The book “A Thousand Plateaus” written by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychoanalyst Felix Guattari is the second part of the project “Capitalism and Schizophrenia”.
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As a matter of fact, the authors themselves believe that this work cannot be considered that as a “book” because each story in it is self-sufficient and has the world of its own. The main peculiarity of this book (we cannot call it a novel for it is rather a collection of short stories) is that one can start reading it from any point thus it may be viewed as an example of hypertext (Deleuze,15).
In this book Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari discuss various psychological and existential problems. The research the changes that the inner world of a person can undergo with time passing. One of the chapters of their book is entirely dedicated to these metamorphoses of the personality like for instance becoming woman, becoming animal, becoming imperceptible.
First of all, it must be mentioned that some of these aspects of human psychology have already been explored by Kafka especially in his novel” The Metamorphosis”. Thus, we cannot say that the authors ideas are entirely revolutionary nevertheless; they tried to look at these psychological changes from a different perspective (Massumi, 45).
According to their book “A Thousand Plateaus” there are many different forms of psychological changes or” becomings” as the authors prefer to call them such for instance as becoming-molecular becoming- animal, becoming-woman and becoming imperceptible. The world we live in is full of different types of “becomings” and stable forms are entirely alien to it.
The authors research such a curious phenomenon as “wolf-children” which means children who were completely isolated from the society since the time of their birth and consequently they could not communicate with other people so their behavior reminded animal habits rather then human so it was next to impossible to socialize them.
The idea that the authors are suggesting is that such thing can happen not only to a child but also to an adult person. It must be taken into account that the personality of a child reminds a clean sheet of paper so it can be shaped in any way as far as an adult person is concerned his personality has already been formed, it seems hardly possible that he or she can turn into an animal( in terms of behavior naturally) (Massumi, 48).
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Nevertheless, Deleuze and Guatary maintain that this change or becoming is quite probable. They say that if a person compares his behavior and that one of an animal he or she may arrive at the conclusion that there are some corresponding characteristics and it will eventually lead to a certain change in ones personality.
Naturally the authors say that becoming animal does not necessarily mean being an animal or for example like an animal, they say that the best wording for such a phenomenon is a becoming animal (the process which is still incomplete) so we may speak of a certain hybrid (Deleuze,225).
They define becoming animal as “the power not to conquer what is other than the self but to transform oneself into perceiving the difference” Deleuze and Guatary take as an example the novel “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville. The main character captain Ahab tries to hunt down a whale but it proves to be vice versa, and it is the whale ,,that captivates the main character (at least psychologically) and the authors term it as a “becoming animal”(Deleuze, 240).
According to Deleuze and Guatary such phenomenon as becoming animal is to a certain degree characteristic for every human being we are just trying as hard s we can to hide it. They believe that at least subconsciously very person is trying to retrieve that lost image of oneself and”becoming animal ” is one of the ways to do it.
Therefore, we may arrive at the conclusion that the book “A Thousand Plateaus” presents a very interesting view on such metamorphosis as “becoming animal” which will undoubted a subject of further research.
Another interesting psychological change, which was described by the authors is “becoming woman” Naturally it has always been a subject of psychological research , for example, Freud defined one of his patient as “becoming woman” What we are dealing with is some mind-body split.
Then the question arises why the authors used the phrase “becoming woman” and not “becoming man” and this question seems to be quite logical, because this mind-body split can work both ways. Deleuze and Guattari give the following explanation,, they say that women are always represent the minority , which means that “becoming woman” is an attempt to look at this world from a different perspective in the mean time there can be no becoming man because men are always representatives of the majority. Generally speaking, any becoming according to the authors is an attempt to change ones way of thinking (Deleuze, 268).
But authors maintain that becoming woman should not be perceived as a purpose or some kind of destination; any becoming is an ever-changing process and the main aim of “becoming woman” is to see and feel new and to enter into a zone of proximity with someone else.
The authors oppose to that widely held opinion that man versus woman opposition is a way to define the personality of a human being. According to them these categories are entirely empty. It has already been mentioned that men always represent the majority. Let us try to understand what exactly the authors meant to say. They say that there is a deep-rooted belief in human consciousness that man is the standard where as woman is always substandard. The message that the authors try to convey is that these are just oppositional terms and that these categorical division is not quite acceptable.
Deleuze and Guattari maintain that such notions as man and woman are just logical abstractions and that sometimes they cannot be connected with our physical bodies. The authors believe that there are certain stereotypes in our consciousness and we tend associate some anatomic kind of features with certain behavior, for example men are always associated with the image of bread-winner or some kind of protector whereas men are usually considered to be someone who is mostly family hearth. It can be applied on only to the social function but also behavioral characteristics of a person, for instance men are always associated with the image of the so-called “stiff upper-lip” which means that they must always be stoic, determined, courageous, to cap it up strong.
Any deviation from this stereotype is considered to be a fragrant violation of the existing social rule , thus we may speak of some gender prison we live in. “Becoming woman ” is believed to be so dangerous by many people because it threatens the very core of our live the family fortress. Moreover, the stereotypical image of woman is always associated with weakness, which is entirely incompatible with the image of men. For the vast majority of people the very idea of a man being weak is just appalling.
This is why such psychological phenomenon as “becoming woman” is so often believed to be some form of mental disorder but in fact, it is just an attempt to escape from the gender prison that we constantly live in even without noticing it.
Thus, having analyzed the book “A Thousand Plateaus” by Deleuze and Guattari we may arrive at the conclusion that the authors have presented quite a new view of psychological changes that a person may undergo. The main idea that the wanted to convey is that psychological changes for example such as becoming animal or becoming woman should not be viewed as some forms of mental disorder but as attempts of a person to alter ones way of thinking or perhaps to break deep-rooted stereotypes.
Deleuze, Gilles , Félix Guattari. 1972. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. London and New York: Continuum.
Deleuze,Gilles, Félix Guattari. 1972. A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. London and New York: Continuum.
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Massumi, Brian. 1992. A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. Swerve editions. Cambridge, USA and London: MIT.