Deleuze Studies, Volume 3, Deleuze and Marx
Descripción: Deleuze Studies, Volume 3, Deleuze and Marx...
Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and Finally Revolution
Gilles Deleuze, in an often-cited interview with Antonio Negri, says that both he and Félix Guattari are Marxists. Deleuze insists: ‘I think Félix Guattari and I have remained Marxists, in our two different ways, perhaps, but both of us’ (Deleuze 1995: 171). However, this spectre of Marx haunting Deleuze’s works, both individual and collaborative, has yet to be fully reckoned with, although commentators such as Eugene Holland, Jason Read and Nick Thoburn have all made significant strides in mapping the important contours of this philosophical and political relationship (see Holland 1999; Read 2003; Thoburn 2003). Thus, once again we intervene in the middle, in the middle of a discussion that has already begun and indeed did not simply begin in the heady days of 1968. But the situation in which this intervention is being made could perhaps not have been more timely, as we globally experience the deepest and most crippling economic crisis since the Great Depression. Indeed, Capital is no longer undergoing the simple popping of some temporary economic bubble, as with the dot.com or housing bubbles, or even the credit crunch (even if all these contributed to the current erosion of the economic and social base); rather, it is undergoing a crisis. Yet forces on the ‘Left’ remain unable to provide an appropriate response. Over a century and a half ago, Marx and Engels ended the Communist Manifesto with ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’, and yet we remain as fragmented as before, indeed we remain a ‘sack of potatoes’. It is these very forces on the Left who stubbornly argue that the need for a rethinking of the Marxist project outside of orthodox texts – Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Mao, and so on – is not only unnecessary but indeed constitutes heresy, yet simultaneously argue that it is only they who creatively apply Marxism to their particular conditions while being painfully aware of their increasing marginalisation in contemporary politics. It is in this stagnant and stultified context that Deleuze and Guattari’s work becomes pivotal. They put forward a Marxism that rejects many of the essentialist, evolutionist teleologies that have
2 Dhruv Jain burdened Marxist theory for so long, while remaining committed to the Marxist project for emancipation in the wake of the failures of orthodox Marxist State-building projects. The contributors to this volume do not claim to be presenting a totalising whole (indeed a rejection of the totalisation of life is a consistent theme in many of the essays), or to be providing a manifesto or a party programme; nor are they necessarily in agreement over the nature of Marx’s influence on Deleuze and Guattari’s thought, or the appropriate Deleuzian strategy by which to change the world. Their essays do, however, constitute in their different ways 1) a serious attempt to demarcate Deleuze and Guattari’s relationship to Marx and to discern which useful tools for analysis and for action must be appropriated from Marx’s methodology; 2) an honest appraisal of the current situation, including problems of the State and the structure of Capital and capitalism; 3) an attempt to demarcate a strategy arising from Deleuze and Guattari’s rethinking of the Marxist project. Only through discussions and debates such as these might an appropriate revolutionary theory and guide to political praxis be worked out, in line with Lenin’s famous maxim that ‘Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement’ (Lenin 1973: 28). In their respective contributions, Simon Choat, Aldo Pardi and Aidan Tynan each attempt to fully draw out the relationship with Marx through very different gestures: both Choat and Tynan see Deleuze and Guattari as being essentially the inheritors of the Marxist tradition, while rethinking significant sections of the Marxist ideological corpus such as the relationship to Hegel and the ‘mode of production’. Choat grounds his analysis in Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition and Nietzsche and Philosophy, arguing forcefully against depoliticised readings that produce an ‘apolitical’ or liberal Deleuze. Indeed, rather than claim that any appearance of Marx in Deleuze’s intellectual oeuvre can simply be seen as a result of Guattari’s influence, Choat argues that Deleuze’s troubled relationship with Marx and Hegel is already evident in Difference and Repetition and Nietzsche and Philosophy. Choat provocatively suggests that any hesitation on Deleuze’s part in endorsing Marx arose not from a fear of over-radicalism, but from a doubt as to whether Marx was radical enough in comparison to Nietzsche. Furthermore, Choat shows how Deleuze and Guattari’s excavation of Marx’s theory of universal history, while rejecting its inevitablism and teleology, results in a necessary re-conceptualisation of the structure of capitalism itself. This re-conceptualisation relies on Deleuze’s interrogation of Hegel’s dialectic, vis-à-vis the problem of
Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and Finally Revolution
representation, and the rejection of the concept of contradiction. It also results, Choat argues, in a reformulation of other Marxist concepts such as that of ‘modes of production’. Tynan, for his part, follows the shifts in Deleuze’s thought between Difference and Repetition and Logic of Sense to Anti-Oedipus, focusing on the relationship to Marx’s Capital and other works critiquing political economy, again addressing the problem of the ‘mode of production’, taking up where Choat left off. Indeed Tynan asserts that Deleuze’s ‘philosophy of difference’ is compatible with desiring production. Furthermore, while marking different contours in the Deleuze–Marx relationship than does Choat, Tynan argues that Deleuze is attempting to engage in an ‘immanentisation of Capital’ through an analysis of four constitutive moments of the Capital circuit: production, distribution, surplus-value and consumption. Tynan does not attempt to crudely reduce Deleuze’s terminology to Marx’s, but rather demonstrates how the new vocabulary developed by Deleuze and Guattari allows for a re-establishment of Marxism within a different set of intellectual parameters. Radically, Tynan suggests that Deleuze and Guattari are fundamentally engaged in the same intellectual strategy as was Marx, in so far as, through abstraction from empirical data, they are able to perceive general laws, in particular in relation to the role of desire. For example, they are able to show how Capital’s tense relationship to production and reproduction is mediated through desire and the connective-synthesis of desire to Capital, or desiring production. The role of the State is thus to regulate and absorb debt while also coding society, allowing for the axiomatisation of capitalism. Pardi displaces the relationship from being that of progeny to that of ally, presenting Marx and Deleuze as intellectual and political allies seeking to address the same problems. Thus rather than focusing on the reformulation of specific features of Marx’s analysis in Deleuze’s work, the existence of which Choat and Tynan have well demonstrated, Pardi focuses on a second encounter with Marx, occurring after the intellectual ‘deconstructive detour of transcendence and the thought of the One’. Indeed Marx here appears as an initial and essential entry point into the central problem of ontology which, Pardi suggests, must be situated within the grid of need/production and subject/society, it being this very grid that allows for the establishment of a ‘definition’ of the ‘transcendental coordinates of the existent’. Pardi argues that Deleuze is attempting to deal with the problem of liberation posed necessarily in juxtaposition to Hegel’s unified totality, and that traditional Marxism is inadequate in and of itself to accomplish such a task. Pardi
4 Dhruv Jain reassembles Deleuze’s intellectual framework – Bergson, Kant, Spinoza and Nietzsche – in constructing the intellectual line of flight necessary to construct an adequate response. It is at this point that Marx returns to Deleuze’s side: the Marx of the revolution and the struggle for new modes of production and a new society. This is not simply a political affinity, but a theoretical recognition of the revolutionary content of the critique of the unified totality as being a configuration of forces that constitutes a specific ‘mode of production’, and of the field of politics as a competition of different forces of production. The configuration of forces on the field of politics determines the form of State that is produced and the resulting socius produced by the State. Jason Read picks up this emphasis on the concept of ‘mode of production’ in his essay, analysing its relationship to the ‘image of thought’, and addressing the problem of the relationship between materiality and abstraction. Indeed, Read examines more closely the theoretical methodology that, according to Tynan, Deleuze appropriated from Marx himself. Deleuze, Read argues, attempts to arrive at a new definition of revolutionary thought that attempts to immanentise revolution as an exceeding of society as fetish, rather than take refuge in the traditional Marxist proposition that one must seek the conditions of the future revolution in the present situation. Read points out that while Deleuze rejects Althusser’s emphasis on ideology, he simultaneously revives Marx’s concept of ‘commodity fetishism’ as a model which critiques the form and the limits of thought itself, and not merely the ‘empirical limits of error’. Indeed, Read points out that Deleuze, in agreement with Althusser, recognises that the economy is the determination of a problem which is solved through differential relations rather than through historical necessity or the determination of the base. These differential social relations are in the virtual. Read then also briefly turns to the problem of the State to argue that the latter is itself an image of thought – a position consistent with Pardi’s claim that the State is the configuration of forces not simply in the economy and social relations, but also in the determining field of politics itself. Thus far, we have been presented with different, albeit not incompatible, analyses of the State and of Capital. We have noted the numerous different lines of flight and contours that Deleuze and Guattari map in relation to Marx’s work. Furthermore, each author has argued that only through a change in social relations can there be an achievement of liberation. The Deleuze and Guattari presented thus far have been Marxists who seriously appreciate the need for a revolutionary politics. However, thus far a strategy for such a
Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and Finally Revolution
politics has been lacking. The basic question: ‘What is to be done?’ remains unanswered. Eduardo Pellejero and Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, in their respective essays, reflect on this lack and seek to formulate Deleuzian strategies of revolt. Both locate Deleuze and Guattari’s revolutionary theory in the concept of ‘minority’ and ‘becomingminoritarian’, although in differing ways. Pellejero attempts to discern a Deleuzian praxis allowing for a liberatory politics that results in the ‘detotalisation of life’. Pellejero poignantly reminds us that Deleuze re-reads Marx in light of the failures of already existing regimes, especially the Soviet Union, and argues that ‘the minor’, or the line of flight, which has been attempted thus far in traditional political movements has not developed in revolutionary ways. In fact, it has allowed only for the subsumption of those revolutionary movements under the sign of Capital. Thus, we cannot and must not return to the field of politics utilising a revolutionary strategy that reconceptualises politics outside of the narrow band of power determined by the simplistic binary of Government and Opposition; rather, we must reject ‘the totalisation of life by power’ through an affirmative politics of revolutionary-becoming arising from the immanent event and not grounded in a utopian vision in which all of History is realised. Indeed, Pellejero controversially argues that ‘power formations are inhabited by an essential powerlessness’ that is incapable of capturing all the micro-moments of resistance, creativity and transformation. Revolution, as Pellejero further argues, is no longer the Event in itself, but is, rather, a process of becoming. No longer can we hold onto the utopias of the past that must be realised; we must, rather, recognise that the revolution is a continuous ‘everlasting’ process. Rather than invoking merely an empty catch-phrase, Pellejero asserts that this ‘revolutionary-becoming’ must occur through 1) the envisioning of differential possibilities; 2) the creation of new assemblages for the realisation of the revolutionary praxis; and 3) the articulation of new revolutionary lines of flight. Sibertin-Blanc addresses the concept of ‘becoming-revolutionary’ by grounding his analysis of Deleuzo-Guattarian praxis in minorities. Sibertin-Blanc recognises that the contours of capitalism, the State and the contradictions within these assemblages gesture towards the problem of the ‘collective subject’ and of its articulation as ‘proletarianisation’ and ‘minoritarianisation’. Sibertin-Blanc reminds us that one should not romanticise becoming-minoritarian since Capital, for example, minoritises flows that cause famine. Capital’s minoritarian axioms result in a double process: 1) the formation of class assemblages and resistance;
6 Dhruv Jain 2) the formation of minorities and the manipulation of their positions within the national economy and society that allows for particular forms of manipulation. Sibertin-Blanc differs from Pellejero in his attempt to rearticulate and re-conceptualise traditional revolutionary movements. Despite the intimate connection between ‘proletarian’ and ‘minority’, Sibertin-Blanc is quick to point out that we cannot simply collapse these movements into an undifferentiated series of workingclass struggles, and that revolutionary minoritarian movements must remain independent of the State. Indeed, this push for autonomy parallels Pellejero’s argument that revolutionary movements should not be encoded within the binary of the State and an Opposition that simply attempts to capture State power. He points out, however, that the problem of minorities remains that ‘minoritarian sets are immediately constituted in the State-form’. He shares Pellejero’s call for the formation of new assemblages, but also emphasises the need for an accompanying minoritarian ‘culture, thought and practices’. It is in this context that Sibertin-Blanc argues that minoritarian movements have been revolutionary in so far as they have challenged both capitalist axiomatisation and the modern State-form through troubling the basic borders that demarcate that form: for example, the national/exterior boundary by which an influx of immigrant populations results in the production of a discomforting resident foreigner, or the individual/collective boundary arising from the relationship between the majoritarian (or national) subjectivity and the ‘subjective position of the minority’. Again, the struggles of minorities are not revolutionary in and of themselves, and an evaluation must be made within the context of the situation in which they find themselves. Sibertin-Blanc then turns to the need for a ‘minoritarian internationalism’ capable of responding to the historical task that it faces, but without resorting to the State-form. What I have given here is not a tracing of the arguments as carefully laid out by the authors in their respective essays, but is rather a single mapping of this collection as concerned with the problems outlined above: 1) the intellectual relationship between Deleuze and Guattari and Marx’s work and methodology; 2) the contours of modern capitalism and the State-form; and 3) the appropriate strategy for realising liberation. Indeed, authors and readers alike may be uncomfortable with the particular connections between essays I have made, and I urge readers to arrive at their own intellectual assemblages. It is these various connections between the essays, but also their links to other literary machines, revolutionary minoritarian movements and new
Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and Finally Revolution
social assemblages that will allow for the further development of the revolutionary theory needed. What is clear from this collection, however, is that Deleuze’s claim that he and Guattari are Marxists is grounded in a common project they share with Marx, namely, that of liberation from the ‘totalisation of life’ by capitalism and its accompanying State-form. From Marx they also adopt the methodology of peering into the particular with a view to discerning the abstract; and, while remaining loyal to many of Marx’s key propositions, they are able to rethink his analysis of capitalism, society and the State without recourse to the more vulgar economic determinisms that have been endemic to the Marxist movement. This reinterpretation of the world is accompanied with a re-thinking, in light of previous failed attempts, of what political strategies might be adopted and followed in order to change the world. It is clear that we cannot work within the parameters of the formal political structures currently in place, since they are constituted by the very capitalist axiomatisation and stratified State-politics that have resulted in our being everywhere in chains. Furthermore, we cannot simply cling to the worker movements of the past. We must, rather, develop and work immanently within social movements that allow for the development of new social assemblages capable of demonstrating that another world is indeed possible.
References Deleuze, Gilles (1995) Negotiations 1972–1990, trans. Martin Joughin, New York: Columbia University Press. Holland, Eugene W. (1999) Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis, London: Routledge. Lenin, V. I. (1973) What Is To Be Done?, Peking: Foreign Languages Press. Read, Jason (2003) The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the Present, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Thoburn, Nicholas (2003) Deleuze, Marx and Politics, London: Routledge.
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy
Queen Mary, University of London
Abstract Against those who wish to marginalise Deleuze’s political relevance, this paper argues that his work – including and especially that produced before his collaborations with Guattari – is not only fundamentally political but also profoundly engaged with Marx. The paper begins by focusing on different possible strategies for contesting the claim that Deleuze is apolitical, attempting to debunk this claim by briefly considering Deleuze’s work with Guattari. The bulk of the paper is concerned with a close examination of the appearance of Marx in both Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition, establishing that the ‘pre-Guattari’ Deleuze was fully engaged with both politics and Marx and demonstrating that the concepts and arguments of the Marxist politics of the Deleuze–Guattari books can be traced back to Deleuze’s own work. It is argued that an analysis of Deleuze’s work on Marx is significant not only for deepening our understanding of Marx, but also for understanding the possibilities for Deleuzian politics. Keywords: Deleuze, Marx, Nietzsche, philosophy, politics, social machines, capitalism In some ways Deleuze’s unfinished book on the Grandeur de Marx – the book that shortly before his death he announced he was working on (Deleuze 1995a: 51) – leaves us with a frustrating gap in our knowledge of his work: there is no text on Marx to compare with those on Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson, and so on. On the other hand, it might be better to think of Grandeur de Marx not as some kind of missing key, but rather as an unnecessary distraction: speculation about the content of the lost book brings with it the risk of drawing attention away from the presence of Marx in Deleuze’s published writings. Rather than using the book on Marx as a touchstone by which Deleuze’s Marxist credentials can be safely guaranteed, it may be better to focus on what we know Deleuze
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has actually said about Marx. This, however, is not as easy as it sounds, for in fact Deleuze himself wrote little about Marx: of all his works, it is those jointly authored with Félix Guattari, particularly the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, that are most obviously influenced by and comment most often upon Marx. The problem with relying on the joint works is that it leaves open the suspicion that Deleuze was not a Marxist at all, and that the Marxism was all Guattari’s: a special case of the claim that Deleuze was not a political thinker at all, the politics being all Guattari’s. Against this suspicion, I shall argue that the interest in Marx comes just as much from Deleuze as from Guattari. Much fascinating work has been done by commentators who have taken Deleuze and Guattari’s Marxism seriously, substantially advancing our knowledge of Marx as well as of Deleuze and Guattari.1 But rather than looking at the books written with Guattari, I want primarily to examine the references to Marx in Deleuze’s solo writings, focusing on Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition. Doing so can help demonstrate that even before he began collaborating with Guattari, Deleuze’s work was both deeply politicised and engaged with Marx. Indeed, these two things are in some senses inseparable: Deleuze’s philosophy was deeply politicised because it followed in the footsteps of Marx, the thinker who more than any other politicised philosophy. If we want a political Deleuze or a Deleuzian politics then a good place to start would be by recognising the place of Marx in Deleuze’s work. This recognition must, however, be made against those who claim that Deleuze’s own work is not political.
I. Deleuze and Marx There have been numerous strategies for rejecting Deleuze as a political thinker: deferring the political moment until the Deleuze–Guattari books, dismissing his political formulations, explicitly denying the political relevance of his work, or simply ignoring his political pronouncements in favour of something else.2 Perhaps the strongest allegation that Deleuze is not a political thinker comes from Slavoj Žižek, who claims simply that there are no politics in Deleuze’s own work: ‘It is crucial to note that not a single one of Deleuze’s own texts is in any way directly political; Deleuze “in himself” is a highly elitist author, indifferent toward politics.’ Any direct political moments are, according to Žižek, only found in those books co-authored by Guattari, whom Žižek names as a ‘bad influence’ on Deleuze (Žižek 2004: 20).
10 Simon Choat Žižek argues that Deleuze’s solo texts, while in themselves strictly apolitical, contain the potential for the development of a different materialist, even Marxist, politics. Žižek contrasts this potential politics both with the supposed idealism of the Deleuze–Guattari books and with what Žižek sees as the dominant form of Deleuzian politics today, namely a Hardt and Negri-style politics of the Multitude. Hence for Žižek, while we can find both Marx and politics in the Deleuze–Guattari books, they are there only as a result of the (bad) influence of Guattari, soaked in a pernicious idealism and productive of an inane political standpoint; whereas when we read Deleuze ‘in himself’ we are not dealing with a political thinker at all, let alone a Marxist. Against Žižek, however, it can be shown that Deleuze’s own work is both already politicised and engaged with Marx – and that this work anticipates the Marxist politics of the later collaborative work. There are a number of strategies that could be pursued in order to establish this point.3 One way to counter Žižek’s image of an apolitical Deleuze is simply to think about the composition of the Deleuze–Guattari books, their literary construction. A few small clues help undermine the notion that in this partnership Guattari was the Marxist revolutionary and Deleuze the dry, apolitical philosopher subject to bad influences. Deleuze has presented himself as a ‘lightning rod’ for Guattari’s thoughts, systematising things by bringing together and ordering Guattari’s inventive but chaotic ideas (Deleuze 2006: 239). If we accept this image, then it can be seen that the analysis of capitalism in the Deleuze–Guattari books – rigorous, methodical and systematic – bears all the hallmarks of Deleuze’s style: given how profoundly indebted to Marx this analysis is, this suggests that Deleuze as much as Guattari was deeply engaged with Marx. This intuition finds some support in the correspondence between the two authors. During the writing of Anti-Oedipus Guattari wrote to his friend: ‘I have the feeling of always wandering around alone, kind of alone, irresponsibly, while you’re sweating over capitalism. How could I possibly help you?’ (Guattari 2006: 137). These are hardly the words of someone who has imposed his Marxism on a passive or indifferent collaborator. Rather, they suggest that we should take Deleuze at his word when he claimed: ‘I think Félix Guattari and I have remained Marxists, in our two different ways, perhaps, but both of us’ (Deleuze 1995b: 171). Elizabeth Garo has noted suggestively that it is somewhat peculiar for a philosopher so committed to processes of becoming to claim to ‘remain’ a Marxist: ‘For a thinker of becoming, remaining cannot be a very stimulating objective but, at most, a slightly disenchanted and
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necessarily sceptical stance’ (Garo 2008a: 609). But – aside from the fact that we should not put too much weight on the casual use of a particular word in what was an interview – ‘remaining’ does not necessarily imply static adherence or loyalty. The very fact that it is possible to remain Marxist in ‘two different ways’ implies that this is not a question of stubborn or sheepish attachment to a given dogma, but rather of an active interpretation of the Marxist heritage: a dynamic process in which neither he who remains nor Marxism itself stay the same – less a question of remaining Marxist than of becoming-Marxist. Evidence that Deleuze’s claim to have remained a Marxist indicates a renewed commitment to Marxism is also provided by the historical context: it was a way of distancing himself from the violent reaction against Marx that took place in France after 1968, when the nouveaux philosophes competed with each other to renounce Marx and Marxism. To remain a Marxist when those around you are denouncing Marxism as the philosophy of the gulag is a profoundly political act – as Garo herself recognises (Garo 2008b: 66; 2008a: 614). There are other reasons, however, why picking over the details of how Capitalism and Schizophrenia was written is unsatisfactory as a response to Žižek’s charges. For a start, although it may tell us a little about Deleuze and Guattari’s respective contributions, it risks misrepresenting their work, implying a clear division of labour between two isolated contributors. This was not the case at all; as Deleuze said of their relationship: ‘we do not work together, we work between the two’ (Deleuze and Parnet 2002: 17). Hence, rather than focusing on the Deleuze–Guattari books, it may be more productive to turn to Deleuze’s own work, establishing a continuity between this early work and the later collaborative texts. For while the co-authored books may be the most obviously political, the themes, concepts and arguments of those books emerged out of Deleuze’s solo work.4 The rejection of dialectical notions of negation and contradiction, the Nietzschean affirmation of active over reactive forces, the ontology of pure difference, the understanding of being in terms of multiplicity, the imperative to highlight the virtual conditions of all actually existent beings – all these ideas came from Deleuze, so it is senseless to claim that the later, ‘political’ work with Guattari is somehow a break with or regression from the supposedly apolitical work that preceded it. Rather than pointing to broad themes, however, it is possible instead to look for Marx in Deleuze’s early work: this search can show that the specifically Marxist politics of the later books can also be traced back to Deleuze, who was writing on Marx long before he met Guattari, in addition
12 Simon Choat to demonstrating that to ‘remain Marxist’ was not merely an act of resistance when surrounded by apostates but also a creative use of Marx. Perhaps the two most prominent appearances by Marx in Deleuze’s pre-Guattari work occur in Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition.
II. Marx and Nietzsche Nietzsche and Philosophy gives the lie to the claim that Deleuze is an apolitical thinker: this is a highly politicised Nietzsche, in at least two senses. First, Deleuze’s theoretical reconstruction of Nietzsche presents him as a political thinker worth reading: a novel claim at a time when Nietzsche was dismissed by many as at best an individualist forerunner of existentialism unconcerned with broader social and political issues and at worst a proto-fascist whose politics should be unequivocally rejected. Second, Deleuze’s book itself had wider political consequences, playing a vital role in facilitating the introduction of Nietzsche into political thought in postwar France. It is worth considering the manner in which Deleuze politicises Nietzsche before examining the role that Marx plays here. Deleuze argues that, like Kant, Nietzsche offers a critical philosophy. But Nietzsche goes much further than Kant. While the latter undertakes a critique of the forms and claims of knowledge, truth and morality, he does not criticise knowledge, truth and morality themselves: they remain outside critique, acting as transcendent standards that are used to measure, judge and ultimately denounce life. Kant’s critique is thus fundamentally compromised and is effectively a form of nihilism, depreciating and denying that which exists in the name of another, superior world. Nietzsche, in contrast, replaces the question of truth or falsity with the problem of forces and power: no longer an attempt to establish the essence of truth in order to judge life, philosophy now pursues an interpretation of the forces that give sense to things and an evaluation of the will to power that gives values to things (Deleuze 1983: 54). Rather than seeking to determine the essential nature of a thing, ‘essence’ itself must be recognised as the result of the forces and powers that take hold of a thing. What Nietzsche seeks, according to Deleuze, is a ‘thought that would affirm life instead of a knowledge that is opposed to life’ (Deleuze 1983: 101). This does not mean that we simply indulge in a celebration of everything that exists. Genealogy is at once interpretation and evaluation: forces can be active or reactive and the will to power can be affirmative or negative. As affirmation of life, thought must reject all ressentiment and
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take a genuinely critical stance that can explain and subvert reaction and negation. Philosophy’s role is therefore not to establish timeless principles but, in Nietzsche’s phrase, to be ‘untimely’: to remain vigilant in upsetting existing values and institutions. Deleuze’s Nietzsche is political because he reveals that apparently stable and immutable values and institutions are products of struggle between competing forces and powers, and in doing so he undermines the established order and points to the possibility of a different world. This politicised philosophy is sharply contrasted by Deleuze with the piety of Hegelian dialectics, which effectively acts as a functionary of the Church and the State by sanctioning the present order. Whereas dialectics can only recognise what is already established, Nietzsche seeks to create the new. It is in his discussions of the relation of Nietzsche to dialectics that Deleuze introduces Marx. Nietzsche and Marx are placed in a provisional alliance with the claim that they both found their ‘habitual targets’ in ‘the Hegelian movement, the different Hegelian factions’ (Deleuze 1983: 8). As it stands, this claim does not necessarily imply approval of Marx’s project by Deleuze: the claim is not that Marx targets Hegel as well as the Hegelian factions, nor that Marx’s critique of Hegelianism is identical to or even compatible with Nietzsche’s critique. It does, however, suggest that it might be interesting to pursue the relation between Nietzsche and Marx – and this suspicion is rewarded by further examination of Nietzsche and Philosophy, as Marx makes a number of cameo appearances. Deleuze clearly recognises that Marx’s relation to Hegel is more complicated than is Nietzsche’s. At one point he draws a parallel not between the attitude of Nietzsche and Marx towards Hegelianism but between their attitudes towards Kant and Hegel respectively: ‘Nietzsche stands critique on its feet, just as Marx does with the dialectic.’ He goes on to add, however, that ‘this analogy, far from reconciling Marx and Nietzsche, separates them still further’ (Deleuze 1983: 89). They are separated still further because while Marx was trying to stand dialectics on its feet Nietzsche rejected dialectical thinking altogether. This comparison neatly captures Marx’s place in Nietzsche and Philosophy: intriguing hints about possible connections are quickly complicated or undermined, leading to what can look like a dead end, yet with the possibility of further links never entirely foreclosed. Marx is posed a series of challenging questions by Deleuze, either directly or implicitly. Is Marx trying to save the dialectic from sliding into nihilism or does he join Nietzsche in defeating it? Is Marx, like Nietzsche, interested in inventing new possibilities of life, or is he engaged in a nihilist subordination of life to transcendent values, driven
14 Simon Choat by the spirit of proletarian ressentiment and hoping to return to the working class what is rightfully theirs? Is negation in Marx an active self-destruction, or is he caught up with the concept of contradiction, unable to recognise more subtle, fluid forces? That these questions are left largely unanswered in the Nietzsche book should not lead us to conclude that Deleuze has no answers, or that they are posed rhetorically as a way of confronting and condemning Marx. These questions do not suggest a rejection of Marx by Deleuze, or a lack of interest in Marx. Instead they suggest that he was grappling with Marx, and that if he was reluctant to endorse him fully then this reluctance did not come from an elite indifference towards politics but, on the contrary, from a fear that Marx’s political position was not radical enough: that compared to Nietzsche, Marx did not go far enough. That Deleuze had such fears is hardly surprising, and can be explained (at least in part) by the intellectual and political context within which he wrote. Given the somewhat dismissive attitude toward Nietzsche in France in the immediate postwar period, Deleuze could come to him relatively fresh. Marx, on the other hand, laboured under a joint burden: stifled by a sclerotic Stalinism within the PCF, and anaesthetised through official sanction within the academy. In both realms, Marx was also eventually aligned with a Hegelian humanism. Within academic circles, various factors led thinkers like Sartre and Goldmann to forge a humanist Marxism. (These factors included but were not limited to: the lectures and writings by Kojève and Hyppolite; the interest sparked by the release of Marx’s early writings; and the translation into French of Marxists like Lukács, Korsch and Marcuse.) This trend was then mirrored in the PCF as its leading theorist Roger Garaudy sought an alternative to Stalinism for the Kruschev era. Given all this, it would not have been surprising if, in his attempt to generate a new, post-humanist and non-Hegelian philosophy of difference, Deleuze had rejected Marx completely. Deleuze’s contemporaries dealt with the situation in different ways. Michel Foucault made a conscious and conspicuous effort to distance himself from Marx and Marxism (even while simultaneously continuing to draw upon Marx’s conceptual innovations). Jacques Derrida was more or less silent on Marx until Specters of Marx was published in 1993, at a time when reference to Marx could act as a useful codeword for resistance to a newly triumphant neo-liberal hegemony. Jean-François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard effectively abandoned Marxism altogether. For Deleuze to continue to speak favourably of Marx in such an environment is in itself highly significant.
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy
That the tentative attempts in Nietzsche and Philosophy to link Nietzsche and Marx are more than idle speculation is confirmed in an interview from 1968 in which Deleuze maintains that both Marx and Nietzsche offer ‘a radical and total critique of society’: not a reactive, negative critique but one that is the prelude to an equally radical moment of creation: ‘a great destruction of the known, for the creation of the unknown’ (Deleuze 2004a: 136) – essentially what Deleuze himself calls for. Nietzsche and Philosophy can tell us not simply that Deleuze was engaged with Marx before he collaborated with Guattari, however, but also something about the kind of Marx that Deleuze was interested in. Indirectly, we can make comparisons with the manner in which he reads Nietzsche. Deleuze uses Nietzsche rather than merely interpreting him, producing a specifically Deleuzian Nietzsche in whom it is almost impossible to discern where Deleuze ends and Nietzsche begins. This is not a playful eclecticism in which Deleuze chooses and combines elements of Nietzsche’s work more or less at random, but a systematic reconstruction of Nietzsche’s philosophy. This approach mirrors Deleuze’s readings of other thinkers, and we might anticipate that he will read Marx in a similar way: reconstructing a Marx who is recognisably Deleuzian but who is nonetheless drawn from the heart of Marx’s work. Clearly this Marx will be one separated from the dialectical method: it cannot be a Marx for whom historical change is driven by society’s contradictions. Equally, a Deleuzian Marx must avoid offering an idealist judgement of life using transcendent standards, yet without on the other hand capitulating to a relativism that uncritically accepts things as they are: he must instead undertake an immanent critique that challenges the established order. This is the Marx that we find in Anti-Oedipus, where Deleuze and Guattari pursue the allusive connections between Marx and Nietzsche that are found in Nietzsche and Philosophy. Marx is arguably the key influence upon Anti-Oedipus, though it is a Marx transformed by being filtered through numerous other thinkers, including Nietzsche. Perhaps the most obvious example of this double reading of Marx with Nietzsche is found in the book’s adaptation of Marx’s universal history: this is not a Hegelianised, totalising history in which capitalism is the inevitable culmination of a necessary process of historical development, but rather a kind of Nietzschean genealogy of capital: ‘universal history is the history of contingencies, and not the history of necessity. Ruptures and limits, and not continuity’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 140). By using universal history, Deleuze and Guattari claim, it is possible ‘to retrospectively understand all history in the light of capitalism’
16 Simon Choat (Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 140). Yet rather than being an imposition upon Marx, or a simple hybridisation of Marx and Nietzsche, this conceptualisation of universal history comes directly from Marx’s work itself, or at least a part of it. In the Grundrisse Marx argues that bourgeois society provides the key to understanding all previous societies. He uses a well-known analogy to make his point: ‘Human anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape. The intimations of higher development among the subordinate animal species, however, can be understood only after the higher development is already known’ (Marx 1973: 105). Rather than an attempt to naturalise historical development, this passage should be read as Deleuze and Guattari read it: as a rejection of teleology and recognition of the uncertainty and irregularity of historical development. Human anatomy can help us understand apes not because apes are destined to become humans but because humans have developed from apes; likewise, bourgeois social relations can illuminate previous social forms not because they were predestined but because bourgeois society has developed out of social formations that have now vanished and yet whose traces are still carried within capitalism. Bourgeois political economists were able to formulate the category of labour in general – a category that could then be used to analyse previous social forms – because under capitalism labour has in reality become generalised, as deskilled labourers separated from the means of production (or deterritorialised, to used Deleuze and Guattari’s language) move regularly from one type of work to the next. This creation of a propertyless labour force was not the result of a preconceived plan but of entirely contingent circumstances, as a peasantry that had been forced from its land for quite different and varied reasons was then incorporated into a production process that required them as a precondition: the emergent capitalist class thus made ‘use of events in which they had played no part whatsoever’ (Marx 1976: 875). The history of capitalism according to Marx is a history of rupture and contingency, not necessity. Just as they modify Marx’s universal history, so do Deleuze and Guattari modify his analysis of capitalism. Where Marx seeks to expose the contradictions upon which capitalism depends yet which will ultimately be its undoing, Deleuze and Guattari instead analyse capitalism in terms of its deterritorialising and reterritorialising tendencies. In doing so they maintain Marx’s focus on the tensions within capitalism – between, for example, its subversion of all traditional political institutions and forms of authority and its simultaneous need for such institutions and forms to enforce the established order – yet
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy
without understanding them in terms of contradictions that will ultimately be superseded and resolved. If Deleuze does not understand capitalism in terms of resolvable contradictions, then nor does he posit an ‘outside’ to capitalism that could act as both a transcendent standard of judgement and a point of potential resistance (be it unalienated labour, pure use value, or an immediate transparency of social relations under communism). This does not mean, however, that he resorts to either a celebration of or a resigned submission to capitalism. Just as Nietzsche and Philosophy calls for an affirmation of active forces over reactive forces, so the central imperative of Anti-Oedipus is to push further the deterritorialisations of capital, against its efforts to reterritorialise. It has been suggested that this argument aligns Deleuze with a Hayekian liberalism: if the state is that which reterritorialises the decoded flows of the market, then Deleuze’s call to deterritorialise effectively becomes a call for the deregulation of the market against the restrictions of the state.5 The reverse is true, however: it is precisely Deleuze’s argument that distances him from Hayekian liberalism and makes a mockery of attempts to portray Deleuze as ‘the ideologist of late capitalism’ (to use Žižek’s phrase) (Žižek 2004: 183). Following Marx, for Deleuze and Guattari the reterritorialisations of the state are not opposed to the deterritorialisations of the market, as a reactive limit on a boundless natural energy: the state is a necessary model of realisation for the axiomatic that capitalism requires. The call to push deterritorialisation further, far from being an exultation of the market, is in fact what provides Deleuze’s analysis of capitalism with a critical perspective. It offers recognition that the deterritorialising tendencies of capitalism offer the potential to lead somewhere different and unexpected, and it demands that this deterritorialisation be pursued against capitalism’s simultaneous tendency to reterritorialise in order to further and protect private accumulation. This position is inspired in part by Nietzsche, echoing the distinction between active and reactive forces in Nietzsche and Philosophy. But it is also a strictly Marxist position: like Marx, Deleuze recognises both the possibilities and the dangers immanent within capitalism. In Anti-Oedipus we thus have the Marx that was promised in Nietzsche and Philosophy: a reconstructed, non-dialectical Marx who proposes a radical, immanent critique of the present in the name of something yet to come. This is not to say that the Marx of Anti-Oedipus had already been worked out by Deleuze in Nietzsche and Philosophy and needed only further elucidation or application. Rather, in the same way that Deleuze’s collaborative work with Guattari develops concepts
18 Simon Choat that had already been created by Deleuze alone, so too does that work develop Deleuze’s Marx. Something similar can be said of Deleuze’s first great work of philosophy, Difference and Repetition.
III. Marx and Social Ideas Like Nietzsche and Philosophy, Difference and Repetition is a fundamentally political text. Nietzsche and Philosophy sought to champion the creation of new values over the recognition of established values: Difference and Repetition maintains this critical distinction, and takes as its central target the dogmatic image of thought, whose contours had been sketched out in the Nietzsche book. The dogmatic image of thought operates through recognition, and in so doing ‘ “rediscovers” the State, rediscovers “the Church” and rediscovers all the current values that it subtly presented in the pure form of an eternally blessed unspecified eternal object’ (Deleuze 2004b: 172). It is politically conservative, even reactionary, endorsing established values rather than promising new ones. Deleuze’s critique of representation and the dogmatic image of thought in Difference and Repetition thus has political consequences: it aims to expose and undermine forms of thought that reinforce the status quo. But this is not a primarily epistemological or ontological critique that also happens to produce political effects: to a great extent it is motivated in the first place by political considerations. In the concluding chapter of the book, Deleuze states abruptly that ‘if the truth be told, none of this would amount to much were it not for the moral presuppositions and practical implications of such a distortion’ (Deleuze 2004b: 337). He is referring here specifically to the dialectic, in particular Hegel. But Hegelian dialectics is only the most pernicious form of orthodox thinking; the warning can be extended to give it wider significance and cover the distortions of the dogmatic image of thought in general: the critique of representation amounts to little if it does not combat the presuppositions and practical implications of those distortions. The presuppositions are not merely moral but profoundly political: it is presupposed that the established values of Church and State, the values that maintain the present political order, must be protected. If there is any doubt about the political significance of the ‘practical implications’ that Deleuze refers to, a few lines later he provides a pertinent example: it is the bourgeoisie that uses the weapon of contradiction to defend itself, while the (proletarian) revolution proceeds by the power of affirmation (Deleuze 2004b: 337). Deleuze’s battle against the concepts of ‘contradiction’, ‘opposition’, ‘analogy’, and so on – his struggle to show that these categories, though
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy
they may be indispensable, are only effects of a more fundamental difference – is therefore profoundly political. Thus while it is acceptable – even necessary – to question and challenge the political consequences of Deleuze’s metaphysics (as Badiou  does), it would be profoundly misguided to argue that Deleuze is merely apolitical (as Žižek does). Where does Marx fit in this time? Deleuze’s reference to the proletariat may once again suggest an ambiguous attitude: employing Marxian phraseology while simultaneously implicitly rejecting Marx’s reliance on the concept of contradiction. Yet we have already seen that in Deleuze’s work rejection of apparently fundamental Marxian tenets (like the notion of societal contradictions) is perfectly compatible with continued use of Marx. The broad arguments of Difference and Repetition can be seen to reflect the Deleuzian analysis of capitalism that has already been outlined: capitalism both generates and curbs difference, at once subverting what Deleuze calls ‘the qualitative order of resemblances’ (destroying all traditional representational codes) and reinforcing what he terms ‘the quantitative order of equivalences’ (reducing every relation to one of exchange) (Deleuze 2004b: 1).6 More than this, it can be said that although there are not many more references to Marx in Difference and Repetition than in Nietzsche and Philosophy, Marx’s presence is stronger in the second book: rather than allusive suggestions and unanswered questions there is a concrete use of Marx. His main appearance comes in the fourth chapter on ‘Ideas and the Synthesis of Difference’. Deleuze posits that, following Marx, we can say that there are social Ideas. What this means is that we can think of society as a structure or multiplicity: a system of differential elements with no prior identity, determined by reciprocal relations and incarnated in actual relationships. In the case of capitalist society, and following Marx, we can say that virtual relations of production are incarnated in actual relationships between wage-labourers and capitalists. These relations – which are here class relations – are not characterised by some pre-existing identity but are reciprocally determined. In this way, it is possible to claim that the economic conditions of a society determine all other aspects of that society – not because actual economic relationships are the essence of society considered as a totality, but because those actual relationships, and all social relationships, are the incarnation of economic relations as differential virtualities that may be actualised in different ways. So we have something like the priority of the economic as found in Marx, without the economic essentialism as found in certain forms of Marxism.
20 Simon Choat Deleuze acknowledges that this reworking of Marx is not entirely original: Althusser and his collaborators had already read Marx in similar terms, and Deleuze quotes Althusser approvingly throughout Difference and Repetition. For Althusser, Marx’s great theoretical contribution was to rethink the concepts of structure and structural causality (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 186): the Marxist conception of society is not a Whole in which the elements are expressions of an inner essence, but a complex and differentially articulated structure in which the elements are reciprocally determined. Deleuze’s rereading of Marx thus looks very much like that of Althusser – yet Deleuze goes a step further. Althusser introduces the concept of ‘overdetermination’ in order to combat Hegelian Marxisms: instead of reducing the complexity of a society to a simple, central contradiction (as Althusser claims Hegel has done), overdetermination allows us to think society precisely as a structure in which differential elements are codetermined. But as Deleuze points out: ‘It is still the case that for Althusser it is contradiction which is overdetermined and differential, and the totality . . . remains legitimately grounded in a principal contradiction’ (Deleuze 2004b: 87). Thus, for Deleuze, Althusser remains too tied to the dialectic (which, after all, is for Althusser the ‘crucial gift’ that Hegel gives to Marx [Althusser 1972: 174]). In addition, and relatedly, the Deleuzian language of virtuality allows us to avoid the risk of reintroducing a simple determinism such as comes with the Althusserian ‘determination in the last instance by the economy’: the movement from the virtual to the actual is creative and always leaves other potentials unactualised. So Deleuze’s critique of certain forms of Marxism is thus also in part an escape from Althusserianism. Of course Althusser himself later sought to break away from Althusserianism: in particular, the turn towards ‘aleatory materialism’ in the 1980s can be characterised as an attempt to offer a more open philosophy that is less beholden to dialectical thinking and provides greater sensitivity to the contingent singularity of events. Yet this move by Althusser comes long after Deleuze’s radical reading of Marx in Difference and Repetition. Indeed, while there were clearly numerous factors – both theoretical and political – that led Althusser to reformulate his philosophical approach, it is not fanciful to speculate that in doing so he may have been influenced by Deleuze: certainly he cites Deleuze positively in his later work (Althusser 2006: 189). We have seen that Deleuze’s Nietzschean Marx resurfaces in AntiOedipus; similarly, the presentation in Difference and Repetition of the Marxist conception of society is developed in A Thousand Plateaus. Rather than referring to social Ideas, in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy
and Guattari refer to social machines. There are virtual abstract machines that can be actualised in a variety of social assemblages. Deleuze and Guattari refer to ‘machinic assemblages’: concrete assemblages effectuate or actualise abstract machines and ‘[a]bstract machines operate within concrete assemblages’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 510). There remains a common purpose, however, behind the two terminologies of social Ideas and social machines: namely, to theorise social forms without reference to any kind of organic totality or any transcendent imposition of unity. In one sense Deleuze and Guattari do this in conscious opposition to Marx: ‘We define social formations by machinic processes and not by modes of production (these on the contrary depend on the processes)’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 435). But this reflects a transformation rather than a rejection of Marx. The concept of a social machine enables Deleuze and Guattari to rethink Marx’s concept of a mode of production in various ways. A machine is made up of fluid connections: it selects, connects and combines different elements, interrupting and arranging flows – flows of people, of wealth, beliefs, desire, and so on. The Deleuzian ‘machine’ is therefore more dynamic than either simply the Marxian ‘mode of production’ or the Althusserian ‘structure’: a machine is a process rather than a static combination of determined elements. The terminology of machines also allows Deleuze and Guattari to overcome certain traditional binaries. It identifies different elements and levels of analysis without depending on a simplistic base–superstructure model whereby one needs to dive beneath the surface to find the hidden, determining instance, the inner essence that drives the whole. As Jean-Jacques Lecercle has said of the concept of assemblage (as actualised machine): ‘It makes it possible to go beyond the separation between material infrastructure and ideal superstructure, by demonstrating the imbrication of the material and the ideal’ (Lecercle 2006: 200). Deleuze himself claims: ‘There is no base or superstructure in an assemblage’ (Deleuze and Parnet 2002: 71). Related to this deconstruction of the relation between a supposedly material base and a supposedly ideal superstructure is the machine’s imbrication of labour and desire: in a machine, there is no division between that which is objective, political and real and that which is subjective, libidinal and fantastic or ideological. This is, however, not a repudiation of Marx’s concept of the mode of production but rather a development of it: an attempt to push Marx in an even more materialist direction. Some commentators have argued that Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of machinic assemblages distances them from the Marxist tradition. This argument has perhaps been best articulated by Manuel DeLanda.
22 Simon Choat DeLanda must be considered one of the foremost commentators upon Deleuze – better, in fact, simply to call him Deleuzian than a commentator upon Deleuze, precisely because the value of his work lies in the fact that he does not merely comment on Deleuze but attempts to reconstruct Deleuze’s philosophy, not unlike the way in which Deleuze himself approaches other thinkers. But there is in DeLanda’s work a curious blind spot when it comes to Marx, or rather a strange hostility. Although DeLanda’s best work is a Deleuzian study of the philosophy of science (DeLanda 2002), he cannot be counted among those who obliterate Deleuze’s politics by ignoring it, for elsewhere he has offered lucid and thoughtful accounts of the implications of Deleuze’s work for social and political thought. Marx, however, is eliminated from these accounts: else occasionally explicitly condemned as the kind of anachronistic thinker Deleuze tried to escape from, but more often simply ignored. From Deleuze’s work on abstract machines and social assemblages DeLanda develops what he calls ‘assemblage theory’, the value of which he claims is that it can account for entities without having to suppose either that there is an organic totality whose parts are seamlessly fused together or that the whole is nothing more than the aggregate of its parts. In contrast to these flawed approaches, assemblage theory is ‘an approach in which every social entity is shown to emerge from the interactions among entities operating at a smaller scale’ (DeLanda 2006: 118). This does not mean simply recognising that societies are made up of relations between individuals. The problem with existing theories, DeLanda argues, is that they treat scale as absolute – so that, for instance, individual persons are considered ‘micro’ while whole societies are ‘macro’. In contrast, assemblage theory relativises scale: both individuals and societies have both micro- and macro-levels, depending on how you view them (DeLanda 2008: 166). Given this, to continue to talk of entities like ‘society as a whole’ or ‘the capitalist system’ is misguided or spurious, because it erases the very distinctions of scale that assemblage theory reveals: a society or the capitalist system are not wholes of which other entities are component parts, but can themselves be component parts (if considered in a global or even planetary context, for example). In his discussions of assemblage theory DeLanda largely passes over Marx’s work in silence, pausing only to accuse Marx (amongst others) of a ‘macro-reductionism’ within which only the social structure really exists, with individuals relegated to the status of epiphenomenonal effects of the social structure (DeLanda 2006: 5). If Deleuze and Guattari continue to talk of ‘capitalism’ then according to DeLanda this only
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy
attests to the fact that ‘the Marxist tradition was like their Oedipus the little territory they did not dare to challenge’ (DeLanda 2008: 174). This is a problematic argument, in at least two (related) ways. First, Deleuze’s dependence on Marx is far more than a residual terminological affiliation: as we have seen, in his own writings and those produced with Guattari, a critical engagement with Marx is an important part of the development of Deleuze’s (and Guattari’s) analyses of social forms. Second, Deleuze’s work itself demonstrates that we do not need to read Marx as a theorist who prioritises the social structure at the expense of its components: any society is an actualisation of virtual relations, and thus a dynamic solution to the problem of how to order relations of production rather than a static structure that determines and fixes the relations within it. A major problem with DeLanda’s presentation of ‘assemblage theory’ is his insistence on interpreting it in terms of scale. What Deleuze and Guattari call ‘micropolitics’ – that is, the central project of A Thousand Plateaus – has nothing to do with scale.7 They are unequivocal on this point: ‘the molar and the molecular are distinguished not by size, scale, or dimension but by the nature of the system of reference envisioned’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 217). Micropolitics therefore does not entail a rejection of a concept like ‘capitalist society’ for being too generalised or too large, unable to account for scale; it entails a different kind of analysis of capitalism. Micropolitics means analysing different kinds of line: molar lines of rigid segmentarity, molecular lines of supple segmentarity, and lines of flight (that which escapes and provides new connections and the possibility of change). A micropolitical analysis of capitalism is an analysis that recognises that capitalism is traversed by deterritorialising lines of flight – indeed that these lines of flight are its very conditions of operation: in order to function capitalism must necessarily release and encourage flows that may lead in unexpected directions which it cannot control (Deleuze 1997: 189). This insight is taken in large part from Marx’s analysis of capitalism as a mode of production that must constantly revolutionise the instruments and relations of production – and that hence, in Deleuzian language, is always creating new flows and lines of flight. Far from being predicated upon a rejection of Marx, the micropolitics of social assemblages is deeply indebted to his work.
IV. Conclusions Analysis of the place of Marx in Deleuze’s early works achieves a number of things. First and foremost, it validates and reinforces
24 Simon Choat Deleuze’s self-description as a Marxist. This aids understanding of his later work with Guattari. The point is not to attempt merely to reverse the orthodox view of the Deleuze–Guattari books, so that the Marxist politics therein becomes all Deleuze’s, to the neglect of Guattari’s contribution. Rather, by recognising that both Deleuze and Guattari were Marxists when they came to work with each other, we are better able to trace the lineage of their arguments and concepts: it is not only with reference to Deleuze’s broader conceptual innovations that we can sketch a line between his early and his later, collaborative work, but also with reference to his specific use of Marx. In addition to throwing new light on the joint works, recognition of Deleuze’s Marxism alters our understanding of his solo work, bringing out passages or insights that have been ignored. The image of Deleuze that arises from both Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition is not at all that of an apolitical elitist yet to show an interest in Marx, but of a politically committed thinker involved in contemporary debates within Marxism and making the first steps towards a reformulation of Marx’s ideas, unafraid to deal with him even though he was still associated with trends that Deleuze must have found repellent and that many of Deleuze’s contemporaries had abandoned Marx altogether. There has in recent years been an effort by some commentators to align Deleuze with a liberal-democratic, even Rawlsian, politics.8 This effort is not in itself illegitimate, and may even yield significant insights. Nor is it wholly incompatible with recognition of the important place of Marx in Deleuze’s work. But there is a risk that if Deleuze is aligned with the liberal tradition in this way – even if as a critical interlocutor – then what makes his work interesting in the first place may be smoothed away, to the extent even that Deleuze may effectively become depoliticised: assimilated into mainstream thought and practice and into an academic exercise in the history of thought, his work loses his political impact. It might be argued that, on the contrary, to align Deleuze too closely with Marx is to depoliticise him. There has, after all, been a long-standing accusation made against Marx that he is depoliticising, in that he supposedly effects an economistic reduction or effacement of the political. But Deleuze and Guattari know that this is not true: what they show throughout both volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia is that far from reducing the political to the economic, Marx demonstrates that it is capitalism itself that performs this reduction, as it functions directly through an axiomatic, without the need for political codes or beliefs. Simultaneously, they show that Marx politicises realms that had been previously thought to be apolitical: it
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy
is true that capitalism effaces politics by making political institutions, values, beliefs, practices, etc., secondary or even unnecessary – but this effacement of politics is itself a political manoeuvre: it is generated by economic forces that prior to Marx (in the work of the classical political economists) had been considered an apolitical realm of natural and spontaneous order, but which Marx reveals to be pervaded by political relations of power and domination. When they claim that it is Marx’s analysis of the encounter between the deterritorialised worker and decoded money that lies at ‘the heart of Capital’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 225), Deleuze and Guattari indicate the importance of Marx’s section on primitive accumulation. They do this not simply because this section counters determinist readings of Marx and demonstrates his recognition of capitalism’s contingent origins, but also because it is here above all that Marx politicises economics. For Marx as for Deleuze and Guattari, the recognition that the capitalist economy depoliticises must be based upon the simultaneous recognition that the capitalist economy is highly politicised. Furthermore, all this rests upon a politicisation of philosophy. Marx directs philosophy’s attention to the political struggles and forces that exist as an integral part of apparently apolitical domains, including that of philosophy itself: philosophy’s function after Marx is no longer to separate the true from the false but to analyse, interrogate and change the material conditions of its own emergence, challenging the existing order in the name of a new world. Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition, far from being apolitical, are in a similar way politically motivated by the need to challenge established values and create a new order. To recognise this is to begin to recognise Deleuze’s debt to Marx. A political Deleuze and a politicised Deleuzian philosophy are both possible and welcome – but we will get nowhere until we acknowledge the profundity and persistence of Deleuze’s Marxism.
Notes 1. See in particular the excellent studies found in Lecercle (2005), Read (2003) and Thoburn (2003). 2. I think that one way (among others) to distinguish between the well-known critiques of Deleuze by Badiou (2000) and Hallward (2006) is to say that whereas the former rejects the political implications of Deleuze’s work, the latter denies that Deleuze’s work has any real political relevance at all. 3. It is not my aim to offer a thorough critique of all of Žižek’s arguments concerning Deleuze (which are more interesting and sophisticated than many Deleuzians have acknowledged): I am interested only in Žižek’s claim that Deleuze is neither political nor Marxist.
26 Simon Choat 4. This point is well made by Paul Patton (2000: 132). 5. It should be said that the links between Deleuze and Hayek are more often alluded to than actually worked out: see Garo (2008a: 612) and Mengue (2003: 67). 6. Eugene Holland opens his informative account of the relation between Marx and Deleuze (and Guattari) in this way, arguing that the ‘first page of Deleuze’s most important philosophical work, Difference and Repetition, lays the groundwork for his analysis of capitalism’ (Holland 2009: 147). 7. For further criticism of this sort, see the review of DeLanda’s A New Philosophy of Society by Read (2008). 8. Patton is perhaps the leading figure here; see Patton (2005, 2007, 2008). See also Tampio (2009) and the review of Patton’s Deleuze and the Political by Smith (2003).
References Althusser, Louis (1972) Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx, trans. Ben Brewster, London: New Left Books. Althusser, Louis (2006) Philosophy of the Encounter: Later Writings, 1978–1987, eds Olivier Corpet and François Matheron, trans. G. M. Goshgarian, London: Verso. Althusser, Louis and Étienne Balibar (1970) Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster, London: New Left Books. Badiou, Alain (2000) Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, trans. Louise Burchill, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. DeLanda, Manuel (2002) Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, London: Continuum. DeLanda, Manuel (2006) A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity, London: Continuum. DeLanda, Manuel (2008) ‘Deleuze, Materialism and Politics’, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1983) Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, London: Athlone Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1995a) ‘Le “Je me souviens” de Gilles Deleuze’, Le Nouvel Observateur, 1619, pp. 50–1. Deleuze, Gilles (1995b) Negotiations 1972–1990, trans. Martin Joughin, New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1997) ‘Desire and Pleasure’, trans. Daniel W. Smith, in Arnold I. Davidson (ed.), Foucault and His Interlocutors, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 183–94. Deleuze, Gilles (2004a), Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953–1974, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taormina, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Deleuze, Gilles (2004b) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London: Continuum. Deleuze, Gilles (2006) Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Michael Taormina, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1977) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, New York: The Viking Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1988) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, London: Athlone Press.
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Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (2002) Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, London: Continuum. Garo, Isabelle (2008a) ‘Deleuze, Marx and Revolution: What it Means to “Remain Marxist” ’, in Jacques Bidet and Stathis Kouvelakis (eds), Critical Companion to Contemporary Marxism, Leiden: Brill, pp. 605–24. Garo, Isabelle (2008b) ‘Molecular Revolutions: The Paradox of Politics in the Work of Gilles Deleuze’, trans. John Marks, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds) Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 54–73. Guattari, Félix (2006) The Anti-Oedipus Papers, ed. Stéphane Naduad, trans. Kélina Gotman, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Hallward, Peter (2006) Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation, London: Verso. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri (2000) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Holland, Eugene (2009) ‘Karl Marx’, in Graham Jones and Jon Roffe (eds), Deleuze’s Philosophical Lineage, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 147–66. Lecercle, Jean-Jacques (2005) ‘Deleuze, Guattari and Marxism’, Historical Materialism, 13:3, pp. 35–55. Lecercle, Jean-Jacques (2006) A Marxist Philosophy of Language, trans. Gregory Elliott, Leiden: Brill. Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), trans. Martin Nicolaus, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Marx, Karl (1976) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Mengue, Philippe (2003) Deleuze et la question de la démocratie, Paris: L’Harmattan. Patton, Paul (2000) Deleuze and the Political, London: Routledge. Patton, Paul (2005) ‘Deleuze and Democratic Politics’, in Lars Tønder and Lasse Thomassen (eds), Radical Democracy: Politics Between Abundance and Lack, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 50–67. Patton, Paul (2007) ‘Utopian Political Philosophy: Deleuze and Rawls’, Deleuze Studies, 1:1, pp. 41–59. Patton, Paul (2008) ‘Becoming-Democratic’, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 178–95. Read, Jason (2003) The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the Present, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Read, Jason (2008) ‘The Full Body: Micro-Politics and Macro-Entities’, Deleuze Studies, 2:2, pp. 220–8. Smith, Daniel W. (2003) ‘Deleuze and the Liberal Tradition: Normativity, Freedom and Judgement’, Economy and Society, 32:2, pp. 299–324. Tampio, Nicholas (2009) ‘Assemblages and the Multitude: Deleuze, Hardt, Negri, and the Postmodern Left’, European Journal of Political Theory, 8:3, pp. 383–400. Thoburn, Nicholas (2003) Deleuze, Marx and Politics, London: Routledge. Žižek, Slavoj (2004) Organs Without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences, New York: Routledge.
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus
Abstract The meeting of Deleuze and Guattari in 1969 is generally used to explain how the former’s thought became politicised under the influence of the latter. This narrative, however useful it might be in explaining Deleuze’s move away from the domain of academic philosophy following the upheavals of May 1968, has had the effect of de-emphasising the conceptual development which occurred between Difference and Repetition and Anti-Oedipus. Worst of all, it has had the effect of reducing the role of Marx’s philosophy to the superficial level of political alibi, impoverishing our understanding of its importance with respect to the conceptual assemblage of Anti-Oedipus. This paper attempts to restore Marx’s relevance to Deleuze and Guattari’s project by understanding Anti-Oedipus through the Marxian categories of production, distribution, surplus-value and consumption, and argues for a conception of schizoanalysis which does not relegate the name of Marx to the garbage heap of poststructuralist intellectual strategy. Keywords: Marx, Anti-Oedipus, distribution, consumption, ideology
The story of the meeting of Deleuze and Guattari in the summer of ’69 has attained something of a mythological status. The reason for this is clear: Anti-Oedipus is one of the most important and controversial intellectual responses to the political tumult of May ‘68. The accepted version of the ‘origin myth’ suggests that Deleuze, the respectable professor, needed the sense of political urgency which Guattari offered, while Guattari, the lifelong activist, needed the theoretical grounding which Deleuze provided (Holland 1999: vii). While this characterisation is based on the authors’ own statements, and is obviously in some respects accurate, it has led to a certain picture, most luridly painted in recent times by Slavoj Žižek, of the radicalism of Anti-Oedipus as a purely strategic interjection whereby, in the climate of political
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reaction which followed May ’68, Deleuze cynically acquired a political alibi (Žižek 2004: 20–1). Such a strategic explanation of Deleuze and Guattari’s joint enterprise, moreover, has been used by Deleuzians partly as a way of explaining the change in tone between Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense on the one hand, and Anti-Oedipus on the other, and partly as a means to perceive Deleuze and Guattari’s relationship to Marxist theory as extrinsic.1 While the strategic explanation is no doubt a useful shorthand in accounting for Deleuze and Guattari’s fulminating style, it tends to impoverish our understanding, emphasising a paradigm shift in Deleuze’s thought at the cost of a sense of logical development and continuity. What’s more, Deleuze’s apparent shift from the history of philosophy to political theory has been interpreted by some critics as little more than a superficial retooling of an ultimately apolitical philosophy of difference.2 What I wish to argue here is that the transition from Difference and Repetition to Anti-Oedipus represents neither a dramatic change of terrain nor a post-conceptual politicisation. We should instead regard Anti-Oedipus as the necessary and logical development of concepts already active in Deleuze’s thought prior to his meeting with Guattari.3 In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze writes that ‘the name of Marx’ is enough to save his philosophy of difference, and particularly his rejection of Hegel, from being merely ‘the discourse of beautiful souls’ (Deleuze 1994: 207). What are we to make of this, especially when Marx appears only in passing in the pages of Difference and Repetition and only once, briefly, in Logic of Sense? I wish not only to argue that the critique of the philosophy of difference which Deleuze performs in these books is logically consistent with the Marxian theory of desiring-production presented in Anti-Oedipus but that this logical consistency needs to be grasped in order to understand fully the Marxism of the latter book. In the place of Hegel’s concepts of contradiction, opposition and alienation, Deleuze puts his processual theory of different/ciation which in Anti-Oedipus is termed desiringproduction. The concept of a surface upon which actualisation and counter-actualisation take place, and the objective illusion which attends this process, functions in Anti-Oedipus to account for the historical development of capital, the ideological ‘image’ of the real relations of production, the law of the tendency to a falling rate of profit and the displacement of capital’s immanent limit which secures the counteraction of this tendency. In short, the philosophy of difference and repetition, of actualisation and counter-actualisation, of surface and
30 Aidan Tynan depth, are given an explicitly Marxian expression in the pages of AntiOedipus and this in no way entails a crude politicisation of Deleuze’s thought. The commitment to Marx which Anti-Oedipus displays is at least as much a theoretical as a strategic commitment.
I. Productive Dissymmetry In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari use Marx’s concepts to give an account of the immanentisation of capital, the means by which capital’s interior limits become its principle of expansion. If a reconstruction of this account in Marx’s own terms is rarely done, this is due to the conviction that Marx is largely external to Deleuze’s thought. But such a reconstruction is vital in dispelling the pervasive misunderstanding that the theory of desire put forth in Anti-Oedipus is complicit with the postmodern stage of capital.4 If Marx’s chief contribution was to disengage capital from its concrete manifestations in order to perceive its laws, then desire, like capital, must be understood not in any sense as a ‘thing’ but as a process which goes through different phases in order to reproduce itself. If Deleuze and Guattari emphasise desiring-production, rather than a desiring subject or a desired object, it is because they want us to grasp this processual aspect as primary. Marx’s critique showed how bourgeois political economy begins at the level of exchange, distribution or consumption, whereas these are always secondary with respect to production. If political economy tends to uphold and justify capitalist exploitation, Marx argued, it is because it begins with the phenomenal or ideological form of capital as ‘concrete’ rather than with production as the ‘rational abstraction’ capable of explaining how the concrete became what it is (Marx 1973: 100–1). Similarly, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, psychoanalysis, beginning as it does with a concept of desire already installed in the subject–object form (desire as sexuality), tends to naturalise the repressive social structure constitutive of this form. Desiring-production, then, is Deleuze and Guattari’s rational abstraction and the desiring-machine the form of desire’s autoproduction.5 For Marx, the economic categories of exchange, distribution and consumption must be considered moments of the process of production even when these categories appear to exert a determining influence on that process. We might suppose for example that need is primary with regard to the products which satisfy it. Anyone with any experience of consumer culture, however, will quickly deny this, as the market clearly creates the ‘needs’ for whatever objects it believes consumers
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will be willing to purchase. This essentially cynical, consumerist insight corresponds to the economic principle of Say’s law which states that the supply of goods in the market creates the demand for them. At first glance, this appears to be in accord with Marx’s emphasis on the determining role of production. The production of ever more consumer goods appears necessary for the capitalist system to maintain stability and fend off crises caused by wars, shortages of raw materials and so on. All that is required for the market to regain stability is to create more commodities and stimulate more demand. Hence, although we might admit the primacy of production in the creation of commodities, it is consumption which has the true determining influence since it is the latter which governs the reproductive process. To assert the priority of production in the midst of mass consumerism and artificial needs might then seem hopelessly naïve.6 Marx was quite vociferous in his condemnation of Say’s law and its adherents (Marx 1973: 94; Harvey 1982: 76). The reason for this is simple: to say that supply creates its own demand – in other words that, given the right conditions, they cancel one another out – is to suppose that the market is essentially equilibrating and that disequilibrium always has some external source. Marx, however, argued that the crises which afflict capital are generated by capital itself, and this for the simple reason that capitalist production is founded on the unequal, antagonistic relationship between the worker, who owns nothing but his labour-power, and the capitalist, who owns the means of production. This fundamental inequality is what allows the capitalist to extort surplus-value and ‘realise’ it as profit through a system based on the general equivalent of money (the market). Exchange, distribution and consumption explain nothing in themselves because there is a necessary disjunction between the worker as producer and the worker as consumer (Hardt and Negri 2000: 222). In order to furnish the capitalist with profit, the worker must produce more than he consumes. The laws of equivalence which condition the wage-system (an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay) and the market (you get what you pay for) are derived and secondary with respect to this ‘productive dissymmetry’ (Deleuze 1994: 20). This last point is key to understanding the theory of desire put forth in Anti-Oedipus. For desire to produce, it requires machines (a form of autoproduction) and, to the extent that this link is the fundamental connective principle which governs all life, every machine is a desiringmachine. But this does not mean that every machine functions according to the same laws, or uses, by which it has been produced (Deleuze and
32 Aidan Tynan Guattari 2004: 314–16).7 The primary and direct link between desire and the machine should not lead us to believe that every desiringmachine is equally legitimate, or that production and machine are cognate terms. It is quite possible, for example, to desire fascism, but this does not mean that desire is essentially fascistic. Similarly, we are not revolutionaries simply because we desire. To say that a society consumes as much as it produces is to say ultimately that it produces only in order to consume. But Marx’s claim is that capital’s ultimate goal is to reproduce itself in ever greater magnitudes and to displace the limits, internal to it, which reproduction imposes. This, as many have pointed out, is the only way of accounting for the global dominance capitalism has attained. It is only on the ‘surface’ of capitalist society, that is, in ideological phenomena and the movements of the market, that production and consumption appear to cancel one another out. This illusion is maintained by commodity fetishism. In the first volume of Capital Marx examines this phenomenon closely. The ‘free’ worker, owning nothing but his labour-power, stands in an unequal relation to the capitalist – the relationship between worker and capitalist is only productive to the extent that it is unequal and relative.8 The capitalist can exchange the commodity thus produced for the equivalent of its value. Hence, Marx speaks of two entirely different forms of value: ‘the relative form and the equivalent form are two intimately connected, mutually dependent and inseparable elements of the expression of value; but, at the same time, are mutually exclusive, antagonistic extremes – i.e. poles of the same expression’ (Marx 1954: 55). In Marx’s expressive theory of value a commodity (a roll of linen or a coat) can be said to express x amount of another commodity. A coat can be expressed in x rolls of linen, a roll of linen in x number of coats, and so on. But changes in the conditions of production (increasing exploitation, technological development, etc.) cause this equation to fluctuate continually. Hence the disjunction between value, measured by production, and exchange value, measured by money. What this means is that value exists only in its expression as production and cannot be said to pre-exist it. We might be tempted here to object that labour-power is the form value takes prior to its realisation in commodities, however, Marx insists that labour-power is not value but what creates value (Marx 1954: 57). Productive capacity is the source of all value but is not itself a value. If the commodity fetish has a mystifying function, it is that it gives an equivalent expression to an unequal relationship. In this sense, the distinction between production and capital appears quantitative and
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus
calculable: the worker exchanges an amount of his labour for a set wage, the more he works, the more he earns. But underlying this is a qualitative distinction between labour-power as value-creating activity and the general equivalent through which value is expressed. The difference between production and capital is both quantitative and qualitative, which is what allows labour to be turned into a commodity and sold, and why Marx continually speaks in both equivalent/absolute and relative terms. Marx’s solution to the problem of the genesis of value was only possible by separating human labour-power in the abstract from its embodiment in both commodities and concrete forms of labour. The concept of simple abstract labour was derived by Marx from Smith and Ricardo, who posited the existence of a form of wealth on the side of the subject, prior to its embodiment in objects (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 280–1). The ‘liberation’ of labour-power from traditional social forms means that, unlike the serf, the slave or the bondsman, the free worker has to sell his labour-power in order to become a ‘factor’ of production. As a consequence of this, the worker himself is produced as an adjacent part, peripheral to the production process which his labour constitutes in concert with the means of production. This is what Marx means when he says the worker is literally ‘devalued’ by capital. But how was the free worker separated from the means of production in the first place and how is he continued to be separated from them? This brings us to the problem of ‘primitive accumulation’ and the disjunctive synthesis.9
II. Separation, Distribution and Disjunction Deleuze’s jettisoning of Hegelian categories appears to place his philosophy in a compromised position with respect to the ‘bloody contradictions’ out of which history is inevitably made. If difference is not given in terms of contradiction then the difference which Deleuze emphasises might seem to be somehow indifferent to materiality, austere and otherworldly. Supposing, as is generally done, that the inequality between production and capital is made known only through contradiction and opposition, does this not put Deleuze in league with the mystifications of capital itself? As Marx points out, the specific illusion to be dispelled is that capital rather than labour is productive: ‘[Capital] becomes a very mystic being since all of labour’s social productive forces appear to be due to capital, rather than labour as such, and seem to issue from the womb of capital itself’, while the market becomes ‘an enchanted, perverted, topsy-turvy world, in which Monsieur le Capital and Madam la Terre do their ghost-walking’ (Marx 1972: 827–30).
34 Aidan Tynan In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari stress that desire composes the material infrastructure as much as the cultural and ideological superstructure. In other words, desire is immediately constitutive of reality. If this is so, how can we account for a specifically political domain defined by desire, the transition from formal to real subsumption in the labour process, the increasing dominance of technical machines in social reproduction, and most importantly the mystification of the relations of production in social life?10 This relates to a larger debate within Marxism relating to the problem of political consciousness and the opposition of theory and practice. Marx invokes historical examples (chiefly the British land enclosures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) to explain the origins of ‘primitive accumulation’, the process by which the worker was separated from the means of production in order to render him ‘free’, the bearer of labour in its abstract form (Marx 1954: 669–70). But Marx de-emphasises historical subjectivity in order to lay bare the very laws of capital, which do not appear directly in experience and over which no one has direct control. This ambiguity in Marx’s thought concerning the merits of history and practice on the one hand and theory on the other has led to much intramural debate (as, for example, between E. P. Thompson and Perry Anderson in the 1970s). But for Deleuze and Guattari, primitive accumulation is neither solely historical (materialist) nor continuous (ideological), and, while they dispense with ideology as crude false consciousness, they do in fact give a very powerful account of the mystification of desire, its ‘capture’ in social reproduction.11 In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze states that ‘every phenomenon refers to an inequality by which it is conditioned’ (Deleuze 1994: 222). We can take this as one of the essential statements of Deleuze’s critique of the philosophy of difference. If empirical phenomena can be constituted as a set of differential relations between terms (Peter is taller than Paul, Paul is taller than John) then this has given rise to philosophies of difference (Aristotle, Leibniz and Hegel are Deleuze’s main examples) which emphasise negation over positive terms and derive difference from identity. Deleuze’s critique, however, not only charges that the primacy given to negation and identity stems from an illusion, but, and this is the crucial point, that the illusion is internal to difference itself (Deleuze 1994: 240). Difference generates its own illusory appearance – it generates, through its embodiment in concrete particulars, its own ‘inverted image’ or self-negation precisely because through its distribution in these particulars it is ‘cancelled’ in them. The concepts of opposition and contradiction are not the causes but only the effects of cancellation. The phenomenal world is ‘doubled’ by an
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intensive, noumenal one, but this double is asymmetrical with respect to the extensive particulars whose production it conditions. We might suppose from this that Deleuze’s philosophy is crudely dualistic (as some readings tend to argue12 ) but the dissymmetry pertaining between intensive and extensive is reducible to neither domain. To do justice to Deleuze’s philosophy, then, we must speak of three distinct elements: 1) a field of pure differentiation/intensity which qualifies the phenomenal field; 2) the phenomenal, differenciated field itself, where the laws of quantitative and qualitative determinations (contradiction, opposition, etc.) come into being and intensity is cancelled; 3) something which allows a communication, interaction and reciprocal determination between the two but is reducible to neither one. In other words, between intensity and extensity there is the all important factor of distribution. Distribution here plays for Deleuze the role of what, for other philosophers, would be epistemology. We can only know difference in its cancellation in empirical things but, and precisely because of this fact, we can think difference as that which conditions phenomena. Similarly, the distribution of difference in phenomena causes the empirical to be mistaken for what conditions it. The cancellation of difference in phenomena ‘[measures] the time of an equalisation’, and in this way ‘the principle of physical causality finds . . . its categorical physical determination’ (Deleuze 1994: 223). The cancellation of difference appears at one with irreversible physical causality, so that we take the cancellation of difference for difference itself. If the cancellation of difference in the empirical experience of quantity and quality takes on the character of irreversible physical causality (an ‘apparent objective movement’ as Deleuze and Guattari call it), then intensity allows us to grasp this movement from the perspective of difference in itself: ‘intensity defines an objective sense for a series of irreversible states which pass, like an “arrow of time”, from more to less differenciated, from a productive to a reduced difference, and ultimately to a cancelled difference’ (Deleuze 1994: 223, emphasis mine). The apparent objective movement by which the producer is steadily impoverished through ‘distribution’ of the product has an ‘objective sense’ defined by the intensive states which qualify this distribution. If we are to find a concept of ideology in Deleuze, we should seek it here in the concepts of sense and distribution: Good sense is the partial truth in so far as this is joined to the feeling of the absolute. . . . But how is the feeling of the absolute attached to the partial truth? Good sense essentially distributes or repartitions: ‘on the one hand’ and
36 Aidan Tynan ‘on the other hand’ are the characteristic formulae of its false profundity or platitude. . . . Good sense is the ideology of the middle classes who recognise themselves in equality as an abstract product. . . . [F]or example, the good sense of eighteenth century political economy which saw in the commercial classes the natural compensation for extremes, and in the prosperity of commerce the mechanical process of the equalisation of portions. (Deleuze 1994: 224–5)
The distribution which good sense effects repartitions (separates) and equalises in a compensatory manner according to the logic of the part and the whole, the part which belongs to the whole and the whole which lacks the part. In opposition to this, however, there is a completely other distribution which must be called nomadic, a nomad nomos, without property, enclosure or measure. Here, there is no longer a division of that which is distributed but rather a division among those who distribute themselves in an open space – a space which is unlimited, or at least without precise limits. Nothing pertains or belongs to any person, but all persons are arrayed here and there in such a manner as to cover the largest possible space. (Deleuze 1994: 36)
The discourse of Anti-Oedipus is organised around these two distinct forms of distribution. The molar corresponds to ‘mass phenomena’ and ‘the laws of large numbers’ while the molecular is described as ‘micropsychic’ and ‘micrological’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 311–16). What needs to be remembered is that these are types of distribution and not differences in scale. We must avoid at all costs interpreting Deleuze and Guattari’s position here as a sort of ‘cult of the small’. The crux of the matter is that, while all production corresponds to molecular laws, which are schematised as the three syntheses of desire, when it comes to reproduction these syntheses can become subject to ‘illegitimate uses’ corresponding to the molar distribution. This is how Deleuze and Guattari account for the ‘apparent objective movement’ which allows ‘a fetishistic, perverted, bewitched world’ to come into being as a requirement of ‘social reproduction’ (Deleuze and Guattari: 2004: 12). We must also note that this process through which the real source of production (labour) is mistaken for something dependent on it (capital, the earth, the despot) is, for Deleuze and Guattari, a characteristic of all societies to the extent that all societies reproduce themselves. Desire, then, in its revolutionary mode, produces without reproducing, and so is antithetical to any kind of social organisation, whatever its character.
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus
Anti-Oedipus is concerned with understanding the role of capital with respect to this tension between production and reproduction, and specifically how capital, unlike other modes of production, draws on desire directly in order to secure its reproduction. Capital releases a form of desire, described by psychoanalysis as libido, freed from any social or organic ties, an eminently flexible form of energy which can be channelled into any imaginable activity. This is how we should account for the bizarre array of desiring-machines in the opening passages of Anti-Oedipus. But ‘free’ desire, like ‘free’ labour, is something of a misnomer: in order to function, it needs some kind of ‘surface’ on which its effects are registered, recorded, stored-up, that is, distributed. This is why Deleuze and Guattari need the concept of the body without organs. The latter is what orchestrates desire, it is a surface on which the desiring-machines can become productive. Capital, then, forms the body without organs of capitalist society. But what really interests Deleuze and Guattari is the discovery of different kinds of bodies without organs in the pathological states of schizophrenia, in which the functioning and distribution of the machines follow the laws of production, not the laws of the reproduction of capital. While these pathological states are in no way desirable in themselves, they provide a heuristic for the revolutionary imagination. If a society which reproduces in the same way it produces is literally impossible according to the criteria of the syntheses of desire this is suggested by the fact that, at the heart of desire, there is an antiproductive element which tends to resist the desiring-machines. The body without organs emerges not only as something which allows the machines to operate but also as a means to resist them (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 9). Every investment of desire in an organ or a machine is a source of pain and anxiety, much in the same way that the investment of money in a large piece of constant capital, such as a manufacturing plant, is a cause of great concern for the capitalist. An organ, like a factory, is not in itself productive but only becomes so through investments of desire. This is why the body without organs forms a disjunctive surface which attracts the desiring-machines but also repulses them. Without this attraction–repulsion, no machine would ever work: ‘The genesis of the machine lies precisely here: in the opposition of the process of production of the desiring-machines and the nonproductive stasis of the body without organs’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 10). It is only by being constituted in opposition to any sort of organisation of desire, social or organic, that the body without organs is capable, in a seeming paradox, of performing a regulating or distributive role with respect to the machines.
38 Aidan Tynan When the machines and the body without organs become opposed in this way (a functional opposition) the latter falls back on (se rabat sur) desiring-production, attracts it, and appropriates it for its own. The organ-machines now cling to the body without organs . . . An attraction-machine now takes the place, or may take the place, of a repulsionmachine . . . The body without organs, the unproductive, the unconsumable, serves as a surface for the recording of the entire process of production of desire, so that desiring-machines seem to emanate from it in the apparent objective movement that establishes a relationship between the machines and the body without organs. (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 12)
This whole process, in which the desiring-machines are attracted and repelled, explains the phenomenon of primitive accumulation, the separation of desire from its productive organs, and the transition to the properly ‘ideological’ stage when desire labours under the repression which both keeps it apart from its final satisfaction and constantly stimulates it into new investments and counter-investments. Capital, and the relations between money and commodities that it establishes in its opposition to production, draws on desire directly in order to meet the needs of capitalist reproduction. If Deleuze and Guattari condemn the discourse of Freud it is because psychoanalysis never (with rare exceptions such as Wilhelm Reich) points up this complicity. In the Oedipus complex, the molecular (or pre-personal) way in which desire is produced (the id) is related to the molar (or personal) object forms: the father and the mother. By insisting on this molar distribution in the processes of psychic repression which constitute Oedipal sexuality, psychoanalysis argues that the desiring subject is produced as a function of these objects, as what is missing to and what is lacking them, whence the triangle of ‘daddy-mummy-me’. The paternal law separates the child from the body of the mother, through its prohibition, then grants access under certain conditions (the molar distribution) which re-constitute desire as a function of the law. Whence the topsy-turvy, perverted and bewitched world. It is vital to note here that desire is never duped into its complicity with authority, it simply continues to desire under conditions alien to its laws of production. Desire cannot be deceived because it is immediately constitutive and so has nothing to be deceived about. But this does not rule out something which performs the ideological function of ‘capturing’ desire. This is why Deleuze and Guattari insist that ‘the essential thing is the establishment of an enchanted recording or inscribing surface that arrogates to itself all the productive forces and all the organs
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of production, and that acts as a quasi cause by communicating the apparent movement (the fetish) to them’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 13). The body without organs, then, plays the role of an ideological surface, what Marx calls the ‘surface of society’. The laws which determine the production of desire are not the same as the laws which determine the distribution of desire on this surface: ‘when the productive connections pass from machines to the body without organs (as from labor to capital), it would seem that they then come under another law that expresses a distribution in relation to the nonproductive element as a “natural or divine presupposition” (the disjunctions of capital)’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 13). The ‘real’ cause refers to the ‘inter-molecular modifications’ of the desiring-machines, while the distribution of the machines on the surface presents a ‘fictive’ quasi-cause whereby the real cause is displaced in the apparent movement of separation/disjunction (Deleuze 2004: 108–9). This ‘double causality’ is the only thing capable of constituting the social world of desire and its capture. It is in the space opened by the two causalities that we find the domain of sense, the distribution and inscription of effects, or the ideological domain as such.13 Primitive accumulation, in which production is shorn from its products, is never accomplished once and for all but persists as a necessary part of the process; it is a necessary double movement which at once transforms the social means of production into capital and the producers into wage-labourers. The historical development of capital is dependent on this double movement which brings into being a disjunction between abstract ‘production in general’ shorn from the means of production, but also a conjunction, in which the two meet again but this time under conditions set by the capital relation. Once formulated in this way, we can understand Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of the dynamic of accumulation constitutive of the specific power of the capitalist axiomatic as a disciplinary force.
III. Surplus-Value of Code, Surplus-Value of Flux In chapter four of Theories of Surplus-Value, Marx writes: Productive labour, in its meaning for capitalist production, is wage-labour which, exchanged against the variable part of capital (the part of the capital that is spent on wages), reproduces not only this part of the capital (or the value of its own labour-power), but in addition produces surplus-value for the capitalist. It is only thereby that commodity or money is transformed into capital, is produced as capital. Only that wage-labour is productive which produces capital. (This is the same as saying that it reproduces on an enlarged
40 Aidan Tynan scale the sum of value expended on it, or that it gives in return more labour than it receives in the form of wages. Consequently, only that labour-power is productive which produces a value greater than its own.) (www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/ ch04.htm)
Capital, in order to reproduce, must reproduce at an expanded rate because it only produces to the extent that it produces a surplus. Conversely, the way the worker produces is not the same as how he reproduces, or consumes in order to reproduce his labour-power, because the disjunctive surface of capital excludes the greater part of his product. Here we have the fundamental Marxist proposition regarding surplus-value, prior to its breakdown into profit, interest, rent, costs of circulation and so on. Under capitalism, products are not produced for their immediate use-value, they are kept in a reserve in order to be sold at a later date. For this reason, Marx saw clearly that the sphere of exchange, of values, is constituted as a function of a superabundance on the side of products, which itself presupposes the appropriation of labour above and beyond that required for the production of immediate use-values (Marx 1973: 456–9). Although Marx insists that surplusvalue is unique to the capitalist mode of production, he does suggest that a form of accumulation in the capitalist manner is a naturally occurring and universal phenomenon: No production [is] possible without an instrument of production, even if this instrument is only the hand. No production without stored-up, past labour, even if it is only the facility gathered together and concentrated in the hand of the savage by repeated practice. Capital is, among other things, also an instrument of production, also objectified, past labour. Therefore capital is a general, eternal relation of nature. (Marx 1973: 86)
What Deleuze and Guattari call ‘surplus value of code’ is the means by which primitive economies regulate society through direct inscriptions (‘scarifications’) on the body which block any movement towards decoding. The emergence of capital, on the contrary, marks the transition to a society regulated by a surplus-value of flux, the latter being a ‘conjunction’ of two kinds of decoded flows: a flow of workers without any ties and a form of general equivalent capable of buying and selling anything at all, including labour-power (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 290). The regulative principle of capitalist society, then, corresponds not to coding but to this interior limit between the mutually exclusive decoded/ing flows. This limit is regulative precisely because it both attracts and repels the organs of capital.
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Capital is constantly deterritorialising, finding new, exotic markets and innovative practices of decoding at its periphery, but as part of the same movement it must reterritorialise, rediscovering within its centre zones of archaism and lack which check this expansion. Without subjects ready and willing to occupy, to live, this interior limit, capitalism itself would not be possible since it would be unable to legitimate its periods of crisis. Capitalism, then, must constitute a subjectivity based on hostility towards codes, but it must also produce subjects unwilling to follow decoding all the way beyond the social relations which condition the production of the decoded flows themselves. The psychoanalytic subject discovers ‘desire in the abstract’, a free floating desire (libido) which, however, is only free to the extent that it is tied to a social order that denies it satisfaction (prohibition of incest). Capitalist society constitutes the limit between production in general (desire) and production for the sake of capital (work) as its own interior, uncrossable limit (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 333). The libidinal objects of the parental fantasy are ‘discovered’ only to the extent that they are rediscovered outside the family as symbolic substitutes (the cop, the priest, the nation). Deleuze and Guattari characterise the disciplinary power of capital entirely within the terms of this ‘double movement’, or axiomatic, the conjunction/disjunction of the two mutually exclusive flows: In Das Capital Marx analyzes the true reason for the double movement: on the one hand, capitalism can proceed only by continually developing the subjective essence of abstract wealth or production for the sake of production, that is, ‘production as an end in itself, the absolute development of the social productivity of labor’; but on the other hand and at the same time, it can do so only in the framework of its own limited purpose, as a determinate mode of production, ‘production of capital,’ ‘the self-expansion of existing capital.’ Under the first aspect capitalism is continually surpassing its own limits, always deterritorializing further, ‘displaying a cosmopolitan, universal energy which overthrows every restriction and bond’; but under the second, strictly complementary, aspect, capitalism is continually confronting limits and barriers that are interior and immanent to itself, and that, precisely because they are immanent, let themselves be overcome only provided they are reproduced on a wider scale (always more reterritorialization – local, world-wide, planetary). (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 281)
The necessarily expanded reproduction of capital cannot be separated from a form of subjectivity which seeks to surpass its immanent limits (the unconscious) only by displacing them, redrawing them at a further remove – hence the psychoanalytic drama of Oedipus, in which the
42 Aidan Tynan subject overcomes the familial figures only by rediscovering them in the social and political domains. The Marxian theory of money, then, is of particular interest to Deleuze and Guattari because it relates specifically to the production of ‘axiomatised subjects’ (Thoburn 2003: 97). The two decoded flows, the flow of workers and the flow of money capable of buying their labour-power are characterised as a differential (a difference between two differences). Money as a result appears in two forms, a flow of wages which goes into the pockets of the workers (what Marx called variable capital), and a flow of profits which the capitalist takes and reinvests in the means of production in order to extract more surplus-value from his workers (what Marx called constant capital). In establishing a common measure money effects the cancellation of the intensive difference, which qualifies the two flows: Let us return to the dualism of money, to the two boards, the two inscriptions, the one going into the account of the wage earner, the other into the balance sheet of the enterprise. Measuring the two orders of magnitude in terms of the same analytical unit is a pure fiction, a cosmic swindle, as if one were to measure intergalactic or intra-atomic distances in meters and centimeters. There is no common measure between the value of the enterprises and that of the labor capacity of wage earners. (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 250)
Capital is not defined by a homogeneous flow, but by two mutually exclusive flows which act as checks on one another: a flow of payment and a flow of financing, a flow of tangible assets and a flow of credit, a market flow and a flow of technological innovation (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 407). For this reason, Marx’s theory of money is conceived on the one hand as a measure, or store, of value, and on the other as a medium of exchange, facilitating the circulation of capital (Harvey 1982: 251). The great ‘cosmic swindle’ which the social authority of capital performs is to conflate these two aspects of money, to displace the limit which separates them, and to mystify this in commodity-fetishism and exchange (Marx 1970: 87–9). Deleuze and Guattari are insistent on a Marxian theory of money which gives adequate importance not only to the general equivalent but ‘to banking practice, to financial operations, and to the specific circulation of credit money’ since it is in the opposition of the two kinds of money (payment and finance) that difference is cancelled and surplusvalue realised (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 250). This explains why they are hostile to Freud’s account which emphasises the role of the general equivalent in psychic life. According to Freud, the libidinal structure
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which accounts for the significance of money is primarily anal-erotic rather than phallic. Hence, the famous equation ‘money = shit’ which Deleuze and Guattari so vehemently deride (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 31). The phallus, being the standard or the unit of measure (gold), refers to excrement as the medium of exchange value, the general equivalent (credit-money). As Jean-Joseph Goux writes: Supplementary (superfluous) elements are what govern the circulation of substitutes. The surplus is excluded to act as measure of the replacements. In general, whatever the register, the universal exchange value is linked to excess. In the election of gold as in that of the phallus, the surplus is charged with measuring the deficit in transactions involving value – whether in a positive form (as surplus of wealth in gold or surplus of vitality in the phallus) or in a negative, archaic form (as excrement, matter that is excluded and expelled). (Goux 1990: 31, my emphasis)
Surplus brings into being a lack or exclusion (something withheld in a reserve) which functions as a principle of calculation (or cancellation)14 and allows a separate flow to be set up as the medium of exchange. A ‘detatched complete object’ is excluded or excepted, only to return as the totality which the parts lack; the parts lack what is in excess of them. The function of the State is to establish an infinite debt capable of appropriating and absorbing everything and this, precisely, is what establishes money as the general equivalent (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 214–15). The despotic or Asiatic formation does not eradicate the primitive codes and their finite debts; it overcodes them by relating them all to a single, transcendent ‘higher unity’, rather than each other. The despotic mode of production brings into being two flows, a flow of credit (debt) and a flow of payment (tribute), crucial to the development of capital. In this sense, capitalism does not replace feudalism. Rather, feudalism becomes capitalism by being monarchised, democratised, etc., over a long historical period (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 242). Capitalism lacks a ‘body’ of its own on which it could inscribe its codes precisely because it is hostile to coding and this is why it finds an archaic body on which to reterritorialise. Capitalism does not replace feudalism, but rather maintains elements of feudal authority, exercised no longer from a point of transcendence but immanently, through capital itself. The limit between attraction and repulsion is the regulatory principle of all desire. This limit is universal, not only to all societies but to nature. In phenomena of co-evolution, such as the orchid and the wasp, two elements double and are thus in excess of one another, but also attract one another as what each lacks. In primitive society, similarly, the
44 Aidan Tynan limits which regulate behaviours such as incest are coded and thus the limit remains purely virtual (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 270). Capitalist society is distinct from every other because its limits are constantly being brought into reality as something lived, and, indeed, this occupation of the social limit is precisely how capitalist society can dispense with codes. The limit which constitutes capital is experienced in different realms as the limit between payment and credit, production and capital, variable and constant capital, but also as that between desire and work. Money, in so far as it functions as a means of social regulation, concretises this limit, makes it a lived reality. The zones of lack and archaism which capital hollows out in the midst of abundance and innovation serve as graphic examples of this.
IV. Realisation, Consumption and Counter-actualisation The realisation of the surplus-value immanent in commodities is necessary for the maintenance of social authority since realisation, and not production, is what governs the distribution of desiring-machines: ‘Furnishing or realizing surplus value is what establishes recording rights’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 12). Social authority is dependent on the ability to realise surplus-value and thus crises of realisation are part and parcel of capitalist reproduction. If capital cannot accommodate itself to the expansion of products and markets which its reproduction necessitates, it will enter a period of crisis; surplus-value will be produced but will not be realised as profit. All crises are crises of realisation in this sense. ‘The entire mass of commodities . . . must be sold. If this is not done, or done only in part, or only at prices below the prices of production, the labourer has been indeed exploited, but his exploitation is not realised as such for the capitalist’ (Marx 1972: 244). The barriers to realisation were known to the political economy of Marx’s day but were explained, for example by Ricardo’s theory of rent, by factors external to capital. It was Marx who discovered that the barriers to realisation arose out of the antagonism, internal to capital, between the conditions under which surplus-value is extracted and those under which it is realised as profit. Similarly, we can say that Deleuze and Guattari were the first to discover the disjunction between the productive conditions of desire and the ideological conditions of its consumption. What David Harvey calls the ‘structural problems of realization’ can be read, then, following Anti-Oedipus, as the problem of how capital manages to displace its interior limits, encountering them as something external but constantly redrawn at a further remove (Harvey 1982: 87).
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Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis proposes that capital fabricates a psychic interiority which places these limits inside the subject itself, forcing the subject to occupy them libidinally as psychic repression, as the trauma of the family romance, as dream and fantasy, as psychotherapy and hospitalisation (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 338). The fundamental argument of Anti-Oedipus is that capital’s limit, while being perfectly real and concrete, produced as it is by desire, is populated with the fantasy figures of an archaic authority, mommy and daddy, as a condition of desire’s realisation. For this reason, we need to think in terms of three elements in the ideological process: ‘the repressing representation which performs the repression; the repressed representative, on which the repression actually comes to bear; the displaced represented, which gives a falsified apparent image that is meant to trap desire’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 125). Desiringproduction, as distinct from social (re)production, always occurs at the limit of society, but the synthesis of conjunction is deemed illegitimate when it derives what lies beyond the limit from the limit itself. In the Oedipal drama, the subject’s desire is constituted as a function of the paternal proscription from which the desired object, the mother, is derived. The social limit is thereby lived, but only as dream, fantasy and the representations of the subject. This is precisely how ‘unconscious material’ is fabricated through the synthesis of conjunction (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 345). The problem from the point of view of the capitalist is precisely that the consumption powers of the worker are constantly being undermined by capital itself through the impoverishment of workers. The capitalist deprives the worker of the greater part of his product, not in order to consume directly but to sell at a profit. But the proletariat, precisely because of their exploitation, are incapable of buying all the commodities they produce, and so capital must constantly find new means of disposing of its reserve, discovering new markets (whence imperialism, but also the psychoanalyst’s consulting room) for realisation. Capitalism, then, brings into being models of realisation which do not necessarily involve consumption, and which may be explicitly ascetic. As Deleuze and Guattari write: Marx has clearly demonstrated the importance of the problem: the ever widening circle of capitalism is completed, while reproducing its immanent limits on an ever larger scale, only if the surplus value is not merely produced or extorted, but absorbed or realized. If the capitalist is not defined in terms of enjoyment, the reason is not merely that his aim is the ‘production for production’s sake’ that generates surplus value, it also includes the realization
46 Aidan Tynan of this surplus value: an unrealized surplus value of flux is as if not produced, and becomes embodied in unemployment and stagnation. (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 255)
As a result, capital includes as part of its vast productive process a moment of antiproduction, something which prevents immediate consumption. Indeed, capital can be defined as the unity of production and antiproduction, since what intervenes in order to separate the producers from the product (the State, its police and its army) likewise function to prevent consumptions, even on the part of capitalists, which do not serve the interests of capital. There must be something to prevent unfettered technological advancement, a flow of stupidity to counter the flow of knowledge; there must be an asceticism to counter the flow of excess, and an archaism to counter the tendency towards absolute deterritorialisation. Capital produces far more than it can accommodate, and so must bring its vast resources of repression to bear on whatever escapes realisation. This conceptualisation represents a recurring theme in the history of Marxism. Rosa Luxemburg in her Accumulation of Capital famously proposed that militarism and imperialism provide the vital markets in which surplus-value is absorbed or realised. Sweezy and Baran, in their landmark book Monopoly Capitalism, suggest that the problem of absorption becomes ever more pressing when capital enters its late, or monopoly, phase where price fixing and centralisation become the norm. The problem, however, must be related back to what Marx, in volume three of Capital, considered the central law of capitalist accumulation, the so-called law of the tendency to a falling rate of profit. As Marx explains: proceeding from the nature of the capitalist mode of production, it is . . . a logical necessity that in its development the general average rate of surplusvalue must express itself in a falling general rate of profit. Since the mass of the employed living labour is continually on the decline as compared to the mass of materialised labour set in motion by it, i.e., to the productively consumed means of production, it follows that the portion of living labour, unpaid and congealed in surplus-value, must also be continually on the decrease compared to the amount of value represented by the invested total capital. Since the ratio of the mass of surplus-value to the value of the invested total capital forms the rate of profit, this rate must constantly fall. (Marx 1972: 213)
What this means is that even if the rate of surplus-value grows, this can only be expressed in an ever decreasing rate of profit. Marx schematises
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this as follows: if a capitalist employs 100 workers for one week and pays out £100 in wages (variable capital) in order to produce £200 worth of total product, then the rate of surplus-value is 100%. But if we suppose that the same capitalist spends £50 on constant capital (machinery, raw materials) the rate of profit will be expressed as 66 2/3%, if he spends £100 on constant capital it will be 50%, and so on (Marx 1972: 211). Increasing technological development entails a relative decrease in the amount of labour and an increase in productivity, leading to a general glut of products and an increasingly impoverished proletariat incapable of purchasing them. As a result, even if the absolute rate of profit goes up, the rate of profit relative to total capital (constant and variable) decreases (Marx 1972: 220). A number of influences counteracting the falling tendency have been noted by Marx and others writing after him. All of these influences, whether they involve the depression of wages or the channelling of money into bureaucracies such as civil government and social welfare, into military spending and public works, are ways of devaluing, depreciating or destroying capital.15 Deleuze and Guattari reinterpret this from the unique perspective afforded by schizoanalysis. The schizophrenic is produced in the same way as any other commodity but with the vital difference that the schizo is not saleable; the desire of the schizophrenic is produced by capitalism but is unrealisable in it, whence the repressive forces of psychiatry, anti-psychotic drugs and the asylum, all of which are means capital finds to counteract the unprecedented liberation of desire it precipitated (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 266). The neurotic, on the other hand, is perfectly realisable, and neurotic illness has provided capital with a whole new set of markets (therapy, anti-depressants, and so on). It is for this reason that Deleuze and Guattari condemn the practice of psychoanalysis as ‘a gigantic enterprise of absorption of surplus value’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 260). Psychoanalysis, in other words, contributes to the diffusion of antiproduction, that bourgeois asceticism on which realisation depends, in that consumption in the realm of fantasy is no consumption at all. Realisation, then, is opposed both to production and consumption proper. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze distinguishes the virtual from the possible, arguing that while the possible is realised, the virtual is actualised: ‘The possible is opposed to the real; the process undergone by the possible is therefore a “realisation”. By contrast, the virtual is not opposed to the real; it possesses a full reality by itself. The process it undergoes is that of actualisation’ (Deleuze 1994: 211). The social limit, which the schizo occupies, is in no way realisable (its realisation is its
48 Aidan Tynan displacement) but is actualisable. To the extent, then, that actualisation is opposed to realisation, we can argue that every actualisation is already a counter-actualisation to the extent that the latter de-realises a corresponding realisation. This, in fact, is in accordance with Marx’s own conception of the influences which counteract the falling rate of profit, since these influences are literally destructive of capital. Counteractualisation, then, must be seen as part of capital’s self-destruction, since it signifies the production of something unrealisable in the heart of capital itself. As long as the falling tendency and its counteraction are regulatory, this secures the immanentisation of capital. Legitimate consumption, on the other hand, would be a deregulating counteractualisation, a displacement of the limit common to both desiring and social production, not the displacement of one into the other. If realisation involves the calculation, or cancellation, of difference, then legitimate consumption always involves something incalculable and unrealised, a remainder: ‘the conjunctive synthesis . . . implies a veritable migration of the remainder or residue’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 359). The schizo then, like the worker, receives a ‘share of the product’, of ‘what is left after each division’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 17). But, unlike wages, which serve to reproduce labour-power, this share remains unrealised. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze describes the process as follows: ‘God makes the world by calculating, but his calculations never work out exactly [juste], and this inexactitude or injustice in the result, this irreducible inequality, forms the condition of the world. . . . [I]f the calculation were exact, there would be no world. The world can be regarded as a “remainder”‘ (Deleuze 1994: 222, emphasis mine). These remainders can be found migrating everywhere on the body without organs of capital as what capital cannot consume, and from these remainders we make our own bodies without organs.16
V. Conclusion Anti-Oedipus gives us a coherent and compelling account of how capital constitutes ‘a whole field of immanence that is reproduced on an always larger scale, that is continually multiplying its axioms to suit its needs, that is filled with images and with images of images, through which desire is determined to desire its own repression’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 407). Deleuze and Guattari exhort us to think this process of immanentisation in terms of three different planes of the body without organs of capital. First, there is the plane of the unequal productive relationship between worker and capitalist, or desire and machine. This
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is the differential in the unequal relationship between the owner of labour capacity and the owner of the means of production constitutive of surplus-value. Second, there is the plane of disjunction or recording on which the two incommensurable forms of money, the flow of wages and purchasing power on the one hand, and the flow of finance and credit on other, come into being to constitute the interior limit of capital. This is the limit that capital is constantly displacing through the cancellation of the difference constitutive of the productive relationship. Third, there is the unity of production and antiproduction which capital needs as a condition of realisation. The great forces of repression (the State, its police and its army) are joined to the permissiveness of the market. The permissive structure is the repressive structure (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 291). Whence, the dualism of capital, which on the one hand produces for the sake of production, but on the other produces strictly for the sake of the capitalist social formation. The ideological function which psychoanalysis performs is the displacement of the absolute limit, which is the exterior limit of all societies, into the relative limit (capitalist reproduction) through a repressing false image of this externality derived from the interior limit of capital and fabricated in the unconscious to be invested and consumed.
Notes 1. ‘The question of their relation to marxism is one that is only posed from outside the theoretical work of Foucault and Deleuze; within it, the question of marxism does not arise. At the level of intellectual strategy, it is the positivity of this approach that must be underscored. These authors deploy elements of marxist theory in the process of elaborating something else, a different form of intelligibility of social reality’ (Patton 1988: 126). In a similar vein, Isabelle Garo argues that the appeal to Marx was a convenient way of opposing the wave of reactionary sentiment which followed May ’68 but was never internal to Deleuze’s thought (Garo 2008: 65–7). Manuel DeLanda, meanwhile, avers that ‘the Marxist tradition was like [Deleuze and Guattari’s] Oedipus, the little territory they did not dare to challenge’ (Delanda 2008: 174). Patton, Garo and Delanda’s comments, although divergent in tone, amount to the same thing: that Marx figures in Deleuze’s thought as a sign of bad conscience. 2. See for example Hallward (2006: 162). 3. It is not at all my intention here to write Guattari’s influence out of the story, but rather to emphasise that his influence must not be taken to be a crude politicisation of Deleuze. This much is a prerequisite to understanding Guattari’s true influence which, however, is a matter that lies beyond the scope of this paper. 4. Boltanski and Chiapello associate the triumph of neo-liberalism in the 1980s and 1990s with Deleuze’s critique: ‘Much better in effect, from the standpoint of unlimited accumulation, that the question be suppressed, that people convince themselves that everything can no longer be anything but a simulacrum, that
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6. 7. 8.
10. 11. 12. 13.
“true” authenticity is henceforth excluded from the world, or that the aspiration to the “authentic” is only an illusion’ (quoted in Callinicos 2003: 11). ‘Like Marx, contra Hegel, [Deleuze and Guattari] attempt to set things right by making a new beginning, a new type of beginning in fact, one which, as in Marx, starts with a “rational abstraction”, namely production in general (as process). Desire as process, as production, is as much of a corrective as Marx’s general production is’ (Buchanan 2000: 21). On the importance of distinguishing between desiring-production and desiring-machine, see Buchanan (2008: 49–50). This is the criticism of Anti-Oedipus Baudrillard makes in The Mirror of Production. Deleuze and Guattari employ the terms ‘laws’ and ‘uses’ interchangeably. Whether illegitimate or legitimate uses are at stake, these refer to the same syntheses (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 127). In Theories of Surplus Value Marx writes: ‘Productivity in the capitalist sense is based on relative productivity – that the worker not only replaces an old value, but creates a new one; that he materialises more labourtime in his product than is materialised in the product that keeps him in existence as a worker’ (www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theoriessurplus-value/ch04.htm). The history of the debate over the meaning of primitive accumulation goes back to Lenin’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia, which argued that primitive accumulation was a one-off historical occurrence characterising the transition from the corvée to capitalism. Rosa Luxemburg’s famous argument in The Accumulation of Capital was that capital necessarily expands into a world system in order to find pre-capitalist markets, and hence primitive accumulation is a continuous and necessary feature of capitalist reproduction. The latter thesis has been instrumental in the conception of postmodern capital as imperialist by Hardt and Negri and Samir Amin, among others. This is Badiou’s critique of Deleuze’s political theory, see Thoburn (2003: 5). Thoburn argues that, since capital is ‘amoral’, Deleuze does not need a concept of ideology. Thoburn, however, understands ideology purely as ‘belief system’ and not, as Marx does, as part of a system of distribution (Thoburn 2003: 94). For a recent example of this type of dualistic reading, see Reynolds (2007). As Brian Massumi writes, ‘The power of the quasi-cause is essentially distributive’, www.anu.edu.au/HRC/first_ and_ last/works/realer.htm). For the Marx and Engels of The German Ideology, the role of distribution is central to the historical development of the division of labour and the ideology of the State: With the division of labour . . . is given simultaneously the distribution, and indeed the unequal distribution, both quantitative and qualitative, of labour and its products, hence property: the nucleus, the first form, of which lies in the family, where wife and children are the slaves of the husband. . . . This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.
This ‘objective power above us’ is precisely what gives rise to the State, which re-constitutes an ‘illusory communal life’ from ‘real ties’ (Marx 2000: 184–5). 14. Surplus-value only becomes calculable through its realisation as profit. Realisation of surplus-value and cancellation of difference then are to be understood as cognate terms in the discourse of Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 251). 15. See Harvey (1982: 84–5) for a discussion of these terms.
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus
16. Finance, for example, while representing a flow which facilitates realisation through banking power (credit money constitutes purchasing power), cannot itself be realised (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 249; see also Deleuze 2006: 12).
References Baran, Paul Alexander and Paul Marlor Sweezy (1968) Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Baudrillard, Jean (1975) The Mirror of Production, trans. Mark Poster, St. Louis: Telos Press. Buchanan, Ian (2000) Deleuzism: A Metacommentary, Durham: Duke University. Buchanan, Ian (2008) Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: A Reader’s Guide, London: Continuum. Callinicos, Alex (2003) An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto, Cambridge: Polity. DeLanda, Manuel (2008) ‘Deleuze, Materialism and Politics’, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 160–77. Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London: Athlone. Deleuze, Gilles (2004) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark Lester with Mark Stivale, London: Continuum. Deleuze, Gilles (2006) Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995, trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina, New York: Semiotext(e). Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (2004) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, London: Continuum. Garo, Isabelle (2008) ‘Molecular Revolutions: The Paradox of Politics in the Work of Gilles Deleuze’, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 54–73. Goux, Jean-Joseph (1990) Symbolic Economies: After Freud and Marx, trans. Jennifer Curtiss Gage, New York: Cornell University. Hallward, Peter (2006) Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation, London: Verso. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri (2000) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Harvey, David (1982) The Limits to Capital, Oxford: Blackwell. Holland, Eugene W. (1999) Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis, London: Routledge. Mandel, Ernest (1966) ‘Surplus Capital and Realization of Surplus Value’, www.marxists.org/archive/mandel/1966/10/surplus.htm Marx, Karl (1954) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1, ed. Friedrich Engels, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Marx, Karl (1970) A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Maurice Dobb, trans. S.W. Ryazanskaya, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Marx, Karl (1972) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 3, ed. Friedrich Engels, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicolaus, Middlesex: Penguin. Marx, Karl (2000) Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Massumi, Brian (1987) ‘Realer than Real: The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari’, www.anu.edu.au/HRC/first_ and_ last/works/realer.htm
52 Aidan Tynan Patton, Paul (1988) ‘Marxism and Beyond: Strategies of Reterritorialization’, in Carly Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (eds), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, pp. 123–37. Reynolds, Jack (2007) ‘Wounds and Scars: Deleuze on the Time and Ethics of the Event’, Deleuze Studies, 1:2, pp. 144–66. Thoburn, Nicholas (2003) Deleuze, Marx and Politics, London and New York: Routledge. Žižek, Slavoj (2004) Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences, New York and London: Routledge.
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx
Université Lille III
Translated by Daniel Richter
Abstract Deleuze reworks Marxist concepts in order to identify those that represent discontinuity and produce a theory of revolution. Marx is important because, along with Spinoza and Nietzsche, he is a part of a project to leave behind concepts such as transcendence and univocity which underlie the totalitarianism of traditional philosophy. Deleuze is looking for concepts that might form a different theory, within which the structures of production are not organised vertically by the domination of universal concepts, such as ‘being’ or ‘essence’, but flow horizontally through a multiplicity of relations of conceptual singularity. The production of a different series of concepts is a strategic and tactical operation that, in confronting prior notions of transcendental philosophy, turns philosophy itself into a battlefield. Marx provides the general methodology for this tactical approach through two fundamental categories: production and conflict. Deleuze practises Marx’s theoretical method and by using Marx’s own central concepts challenges traditional Marxism, to arrive at a totally different and revolutionary philosophical structure based on concepts such as those of force, variation, difference, singularity, production and the war machine. Keywords: Conflict, production, forces, linking, battlefield, substance, immanence, transformation Marx is at our side. That is to say, to reconstruct a thought worthy of a possible revolution means to cross the threshold of Marx. He has always been thought of as the eldest brother who, representing the beginning of a lineage, assigned and distributed roles and positions within a family tree. Half-father and half-mother, Marx was the reference necessary
54 Aldo Pardi and sufficient to recognize oneself, to define oneself in relation to an identity. Marx was at the same time a space of thought and a field of activation, the precursor who had already accomplished in advance all the events brought about in his name. He was the first projection of the origin, the necessary process of history, and the identity of the motor which pushed it onward. Each event related to Marxism was, and presented itself as, the accomplishment of a potential which history had until then kept hidden within its folds. Marx therefore himself contained that potential, as an iconographic image of the general form of thought. But what thought? What thought did Marx incarnate? The lineage that the Marxist tradition always wished to attain in making of Marx the first son of a revolution already present and given in its ideational terms: consumption as necessary passage, but so determined, between production and appropriation, and the motor which powered the two moments which accomplished each other. The first was called ‘natural dialectic of need and consumption’, or ‘nature’. The other was denominated ‘subjectivity’. Nature is a dialectic process that circulates inside of a network of organic functions organised inside of a superior system, the corporeal organism. Production appears as an exterior application of its biological articulations, in their turn the formation of one sole model. This model remains the accomplished figure of the natural character of the organism and does not ideally guide its manifestations. The continuity that links function to satisfaction is guaranteed by need. Need is the a priori form which gives to function its structure, the direction for its undertakings, the sense of each cogwheel which constitutes its mechanism. Need is the carving tool that gives to the thing the image of a function, in rendering consumption a continual labour of recuperation and incorporation. It is the motor which pushes function beyond itself. It discovers itself in the mirror where the body will coincide with the body of nature. The natural organism is nature itself in the expression of its accomplished totality, form actualised by the resolution already foreseen in its cracks. Nature is not a substrate, a ‘hyle’, to speak like Husserl, but is the sole content, the ontological horizon that presides over the existence of every phenomenon. Nature projects itself forward from itself. As positional signifier and thetic signified, it is ‘Subject’. It devotes itself to the centring of the circuits which find their necessity in the form they accomplish. Each of them is a variant of the logic of identity which reshuffles nature upon its body. Its homogeneity affirms itself through the centrifugal movement of extrusion that activates it. Its contents are nothing other than itself,
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 55 a manifestation which never strays from its origin, for it recalls nothing other than the character which it already was. Nature is the principle of reason that governs all processes by unifying them. Its projections are the figures it assumes in expressing itself. Nature is the invisible and the visible, a source which springs forth everywhere. This originary core remains forever in its properties, and cannot surpass them because it has already brought them back to the interior of its intentionalities. Nature expresses itself in making of existents the signs of a supreme signifier which engraves the marks of one sole meaning. Objects reduce themselves to being the transcendental return of a general principle. There are processes of subjective totalisation everywhere. Once we suppose the existence of a function related to a body, we also admit the presence of its specular double, the thing, and their originary unity. At this point, it gives itself a subjective projection. Needs are always natural needs, even originary intentionalities, of the transcendental substance of the principle. What differentiates the manifestations of nature is not their content, but their gradient of formalisation. We will find givens which are still embryonic, simple inferior moments of the dialectic which activates the passage towards a superior manifestation. We will be able to trace an entire hierarchy of passage which makes the inorganic fall away onto the organic, and from there to superior living forms, to spill eventually into the human, with its capacity for manipulation and management, and its linguistic potential which is a sign of its proximity to the principle. Having attained the human, we installed ourselves at the level of the totality. Human reason is only the enacted position of transcendental contents which qualify the thetic constitution of nature. Man is the adequate expression of its lines of totalisation. Man is nature as given to itself, life as it is exploding forth, the transcendence of reason which makes itself flesh. The body of man, his flesh, represents his intentional projection, which envelops beings, and his totalisation thanks to signifying links which intertwine. Man exercises his needs and works in order to consume: his productive activity is the identity of meaning and signification. For man, what happens in other natural entities is not valuable in itself. The different manifestations of the human are not reference points of a complete signifying expression. Man and signifier are one. He is the model which serves as criterion for other living and non-living elements (for they are also the superior stage envisaged by the non-organic). Man is the universal which is in the midst of living. His existence is totalisation because man synthesises in himself the identity between functions and things, and distributes them all along signifying chains. Functions and things do not indicate the collocation of
56 Aldo Pardi the signifying chains in the pyramidal organisations which thought, and even language, have at their summit. In man the organism and the thing complete each other in a perfect identity, assured by consumption. Consumption is the link which makes of any thing a human object: the other dimension, the other face, the second aspect, reversed, of the breaking forth of the life of man in a completely human world. Consumption demonstrates that beings are only pieces of the enlarged universe of humanised nature, that is to say, of complementary modules of a milieu which does not exist if not as a human signifier. They are managed and distributed according to the order of signification which emerges from its projections, declinations of a universal principle which proffers itself in its acts. Once man has been mentioned, we are directly addressing society. The totalisation of nature in the human anticipates a definition of man as a general collectivity, a global horizon of human characteristics and their intentional contents, an extensive milieu which invests the entire space of existence. Society is the human in its totalisation. It holds in all its partitions the same adequation between thetic signifier, signification and meaning. Once again, it is the circuit of consumption that takes on the value of logical sequence which strings together the active tension of social subjectivity with all the forms which constitute the lines of sense. The process of assuaging that fashions beings in the blast furnaces of human expression causes the piercing cry of totalitarian reason to resound. Each being is the song which glorifies its perfection; each thing is a sign which indicates it; all movements are signals which indicate it, the rays of one sun which recall its source, light. In nature, only the interior exists. The form and actualisation of this absolute interior is consumption. The subject is a total subject, constituting inasmuch as it is capable of appropriation. Man realises his materialisation at the level of transcendent principle because he is by definition the being who has needs and thus speaks and works. He satisfies his needs as it is given that his acts are the universal origin which totalises itself as society. He comes a priori from a general social milieu that represents rational value. We can thus say that a thought of the individual as such is impossible. Every time an attempt was made to reconstruct humanity from man in shared milieus by glances met from far away, it was discovered, at times with horror, that the human was a concept which has society as its form. However, what is more important is that this human society is regulated, which is to say managed, in one way or another. The universal rationality which displays the essence of the human spreads its manifestations about according to an order.
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 57 Society, which does not represent acts, finds in itself the logic that allows production to attain its ends. Society is always rational, even in its dysfunctions. It moves in forced conduct which forcibly drags the signifier to meaning. Human society is a transparent collectivity that governs its manifestations while containing within itself the identity between actions and significations. This is the heritage that Marxist thinkers, among others, wished to claim. Need/production and subject/society is the grid that realised the circulation of the ontological principle in its forms, and the schema which gave an accomplished definition of the transcendental coordinates of the existent. Marxism was the conception which could bring thought to its goal by ending the problem of history. It went beyond the limits of bourgeois thought which, stuck in its divisions and dichotomies, did not succeed in holding the four together, as the wooden legs of a theory of universal history, adequate to its object. But again, what thought? And why was history a problem for thought? Once again these questions remained open, but unasked. In fact, they were the same which invested the famous ‘adversarial’ field. If this thought was essential to the philosophy of Marx, its ends were not to be distinguished from those of other philosophies. Surely it was a step forward in relation to them. However, the categories, the theoretical structures and the conclusions inhabited the same terrain. The grid of history targeted by Marxism also marked non-Marxist thought. The circularity that linked need, production and thing, and the historical process of subjectification which one could pull from them, were the points of departure of all the theories which made of the position of a transcendental form the fundamental task of a possible ontology. We can construct the passages of this strategy of conquest, this imperial campaign of thought directed by exceptional strategic intelligences. We could start with the Platonic partition of the four genres of knowledge, which found the asymmetrical equilibrium of all that is by organising it into a hierarchy between matter and idea. We could continue with Aristotle, who made of the accomplishing of souls, through their productive activation, the articulation of a universal substance having the same quality of realness. We can follow that with Augustine, who understood that time was the movement of totalisation which allowed need to jump beyond the finite and establish itself directly in the universal principle that spreads out everywhere in order to take hold of every thing. We can see how Hobbes made scissions produced by needs, i.e. the drives, in order to fold history onto the linear dynamic which appeases them in a principle that was henceforth socialised, which
58 Aldo Pardi finds in its social form the very foundation of its transcendence. We can cite Descartes and his operation of negation of the existence of need, which was necessary in order to subjugate it to the ideal equation that regulates the correspondence between the absolute nature of subjective projections and their transcendent dimension. But the man who accomplishes this long search through the centuries is Hegel. Hegel realised the project of rendering the spread of needs in contingence, the realisation of their transcendence, by unifying it in one sole and unique movement of totalisation. It is the principle itself that is affirmed in the scissions of the finite, for they are only the unifying and necessary journey which assures complete extension. Beyond its movement there is no existence. Everything begins from nothing: the nothing of reality which exists at the exterior of the universality of the constituting foundation. It is already its beyond, projected, in any of its parts, to the celebration of its completion. It imposes itself by making of the negativity of the contingent a linear process of which each moment is a sign of its manifestation. It is in its end, as intrinsic goal of its absolute existence. It is absolute spirit, a transcendent principle which arranges the real according to its effusion. There is no longer in Hegel a distance between contingence and foundation. Absolute spirit is at the same time contingence and subsistence. Hegel’s operation is unheard of: all beings are organised into a hierarchy and forced to submit to the interior of a system of domination which enlists them into its regiments. It is not limited to assigning them forcibly an order of position, that is, a determined value proportional to the portion of totality which it incarnates. It also imposes upon them their form, their possibilities, their behaviours, and thus, their goals. All objects are the intentions of one sole source of activation. Absolute spirit is subject, possessor of its spiritual body: the dialectic of opposites, the negation of negation, expresses its activation. History is its property, and is controlled by it. It is an extraordinary, dominating power, and it is no coincidence that its definitive affirmation happens with the State. To attack Hegel is to go in the opposite direction of the pestle of the totalitarian thought of transcendence. Deleuze understood this well: ‘What is philosophically incarnated in Hegel is the enterprise to “burden” life, to overwhelm it with every burden, to reconcile life with the State and religion, to inscribe death in life – the monstrous enterprise to submit life to negativity, the enterprise of resentment and unhappy consciousness’ (Deleuze 2004b: 144). The State, as separated but immanent mechanism, is the scaffolding which harnesses all of reality’s movement. Need, labour and
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 59 consumption are the movement accomplished by the State to assimilate reality. They are, under the name of ‘civil society’, the properties incorporated by this total conscience which presents itself in the form of order and organised human society into a hierarchy as totalising expression of an apparatus which is in itself totalised (and thus collective), thetic, and constituting. In other words, its primacy is explained by its nature as absolute reason, originary and universal conscience which imposes its norm. Its power affirms its supreme law and its infinite power of control. Is it possible to embark upon another project, in another direction? Was it possible to search for a different route? Was it a hopeless enterprise to push through the history of domination in order to arrive at a path of liberation? Was it possible to wrench theory away from its ostensibly natural task of affirming in the sign the power which makes of every layer of reality the object of a tremendous domination? The problem was that of manoeuvring oneself as an alternative force through thought. One had to make war against the power which forced signs into submission, in order to join with experiences of emancipation which struggled against the actual form of domination, i.e. capitalism. Besides, Hegel, the steel point of occidental philosophy, had been responsible for making of history the living presence of the transcendent principle, in order to transform the government of the bourgeoisie into the completed reality of absolute reason under the State form. It was necessary to free oneself from the problems which led to the imposition of a government founded upon transcendence. To embark upon the path to liberation meant to draw theory out of the dialectic game which rendered nature the concretisation of the subject, and the subject the proper name of nature. One had to put on the map an ‘other’ project, to make of thought an escape, instead of a place of integration. The tactic and the strategy of this ‘at the limit’ experience should have been twofold: 1) the desegregation of transcendence and the idea of the negative, which sustained it; 2) the affirmation of a scission, which would enable extrication from the process of totalisation. It is in this direction that Deleuze engages philosophy. From the beginning of his theoretical work, he embarks upon a lateral movement, traversing philosophy diagonally in search of faults capable of opening out upon the possibility of liberation. It is a veritable combat strategy against the normalising conceptions of transcendence and domination.1 Of course, it was not an explicitly declared struggle, the sort that provides a small pleasure which comforts narcissistically with selfrecognition in what are only self-aggrandising good deeds. It was not a
60 Aldo Pardi question of small transgressive reassurances which give the impression of omnipotence. In Deleuze, there is none of this sort of hidden complicity with the ideas he fought against. He did not seek self-affirmation through attention-seeking gimmicks, similar to many philosophers who remain attached, in a sort of eternal adolescence, to the idealisation of daddy-theories from which they believe themselves emancipated while remaining all the more dependent. Deleuze constructed piece by piece his theoretical strike forces with the concentrated silence of the artisan who is one with the labour he is accomplishing. And like a true artisan completely immersed in the process of creation which is not himself, because it is only a movement of fashioning that comes from the outside and renders him an anonymous field of transformation, Deleuze cultivated the silent calm which gives speech, one could say humbly, to the piecing together of a work which springs up like a collective construction, and never becomes the auto-referential din of a paranoiac individual haunted by himself. What he practised was a revolutionary action of a theoretic gesture towards escape. In positioning himself in order to perceive experiences of rupture that produced new regimes of signs in the arts and in literature, he allowed himself to be contaminated in order to render thought a part of a constellation of forces, and no longer the solitary birth of a sage, of a ‘philosopher’, but the collective construction of all the dissociations which constitute the pluralist fields of alternatives to domination. Thought must reconstitute itself as a network of an apparatus of productive extrication. It should not return to a social base superimposed upon its second manifestations, it must in itself socialise itself. It must become an institution: We are forced back on the idea that intelligence is something more social than individual, and that intelligence finds in the social its intermediate milieu, the third term that makes intelligence possible. What does the social mean with respect to tendencies? It means integrating circumstances into a system of anticipation, and internal factors into a system that regulates their appearance, thus replacing the species. This is indeed the case with the institution. It is night because we sleep; we eat because it is lunchtime. There are no social tendencies, but only those social means to satisfy tendencies, means which are original because they are social. (Deleuze 2004b: 21)
We must practise theory as a curve that tears the law away from power, assemble an entirely new toolbox that can bend thought and provoke in it radical scissions. In this sense Deleuze disperses the traditional concepts, in particular those of ‘nature’ and ‘subject’, while
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 61 traversing practices of thought which made of movement and change precarious equilibria, always problematised by the social components which engendered them, or their field of production. Deleuze works on Hume (Deleuze 2001a), Bergson (Deleuze 2001b) and Kant (Deleuze 1984). In Hume, he takes up again the idea of nature composed of sensible processes, a transferential collation which forms a socialised imaginary. This phantasm is on the one hand a partial mechanism of management of sensible stimulations, and on the other a schema of regulation of practices which activate it. Hume’s problem is to emphasise the juridical rather than ontological nature of natural associations, partial applications of processes of the management of complex systems of partial practices of regulation. Bergson is the philosopher who first proposed the theme of change at the heart of a possible ontology. After Bergson, reality is only visible if one considers it from the point of view of time which passes by while changing its connotations. This passing does not accomplish a given present, i.e. the return of a stasis which reaffirms itself each time. It is the past which presents itself as an already passed instant. Reality is the leap forward which is always overtaken by a leap which overtakes itself. It carries along with it all beings by projecting them far from their constituted form, a transformation which has already happened, and in spite of this, is in the process of realising itself again. Life is loss and forgetting, for it is evolution which creates through detachment and difference: The Bergsonian question is therefore not: why something rather than nothing, but: why this rather than something else? Why this tension of duration? Why this speed rather than another? Why this proportion? And why will a perception evoke a given memory, or pick up certain frequencies rather than others? In other words, being is difference and not the immovable or the undifferentiated, nor is it contradiction, which is merely false movement. Being is the difference itself of the thing, what Bergson often calls the nuance. (Deleuze 2004b: 25)
Kant revolutionises the theory of knowledge by producing a double movement of scission. On the one hand, he blocks the relation between thought and the immediately given sensible; on the other, he breaks apart the universality without individuation of ideas founding traditional metaphysics (God, soul and world), empty representations of a being without positive manifestation. The faculties, and in particular the faculty of knowing, support intuitive dynamics which intertwine with ideas strung together by functional relations, qualified by their proper
62 Aldo Pardi content. Their general character does not escape the indetermination of their form, but is their result, rather than the necessary effects of figures taken by the two coordinates which are closer to any experience whatsoever: space and time. They preside over the movements of coupling that reunite the sensible elements into series, arranging them in ordered relations where each spatial point connects to the next according to the parabola traced by the instants of time. Since space and time are the principles of constitution of the objective syntheses, they come before and after each real manifestation. They contain within them all sensible elements, since these latter are only their phenomena, partial moments, a posteriori, of a network of normal relations a priori which reconnect the extension of all existence. Space and time are the universal forms which govern the consistence of reality in terms of conceivable subsistence. It is the reason of proximity that discharges an infinite complex of points in a dynamic which assigns them form and function, returning them to the norm that brings them together. They remain above things, principles of an ideal constitution that selects the phenomenal modalities of the presentation of beings. A concept, an existing given, finds its objective dimension in the regulated constellations which unite it with elements composed by a law which transcends them all. Space and time are thus the transcendental principles of a normalising activity which informs experience. They manage to fill the totality of what exists by affirming the norm posed by their twistings and turnings in such a way as to represent presence enacting the universal. They must remain detached from empirical reality.2 They compartmentalise inside of a specific and general physical equation an infinite number of sensible impressions, whose concrete character is assured by their collocation in the spatiotemporal relations. They cannot be confused with an individual given, an empty content-less box incapable of finding its qualification. They surround the complex evolutions which dig through existence from one end to the other while forcing them to become the points of application of a disciplinary power which surpasses them as proper variations. The Kantian universe is an infinite outpouring of equation where space is arranged in relation to unities of time. The collocation of objects in space is a function of temporal diagrams which do not regulate their relations. It is thus time which commands, and it is time which divides the idea, or the active expression of the law, from the sensible reality it incorporates into norms. However, the scission which separates forever the concept from the individual matter subsists while imposing obstructions. They prevent each position of existence that works to found the universal in the immediate apprehension of a universal given
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 63 without passing through the categorical grid which gives its ‘normal’ quality to the object. Reason falls into its amphibologies when it wishes to attain the infinite in one stroke. This is the defeat of any metaphysic that would like to assign itself the value of a first ontology. The general norm that governs the existent establishes itself by seizing the dynamic of constitution which, in surpassing the particular, attaches it back infinitely to its global application. The law is a categorical content sprung from a general stratification of synthetic mechanisms of regulation. This is why space and time are always ideal factors, and the activity of transcendental constitution of real series is a production of concepts in the form of singular indices, despite being plural, of formal discontinuities. From this it follows that judgements are a priori active intuitions of an activity of knowledge which is the mirror of an ideal plane that ceaselessly develops.3 Deleuze does not approach these authors in order to assign them a perfunctory interpretation. He does not unearth their ‘veritable’ spirit in order to offer it forward to the reader in the form of a lifeless review. His reading is already engaged in a theoretical project which is the affirmation of a political position inside of theory. He crosses paths with philosophers according to the requirements of his own travels, pushed by strange meetings which emerge from a foreign collocation inside of philosophy. His experience of thought does not take off vertically, from a base to a summit, but moves horizontally while it encircles, through scission, a plane of conceptual construction where each thesis is at the same time a rupture, an overlapping and an aggregate.4 In describing these hyperboles, theory is separated from its spiritual ghost to offer itself up to shapings provoked by cracks which trouble the identity of its concepts. Philosophy is no longer the lightning flash that reveals the essence, but the practice of difference which resides in the theatre of relations between elements which intertwine. We must leave behind us the grid of totalisation, hollowed out by the dialectic binary nature–subjectivity, of which Plato defined the assumptions and which Hegel brought to its conclusion with his idea of the ‘negative’. Deleuze begins to produce thought in difference, exploiting the power of liberation it contains: It is as though Difference were evil and already negative, so that it could produce affirmation only by expiation – that is, by assuming at once both the weight of that which is denied and negation itself. Always the same old malediction which resounds from the heights of the principle of identity: alone will be saved not that which is simply represented, but the infinite representation (the concept) which conserves all the negative finally to deliver
64 Aldo Pardi difference up to the identical. Of all the senses of Aufheben, none is more important than that of “raise up”. There is indeed a dialectical circle, but this infinite circle has everywhere only a single centre; it retains within itself all the other circles, all the other momentary centres. The reprises or repetitions of the dialectic express only the conservation of the whole, all the forms and all the moments, in a gigantic Memory. (Deleuze 2008: 65)
According to this method, one touches on philosophies in order to locate the necessary gears of an engine which does not realise itself from total notions. It must act as a sort of drill which pierces a hole in the domination of transcendence and its hierarchies. Deleuze addresses himself to theories which made of difference the centre of their questioning, to theses which took speculative knowledge as the point of departure of a practice of putting into question, and not as its solution. This is how Deleuze meets Hume, Kant and Bergson, from the angle of the crises which they provoked in thought. It was said that these were arbitrary operations of interpretation, at the very limit of thought, and this is true: they deliberately abandon the fact that Hume finds his equilibria in the dependence of institutions upon sympathy, that Bergson submits change even more to transcendence in making of time a life force (un élan) towards a personal absolute being which accomplishes unheard-of creations, and that Kant twists the ontological superiority of the general idea into the immanence of space and time in order to inject it directly into the particularity of the sensible. But Deleuze was well aware of this, to the point that these conceptions are used by him to strike the foundations of ontology, and to invade its field itself through the place where it seemed the most secure: the grid which orders reality in the specular game between ‘nature’ and ‘subject’. They were only bridgeheads which served to break the defences of theories of transcendence and begin to ravage them: ‘Precisely, by virtue of those criteria of staging or collage we just discussed, it seems admissible to extract from a philosophy considered conservative as a whole those singularities which are not really singularities: that is what I did for Bergsonism and its image of life, its image of liberty or mental illness’ (Deleuze 2004b: 144). In order to reach a position, we first must decompose the lines of the adversary. This action had to be accomplished by detaching the domain of signs from the problem of the position of reference. One intervened in signification by breaking, with the hammer of paradox, the closed triangulation which connected designation, manifestation and even signification itself, henceforth dispersed in the proliferations of
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 65 propositions which produce uninterrupted series of predications, points of crossing of plural lines of sense. The first was the task of Proust and Signs (Deleuze 2000), the second the undertaking of The Logic of Sense (Deleuze 2004a). But this is still not enough. The decomposition of transcendence could succeed in a real upheaval of the philosophical field only in attaching to the decomposition of the centred structure conceptual totalisations of apparatuses capable, in the same moment, of affirming a new arsenal of concepts: no longer valuable transcendent ideas such as origins and ends in a closed circuit of biunivocal and polar designation, but zones of contact, connectors, pressure points, of detachment and connection; practical exercises of uncoupling and grouping in which pluralities of elements divide in a conflicting field, the horizontal plane of serial organisation realised by scission. Deleuze accomplished this task before and beside his search for an escape from thought dominated by ressentiment. He begins by positioning himself to listen to the affirmative practice of Nietzsche’s thought. He gives Nietzsche the density of the sensible in placing him in the positivity of conflicting contacts which related singular elements to each other: this is the theme of Nietzsche and Philosophy (Deleuze 2002), Deleuze’s second book.5 The quality of these components is not defined negatively, in relation to an essential nature given in advance. They are dissolved and recomposed in the reversals of asymmetrical engagements, effects of their meetings. This quality is discovered via evaluation, that is to say by a line of division which regroups forces among themselves by splitting them away from the others, themselves grouped in plural and singular constellations. This cut which welds complex and articulated bodies is what Nietzsche will call ‘will’. Thus, the content of partial segments is defined by orientation and position in a striated space of conflict. These divisions criss-cross the formations, abandoning them to conflictual games which harm every attempt at identitary formation. The shocks’ blows repeat tirelessly, similar to a throw of the dice which falls back into the same modality without ever producing the definitive combination. The detaching of constellations prevents there from being an interruption of the division which the objects of a group remove in order to unite them to another. Things enter into a combat which distributes them into infinite series of scissions, a laboured earth in which they are affirmed by movements of conflictual disintegration and differential formation. They are forces, sensible bodies that traverse the terrain opened up by their tactics of combat. This terrain, a veritable desert, does not know time, because it is the eternal return of an infinite
66 Aldo Pardi plurality of effects, a sliced up surface that transforms itself and becomes in relation to figures created by the scissions. ‘To think’ is no longer anything to do with an essential glance, with reflection which looks down upon existence while judging it according to its principles; it is action, strategic practice, a politics of construction of conceptual bodies. This relational activation is affirmative inasmuch as it does not refer to anything. The dynamic of forces poses their content and their signification. It expresses the political tasks which produce their movements. Their becoming is necessary inasmuch as it has no other reference than the changes effectuated by their counterblows. The necessity which Nietzsche is talking about is the recognition, always situated, of a strategic chessboard which draws out a political cartography. Thought is a topological art, a geographic designation of places where bodies hit against each other and divide up the earth into distinct domains.6 A force can never become universal. It is the fruit of a plural complexion, engendered by determined encounters of singular elements.7 A body is always situated by relations to a field of manoeuvres where other forces already assumed places. If a body is composed, it is by seizing hold of elements which are parts of complexes present on the terrain. If an aggregate is taken apart, it is because it was swallowed up by an apparatus capable of incorporating it in its own process of aggregation. It is this strategic chessboard which splits up bodies between dominating and dominated. The dominating forces are those which succeed in becoming by attaching composites to their body. They are thus active aggregations. The dominated forces are subjected to a process of fragmentation, second form of activation, and submit to the dominating forces. This difference separates the forces qualitatively. It traces the equation which distinguishes them as different natures: the differential relation which defines their activation potential. It does not follow that the quality of forces is a question of quantity: the more bodies realise anchorages, the more their power of formation grows, the more the forces become affirmative. The concept of the ‘will to power’ expresses the practical action which posits a domination that criss-crosses the genealogy of asymmetrical relations that realise the singular constellations of bodies. Force–domination: these are the first categories of a new image of thought. They dislocate it inopportunely, a never-finished world made of impersonal individuations or of pre-individual singularities.8 And nevertheless, it would not be possible to guide it back into this
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 67 practical dimension where the vitality of conflicts erupts without another theoretical operation. This intervention must block the framing of the existent in the unconditioned supremacy of a transcendent essence. The figures of the ‘negative’ subdivide beings in proportion to their proximity to the last principle, all the while furthering them from the being which, always beyond them, remains frozen in a single point of concentration. The effacement of the negative must pass through a definitive prohibition of all possible ontology. We must construct concepts which do not possess any ontological value, and begin to act theoretically in another sense, on this earth, irreducible to any unity, worked upon by the political effects of encounters between sensible bodies. To do that means to relinquish the thread of mutual recallings that allowed the universal and the singular (which is, besides, its negative image) to take hold of the entire space of theory, forcing it to mechanically repeat the same act: the analogical judgement which forced all beings onto the One and the Same. We interrupt the vertically moving vicious circuit that makes of objects simple variants of a general biunivocal relation, equalising them on a plane without exteriority, the transcendental condition of immanence which only admits singular variations. Spinoza’s concept of ‘substance’ and his theory of power give to difference the force to assail all constituting ontology (Deleuze 1992). There is only one plane, the egalitarian dimension where the eminence and ideal consistence of transcendent contents are reduced to formal variations. Apparently, each being lays claim to an essence. We must admit a plurality of eminent entities which found all the levels of existence. But how can we discover the difference of ontological constitution among these beings? How will the absolute nature of being not be touched by the presence of these other ‘minor’ essences? There will be a multiplication of these substances which will lay claim to all their rights. They will have to settle for sharing the transcendent constitution of the first essence. How is it, however, that elements of the same nature are differentiated? The relation between beings and existence, and the successive distinction by ‘genux proximo et differentia specifica’ are abolished in their own logical possibility. There is only infinite immanence where the substance will equalise all elements. The movement of elevation that poses a transcendent instance is deprived of its own presuppositions. If there is no transcendence, it is impossible to acquire the ethereal nature that gives to essences their metaphysical flesh. Substance is only a single material block (Deleuze 1992). On the other hand, as it is impossible that something is totalised while proposing itself as first essence, neither is substance ever totalised
68 Aldo Pardi retrospectively, in affirming itself behind things in terms of creative personality or first cause. This is the fundamental argument Spinoza makes against Descartes. Substance exists in its singular manifestations because it is nothing other than singularities which cannot be totalised. And since there are no universal entities, substance varies in its infinite series of controlled modulations. The attributes – although we know theoretically only of two, namely thought and extension – are infinite, and function by putting substance back in circulation at the material and egalitarian level of existing singularities. Attributes contain substance’s infinite modalities of pluralisation. Attributes continue to pulverise substance into singular formations which do not designate their intrinsic multiplicity. Nothing interrupts this collective distribution of contacts and disjunctions. It poses the insurmountable limit for beings. This is the theoretical motivation which makes of substance a constellation of modes, singular and plural, and assigns them an essence, that is to say, a reason for formation, different from that of substance. It is through the fault opened up by this difference that substance bursts out as a horizon of becoming. We must take a step back: modes, never capable of beholding themselves like faces of an identical essence, plug into each other at their contours, at their sensible shell. They encounter each other and form relational configurations, linking their members like pieces of a giant machine of production. Substance is the disarticulated factory which lives in its power of production, and production is the concept which expresses the specific form of the becoming of substance. Force–domination and immanence–production: this is the new grid discovered by Deleuze at the end of his long deconstructive detour of transcendence and the thought of the One. Now, it is possible to begin again to think positively. It is possible to leave the circle of recognition to construct a ‘critical’ theory which works to ‘provoke crisis’ in the simple identification between need and subjective projection, and to work out a revolutionary theory of transformation. At this moment Deleuze takes up conceptual tools which leave nothing for the adversary. He returns to Marx. But another Marx, the Marx of forces of conflict, of social relations of power, of strategies and war tactics which impose systems of domination, and groups which oppose them. It is the Marx of bloody struggles which tear apart the conformity of the social body and indefatigably transform it. A revolutionary Marx who makes of revolution the practice and content of his theory, and who is close to all experiences of the same signs, at all levels and places.9 ‘Marx’ is a plural name, the seal of an alliance: he is the comrade who
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 69 fights by one’s side, who attacks with goals and blueprints, who shares trenches. Traditional Marxism took Marx out of his natural place: politics, the struggle against power and its actual form. This was a strange reversal: they took him out of the place where he alone could explain the meaning of his theoretical project, that being political revolutionary practice in theory and in society, hoping that such a sterilisation would clear the way towards an alternative. No, Marx is not the theoretician who realises the dialectic, bringing it to a possible accomplishment which Hegel could not achieve.10 He did not introduce the most efficient categories with which to force nature onto a subject that would supposedly explain that subject’s dialectic development. Determined Marxist analysis is an assault, a political investment of a social field towards an alternative, under the conditions posed by a determined apparatus (mode of production) of the victorious forces, i.e. capitalism. To struggle next to Marx, one must practise another conceptual strategy, one which makes pivots out of production, domination and the immanence of the social field in the conflict of forces, in order clear a path of escape towards another regime, conceptually and also in social practice. It is no longer a question of ‘criticising’ capitalism, nor of emphasising its backwardness, its contradictions or its irrationality. These are sterile positions, as they reproduce the capitalist ideology of egalitarian exchange through which an identitary subject extends itself all throughout history, or in this case, capital. It can be recognised in the satisfaction of its needs: it is the summit and blossoming of nature, in sum the essence of existent totality (the homo oeconomicus of Smith and other classical economists). The only possible critique has already been carried out by Marx. Capital is a combination of forces which compose a mode of production. It is not a neutral movement, set off by the nature of components which will be brought to their accomplishment. Upon forced labour, in its multiple configurations and strata, is engraved the mark of the power of capital: it becomes ‘labour force’.11 It is constrained to act, to speak and think under the weight of capitalist domination. Capitalism is an immense force of disjunction and reconnection of a system of relations which has the production of surplus-value as its goal. Capitalism does not work, as in feudalism, to allow the feudal lord to make wealth the sign of his supremacy. The ideas of the feudal epoch are not associated with a version of nature which proceeds by degrees of minor perfection. This is the nature of capitalism, the decoding which sweeps away the feudal code and projects it into a world of individual subjects which effectuate by themselves the
70 Aldo Pardi comprehensive movement of a unique need for exploitation. Labour’s submission to capitalism is expressed in a closed social body, full to the brim with the power of its apparatuses of management, selection and control. These apparatuses discipline their subjects in reducing their functions to the circuit of accumulation composed by conjunction: ‘That is why capitalism and its break are defined not solely by decoded flows, but by the generalized decoding of flows, the new massive deterritorialization, the conjunction of deterritorialized flows. It is the singular nature of this conjunction that ensured the universality of capitalism’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2000: 224). Capitalism does not develop out of an interior necessity at the heart of feudalism. It has a genealogy of alliances, combats and tactical positions taken to organise itself as force and affirm itself as mode of production. It is here that Deleuze returns to Marx, in occupying the same theoretical front and reuniting himself with the latter’s revolutionary struggles that would construct an other social mechanism of production, a mechanism that works not for surplus-value but in common. The Marxian revolution is to have first announced that each historical formation is a disposition which results from a struggle. Each historical formation is the investment of an organised complex, stratified into multiple components, and to master adversarial forces is to reduce them to the matter and cogwheels of a mechanism of production. It causes changes there, that is to say, transformations.12 The concept that opens the way for history in terms of revolutionary transformations is ‘production’. These transformations have different modalities and directions, and Deleuze endeavours to map them out. Capital revolutionises the feudal regime by installing another system of production. Feudalism knocks down the domination of the Urstaat, just as it subdued the savage connections of production, by intertwining their pieces into an utterly different apparatus of subjugation. There is conflict everywhere because there is production everywhere. ‘Production’ – the connections, overlappings and disconnections which emerge – is the category which presents the possibility of accomplishing this recognition of history. History is the battlefield of antagonistic productions, because everything is production: production is immediately consumption and a recording process (enregistrement), without any sort of mediation, and the recording process and consumption directly determine production, though they do so within the production process itself. Hence everything is production: production of
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 71 productions . . . Everything is production, since the recording processes are immediately consumed, immediately consummated, and these consumptions directly produced. This is the first meaning of process as we use the term: incorporating recording and consumption within production itself, thus making them the productions of one and the same process. (Deleuze and Guattari 2000: 4)
The body of history is a laminating constellation of strata of production.13 It is this articulated production, its syntheses and its effects of transformation, which are traced by genealogies divided between domination and flight. The modes of production function by connecting vanquished forces to engines which realise them. These vanquished forces are the materials with which the mode of production nourishes itself and reproduces its apparatuses. The word ‘being’ no longer has any meaning.14 It recalls the analogical reference which reduces the noisy motors of engines dispersed everywhere to dreary images, phantasms of signification. Force – immanence – domination – production, it is thanks to these concepts that conceptual machines are composed which break the cages constructed by the dialectic. The only logic familiar to this strategic plan linked to conjunctures of war is that of change by subordination, or even the political enterprise which affirms the government of partial collective entities through other partial constellations. It is the same for the Urstaat. Never was a Deleuzian concept less understood. The Urstaat is not the model of an ideal type of State which is regularly represented throughout history. The Urstaat is an apparatus of coupling of a particular group of forces. These forces compose a determined social formation which, if it conforms politically to the formation of an Urstaat, in the process of work requires an ensemble of systems of material production and exchange – including the market – to work for its pre-eminence. The Urstaat is the notion with which it is possible to seize the State from myths of the social nature of man (i.e. from ideology), and from the natural disposition of social practices to organise themselves in a juridical apparatus. The State is also an effect, produced from the construction of a social body by packs which conquer a territory and assume for themselves the right to inscribe upon it their mark. Once the State is made an object of production like the others, we can retrace the changes of the juridical processes – jurisprudence, which so fascinated Deleuze – of the various regimes. At this moment, the state formation established under capitalism loses its sacred allure. The differential specificity, related to conjuncture, of forms of the
72 Aldo Pardi State permit us to discover the content belonging to the capitalist state apparatus. It is no longer the needle which by itself guides all the members of society, similar to what happens under feudalism. Capitalism works through decoding. It must continually rework its objects in order to continue to obtain surplus-value from particular degrees of exploitation. Capitalism does not have the State at its centre because it is its own centre. It schizophrenizes in a ceaseless movement, incorporating everything it encounters, in changing its nature, modelling it and modelling itself – even in relation to its fundamental disposition. Capitalism must stratify itself in occupying the entire body of society. Marx understood this well (judging from embryonic bits of theory which he left behind), so much so that he posed the capitalist State in terms of a concrete category realised concretely from more abstract categories which maintain it as a subordinated element (Marx 1970).15 The State becomes in a differential and stratified manner under the impulsion of the ‘creative’ evolutions of capital. The capitalist norm directly manages its world and projects it in productive flows, sliced-up strata which spring forth from its intentional tensions similar to anonymous and memory-less noematic nuclei. We can thus appreciate the real value of minor flows, the schizophrenic lines traced by the subordinated which do not succeed in breaking free. They refuse the capitalist decoding and its law, and find therein not transgressions, regardless of secondary troubles, but the slices of an alternative social body, a completely other ‘socius’. As Deleuze specifies, in the body of capital, which integrates everything through subjugation, there are never two classes, but one sole factory of reproduction of the capitalist axiomatic. The new full body which results from the inverted capital is neither a development nor the contrary of capitalism (which was called ‘socialisation’, especially ‘by the State’, of ‘productive forces’) but the last result of the intrinsic logic of accumulation. Socialisation resulted from the fictive opposition of two opposing poles, or classes, of a unique molar structure. As it happened, it only reproduced the totalitarian machine, inverted into the ‘collective’ form of State. A ‘different’ socius is made instead of forces which ‘free themselves from this axiomatic just as they free themselves from the despotic signifier, that break through this wall, and this wall of a wall, and begin flowing on the full body without organs’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2000: 255). They are machines which do not work towards despotism, but produce liberation in persistently conserving a ‘minor’ dimension, that is to say, in never totalising themselves in an attempt at ending conflicts.
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 73 Capitalist decoding flows are produced everywhere. They stock up on resources in order to direct themselves again and again at their subjects, swallowing them into one body, that of surplus-value. This action which unites force, organisation and efficiency also produces reactions. A logic of combat then imposes itself which gradually becomes explicit, on fronts in which are formed flows of singular machines of liberation that approach, as allies, all the other experiences which struggle against capital’s domination of governed conjuncture. It is not said whether they will triumph in constructing other bodies, but under the pressure of domination, processes of work are set off which form machines of a completely different direction, architecture and function. The molar body that encloses flows in a despotic axiomatic is confronted by molecular actions which strike at the capitalist gears with weapons of a social disposition that already differ from their formation. This is the sole theoretical (and certainly political) criterion that may distinguish machines of liberation from machines of axiomatisation. This demolishing action occurs on all levels. There is a combat in work, just as there is a combat in signs. They are not similar, they do not even share modalities or movements. But they are all determining. Just as capital is extended over the totality of the social body, imposing its violence, various conflicts traverse it from one end to the other. Signs are also a battlefield, a matter of forces which confront each other in a struggle to affirm their own regime. The confrontations which produce the body of signs are also traced out on the cartography of conflicts. It is a true body, material as effectuated by relations between signifying elements which touch, connect with and detach from each other, and struggle. They are sensitive, and in this also find the reason for their proximity to the sensitive functions of the physical body. The struggle waged by the schizophrenic is just as central to the struggle in the factory, for the schizo is a constellation torn apart by a struggle which plays itself out at the level of signs. It involves reattaching, under the sign of production, the analysis of capitalism to that of schizophrenia in order to bring signs into the immanent domain of production and conflict. The forces of decoding allied to capital are found on this stratum as well. They have the name of Mommy and Daddy, and the factory in which they are formed is the family. These figures, as material as the materiality of capital’s axiomatic, are active in the psychoanalyst’s office. It is there that the ruptures provoked by the freeing of signifying elements irreducible to despotic signification are approached, discovered and again subjugated. However, the struggle does not end. The schizo continues to fabricate a new regime of signs, he turns to the factory
74 Aldo Pardi where sense is produced to carry it away from capital’s totalising axiomatic. The schizo is in himself, in his very body, an advanced front, a field of signifying forces that command an irreducible chain of production. The relations between the conflicts that tear apart the layers of the socius are subjugated to the evolution of the respective battlefields. They may construct reasons for alliances, confluences. Sometimes, they even work in parallel. They will however remain different. It is this very distinction which prevents their totalisation. This distinction becomes, if guided with strategic intelligence, either a guarantee, or an excellent weapon: it can obstruct the orders of the adversary, which is always a present risk. It strikes at his defences by continuing to break his totalising (molar) structures. The act of disjunction traverses these structures, through processes of singularisation. The despotic machine was knocked down by the fabrication of a social body which puts into practice the absolute democracy of a factory of scission, made of gears of liberation which work to open up new spaces to conflict and to ceaselessly deconstruct totalitarian superimposition.16 Thought is also brought back to unstable equilibria which create trembling in language, images and sounds, or the figural constellations of the unconscious. It is swept away by the scissions and overturned as much as these latter. It has no pre-eminence. Thought and foolishness are one, because ideas are partial elements produced by partial layers, parts of a divided social body, criss-crossed by the conflicts which work upon all the strata. Theory is a singular moment in a singular proliferation of struggles.17 It must discover itself as one combat front and renounce its privileges. It is no longer the light which shines upon the learned, the rulers, on collective or organic intellectuals, inscribing upon them the marks of reason. It is a war machine, a combat apparatus which intervenes in the concept. A theory which works scissions and is produced to liberate itself from the paranoiac discipline of capital is found in the wake of Marx. It shares trenches. It ceases thus to be the prophet who sanctifies the name of the father assigning the dignity of the son to his brothers, a privileged voice of the sovereign principle, the dialectic of productive forces and manager of its royal science. Marx is a celibate body. He is a toolbox and a revolutionary movement. Marx digs escape routes in theory, and delivers blows in the streets with the other comrades. How many people racked their brains (one thinks of certain ‘all too human’ Italian theorists, such as Della Volpe18 or Luporini,19 for example) over the question of ‘fetishism’, even of ideology, forgetting that it is only
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 75 comprehensible in relation to the function of thought in Marx, and thus to the war machine in the theory he assembles. The fetish is the military conquest of signs drafted by a despotic axiom, which struggles for and with capital. Furthermore, the analysis of the fetish has nothing to do with its substitution by another totalitarian truth. It is the flight which revives theory in flows of alternative production, the assault carried out upon a general domination which frees theory in order to bring about conflicts everywhere in the strata of signifying production. The Marxian theory of fetishism is analysis in so far as it is decomposition of a totalitarian abstraction which affirms one sole law upon all signs. Or rather, it is a force which strikes the despotic sign par excellence: money.20 Marx, in attacking the fetish, had already moved elsewhere. Marxist theory became a plural body of alliances, a riot of singular war tactics against power and its machines of subjugation. Marx loses his identity and begins to open out in thousands of growths, in a proliferation of plural machines of liberation. We no longer encounter Marx in the stuffy atmosphere of identitary lineages, which are houses much too tight to give liberty its space. We meet him, with the intense joy of a liberty always to come, in traversing as nomads the capitalist city on our way to the desert where all encounters are possible, producing democracy without transcendence.
Notes 1. On this see also Delcò (1988). 2. ‘The phenomenon appears in space and time: space and time are for us the forms of all possible appearing, the pure forms of our intuition or our sensibility. As such, they are in turn presentations; this time, a priori presentations’ (Deleuze 1984: 8). 3. The important thing in representation is the prefix: re-presentation implies an active taking up of that which is presented; hence an activity and a unity distinct from the passivity and diversity which characterize sensibility as such’ (Deleuze 1984: 8). 4. On this see also Fadini (1998) and Montebello (2008). 5. I refer here to Zourabichvili (1994). 6. See Agostini (2003). 7. See Hayden (1998). 8. I refer here particularly to Sibertin-Blanc (2006: 717–93). 9. In this regard Deleuze makes the same theoretical move as Althusser. See Althusser (1969) and Althusser and Balibar (1970: 182–94). 10. Gianfranco La Grassa made a great contribution in a non-dialectical critical reading of Marx (in Kautsky’s and Bernstein’s deterministic and idealistic vein, but also similar to the hyper-subjective and even more idealistic dialectic of Luxemburg, Korsch and Lukács). See La Grassa, Turchetto and Soldani (1979); La Grassa (1989, 2002); La Grassa and Preve (1996). 11. In my opinion, the most important contribution on this subject in Marxist theory has been made by Raniero Panzieri (1973, 1977).
76 Aldo Pardi 12. Etienne Balibar wrote a very important essay on this, which Deleuze knew very well (see Balibar 1970: 199–308). 13. See Balibar (1970: 199–308). 14. This is why I don’t believe that a Deleuzian ontology exists (and so ontological interpretations of Deleuze’s theory are misguided, whether for or against Deleuze’s approach). One study that makes this typical mistake about Deleuze is Bergen (2001). 15. On this see Bidet (1985). 16. Vaccaro (1990) has worked on this. 17. I develop this idea in my introduction to the Italian translation of Deleuze’s lessons on Spinoza (Pardi 2007). 18. See Della Volpe (1964, 1968). 19. See Luporini (1974), a fundamental essay for several generations of Italian theorists. 20. On the role of money in Marx’s theory, see Duménil (1978).
References Agostini, Fabio (2003) Evento ed immanenza, Milano: Mimesis. Althusser, Louis (1969) For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster, London: Penguin Press. Althusser, Louis and Etienne Balibar (1970) Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster, London: New Left Books. Balibar, Etienne (1970) ‘The Basic Concepts of Historical Materialism’, in Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital, London: New Left Books. Bergen, Véronique (2001) L’ontologie de Gilles Deleuze, Paris: L’Harmattan. Bidet, Jaques (1985) Que faire du ‘Capital’? Matériaux d’une refondation, Paris: Klincksieck. Delcò, Alessandro (1998) Filosofia della differenza. La critica del pensiero rappresentativo in Deleuze, Locarno: Pedrazzini. Deleuze, Gilles (1984) Kant’s Critical Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, London: Athlone Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1992) Expression in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin, New York: Zone Books. Deleuze, Gilles (2000) Proust and Signs, trans. Richard Howard, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles (2001a) Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature, trans. Constantin Boundas, New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, Gilles (2001b) Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Zone. Deleuze, Gilles (2002) Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, London: Continuum. Deleuze, Gilles (2004a) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale, London: Continuum. Deleuze, Gilles (2004b) Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953–1974, trans. Michael Taormina, ed. David Lapoujade, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e). Deleuze, Gilles (2008) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London: Continuum. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (2000) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Della Vope, Galvano (1964) Chiave della dialettica storica, Roma: Samonà e Savelli.
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 77 Della Volpe, Galvano (1968) Critica del gusto. Crisi dell’estetica romantica, Roma: Samonà e Savelli. Duménil, Gérard (1978) Le concept de loi économique dans “Le Capital”, Paris: Maspero. Fadini, Ubaldo (1998) Per un pensiero nomade, Bologna: Pendragon. Hayden, Patrick (1998) Multiplicity and Becoming: The Pluralist Empiricism of Gilles Deleuze, New York: P. Lang. La Grassa, Gianfranco (1989) L’“inattualità” di Marx, Milano: Franco Angeli. La Grassa, Gianfranco (2002) Fuori dalla corrente. Decostruzione – ricostruzione di una teoria critica del capitalismo, Milano: Unicopli. La Grassa, Gianfranco and Costanzo Preve (1996) La Fine di una teoria: il collasso del marxismo storico novecentesco, Milano: Unicopli. La Grassa, Gianfranco, Maria Turchetto and Franco Soldani (1979) Quale Marxismo in crisi, Bari: Dedalo. Luporini, Cesare (1974) Dialettica e Materialismo, Roma: Editori Riuniti. Marx, Karl (1970) A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Maurice Dobb, trans. S.W. Ryazanskaya, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Montebello, Pierre (2008) Deleuze: la passion de la pensée, Paris: Vrin. Panzieri, Raniero (1973) Scritti: 1956–1960, Milano: Lampugnani Nigri. Panzieri, Raniero (1977) La ripresa del marxismo – leninismo in Italia, Roma: Nuove Edizioni operaie. Pardi, Aldo (2007) ‘Prefazione’, in Gilles Deleuze, Che cosa può un corpo? Lezioni su Spinoza, Verona: Ombre Corte. Sibertin-Blanc, Guillaume (2006) Politique et clinique. Recherche sur la philosophie pratique de Gilles Deleuze, Lille: Ph.D dissertation. Vaccaro, Gian Battista (1990) Deleuze e il pensiero del molteplice, Milano: Franco Angeli. Zourabichvili, François (1994) Deleuze, une philosophie de l’événement, Paris: PUF.
The Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual: From Noology to Noopolitics
University of Southern Maine
Abstract By most accounts Deleuze’s engagement with Marx begins with the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia he co-authored with Félix Guattari. However, Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition alludes to a connection between Deleuze’s critique of common sense and Marx’s theory of fetishism, suggesting a connection between the critique of the image of thought and the critique of capital. By tracing this connection from its emergence in the early texts on noology, or the image of thought, to the development in the critique of state thought in A Thousand Plateaus, it can be argued that what initially appears as an entirely infra-philosophical problem, concerned with the presuppositions of philosophy, is not only a political problem as well, but ultimately bears on the very nature of the conjunction between thought and politics, making possible a re-examination of what is meant by revolutionary thought. It is a transition from noology to noopolitics. In the end it can be argued that revolutionary thought is no longer an eschatology, attempting to discern the signs of the future revolution in the present, but a thought oriented towards everything that exceeds the fetish of society, towards the virtual relations and micropolitical transformations that constitute society but exceed its representation. Keywords: Commodity fetishism, ideology, labour, noology, virtual, and actual The obvious starting point for any discussion of the relation between Marx and Deleuze would seem to be the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, in which Marx’s texts provide the backdrop for the conceptualisation of deterritorialisation, desiring-production and abstract machines. However, in Difference and Repetition, there are a
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 79 few references to Marx that, although disparate and oblique, suggest a fundamental overlap of central problems. As an initial point of provocation and orientation, we can begin with the following two statements: ‘The natural object of social consciousness or common sense with regard to the recognition of value is the fetish’; and secondly, a few lines later: ‘The transcendent object of the faculty of sociability is revolution’ (Deleuze 1994: 208). In these passages we see two of the central terms that represent the alpha and omega of Marx’s thought: fetishism and revolution; the first is synonymous with false consciousness, a fundamental misapprehension of the world, while the second is the overturning of that perspective and that world. The citation of these terms is situated within Deleuze’s project of transforming the very image of thought, from one based on recognition and identity to a paradoxical thought of difference. Of course it is possible to argue that what links these two thinkers and problems is nothing but the contingent and superficial connection of a context: Marx was a central, even obligatory point of reference during the 1960s in France, and thus the invocation of his name is nothing more than the by-product of writing in a particular place and time. If one scratches beneath the surface, however, it is possible to see that this superficial pairing of problems indicates a much more significant intersection, one based on the fundamental problem of what could be called the politics of thought: a politics that examines how certain images of thought emerge from different social relations, and how they in turn affect these relations. This problem takes on different forms, concepts and names in each thinker. For Deleuze, it emerges in Difference and Repetition as the problem of the dominant image of thought in philosophy, and continues through the collaborations with Guattari as noology, which they define as ‘the study of the images of thought and their historicity’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 376). Deleuze’s (and Guattari’s) fundamental point is that despite philosophy’s attempt to function without presuppositions, to engender itself through a fundamentally grounded and rational discourse, it always rests on an implicit idea of what it means to think, an image of thought. The problem of the politics of thought takes on a somewhat different form in Marx’s writing, so much so that it might not even appear to be a problem that Marx’s work addresses at all. However, as Marx and Engels argued in The German Ideology, the fundamental mistake of German Idealism, and thus to some extent all of philosophy, has been to overlook its connections with ‘its material conditions.’1 The central political and philosophical concepts of Marx’s work – mode of production, ideology and commodity fetishism – all
80 Jason Read address, in one form or another, the relation between thought and its conditions, conditions that are not conceptual, but material, the social conditions that are the constitutive outside for any philosophy, for any thought. It might appear that in each case what is meant by presuppositions is fundamentally opposed. In the first case they are conceptual, the orientation and image that all thinking must assume; while in the second the presuppositions concern material conditions that by definition are lived rather than thought, reflected in Marx’s fundamental assertion that ‘Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life’ (Marx and Engels 1970: 47). My point is not that Deleuze and Marx are the same, rather it is the differences between the two – the former’s focus on the preconceptual assumptions underlying conceptual thought and the latter’s focus on the material conditions that make thought possible – that give shape and meaning to a fundamental philosophical problem. This fundamental problem is formed and transformed through Deleuze and Guattari’s writings that continue to address this problem of the image of thought, from Difference and Repetition through the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, a problem that remains strongly connected to the general problem of materiality and abstraction. As we will see, the vicissitudes of the problem are determined as much by extrinsic conditions – by the changing relationship between thought and labour in contemporary capitalism – as they are by intrinsic factors, or the development and revision of a line of thought. It is through tracing this connection between material conditions and conceptual presuppositions that we can arrive at a new definition of revolutionary thought; revolutionary thought is no longer an eschatology, attempting to discern the signs of the future revolution in the present, but a thought oriented towards everything that exceeds society as a fetish, exposing the virtual relations and micropolitical transformations that constitute a sociality that exceeds any delimited society.
I. Society is a Fetish In developing his idea of the image of thought, Deleuze takes as his initial focus not ideology, but the fetish, or commodity fetishism. In the initial gloss of Marx and Deleuze, we have treated these two problems, ideology and commodity fetishism, as relatively interchangeable, turning to The German Ideology for a general definition of Marx’s interrogation of thought. Deleuze’s rejection of the term ‘ideology’ in the 1970s is well known; as made clear in a famous discussion with Michel Foucault,
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 81 the concept of ideology is rejected because of the manner in which it positions social relations, knowledge and the intellectual. Ideology presupposes both masses who are deceived and an intellectual who possesses the truth. For Deleuze the notion of ideology obscures the real problem, the investments and productions of desire (Deleuze and Foucault 2004: 212). This explains the rejection of ideology, but not the adoption of fetishism. An examination of the general contours of the problem of commodity fetishism alongside Deleuze’s general project of Difference and Repetition begins to establish a deeper connection, one that has less to do with the polemics of the role of the intellectual and more to do with the problem of the relationship between thought and the social order. On first glance the choice of commodity fetishism as a model for a critique of an image of thought seems like a strange move; ideology would seem to be the obvious position from which to interrogate the relationship between thought and its presuppositions. After all, in The German Ideology, ideology was just another name for (German) idealism, for a mode of thinking which, in ignoring its material conditions, not only fails to grasp the real basis of society, but is unaware of the way in which it serves class interests. In contrast to this, commodity fetishism would seem to be restricted to a much more specific problem, that of the epistemological status of political economy, and its understanding of value. This is the difference if we focus on the objects of Deleuze’s and Marx’s respective criticism, namely philosophy and political economy. A different picture emerges, however, if we examine the way in which each concept articulates the relationship between thought and its social presuppositions. While ideology, for Marx, is rooted in social conditions, such as the division between mental and manual labour and the consequent class divisions of capitalist society, there is no necessary relation between these conditions and either the form or the content of ideology. In other words, while there are material conditions that make each ideology the ruling ideas of the ruling class, namely ownership of the means of production, there is nothing to dictate the specific shape that ideology will take, what these ideas will be in each case. Thus, while it is possible that Marx meant to indict the pretensions of philosophy tout court with his critique of ideology, the term ideology is generally understood in the plural. There are various ideologies all of which have a merely extrinsic historical relationship to thought. The fetishisation of the commodity form, however, is a necessary appearance of capitalist social relations. This is why the chapter on commodity fetishism ends with a discussion of different
82 Jason Read societies – Robinson Crusoe, medieval society and an ‘association of free men’ – because fetishism can only be overcome practically through a change in social relations (Marx 1976: 171). This is why the opposite of fetishism is not enlightenment but revolution. In capitalist society, the isolation of the different producers, the separation of private industry, makes it so that social relations appear in the form of the relation between things; the value of the various commodities, a quality that appears to be as real as their myriad qualities, is nothing other than the social relations of society in a distorted form. Two consequences follow from this; first, the emphasis is not on the content but on the form. Any attempt to develop a critique of philosophy from the commodity form would take as its starting point not a criticism of this or that content or concept, as in ideology critique, but would begin from a much more troubling problem regarding the social causes of what is seemingly most necessary and inescapable for thought, its form.2 Second, given that the fetish is most fundamentally a misapprehension of social relations, seeing the social relations as the quality of things, the opposition is not simply between truth and falsity, but between a thought of difference and identity, of relations and things.3 This is precisely what Deleuze stresses about commodity fetishism, as he writes: ‘For example, according to Marx, fetishism is indeed an absurdity, an illusion of social consciousness, so long as we understand by this not a subjective illusion but an objective or transcendental illusion born out of the conditions of social consciousness in the course of its actualisation’ (Deleuze 1994: 208). What is at stake for Deleuze in Marx’s understanding of commodity fetishism is a new understanding of the limits of thought, not the empirical limits of error, or even the transcendental condition of illusions hard wired into subjectivity, but the socially produced limits that transform relations into objects. To grasp Deleuze’s understanding of fetishism, and how it relates to Deleuze and Guattari’s later engagement with Marxism, it is necessary to at least briefly clarify the concepts that form the critical backdrop of Difference and Repetition, specifically the critique of common sense as an image of thought. For Deleuze common sense is a particular presupposition of thought, a presupposition that is not objective, not a particular concept or definition, but an implied meaning of what it means to think. What is presupposed is an ideal of representation that posits an identical object, a thing which remains fundamentally the same, and a unity of the subject, as the various faculties converge on the same object; it is the same thing, which is felt, seen and remembered by the same subject. Truth is recognition: error is misrecognition. Common
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 83 sense is dominated by recognition; to know is to recognise, to extract the same from the multiplicity of its instances. Against this Deleuze suggests a counter-image of thought based not on recognition, but on an encounter. ‘Something in the world forces us to think. This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter’ (Deleuze 1994: 139). Whereas recognition is predicated on the convergence of the different faculties on the same object, the encounter, the break from common sense, is predicated on their fundamental discord. What is thought, sensed, or remembered, takes each of these faculties to its limit and does not communicate with the other faculties, except through a kind of crisis. This includes a sociability, which has its own disjoint relation to the faculties; it cannot be recognised, it is not an object for knowledge, it can only be lived. As Deleuze writes: Take the social multiplicity: it determines sociability as a faculty, but also the transcendent object of sociability which cannot be lived within actual societies in which the multiple is incarnated, but must be and can be lived only in the element of social upheaval (in other words, freedom, which is always hidden among the remains of an old order and the first fruits of a new). (Deleuze 1994: 193)
Common sense objectifies sociality, makes society a thing that can be seen, remembered and thought. To use a term that is not entirely out of place with Marx’s understanding of commodity fetishism, common sense reifies sociability; it displaces the practice, the process of the constitution of social relations, with the product. In contrast to this, in moments of upheaval and disruption, there appears a sociality that exceeds any actually existing society, a virtual society that is always in excess of any existing social order. In Deleuze’s thought, virtual does not mean possible (a concept that is always derived from reality, caught in a relation of identity), nor is it unreal: it is, as Deleuze writes, abstract and real. It is the fact that every society, every social articulation, can be realised otherwise, can have different relations, and is thus surrounded by a virtual cloud (Deleuze 1997: 148). At this point in Difference and Repetition this revolutionary idea, this idea of revolution, is only seen in the moment of disruption. It is thus no accident that in this text the transcendent object of sociability is named anarchy (Deleuze 1994: 143). In Deleuze’s later writings with Guattari, the connection between this virtual sociability and the economy, or, more specifically, labour, will be strengthened. The transition from anarchy to labour is not just a matter of reviving some nineteenth-century debate between
84 Jason Read anarchism and Marxism, but of shifting the focus from the virtual as a revolutionary moment to a persistent presence – an immanent condition.
II. Production/Representation As Deleuze argues, the social idea, sociality as a virtual multiplicity, has to be seen as something of a structure, which different societies realise in myriad different ways. As Deleuze writes: The social Idea is the element of quantitability, qualitability, and potentiality of societies. It expresses a system of multiple ideal connections between differential elements: these include relations of production and property relations which are established not between concrete individuals but between atomic bearers of labour-power or representatives of property. The economic instance is constituted by such a social multiplicity – in other words, by the varieties of these differential relations. (Deleuze 1994: 186)
Deleuze’s nod here is to Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar’s reading of Marx, which makes it possible to grasp history not as the teleological unfolding of a fundamental contradiction, making possible the periodisation of history, but as the differential actualisation of a system of relations. In Althusser and Balibar’s view the ‘mode of production’ is most fundamentally a ‘relation between relations’ (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 224). This structure, or relation between relations, is made up of the different practices, economic, political, ideological, etc., that act on and in relation to each other. In this structure of relations, the economic remains determining, but it does not simply act on the other aspects of society, imposing its brute necessity; it acts on them by determining their differential relations, determining which of these relations, or practices, is dominant. The classic example of this is drawn from Marx’s discussion of feudalism, in which Marx argues that in the Middle Ages religion was determined as dominant (Marx 1976: 176). The constituting relations can be articulated in multiple different ways, with different practices, economic, political or religious, occupying the dominant position, and different relations between these different instances. ‘The economic instance is constituted by such a social multiplicity – in other words, by the varieties of these differential relations’ (Deleuze 1994: 186). Such a conception of the economy breaks with any teleology, any sense of the different modes of production following each other in a linear progression, in order to stress their differential articulation. While Deleuze stresses the determining nature of the economy, its determination is that of a problem which
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 85 is solved in different ways, not that of historical necessity or a base. The truth of social relations is not to be found in some concrete instance, but in the relations between the different social relations, thus in abstraction, in the virtual. Deleuze deviates from Althusser and Balibar in placing ‘abstract labour’ at the foundation of this differential relation. As Deleuze writes, ‘In what Marx calls “abstract labour” abstraction is made from the particular qualities of the products of labour and the qualities of the labourers, but not from the conditions of productivity, the labour power and the means of labour in society’ (Deleuze 1994: 186). Deleuze’s definition stresses two aspects of Marx’s concept that will become increasingly important to his later work: abstraction as indifference to subject and object, yet socially determined. In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari foreground Marx’s discovery of abstract labour – or rather his crediting of Adam Smith and Ricardo for the discovery – in their development of desiring-production. As Deleuze and Guattari write: Marx said that Luther’s merit was to have determined the essence of religion, no longer on the side of the object, but as an interior religiosity; that the merit of Adam Smith and Ricardo was to have determined the essence or nature of wealth no longer as an objective nature but as an abstract and deterritorialized subjective essence, the activity of production in general. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 270)
This is a fundamental example, if not the paradigmatic instance, of deterritorialisation. Whereas prior political economists had initially sought the origin of wealth in a privileged object, such as the earth, or in a particular kind of activity, such as agricultural labour, the political economy of Smith and Ricardo recognises that at the basis of wealth there is nothing other than labour as an abstract subjective activity. Deleuze and Guattari immediately assert that political economy no sooner discovers this abstract activity than it objectifies it, reterritorialising it by subordinating it to accumulated capital. Capitalism is thus the exemplary instance of Deleuze and Guattari’s fundamental point: deterritorialisation is inseparable from reterritorialisation. This is how they introduce Marx’s critique of political economy, as a critique that not only liberates abstract subjective activity from the territories of the earth, but also explores the way that this activity is appropriated by the territories of capital and the State. Abstract labour, as Marx defines it in the opening section of Capital, is not only labour that is indifferent to, or abstracted from, its particular concrete mode of existence. It is also, and perhaps more
86 Jason Read importantly, labour that has been rendered interchangeable, equivalent, despite the different individuals performing it. It is that invisible but not impalpable unit that makes exchange-value possible. Its invisibility outlines the fundamental problem of the question of value, and of commodity fetishism, in which the grounds for the equivalence of the various commodities is mysterious in theory because it is always already answered by practice. In practice, abstract labour is a socially necessary abstraction, an abstraction made possible by the machines and technologies that render different kinds of work interchangeable. It is felt as a practical reality whenever these social and technical realities change, whenever a new machine or new more efficient labour process is invented (Marx 1976: 135). As such, it arises only with the formation of capitalism. As Marx writes: ‘the most general abstractions arise only in the midst of the richest possible concrete development’ (Marx 1973: 104). It is only in capitalist society, with the rise of monetary relations and the breakdown of traditional jobs and activities, that something like ‘labour’ as an abstract activity emerges, displacing the concrete activities. However, as Marx famously argues, just as ‘human anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape’, so it is from the perspective of this historically produced activity that we are able to make sense of other societies as determined by modes of production, as based on the articulation, distribution and use of labour. This is precisely the position taken by Deleuze and Guattari with respect to abstract subjective activity, or what they call desiring-production: it emerges at the end of history, in the breakdown of codes and the general imperative to produce, but it makes possible an understanding of other societies, precisely in the manner in which they code or repel desiringproduction. The most fundamental abstractions, abstract labour or desiring-production, are not found at the beginning of society, in some primitive state, but in the most complex societies. Returning to the passages above from Difference and Repetition, viewed now through their development in Anti-Oedipus, we can see that in the former text Deleuze draws together two very different strains of Marxist thought. The first, which posits the economy as a series of differential relations, is drawn from Althusser and Balibar, while the second, focusing on abstract labour, does not seem to have a specific point of influence aside from Marx, but has resonances with the idea of ‘real abstraction’ developed in different senses by Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Moishe Postone and Paolo Virno. These two lines of thought continue through Deleuze and Guattari’s works: the first, with its emphasis on relations, forms the basis of concepts such as that of abstract machines,
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 87 while the second underlies their conception of desiring-production. Where these two lines of thought converge is in their refiguring of the notion of abstraction: abstraction is no longer an activity of thought, but the product of material relations, relations that remain in some sense unrepresentable. This claim is in some sense already indebted to Marx’s understanding of his own critical project, which paradoxically focuses on the status of the abstract concepts of ‘abstract labour’ and ‘surplus value’ (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 80). It is only from the perspective of the critique of capitalism that labour can appear as both absolutely necessary, as part of man’s metabolic interrelation with nature, and as fundamentally abstract, as an indifference to its specific object or subject. This indifference must be actualised, it must take the form of a particular kind of work, of labour. This necessary abstraction can only appear in particular concrete formulations. From this we can better grasp Deleuze’s earlier assertion, in Difference and Repetition, that ‘there are only economic social problems’ (Deleuze 1994: 186). The economy is both absolutely necessary, something that meets the most fundamental needs of existence, and fundamentally abstract, made up of only the differential relation between the various practices, and structures, which become concrete only in their reciprocal relations. It is the problem that every society faces, but a problem that can only be resolved in specific articulations, in specific social formations. The economy, understood as the articulation of abstractive subjective activity, of any-activity-whatsoever, is something that exists only in its particular articulations, as specific concrete realisations of this virtual set of relations. Deterritorialisation is inseparable from reterritorialisation. In Anti-Oedipus the critique of recognition, of identity in thought, is resituated from a critique of an image of thought to an opposition between production and representation. Much of this takes a polemical tone, in which the theatre of Oedipus is opposed to the factory of the unconscious, the work of the desiring-machines. However, it also extends and deepens the idea of fetishism. As Deleuze and Guattari write: Let us remember once again one of Marx’s caveats: we cannot tell from the mere taste of the wheat who grew it; the product gives us no hint as to the system and relations of production. The product appears to be all the more specific, incredibly specific and readily describable, the more closely the theoretician relates it to ideal forms of causation, comprehension, or expression, rather than to the real process of production on which it depends. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 24)
88 Jason Read Just as products, commodities, obscure the process of their production, so institutions, structures, society itself, obscure the virtual relations that constitute them; the solution conceals the problem from which it emerged. In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari expand upon and develop this idea of the fetish from Difference and Repetition: the fetish becomes the socius. It is not just that the product, society, obscures the productive relations that generate it, it actively appropriates them. As Deleuze and Guattari write: the forms of social production, like those of desiring-production, involve an unengendered nonproductive attitude, an element of anti-production coupled with the process, a full body that functions as a socius. This socius may be the body of the earth, that of the tyrant, or capital. This is the body that Marx is referring to when he says that it is not the product of labour, but rather appears as its natural or divine presupposition. In fact, it does not restrict itself merely to opposing productive forces in and of themselves. It falls back on [il se rabat sur] all production, constituting a surface over which the forces and agents of production are distributed, thereby appropriating for itself all surplus production and arrogating to itself both the whole and the parts of the process, which now seem to emanate from it as a quasi-cause. (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 10)
Just as the despot appears to be the cause and not the effect of subjection, capital appears to be the cause and not the effect of labour. Once disconnected from the conditions of production, from the virtual relations that make it possible, society, the socius, not only appears to be autonomous, in the form of money making money, but is an effect that appears as a cause. Society not only appears to exist prior to the differential relations, the production and desire that constitute it, it also appears to stand above these relations as their necessary condition.4 The fetish has become common sense in that we see society, with its structures, rules and goals, as something that exists prior to and is constitutive of the social relations of desire, perception and production.
III. The Return to Noopolitics: The Problem of State Thought Following the line of noology, of the politics of thought, from Difference and Repetition to Anti-Oedipus, leads to a rather strange deepening of the problem. In Difference and Repetition the criticism was focused on a particular ‘image of thought,’ one that takes recognition as the fundamental function of thought. At the social level, this object of recognition, this identity between past, present and future, is in some sense society as a fetish. Against this, Deleuze focused on the
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 89 transcendent object of thought, on the abstract and differential relations that exceed any faculty of thought, any possible conceptualisation. The difference still passed within thought, opposing the provocations of thought to common sense. In Anti-Oedipus, however, the opposition shifts; it is no longer between different figures of thought, but between representation and the forces of production that exceed representation. The fundamental opposition is between how social relations are produced and how they are represented: or, as Deleuze and Guattari put it, how desire is produced and how it is recorded. It is for this reason that the image of thought, or what Deleuze and Guattari call noology, disappears from Anti-Oedipus. The entire problem of the image of thought disappears, to be replaced with the stark opposition between representation and production.5 Of the many shifts of terminology, content and style that characterise the transition from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus, two are relevant for our project here: the first, as I have already acknowledged, is the return of noology, the image of thought as a problem, and the second is the disappearance of labour, or rather production, as that which exceeds representation. It might be more accurate to state that it is the polemical rift between production, or labour, and representation, or thought, that disappears in the later text; when labour does appear, it appears not as an absolute rupture with the logic of representation, but as a figure of capture and subjection. Taken together these two changes suggest a fundamental transformation of the opposition that characterised Anti-Oedipus, that of thought and production. Production is no longer the absolute outside of representation, nor is thought reduced to a representation that can never intersect with production: thought is no longer limited to the fetish of common sense – to tasting the wheat without ever grasping how it has been produced – but is itself a productive force. Thought and production become tied to the same relations of deterritorialisation and capture. If we turn our attention briefly back to Anti-Oedipus we can see that the issue of labour was never quite as simple as it might first appear, that the transformation of the question of production was already indicated by tensions within that text. As much as Deleuze and Guattari based their concept of abstract subjective activity, or ‘desiringproduction’, on abstract labour, this understanding was perhaps always skewed with respect to Marx’s text. (One of the strangest elements of Deleuze and Guattari’s text is that in referring to Marx’s understanding of the break represented by Smith and Ricardo, they frequently cite Foucault’s The Order of Things, locating in that text an epochal
90 Jason Read distinction between a classical age of representation and a modern age of production). For Marx, abstract labour is the condition of possibility of exchange, of the exchange that makes capital possible; thus it is first and foremost an equivalence established between different types of concrete labour. Marx vacillates somewhat on the ground of this equivalence, sometimes attributing it to an anthropological constant, and at other times attributing it to the machines and techniques that render labour equivalent and exchangeable (see Read 2003: 74). Deleuze and Guattari do not recognise the existence of anything like an anthropological constant underlying abstract labour, arguing that any idea of a standard amount of labour is itself the product of an arbitrary imposition. What Deleuze and Guattari focus on is not the equivalence underlying abstract labour, the fact that the labour of one person is equal to that of others, but its abstraction, or, more properly, deterritorialisation, its indifference to object or subject. It is perhaps for this reason that in Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari also consider the role of machines, actual machines, in the production of surplus-value. If labour can be abstracted from particular forms of subjectivity, from the blacksmith or shoemaker as a particular kind of labourer, and from particular objects, from the land or industry, then why cannot it also be abstracted from humanity, from human hands and minds altogether? Abstract labour becomes part of the machine; not just in the sense that Marx might have argued, in which the pure motor force of the body is replaced by the machine, but in the sense that abstract subjective activity, including that of knowledge, can become part of the machine. As Deleuze and Guattari write: ‘Knowledge, information, and specialized education are just as much parts of capital (“knowledge capital”) as is the most elementary labour of the worker’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 234). Machinery has a fundamentally different role to play in each account: in Marx’s account the machine internalises the skills and knowledge of the worker, leaving behind a residue of labour that is fundamentally abstract in that it can be performed by anyone, while in Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding, the abstraction of subjectivity crosses the divide between machine and human, constituting and exceeding both. In the first instance the machine makes abstract labour possible, as form of completely exchangeable human activity, while, in the second, the machine embodies abstract labour. It is at this point that we can see the gulf separating Marx’s understanding of abstract labour from Deleuze and Guattari. For Marx, abstract labour is first and foremost an equivalent, it is what makes possible the exchange of the labour of one for others, while for
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 91 Deleuze and Guattari abstract labour is primarily defined as a flow, as something separate from specific bodies and objects, the equivalent of which can only be the effect of a seizure by force. This last point is crucial, while Marx had always excavated the asymmetries of force underlying the equivalents of exchange, Deleuze and Guattari radicalise this point through their understanding of the primacy of difference over identity. In a seminar in the 1970s, Deleuze makes a distinction been an arithmetical and a differential understanding of surplus-value.6 In the first, the quantifiable nature of labour is given, or assumed, and the only difference is a quantitative one between the wage (necessary labour) and profit. In the second, differential understanding, there is no equivalence, just an encounter between a flow of labour and a flow of wages. There is no ground for the exchange between labour and capital, the very terms of the exchange are constituted by the relation. The scandal of exploitation is not that labour is paid for at an insufficient rate, but that it is paid for at all: that a unit of money becomes equivalent to a unit of labour time (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 249). This differential understanding also makes possible a theory of scientific or technical labour. Just as there is an encounter between a flow of labour and a flow of money, there is an encounter between a flow of money and a flow of knowledge. As Deleuze and Guattari argue, technological innovations are only introduced if they can increase surplus-value. Technological innovations are dependent upon a flow of money for their realisation. This is dependent upon multiple factors, such as scale of production and cost of labour, factors that make possible an incredibly uneven development of technology and social relations (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 233). As with Difference and Repetition, society only exists as a set of differential relations between different flows: money, labour and knowledge. In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari repeat their earlier formulation that presents capitalism as formed in the encounter between an unqualified activity, any activity whatsoever, and an unspecified object, any object whatsoever (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 453). However, at this point, production, labour, is no longer presented as the paradigmatic instance of deterritorialised subjective activity; rather, it is integral to the manner through which this activity is seized by force, it is an apparatus of capture. The model of abstract subjective activity is no longer abstract labour, but free action: the figure of this abstract subjective activity is no longer the ‘schizo’, the factory of desiringproduction, but the nomad and its war machine. This radical break at the level of names and figures risks concealing what is in many
92 Jason Read respects a continuation at the level of concepts and problems. As we have seen, when Deleuze and Guattari invoke abstract labour in AntiOedipus, it is never the quantifiable abstraction that is stressed, the capacity of rendering labour exchangeable and interchangeable, but its qualitative indifference to subjects and objects. In A Thousand Plateaus, it is precisely this capacity to render different activities comparable that is identified with the ‘apparatus of capture’. Activity, free activity, is captured by being rendered comparable with other activities, by being subject to an abstract standard that defines it as work, a standard that is always inseparable from a surplus. The encounter between the two flows, money and labour, is always asymmetrical, with the first setting the terms of the relation. Surplus labour is not the simple quantitative difference of labour above and beyond what is necessary to survive, but the foundational excess that determines the terms of the equation. ‘Surplus labour is not that which exceeds labour; on the contrary, labour is that which is subtracted from surplus labour and presupposes it’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 441). Labour does not exist as a generic human capacity, but is constituted by the very act that exploits it, that constitutes a surplus. As Deleuze and Guattari write: Impose the Work-model upon every activity, translate every act into possible or virtual work, discipline free action, or else (which amounts to the same thing) relegate it to ‘leisure,’ which exists only by reference to work. We now understand why the Work-model, in both its physical and social aspects, is a fundamental part of the state apparatus. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 490)
As the passage indicates, one of the fundamental roles of the State is to create work as the standard for the comparison of different activities. What is excluded from this, what cannot be measured or exchanged, becomes unproductive labour, leisure. In something of a reversal of classic Marxist theory, Deleuze and Guattari argue that the State as central force of command must be prior to the economy as an organised set of relations between disparate human endeavours. ‘It is not the state that presupposes a mode of production; quite the opposite, it is the state that makes production a mode’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 429). Moreover, in attributing this process to the State, rather than the market, Deleuze and Guattari begin to suggest that the two problems addressed above, the return of noology and the changing status of labour, are in some sense related. The State is not just the name of the relations of force that make possible the equivalence underlying the exchange of different labours (and the commodities and surplus produced by this exchange), it is simultaneously a model of thought. It is a model of
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 93 thought that obscures the groundless nature of the differential relations between labour and capital, effacing the asymmetry of force with the neutrality of law – State violence is inseparable from its justification. This justification is not based on some specific narrative, some specific conceptual content, that would make the State reasonable, but on an identification of the State with reason itself. The critique of state thought develops from the critique of common sense; in each case it is a matter of a presupposed unity, ‘what everyone knows’, but in the case of the State, this unity is elevated to universality. As Deleuze and Guattari write: The classical image of thought, and the striating of mental space it effects, aspires to universality. It in effect operates with two ‘universals,’ the Whole as the final ground of being or all-encompassing horizon, and the Subject as the principle that converts being into being-for-us. Imperium and republic. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 379)
What is striking about this passage is that the identification of the State as functioning with two universals, the ‘whole’ and the ‘subject,’ is very close to the general formula that Deleuze and Guattari use to identify capital: the encounter between an unqualified subjective activity and an unspecified object. Both capital and the State, or at least state thought, function in relation to an object and a subject that is in each case generic and universal. The crucial difference would seem to be that capital deals with differential relations between abstract activities and objects, while the State presents these abstract relations as equivalent, fundamentally overcoding the differential relations with an image of legitimacy. Capital is founded on the encounter between two flows, an asymmetrical, contingent and groundless encounter, that the State renders legitimate by presenting the terms – money and labour or worker and capitalist – as interchangeable. For the State the difference of class, of being a worker or capitalist, is irrelevant, they are equally subjects, motivated to exchange by interest and dwelling in ‘the Eden of the innate rights of man’ (Marx 1976: 280). As Deleuze and Guattari argue, the interiority of state thought is primarily a relation of identity between capitalist and worker, or ruler and ruled, positing a common ground of reason amongst different subjects. ‘The state must realize the distinction between legislator and the subject under formal conditions permitting thought, for its part, to conceptualize their identity’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 376). Deleuze and Guattari’s criticism of capital and the State risks collapsing the distinction, not just to the point where the two are identified, capital and the State as both figures of universality
94 Jason Read and abstraction, but to the point where the opposition is reduced to a simple binary of the State versus nomadism (or, in Anti-Oedipus, fascism versus the schizo). Despite the tendency to present the conflict between the State and the nomad as timeless, or at least metahistorical, Deleuze and Guattari fundamentally change the terms of the conflict by shifting it from philosophy – in which it was between the long line of state thought, stretching from Descartes to Hegel, and nomadic thought – to science. As Deleuze and Guattari argue, state science is primarily hylemorphic, working with form and content, and privileging formed and fixed bodies. ‘Nomadic science’, however, works with movements, with singularities: the events through which qualitative transformations take place (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 372). The opposition between these two forms of science is only apparent: state science constantly needs the discoveries of nomadic science. The fluctuations of nomadic science thus are reterritorialised onto the fixed coordinates and categories of state science. Two things can be said about this concept of science. First, it reiterates a theme that is central to Anti-Oedipus, in which knowledge is presented as a deterritorialising/deterritorialised force. Second, the situation is parallel to that of labour, which is deterritorialised only to be reterritorialised onto property and capital. The deterritorialisations of nomadic science are integral to state science, even as they are subordinated to measures and concepts that are alien to them. The idea of nomadic science allows Deleuze and Guattari to make a point they could not make with respect to the history of philosophy: state thought is dependent on nomadic thought, difference is prior to identity, deterritorialisation is primary to reterritorialisation. For Deleuze and Guattari, knowledge and labour, thought and action, are subject to the same apparatus of capture, the same process of homogenisation and standardisation that constitutes quantitatively exchangeable units from differential relations of desire and action. In A Thousand Plateaus there is no longer a division between representation and production, or thought and action, each have their deterritorialised dimension, nomadic science and free activity, and are thus subject to similar apparatuses of capture. This similarity does not close the question of the relation of consciousness to life, but opens it to its historicity.
IV. From Production to Invention: The Problem of Noopolitics Of the many readers of and commentators on Deleuze and Guattari’s works, the Italian reception, specifically that of Antonio Negri and
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 95 Maurizio Lazzarato, is unique in that it stresses the historical dimension of their writing. To begin with, Negri’s understanding of this dimension is not the simple assertion that their work represents an example of ‘May ’68’ thought, of that bygone moment of exuberance and revolutionary excess. Rather, for Negri specifically, what is central is precisely what we are examining here: the changing structure of labour and its relation to the problem of thought. Negri argues that the machines that populate Anti-Oedipus are not metaphors, but attempts to grasp the complexity of the interactions of humanity and the machine that make up contemporary capitalism. The same could be said for the assemblages and machines that make up A Thousand Plateaus (Negri 1995: 104). What Negri’s reading underscores, often overlooked by many other readers, is that it is not simply because of theoretical sophistication that we do not accept a dualism between representation and production, but because such dualisms no longer fit the current reality, in which representations are themselves productive. The schema of labour, action and intellect, first articulated by Aristotle and placed on modern footing by Hannah Arendt, is itself out of touch with a reality in which knowledge is productive and the uncertainty and plurality of action has become part of the service industry.7 Thus, the shift of philosophical positions regarding the relation of labour, subjectivity and thought from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus is itself a product of the transformation of capital. Negri’s reading opens, or, rather calls to attention to, a different way of approaching the relationship between Marx (or Marxist problematics) and Deleuze and Guattari. It is no longer simply a matter of the way in which particular problems from Marx and Marxists inform Deleuze’s writing, providing the basis for understanding society as a fetish, but the way in which Deleuze and Guattari’s writing provokes and continues a re-examination of Marx’s concepts. Or more to the point, since such a division is artificial, what is important is the way in which the central problems and concerns of Marxist thought, including that of the redefinition of labour in light of the contemporary transformations of capital, are integral to Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding: just as Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of deterritorialisation, noology and the virtual make possible a re-examination of Marx’s thought. Of all of the post-autonomist thinkers who have followed Negri in reading Deleuze and Guattari as thinkers of the present, the one who is perhaps most interesting or relevant to our concerns is Maurizio Lazzarato. Lazzarato’s central project turns on rethinking the current
96 Jason Read conjuncture from the perspective of both noology, the image of thought, and an examination of the intersection of abstract subjective activity and labour. Lazzarato takes as his starting point what Deleuze and Guattari define as the foundation of capital, the encounter between a generic subject, of any subjective activity whatever, and an unspecified object (Lazzarato 2004: 13). Picking up on Deleuze and Guattari’s emphasis on deterritorialisation, on the abstraction from specific activities and objects, Lazzarato opens the question of the adequacy of thinking this abstract activity through the figure of work (Lazzarato 2004: 13). As much as Marx may ground his understanding of capital on an abstract subjective activity, labour, that works on any object whatsoever, the commodity, he still primarily thinks of this relation as the action of a subject on an object producing a product through the medium of a tool (Marx 1976: 284). While we might add, in good dialectical fashion, that this action in turn transforms the subject, the fundamental question remains as to whether or not this schema of activity can account for contemporary relations of production in which work is not so much about transforming objects as it is about transforming perspectives, desires and relations. Thus, for Lazzarato, Marx’s perspective is limited on two counts: first, in that it takes as its general schema of labour the idea of a subject transforming an object, and second, in that it understands this activity to be an abstract and interchangeable activity, positing subjects who interact only through the ground of this generic activity (Lazzarato 2002: 25). What is excluded in each case is difference, difference that is neither quantitative nor subject to the measure of labour time. The question is one of subjectivity, subjectivity not simply defined as the capacity to transform an object, but understood as temporality, invention and relation (Lazzarato 2004: 144). For Lazzarato, the thinker who provides the true basis of an understanding of the abstract subjective activity underlying capital is not Marx but Gabriel Tarde, who tried to understand subjectivity as a relation of invention, imitation and competition (Lazzarato 2002: 39). Lazzarato uses Tarde’s re-examination of the sociality of subjectivity to redefine labour, or replace it with the idea of ‘action at a distance’, of minds affecting minds, and to return to the problem noology, or rather, noopolitics. Noopolitics is defined as the action of minds on minds, of subjectivities acting on each other at a distance, affecting memory, desires and attention (Lazzarato 2004: 85). Despite the terminological similarity with Deleuze and Guattari’s study of the images of thought, the ‘nous’ that underlies noology and noopolitics, Lazzarato’s point of reference is less A Thousand Plateaus, with its battle between
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 97 state thought and nomadic thought, than Deleuze’s ‘Postscript on Control Societies’, with its emphasis on forms of control that do not so much operate on the body, but on the mind, through the new technologies of communication (Deleuze 1995: 181). Lazzarato places Tarde’s interest in the public, and the forms of media that were emerging in the nineteenth century, in a trajectory (borrowed from Foucault and Deleuze) in which power operates less and less on the flesh of the body, as in sovereign power, and more and more on perceptions, affections and memories. Modern technologies such as the television, cinema and the internet operate on minds; they are apparatuses of capture, capturing attention, memory and imagination. Before products can be sold, or even made, attention and memory must be captured by the technologies that work on publics (Lazzarato 2004: 117). The emphasis is on a new form of capital that works more on memory (think of the various cinematic remakes that are nothing more than attempts to mine a reservoir of nostalgia), belief and attention than on the production of things. This action in which the mind acts on the mind, on thoughts, defines a new political or social relation: if the age of abstract labour corresponded to the political regime of discipline, which made disparate bodies and actions abstract and interchangeable, the age of highly deterritorialised labour corresponds to actions on disparate minds, memories and perceptions. As Lazzarato writes: ‘Noopolitics is exercised on the head, implicating attention in order to control the virtual power of memory. The modulation of memory would thus be the most important function of noopolitics’ (Lazzarato 2004: 85). However, it should be noted, especially in the face of the many arguments levelled against epochal understandings of contemporary capital, in which the new is posited as a complete break with the past, immaterial labour replacing material labour, that Lazzarato’s interest in Tarde is less about a transformation of the economy than a different understanding of the relationship between subjectivity and the economy. For Tarde, both Marxism and theories of marginal utility overlook the constitutive role of memory and desire in forming markets. Tarde’s La Psychologie Economique argues that the ‘economy’, in the sense of the production and circulation of goods, is itself embedded in a larger economy, or circulation, of beliefs and desires that determines it (Lazzarato 2002: 28). Not only is there no separation between representation and production, belief and labour – the former is the ground of the latter. The immaterial, the virtual, becomes central to production, as goods and finance are increasingly dependent on the relations of belief.
98 Jason Read As much as Lazzarato’s argument can be understood as posed against the Marxist idea of labour, especially against the gulf that separates production from representation, it is an argument that returns us to the identification of the economy and the virtual in Difference and Repetition (as well as the productive power of desire in AntiOedipus). Lazzarato argues that the dialectic of subject and object needs to be replaced by the relation of event and worlds. Capital is not simply the work of an abstract subject on an undetermined object, it is inseparable from the production of new worlds, new senses of possibility, belonging, and orientations of affects. Every product, every enterprise, entails not just the actualisation of particular material and technological possibilities, but the actualisation of particular subjective possibilities, ways of thinking and seeing. As Lazzarato writes, ‘Capitalism is not a mode [mode] of production it is a production of worlds [mondes]’ (Lazzarato 2004: 96). These worlds emerge from the virtual relations of belief and desire that define a particular sense of the possible. This is not only true of consumption in which every product is inseparable from its lifestyle, its habits and desire, but it also effects finance capital, in which corporations are valued primarily in terms of the level of expectations and belief (Lazzarato 2004: 112). The stock market is also immersed in a field of beliefs and desires that constitute the basis for value. This process of production and effectuation, or in Tarde’s terms, invention and imitation, takes place through activity, activity understood broadly to include the actions that disseminate beliefs, ideas and knowledge, activities that involve labour but exceed it. The two points of Deleuze’s reading of Marx in Difference and Repetition, the economy as the articulation of differential relations and abstract labour, ultimately converge: the differential relations constitutive of society are actualised through abstract subjective activity.
V. Becoming Revolutionary Without the Revolution In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze argues that different societies can be understood as the actualisation, which is to say the solution, of a general problem that can be called, for lack of a better word, economic. The solution actualises one of a virtual multiplicity of relations, and in doing so obscures the problem from which it emerges. In AntiOedipus, this general problem takes on the specific form of the relation between desiring-production and social production; every society, every form of social production is nothing but a specific organisation and
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 99 articulation of desiring-production, assigning it specific goals and aims. This task is in part completed by a representation of society itself, by the socius that presents society, in the form of the despot or capital, as something that exists prior to the various actions that constitute it. In A Thousand Plateaus, noology, the image of thought, returns; now it is situated within the conflict between the State and the nomad. This conflict between the images of thought is a conflict between a mode of thought that privileges fixed forms and stable movements versus ‘thought without an image’ that is founded upon difference and events. The differential relation of forces that constitutes capital is obscured by state thought which deals only with equal and interchangeable subjects. At this point, however, the relation is less an opposition than a process by which the former is continually captured by the latter. State thought requires the deterritorialisation of nomad thought, just as capital requires labour. What this trajectory underscores is not just the virtual differential relations underlying any delimited society, that every society is the realisation and limitation of various social possibilities, but that these different relations are produced and actualised by abstract subjective activity. Deleuze and Guattari thus offer a more radical, or at least more interesting, understanding of the phrase ‘there is no such thing as society’ than the one made famous by Margaret Thatcher: society is a fetish (albeit one with incredibly pervasive effects), but what it misrepresents is not some underlying reality of ‘individuals and families’ but an abstract subjective activity, which is another way of saying that what is real is the indetermination and transformative nature of activity itself. Deleuze and Guattari rearticulate a different link between labour and revolutionary consciousness than the one that has traditionally held sway in Marxism. It is not a matter of a dialectical negation, or a historical telos, of labour-power taking the subjective form of the proletariat as that class with nothing to lose but its chains. Production in Deleuze and Guattari is not the act of a subject at all, it is an abstract subjective activity, an activity that exceeds subjectivity and constitutes it. It even exceeds any attempt to delimit it to a specific type of activity, to designate it as labour. As Deleuze and Guattari argue, capitalism entails a fundamental, almost ontological transformation of what constitutes subjectivity and objectivity: an unqualified and global subjectivity encounters an unspecified object, or, in more conventional terms, labour-power confronts the commodity. The connection between this activity and revolution does not pass through a subject of history, but rather passes through the relationship between the virtual and
100 Jason Read the actual, the creative activity constitutive of society and its actual articulation and concealment within a specific society. This activity does not just produce the actual world, but, as Lazzarato argues, the possible world as well, producing the halo of the virtual that accompanies the actual. To become revolutionary is to grasp this potential underlying the present, the virtual underlying the actual. The virtual is always already present in every labour, in every action. Politics is no longer a struggle over this world, even of its contradictions, but a production of new worlds. Another world is always possible.
Notes 1. Pierre Macherey underscores this dimension of The German Ideology, writing the following: ‘Hence this notion that Marxism was the first to explore: philosophy is not an independent speculative activity, as would be a pure speculation, but is tied to “real” conditions, which are its historical conditions; and this is why, let it be said in passing, there is a history of philosophy, which can be retraced and understood’ (Macherey 1998: 9). 2. In this manner Deleuze’s comparison of the form of thought with the commodity form, a form that privileges identity over difference, is similar to Theodor Adorno’s critique in Negative Dialectics. 3. John Holloway, following Lukács, Adorno and Negri, has generalised this idea of fetishisation in terms of a rift between the doing and done, subject and object, difference and identity. His understanding, like Adorno’s cited above, is not unrelated to the intersection of Deleuze and Marx (see Holloway 2005). 4. Once again the point of reference would seem to be Althusser and Balibar’s Reading Capital. In that text Althusser refers to the ‘society effect’ as the way in which the different and differential practices of society hold together through a form of subjection. As Althusser writes: ‘The mechanism of the production of this “society effect” is only complete when all the effects of the mechanism have been expounded, down to the point where they are produced in the form of the very effects that constitute the concrete, conscious or unconscious relation of the individuals to the society as a society, i.e., down to the effects of the fetishism of ideology (or “forms of social consciousness” – Preface to A Contribution. . . ), in which men consciously or unconsciously live their lives, their projects, their actions, their attitudes and their functions as social’ (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 66). 5. Etienne Balibar has offered an interpretation of the limitations of The German Ideology that is relevant here. As Balibar argues, the strong identification of idealism, ideology and domination has as its corollary an identification of matter, production and liberation in the body of the proletariat (Balibar 1994: 93). Put simply, in Marx’s text the proletariat has no ideology, no theory, as Marx argues, its theoretical illusions have been dissolved by the pure force of history. 6. The lecture, dated 12/21/71, is available here: www.webdeleuze.com/php/ index.html 7. This argument regarding the breakdown of the classic schema of labour (or poesis), action (or praxis) and thought (or theoria) is given its most concise formulation in the work of Paolo Virno (see Virno 2004: 51).
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual
References Althusser, Louis and Etienne Balibar (1970) Reading Capital, trans. B. Brewster, London: New Left Books. Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. P. Patton, New York: Columbia. Deleuze, Gilles (1995) ‘Postscript on Control Societies’, in Negotiations: 1972–1990, trans. M. Joughin, New York: Columbia. Deleuze, Gilles (1997) ‘The Actual and the Virtual’, in Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues II, trans. E. R. Albert, New York: Columbia. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1983) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Michel Foucault (2004) ‘Intellectuals and Power’, trans. Michael Taormina, in Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953–1974), New York: Semiotext(e). Holloway, John (2005) Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today, London: Pluto. Lazzarato, Maurizio (2002) Puissances de l’invention: La psychologie économique de Gabriel Tarde contre l’économie politique, Paris: Les empêcheurs de penser en rond. Lazzarato, Maurizio (2004) Les revolutions du capitalism, Paris: Le Seuil. Macherey, Pierre (1998) In a Materialist Way, trans. T. Stolze, London and New York: Verso. Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, trans. M. Nicolaus, New York: Penguin. Marx, Karl (1976) Capital, Vol. 1, trans. B. Fowkes. New York: Penguin. Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1970) The German Ideology, ed. and trans. C. J. Arthur, New York: International. Negri, Antonio (1995) ‘On Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus’, trans. C. Wolfe, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, 18:1. Read, Jason (2003) The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the Present, Albany: SUNY Press. Virno, Paulo (2004) A Grammar of the Multitude, trans. I. Bertoletti, J. Cascaito and A. Casson, New York: Semiotext(e).
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Translated by Pauly Ellen Bothe and Davide Scarso
Abstract In 1990, Antonio Negri pointed out some problems with Deleuze’s political philosophy. Substituting infra-structures for life or desire, as constitutive dimensions of power formations, did not imply giving up on Marx, but it certainly did imply a change in the table of conceptual analysis and a profound renovation of the questions that pertain to militant praxis. Taking this into account, we intend to explore the sense of a rare fidelity to Marx, and a certain idea of intellectual commitment that, reframing its objects and its instruments, pretends to renew political thinking in order to confront the unforeseeable of new knowledge, new techniques and new political facts. Keywords: Minor-dialectic, becoming-revolutionary, assemblages, de-totalisation, ethics of struggle
In 1990, in an interview conducted by Toni Negri for the magazine Futur antérieur, Deleuze defended his fidelity to Marxism, that is, the idea that political philosophy finds its fate in the analysis and criticism of capitalism as an immanent system that constantly moves its limits and constantly re-establishes them on an expanded scale (Capital being itself the very limit). Furthermore, he also defended a re-evaluation of its objects and its instruments along the lines of a differential typology of macro and micro-assemblages as determinants of social life (Deleuze 1990: 229–39). Substituting infra-structures for life or desire, as constitutive dimensions of power formations, did not imply giving up on Marx, if, as Derrida suggests, Marx had already alerted us to the historicity and the possible aging of his work; that is, to the necessity of transforming his own thesis to confront the unpredictability of new knowledge, new
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
techniques, new political data (Derrida 1993: 35). On the other hand, it did imply the problem of the type of struggle that such a shift in the theory could produce at the level of praxis. Lines of flight (rather than social contradictions), minorities (instead of classes), and war machines (against the State apparatus) did not entail a change in the conceptual framework of the analysis without requiring, at the same time, a profound renewal of the issues that shape militant praxis. And that renovation was imperative once we recognise that the analysis of society in terms of assemblages of desire – the concept that Deleuze prefers over Foucault’s concept of dispositifs (deployments or devices) of power – implied a break with any logic of progress or libertarian teleology. In fact, from sovereign societies to disciplinary societies, and from disciplinary societies to control societies, the adjustment of collective assemblages is the expression of a change, but not necessarily a change for the better: It is possible that the hardest confinements may come to seem part of a happy benevolent past, taking into account the forms of control in open spaces that emerge . . . liberations as submissions have to be confronted one by one in its own way. . . . There is no place for fear, neither for hope, it is just a matter of finding [creating] new weapons. (Deleuze 1990: 241–2)1
The awareness of the impossibility of any totalisation of reality by means of representation – i.e., the assumption of the local value of our theoretical instruments – as well as the renunciation of any kind of ‘structural messianism’ (Derrida 1993: 102) – i.e., the desertion of any promise of emancipation – embodies the demand for a thought capable of confronting the biopolitical mutations of capital, nonetheless, at the same time it leads struggle to a dispersion without precedent. The ‘minor’ understood as a line of flight or a war machine did not establish the basis of a revolutionary political programme,2 it actually developed in the very opposite direction, that of the organisation logics of traditional political movements (in this sense, Guattari reminds us that ‘the search for a big unification of resistance forces would just make the work of the semiotisation of capital easier’,3 and Deleuze says that there is no such thing as a left-wing government – there are governments more or less receptive to the claims of the left, but the left has nothing to do with the form of the State or the logics of government). Taking this into account, we should not be surprised when, confronted with the political dimension of Deleuze’s work, Tony Negri speaks from the paradoxical place of the militant who finds in this philosophy a powerful inspiration to re-think the movement, but in
104 Eduardo Pellejero another sense, does not understand how it could be institutionalised: ‘How could minor-becoming be effective? How could resistance become insurrection? Reading your writings, I always doubt the way these questions can be answered, even if I find in your works an impulse that forces me to reformulate them theoretically and pragmatically’ (Deleuze 1990: 234). Negri celebrates the publishing of Mille Plateaux, which he considers a remarkable work of political philosophy, but regrets a tragic note in its excessive theoretical will, which leaves every problem open and does not determine where it can lead us.4 Here I pose the problem from a revolutionary perspective, but the questions raised by Negri could certainly also be raised from a progressive perspective; as is the case with Mengue, when he writes: If Deleuze offers us productive tools to emancipate us from the past and encourage us to commit the matricide of History, matrix of modernity, he just liberates us from it to throw us into an-historic becomings, but disconnected from any social or political effectuation . . . the marriage between the spontaneist anarchism of the untimely and the long-term work of inscribing it on things and institutions is impossible . . . they have opposite political directions . . . The untimely does not lead to any form of institution . . . That is, the guerrilla has deserted the political field closing itself on an unassailable but just ethical position. (Mengue 2003: 17, 155, 157)
In other words, the new instruments of analysis of capitalism, developed by Deleuze and Guattari, challenge – for Negri – the historical sense of struggle. If the de-totalisation, locality and dispersion of struggle come together with the renouncement to any historical possibility of revolution, why go on fighting? What are these lines of flight, subversion processes or forms of resistance worth, if revolution is, by definition, condemned? Nevertheless, an idea of militant praxis is not that strange to Deleuze, who is looking for concepts that may bring us to an an-historical sense of struggle. Such a pragmatics could be put in terms of a series of impossibilities (as Deleuze would say): 1) the impossibility of a successful totalisation of life by power (thus, the impossibility of the fulfilment of History in the present); 2) the impossibility of any lasting subtraction of life from power (thus, the impossibility of the fulfilment of History in the future); and 3) the impossibility of the acceptance of the state of things, of the actual stratifications of life by power (thus, the impossibility of the recognition of History in the past). What we have, therefore, is a notion of a militant praxis that, without giving in to the demands of power, but at the same time without aspiring
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
to power, embraces – beyond government and opposition – the vocation of resistance.5 Thus: 1) Deleuze affirms, against all strategies of totalisation of life by power, against discipline or modulation of life by its dispositifs, that resistance comes first; i.e., that there is an essential contingency working out the inner nature of the social. Society is not a given totality: it is a puzzle of heterogeneous pieces, which do not always fit together (‘here lies the problem of the world that globalisation wanted to reshape: pieces do not fit’, says Marcos, in Siete piezas sueltas del rompecabezas mundial6 [Subcomandante Marcos 1997]). Consequently, power formations are inhabited by an essential powerlessness. The social field is not composed by isolated and immutable formations: only stratifications of knowledge and power may give some stability to it, but in itself it is unstable, agitated, changing, as if depending on a ‘paradoxical apriori’, on a ‘micro-agitation’ (Deleuze 1986: 91).7 There is no dispositif that, besides the points that it connects, does not imply relatively free or liberated points: points of creativity, points of mutation, points of resistance. The social field leaks everywhere. Lines of flight are the primary determinations, they are objective lines that pass through a society. 2) Deleuze does not ignore the historical failure of modern revolutionary projects. The way revolutionary groups betray their task is well known, but does not scare Deleuze (Deleuze 2002: 278; Deleuze 1995: ‘G comme Gauche’). And if he admits that we will never assist again to a clear major break, opening a new kind of society, he also claims that revolutions – historically failing – produce effects immanently (incalculable effects) in that very history within which they fail. In this sense, in a 1988 interview, Deleuze said that ‘there is a whole dimension of revolution that history does not catch: its becoming (another language, another subject, another object)’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1991: 96–7), so, ‘when it is said that revolutions have an infamous future, nothing has really been said yet about the revolutionary-becoming of people’ (Deleuze 1990: 209). 3) So, Deleuze does not defend the ideals of a historical future, where a collective and lasting expression of liberated or egalitarian life could come to be true, nonetheless he wagers on the freedom effects of pure explosions of desire: even when revolutions failed, that did not prevent people from becoming revolutionary . . . If someone says to me: ‘You will see when they succeed, when they win . . . It will not be good.’ But then problems will not be the
106 Eduardo Pellejero same, a new situation will be created and new becomings will break out. In situations of tyranny, of oppression, men have to become-revolutionary, because there is no other thing to do. (Deleuze 1995: ‘G comme Gauche’)
Briefly stated, Deleuze passes from REVOLUTION as the end of history, to revolution as a line of transformation, that is, to the affirmation of resistance, at the expense of revolution conceived as the radical and irreversible advent of a society finally totalised, not divided, reconciled. A logics of the ephemeral, unpredictable, neutral event, substitutes for the global, determinist and teleological dialectic of advent. This is the first positive principle (although in-voluntaristic) of Deleuze’s militant praxis: ‘becoming-revolutionary, without a future of revolution’, ‘a bifurcation, a divergence from the law, an unstable state that opens a new field of the possible’, and which ‘can be contradicted, repressed, recuperated, betrayed, but always entails something insurmountable’ (Deleuze 1995: ‘G comme Gauche’8 ; Deleuze 2003: 216). It is a matter of life, that takes place inside individuals as in the exteriority of society, creating new relations with the body, time, sexuality, culture, work; changes that ‘do not wait for revolution, neither prefigure it, even if they are revolutionaries on their own: they have within themselves the power of resistance proper of poetic life’ (Deleuze 2002: 200–1) (that is, displacing desire or reorganising life, make useless the dispositifs of knowledge and power that used to channel them). In other words, those processes find their value in the fact that, by the time they take place, they escape from constituted knowledge and dominant powers, even if later they are continued in new dispositifs of knowledge and power.9 The object of struggle, in this sense, is no more the fulfilment of a possibility, becoming essential divergence and multiplication of perspectives.10 Zouravichbili reminds us that in The German Ideology Marx and Engels defined communism exactly this way (in opposition to utopian socialism): ‘Communism is . . . neither a state that has to be created, nor an ideal for the ruling of society. We call communism the real movement that abolishes the actual state’ (Marx and Engels 1976: 33). Anyway, for these openings of the possible to be something other than a vision, for this new sensibility to be asserted, it is necessary to create proper assemblages. That creation is, after all, the task that gives consistency to this new militant praxis (therefore it is its second principle): the elaboration of new assemblages and the struggle for the
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
associated rights: When a social mutation takes place, it is not enough to think of the consequences or effects following lines of economical or political causality. It is necessary that the society creates collective assemblages, associated to the new subjectivity, in order to mature the mutation . . . There is no solution unless it is creative. Only creative reconversions will contribute to resolving the actual crisis. (Deleuze 2003: 216–17)
This creation of assemblages covers the distance between becomingrevolutionary and ‘left-wing civism’ (according to the sharp formula of Claire Parnet). On account of the fact that, if events overcome any committed will (that is, events do not depend on objective or subjective possibility), to embrace or to ignore them defines an essential difference, that allows Deleuze to distinguish pragmatically left from right.11 In this sense, the left-wing is defined by the search for assemblages in order to extend the movements triggered by events (and then, by the invention of rights from the new material conditions generated by mutations of desire). While the right-wing defines itself by the denial of movement and the opposition to any form of redistribution, the left-wing ‘is a passion for procedures . . . the collective catch of dynamics for the de-stratification of structures and rearrangement of life and society following different forms of equilibrium’ (Guattari 1984: 4).12 Nevertheless, if, according to Deleuze, May ’68 is enough for the purpose of illustrating what he understands by revolutionary-becoming, it is not enough to illustrate the subjective reconversions.13 Even creative and innovative answers to the objective and subjective demands of the mutations unchained by the event – the American New Deal, the Japanese take-off, and Iranian Muslim fundamentalism – imply all kinds of ambiguities and reactionary structures. May ’68, on the other hand, was quickly recoded by the French government (with the help of the PCF). That is, even at the level of objectivity and the conscious and unconscious subjectivity of individuals and social groups, there are mutations of unpredictable consequences; power shows great shrewdness and a huge capacity for adaptation to the new forms of sensibility and new types of human relations resulting from the different ‘mutations’ (commercial recovery of marginal ‘inventions’; relative tolerance in relation to zones of laissez faire, etc.). In other words, a semi-tolerated, semi-stimulated dissent is part of the system (and is instrumentally recovered by it).14
108 Eduardo Pellejero Creative articulation of the lines of flight in assemblages that allow them to mature is not just possible and desirable, but constitutes the constructivist vector of this new militant praxis. In La révolution moléculaire Guattari will make this the cornerstone of his political philosophy. The revolutionary character of the lines of flight that cross through a given society depends on their articulation, on the convergence of the subjective lines of flight with the objective lines of decoding of the system in suitable assemblages, creating an irreversible aspiration to new spaces of freedom. And Guattari offers us a minor example, one which is much less ambiguous than the examples given by Deleuze – I am referring to the case of free radio in the 1980s: an assemblage where the technological evolution (in particular, the miniaturisation of transmitters, and the fact that they could be ‘assembled’ by amateurs), ‘concurred’ with the collective aspiration for new media of expression. Another example of these objective and subjective mutations are the communities that appeared everywhere in the 1960s and ’70s, in consonance with new musical genres, from rock to punk – with all the technical innovations that they presupposed, from amplifiers and synthesizers to acids, as well as the changes in subjective and objective conditions: the baby-boom, the welfare state, etc. Another example we know better is the internet. (From another point of view, maybe we could also inscribe all these minor examples into a major Marxist line, if, as Raya Dunayevskaya suggests, Marx set out, as a fundamental axis of his conception, the daily creation of new forms of struggle and new human relations between workers, between workers and the production infrastructures, etc. Dunayevskaya relates this conception of Marxism, more concerned with the fulfilment of freedom that with the conquest of institutions, to the creative acts performed by the Paris Commune, or, even, during the Russian revolution, to those actions that, in the auto-emancipating moment of birth, gave way to totally new forms of labour assemblages – such as the Soviets [Dunayevskaya 2004: 208]).15 Obviously, lines of flight are not necessarily revolutionary; a line of migration (sub-Saharan or Cuban) can end in death (at sea), or in much harder dispositifs than those which it left behind (slavery). And, obviously, these micro-revolutions do not lead automatically to a social revolution, to a new society, an economy or a culture liberated from capitalism. Finally, there is no way to compare, according to a progressive set of values, which regimes are more harsh or more bearable (I mean, it is possible to do so retrospectively, but not at the moment of adopting a
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
line of action); the power of resistance or, on the contrary, submission to control, is decided in the course of each attempt. What matters is that, suddenly, we do not feel condemned in the same old way anymore; a problem which nobody could see a way out of, a problem in which everybody was trapped, suddenly ceases to exist, and we ask ourselves what we were talking about. Suddenly we are in another world, as Péguy said, the same problems do not arise anymore – though there will be many more, of course (Péguy 1957: 300–1). Such is the scope and the limits of this new militant praxis that in a certain way responds to the demands of what Jean-Luc Nancy named ‘literary communism’ (Nancy 1983). As we saw at the beginning, in 1990, Negri could not help feeling a certain reluctance when confronted with it. Ten years later, however, with the publication of Empire, Negri offered us a free re-appropriation of Deleuze’s thesis. Deleuze and Guattari – after Foucault – appear then as the founding fathers of a new form of criticism, redefining the space of political and social struggles in relation to ‘classic’ Marxism: creation of spaces of freedom, strategies of torsion of power, conquest of individual and collective forms of subjectivity, invention of new forms of life, came to constitute the new subversive grammar. Negri also seems to embrace the idea of an an-historical sense of struggle, at least if we read in a Deleuzian way the epigraph by William Morris that opens the book (‘Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and then it turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name’ (Negri and Hardt 2000). But we do not need to read much more to understand that this post-structural comprehension of biopower that renews materialist thought remains still unsatisfactory for Negri, because it just (and only) provides the elements for a superficial and ephemeral resistance (political work, for Negri, is not simply resistance, but an alternative political organisation, the institution of a new constituent power beyond the Empire). For the wilful militancy of Empire, Deleuzian praxis is not enough. Attached to a classic Marxism, Negri renews once more the commitment to a dialectics in which we had no more faith (‘We claim that Empire is better in the same way that Marx insists that capitalism is better than the forms of society and ways of production that came before it. . . . In the same way today we can see that Empire does away with the cruel regimes of modern power and also increases the potential for liberation’16 [Negri and Hardt 2000: 43–4]), even if he denies its more
110 Eduardo Pellejero oppressive historicist elements (‘This approach breaks methodologically with every philosophy of history in so far as it refuses any deterministic conception of historical development and any “rational” celebration of the result’ [Negri and Hardt 2000: 66]). In this sense, the problem for Negri is still the problem of a new materialist teleology (in the line of Spinoza and the Theological-Political Treatise,17 but maybe, as well, in the line of Merleau-Ponty’s Adventures of the Dialectic, that is: there is no sense of History but an elimination of non-sense). The problem lies elsewhere for Deleuze. There is no doubt that we do not possess, neither in fact nor by right, any reliable means to free and, a fortiori, to preserve the becomings that undermine the dispositifs of knowledge and power in which we are compromised: ‘What condemns us to an everlasting “restlessness” . . . We do not know how such a group can change, how it can fall back in history . . . We do not dispose of the image of a proletariat which just needs to gain consciousness’ (Deleuze 1990: 209). But this uncertainty does not imply any imperative of demobilisation. Lacking the geopolitical options known decades ago, when it was still possible to chose between first and second worlds – thus, exposed either to inscription in the first world or sinking into the third – the struggle goes on. Lacking every form of social utopia – thus open to the dispersion of its local objectives – the struggle goes on. Deprived of any progressive project, of the idea that if we do everything possible things will improve, will change for the better – thus, aware of its tragic destiny – the struggle goes on. Deleuze stakes the whole of his political thought on the effectuation and contra-effectuation of the untimely as the irruption or inscription of events in history, but at the same time he transvalues the essence of the event, which ceases to constitute the sense of History, becoming the agent of a redistribution of affects, relationships and singularities: the very revolutionary potential of events lies in their novelty or discrepancy in relation to a specific situation (objective modification of a state of things, but also the subjective assemblages of resistances and lines of flight):18 ‘Against apocalyptic history, there is a sense of history that matches with the possible, with the multiplicity of the possible, with the profusion of the possible in every moment’ (Deleuze 2003: 183–4). Deleuze and Guattari are not philosophers of liberation; the chances of transformation of the material organisation of life and desire, the possibility of molecular re-distributions of power and knowledge, do not imply for them the abolition of molar organisation as such. Which does not mean that revolution
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
is just a dream, something that is never achieved, or that is achieved betraying it. On the contrary, it means to posit revolution as a plane of immanence or infinite movement, as long as these features are connected with the struggle against capitalism, here and now, and propel new struggles every time previous struggles are betrayed. (Deleuze and Guattari 1991: 97)
What is to be done? The old Leninist question still hangs over us, with an irresistible weight, even if we are convinced that there is no answer but a creative one (but ‘to create’ is not a satisfactory answer for the question). The question would lie, today, before and beyond any programme of action: How to embrace such politics, a politics that proposes struggle, not as revolution, but just as resistance? How to embrace it when we are fully aware of the local, strategic and non-totalisable value of the changes we can aspire to? We gave up utopias. Perhaps we will never grow up, as Kant wished. Philosophy relinquishes, in this sense, the possession of power (by right) and the (factual) property of knowledge. Maybe this is why, unlike Marx’s, Deleuze’s work does not constitute the insurmountable philosophy of our time. But in its imperative precariousness, in its radical minority, it still shows a unique critical power, and outlines maps on the desert of the real (in a desert full of mirages). In its joyful proclamation of a thought of immanence, beyond any reliance on moral or messianic structures, it still gives us reasons for resistance, to go on thinking, when it comes impossible to go on seeing certain things without doing nothing, or go on living as we do. (Neither dreams nor hopes, not even fidelity to old utopias;19 it is just a question of perception, of sensibility, and, immediately, a problem of creation.20 ) The production and administration of inequality, of injustice, of misery, are still a pervasive reality in our societies. The attempts of the most different formations of power to control life collide, and will keep colliding, with the shocking fact that the pieces do not fit. Power claims to deal with this fact just as a spare, as junk. But included in that spare are thousands, millions of people convicted every day (people who die from diseases that a simple pill could cure, victims of collateral damage from anti-terrorist operations, but also students educated for unemployment, adolescents enclosed in urban ghettos or suburbs, elderly people without pensions or social security). We do not have faith in the advent of a new happy world, but we cannot renounce to the exercise of a resistant thought, in the difficult, unpredictable and dangerous intersection of our powerlessness and our
112 Eduardo Pellejero ignorance. Without it, the various dystopias that may be glimpsed on the horizon would see the space that distances them from their total or totalitarian fulfilment surmounted.21 Thus, the new revolutionary praxis will be, in the first place, a work of de-totalisation of life (the creation of a world in which many worlds could fit, in which all possible worlds could fit). And it will be, also, an everlasting work, because power learns from its mistakes and knows how to take advantage of its defeats. (But will we stop working for that reason?) After all, as Deleuze and Guattari say: the success of a struggle lies just in the very struggle, in the vibrations, in the embracing, in the openness that it gives to men at the moment it takes place, and that compounds in itself a monument, always in progress, as those graves where every new traveler adds a stone. The victory of a struggle is immanent, and consists in the new relations it sets up between men, even if they do not last more than their material fusion, and they quickly give place to division, to betrayal. (Deleuze and Guattari 1991: 167)
Thought is the monument of that struggle, always to start over again in the labyrinth of the mixed up battles in which we are compromised every day. A monument that does not commemorate anything, does not honour anyone, but whispers at the ear of the future the feelings that embody the everlasting suffering of men, and its recreated protest, its sustained fight. In this sense, struggle without any future of revolution comes to transvalue the imperatives of compromise we inherited from past generations; it comes to give them sense, necessarily a new sense, in these winter years of every man for himself. I think of the words Sartre raised so many times as a flag: ‘Everything I do is probably destined to failure, but I still do it, against all odds, because it has to be done.’22 But I think also, as counterpoint, of the tough, excessive, desperate order-word, in which – against the setbacks of our recent history – the sense of a remarkable event that goes by the name of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara survives: Hasta la victoria siempre!
Notes 1. There is no hope of progress, no expectation of a complete vanishing of problems, but that does not signify the absence of an immanent hope, that is, hope of getting out – through creative solutions – of the mousetraps (Sartre) in which we find ourselves caught. Each dispositif implies new submissions, but also, certainly, new lines of flight: ‘Dans le capitalisme il y a donc un caractère
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
nouveau pris par les lignes de fuite, et aussi des potentialités révolutionnaires d’un type nouveau. Vous voyez, il y a de l’espoir’ (Deleuze 2002: 376). As a matter of fact, from this statement to the affirmation of Empire as a better sociopolitical assemblage (in the same sense that Marx maintained that capitalism was better than the modes of production that preceded it) there is a long way that won’t be surpassed by Deleuze. 2. Even if L’Anti-Oedipe ends with a ‘Program for desiring machines’, schizoanalysis ‘does not have a proper political program to propose’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1973: 380). On the contrary, it raises a series of conceptual contrasts that allow us to analyse social fields or processes, evaluating the assemblages at stake (see Patton 2000: 71). 3. ‘Well, I don’t think so because, once again, the molecular revolution is not something that will constitute a program. It’s something that develops precisely in the direction of diversity, of a multiplicity of perspectives, of creating the conditions for the maximum impetus of processes of singularisation. It’s not a question of creating agreement; on the contrary, the less we agree, the more we create an area, a field of vitality in different branches of this phylum of molecular revolution, and the more we reinforce this area. It’s a completely different logic from the organisational, arborescent logic that we know in political or union movements’ (Guattari and Stivale 1985). See also Anne Querrien, ‘Esquizoanálisis, capitalismo y libertad. La larga marcha de los desafiliados’, in Guattari (2004: 28). 4. Negri’s worry about the institutionalisation of Deleuzian political philosophy was not strange to Guattari, who regretted the difficulties that molecular revolutions have creating links between singular achievements: ‘Will these microrevolutions, these profound impugnations of social relationships, be put away to restricted spheres of the social field? Or will they be articulated in new “social segmentations” that won’t imply the restitution of hierarchy and segregation? In short, will all these micro-revolutions set up a new revolution? Will they be capable of “assuming” not just the local problems, but the management of big economic sets? . . . How far could these molecular revolutions go? Aren’t they condemned, at best, to vegetate in German style ghettos? Is the molecular sabotage of the dominant social subjectivity enough in itself? Should molecular revolutions make alliances with social forces at the molar (global) level? . . . How can we imagine, then, revolutionary war machines of a new type that could graft, at the same time, into the manifest social contradictions and these molecular revolutions?’ (Guattari 2004: 54). ‘We cannot be content with these analogies and affinities; we must also try to construct a social practice, to construct new ways of intervention, this time no longer in molecular, but molar relationships, in political and social power relations, in order to avoid watching the systematic, recurring defeat that we knew during the ’70s, particularly in Italy with the enormous rise of repression linked to an event, in itself repressive, which was the rise of terrorism’ (Guattari and Stivale 1985). This very same problem concerns Deleuze. But the multiplicity of revolutionary focuses does not represent a lack or a weakness for him, but a power (potentia) of resistance to power (potestas). Talking with Foucault, in fact, Deleuze said that ‘les réseaux, les liaisons transversales entre ces points actifs discontinus, d’un pays à un autre ou à l’intérieur d’un même pays’, even when imprecise, they imply ‘qu’on ne peut en rien toucher à un point quelconque d’application sans qu’on se trouve confronté à cet ensemble diffus, que dès lors on est forcément amené à vouloir faire sauter, à partir de la plus petite revendication qui soit. Toute défense ou attaque révolutionnaire partielle rejoint de cette façon la lutte ouvrière’ (Deleuze 2002: 287–98).
114 Eduardo Pellejero 5. Cf. Tomás Segovia’s ‘Alegatorio’, in Subcomandante Marcos (1997): ‘First, I beg you not to mix up Resistance with political opposition. Opposition does not oppose to power but to government, and its complete and successful form is the party; on the other hand, Resistance, now by definition, can’t be a party: It is not made for government, but to . . . resist.’ 6. Cf. Alemán (2007: 91): ‘There is no reality, as consistent and hegemonic as it may appear, as, for example, actual capitalism, that could be considered definitive. . . . To be left-winged implies insisting on the contingent character of the historic reality of Capitalism. Even when the way out or the passage to another reality is defered, even if that transit has no guarantee and could stay unfinished, even if that other reality, different of Capitalism, could not be call Socialism.’ 7. Every assemblage presents, on one hand, a stratification more or less hard (let us say, the dispositifs of power; Deleuze says: ‘a concretion of power, of desire and territoriality or reterritorialisation, ruled by the abstractions of a transcendent law’), but, on the other hand, implies points of deterritorialisation, lines of flight where it is disarticulated and transformed (‘where desire is liberated of all its concretions and abstractions’, says Deleuze). 8. ‘Par “nouveau champ de possibles”, il faut donc entendre autre chose: le mot possible a cessé de désigner la série des alternatives réelles et imaginaires (ou bien. . . ou bien. . . ), l’ensemble des disjonctions exclusives caractéristiques d’une époque et d’une société données. Il concerne à présent l’émergence dynamique de nouveau. C’est l’inspiration bergsonienne de la pensée politique de Deleuze’ (Zourabichvili 1998: 339). 9. ‘[I]ls ont bien une spontanéité rebelle. . . . Ils se lèvent un instant, et c’est ce moment-là qui est important, c’est la chance qu’il faut saisir. . . . Croire au monde, c’est ce qui nous manque le plus; nous avons tout à fait perdu le monde, on nous en a dépossédé. Croire au monde, c’est aussi bien susciter des événements même petits qui échappent au contrôle, ou faire naître de nouveaux espaces-temps, même de surface ou de volume réduits’ (Deleuze 1990: 238). 10. ‘L’événement n’ouvre pas un nouveau champ du réalisable, et le “champ de possibles” ne se confond pas avec la délimitation du réalisable dans une société donnée (même s’il en indique ou en induit le redécoupage). L’ouverture de possible est-elle alors un but, le problème étant moins de construire l’avenir que d’entretenir des perspectives à son sujet. . . . On passe ici à un autre régime de possibilité, qui n’a plus rien à voir avec la disponibilité actuelle d’un projet a réaliser, ou avec l’acception vulgaire du mot ‘utopie’ (l’image d’une nouvelle situation qu’on prétend substituer brutalement à l’actuelle, espérant rejoindre le réel à partir de l’imaginaire: opération sur le réel, plutôt que du réel même). Le possible arrive par l’événement et non l’inverse; l’événement politique par excellence – la révolution – n’est pas la réalisation d’un possible, mais une ouverture de possible . . . Le possible est le virtuel : c’est lui que la droite nie, et que la gauche dénature en se le représentant comme projet’ (Zourabichvili 1998: 345). 11. Anyway, Guattari considers that one of the tasks of political commitment could consist in the precipitation of events: it consists in the active research of those differences that take place against the homogenising movement of integrated world capitalism. 12. Deleuzian involuntarism collides with Gramscian concept of political commitment: pessimism of reason, optimism of will. The left-wing, indeed, generally defined itself through voluntarism, that is, by means of the idea that if we do all we have to do, that if we do everything we can (following the guidelines of a revolutionary project, in this case), things will necessarily change
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
for better. Deleuzian involuntarism implies a problematisation of this idea, but this certainly does not mean a total alienation of the political by the pessimism of reason. In fact, what is put in question by Deleuze is the hope of a total fulfilment of revolutionary projects, not the will of change. Then, the question that has to be raised is: what kind of action is possible without the hope of its total fulfilment? Does the impugnation of any project’s fulfilment imply the impugnation of the very notion of will? I would say that Deleuze probably meets up here with the sense that Duns Scot or Schopenhauer used to give to the concept of voluntarism, that is, the principle according to which will is the first of human spiritual powers (previous, in that sense, to reason or intellect). Certainly, this will is not for Deleuze a subjective will, but an impersonal, event-by-product will (but isn’t this the case with all doctrines of will?). Deep down, Deleuzian involuntarism states that a subjective mutation can’t be decided, that is, that a subjective mutation could never be the outcome of a dedicated fulfilment of an idea postulated by reason; it is, indeed, the impersonal will of the event which decides a new sharing out of the affects, a new circumscription of the intolerable (‘the event is the very revolutionary potential itself’ [Zourabichvili 1998: 354]); it is that impersonal will in relation to which we can react (oppose some kind of resistance) or respond (the subjective mutation is real, but it must be prolonged by a rational assemblage of the new relations that it provokes or shows). In this sense, as suggested by François Zourabichvili (who has said the most interesting things about this), change is not to come, but is inscribed as a tendency in the contradictions of a situation in which we are compromised, that authorises us to talk about the future without having a relapse into fantasy; it can be deciphered in the very becoming of present (actuality), by opposition to the structure of fulfilment that has the future as an image thanks to the dialectical apparatus. Between the act of deciphering the future at the level of the virtual, and its assemblage at the level of the actual, there must exist an act of creation, and not the mere fulfilment of a possible (system of alternatives): ‘le néant de volonté procède à la destitution d’un faux problème: le système des alternatives. Son envers, ou la consistance positive de la politique, est l’élaboration expérimentale de nouveaux agencements concrets, est l’élaboration expérimentale de nouveaux agencements concrets, et la lutte pour l’affirmation des droits correspondants’ (Zourabichvili 1998: 354). In short, even if it is not possible to talk about hope in the context of this militant praxis, neither can we conclude a politics of total despair. Deleuze writes: ‘ne pas savoir d’avance comment quelqu’un, éventuellement, se trouvera capable d’instaurer en lui et hors de lui un processus de rationalisation. Certes il y a tous les cas perdus, le désespoir. Mais s’il y a une chance, de quoi quelqu’un a-t-il besoin, comment procède-t-il pour sortir de ses démolitions? Tous peut-être, nous naissons sur un sol de démolition, mais nous ne gâcherons aucune chance. Il n’y a pas de Raison pure, ou de rationalité par excellence. Il y a des processus de rationalisation, hétérogènes, très différents suivant les domaines, les époques, les groupes et les personnes. Ils ne cessent d’avorter, de glisser, d’aller dans des impasses, mais aussi de se reprendre ailleurs, avec de nouvelles mesures, de nouveaux rythmes, de nouvelles allures’ (Deleuze 1988: 14–15). 13. ‘[S]uivre les flux qui constituent autant de lignes de fuite dans la société capitaliste, et opérer des ruptures, imposer des coupures au sein même du déterminisme social et de la causalité historique; dégager les agents collectifs d’énonciation capables de former les nouveaux énoncés de désir; constituer non pas une avant-garde, mais des groupes en adjacence avec les processus sociaux, et qui s’emploient seulement à faire avancer une vérité sur des chemins où elle ne s’engage jamais d’ordinaire; bref, une subjectivité
116 Eduardo Pellejero
révolutionnaire par rapport à laquelle il n’y a plus lieu de se demander ce qui est premier, des déterminations économiques, politiques, libidinales, etc., puisqu’elle traverse les ordres traditionnellement séparés; saisir ce point de rupture où, précisément, l’économie politique et l’économie libidinale ne font plus qu’un. . . . Le mouvement du 22 Mars reste exemplaire à cet égard . . . sans prétention d’avant-garde ou d’hégémonie, simple support permettant le transfert et la levée des inhibitions’ (Deleuze 2002: 279). (The movement of March 22 was an anti-establishment student movement that, headed by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, would be the revolutionary seed of May ’68.) Yet, everything comes to flee again, opposing to the biopolitical articulation of society a series of insurmountable becomings in the domain of libidinal economy: Daily relationships between women and men, homosexuals and heterosexuals, children, adults, etc., as well as production mutations, imply coefficients of freedom irretrievable to the dominant system (Guattari 2004: 68–9): ‘J’ai beaucoup de mal à imaginer une petite communauté libérée qui se maintiendrait au travers des flux de la société répressive, comme l’addition d’individus tour à tour affranchis. Si le désir constitue en revanche la texture même de la société dans son ensemble, y compris dans ses mécanismes de reproduction, un mouvement de libération peut “cristalliser” dans l’ensemble de la société’ (Deleuze 2002: 370) (it is Guattari who speaks this way). Cf. Kaufman (2007: 67): ‘A left-wing perspective would be a perspective involved with the antagonisms that structure the conditions of injustice, much more than with the institutional modalities that result from this concern.’ ‘Although Empire may have played a role in putting an end to colonialism and imperialism, it nonetheless constructs its own relationships of power based on exploitation that are in many respects more brutal than those it destroyed. . . . Despite recognizing all this, we insist on asserting that the construction of Empire is a step forward in order to do away with any nostalgia for the power structures that preceded it and refuse any political strategy that involves returning to that old arrangement, such as trying to resurrect the nationstate to protect against global capital. We claim that Empire is better in the same way that Marx insists that capitalism is better than the forms of society and modes of production that came before it’ (Negri and Hardt 2000: 61). ‘In contrast, any postmodern liberation must be achieved within this world, on the plane of immanence, with no possibility of any even utopian outside. . . . Perhaps we need to reinvent the notion of the materialist teleology that Spinoza proclaimed at the dawn of modernity when he claimed that the prophet produces its own people’ (Negri and Hardt 2000: 83). ‘There is not finally here any determinism or utopia: this is rather a radical counter-power, ontologically grounded not on any “vide pour le futur” but on the actual activity of the multitude, its creation, production, and power – a materialist teleology’ (Negri and Hardt 2000: 66). ‘La rupture des schèmes, ou la fuite hors des clichés, ne conduit certes pas à un état de résignation ou de révolte tout intérieure: résister se distingue de réagir. Résister est le propre d’une volonté dérivée de l’événement, qui s’alimente à l’intolérable. L’événement est le “potentiel révolutionnaire” même, qui se tarit lorsqu’il est rabattu sur des images toutes faites (clichés de la misère et la revendication)’ (Zourabichvili 1998: 354). ‘Un événement politique est du même type: une nouvelle répartition des affects, une nouvelle circonscription de l’intolérable’ (Zourabichvili 1998: 341). ‘Pourquoi se révolter? En dehors de l’intérêt spécifique qui motive telle lutte pour ceux qui sont directement concernés, quelle raison de s’engager au côté de la subversion? Est-ce une question de morale ou d’éthique, de simple dignité
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis
pour soi-même, comme on a envie de répondre, qui plus que toute autre chose nous obligerait à écouter la voix des insoumis, des victimes, des singularités qui se dressent un moment, un instant se soulèvent? . . . Pourquoi se révolter? Par rêve, espoir, fidélité à l’utopie . . . Soit. Mais, du coup, le caractère de ce désir le rapproche dangereusement du désir freudien, dirait-on. Ce désir, en effet, à jamais insatisfait historiquement, comment peut-il se maintenir, et relancer continûment dans l’histoire des actions toujours nouvelles sans sombrer dans le découragement, le désespoir? . . . Éthique et rébellion. Qui a pour mot d’ordre: On a toujours raison de se révolter. . . . La révolution comme promesse d’un juste état social et politique, a disparu. Ce qu’il en reste donc, c’est, exactement, un mode de vie, un style d’existence, avec une forme particulière de rapport à soi et aux autres’ (Mengue 2003 : 146–57). 20. ‘On ne peut que répondre à l’événement, parce qu’on ne peut pas vivre dans un monde qu’on ne supporte plus, en tant qu’on ne le supporte plus. Il y a là une responsabilité spéciale, étrangère à celle des gouvernements et des sujets majeurs, responsabilité proprement révolutionnaire. On n’est ici responsable de rien, ni de personne; on ne représente ni un projet ni les intérêts d’une collectivité (puisque ces intérêts sont précisément en train de changer et qu’on ne sait pas bien encore dans quel sens). On est responsable devant l’événement’ (Zourabichvili 1998: 347). 21. I think that the generic threat of totalisation is, nowadays, much more worrying than eventual totalitarian threats. Capitalistic totalisation – under the forms of control societies (Deleuze), integrated world capitalism (Guattari), or empire (Negri-Hardt) – implies a vast number of forms that go much further than dictatorial (military or party based) totalitarianisms. Current capitalism, indeed, establishes in our societies a kind of symbolic totalitarianism, a totalisation that overdetermines reality by representation, and reaches zones which traditionally are far away from power. Clumsy forms of totalitarianism are, from this point of view, just a violent and voluntaristic reaction of states facing up to the failure of operational totalisations by worldwide legitimated dispositifs of knowledge and power (and, in this sense, they represent a kind of step backwards in the direction of archaic dispositifs: discipline, sovereignty, etc.). 22. Cf. Jeanson (1975: 286). I owe this reference to Ignacio Quepons (G. C.), faithful friend and tireless partner in this patient job of giving form to the impatience of freedom.
References Alemán, Jorge (2007) ‘Nota sobre una izquierda lacaniana’, Pensamiento de los confines, 20 (June). Deleuze, Gilles (1986) Foucault, Paris: Éditions de Minuit. Deleuze, Gilles (1988) Périclès et Verdi: La philosophie de François Châtelet, Paris: Éditions de Minuit. Deleuze, Gilles (1990) Pourparlers 1972–1990, Paris: Éditions de Minuit. Deleuze, Gilles (1995) ‘L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze’, Metropolis, Paris: Arte. Deleuze, Gilles (2002) L’île déserte et autres textes: Textes et entretiens 1953–1974, Paris: Minuit. Deleuze, Gilles (2003) Deux régimes de fous: Textes et entretiens 1975–1995, Paris: Minuit. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1973) Capitalisme et schizophrénie tome 1: L’Anti-Oedipe, Paris: Éditions de Minuit.
118 Eduardo Pellejero Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1991) Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?, Paris: Éditions de Minuit. Derrida, Jaques (1993) Spectres de Marx. L’État de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale, Paris: Galilée. Dunayevskaya, Raya (2004) Filosofía y revolución. De Hegel a Sartre y de Marx a Mao, Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI Editores. Guattari, Félix (1984) ‘La Gauche comme passion processuelle’, La Quinzaine littéraire, 422, pp. 4–5. Guattari, Félix (1985) Les années d’hiver: 1980–1985, Paris: Bernard Barrault. Guattari, Félix (2004) Plan sobre el planeta. Capitalismo mundial integrado y revoluciones moleculares, trans. Marisa Pérez Colina, Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, Josep Sarret, Miguel Denis Norambuena and Lluís Mara Todó, Madrid: Traficantes de sueños. Guattari, Félix and Charles J. Stivale (1985) ‘Discussion with Felix Guattari’, Wayne State University; available at: http://webpages.ursinus.edu/rrichter/stivale.html Jeanson, Francis (1975) Jean Paul Sartre en su vida, Barcelona: Barral. Kaufman, Alejandro (2007) ‘Izquierda, violencia y memoria’, Pensamiento de los confines, 20 (June). Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1976) L’idéologie allemande, Paris: Editions sociales. Mengue, Philippe (2003) Deleuze et la question de la démocratie, Paris: L’Harmattan. Nancy, Jean-Luc (1983) La communauté désoeuvrée, Paris: Christian Bourgois. Negri, Antonio and Michael Hardt (2000) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Patton, Paul (2000) Deleuze and the Political, London: Routledge. Péguy, Charles (1957) Clio: Dialogue de l’histoire et de l’âme païenne, in Charles Péguy, Oeuvres en prose 1909–1914, Dijon: Gallimard. Subcomandante Marcos (1997) ‘Siete piezas sueltas del rompecabezas mundial’, Revista Chiapas, 5, México: ERA-IIEC; available at: www.ezln.org Zourabichvili, François (1998) ‘Deleuze et le possible (de l’involontarisme en politique)’, in Eric Alliez (ed.), Gilles Deleuze: Une vie philosophique, Paris: Synthébo.
Politicising Deleuzian Thought, or, Minority’s Position within Marxism
University Toulouse-Le Mirail
Translated by Daniel Richter
Abstract This text provides an analysis of the Deleuzian theory of minorities. Its hypothesis is that this theory produces a double effect of interpellation: upon a materialistic reading of the philosophy of Deleuze, and upon the theoretical and political heritage of Marxism. Concerning the first aspect, the thesis of an actual multiplication of ‘becomings-minoritarian’ reopening ‘the question of the becoming-revolutionary of people, at every level, in every place’, has to be referred to the Deleuzo-Guattarian analysis of the conjuncture – namely, to a diagnosis of the global capitalist system’s dynamisms and the contradictions they produce in the social, juridical and political institutions of national States. Concerning the second aspect, I confront the adversities faced by minorities with the schema of the classes struggle, and I examine certain links (of continuation and integration, but also differentiation) between the processes of ‘proletarianisation’ and ‘becoming-minoritarian’, that is to say, between two ways of problematising the collective subject of a revolutionary politics of emancipation. Finally I assert that the concept of ‘becoming-minoritarian’ makes of the possibility of an unprecedented internationalism the way to a renewal of the two concepts between which the horizon of modern political thought extends, and around which the tradition of political liberalism and thinkers of a revolutionary politics have never ceased to confront one another: autonomy and universality.
Keywords: Deleuzian politics, minorities, the State, global capitalism, social struggles, universalism, internationalism
120 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc
I. Writing in Minor/Reading Deleuze Politically The question of minorities touches at the heart of Deleuze’s political thought, taking place as it does where the category of the ‘political’ becomes in every way problematic. This is true from several points of view: from the point of view of the political meanings of this category in the progression of Deleuze’s work; from that of its effective political implications (in the forms of theoretical instruments of decoding of the relations of social forces, of location in these relations, of prescriptions of intervention or simple tactical indicators); and from that of the manner in which one defines what it means to ‘read politically’. Here we must often hesitate between the first two points of view, which are perhaps never entirely dissociable but which do not overlap unless thus coerced – in other words, between a hermeneutic of the political, and a theoretical practice with political effects. It is certainly not a coincidence that the terminological series minority–major–minor begins to form the base of a specific conceptual work, in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature in 1975, about a literary experience which for Deleuze and Guattari directly poses the theoretical and practical question of ways of writing and reading (they will draw conclusions on this the following year in their theory of the book, Rhizome). In the first place, minorities are not thought of as ‘objects’ of reflection, nor as ‘objects’ of historical, political or sociological knowledge. Rather, they are positions and processes interior to a practice of writing (in this case literary), processes interior to language which condition a creative transformation of collective regimes of enunciation. Of course these processes themselves recall social and historic coordinates: upheavals of frontiers and migratory dynamics linked to the history of imperialism, the evolution of multinational empires, annexationist movements and creations of States, territorial redrawings and populational displacements resulting from revolutions and from the end of the First World War which will make of minorities, following the formula of Arendt, a ‘permanent institution’ throughout the juridico-political structure of the nation-state.1 And for Kafka himself we recall the status of the Czech Jewish minority throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the decline of this Empire and the rise of nationalist struggles, the sociolinguistic circumstances of this minority in the Prague of the beginning of the century. These circumstances were characterised by the coexistence of three languages. Lingua franca German was the official language of administration, business, culture and university. Czech was the vernacular language of most of the population, characterised by an increasingly conflicting relation with
Politicising Deleuzian Thought
German domination. Finally, Yiddish was spoken by some of the Jewish, mostly Germanophone population and scorned by Czechs and Germans alike (Wagenbach 1967: 65–71). What is most important for Deleuze is the impact that such complex circumstances will have upon the domination of a major language. When the hegemony of a major language is established, there are always tensions and conflicts at work within it; correlatively, the language is permeated by creative initiatives and all sorts of vectors involved in an immanent politicising of its enunciation (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 23–7; Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 101–5). In this sense, the Deleuzian theory of minorities appears first in the problematising of the endogenous conflict which weakens every system of ‘majority’ from the inside. These ‘systems of majority’ are characterised by the hegemony of a normative ensemble which both determines the social inscription of practices, conducts and human multiplicities, and manages regimes of expression and subjective positions in which groups and persons are individualised. It is within these regimes that interests, demands, memberships, distinctions, recognitions and identifications are articulated (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 105–6). From this standpoint, the norms of the language imposed as the ‘standard’, along with the norms of discursive practices in force in an institutional fabric, do not compose one hegemony among others. They compose rather the hegemony that all the others presuppose and by which they are reproduced. But the German of Prague for Kafka – the language of political, economic and cultural power – is not imposed as a major language without being simultaneously affected by multiple vectors of transformation which bear witness to effects produced on the inside of this language by geographical movements and human migrations, relations of social forces, displacements and destabilisations of the geopolitical balance of powers. The German language had already been deterritorialised from its economic domains and its commercial functions by the development of English as the new language of exchange. It had also been transformed in bureaucratic spheres by the administrators of Hapsburg established in Prague who transformed aristocratic German into unheard of variations. German thus became especially suited for ‘strange and minor uses’ for recently urbanised Czech and Jewish populations – ‘this can be compared in another context to what blacks in America today are able to do with the English language’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 17) – such as that ‘inextricable mixture of German and Czech’ which forms Kuchelböhmisch, or that ‘sort of Germanized Yiddish’, Mauscheldeutsch (Wagenbach 1967: 79).
122 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc The German learned by Kafka (following his father’s desire for him to climb the social ladder), ‘this German taught by our non-German mothers’, as he writes to Max Brod, resembles a fluid form with irregular intonations, and is riddled with syntactical errors and semantic fluctuations. It is not a minor language derived from or opposed to the major language but rather a ‘minorisation’ of the major language itself, whose resources Kafka could mine for another language capable of sweeping away the narrative contents and their actantial schemata.2 Such an immanent politicising of the means of enunciation which the Kafkan oeuvre, in its own historical conjuncture, allows to come to light, is not to be confused with the struggles of national minorities, nor does it figure there as an ideological instrument (in the sense for example that the construction of a literary history may intervene in the ideological struggle to impose the recognition of a national identity). It is conditioned by historical processes which ‘minorise’ a system of majority, or in other words, which subject the normative constants of this system to variations or deviations not coded by the system. It can only be actualised by a practical appropriation of these processes by assemblages (agencements) capable of experimenting with their potentialities for transformation. Even so, such practical assemblages are necessarily linked to the aforementioned struggles, and the Kafkan literary machine is itself adjacently connected to them in a historic conjuncture which determines literary writing as decisive in the formation of a collective conscience which does not yet exist and thus remains uncertain. It is not so much a question of literary history as of the actual creation of new forms of collective expression and enunciation, in a historical milieu where the objective conditions of such an enunciation are everywhere lacking outside of literature.3 We shall name ‘minor’ these enunciative creations (which are not only literary, but political, theoretical or philosophical) that are capable of creating a new language in a major or dominant language and, in minorising it, forging ‘the means of another consciousness and another sensibility’, striving to induce a becoming-revolutionary in the minorities to which they are connected. The problem is then that of more precisely determining the nature of this connection, for it conditions both the structure of conflictuality potentially within every majoritarian system, and the concept of the specific effectiveness, in such a system, of these minor practices. These latter are enacted from within by the actual or potential struggle of minorities. In other words, they occupy ‘positions of minority’ in a discourse, in the sense used by Marxists who talk of ‘class positions on the inside of the theory’. We will return to this analogy,
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which has its limits. We mention limits precisely because it is more than an analogy: it is a profound problematic similarity. But we can already reformulate the initial problem. In what sense would the analyses of minorities conducted by Deleuze be themselves enacted from within by such minoritarian processes? At what point does one find in Deleuze, not only a political theory of minorities, or an interpretation of the political signification of minorities today, but a possible politicising of his thought which could be identified with his internal minor positions? At what point could what Deleuze writes concerning ‘minor’ literary enunciation serve for a political enunciation in Deleuze’s philosophy? Or, to twist a formulation of Louis Althusser: in what sense could Deleuzian philosophy claim to instantiate the struggles of minorities in theory and political thought?
II. Minorities in the Becoming-Revolutionary of the Actual Situation This questioning cannot begin with considerations on ‘minorities’ or ‘becomings’ in general. Rather, they should start at the exact location where Deleuze explicitly formulates his political diagnostic of the actual situation. A double and significant location, in fact, in two texts which echo and are connected one to the other: the penultimate paragraph of Dialogues from 1977 (‘What characterizes our situation is both beyond and on this side of the State. Beyond national States. . . ’), and the last sections of the thirteenth ‘plateau’ which presents in 1980 the DeleuzoGuattarian theory of the apparatus of State (‘6. Minorities. – Ours is becoming the age of minorities. . . ’). In fact nothing less than the locating of this conjuncture seems capable of shedding light on certain factors that are relevant for us here: • The extension which is effectuated in Deleuze’s use of the term ‘minorities’, and correlatively its apparent dispersion in a work which never attempts to subsume multiplicity under a principle of objective or subjective identity, such as a State or a class. • The formalisation, beyond the example case of Kafka, of the specific conflictuality of minorities, which leads Deleuze to identify in the actual multiplication of minoritarian sets the indication of a reemergence of a global revolutionary movement. • The theoretical gesture, accordingly perhaps less paradoxical than it appears, by which Deleuze makes of this becoming-minoritarian of increasingly numerous social and cultural multiplicities the way to a
124 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc renewal of the two concepts between which extends the horizon of modern political thought, and around which the tradition of political liberalism and thinkers of a revolutionary politics have never ceased to confront one another: autonomy and universality. Actually these ostensibly different aspects are intimately linked together. At any rate, they must be, for the overlapping of a ‘becomingminoritarian’ and a ‘becoming-revolutionary’ not to be illusory, for the affirmation of a ‘becoming-minoritarian of everyone’ not to be reduced to a speculative formula empty of all effective content, and for the very term ‘revolutionary’ not to conceal a political vacuity. Bearing this in mind, we will put forward the hypothesis that the emergence of the multiplication of minoritarian struggles, in the analysis of the conjuncture which Deleuze carries out, takes over from class struggle. This does not mean that it simply supplants class struggles, but rather that it prolongs them while complicating their coordinates and transforming their modes of realisation, but also interiorising certain of their presuppositions and difficulties. This must be understood in at least three senses, which will permit us to assess both the continuity and the difference between the two forms of struggle.
1. Minorisation and proletarianisation in the State-form Firstly, the factors related to the constitution of minorities are not fundamentally different from the factors of proletarianisation. When Deleuze and Guattari write that ‘the power of minority, of particularity, finds its figure or its universal consciousness in the proletariat’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 472) it is in the first place because their concept of minority redraws the demarcating line of the base of Marxist communism and utopian communism. We find here a refusal to consider the socioeconomic structure’s forces of rupture independently of the contradictory dynamics by which the structure sustains these forces within itself, and by which it at least partially conditions their forms of crystallisation and effectuation. This is why they index their locating of becomings-minoritarian upon the systematic dynamics of worldwide capitalism, which proceed de facto to their real generalisation. Adhering to the geo-economic and geopolitical axes of capital accumulation within relations of unequal dependence between ‘Centre’ and ‘Peripheries’, the following are considered by Deleuze and Guattari the principal factors which engender minoritarian sets: decodings of alimentary flows generating famine, decodings of populational and urban flows through
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the dismantling of indigenous habitats and urbanisations, and decodings of flows of matter-energy generating political and monetary instability. In accordance with the transformations of relations between constant capital and variable capital in the countries of the Centre, the following lead to the formation of ‘peripheral’ zones of underdevelopment within the countries of the Centre itself: the development of a ‘floating’ and precarious labour force of which ‘official subsistence is assured only by State allocations and wages subject to interruption’, and the development of an ‘intensive surplus labor that no longer even takes the route of labor’ but goes through the modes of life, the collective forms of expression, the means of communication, circulation and consumption and so on. These sorts of ‘internal Third Worlds’ or ‘internal Souths’ foment many new struggles in all the linguistic, ethnic, regional, sexist, juvenile domains, but such struggles are always overdetermined by the global system of unequal dependence (Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 145–7; Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 468–9). The global capitalist system ‘minorises’ as much as it proletarianises. The difference between the two points of view will thus be all the more pronounced. The Marxist notion of the proletariat entails a triple consideration: its position within the structure of production, determined at minimum by its dispossession of the means of production and its insertion into the process of production as a pure, abstract labour force; the big industry working population’s living conditions, which involve not only the homogenisation of human misery, but populational concentration and the appearance of forms of cooperation which produce, within the ‘pores’ of industrial sites, unheard forms of solidarity, of relationships and collective consciousness; the power of becoming of that which thus tends to be constituted as a class, or following the expression of Etienne Balibar, its transitional value. While considering the surprising rarity within Das Kapital of the notion of the proletariat – a notion which nevertheless condensed until then for Marx all the implications of the ‘point of view of class’ – Balibar remarks: Everything happened as if the proletariat as such had nothing to do with the positive function that the exploited labour force carries out in the sphere of production, in so far as ‘productive force’ above all else; as if it had nothing to do with the formation of value, the transformation of surplus labour into surplus value, the metamorphosis of ‘living work’ into ‘capital’. (Balibar 1997: 223)
As if in the end this very term connoted nothing more than the ‘transitional’ character of the working class, or the manner in which
126 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc the historically untenable character of capitalist accumulation (which was already preparing the material conditions of ‘another transition which would annul the preceding one’) was inscribed into the workers’ condition, an unstable state in relation to ‘normal’ social existence (Balibar 1997: 222–3). In a strikingly similar vein, the Deleuzian notion of minority seems firstly to involve a signified that remains problematic, and secondly to indicate nothing other than the transitional vector of a substratum which is fundamentally unstable, and even unassignable (the ‘becoming-minoritarian of everybody’). However, no effacement of the signifier results; on the contrary, the signifier’s proliferation is found at all levels of the analysis between 1975 and 1980, a proliferation which seems to challenge every attempt to reassemble their instances and occurrences into a unitary form. This is because minorities are nothing other than ‘proletarianised’ masses, but they are masses inasmuch as they are immediately formed within institutional, social, juridical and ideological structures of national States. Dissociated from a strictly economic determination of the proletariat as well as from a strictly sociological determination of the working class, the concept of minority records the State’s process of socialisation, that is to say, the process through which State power is incorporated into the social and institutional structures of the capitalist formation. We could thus call ‘minorisation’ that internal distance, in the process of proletarianisation, between that which is expropriated of all social power throughout the structure of production, and that which is partially (and unequally) reintegrated into the liberal State-form, through social and political rights, statutory and symbolic recognitions, organs of representation and delegation. Consequently, the notion of minority involves an irreducible multiplicity, which is neither soluble in the sketch of a contradiction between capital and labour, nor in the supposed homogeneity of workers’ conditions. The minoritarian sets recall, in their very constitution, the variability of national frameworks and of State apparatuses which manage these sets, which partially integrate them, and which conflict with them in multiple ways. This multiplicity depends on 1) the variability of States’ positions within the international division of labour and the unequal integration of their interior market into the global market (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 461–2); 2) the variability of political structures and regimes fluctuating between social-democratic and totalitarian poles, namely between institutional and juridical integration of minorities as ‘subsystems’, and exclusion ‘outside the system’ of minorities subsequently abandoned to repressive State violence (Deleuze and
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Guattari 1987: 462–3); 3) the correlative variability of the forms and degrees of development of minoritarian struggles; 4) the variability of the types of political manipulation of minorities. We know at least two functions of such a manipulation: the instrumentalisation of immigrant workers in order to repeat the classical process of forcing producers into competition and sowing dissension into the working class (Noiriel 2005: 108–22); the ‘displacement’ of social conflicts onto ‘cultural’ norms – regarding place of residence, ethnicity, linguistic or religious criteria, generational relations, sexual conducts, etc. – all norms which ostensibly seem without relation to the norms of economic exploitation. But these norms are sources at once of objective representations and modes of subjectification, so that the conflicts thus displaced onto the cultural terrain pose in turn sundry problems for the State (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 257–8).
2. Autonomy of minoritarian struggles This difference between proletariat and minorities is not only theoretical. It has as a practical correlate the renouncement of a presupposition put forward in Marxism since The Communist Manifesto: the idea of a trend towards simplification of the antagonism supposed to oppose, increasingly clearly and inevitably, ‘two great diametrically opposite classes’, bourgeois and proletarian.4 If the notion of minorities reactivates for Deleuze and Guattari the problem of the relation between the capitalist social machine and the politicising of forces capable of shattering it, this very notion does not at all seem to guarantee a unified base, or a potentially unifiable subject, such as an objectively determinable class in which the possibility of a collective awareness and the work of its political construction could be localised. This is a difficulty which is above all political, and is the correlate of the one just mentioned which expressed (and constantly risked being concealed by) the thesis of the underlying simplification of the antagonism of the two social classes. In a way, this thesis clearly expressed the necessity of the construction of a proletarian politics outside of the Stateform, while worker struggles forced the bourgeoisie to be recomposed as a class inside of the State. And yet, this thesis simultaneously tended to misjudge that same necessity. Indeed, complemented in Marxism by an underestimation of capitalism’s inventiveness and the suppleness of institutional and State frameworks capable of developing the capitalist relations of production, it led to the conception of the relevant theoretical and practical problems as fated to be spontaneously
128 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc resolved by the infallible historic evolution of the mode of production.5 These problems are those of an autonomous politics of revolutionary movement, that is to say, the invention of original forms of organisation, but also of culture, thought and practices, capable of maintaining the asymmetrical character of conflict, and thus of creating within the revolutionary process the immanent conditions of a politics which would not be modelled on the forms of bourgeois politics or the practices of capitalist State power. Not only do minoritarian struggles encounter in turn this problem of the political autonomy of the revolutionary movement, but they confront it in an even more direct fashion, precisely because the minoritarian sets are immediately constituted in the Stateform. The power of minority, of particularity, finds its figure or its universal consciousness in the proletariat. But as long as the working class defines itself by an acquired status, or even by a theoretically conquered State, it appears only as ‘capital’, a part of capital (variable capital), and does not leave the plan(e) of capital. At best, the plan(e) becomes bureaucratic. On the other hand, it is by leaving the plan(e) of capital, and never ceasing to leave it, that a mass becomes increasingly revolutionary. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 472)
The problem of the political autonomy of a new revolutionary movement is even more crucial for Deleuze and Guattari, since it condenses their evaluation of the ambivalent success of the worker movement. On the one hand, it succeeded in imposing a class duality and social antagonisms which brought the proletariat out of its state of minority, in the specific sense of a subsystem integrated into the new ‘industrial system’, as the Saint-Simonians would say. On the other hand, it proved itself less and less capable of calling into question its own class identity (and its ‘universal class’ identity, destining it to establish a transitional new hegemony), whereas the political and union apparatuses, which were supposed to materially incarnate it, tended to be incorporated into the State-form as organs of conflict regulation within the social State, or as ‘driving belts’ within the domination of a totalitarian bureaucracy (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 255–7). This is the source of Deleuze and Guattari’s suspicion regarding the struggles of minorities internal to institutional, juridical and political structures of the State, and the reason for their insistent criticism of the aim of conquering the majority as a ‘simple’ displacement of hegemony.6 In the first part of this assessment, they seem to reactivate familiar critiques of Parliamentarianism and reformism. In the second part, they seem to replay a vague libertarian
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impulse. The Deleuzo-Guattarian analysis is, however, more complex because it engages the internal contradictions of the modern State: this latter develops within its national framework the capitalistic relations of production; but these relations are made necessary through an enlarged accumulation and reproduction process, which passes through a worldwide division of labour and a transnationalisation of capital movements. As simultaneously instruments of capital valorisation and the management of systematic disequilibria and crises, the State institutions concentrate within themselves all the contradictions of the process of accumulation. They also negotiate for better or for worse its social repercussions according to both the degree of socialisation of their political, economic and juridical apparatuses and the level of corresponding social struggles. For as much as the minoritarian sets are themselves taken up in the variable combinations of institutional integration and repression, and for as much as they take part in these contradictions internal to the State, their struggles cannot fail to take place inside of it. ‘Their tactics necessarily go that route’, at the most diverse levels: ‘women’s struggle for the vote, for abortion, for jobs; the struggle of the regions for autonomy; the struggle of the Third World; the struggle of the oppressed masses and minorities in the East or West’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 471). And what is more, these struggles inside of the juridical, political and economic institutions of States are not only tactically inevitable but strategically necessary. They are necessary to generate pressure and to influence the conditions in which the State develops within its own order the relations of production of global capitalist accumulation. This runs contrary to the mystifying representation of a capitalist system which simply and purely transcends States. These struggles interior to the institutions of the State are necessary to exacerbate the distance between the constraints of global accumulation and the impotence of States to ‘regulate’ their repercussions, whether those be economic, social, cultural, ecological, etc. This in turn runs contrary to the no less mystifying representation of an omnipotent technocracy (such a representation contributes to the simplifying reduction of every struggle within the State to a ‘récupération’ which could only be avoided through some isolated regional struggles renouncing all global strategy and all exterior support) (Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 145–6; Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 463). But henceforth, in this very movement within the State, these minoritarian struggles reveal themselves simultaneously as ‘the index of another, coexistent combat’ which, directly or indirectly, puts into question the global capitalist axiomatic itself and the State-form as such.
130 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc It is hard to see what an Amazon-State would be, a women’s State, or a State of erratic workers, a State of the ‘refusal’ of work. If minorities do not constitute viable States culturally, politically, economically, it is because the State-form is not appropriate to them, nor the axiomatic of capital, nor the corresponding culture. We have often seen capitalism maintain and organize inviable States, according to its needs, and for the precise purpose of crushing minorities. The minorities issue is instead that of smashing capitalism, of redefining socialism, of constituting a war machine . . . whose aim is neither the war of extermination nor the peace of generalized terror, but revolutionary movement (the connection of flows, the composition of non-denumerable aggregates, the becoming-minoritarian of everybody/everything). (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 472–3)
At this second more profound level, according to Deleuze and Guattari, the autonomy of a revolutionary politics of minorities passes primarily through a critique of the two ‘cuts’ or two boundaries by which the national State codes its social multiplicities. This coding is nothing but the formation of the nation as ‘the very operation of a collective subjectification’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 456), which minorities always more or less internalise but under necessarily conflicting conditions: a) a national/extra-national boundary, which tends to make of minorities (usually immigrant minorities, but also potentially every minority, whatever their criteria of segregation) interior foreigners; b) an individual/collective boundary, which inscribes in the structure of the ‘major’ national subjectivity a private–public division which is particularly problematic regarding the subjective position of minorities.7 The isolation and thus the ‘communitarianisation’ of minoritarian struggles proceed through these two boundaries. They form the double bind of a State strategy of differential and unequal integration into the national community and identity. They permit the State to confine their demands to the private sphere as only relevant to strictly individual problems, or else to tolerate their collective impact and political significance on the condition that they do not begin to connect to international coordinates or other exterior minoritarian sets. If the actual becoming of the world determines the emergence of ‘a universal figure of minoritarian consciousness as the becoming of everybody’, it is not by conquering the majority that this is accomplished. Neither is it realised by burying oneself inside of one’s minority, one’s particularism, which is only a breeding ground for marginalism. ‘It is certainly not by using a minor language as a dialect, by regionalizing or ghettoizing, that one becomes revolutionary; rather, by using a number of minority elements, by connecting, conjugating them, one invents a specific, unforeseen,
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autonomous becoming’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 106) – a becoming which then passes necessarily through transversal connections between various struggles, in a national and international space. This is a strategic line and a criterion of evaluation. Minorities are certainly not revolutionary in themselves. But the problem remains that of an evaluation immanent to the very struggles they engage in, to the practical ‘style’ of these struggles, to the modes of existence which they suppose, to the problems which they enunciate and the demands which they make (or to the utterances which they more or less consciously interiorise). The base criterion of such an evaluation is their variable aptitude to join with other struggles, to connect their problems to others which may be very different regarding interests and group identities – ‘a constructivism, a “diagrammatism”, operating by the determination of the conditions of the problem and by transversal links between problems: it opposes both the automation of the capitalist axioms and bureaucratic programming’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 473). In all these ways, the true effect of minoritarian struggles in the actual conjuncture – namely at the moment when Deleuze can affirm that ‘our age is becoming that of minorities’ and that this tendency of the present reopens ‘the question of the becoming-revolutionary of people, at every level, in every place’ – is not communitarianism, according to an already republicanised conception of minorities throughout a universal incarnated in the État de droit or the Rule of law. It is rather a new internationalism which excludes the State-form. Its task would be to construct a ‘minoritarian universal’ that would express both practices of universality which are more effectively real than the universality of the national-capitalist State, and a composition of power at least as powerful, confronted with the capitalist system, as the historic worker movement.
3. The minoritarian universal within the becoming-revolutionary How are we to understand such a universal, ‘the minoritarian becoming as universal figure of consciousness?’ At the very least, the revolutionary workers’ movement could claim, even at the price of countless selfdelusions, a real underlying universality, correlative with the historic movement of the concentration of capital resuscitating from itself its most profound negativity: a new collective subject, a bringer of a universal interest, a precursor of a society itself universal, liberated from private property as principle of particularisation and antagonistic division of the social field. We mean, of course, a society without class. What remains certain is that the minorities must not only
132 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc surmount their own particularisms, but shatter the previously mentioned double boundary, being both interior (private/public) and exterior (national/international), which allows the functioning of the national coding of minoritarian sets. But this task does not consist, for Deleuze, in renouncing the element of the ‘particular’. This element in fact remains crucial in order to valorise a mode of formulation of social, economic and political problems that is capable of thwarting their bureaucratic administration by the State.8 But this prevents at the same time the projection of a unification of the minorities into the identity of a collective subject – whatever name one gives it, classical (people), modern (proletariat), postmodern or again classical (multitude). . . How then are we to conceive of a ‘minoritarian universal’ which would be constructed by and within a revolutionary process taking up the contradictions of the actual capitalist world, and that yet does not entertain the fantasy of the messianic universality of a new subject? Such is ultimately the problem condensed by the Deleuzian formulation of a system of domination resting upon, and reproducing itself through, the distinction majority/minorities. Recall that this formulation takes place within a semiology of collective identities, that is to say, within a questioning regarding the logical and semiotic operations by which are distributed social states defined by rules of identity assignations of individuals and groups, rules of categorisation of their conducts and utterances, or in sum, by norms of disjunctive inscription (Pierre Bourdieu would say ‘distinction’) of social multiplicities: Majority assumes a state of power and domination, not the other way around . . . A determination different from that of the constant will therefore be considered minoritarian, by nature and regardless of number, in other words, a subsystem or an outsystem . . . But at this point, everything is reversed. For the majority, in so far as it is analytically included in the abstract standard, is never anybody, it is always Nobody – Ulysses – whereas the minority is the becoming of everybody, one’s potential becoming to the extent that one deviates from the model. There is a majoritarian ‘fact,’ but it is the analytic fact of Nobody, as opposed to the becoming-minoritarian of everybody. That is why we must distinguish between: the majoritarian as a constant and homogeneous system; minorities as subsystems; and the minoritarian as a potential, creative and created, becoming. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 105–6)
It obviously follows that the majority has a content, since it is constructed precisely by the hegemonisation of particular contents corresponding to a given state of domination. If the majority defines an empty universal, this simply expresses the fact that, once these contents
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are raised to dominant norms, these norms themselves seem constructed less so that everyone will conform to them than to assess those who don’t conform to them, and to identify and differentially categorise the distances between them (and not simply between them and the supposed identity fixed by the normative utterance). This is something that Deleuze no doubt picked up from Foucault. The normative utterances do not simply demand an identification or conformity (‘normalisation’). They permit the recording of the different manners of behaving in relation to this supposed interpellation (and which one also learns afterward),9 to identify the different rather than to render it identical, to assess and establish ‘deviance’ within a reproducible space of distribution of the unequal, and to make of its so-called rectification a means of reproduction of new imputations of deviance. In such an operation of ‘inclusive exclusion’, the majority is the analytic fact of Nobody, while the minority, constituted as a state by this very operation, is the synthetic fact of some particular people, whatever their number be, gathered into a subsystem and rendered countable and quantifiable by dominant norms. Plenty of dialectics can henceforth be tied between the universal and the particular in such a mechanism.10 And yet according to Deleuze, the element of conflictuality, at once dynamic factor and immanent principle of an other universality, comes from minoritarian processes which are not defined simply by deviances, but by their non-coded or unregulated character in the game of differences and differential positions. This is not a sociological extrapolation. It is an attempt at making way, within social theory, for a non-categorisable reality which prevents the objective representation from closing itself off, or furthermore (and this is effectively the same thing), which prevents the social system from coinciding with the structure of disjunctive relations which make of it a system of differential positions. Between the positions, there are still subjective transpositional processes which are entirely liveable and thinkable; between the identitary states, there are always objective becomings which are positively knowable and feasible. What is essential thus has to do with the specific effectiveness of such processes. They work simultaneously against the empty universal of the hegemonic norm and against the particularisation inclusiveexcluding of minority as subsystem. At the very least they can attain this double efficiency if determined assemblages succeed in carrying out their practical appropriation. Such are these ‘minor’ practices of which Kafka had presented an example on the plane of literary enunciation. These practices occupy a position of minority to weaken from the interior the majority’s normative constants, but they simultaneously lead this
134 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc minority itself into a transformation which frees it from its state as subsystem. And such a transformation does not abolish its ‘deviance’, but rather renders it dissipative, or undetectable, not assessable by the major rule of the measure of distances and assignation of unequal identities.11 This is why Deleuze writes that even a minority has to become-minoritarian (‘it certainly takes more than a state’) at the same time as it forms the ‘agent’ or the ‘active medium’ through which a subject ‘enters a becoming-minoritarian that rends him from his major identity’. As an active medium, minority thus becomes a vanishing mediator within ‘two simultaneous movements, one by which a term (the subject) is withdrawn from the majority, and another by which a term (the medium or agent) rises up from the minority. There is an asymmetrical and indissociable block of becoming, a block of alliance’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 291). Supposing it is through the multiplication of these double becomings that the ‘becoming-minoritarian of everyone’ can be constructed (that is to say, through a universal process which involves no gushing spontaneity of ‘Life’ or ‘History’), perhaps this point only remains obscure because of two theoretical errors which compromise the politics of minorities in Deleuze. And these are two political errors precisely because they result from an overly ‘theoretical’, or even ontologising, vision of Deleuzian thought. The first is when one speculates abstractly upon ‘the’ becoming, outside of the couplings of always contextualised becomings which make of them problems of collective experimentation capable of rendering identity positions in reality abstract. The second is the error of (theoretically) making of the multiple a given, in being or in a transcendental structure, while it is (practically) only effectively constructed by these dynamic couplings, in these connections of asymmetrical becomings. ‘Before being, there is politics’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 203), since before ontology, there is strategy. It is the constructions of alliances which decide both the type of multiplicity which one promotes and the practices of identity which one invents or reproduces. Certainly then we must give up the assumption that a collective consciousness could only have as possible content a common identity (be that identity of ‘objective interests’, problems or conditions), to accede to a universal consciousness having for content a community of becomings, that is to say, of interdependent transformations capable of modifying in their turn the very form of the universal. Then we must consider a universality of a process of relational inventions, and not of an identity of subsumption; a universality which is not projected forward in a maximum of identitary integration, but which is
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programmed and reshuffled in a maximum of transversal connections between heterogeneous systems; rather than a socio-logical universal as genre, category or class, a tactical and strategic universal as an indefinite dynamic system of practices of alliance, where the alliance proceeds neither through integration of terms into a superior identity that homogenises them, nor through mutual reinforcement of differential identities, but through the blocks of asymmetrical becomings where a term may become-other thanks to the becoming-other of another term itself connected to an nth in an open series. In short, no longer an extensive and quantifiable universality, but on the contrary an intensive and unquantifiable universality, in the sense that subjects become in common in a process where their identitary anchorages are dissipated, to the advantage of that conception and radically constructivist practice of autonomy required by a new minoritarian internationalism. ‘Minorities from all countries. . . ’ It is not entirely contingent, historically speaking, that Deleuze comes to occupy a position of minority in the political theory of the 1970s, when the revolutionary workers’ movement tends increasingly clearly to lose its major position through various struggles against the capitalist system. The way proposed here was not a proposition to ‘Marxianise’ the Deleuzian theory of minorities, but to suggest rather that this theory produces a double effect of interpellation, upon the reading of Deleuzian philosophy as well as the theoretical and political heritage of Marxism – and that, in pushing Marxism to (re)become ‘minoritarian’, Deleuzian thought itself is disposed to become political and thus to produce real effects.
Notes 1. See Arendt (2004: chap. 5). 2. See for example the analysis of the becomings in which Kafkaesque novels carry their conjugal and bureaucratic duos away, their bureaucratic and family trios . . . in chapters 6 and 7 of Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. On the deformations undergone by the German of Prague, in semantic and syntactic as well as phonetic levels, see also Wagenbach (1967: 77–82). 3. ‘Because collective or national consciousness is “often inactive in external life and always in the process of break-down,” literature finds itself positively charged with the role and function of collective, and even revolutionary, enunciation. It is literature that produces an active solidarity in spite of skepticism; and if the writer is in the margins or completely outside his or her fragile community, this situation allows the writer all the more the possibility to express another possible community and to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 17).
136 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc 4. This thesis is in the heart of the first chapter of The Communist Manifesto. 5. On these questions, we must recall the decisive analyses of Etienne Balibar in La Crainte des masses, the chapters ‘La relève de l’idéalisme’ and ‘Le prolétariat insaisissable’ (Balibar 1997). 6. ‘The response of the States, or of the axiomatic, may obviously be to accord the minorities regional or federal or statutory autonomy, in short, to add axioms. But this is not the problem: this operation consists only in translating the minorities into denumerable sets or subsets, which would enter as elements into the majority, which could be counted among the majority. The same applies for a status accorded to women, young people, erratic workers, etc.’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 470). 7. A sign of minority is precisely this impossibility, or the extreme difficulties objective as well as subjective, in interiorising the partition between individual and collective dimensions. Precisely because the ‘minor’ subject is in an unstable, marginal or precarious state in relation to the conditions of life and to the rights of the majority, all events that come for the ‘major’ subjects within the scope of an ‘individual concern (familial, marital, and so on) [joined] with other no less individual concerns, the social milieu serving as a mere environment or a background’, immediately reach on the contrary, for the ‘minor’, collective and sociopolitical consequences. (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 17–8, quoting Kafka: ‘What in great [major] literature goes on down below, constituting a not indispensable cellar of the structure, here takes place in the full light of day; what is there a matter of passing interest for a few, here absorbs everyone no less than as a matter of life and death’.) 8. ‘However modest the demand, it always constitutes a point that the axiomatic cannot tolerate: when people demand to formulate their problems themselves, and to determine at least the particular conditions under which they can receive a more general solution (hold to the Particular as an innovative form)’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 471). See also Deleuze and Parnet (1987: 145–6). 9. Anti-Oedipus called such an operation ‘paralogism of displacement’ (see Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 113–5). 10. See for example the evocative reading of Ernesto Laclau proposed by Slavoj Žižek (Žižek 1999: Part II, chap. 4). 11. Deleuze’s preface to Guy Hocquenghem, L’Après-Mai des Faunes, is absolutely emblematic on this point (Deleuze 2004: 284–8).
References Arendt, Hannah (2004) The Origins of Totalitarianism II: Imperialism, New York: Schocken. Balibar, Etienne (1997) La Crainte des masses, Paris: Galilée. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1983) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1986) Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. D. Polan, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. B. Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (1987) Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Columbia University Press.
Politicising Deleuzian Thought
Deleuze, Gilles (2004) ‘Preface to Hocquenghem’s L’Après-Mai des faunes’, in Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953–1974, ed. D. Lapoujade, trans. M. Taormina, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), pp. 284–8. Noiriel, Gérard (2005) État, nation et immigration, Paris: Gallimard. Wagenbach, Klaus (1967) Franz Kafka: Années de jeunesse (1883–1912), French trans. E. Gaspar, Paris: Mercure de France. Watson, Janell (2008) ‘Theorising European Ethnic Politics with Deleuze and Guattari’, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 196–217. Žižek, Slavoj (1999) The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology, London and New York: Verso.
Review Essay After Utopia: Three Post-Personal Subjects Consider the Possibilities
Sacred Heart University
William E. Connolly (2008) Capitalism and Christianity, American Style, Durham and London: Duke University Press. Alexander García Düttmann (2007) Philosophy of Exaggeration, trans. James Phillips, London: Continuum. Adrian Parr (2008) Deleuze and Memorial Culture: Desire, Singular Memory, and the Politics of Trauma, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Not the least of the many challenges involved in engaging with Deleuzian thought is the problem of writing about it without re-inscribing the same positivistic model that Deleuze so inimitably subverts. If difference itself grounds a virtual actuality that is also characterised by multiplicity, univocity and pure immanence, then a merely narrative account of our epistemological situation begins to seem like folly, a reductive process that drags Deleuze to a standstill in order to take a snapshot of whatever concept is most relevant to the moment. Surely there must be a better way. But even the most sophisticated approaches can be imprisoned by the linear nature of language or the symbolic order; perhaps this is part of what informed Deleuze’s well-known remark to Claire Parnet, that in philosophy ‘the aim is not to answer questions, it’s to get out, to get out of it’ (Deleuze and Parnet 2002: 1). The task then becomes, as Claire Colebrook and others have pointed out, to think transitively: how might it be possible to think actuality, think immanence, think univocity, think desire, think language itself? These questions imply metaphysical hunger of a sort with which theoretical discourse has been manifestly uncomfortable for several decades. Considered another way, however, they promise new
conceptual schema based on the positive (rather than positivistic) notion of creative and desiring production. The task for those exploring the relationship of Deleuze to cultural issues is not to extend his thought in a straight line, but to swerve or veer into thinking a productive approach to the cultural events that actualise themselves in our time. The process is then less about iconoclasm than it is about permeability: how to theorise a way into a richly layered middle ground that comprises interstices of desire, immanence, virtuality and difference? And how might one do so without simply listing and exploiting some concepts ‘given’ us by Deleuze? While much has been written on the fairly explicit Deleuzian construction of the pre-personal subject, the implicitly postpersonal subject who is actually developing concepts on a page seems to be hypostatised inside the critical text. Nonetheless, three recent books that work brilliantly with or from Deleuzian concepts also illustrate the importance of writing from a flexible, deeply thought, yet actualised subject position. In Deleuze and Memorial Culture, Adrian Parr thinks several sites – architectural and conceptual – that are based on the collective experience of social trauma, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 9/11 news coverage, US military abuses at Abu Ghraib, the Amish shootings, and ground zero. The Holocaust serves aptly as a reference point throughout her text, and she devotes a chapter to its powerful presence in the fractured urban space named Berlin. It is not, of course, that there are only a few narrative choices to make, that all cultural wounds are the same, or even that one is really ‘worse’ than another. Rather, Parr provides an intimate and agile series of readings that are sustained by the positive desire to think memorials in their unique contexts. A great strength of her work is that she clearly sees the body politic as gendered, organic and ethnic. Memorials are, she remarks, ‘utopian memories thinking’, and they work to signify the affective disruption that writers of utopian tales usually fail to mention. As such, Parr observes that memorials embody ‘[a]combination of cultural production and collective traumatic memory that can help us peel back the skin and tissue of repression so as to uncover the utopian demand that memory stirs forth’ (3). Thus Parr sets the topography and architecture of memorial sites into motion, but the movement is not linear. She is at pains to point out that, as Bergson and Deleuze suggest, the present is not an effect of the past. Rather, the past and present coexist and alter even as they are actualised into becoming. Parr’s chapter on the Vietnam War Memorial intriguingly deploys the Deleuzian concepts of affect, sensation and percept as well as the
140 Jeffrey Cain distinction between minoritarian and majoritarian statement (54–75). Perhaps there is no other more powerful example of art overcoming or, more accurately, permeating the superficial emotions of the people to whom it is meant to speak. Parr details the numerous insults hurled by Vietnam veterans and others at the designer, Maya Lin Ying, when they saw the design for the memorial. The diatribe, however, was wholly derived from majoritarian narratives about wars, heroes, world communism and reflected glory. Remarkably, it is not political or social pressure that has changed the outlook of most veterans towards the memorial, it is Lin’s dynamic re-reading of the area as an architectural and topographical machine for generating blocks of sensation and affect. Parr’s illuminating and sure-footed analysis of this situation maps the majoritarian discourse onto Lin’s gendered, ethnic and political body. Being young (still a student at Yale), a non-veteran, a woman and an Asian ultimately enabled Lin to find a line of flight from the vertical and static textuality that normally constitutes war memorials, thus leading to a deterritorialisation of the veterans’ formerly monolithic position and the creation of a ‘minor memorial’ (69). This deterritorialisation did not emerge in order to deny or undermine the soldiers’ collective memory of trauma in Vietnam, but to release it (68–72). One might add that no better testimony to the potency of Lin’s work exists than the veterans’ re-naming of the Vietnam War Memorial as ‘The Wall’, a productively reterritorialised marker for a war memorial that has, against all odds, become a multiplicity. The attempt to theorise a middle ground takes on extra intricacy when large abstract categories are involved. In particular, Deleuzian thought highlights the limits and prevarications inherent in the molar structures that impose themselves on everyday life. Nonetheless, in Capitalism and Christianity, American Style, William E. Connolly essays the task of synthesising certain internal forces in such disparate institutions as democracy, capitalism, Christianity, secularism and the news media. Connolly carefully but creatively transforms the Deleuzian concept of the resonance machine in order to mobilise nuanced tensions and influences, and he writes with a refreshing intellectual integrity. Thus he points out that his description of a capitalist-evangelical resonance machine does not issue from some imaginary pose of neutrality. Connolly remarks that descriptive comments, including his own, already contain the seeds of an agenda. For Deleuze and Guattari this was surely true, because the resonance machine they explicate in A Thousand Plateaus is an instrument of fascism. Connolly therefore envisions a new resonance machine tuned to twenty-first-century progressive politics.
Whether such an assemblage can disassociate itself from the black holes of micro-fascisms that have been elided by post-Nazi discourse is a real question. However, Connolly does not seem to duck this problem; he simply appropriates the part of the theory that he needs without specifically contradicting the rest. Pausing briefly to point out that the word ‘resonance’ is no more metaphorical than any other term used for political critique, Connolly lists some of the components that align themselves in order to resonate within the right-wing of North American politics. These include, but are not limited to, Fox News, most segments of the financial markets, the Republican Party, evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity, the Book of Revelation, and the Bush Whitehouse. While he condemns the ressentiment infused by the right-wing hermeneutic of the Book of Revelation, Connolly makes distinctions with a fine deliberation: he notes that Jimmy Carter is an evangelical Christian for whom ‘the vengeful sensibility is alien’ (52). If anything, one almost feels sorry for hyper-conservative televangelist Pat Robertson, whom Connolly puts to rout by arraying against him Spinoza, Weber and Nietzsche. The evangelicals are not the only ones capable of conjuring voices from a whirlwind. For students interested in Deleuzian identity formation, the most interesting part of the book will perhaps be Connolly’s deeply felt essay on the possibilities of Meliorism and tragic vision. Here he orchestrates a triple polyphony of Deleuze, William James and Nietzsche. Only James, he notes, draws back from sounding a tragic chord when it comes to the concept of progress, and James’ brand of Meliorism depends on a personal struggle to square faith with a philosophy of transcendence. Connolly observes that both James and Deleuze formulate a limited god, but that Deleuze’s signal contribution is belief in radical immanence. ‘Deleuze’, writes Connolly, ‘experiments in those fugitive junctures during which tradition encounters the real uncertainty of twists and turns in the making’ (131). To Deleuzian immanence Connolly ascribes an incomplete or disrupted mysticism, and it is this reading that allows Connolly to characterise his personal position on Christianity as ‘Jamesleuzian’ (133). Alexander García Düttmann’s Philosophy of Exaggeration begins with a textual experiment that situates the post-personal subject of the author (or possibly a persona) in counterpoint with his more traditional philosophical writing. Thus, even as the book’s main text states that ‘deconstruction recognises in its object, justice for example, an intrinsic exaggeration that does not even permit one to speak of a recognisable
142 Jeffrey Cain object’, a text box at the top of the same page asks, ‘is my incensed exaggeration a weakness of temperament, an affliction, or is it precisely that which protects me from decrepitude and annihilation’ (3)? The immediate temptation is to regard the line of thought in the text boxes as more personal, or perhaps more elemental, than the rest of the words on the page, but quite possibly the inverse obtains. After all, the firstperson narrative is about what the ‘I’ or Ego can know or wonder, while the putatively more objective third-person academic discourse is engaged primarily, in this case, with making fine distinctions about imbricated exaggeration and aporia. I would aver that the voice in the text box knows far less about the ‘internal’ workings of exaggeration, as a mode of doing philosophy, than does the voice on the main page. And there are other moments in which percepts shift, most notably in a brief confessional about the narrator’s visit to a sex club (26–7). This latter passage serves to complicate the book’s production of corporeal affect, which soon reappears in the chapter entitled ‘Odd Moves’, itself a sophisticated and ironic recital of the difficulties inherent in being a professor right after 9/11. Düttmann’s method here is to reframe the remarks of a literary critic to her college class in Manhattan a week after 9/11, one of her students having taken notes and later put them on the web. What follows is a devastatingly accurate satire on postmodernism as a sort of séance, with the anonymous professor playing the role of Madame Blavatsky or the Cumaean Sybil, or both. The class begins with the professor ringing a small bell, which Düttmann tells us is like an invocation of the spirits. The professor then informs the class that language itself is inadequate except to perform meaning or understanding when everything is shattered and disconnected. She gives the class aphorisms, such as ‘understanding understands only itself’ (42–3). The professorial mystic communicates by telephone with disembodied spirits (Derrida, Hélène Cixous and Jean-Luc Nancy) and reports to the class that ‘A lot of energy is coming here. A lot of language failure’ (43). This role of poststructuralist as servant of a secret fire will perhaps be not unfamiliar to those who have tried giving a paper on Deleuze as part of their local faculty lecture series, although there it is usually a perception of the audience, not honest Deleuzian affect. Düttmann’s writing displays his easy familiarity with every corner of twenty-first-century philosophical discourse. Beginning with his axiom that justifying an exaggeration thereby causes it to lose its exaggerated status, he follows the twisting and turnings of exaggeration, its implications and inclinations, its limits and liminalities. Drawing attention to his complicity with Deleuze early on, Düttmann sketches
the Deleuzian project of exaggeration as a method of pitting crowned anarchy against the familiar ‘image of thought’. Doing so requires excision from the totalising requirement of ‘clarity’ that characterises everyday opinion as well as some academic discourse. Difference and Repetition, for example, shows that comprehensive explication is radically counterproductive. For Deleuze, writes Düttmann, ‘explanation without remainder and exhaustive interpretation integrate difference in a determinate and articulated system only at the price of its annulment’ (6). This thought sorts agreeably with something that is well-known to students of Deleuze and Guattari: even in a philosophy of pure immanence and radical difference, a small amount of molecular order and subjectification is necessary in order to avoid collapse into an infinite regression of difference. Therefore, the idea is to follow becomings, de-subjectifications, lines of flight, and deterritorialisations without immediately abandoning the subject to the end of becoming, which would be solidification into a fact. It is in this context, then, that Düttmann adduces the importance that Deleuze and Guattari place on utopian narrative. The concept of utopia is deeply implicated in revolutionary politics, and revolution is immanent, as opposed to being an occasional disruption. Utopian discourse takes place ‘in a field of forces constituted by exaggerations . . . in which there is no solidification that would not harbour a becoming, and no becoming that would not harbour solidification’ (72). The idea of utopia is thus trapped between two poles, although there remain various ways ‘to get out, to get out of it’. One way is via the utopian memory and affect explored by Parr, and another would be to proceed according to Connolly’s opportunistic Meliorism. Yet a third way consists in Düttmann’s method of using exaggeration and irony to break utopian critique on the wheel of its own institutional and traditional status. The virtue of these three books, then, is that they do not simply go back to the same old questions; all of them represent departures in the best sense of the word.
References Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (2002) Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000750