Félix Guattari - Biography
Félix Guattari (April 30, 1930-August 29, 1992) was a political activist and anti-psychiatrist. Martin Stanton in his obituary of Guattari insists that Guattari defied any professional categorization as “he cultivated a bemused distance from [these diverse fields], usually through asking deceptively simple questions about why such human activities exist and what their purpose may be.” He is, perhaps, most famous for his collaborations with the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Internationally, It is a given fact that Félix Guattari’s celebrity comes from his collaboration with Gilles Deleuze. However in France, his celebrity arose from his anti-establishment medical, social and political stances. However, as a member of the editorial staff at Editions de Minuit declared, “He was a very secretive man.”
On April 30, 1930, Félix (Pierre-Félix) Guattari was born in the north of France in the village of Villeneuve-les-Sablons (considered a suburb of Paris.) His family was well-to-do.
Guattari was an editor and contributor to La Voie Communist, a left-leaning Communist newspaper. This editorial work indicates Guattari’s commitment to the party. However in 1956, Guattari’s membership in the Communist party was revoked since he protested the Soviet invasion of Hungary. The expulsion from the Communist party did not cause Félix Guattari to waiver in his support of the political Left. Later in life, Guattari struggled to unite the rival Generation Ecologie and the Green party. In 1992, Guattari ran as a Green party candidate in the regional elections.
In 1966, Félix Guattari began the review, Recherches. Guattari hoped that the journal could lead to a greater diversity of discourse in the political Left.
Félix Guattari was a force in the 1968 anti-government movement. He helped organize and occupy Theatre de L’Odeon in May 1968. He also created political photomontages with Jean-Luc Godard and the Dziga Vertov group Félix Guattari and Jean-Jeacques Lebel staged political theater and a string of happenings. Guattari was also interested in the protest movement against the war in Vietnam and the solidarity movement in Latin America. He viewed the French government as an impotent organization unwilling or unable to effectively intervene in the world to support positive action. Guattari in his 1977 book, Moleclular Revolution he lambasted the homophobia and sexism inherent in the 1968 political action. Guattari condemned the movement for forcing the Feminist and Gay liberation movements to split from the political Left.
Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze met in 1968. The professional and intellectual relationship would define Félix Guattari’s global reputation. Among the many books that they wrote together Anti-Oedipus and Mille-Plateau have undoubtedly had a major impact on philosophy and pyschoanalysis. Guattari intellectual creativity and fluidity was bolstered by Deleuze’s reflective quality and references to philosophical precedent. Their forces were joined in fortifying the will and determination of oppressed people so that they could transcend oppression. This line of thought is given elegant expression in their book Kafka - Pour Une Litterature Mineure ( (Kafka: Toward a Minro Literature). In this book, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari explore how the German composition of Kafka’s literature was deteritorialized by Kafka’s home languages (Czech and Yiddish.) Deleuze and Guattari continues to say that this disruption of German is an act of undermining political authority.
Félix Guattari (and Gilles Deleuze) also explored the concept of schizoanalysis. This concept identifies alienation as a symptom of Capitalism and as a force for dissension. Through this work Guattari and Deleuze attempted to break down the dialectical forces between use-values and exchange-values into desiring production. Guattari will explain these forces by saying “For here it is maintained that in multiplicity there is no break between production and representation. Within the domain of multiplicity, there is not a Subject before an object, there is not a machine of representation or expression opposed to a machine of production...a collective arrangement, or set-up, of semiotic flows, certainly, but also material and social flows, flows of all kinds.”
In the 1970s, he would associate with the “autonomist” groups that sprang up in France and Italy. Guattari was vigilant to not become involved in the terrorist activities of these groups. During this decade his political energies were spent working on a “free radio” campaign. In 1975, Guattari started this work with the Bolognese station Radio Alice. He later helped start the French stations Radio Bleue and Radio Tomate. Despite Félix Guattari’s focus on media projects, the French media insisted on linking Guattari with autonomist terrorists. He was berated for his friendship with philosopher Toni Negri (who was arrested in 1979 for his affiliation with terrorism.) Le Monde would lampoon Félix Guattari in a caraciature that depicted Guattari analyzing a terrorist in an office filled with guns and explosives.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Félix Guattari had difficulty adjusting to the new political realities. He would grow close to the Green party and run as a candidate, but he described his reaction to the politics of the 80s in the following way: "I come from the ranks of those who lived the sixties as if it were an interminable spring; so I also experienced some pain in accustoming myself to the long winter of the 1980s."
At university, Félix Guattari pursued pharmacy and philosophy. He invested his time and intellectual capital in the creation of an innovative clinic in the decrepit chateau of La Borde. 1953 marked the official opening of the clinic. Guattari continued to be employed at the clinic of La Borde, which also served as an arena for the dialogues between philosophers and social scientists.The director of La Borde was also a student of Lacan, Jean Oury. The innovation of Oury in the management of psychiatry was to allow patients to participate in the management of La Borde. The clinic under Oury’s leadership also explored using the approaches of psychoanalysis to explore psychosis. Oury would also introduce the anti-psychiatry movement to Guattari. The movement and Oury himself were heavily influenced by the work of Jacques Lacan.
With the 1961 publication of History of Madness by Michel Foucault, Guattari faced a shift in his conceptual shift in how he viewed mentally illness and its treatments. He viewed the institutionalization of the mentally ill as a corollary act to the incarceration of other social deviants. As a treatment protocol, Félix Guattari concluded that institutionalization had no theraputic value. Guattari, instead, advocated for alternative treatments. He also advocated more direct introventions such as publishing the key designs of locked hospital wards. Such action resulted in a slate of lock changes ordered by hospital administrators.
In 1964, Jacques Lacan inaugurated the Ecole Freudienne de Paris. Félix Guattari became a registered student at the Ecole. While pursuing his work in psychoanalysis, Félix Guattari studied under Jacques Lacan who also acted as Guattari’s analyst. In 1969, Félix Guattari became an analyst and continued his work at La Borde. Despite his close work with Lacan, Félix Guattari had doubts about some of the views that Lacan espoused, including the belief in the enduring nature of the oedipal and castration complexes.
Guattari helped advance the rhizomatic model of thought to illustrate the deep connections between concepts. Guattari could follow the faintest trace of subjectivity into the subconscious and could effectively use arbitrary and singular experiences into his work. In 1992, a heart attack killed him.
Guattari was the author of Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm andPsychanalyze Et Transversalite Félix Guattari (in collaboration with Gilles Deleuze) authored L'Anti-Oedipe, Kafka: Pour une Literature Mineure, Mille-Plateau, Rhizome, What Is Philosophy? , andOn The Line, Nomadology: The War Machine. With Suely Rolnik, Félix Guattari wrote Molecular Revolution in Brazil.