Can the Majoritarian Shut Up and Listen?

The shame of being a man — is there any other better reason to write? Even when it is a woman who is becoming, she has to become-woman, and this becoming has nothing to do with a state she could claim as her own. To become is not to attain a form (identification, imitation, Mimesis) but to find the zone of proximity, indiscernibility, or indifferentiation where one can no longer by distinguished from a woman, an animal, or a molecule — neither imprecise no general, but unforeseen and nonpreexistent, singularised out of a population rather than determined in a
form.

— Gilles Deleuze, Essays Clinical and Critical, pg 1.

An interesting discussion has emerged on Melissa Gregg’s blog and carried onto Danny Butt’s blog on the politics of alterity in Deleuze’s thought. Danny raises the example of Rosi Braidotti’s feminist arguments dealing with Deleuze (here and here) and Gayatri Spivak’s critique of Deleuze and Foucault (reading notes). I have decided to respond via trackback as my response is large with large quotes, etc… [edit: well no I haven’t because Danny hasn’t got track back!!] I want to address Danny’s post on his deleuzophobia, exemplified through points from Spivak’s and Braidotti’s respective works, by highlighting a specific thread in Deleuze’s solo and co-authored works with Guattari.

I think Danny rightly locates the utility of Deleuze’s thought with

“the proviso that his strategies only make sense within the belly of Euro-Imperialism, e.g. it grows as one approaches the subjectivity of a famous white french philosopher that Deleuze inhabits. What I’m more interested in is the limits of subjectivity in Deleuzian discourse and how they tend to be routinely glossed over by Deleuze himself (and the virulence of his anti-Freudianism I think can be usefully contrasted to the value of the psychoanalytic subject-in-process that feminist film theory found so valuable).”

It is essential to locate the argument of becoming-minoritarian/becoming-woman of Deleuze’s work (with Guattari) as a viral critique of majoritarianism that seeks to work from the inside out (“we have all become ‘carriers'”) and attack the consistency of molar positions, not as philsophical arms’ dealers part of an arms’ race that seeks to empower the subaltern with weapons of mass-contention. It is any molar model and correlative positioning that comes in for questioning.

It is essential to locate the argument of becoming-minoritarian/becoming-woman of Deleuze’s work (with Guattari) as a viral critique of majoritarianism that seeks to work from the inside out (“we have all become ‘carriers'”) and attack the consistency of molar positions, not as philsophical arms’ dealers part of an arms’ race that seeks to empower the subaltern with weapons of mass-contention. It is molar model and correlative positioning that comes in for questioning.Braidotti asks “what is the role [Deleuze and Guattari] attribute to sexual difference within their general philosophy of difference?” The implicit proposition of the question requires anyone who answers to submit to the model of sexual difference, a model that is virulently contested, but a ‘model’ nevertheless. From Massumi’s “User’s Guide“:

Since no particular body can entirely coincide with the code (regularised functions) enveloped in its assigned category and in the various images recapitulaiting it, a molar person is always a bad copy of its model — an unacknowledged, low-level becoming; an undercover simulation. The difference between becoming-other and becoming-the-same is not the difference between a false copy and a true copy. It is a difference in degree of falsity (artifice). Becoming-other is a simulation that overthrows the model once and for all, so it can no longer be said to be a copy in even approximate terms. It is a declaration of bad will toward sameness, in full deployment of the powers of the FALSE. (181, fn 12)

Two things I find problematic with Spivak’s essay. First, the essay’s critiques revolves around an expectation of utility to be found in Deleuze’s and Foucault’s respective works. Secondly, in defence of Deleuze, the ‘becoming-minoratiarian’ argument surely locates Deleuze within the majoritarian. In fact, the point picked up by Foucault in his introduction to Anti-Oedipus is that we are all constituted, in part, by the micro-fascisms of majoritarianism. This ‘molecular’ dimension of majoritarianism is overlooked by Spivak who invokes molar conceptions of the minoritarian.

The concept of the ‘problem’ in Deleuze’s and Deleuze and Guattari’s thought is crucial. From “What is Philosophy?” they draw an analogous relation between science and philosophy:

A function can be given without the concept itself being given, although it can and must be; a function of space can be given without the concept of this space being given. The function of science determines a state of affairs, thing, or body that actualizes the virtual on a plane of reference and in a system of coordinates; the conept in philosophy expresses an event that gives consistnecy to the virtual on a plane of immanence and in an order form. In each casethe respective fields of creation find themselves amrked out by very different entities but that nonetheless exhibit a certain analogy in their tasks: a problem, in science or in philosophy, does not consist in answering a question but adapting, in co-adapting, with a higher ‘taste’ as problematic faculty, correspnding elements in the process of being determined (for example, for science, choosing the good independent variables, installing the effective partial observer on a particular route, and constructing the best coordinates of the equation). (133)

I may be lynched for this (and what I am suggesting is horrendously naive!), but the problem of micro-fascist becoming-majoritarian can only be solved through the radical self-disinvestment of power and the release of desire from Oedipalising reproductions of subjectivity. ‘Oedipalising’ in the broadest sense and short hand for the reproducible relations of power perpetuated in the complex social machinery of everyday life. The majoritarian thought that colonises being is a ‘problem’ that straddles those that benefit from the current state of affairs and those that occupy subordinate subject positions. It is an impossible or paradoxical state of affairs. In a certain way, Deleuze actually takes up the problem in “Essays Clinical and Critical“:

But the problem of writing is also inseparable from the problem of seeing and hearing: in effect, when a language is created within language, it is a language in its entirety that tends toward an “asyntactic,” “agrammatical” limit, or that communicates with its own outside.
The limit is not outside language, it is the outside
of language. (lv)

Is it a question of the minoritarian finding a voice or the majoritarian shutting up and listening? Or something in between?

4 thoughts on “Can the Majoritarian Shut Up and Listen?”

  1. Hi glen – sorry about the lack of trackback – I’m still working out all this blog stuff.

    My question is still: what is the state of affairs that allows one to say “we are all constituted, in part, by the micro-fascisms of majoritarianism”, and who would that statement be useful for? I am not going to even try and enter the terrain of Deleuze here because my reading of his works is 10 years ago and I don’t know my machines from my assemblages.

    I just find it difficult to valorise the Fuller/Deleuze/Massumi team’s evasion of the “model” of sexual difference, in the face of the lived experience of sexual difference underlying the critiques mounted by Braidotti and Spivak. I don’t think this is a particularly theoretical question, but I think it’s a very important one. And it becomes even more apparent when these positions are embodied in e.g. conference settings, where we as real people have to inhabit this language.

    This is not to say that Deleuze CAN’T be useful for n
    Danny | Email | Homepage | 11.02.05 – 8:51 pm | #

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    Man – haloscan cuts off comments at 1000 characters! Can you change this?
    Cont:

    This is not to say that Deleuze CAN’T be useful for non-white male philosophers (Braidotti being a case in point, or someone like Jo Smith at Auckland U. doing very interesting work with Deleuze from a Maori perspective), as much as Coronation Street is not ONLY interesting to Anglophiles. But the fact that it tends to 90% of the time should raise some red flags about how universally these concepts can be applied.

    And Deleuze IMPLICITLY raising his subject position in a “becoming minoritarian” argument is not the same as explicitly recognising the critiques of his subject position made by actually existing “minorities”. To do so would require that he seriously engage with those critiques, and the fact that he basically doesn’t is the real issue as far as I’m concerned. Because minorities seeking power do so not as abstract “minorities” but from a PARTICULAR experiential exclusion from the p
    Danny | Email | Homepage | 11.02.05 – 8:53 pm | #

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    Because minorities seeking power do so not as abstract “minorities” but from a PARTICULAR experiential exclusion from the processes of cultural power, that is not reducible to minoritarian status.

    (sorry for this 3-comment comment!)

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