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Deleuze and the a Marx and Hegel)

Deleuze and the a Marx and Hegel)



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Strategies, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2002
Deleuze and the “Dialectic” (a.k.a. Marxand Hegel)
Gregg Lambert 
An old question has resurfaced in light of changes that have taken place in theconcept of difference over the past 30 years, and I am thinking particularly of thechanges effected by those works that Gilles Deleuze in
Difference and Repetition
dened as belonging to “a generalized anti-Hegelianism.”
These works are wellknown to us today and do not need much in the way of further clarication. Butthe question that has returned to demand further clarication is the following:what is the status of the dialectic in the philosophy of difference?As readers of Hegel and Marx, we understand that the dialectic is a provenmeans of thinking difference, in that by tracing its movement, “difference ndsits own concept in the posited contradiction.”
As readers of Deleuze, however,we also know that a “philosophy of difference” refuses a concept of the dialecticthat is founded by contradiction, because this method fails to ground a speciesof difference that is “in itself,” and “the negative and negativity do not evencapture the phenomenon of difference, only its phantom or epiphenomenon.”
Deleuze writes at many points that contradiction is less and not more profoundthan difference; less profound means that it has less depth (or volume), that itis supercial (a surface phenomena), an effect of real difference. If difference can be traced or projected onto a at space, this is because it is already reduced asan element of the space in which it appears (as either contrary, or negative) and,thus, is no longer itself an effective force of differentiation. (According toAlthusser’s ne phrase, it is “already found to be pre-digested.”) This is whyDeleuze says of the difference that appears via the negative or negativity, thatit is only the phantom and epiphenomenon of difference because it continues tomanifest itself
us (that is, for consciousness) as the “shadow of a moreprofound genetic element.”
Although the old dialectic “makes difference,” it is true, it is also fashionedfrom abstract generalities (one and many, whole and part, large and small). Itproduces contrary concepts, or contradiction, by which being is divided intoitself and everything it is not. Yet, this is not effective difference, but ratherformal or logical difference. As Deleuze writes, “it is the image of difference, buta attened and inverted image, like the candle in the eye of an ox.”
Inniterepresentation (the Hegelian dialectic), therefore, suffers from the same defect asAristotelian nite representation: “that of confusing the concept of difference initself with the inscription of difference in the identity of the concept in general.”
 Hegel takes the dialectic only so far, to the limit of contradiction, while real, effectivedifference remains either “beyond” or “beneath” this limit in such a manner that sets themark for philosophy after the “age of Hegel
Given the above claim that Hegel has, so to speak, “set the mark,it is
ISSN 1040-2136 print/ISSN 1470-1251 online/02/010073-11
2002 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10.1080/10402130220127852
74 Strategies
Vol. 15, No. 1
remarkable—I am certainly not the rst to note this!—that Deleuze did notchoose to rectify the Hegelian dialectic. That is to say, like Marx after Hegel, hedid not seek to correct or to repair its false and distorted image, or like Althusserafter Marx, to complicate its principle of “simple contradictionso that thedialectic assumes a more complex and “over-determined structure.” On thecontrary, according to Deleuze, it was Hegel—not Marx, interestingly enough—who pushed the dialectical determination of difference to its ultimate limit, “thatis, to its ground which is no less its return and reproduction than its annihila-tion.”
Consequently, there is a more implicit claim being made here thatsubsequent attempts to capture the movement of difference by means of adialectical principle only discover the real
already annihilated in its ground
. Thisclaim would be signicant for any discussions concerning the relation betweenDeleuze and Marx, pro or contra. The statement concerning “the greatness ofMarx” aside—a statement that has recently acquired the status of a missinggospel!—the prole of any true relationship must be found in the domain ofconcepts.The following discussion will briey take up and develop these observationsin order to explain why Deleuze does not resort to a dialectical “image ofthought” to ground his philosophy of difference, even though this does notmean, as I also hope to demonstrate, that he abandons a dialectical procedure ofposing problems and solutions. My discussion will focus on several key pas-sages on the dialectical image of thought from
Difference and Repetition
, which Iwill discuss these in the context of Althusser’s essay “Contradiction and Over-Determination,” an essay that Deleuze himself refers to at a critical point of hisargument against contradiction and the negative.
After developing these points,I will conclude with some preliminary comments about the nature of Deleuze’sversion of the dialectic, which is based on a determination of the
(or asDeleuze often says “genetic”) character of any problematic: “the imperativeinternal element which decides in the rst place its truth or falsity and measuresits internal genetic power, that is,
the very object of the dialectic or combinatory, the‘differential
To begin I might recall a version of Feuerbach’s thesis: it is because the Godswere created out of our confusion that they continue to confuse us. We mightalso apply this maxim to the confusion that has surrounded the dialectic. If theimage of the dialectic was the product of a certain mystication (caused by theprojection of ideational form into real material processes of differentiation, or thesubstitution of effect for cause), then perhaps the fact that the proper represen-tation of the dialectic continues to elude us is not due to any profound or hiddenmeaning, but rather because its representation already appears in the form of afalse problem, one which distorts the nature of movement itself in thought andin matter. It is possible—as I will cite in a moment, Althusser suggests thishimself—that an entire tradition of Marxian inquiry has been preoccupied by thefalse problem concerning “true imageof the dialectic. This line of Marxistinquiry holds implicitly to the belief that once
we get it right
, things will work outin due course; that is,
once we understand how it (the dialectic) works, then historywill resume a dialectical path
. (Hence, we have witnessed the repeated calls to“purify” the dialectic, or to rigorously fashion a “specically Marxist dialectic.”)“If the dialectic, as Lenin said, is realized as the conception of contradictionwithin in the very heart of things, in their development, but also in their
Lambert 75
non-development, their distortions, and mutations, and even in their disappear-ance, then we will have attained the denition and specicity of the Marxistcontradiction, the Marxist dialectic itself.”
In Althusser’s hands, this problem of representation itself takes the form of aparadox, or more specically, the well-known
of “the rational kernel in themystical shell,” which occasions the famous meditation and textual analysis thatoccurs in the beginning of the essay “Contradiction and Over-Determination,”concerning the image of inner (live, rational, perhaps I might even risk saying“spiritual”) essence and outer (dead, mystical) form. This
undergoesseveral variations until we arrive to the conclusion that it is not simpleinversion,which would only amount to a change of dress, of one (dead)appearance (or metaphor) for another. Because the dialectic is contaminated
in principle
, Althusser argues, what is required is not its simple correction orrectication, but rather a transformation in such a way that the
of the shelland the kernel are replaced by a new structural determination that will throwsome light on, not the old principle, but rather “the specicity of the Marxistdialectic.”
To his credit, Althusser crystallizes this problem by fully realizingthe above
in his “theoretical practice of reading Marx,” but it could also be said that this new method did not make the dialectic any less mystifying.Althusser did not, in concrete terms, solve the problem of the dialectic, butrather defer its solution, by a more tortuous route, to “the last instance.” As anaside, we might ask whether or not this solution had the effect of re-introducingthe Hegelian absolute moment, or “Circle of circles,” back into Marxist theoreti-cal practice, although this time as this circle appears from “below,” as a kind ofzig-zag line or de-centered cyclone of material history following the law of“uneven development.”Turning now to our commentary on Deleuze, we might notice that everythingsaid concerning the dialectic up to this point has been posed in terms ofproblems and solutions. As is well known—and this is true for Althusser aswell—the dialectic already represents a certain solution that is situated in thepractice of Marxist theory, and it is from here that the problems and questionshave arisen that have challenged this theory’s coherence (for example, theproblem of “the weakest link,or the problem that Althusser calls
les sur-vivances
,” which are those points of potential social contradiction that are presentonly to the degree that they are “
” and thus appear, like in dream work,as the ghosts of a future anterior). In order to resolve such problems on atheoretical level, Althusser and Deleuze both argue that problems of this typeare only shadows that must be viewed from the perspective of a “deeper,” moreprimordial problem which corresponds to the social solution originally posed inthe division of labor, that is, the primary contradiction in Marxist theory, thedivision between the forces of production and the relations of production. In theencounter with this primordial problem, which is the problem of production assuch, society attempts to solve it by means of the division of labor, and not onlyonce, but repeatedly.In one of those odd, but characteristic moments in his exposition of theproblem-differentiation scheme (namely, the dialectic), Deleuze does not refer tothe concept of Marx, but rather a passage from the historian Arnold Toynbee“who, it is true, is little suspected of Marxism”:

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