COSM Conference 2015

Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Emerging Research on Markets 

by Pao Franco & Joeri Mol
Department of Management & Marketing

It is a quarter of a century ago this year that Gilles Deleuze & FĂ©lix Guattari completed their influential philosophical diptych 'Capitalism and Schizophrenia'. Anti-Oedipus was published in 1972 and A Thousand Plateaus in 1980. It was written in Paris in the aftermath of turbulent times that reached their zenith in 1968. Prima facie it marks a curious expedition into the workings of money and the rise of global capitalism. One basic tenet is that the use of money within capitalism upends all prior social formations, most notably the state. Contrary to conventional belief, Deleuze and Guattari argue that money essentially undoes the cohesion that is traditionally provided by social structures. It is also in this sense that their reference to schizophrenia should be understood; a state in which one becomes unhinged from social structures and loses oneself in speech that has lost all social significance.

Many concepts that Deleuze & Guattari have developed in these two volumes have profoundly influenced the field of management and marketing and the social sciences more broadly. Theoretical perspectives such as 'Actor-Network Theory', 'Assemblage Theory', 'Non-Representational Theory', and 'Material-Semiotics' are much indebted to the pioneering work of Deleuze and Guattari and have now established themselves firmly within the disciplines. On the 24th of September 2015, COSM held a one-day conference to explore the relevance of these texts for understanding contemporary organizations, societies and markets. Emergent work into money, the market, debt, capital, social relations, the state and forms of government was being discussed. As a genuinely multidisciplinary endeavour, a variety of scholars and researchers delivered talks on academic works that draw inspiration from these seminal works, and engaged in critical discussions in the spirit of Deleuze & Guattari. Among the many thought-provoking works presented on the day, here are three topics that generated much discussion amongst attendees:

  • Laura Lotti (UNSW) ventured a novel exploration into the theorization of digital money, which challenges both commodity and state theories of money as described in Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
  • Tim Laurie (U Melbourne) and Hannah Stark (U Tasmania) gave a philosophical account of love in relation to the atomised pressures of marketised social relations, as an opportunity to re-evaluate Deleuze and Guattari's relationship to both feminism and Marxism.
  • Martin Wood (RMIT) described his nascent film-as-research project which looks at the way innovation economics and creative destruction affects ordinary people, with a special relevance to Melbourne: "Set in the heart of Melbourne's textile and clothing sector, the film is a lament to manufacturing's decline over the past 40 years and the struggles against mill closures because of economic recession and the restructuring of industry."

Throughout the conference it was clear that Deleuze & Guattari's work in Capitalism and Schizophrenia has strong relevance to the many questions and contentious issues that we face today in our attempt to better understand contemporary organizations, societies and markets. This covers various topics across many related disciplines, showing the extent of the influence of these authors upon present-day scholarship.