Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and the Total System

This paper is concerned with an aspect of Deleuze and Guattari’s thought which has not been duly analyzed: systematicity. More specifically, it deals with their conception of the system in three co-authored major works: What is Philosophy?, Anti-Oedipus and  A Thousand Plateaus. These works are of renewed interest because they tease out, each in its own way, a particular type of system. Regardless of whether it has a philosophical import, a botanical reference, a social dimension, or a libidinal investment, the system that Deleuze and Guattari advocate is allegedly a hyper-dynamic system that resists closure. Thus, in an interview with Didier Eribon, Deleuze points out that philosophy is an open system and then, referring to A Thousand Plateaus, he further observes that what he and Guattari ‘call a rhizome is also one example of an open system’. The purpose of this essay is not merely to explore how the system in the works of these two prominent poststructuralists is conceived, how it is structured, and how it works, but also to show how it is only superficially open. Paying a special attention to Deleuze and Guattari’s exegesis on capitalism, I argue that the proposed system is cynical and ultimately untenable.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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