Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rethinking and Remembering

Attending conferences and grading have kept me from the blog as of late. Last weekend I attended the intermittently held "Rethinking Marxism" Conference (aka: Marx-a-palooza). This is my fourth time attending the conference. Which means that a) I got to see a lot of people that I know and b) the whole place (UMASS conference center/student union) has all kinds of Proustian resonances. I never knew that grey concrete could conjure up so many memories.

The pleasures of this conference were mostly of the social variety. To quote the old man himself:

When communist workmen associate with one another, theory, propaganda, etc., is their first end. But at the same time, as a result of this association, they acquire a new need— the need for society— and what appears as a means becomes an end. In this practical process the most splendid results are to be observed whenever French socialist workers are seen together. Such things as smoking, drinking, eating, etc., are no longer means of contact or means that bring them together. Association, society and conversation, which again has association as its end, are enough for them; the brotherhood of man is no mere phrase with them, but a fact of life, and the nobility of man shines upon us from their work-hardened bodies (1844 Manuscripts)

Strike the whole patriarchal (or fraternal) "brotherhood of man" and the "work-hardened bodies," these are academics after all, and you pretty much get the picture. All in all I saw friends from undergrad, grad school, as well as my current institution, and managed to make some new ones as well. Yes, it is true what they say, there ain't no party like a Marxist party (cause of all the denunciations...)

Anyone who has attended the conference knows that the real fun (and by fun I mean fiasco) is in the plenary sessions, in which various big-wigs are harangued for the sins of theory, as well as everything that has or has not happened under the name of Marxism. The wigs were not as big this time (Ernesto Laclau, Susan Buck-Morss, Kojin Karatini, are hardly household names), but that did not keep the last plenary on "Rethinking Communism" from getting pretty contentious. First, I should say that I really admire RM for putting this panel on, after all Marx has become perfectly respectable academically (even "The Economist" says we should read him), but communism is another thing entirely. It was, however, the name of communism, as well as the fact that a certain speaker (who shall remain unnameded) went well over his allotteded time, that opened up the floor to all kinds of frustrations. As much as I cringe at every demand to "tell us what we should do to bring about revolution" (or something like that) I have to say that I like the insistence on some connection to politics, to practice. After all you just do not get those kind of questions at SPEP.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Commentary and Creation

I guess that this qualifies as more post-SPEP musings, since SPEP is, as many have noted, ruled by the tyranny of the proper name, in which panels or papers are organized under the banner of this or that philosopher, it raises the question--is commentary all that remains of philosophy? A colleague of mine recently compared philosophy, or the history of philosophy, to art history, where all one does is comment and categorized what has already been created. It is a depressing picture (no pun intended) one that the powers that be seem to only want to reinforce. Along these lines I thought that I would post the following (abandoned) review of Alliez's book, which paradoxically attempts to escape commentary from the inside.

Repetition as Creation

Review of:
The Signature of the World: What is Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy?
By Eric Alliez
London and New York: Continuum, 2004

When Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s What is Philosophy? appeared in English in nineteen ninety-four the title and the topic of the book was cause for a reconsideration of the earlier collaborative efforts of the unlikely pairing of the philosopher and the activist/psychoanalysist. Gone was the provocative subtitle “Capitalism and Schizophrenia” as well as the references to anthropology, literature, politics, and film, all of this was stripped away in favor of a book that dealt almost exclusively with philosophy with a definition of philosophy, as practiced by Plato, Descartes, and Kant. For many, such as Jonathan Rée, writing in the New Left Review, this change was not interpreted as a shift of position, a mellowing with age or a change of topic, but as revealing the truth of Deleuze and Guattari’s early positions.1 Deleuze and Guattari were not the radicals after all, the theorists of “micro-politics” of the revolutions of feeling and thinking of post-nineteen sixty-eight France, but philosophers, in the classical sense of the term, even philosophical “snobs” concerned with nothing more than the privileges of pure thought. The archetype of the reader of Deleuze and Guattari was no longer the student revolutionary, but Slavoj Zizek’s yuppie on the Paris underground, who locates in Deleuze and Guattari’s “deterritorialization” of desire a perfectly adequate description of globalized capital.2

Why did this final collaboration do so much to put the earlier works in question, becoming the scandalous truth that revealed the lie of their claim to be radical, political, and inventive? This change may have something to do with extrinsic factors (at least in the Anglo-American World). In the years that the first volumes of “Capitalism and Schizophrenia” were being translated, articles on Deleuze and Guattari appeared outside of the mainstream academic press, appearing in journals such as Semiotext(e) and presses such as Autonomedia, with their veneer of street-credibility, and Zone, with its blatantly avant-garde aesthetic, and discussion of their works was to be found on the internet, rather than in a graduate seminar. By the time that What is Philosophy? was translated this had begun to change, leading up to the cottage industry of Deleuze-studies that appear today. It may also be that while the first books could be easily grasped as inventive, as the production of something new on even the most superficial reading, all one had to do was glance at the footnotes to see Kafka cited alongside historical studies of nomadic peoples, Marx read along with D.H. Lawrence, and Bergson alongside the nineteen-seventies B-Movie Willard, the later work, with its references to the all too familiar names of Plato, Descartes, and Kant, seemed to be a return to business as usual. What is Philosophy? returns to not only a classic question, philosophy’s self-understanding, its concept of itself, but a classical way of answering questions, through the discussion of previous figures in the history of philosophy. Which is not to say that science and art (and even history and geography) are absent from What is Philosophy, but their presence is fundamentally altered. Science and art are defined through their own particular material and act of creation, science creates “functions” and art creates “percepts,” but these creative acts remain, it would appear, named and conceptualized by philosophy. This is strikingly different from Capitalism and Schizophrenia, in which central concepts such as the “body-without-organs” and “rhizomes” are directly imported from art and science, the first from Antonin Artaud and the second from botany. While in the former collaborative works, science and art interrupt philosophy’s history, in What is Philosophy, they would appear to be subsumed under a “philosophy of” art and science.3 Thus, potentially returning Deleuze and Guattari’s work to what Deleuze had earlier described as the “intimidation machine” of philosophy:

The history of philosophy has always been the agent of power in philosophy, and even in thought. It has played the represser’s role: how can you think without having read Plato, Descartes, Kant and Heidegger, and so-and-so’s book about them? A formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought—but which also makes those who stay outside conform all the more to this specialism which they despise. An image of thought called philosophy has been born historically and it effectively stops people from thinking.4

The form Deleuze and Guattari’s argument takes in What is Philosophy? would appear to betray not only the spirit of their previous works, books that exemplify the trans-disciplinary mode of knowledge that has come to be known as theory, but its own specific content as well, its argument that philosophy should be considered to be a practice of the invention of concepts.

It is in light of this tension within Deleuze and Guattari’s last (collaborative) work that the paradox of Eric Alliez’s The Signature of the World: What is Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy? can be grasped. This short book which for all intents and purposes appears to be an addition to the genre of commentary/interpretaton, so-and so’s book on Deleuze and Guattari, aims to return this work to its project of invention and construction. As Alliez defines the paradoxical status of his own endeavor: “For it is the strength and the paradox of this book that it forces us to carry out an exercise in ‘textual commentary’ in order to escape both the fatality of Exegesis and the snare of Reference” (2). Alliez’s aims to produce something other than exegesis, the interminable practice of revealing what was already written, through the very tools of commentary, by writing a book on a book. In doing so his intent is to reveal not so much the content of Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy, but its practice, its way of doing philosophy. “Philosophy must constitute itself as the theory of what we do and not as the theory of what is…” (90).

This “practical turn” from philosophy as a description of what is, an interpretation of the world, to cite Marx’s famous statement from the These on Feuerbach, to a practice, an activity, bears more than a superficial resemblance to Louis Althusser’s work on “theoretical practice.” In each case it is a matter of seeing philosophy as an activity, as productive of effects, rather than as a picture or description of the world. Alliez alludes to this proximity by placing a quote from Althusser on Spinoza (whose influence on Althusser and Deleuze is immense) as the epigraph to the first chapter. Secondly, in Deleuze and Guattari as well as in Althusser, grasping philosophy as an activity means thinking its relation to other disciplines, other modes of thinking. Philosophy must be viewed through its constitutive relationship with “non-philosophy.”5 Although, the two will have very different conclusions regarding the relations that philosophy establishes to these other areas of thought. The most notable difference between Deleuze and Guattari and Althusser is that politics is absent from the former’s discussion of the conditions of philosophy, while art is absent from the latter’s understanding of philosophical practice. Which is not to say that art is absent from Althusser’s thought, not only is an essay on theater situated at the center of For Marx, but Althusser’s central concepts of “Darstellung” and “symptomatic reading” are drawn from an engagement with artistic production.6 However, art is absent when Althusser turns his attention towards a general theory of philosophy as a theoretical practice. As Althusser argues, philosophy is situated between the breaks of science, the new discoveries that are also new logics, new rationalities, and the revolutions of politics, which are transformations of ideology.7 This double determination also defines philosophy’s specific site of intervention: philosophy represents “science” to politics, bringing its rationality and logic to the conflicts of politics, and it represents politics in science, separating the discoveries and inventions of science from the dominant ideologies.8 A discussion of the relation between Deleuze and Guattari and Althusser is not just a matter of dredging up some distant ghost from the past to critique the present, the absence of politics as a specific mode of thinking, a specific condition for philosophy, is also the charged leveled by Alain Badiou against Deleuze (and Guattari’s) philosophy.9 Badiou’s charge mirrors the general critique of What is Philosophy? in which Deleuze and Guattari are revealed to be the opposite of what they claimed: not the anarchic liberators of desire, but rather neo-Platonists in revolutionary’s clothing, who have no politics, only a naturalist mysticism which reduces the world in its multiplicity to expressions of one vital force.10 For Badiou, the omission of “politics” as a condition for philosophy reduces Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy to ineffective speculation.

In latter works, published after The Signature of the World, Alliez defends Deleuze against this charge of the avoidance of politics, (eventually arguing that the encounter between Deleuze and Badiou is the definitive polarity within the contemporary orientation of philosophy), thus it is not surprising that Alliez’s earlier work, already contains not just a response to this specific charge, but an understanding of the political dimension of Deleuze and Guattari’s work on the status of philosophy.11 For Alliez, Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical practice is summed up with the formula “Expressionism = Constructivism” (103). It is this general formula that Alliez uses to develop a different account of Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy, one that makes philosophy not an ineffective reflection, but a task of invention adequate to contemporary conditions. As Deleuze and Guattari argue, “philosophy is the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts.”12 It is this statement that Deleuze and Guattari develop and demonstrate through the rest of their book, and as Alliez argues it is in this development that the specific idea of expression as construction is developed. In order to demonstrate this point Deleuze and Guattari take as their initial example Descartes’ philosophy. This example, like most of the texts that Deleuze and Guattari cite in What is Philosophy? is self consciously drawn from outside the lineage of philosophers, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson, from which Deleuze constructed his genealogy of a subversive strain of immanence in philosophy. Descartes is from the enemy camp, a philosopher of transcendence, subjectivity, and idealism. For Deleuze and Guattari, Descartes is first and foremost a philosopher of beginnings, of radical breaks with the past, or with presuppositions in general. It is perhaps this attempt to start anew and not the content of his thought that would make Descartes truly modern. “Descartes…does not want to define man as a rational animal because such a concept explicity presupposes the concepts of rationality and animality: in presenting the Cogito as a definition, he therefore claims to avoid all objective presuppositions…”13 Which is not to say that Descartes can avoid all presuppositions, can think ex nihilo, his famous formulation “I think therefore I am” (cogito ergo sum) presupposes that everyone knows what it means to think (8). Deleuze and Guattari do not see this replacement of objective presuppositions (the definitions of “animal” and “man”) with subjective presuppositions (the experience of what it means to think) as a failure on Descartes part. Rather it reveals an important part of “constructivism.” The philosopher does not simply construct concepts, but in doing so draws on a particular “image of thought, ” the image thought gives itself of what it means to think, or what Deleuze and Guattari call “the plane of immanence.” “Philosophy is a constructivism, and constructivism has two qualitatively different complementary aspects: the creation of concepts and the laying out of a plane.”14 Concepts are not pure inventions, but take place on a plane that they presuppose and realize.

The plane of immanence is the “non-philosophical” condition of philosophy. It is with respect to this that the stakes of Alliez’s formulation regarding “constructivism =expressionism” can be grasped in such a way that it traverses all of the problems alluded to above. As Alliez indicates the true inspiration for this idea of philosophy as constructivism is not Descartes, who it can be applied to, but Spinoza. It is Spinoza who illustrates the relationship between a “plane of immanence” and the concepts or definitions that are created on it. As Alliez writes with respect to Spinozist definitions in the Ethics: “Spinozist definitions do not derive from a reflexive relationship of the representer to the represented that would necessarily transcend (as their reference); rather they manifest an expressive material aspect immanent to their conditions of enunciation” (13). Alliez point of reference is Deleuze’s work on Spinoza, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. In that work Deleuze argues that “expressionism” defines the relation of immanent causality, not only between God and the natural world, but between ideas and their causes.15 Ideas do not represent objects, but express or comprehend their causes. For Spinoza all ideas, including the inadequate ideas of superstition, have causes, conditions that they expresses, in a more less confused manner. At the core of the relationship between a plane of immanence and the concepts that are created on it is then a causal relationship between a manner of thinking and a manner of living. Concepts are invented on planes of existence that orient them. This relation passes through what Deleuze and Guattari call “conceptual personae.” Conceptual personae are the figures that appear in philosophy, such as Descartes’ “idiot,” the one who doubts everything. These “figures,” persons, hypothetical and imagined make the concrete connections between a way of thinking and a way of living. Descartes philosophical creation, the “cogito”, not only presuppose a particular idea of thought, but also a particular manner of evaluating life, of valuing certainty over doubt. “It is only from the ‘affective’ and ‘perceptual’ point of view of the conceptual personae that the plane can be traced and concepts can be created on the plane of immanence” (10). The conceptual personae illustrate Spinoza’s point that all thinking passes through its affective coordinates, its joys and its sorrows.

The formulation “Expressionism = Constructivism” results in a new perspective in philosophy, what Alliez calls “onto-ethology.”(25) An onto-ethology evaluates philosophy by grasping the connection that a philosophy, a particular creation of concepts, makes with a particular way of inhabiting the earth, the territories it creates. It evaluates them not by comparing them to some transcendent set of values, a vision of the good life, but by an immanent examination of the possibilities and connections it opens. “A possibility of life is evaluated through itself in the movements it lays out and the intensities it creates on a plane of immanence: what is not laid out or created is rejected.”16 This onto-ethology is opposed to what Alliez calls “onto-theology”or “onto-teleology.” Onto-teleology is caught in the relationship between “subject” and “object” searching for the guarantee of representation. In sharp contrast to this “onto-ethology” evaluates philosophy not in terms of how it represents an object to a subject, but in terms of the objects and subjects, the world, it creates. “The question is no longer that of the methodological dependence of the object in relation to the subject, but of the ontological auto-constitution of a new subject on the basis of its objects” (56).

Alliez’s “onto-ethology” in part answers to the question of the omission of politics as a specific engagement with the world in What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari do not address politics as a particular mode of thinking because all thinking, insofar as it relates to the construction and destruction of planes of existence, is political. A politics not of representation, of the state, contracts, and laws that represent subjects to institutions and vice versa, but a politics of production.17 The production of habits, ethos, ways of living. “Expressionism = Constructivism” has as its correlate a second formulation drawn from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Nature = Production.18 Deleuze and Guattari construct this formulation from an inventive approach to Marx’s formulation in the 1844 Manuscript, in which man and industry are declared to be a part of nature, as well as the definition of production in the Grundrisse. As Deleuze and Guattari write, reflecting on the way in which consumption, distribution, and production effect and determine each other: “everything is production.”19 What Alliez’s formulations stress is that in each case the first term, expressionism or nature, which is generally understood to exist on the side of the object, or at least, outside of human interaction, only exists insofar as it is actualized, constructed or produced. To take the most contested example of Deleuze and Guattari’s corpus, the concept most capable of being understood as indicating a vitalist metaphysics, desire, Alliez reminds us that desire only exists as it is assembled, constructed in historically specific formations.20 As Deleuze and Guattari write “There is only desire and the social, and nothing else.”21 Alliez’s pithy formulations work in two directions at once. First, against “naturalism” or “vitalism” in that they stresses that the nature or the expressive powers of the universe is necessarily actualized by the constructions and productions of desire and thought. Secondly, against a pure act of creation, in that they argue that constructions or productions are always constructions of some already existing material conditions. As Alliez reminds us Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy could be considered a philosophy of nature “now that any distinction between nature and artifice is becoming blurred” (77). Politics is this intersection of nature and artifice, invention and constraint, thinking and living, praxis and poeisis. Thus to formulate something of a response to the criticism outlined above regarding politics, Deleuze and Guattari do not have a specific thought of politics because politics, the creation of ways of thinking and living, is immanent to thought. “Politics precedes being.”22

As we have seen with respect to philosophy this intersection of constraint and creation takes the following form. Every invention of a concept presupposes a “plane of immanence,” sometimes referred to as an “image of thought,” which is illustrated by conceptual personae, by “sketches” of its existential, relational, and dynamic features.23 Alliez highlights that it is a matter of engaging “the constitutive relationship of philosophy with non-philosophy” (29). In stressing this formulation from What is Philosophy? Alliez would appear to get at the heart of much of the criticism of the book, which has argued, more or less explicitly, that it is precisely this constitutive relationship that is absent from the book. The specific name that Deleuze and Guattari give this “non-philosophy” is (at least initially) the “plane of immanence.” As such it functions as an index of differentiation and periodization. “The plane is certainly not the same in the time of the Greeks, in the seventeenth century, and today (and these are still vague and general terms): there is neither the same image of thought nor the same substance of being.”24 Such a formulation turns the plane of immanence into something akin to a stage in the development of Spirit or even a particular epoch in the preontological understanding of being, to use Heidegger’s term. However, Deleuze and Guattari are wary of such narrativizations and historizations of philosophy, which bestow on it a necessary beginning, origin, and end. This narrative of philosophy can either be one of progress, “the self-unfolding of spirit”, or of decline, “the forgetting of being,” but in either case it remains to be a narrative of origin and end. In such cases “non-philosophy,” history or the understanding of being, becomes entirely subsumed by philosophy becoming a part of its necessary development.

Alliez argues that Deleuze and Guattari develop a different understanding of philosophy’s relation with non-philosophy, one based upon a “principle of contingent reason” (22). Deleuze and Guattari label this principle of contingent reason “geophilosophy,” because it replaces the question of the origin and end in time, “philosophy as the destiny of the west,” with the question of the formation in space. “Geography wrests history from the cult of necessity in order to stress the irreducibility of contingency. It wrests it from the cult of origins in order to affirm the power of a milieu.”25 Deleuze and Guattari are referring to Fernand Braudel’s geohistory of the contingent formation of capitalism in western Europe, a formation that involved multiple encounters, geographical, political, etc. but they could also refer to their own work in Anti-Oedipus which stresses the “contingent” formation of capitalism.26 As Deleuze and Guattari argue following Marx, capitalism is dependent upon the encounter of two “flows,” a flow of workers with nothing to sell but their labor power and a flow of money free to invest, these two flows have different and complex conditions, primitive accumulation, usury, merchant capital, colonialism. "The encounter might not have taken place, with the free workers and the money-capital existing 'virtually' side by side."27 Or it could have taken other forms: slavery or perhaps a bloody revolt of the poor. This assertion becomes a principle when it is both generalized and made into an interior condition. It is generalized to include the formation of philosophy in Greece, the so-called “Greek miracle,” which they argue should be understood in relation to its milieu, the jagged coast open to the sea, to maritime networks of exchange, and the stranger. For Deleuze and Guattari, it is not just that capitalism and philosophy are contingent elements of the west, unrelated and separate, but they intersect on the same terrain, the destruction of transcendental modes of evaluation in favor of an immanent process. For the Greeks this immanent process is the “agon” the contest between friends, which constitute the terrain of debate, while in capital it is the flows of capital, which place everything on the same terrain of exchange. “Modern philosophy’s link with capitalism, therefore, is of the same kind as that of ancient philosophy with Greece: the connection of an absolute plane of immanence with a relative social milieu that also functions through immanence.”28 Finally, “the principle of contingent reason” situates history with respect to the “becomings” that animate it. “Becomings” refer to the process of invention, a process that is dependent upon conditions, on a specific plane of immanence, but turns away from it, intersecting with the dimensions of the event not realized.

Deleuze and Guattari’s citation of Fernand Braudel as a model for this contingent history is a bit confusing, since it is not clear that Braudel himself (or his disciplines) would recognize Braudel as a theorist of contingency. What Braudel stressed was the intersection of multiple histories, the long dureé of geography and day-to-day practices intersecting with the more rapid transformations of markets, and the punctual events of political transformations and battles. For Deleuze and Guattari it is less a matter of thinking the intersection of different histories, for example the history of art, science, and philosophy, than it is a matter of stressing the heterogeneity between history and “becoming.” It is a matter of thinking the “event” as the production of the new that always exceeds its conditions. As Deleuze stresses in an interview with Antonio Negri, “What history grasps in an event is the way that it is actualized in particular circumstances; the event’s becoming is beyond the scope of history.”29 Becoming refers to what cannot be explained or narrativized by history, it is the presence of the unforeseen, the contingent, in any historical process. In asserting the categorical difference between history and becoming, Deleuze and Guattari make it clear that they are opposed to not only the teleological histories of Hegel and Heidegger, but any historization of philosophy, this would most likely include Marxist or materialist historicizations. While many would equate the rejection of historicization as a rejection of Marx, and materialism, altogether, it is clear that Deleuze and Guattari do not. Despite the fact that What is Philosophy? unlike the previous volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia does not offer any novel interpretations of surplus value, commodity fetishism, or the role of power in capitalist society, it does offer an important challenge to the appropriation of the creative powers of the concept by capital. As Deleuze and Guattari write, lamenting advertising and publicity’s claim to be creative: “The only events are exhibitions, and the only concepts are products that can be sold.”30 However, precisely how Deleuze and Guattari reconcile Marx’s critique of capitalism and a problematization of history as a method of explanation is not clarified in What is Philosophy?31 Alliez’s The Signature of the World does not exactly address this tension, but it does offer at least a point to place from which to begin by suggesting that Deleuze and Guattari’s category of the virtual must be thought as simultaneously material and abstract, which brings it into conceptual proximity with the Marxist concepts of abstract labor, money, and surplus value, all of which can be described as simultaneously material and abstract (105).32 However, the problem of the materiality of abstraction is not central to What is Philosophy? or even The Signature of the World, their central problem is the creativity of philosophy, and it is in light of this that the distinction between history and becoming is invoked.

While the different “planes of immanence” the different “images of thought” make up the history of philosophy, determining its different periods, Greek, Modern, Postmodern, philosophy as an act of creation exceeds this history. It exceeds it in part by the ability of placing these different periods and figures in proximity to each other. “Philosophy is becoming, not history; it is the coexistence of planes, not the succession of systems.”33 As Alliez writes, clarifying this perspective on the history of philosophy: “There can thus be a philosophical history of philosophy only through the elaboration of virtual philosophies that dramatize the play of concepts as the expression of the play of the world” (100). Thus there is a definite stress given to the history of philosophy in What is Philosophy? It is a history that forgoes the assumed lines of influence that pass for history in most discussions, and teaching, of the history of philosophy; that is, Deleuze and Guattari are not primarily concerned with the influences or “conversations” that are generally invoked to explain philosophical positions (the way Kant responds to Descartes, or Aristotle to Plato). For Deleuze and Guattari each philosopher must be grasped transversally (as an act of creation, expressing a particular plane of immanence) not linearly (as part of the “great conversation” of philosophy) or horizontally (as the expression of a particular historical moment). Or, it might be more accurate to say that while Deleuze and Guattari’s other collaborative works stressed the non-philosophical conditions of philosophy, by converting history, economics, and anthropology into conditions for philosophical invention, the latter book attempts to thematize this very act of invention, of fabrication. Alliez refers to this difference, between the former and the latter, as the difference between an extensive and intensive definition of philosophical practice (86). When Deleuze and Guattari consider art and science in the final chapters of this book, it is not to consider them as part of the “non-philosophical” conditions of philosophy. Deleuze and Guattari’s writing is far from Althusser or Badiou, who consider science, politics, and art (in the case of the latter) as conditions for philosophy (to use Badiou’s term), which modifiy or transform its practice. For Deleuze and Guattari art and science are not conditions for philosophy, provocations or raw material, but fellow travelers in a process of thinking, a process of invention. They are different ways of confronting or organizing the “chaos" of the world. "What defines thought in its three great forms--art, science, and philosophy—is always confronting chaos, laying out a plane, throwing a plane over chaos.”34 It is this chaos, or the plane that is constructed over it that defines the non-philosophical condition of philosophy, art and science intersect with this plane, pursuing their own vectors, but they do not determine it. Deleuze and Guattari are not interested in laying out the groundwork for a renewed intellectual history, that would chart the effects of scientific discoveries and aesthetic innovations on philosophy, but on studying how each discipline (for lack of a better word) constructs a particular mode of living and thinking. Alliez’s little book makes it possible to see the stress on philosophy, defined as a practice of invention, not as a retreat to the ivory tower, but rather an attempt on Deleuze and Guattari’s part to thematize their own practice, as well as the practice of philosophy in general. Hence the importance of the parallels with science and art, which can be intuitively grasped as practices of invention and creation. What is Philosophy? was written as an invitation to produce philosophy rather than just another comment on it. Its goal is to turn philosophy away from the institutions of commentary and interpretation in order to make it a practice of invention. Ironically The Signature of the World is in some sense the attempt to write the last commentary on Deleuze and Guattari’s book, one that would liberate its specific practice. It is easy enough to add a new interpretation to philosophy, a new understanding of this or that philosopher, it is more difficult, however to reorient its practice, to set it new goals, however, Deleuze, Guattari, and Alliez remind us that this is all any philosopher worth of the name has tried to do, this reminder is also a challenge and a provocation.

1 Reé 1995, p. 111.
2 Zizek 2004, p. 183.
3 There are suggestions that this difference is not merely one of form. In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari explain their tendency to draw from science and the arts through their theory of capitalist deterritorialization: “Why this appeal to art and science, in a world where scientists and technicians and even artists, and science and art themselves, work so closely with the established sovereignties—if only because of the structures of financing? Because art, as soon as it attains its own grandeur, its onw genius, creates chains of decoding and deterritorialization that serve as the foundation for desiring machines, and make them function” (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 368).
4 Deleuze and Parnet 1987, p. 13.
5 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p 218.
6 Montag 2003, p.35.
7 Althusser 1995, p. 308.
8 Althusser 1971, p. 65.
9 Badiou 2000b, p. 196.
10 Badiou 2000a,p. 10.
12 Alliez 2004, p. 6.
13 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 2.
14 Deleuze 1994, p. 126.
15 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 37.
16 Deleuze 1992, p. 138.
17 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 74.
18 Alliez 2004, p. 9.
19 Alliez et al 1999, p. 125.
20 Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 4; see also Read 2000,96.
21 Alliez 2004, p. 9.
22 Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 29.
23 Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 203.
24 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 70.
25 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 39.
26 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 96.
27 Read 2003b, p. 5.
28 Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 225.
29 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 98.
30 Deleuze 1995, p. 170.
31 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 10.
32 It is worth noting here recent works that while have developed the connection between Marx and Deleuze and Guattari, none so far have fully explored the idea of the virtual in connection with the abstract materiality of money. See Read 2003a and Thoburn 2003.
33 Alliez’s early works demonstrate an ease in working through the Deleuze/Marx intersection in thinking through the specific politics of neoliberalism. See Alliez and Feher 1986.
34 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 59.
25 Deleuze and Guattari 1994, p. 197.

Alliez, Eric 2004. “Anti-Oedipus-Thirty Years On,” Radical Philosophy 124: 6-12.
Alliez, Eric et al 1999, “The Contemporary: A Roundtable Discussion, Pli, 8: 119-137.
Alliez, Eric and Feher, Michel 1986, “The Luster of Capital,” Translated by Alyson Waters. Zone 1/2: 314-359 .
Althusser, Louis 1971, Lenin and philosophy, and other essays, translated by Ben Brewster. New York: Monthly Review.
Althusser, Louis 1995, “Notes sur la philosophie (1967-8),” Écrits philosophiques et politiques, vol. 2. Paris: Stock/IMEC.
Badiou, Alain 2000a, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, translated by Louise Burchill, Minneapolis: Minnesota.
Badiou, Alain 2000b, “Un, multiple, multiplicité(s),” Multitudes, 1: 195-211.
Deleuze, Gilles 1992, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, translated by Martin Joughin, New York: Zone.
Deleuze, Gilles 1994, Difference and Repetition, translated by Paul Patton, New
York: Columbia.
Deleuze, Gilles 1995, Negotiations: 1972-1990, translated by Martin Joughin, New York: Columbia.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari 1983, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley et al. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari 1987, A Thousand Plateaus, translated by Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari 1994, What is Philosophy? translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, New York: Columbia.
Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet 1987, Dialogues, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Columbia.
Montag, Warren 2003, Louis Althusser, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Read, Jason 2000, “Everything is Production: Notes on Deleuze and Guattari’s Marxism,” Crossings: A Counter-Disciplinary Journal of Philosophical, Cultural, Historical, and Literary Studies, 4: 95-117.
Read, Jason 2003a, The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the Present, Albany: SUNY.
Read, Jason 2003b, “A Universal History of Contingency: Deleuze and Guattari on the
History of Capitalism,
” Borderlands ejournal, 2, 3.
Rée, Jonathan 1995, “Philosophy for Philosophy’s Sake.” New Left Review, 211: 105-111.
Thoburn, Nicholas 2003, Deleuze, Marx, and Politics, New York: Routledge.
Zizek, Slavoj 2004, Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences, Routledge:
New York.

Monday, October 16, 2006

As Fragile as Glass

My goal of writing a post-SPEP post has been stalled for two reasons: One, I could not find a picture of the Jellybean Children, and Two, nothing really substantial (or even clever) to say. Well since the latter goes without saying, especially for anyone who has ever read this blog before, I will explain the former. SPEP was held in Philadelphia, specifically in the "old city" (or "old town" or "ye olde city" or something like that) which is full of tourist attractions, just like in days of old. One of these tourist attractions is the National Liberty Museum. Now, I can imagine what you are thinking, there is nothing exceptional about that name, however, did you know that the museum is "The only Museum in the world featuring contemporary glass art to represent the fragile qualities of freedom?" I kid you not. And that it features "Jellybean Children" in celebration in diversity? Now, I did not go into the museum, but I did look at it, and read its brochure and very much enjoyed the picture of the Jellybean Children and wanted to post it here, but could not find such a picture.

As for the second reason, the conference was fun, which surprised me a bit. I heard a few interesting papers, mostly by friends or at least acquaintances, which raises the question (discussed at the conference, but not officially) do we like the papers of our friends, or are we friends of the people whose papers we like? I can tell you that my favorite one liner of the conference was: "In America even the Marxist are liberals." Not the sort of thing that one would expect to hear at SPEP, but that is part of what made this conference enjoyable, plenty of papers off of the beaten Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, Levinas path. Badiou was oddly disappointing, references to Spinoza notwithstanding. This might have something to do with the way in which Badiou decided to address "existence" and "phenomena," perhaps he was not informed that SPEP is just a name, a relic even, and not a program. Or maybe he is just not good live. Wendy Brown, however, was very impressive.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Updating and Outing

Gilles Deleuze writes, "Concretely if you define bodies and thoughts as capacities for affecting and being affected many things change. You will define an animal, or a human being, not by its form, its organs, and its functions, and not as a subject either; you will defined it by the affects of which it is capable...For example: there are greater differences between a plow horse or draft horse and a racehorse than between an ox and a plow horse. This is because the racehorse and the plow horse do not have the same affects nor the same capacity for being affected; the plow horse has affects in common rather with the ox."

I thought of this quote while I was watching both an ox pull and a horse pull at the Fryeburg Fair. I thought of because first it is true (draft horses are huge, and strong), but then I thought about the fact that I was thinking about it. I am not sure, but I think that I was the only person at Maine's largest agricultural fair watching a livestock competition thinking about Deleuze's comments on Spinoza. Yes, the fair was a glimpse into another world, a world where adolescents have their own teams of oxen to train for competition. As my father said, it is good to get out of one's world. In my case a world where everything reminds me of some philosophical reference, The Simpsons, or Buffy (usually all three). It is also good to see that there still are different worlds, it is all to easy to imagine the world (or even this country) to be more homogenous than it is--to imagine a world in which people "now read the same things, listen to the same things, see the same things, go to the same places, have their hopes and fears directed to the same objects" (That last quote is J.S. Mill, or maybe Rupert Giles, I honestly cannot remember which). Yes, I am glad to live in a world where there are still agricultural fairs.

Speaking of outings, this weekend I attended Sacred & Profane, an art show held in a decommissioned WWII Bunker on an island. It starts with a ferry ride and ends with a picnic, and who does not like that. I just like the idea of an old military bunker being used for art. However, this was if not my world, at least an adjacent planet.(Photo by Scott Whitton)

On the general theme of updating I have to say that I have been pleased with my music purchases as of late. I have the new TV on The Radio, The Decemberists, and The Thermals in heavy rotation, and they are great in their own unique and special way--like snowflakes.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Reavers, Oh my!

It is no secret that I am a fan of the work of Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, etc.). Since there is no Whedon show on now I occasionally watch old episodes on DVD. Lately, I have watched "Serenity" which is the name of the pilot of the show "Firefly" and the movie which served as something of a finale to the unfairly canceled show.

I think the pilot is one of the best things to ever air on television. It does not have the sort of awkwardness that made the early episodes of Buffy so embarrassing (and endearing), and has a real patience, developing a world, characters, etc. I like the film as well, but when I watch it I always feel that it rushes through too many things, leaving some things out. For example the "Blue Sun" corporation, the omission of which leaves capitalism out of the picture.

In the series the "Reavers" (bands of violent cannibalistic marauders) are given a mythic definition--as "men gone savage on the edge of space." In the film the "Reavers" are the product of a government experiment. The political implications of this change of the plot point are ambiguous. On an immediate level it lends itself to a somewhat cliche anti-utopian plot, in which any attempt to improve or change human nature comes into conflict with an insurmountable "asocial sociability." On a somewhat deeper, but more contemporary level, given the fact that the government has created the Reavers, created the very thing that it claims to protect its citizens from, could be understood as a thinly veiled allegory for way in which governments produce the violence that justifies their existence. As Captain Reynolds says "The chickens have come home to roost." (Malcolm X?)

However, the account from the series, which presents the Reavers as a product of isolation and alienation, connects in a stronger way to the general theme of the series: the creation of civilization and community. It also connects with series/films Chinese theme at least obliquely, or, more to the point, it connects with something I heard in a paper about Confucian philosophy. To quote Robert Eno, "...For Confucians...the self is a socially acquired and radically maleable product...In Confucian terms, the issue for the person is not whether or how to express oneself, it is how to shape oneself." The Reavers are the technologically produced outside of civilization. This stands in contrast to the struggle on the spaceship Serenity, the struggle to constitute both a self and a society in the face of the void.