquence with which he makes this astute and important point. Several years ago, one of us even attempted a Husserlian-inspired analysis of how a person’s sense of agency may be lost and displaced in schizophrenia owing to the hallucinations and cognitive impairments associated with the illness, eventually being reflected in delusions of...

publication date

  • January 1, 2008