Deleuze! WTF?

I am busy marking at the moment, and I only try to let myself have one hour of playtime a day. I exceeded the quota terribly today. Why not add a blog post to the tally?

There are abrupt moments where I will read Deleuze’s work and think, “Deleuze! What the fuck?” I read something that seems to contradict what I had previously thought. There have been at least two of these moments, and perhaps more that I have forgotten.

One was reading The Fold in the passage where Deleuze says something like the question of scale is a question of persepctive. WTF? Was Deleuze lapsing into some sort of postmodernist relativism? No. The answer to this WTF is provided in the text. Latour picks up on this too. It is not a question of the relativity of truth, but the truth of relativity.

The other moment came when reading The Logic of Sense where he says, “Structure is in fact a machine for the production of incorporeal sense (skindapsos).” Structure? WTF! Deleuze a structuralist? He wrote a brief essay on the subject, and Alliez addresses it in a paper published as an appendix to his Signature of the World:

That is how Deleuze could recognize himself in a certain structuralism (it is after all the principle behind his response to the question ‘How Do We Recognize Structuralism?’ [Deleuze’s essay]: by seeing structure as virtuality, as the multiplicity of virtual coexistences effectuating themselves at diverse rhythms in accordance with a multi-serial time of actualization …), before denouncing structuralism’s incapacity to account for a reality proper to becoming in a later text from A Thousand Plateaus: `Memories of a Bergsonian’.
For it was in the wake of his Bergsonian studies’ I that Deleuze could oppose to the sedentary character of numerical individuation the nomadic insistence of the virtual in the actual, the pure spatio-temporal dynamism designed to let us grasp the world in its ideal eventality and `real experience in all its particularities’ (heterogenesis). Whence a second proposition which sums up this experimental naturalism for which philosophy merges with ontology and ontology merges with the univocity of Being (according to the famous formulae of The Logic of Sense).

Structure as the machine for the production of incorporeal sense (ie events), this machine is the multiplicity of virtual coexistences effectuating themselves at diverse rhythms in accordance with a multi-serial time of actualization. How is structuralism proper possible then? The obvious answer is that it is a question of perspective (of the scale of events); for example, the truths of rationalities that Foucault extracted from the archive and which existed on epistemic scales.

5 replies on “Deleuze! WTF?”

  1. I’ve just been reading ‘Deleuze: the Clamour of Being’ by Alain Badiou this morning. Since I haven’t finished it yet, can’t say much of his thesis as a whole, but was struck by a similar feeling of incomprehension at the assertion that Deleuze is fundamentally concerned with a renewed concept of ‘the One’, rather than multiplicities, differentiation and heterogenesis.

    This makes sense, however, in relation to the ‘univocity of Being’, and the antidialectic running through the entire project of Deleuze. That is, the struggle of ensuring that the distribution of Being is never along two paths, that any binary never operates any ontological division. For instance, the virtual and actual always nurse their opposite within themselves, producing a fractal egalitarian movement or play between structuralism and contingency.

    In the first chapter, this is referred to – in a seemingly critical manner – as the ‘monotonous productions’ of Deleuze’s method. Where the coherency of his thought is reproduced endlessly no matter what the context: Whitehead, Melville, Godard, Spinoza, Foucault, Bacon, Sacher-Masoch, all result in an identical regime of emphasis. I couldn’t help thinking of all the ‘applied’ Deleuzian papers I’ve sat through that repeat and confirm concepts like becoming, deterritorization/reterritorization, etc., to an ambiguous and identical end.

    The question of perspective is another matter, no doubt. However, I can’t help but feel that even Latourian analysis conceived as a Deleuzian enthnographic project (the infamous ‘flat’ ontology) results in a particular descriptive quandary – you know you’re finished the study when you’ve written the last word…

  2. Michael,

    I agree applied deleuzisms can be mere cliche-machines operating within an economy of order-words in the service of an academic cultural industry. The preface to Alliez’s book is good on this, staking out two forms of commentary. The differential actualisation of virtual potentialities of (proper-named) philosophies versus commentary more in the sense that Foucault talked about.

    (Also Alliez’s book could be read as a pre-emptive response to Badiou’s provocations! At least that is how it is framed in the appendix. I don’t really understand it as I need to read the bergson book first. i’ve done all my deleuze reading arse about. Auto-ethnology of the concept, whatever! I get the argument, but I need to understand this materiality of philosophy that Alliez writes about.)

    The ANT writing out business from what I understand is interesting because it is a clear example of a solution framing a problem. The problematic is not solved as such, only that a solution presented highlighting a problem. The solution itself could be differentially repeated, which in turn frames the problem in a different manner. In my writing rather than exhausting the problematic I am trying to reach a stage where such a proposition would be impossible. My goal is a certain kind of textual grace where the configuration of the heterogeneous elements of my writing don’t “measure up” as much as they move together like a vectorial dance ensemble. It makes me think of how Jean Claude van Damme is actually a trained ballet dancer but becomes one of the fightiest action stars. Universal Soldier: The Musical, etc.

  3. Hi Glen

    FWIW, that line about structure as a machine seems comparable (notwithstanding potential differences, of course) with Foucault’s point about the positivity of discursive regularities (in the Archaeology). Or again, with Derrida’s reading of Levi-Strauss as a kind of empricist.

  4. rob, I don’t know about derrida;) but that is exactly how I read Foucault too!!! Isn’t Deleuze’s discussion of ‘statements’ in his book on FOucault precisely about these discursive regularities? It informs my understanding of what Foucault calls eventalization, that and his own description of his practice at the beginning of Society Must Be Defended in terms of being a ‘minor science’ (in the D&G sense).

    The series of ‘statements’/’discursive regularities’ are serial actualisations of a problematic which must be *followed* through the complex materiality of the archive. At points of movement or discontinuity in the archive (the governmentality lecture is a great example of this across the three forms of government traced through the archive in terms of what was sayable, ie ‘statements’) allows for the extraction of composite singularities (distributed across texts) and therefore correlative discursive events.

    I try to rework this by shifting perspective from the truths of rationalities to the rightness of enthusiasms (similar to ‘structures of feeling’ or ‘mattering maps’, but goes back to Kant where enthusiasm is something that was ‘a universal recognised on the faces of others’). One of the problems that I face by looking at the ‘popular archive’ is that the speed and rhythms of discursive movements, and hence the frequency in the distribution of singularities, is greatly accelerated. This is because the affective relations must not only be constantly modulated to reproduce given populations of enthusiasts for the cultural industry which works at a very brisk pace, but new population segments must be continually captured as they emerge. It is not a question of conserving or producing political power, but of consolidating population segments for the purposes of synergistic commercial exploitation.

    Look at who is buying into the Australian media landscape… investment fund companies…

  5. I can’t comment on ‘leuzies discussion of statements as I’ve not read his Foucault.

    On a completely (almost) unrelated point, I just finished watching the last season of The West Wing last night, and it had a scene where all the P’s personal belongings were being packed a way . For a very brief moment (two in fact) there was a shot of a book being packed away. The book was called “Society Must Be Defended”, by Michel Foucault!

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