The Trouble with Pleasure
Deleuze and Psychoanalysis
An investigation into the strange and troublesome relationship to pleasure that defines the human being, drawing on the disparate perspectives of Deleuze and Lacan.
Is pleasure a rotten idea, mired in negativity and lack, which should be abandoned in favor of a new concept of desire? Or is desire itself fundamentally a matter of lack, absence, and loss? This is one of the crucial issues dividing the work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan, two of the most formidable figures of postwar French thought. Though the encounter with psychoanalysis deeply marked Deleuze's work, we are yet to have a critical account of the very different postures he adopted toward psychoanalysis, and especially Lacanian theory, throughout his career. In The Trouble with Pleasure, Aaron Schuster tackles this tangled relationship head on. The result is neither a Lacanian reading of Deleuze nor a Deleuzian reading of Lacan but rather a systematic and comparative analysis that identifies concerns common to both thinkers and their ultimately incompatible ways of addressing them. Schuster focuses on drive and desire—the strange, convoluted relationship of human beings to the forces that move them from within—“the trouble with pleasure."
Along the way, Schuster offers his own engaging and surprising conceptual analyses and inventive examples. In the “Critique of Pure Complaint” he provides a philosophy of complaining, ranging from Freud's theory of neurosis to Spinoza's intellectual complaint of God and the Deleuzian great complaint. Schuster goes on to elaborate, among other things, a theory of love as “mutually compatible symptoms”; an original philosophical history of pleasure, including a hypothetical Heideggerian treatise and a Platonic theory of true pleasure; and an exploration of the 1920s “literature of the death drive,” including Thomas Mann, Italo Svevo, and Blaise Cendrars.
This brilliant book is much more than a sober reappraisal of Deleuze's tangled relations to the legacies of Freud and Lacan; it is a profoundly original reinterpretation of Deleuze that overturns the platitudes of standard Deleuzianism. Aaron Schuster re-innervates Deleuze's engagement with psychoanalysis and reveals the unexpected congruence between Deleuze's conception of desire as what is unlivable in life and Lacan's elaboration of the drive as what is undead in death. Challenging the ossification of Deleuze's legacy into the unthinking mantra 'create, affirm, become,' Schuster's witty and inventive reading uncovers a startlingly unfamiliar Deleuze: a partisan of pure complaint, a celebrant of inconsolable lamentation, and a philosopher of negativity beyond negation.
Ray Brassier, Professor of Philosophy, American University of Beirut
It is assumed that a choice must be made: Lacan or Deleuze? Refusing this blackmail, Schuster—out of perspicacity rather than ambivalence or indecision—decisively demonstrates why the two are most fruitfully read and appreciated in their relation to each other. In the process, he delivers a robust, fascinating, and humorous account of the paradoxes of the pleasure. A truly original and important work.
Joan Copjec, Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
If Lacan may have found it hard to read Deleuze because Deleuze was just too good, then this book will pose a similar challenge to all its readers. Schuster is right up there with the greatest amongst the new generation of continental philosophers. He failed not to be, and has given us a book whose magnificent troublesome pleasure will cause people to complain for years to come!
Dany Nobus, Professor of Psychology and Psychoanalysis and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Brunel University London; Chair, Freud Museum London