This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Translation Diarmuid Hester, June 2010. Available at http://multitudes.samizdat.net/Les-deux-pensees-de-
Deleuze-et-de Intro: Responding to two questions posed by Y. Ichida regarding Giles Deleuze's conception of politics and its relation to the notion of the multitude, François Zourabichvili attempts to refine Deleuze's conception of an in-voluntarist politics by distinguishing it from the thought of Toni Negri: the concept of the multitude, he concludes, is not Deleuzian; furthermore, the “institution” in Deleuze’s thought does not correspond to Negri’s “constituent”. Where Negri proposes a total theory, Deleuze proceeds by a series of local skirmishes, going from localised struggle to localised struggle; one position of instability to another. The opposition between Deleuzian “involuntarism” and Negrian “voluntarism” signals a disagreement over the system of actualisation. Multitudes: 1. With regards to the [perceived] absence of every political project in Deleuze's work, you have spoken, in “Deleuze and the possible” (Deleuze. Une vie philosophique, ed. E. Alliez, 1998), of an “involuntarism” that is characteristic of his “leftism” and you have identified a Deleuzian politics in his conception of the possible as that which is not realised but rather created. From this point of view, can the “multitude” as a political subject be Deleuzian? What relationship do you see between the insistence of Toni Negri on the “subject” (often called absolutely voluntarist) and this Deleuzian “involuntarism”? 2. If, for Deleuze, politics consists of creating and actualising the possible can philosophy have a role to play in this actualisation? Or does Deleuze's silence regarding the
concrete creation of the possible mean that politics becomes separate from philosophy? FZ: The absence of a project doesn’t indicate a lacuna, but is in fact the condition of what Deleuze calls “believing in the world” (not believing in another world, or one transformed): Deleuze held that faith in the world or in what happens to us is the problem, or at least has become so (cf. Cinema II: The Time-Image). It’s not that images and games make us lose our sense of reality, as conventional discourse would have it, but rather that the habitual condition of this belief has collapsed upon itself. The “fact of modernity” is that recognisable systems, to which we ordinarily submit in every walk of life (in work, in conjugality, in militantism, in art, etc.), tend to appear to us as the clichés they are: we oscillate between an experience of déjà-vu and the bare event because we do not know how to stop participating in systems that are no longer secure in their function. Here, concerning the concept of “revolutionarybecoming” (devenir-révolutionnaire) (as opposed to concerns about the revolution’s future [l'avenir de la revolution]), the general theme of “involuntarism” relates to politics. This concept is less a political carpe diem than a veritable trial: shall we know, one day, how to grant a reality to events as they are (1905, the Liberation, 1968), independent of both a plan for the future which assigns to them a certain degree and signification (“répétition générale”), or a retrospective judgement that evaluates them after have come to pass (as a revolution missed/betrayed/toxic)? We always want an event to have an end, but an event is from the outset a rupture, a transformation of collective perception (new relations to work, to knowledge, to childhood, to time, to sexuality, etc.). Thus believing in the world is about believing in the reality of the world's internal ruptures. According to Deleuze and Guattari, political potential resides in these ruptures (systematically misrecognised by those prescient and retrospective assessments); indeed, they are
the source of law and every new economic, social or political assemblage, that is to say, institutions in general (new laws, new relations at work or school, or even new forms of conjugal life). As for what you call “the concrete creation of the possible” there must, as a rule, be silence. No one knows how to anticipate that which can only be created (witness Deleuze's obstinate silence at the end of “Postscript on the Societies of Control”): it is not possible to highlight the axes of a new kind of struggle because these struggles are already at work (cf. “May '68 didn’t happen”). Yet this theoretical aporia doesn’t necessarily mark the destitution of thought: it could be, rather, the courage of a thought which exposes itself to time. The role of the philosopher in the actualisation of open possibilities is another matter, and Deleuze makes himself quite clear on this point, most notably in an interview with Foucault in 1972: the time of the philosopher as guide of the masses is over, dispatched by philosophy itself, whose internal transformation encourages the philosopher to think of himself as having a different kind of status. Not that the role of philosophy in “becomingsrevolutionary” is negligible, in fact one might say it’s the sole purpose of the philosopher-as-scout; but philosophy, like other disciplines, assumes a role inasmuch as its practices are not immutable and its own transformations resonate with the transformations of other practices, theoretical or militant. In this sense, transformations and their political potential go through philosophy. In a book like A Thousand Plateaus, the practice of these resonances is a very condition of the transformation of philosophical discourse and what should be studied [in this work] is the Deleuzoguattarian outline of an immanent or “literal” discourse. “Literality”, that is to say the nomadic distribution of meaning arising from the division between proper and figurative sense, is nothing other than the production of certain effects in the political field. For instance, to take up the example of Cinema II
regarding the transformation of political cinema in the second half of the 20th century, statements like “bankers are killers” and “factories are prisons”, at a certain level must be heard literally, not as metaphorical agit-prop clichés. Certainly, bankers are rarely killers in the proper sense, but on the other hand, if we all we have here is metaphor, the system of banking remains unscathed and we are confined to merely imagining certain humanitarian adjustments. However, everyone more or less intuits this literal understanding, maybe it’s even an aspect of this “fact of modernity”; what remains to be done is to produce philosophical conditions in it; to seize it with a discourse that shows its legitimacy and explores its virtualities. This is an essential dimension of Deleuze's work since Difference and Repetition - an essential, but puzzling dimension, since most people think that Deleuze's discourse is metaphorical or do not understand how this can be tenable. Is the concept of the multitude Deleuzian? I don't think so. But I don't think it matters. For if we are in the presence here of two thoughts instead of only one, there is cause for delight: we’re very fortunate. I think that the major difference concerns the institution. For Negri, the institution does not play any role: in relation to the notion of “constitutent power” it is pure exteriority (cf. the opposition from between as limited and unlimited; measurable and immeasurable). He isn’t concerned with the institution which comes without, integration and distortion. Consequently, “constituent” poses a problem: everything that this shapeless and “omni-versatile” power constitutes, it must immediately negate in order to remain itself; yet in so doing, it seems to me, it cannot but negate a part of itself. With Deleuze, the institution understood in two senses, distorts equally desire and the creative moment but it is no less positive for this: the act itself constitutes and actualises a creation. Without doubt at a certain level the two models,
integration (or “capture”) and actualisation (or “assemblages”, always threatened by “stratification”), are similar (as we see in Foucault). Nevertheless, they continue to be distinguished from one another, and Deleuze of is the the first to formulate as the “a incommensurability common (understood
communication of the heterogeneous”) to the external measure of the “common sense”. He does so by linking the “small” and the excessively large, in those lines which seem to me to have inspired the original developments on poverty in Kairos, Alma Venus, Multitude (cf. Difference and Repetition [52-55]). In short, the relation of the virtual and the actual is that which dramatises the relation between desire and the institution in Deleuze. Nomads lie at the edge of this and for this reason do not leave a mark upon history. They cross the threshold of representation only negatively, as acts of resistance: every form of resistance is reciprocal and nomadic (cf. the concept of the “war machine”). Therefore, what tends to go unperceived is the positivity that envelops resistance: that is to say, the specific space-time that establishes itself in every case and that does not allow itself become institutionalised in the ordinary sense of the term, but reveals the paradox of the institution, inseparable from a crisis and a struggle, and opens possibilities for social or juridical assemblages that were previously unthinkable. These are, very roughly, the two meanings of institution in Deleuze. Perhaps it is in this sense that power is constituent in Negri: perhaps there is a possible convergence between insurrectional space-time in Deleuze (which makes itself apparent to “spatio-temporal dynamisms”, of which it is a question of the theory of the Idea, cf. Difference and Repetition) and Negri’s revamped Marxist “living labour”. Anyhow, it can only be at the level of this detail that a convergence is possible and not around the general rallying cries of “immanence!” and “event!”, that is to say, notions emptied of their
conceptual force (loss of detail is always the price to pay for a unitary philosophy). But what is clear, is that as soon as Deleuze posits the relation of actualisation, action can no longer be directed towards ignoring or destroying institutions. One of the leitmotifs of A Thousand Plateaus is that “molar” (hard “segmentarities”, the institutional cutting-up or scansion of our lives) is not less necessary to life than the “molecular” (where life produces, invents, creates itself): a minimum of reproduction is necessary, even if we suffer from the fact that the latter occupies all of the field. In any case, the naked Body without Organs (a little like the analogue of constituent power) is nothing other than death itself, which is why every becoming involves a relationship to death, a sort of death drive (the repulsion of all institutions, of all “organs”). From this, and against Negri, we can posit a perversive rather than subversive model (on this opposition, cf. in particular Logic of Sense). In contrast to Negri, Deleuze never believed the promises of subversion, on the contrary, he was attentive to the manner in which every order, every institution, is incessantly perverted by “lines of flight”. Hence, a first difference of a methodological order: where Negri proposes a total theory, Deleuze proceeds by skirmishes, by localised destabilisations. For example, [Deleuze] often approaches the topic of the institution, but from a diverse range of angles which never resolve themselves into a unified theory. Thus, as regards the topic of institutions, of course his discourse seems lacunary, because he eschews explanation, always looking for sensitive points where the predominant doxa can be affected: for him, theory is a practice, a perverse practice. His conception of politics is similar: always going from one localised struggle to another, having these instances communicate in solidarity, yet never revealing an enterprise for total subversion. (This is why he admired the individual militantism of Foucault and Guattari.) The second difference is of the order of the chronotopic: the thought of Deleuze and the thought of Negri are both governed by the general dynamism of the inside exit, of
the immanent flight (to finally conquer the earth!); but with Deleuze we cannot flee [fuir] except by frightening a given system [faire fuir] (the perverse model - cf. the formulation “leave philosophy by philosophy”). Negri, on the other hand, posits the subversive and splendid myth of an Exodus by considering the tendency of the capitalist order to nourish itself on the cooperative work of the multitude, which in turn, by its own work ceaselessly subtracts itself more and more from the capitalist order (if this myth is true, it would be a great trick played on the powerful who watch over us). A confirmation of this divergence is the indifference of the authors of Empire regarding the distinction between the migrant and the nomad, which is so essential in A Thousand Plateaus. As for the voluntarist remnant of Negri's thought, it is easily attributable. Certainly, according to one explanation the new postFordist paradigm was imposed on capitalism by the great antidisciplinary transformation of collective subjectivity and this clearly inclines towards the side of the involuntary, and from this point of view brings about an exciting complement to “Postscript on Control Societies”. But the obstinacy of making even an open-ended subject of the multitude, for me leads to a logical impasse: the insoluble paradox of a voluntarist involuntarism. Negri, with ample lucidity, gives it this formulation: “effective action has always attracted new successes” (Insurgencies, ). Obviously, this conversion of the practical cannot be self-sufficient, it must find the sources of its confidence elsewhere, in real movements, and that's why Empire is in principle the indispensible complement of Insurgencies. But herein lies the surprise: in place of an empirical foundation of voluntarism, we fall back on a voluntarism which lies at the heart of a description of real movements, on the traditional Marxist mode of prescription of the ineluctable: the Exodus of the multitude out of capitalism is an a priori deduction. The deduction was elsewhere acquired at the end of Insurgencies: “this domination is always
irredeemably undermined by the constituent sabotage of the multitude” (). For the latter, this voluntarism falls back upon a presumption of the permanence of innovation, the event and creation, with rare moments of crystallisation. For Deleuze and Guattari, however, one must not confuse the conditions of creation and effective creation: that there are always lines of flight does not mean that we know how to recognise them or that we can trust them, the strength of the multitude being most often “separated from what it can do”. Thus the same disagreement over the system of actualisation. Thus, Negri's disenchanted enthusiasm (his own words) differs greatly from Deleuze's joyful pessimism.