Deleuze and Guattari analyse the relationship of desire to reality and to capitalist society in particular; they address questions of human psychology, economics, society, and history. Anti-Oedipus is divided into four sections. In the first, Deleuze and Guattari outline a "materialist psychiatry" modeled on the unconscious in its relationship with society and its productive processes; in this section they introduce their concept of "desiring-production" (which inter-relates "desiring machines" and a "body without organs"). In the second section, Deleuze and Guattari offer a critique of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis that focuses on its theory of the Oedipus complex. In the third section, Deleuze and Guattari re-write Karl Marx's materialist account of the history of society's modes of production as a development through "primitive," "despotic," and "capitalist" societies and details their different organisations of production, "inscription" (which corresponds to Marx's "distribution" and "exchange"), and consumption. In the final section, they develop a critical practice that they call "schizoanalysis."
The authors draw on and criticize the ideas of many thinkers; in addition to Marx and Freud, these include Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Wilhelm Reich, R. D. Laing, David Cooper, Carl Jung, Melanie Klein, Jean Oury, Georges Bataille, Karl Jaspers, Louis Hjelmslev, Charles Sanders Peirce, Gregory Bateson, Pierre Clastres, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Pierre Klossowski, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Monod, Lewis Mumford, Victor Turner, Karl August Wittfogel, Charles Fourier, Immanuel Kant, and Baruch Spinoza. They also draw on a wide range of creative writers and artists during the course of their argument; these include Antonin Artaud, Samuel Beckett, Georg Büchner, Samuel Butler, Franz Kafka, Jack Kerouac, Heinrich von Kleist, D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Marcel Proust, Daniel Paul Schreber, and J. M. W. Turner. Foremost among the influences on Deleuze and Guattari stands Friedrich Nietzsche—Anti-Oedipus may be considered a kind of sequel to The Antichrist.
Some of Guattari's diary entries, correspondence with Deleuze, and notes on the development of the book were published posthumously as The Anti-Oedipus Papers (2004).