The unconscious: its machines and their malfunctions

Dionysios Kavvathas*

The introduction and reevaluation of the concept of the machine by Deleuze and Guattari is founded on both techno-theoretical presuppositions and affective investments that are characterized by the strategic aim to connect technology with the field of social organization, the mental apparatus, and biological autopoiesis. Taking as their point of departure the critique of the deterministic symbolic order of the machine, which dominates the structuralist period of the Lacanian primacy of the signifier, Deleuze and Guattari develop, beyond the opposition mechanistic/vitalistic, a complex notion of the machine, in the context of which the object machine serves, paradoxically, as spontaneous subjectivity or, more precisely, subjectivation.

This positive instance is represented by the notion of desiring-machine, which is indicative of a shift from a Lacanian theory of the signifier to a pre- or a-signifying semiotics directed at the same time against the automatic mechanism of repetition. This paper stresses the political, liberating dimension of the machine in light of Deleuze and Guattari’s dispute with structural psychoanalysis, which, according to the two writers, attempts to establish a theory of the unconscious through a cybernetic and consequently regulative/homeostatic conception of the machine.

* Dionysios Kavvathas has studied Philosophy at the Free University of Berlin. He is Assistant Professor of Media Philosophy and Aesthetics at the Panteion University of Athens and teaches media theory in the MA Program in Digital Arts at the Athens School of Fine Arts. He is a member of the editorial board of the Greek journal for psychoanalysis, philosophy and the arts, αληthεια. He is also the editor of the Greek translations of Friedrich Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Athens: nisos, 2005) and Discourse Networks (Athens: Smili, forthcoming). He is a specialist in Nietzschean philosophy and has written widely on the aesthetic function of media and their historical transcription through digital technologies. As editor of the series Media Philosophy and Aesthetics for Smili Publications, he has edited works by Vilém Flusser, Norbert Bolz, Dirk Baecker, and Michel Serres. He is currently writing a book on models of memory from Plato to Turing.


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