Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Affective Economy: Producing and Consuming Affects in Deleuze and Guattari

Erasmus University Rotterdam

The thought of Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari) bears on ambiguous relation with respect to the “affective turn” in social and political thought that it supposedly helped initiate. This ambiguity touches on the very role and meaning of affects. From Deleuze’s writings on Nietzsche and Spinoza through the collaborations of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari insist on the central role of the affects, joy, sadness, fear, and hope, as structuring individual and collective life. In that sense, Deleuze and Guattari are rightfully hailed as central figures in a turn towards affect. However, if, as some argue, the “affective turn” is a turn towards the lived over the structural and the intimate over the public, then Deleuze and Guattari’s thought has a much more complex relation to affects. The broader polemical target of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, beyond the specific polemics with psychoanalysis, is any explanatory theory that would reduce social relations to expressions of individual passions and desires. Deleuze and Guattari’s claim that there is only “the desire and the social, and nothing else” is oriented against such individualistic accounts of subjectivity. Moreover, Deleuze and Guattari define capitalism as a socius that it reproduces itself in and through the encounter of abstract quantities of money and labor power, and as such is  is indifferent to the beliefs, feelings, and meaning that we attach to it. Thus, if affect is central to Deleuze and Guattari’s thought it is necessary to add the caveats that affect must be thought of as anti-individualistic, as social rather than intimate, and as impersonal, reflecting the abstractions that dominant life. 

The caveats with respect to affect are as much strengths as they are limitations. Which is to say that it is not a matter of simply reconciling the concept of affect with Deleuze and Guattari’s critiques of oedipal explanations and theory of capital, but of producing a concept of affect which is both anti-individualistic and adequate to the real abstractions and structural complexities of contemporary capitalism. If affect is to be the basis of a critical theory of contemporary society it must be radically separated from individualist accounts of social relations, accounts that have become increasingly pervasive in a neoliberal self-help culture, on the one hand, and attuned to the “real abstractions” of contemporary capitalism, on the other. Affect must be a way of grasping the abstractions that determine individual and collective life, rather than a retreat into an interior free of them. 

Intensive Affects and Extensive Emotions

Deleuze’s engagement with affects is framed by two  philosophers, Spinoza and Gilbert Simondon. It was Spinoza who recognized both the ontological dimensions of affects, defining everything by its capacity to affect and be affected, and the political and social dimension of affects, affects orient not only individual striving but do so only in and through the encounters and relations with others. Political collectives are defined more by common structures of feeling than common notions and ideas. The central task of politics, any politics, is then of organizing and determining the affects--defining the loves and hates that are lived individually and shared collectively. Affects are thus necessarily both anti-humanist, defining all of existence in various ways, transindividual, passing in and through relations with others. Deleuze’s definition, or use of affects, exceeds Spinoza in that he adds another distinction that of a distinction between the intensive order of affects and the extensive order of emotions. This definition is close to Simondon, as we will see below, for whom affects correspond to the intense and metastable dimension of existence, defined by tensions an transformations, while emotions are more defined and individuated. It is thus no surprise that this distinction has been read by affect theorists, such as Brian Massumi, to correspond to a distinction between affect, understood as an impersonal intensity, and emotion, understood as a subjectivized and individuated feeling. As Massumi writes, 

An emotion is a subjective content, the sociolinguistic fixing of the quality of an experience, which is from that point onward defined as personal. Emotion is qualified intensity, the conventional consensual point of insertion of into intensity into semantically and semiotically formed progressions, into narrativizable action-reaction circuits, into function and meaning. It is owned and recognized. It is crucial to theorize the difference between affect and emotion.[1]

While such a distinction may help orient Deleuze’s thought of affect, it is completely absent from Spinoza’s work. Spinoza’s use of the term affect, affectus, is absolutely and rigorously consistent; affects define not only the different states of human subjective life, from the basic joy and sadness to the complex and ambivalence affects of jealousy and ambition, but define everything, everything has a capacity to affect or be affected. Affects are less some uniquely human attribute, making us a kingdom within a kingdom, than the general rule of existence that of being modified or affected by encounters and relations, of which human life is only a particularly complex instance. For Spinoza we are constituted, and individuated through our affects, affective composition differs from individual to individual, but this individuation does not take the form of a distinction between affects and emotions.

Despite these terminological differences it is thus possible to understand affect in Deleuze as drawing together two different problems, Spinoza’s emphasis on the political organization of affect, and Simondon’s emphasis on affects as individuation. Simondon’s thought is oriented around a central problematization of the individual. Individuation has to be considered as a process and not the default state of being. This process moves from a milieu that is considered preindividual, made up of tensions and relations, to a process of individuation that increasingly encompasses different levels and aspects, biological, psychic, and social. The social is then not a negation of individuation, but its condition. Transindividuality is the fact that the social is not so much a suppression of individuality, a loss of the individual in the collective, but its transformation and condition. Within this relation the distinction between affect and emotion figures twice. First in that affects are less individuated than emotions; while emotions are the emotions of specific subjects relating to specific objects, affects are less differentiated and individuated, constitute more of an inchoate sense or sensibility. Second in that affects are intensive while emotions are extensive. The passage from affects to emotions is part of general individuation, and as such it necessarily passes through the constitution of collectivity. As Simondon writes:

If one is able to speak in a certain sense of the individuality of a group or such and such a people, it is not by virtue of a community of action, too discontinuous to be a solid base, nor of the identity of conscious representations, too large and too continuous to permit the segregation of groups; it is at the level of affective-emotional themes, mixtures of representation and action, that constitute collective groups. [2]

The collective, if it is to have any individuality at all, this individuality must be sought at the level of particular affects and emotions, particular ways of feeling and perceiving the world, which is often tied to particular objects. In place of the rigid distinction between affects and emotions, in which one is social the other individual, Simondon argues that both individuals and collectives are constituted by affects and emotions; which is to say that individuals individuated as subjects and the individuation of collectivity, the constitution of definite collectives, are both constituted through the preindividual dimension of affects, and their increasing individuation into emotional evaluations. Collectives are defined by their “structures of feeling.’

Despite the terminological difference of affect and emotion, Spinoza and Simondon both see affect as something that passes between the preindividual and the transindividual (even if these specific terms are missing from the former). For Simondon affects are part of the metastable milieu that remains even as individual emotions and perceptions are constituted. The affective dimension carries tensions and intensities over from the preindividual milieu, constituting a kind of indetermination at the heart of individuation, an indetermination that demands a social dimension in order to be at least partially resolved. In a similar fashion, Spinoza’s affects are preindividual, they are less determinate states of individuals and properties of objects than passages and transformations, increases and decreases of power. Joy is nothing other than a passage from a lesser to a greater perfection and sadness is only the opposite. They are intensities, transformations of states, rather than determinate conditions. The states cannot be separated from their supposed opposites, from the ambivalence of the affects; sadness cannot be rigorously separated from joy, hate from love. As much as the affects are less determined states than an index of their transformation, constituting a process of the constitution and destruction of individuation, they are necessarily transindividual. Or, more to the point, it is because the affects are always situated in the increases and decreases of power that they are necessarily transindividual. For Simondon the progression of individuation that takes place between affects and emotions necessarily passes through the transindividual as affects coalesce around perceptual points of view and relations.[3] While in Spinoza it is not that one passes from the preindividual affects to individuated emotions, but the basic affects of love and hate enter into increasingly individuated combinations as they shape the affective composition of a given individual. As Spinoza writes, ‘each affect of each individual differs from the affect of another as much as the essence of one from the essence of the other’ (EIIIP57). The different essences are nothing other than the different compositions and combinations of affects. Affects and emotions are the transindividual intersection between individual and collective individuation. 

The difference of terminology between affect and emotion risks obscuring another more salient difference between Simondon and Spinoza. Spinoza’s relational account of the various affects is oriented around a fundamental distinction, the fundamental axiological distinction of an increase or decrease in power.[4] It is this distinction that initially distinguishes joy and sadness, and is carried over into the various permutations of love and hate. This is not to suggest that this duality constitutes some kind of core that all of the affects could be reduced to, so all that matters is joy or sadness, increase or decrease in power. There is a constitutive tension between the basic orientation of joy and sadness and the constitutive complexity of the myriad ways sadness and joy are combined and articulated. Second, this duality of joy and sadness is divided again in the split between the joyful passive affects and the sad passive affects, between those affects which are joyful, reflecting an increase of power, but have an external cause, and those that have their own internal determination[5]. At the level of affects one divides into two. This complicates the initial axiology of joy and sadness, introducing the idea that there is a negative dimension to passive joys, a possibility that they can be excessive, and positive dimension, or at the very least a utility, to such passive sad affects as fear and humility. Spinoza’s definition of the affects is situated within the ethical horizon of becoming active. 

Between Simondon and Spinoza we have the basic coordinates that orient Deleuze’s thoughts on affect. Affects are situated within the process of collective and individual individuation, constituting the basis of both collective relations and individual subjectivity. The axis of the individual and collective is in turn bifurcated by the axis dividing the becoming active from becoming passive. Which is to argue that affects are the conditions of both subjection, and transformation, situated between power and individuation. 

Consuming Affects 

Anti-Oedipus, the first of the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, opens with a citation of the fundamental political question of Spinoza’s work, “Why do men fight for their servitude as if it was salvation?”[6] Spinoza’s answer to this question necessarily involved the affects of fear, ambition, and hope as they structure both political life and individual desires. Thus, it is somewhat odd to note that affect does not appear in Anti-Oedipus, at least by name. That it does not appear by name does not mean that it does not appear in Anti-Oedipus. Affect appears between the lines in terms of both of the general problems outlined above, subjection and individuation. More importantly with respect to Spinoza, Anti-Oedipus shifts the basic problem of servitude and salvation from politics understood as the rule of tyranny to political economy. 

Affect appears first in Anti-Oedipus under a different name, that of “stimmung,” or mood. (While the term “stimmung” suggests Heidegger, who philosophers such as Etienne Balibar and Antonio Negri have recognized as the other, often opposed, philosopher of affect. The reference is to Nietzsche by way of Klossowski.) Either way the fundamental effect suggests a broader basis for a philosophy of affect. What ties these different and disparate philosophies together is the assertion of the unavoidable affective or emotional dimension of all thought as a fundamentally orienting dimension of thought. Deleuze and Guattari situate stimmung, the intensities of affect, with the third synthesis, that of conjunctive synthesis of consumption. A few provisional conclusions can be drawn from this placement (without necessarily engaging Deleuze and Guattari’s entire reading of syntheses). First and foremost: Affects are consumed, this consumption comes after the synthesis of the production and the recording of desire. Deleuze and Guattari locate the subject on this synthesis. It comes after the production of desire and the recording of desire, caught between the tension between the forces that constitute the world and their inscription. As Deleuze and Guattari write, 

Thus this subject consumes and consummates each of the states through which it passes, and is born of each of them anew, continuously emerging from them as a part made up of parts, each one of which completely fills up the body without organs in the space of an instant.[7]

Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of subject can be compared to Spinoza’s assertion that we do not want something because it is good, but we call it good because we want it, desire it, and strive for it. Our affects come after the history, a history of production and recording, that determine them, and our awareness of affects come even after that. Subjectivity is secondary to, and unaware of, the process that produces it. It is situated between desiring production and the body without organs, between the process of production and its product, a product that in turn appropriates the various process of production. Phrased differently, we could say that affects, intensities, are always situated between the process of individuation, the production and practices that produce and exceed individuation, and its product, the individual, between the conditions of individuation and individuation itself. Affect is the instability and tension of the relation of individuation and production, and as such it can always misrecognize its conditions. As Deleuze and Guattari cite one of Marx’s more prosaic statements, “we cannot tell from the mere taste of wheat who grew it: the product gives us not hint as to the system and the relations of production.” [8] Deleuze and Guattari draw profound insights from this simple statement, connecting it to the idea of commodity fetishism, a process of production This is the condition for oedipal subjectivity, a subject that continually misrecognizes the condition of its production, seeing itself as the product of the family rather than the historical process which has produced it. 

What does it mean to consume affect, or think of affect as consumption, and how does it relate to both the theory of capital and the critique of Oedipus? Deleuze and Guattari’s particular rewriting of the distinction between precapitalist and capitalist economic formations focuses on the role of the family in social production and reproduction. As Deleuze and Guattari argue, the various social formations that precede capitalism all have as their defining characteristic the fact that the very relations that produce and reproduce individuals are directly intertwined with the praxis and politics of social reproduction. Familial relations are directly both political and economic. It is only in capitalism, in the massive privatization of desire corresponds to a separation of reproduction from social production. Capital puts to work deterritorialized flows of labor, it is thus indifferent to the specific marking or memories of individuals. As Deleuze and Guattari write, 

The alliances and filiations no longer pass through people but through money; so the family becomes a microcosm, suited to expressing what it no longer dominates. In a certain sense the situation has not changed; for what is invested through the family is still the economic, political, and cultural social field, its breaks and flows. Private persons are an illusion, images of images or derivatives of derivatives.[9]

Of course the family still continues to reproduce social relations, but it does so paradoxically, through its separation and privatization. The family becomes an intimate space that represents social relations rather than reproducing them, all of society is seen through the idea of the father and the mother. Presidents and dictators become father figures and nations become motherlands: all of history and society is folded back into the family. This representation is itself a kind of reproduction, but one that has been privatized and depoliticized because it is outside of the conditions of social production.

Capitalism is defined by social production that passes through axioms of abstract quantities, flows of money and labor that are the real relations of alliance and filiation, rather than codes. Codes have become private matters, searches for meaning. This split between production and reproduction constitutes a very particular affective relation as well, which Deleuze and Guattari summarize as, “the age of cynicism, accompanied by a strange piety. (The two taken together constitute humanism: cynicism is the physical immanence of the social field, and piety is the maintenance of a spiritualized Urstaat)”[10] These two affects, cynicism and piety, correspond to the division of social production and reproduction. In the first, in the axioms of capital, we have a social order that reproduces itself without meaning or code. Axioms merely set up a relation between two quantities, a flow of labor and a flow of money. One does believe in, or justify, the rate at which labor is exchanged for money—it simply is. Cynicism is an affect attuned to the indifference of the axioms that produce and reproduce social life, the recognition that the flows of the market mean nothing, have no justification, than their brute effectivity. Piety, and belief, is reserved for the home, for the intimate sphere of reproduction that becomes the source of all the pleasure and pain. Capitalism’s affective economy of cynicism and piety is thus distinguished from the savage economy of cruelty and the barbarian economy of fear, both of which were public despite all of their cruelties. Deleuze and Guattari’s division of affective life between cynicism and piety is given a contemporary update by Paolo Virno, who writes, 

It is no accident, therefore, that the most brazen cynicism is accompanied by unrestrained sentimentalism. The vital contents of emotion—excluded from the inventories of an experience that is above all else an experience of formalisms and abstractions—secretly returns simplified and unelaborated, as arrogant as they are puerile. Nothing is more common than the mass media technician who after a hard day at work, goes off to the movies and cries.[11]

What connects these two theories of affect in contemporary society is that what is depleted from any affective investment in public life, in the activities of work and politics, returns in private life. 

What ultimately ties together cynicism and piety, indifference and sentimentality, is that each affect is in some sense passive. These affects are passive in two senses. First, the conditions of their production are elsewhere, outside of the familial space in which they are produced. Secondly, the conditions of the production of affects cannot be acted on. The axioms remain outside the sphere of politics, of individual and collective action. They are each passive, but in different senses. Cynicism, the affect attached to the working of the economy, confronts an economy that is perceived as being indifferent to human actions, while piety attaches itself to the family, which is perceived as being absolutely ahistorical. Far from seeing the privatization of desire and affects as liberation, as setting it free from the collective structures and relations, Deleuze and Guattari see it as its subjection. To be passive is to be acted on without acting in turn. The Spinozist critique of passivity is coupled with Marx’s critique of fetishism (as well as Nietzsche's critique of interiority) : it is not just that we are passive in the face of the structures and relations that determine us, but unable to comprehend them, relating them back to ideal representations, the family, the father’s love, rather than material conditions. Representation, especially the representation that passes through the interiorized conflicts and codes of the family, making the entire outside world an allegory for it, is the ultimate repression of production, of the productive powers of desire. 

The genealogy of Oedipus is one in which intensity, what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as the “immense germinal flow,” desiring production in all of its multiple connections and multivalent associations, is eventually interiorized, extended into representations. The process begins in the first coding of desire, the mnenotechnics that breed and constitute a “man that can keep promises,” and culminates in the private home. Affects have lost their intensity, their productivity and multiplicity, to become grounded in the family, to become representations of the world rather than its production. There is nonetheless a tension in Anti-Oedipus between a genealogy of the specific affects of cynicism and piety, affects that reflect the split between production and reproduction in capitalism, and a general critique of the reduction of the entire level of affect to consumption and representation, the reduction of intensity to extension, and production to representation. In the former the rise of Oedipus and capital is associated with particular “sad affects” those of cynicism and piety, while in the latter it is a matter of not so much the particular constitution of affects, than a general reduction of affects to consumption, to representation, and privatization. 

Capturing Affects

Of the many conceptual and rhetorical changes that underlie the shift from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus, perhaps one of the most striking is the loss of Oedipus as a target of critique. The elimination of the entire polemic against Freud and psychoanalysis shifts fundamentally the status of affect. Affect is no longer associated with consumption, and thus with the privatization of desire, but part of a general dimension of the micropolitics of society. The ninth plateau on “Micro-Politics of Segmentary” resumes some of the central themes of Anti-Oedipus’ social theory, only now they are presented less as a genealogy of oedipal subjectivity and more as a general theory of the micro-politics of all of society.

The first task of any such theory is to differentiate between the molecular and the molar. These terms do not address scale, with the molecular constituting the private spaces of home or family, and the molar addressing the state and its institutions. The molecular is not more individual than the molar, and the molar is not more collective than the molecular. Rather the molecular and the molar constantly intersect at all levels of society and subjectivity, framing two different ways of perceiving, two different politics. As Deleuze and Guattari write, 

In short, everything is political, but every politics is simultaneously a macropolitics and a micropolitics. Take aggregates of the perception or feeling type: their molar organization, their rigid segmentarity, does not preclude the existence of any entire world of unconscious microprecepts, unconscious affects, fine segmentations that grasp or experience different things, are distributed and operate differently. There is a micropolitics of perception, affection, conversation, and so forth. [12]

The terminology of the molecular and the molar was already at work in Anti-Oedipus, specifically in the final, programmatic section dedicated to schizoanalysis, but it operated in tension with the genealogy of Oedipus, and an ironic conception of history in which savagery, barbarism, and capitalism culminate in Oedipus, a kind of motley painting of everything ever believed. 

A Thousand Plateaus could be understood as a culmination of the positive project of schizonanalysis over the polemical one, as the critique of Oedipus, of psychoanalysis, gives way to the construction of an ontology and politics of assemblages, a nomadic politics. It is in many ways an an-oedipal book rather than an anti-oedipal book, which not only does not need to kill any fathers, Oedipus, Freud, Lacan, but also no longer pays tribute to any lineage, any filiation. In place of the multiple debts to Marx, Nietzsche, and even Artaud and Kafka, we get a series of nomadic borrowings and deterritorializations from various fields and disciplines from ancient history to ethology and the study of birdsongs. While such a distinction captures much of the shift of tone and style between the books, it does not fully capture what is at stake. Eduardo Viveiros de Castro has offered two points of reorientation that shed light on the shift between the two volumes. As Viveiros de Castro argues, in the latter volume “becoming” plays the same cosmological and political role as production does in the former.[13] Desiring production is replaced by the various becomings, woman, animal, etc., This shift from production to becoming, marks another shift, one in which filiation is no longer the privileged term of an ontology of social relations, but alliance is. In the first volume filiation, the intense germinal influx of desire and production, was what every society must repress, and emerges in the productive capacity of capital. Alliance is always the inscription the coding of this intensity into determinant subjects goals and desires. It is only once filiation is coupled with alliance that we get social reproduction the rule of the relations of production over the forces. While in the second volume it is alliance, the alliances between humans and animals, the nomads and the outside, that constitutes the basis for becoming and transformation. Filliation, the lines of descent, are always those of the state, of memory and authority. This shift could be understood as a shift of critical targets, even politics, from the critique of capital, which appropriates the power of filiation, appearing as the quasi-cause of capitalist production, to the critique of the state, which subordinates alliance to the state as a condition of belonging. The task of Anti-Oedipus was to think a production irreducible to teleological and instrumental logics of production, breaking production from the "mirror of production," while the task of A Thousand Plateaus (at least some of the latter plateaus) is to think exchange irreducible to possessive individualistic foundations of the social order. Thus, the first volume endeavored to break the production, an intensive filiation, free from its subordination to the inscription of dominant orders and relations, the domination of dead labor over the living, while the second endeavors to break alliance, an alliance of becoming free from the alliance of the state. As Viverios de Castro summarizes this shift, "The concept of becoming effectively plays the same axial cosmological role in A Thousand Plateaus that the concept of production plays in Anti-Oedipus."[14]

Returning to the question of affect, it is possible to ask what do these shifts of focus, alliance and filiation, production and becoming, relate to and resituate the idea of affect. We have already seen how Anti-Oedipus juxtaposes the productive nature of desire, of affect, from its consumption in the family, effectively drawing a line of demarcation between two filiations, one intensive and productive, the other extensive and consumptive. What line of demarcation separates becoming from alliance organized under the categories of the state? For Deleuze and Guattari this distinction has to do with an apparatus of capture. An apparatus of capture functions through two terms, through direct comparison and monopolistic appropriation.[15] In the first case, direct comparison reduces the various activities to one homogenous activity, in the case of labor, or the various objects to instances of one homogenous object, in the case of the commodity. The second case, monopolistic appropriation, is not a secondary accumulation imposed upon this comparison but its necessary precondition. As Deleuze and Guattari write, “Surplus labor is not that which exceeds labor; on the contrary, labor is that which is subtracted from surplus labor and presupposes it. It is only in this context that one may speak of labor value, and of an evaluation bearing on the quantity of social labor, whereas primitive groups were under a regime of free action or activity in continuous variation.”[16] It is the monopoly, the appropriation by force which constitutes the very ground that compares different activities, different objects, making them interchangeable.

The point of contrast to this apparatus of capture is becoming. Becoming establishes a relation, between man and woman, humanity and animals, but it is never a relation predicated on a shared identity, is never an exchange. “A becoming is not a correspondence between relations. But neither is it a resemblance, an imitation, or, at the limit, an identification.”[17] A becoming is a transformation, but not one that passes in and through discernible identities, not a matter of some thing becoming some thing else, buy is a transformation at the level of the preindividual, a reorganization at the level of the very conditions of individuation. If capture passes through hierarchy and identity, revealing the secret unity that connects identity to hierarchy, then becoming passes through immanence and transformation, undoing both identity and hierarchy. This is why becomings pass through the very hierarchies that place men above women, humans above animals, undoing them by challenging the very identity of man and woman, human and animal. The examples of becoming are drawn from the history and mythology of transformations, where humans take on the qualities of animals and vice versa, transformations that exceed imitation or resemblance. Becomings are alliances, but strange alliances that constitute neither resemblance nor identity. The apparatus of capture makes the disparate similar by subjecting them to the same standard and the same rule; in contrast to this becoming makes the similar different, even from itself, undoing all standards and all hierarchies of comparison. 

It is in this context, in the distinction between capture/exchange and becoming, that we get a definition of affect. As Deleuze and Guattari write, “For the affect is not a personal feeling, nor is it a characteristic; it is the effectuation of a power of the pack that throws the self into upheaval and makes it reel.”[18] Affects are tied to becomings, to transformations. If we then wanted to think of affects in terms of an opposition to emotions, it is possible to argue that emotions are affects rendered comparable and exchangeable. Thus, we could place affects and emotions alongside the opposition between free action and work, in which the second term is the comparison and capture of the latter. Emotions than are not only more individuated, more discrete and determined, they are comparable and more exchangeable. From this perspective to have an emotion is to have a determinate feeling, sadness, joy, etc., while affects are less discernible feelings than indices of transformation. These discernible emotions constitute a common point of comparison, a common ground of experience between interchangeable subjects. Despite the fact that Spinoza argued that there are as many loves and hates as there are objects to love and hate, and as many loves and hates as there are lovers and haters, revealing the nominalist multiplicity underlying the oppositions of love and hate, we continue to speak of love and hate, jealousy and envy, as if they were always the same thing, constituting a common ground of comparison and experience. It would also be possible to argue that these two different organizations of feeling refer to two fundamentally different planes: on the first, that of affects, there are only relations of movement, change and transformation, while on the second, that of emotions, there is always a reference to a hidden plane of transcendence. Emotions always seem to refer us back to some transcendent idea of human nature, an idea that is all the more pernicious in remaining entirely hidden. 

The opposition between affect and emotion then would refer back to the underlying opposition of Deleuze and Guattari’s work, the opposition between immanence and transcendence. Fredric Jameson has criticized Deleuze and Guattari, especially the later Deleuze and Guattari of A Thousand Plateaus, of departing the material analysis of the production of desire for an increasingly moral distinction between concepts such as virtual/actual, immanent/transcendent.[19] However, this opposition is less a stark binary between good and bad terms that one can select or choose, than it is a relation of production and representation, organization and its capture. It is necessary to see the hierarchy and transcendence that constitutes the apparatus of capture as nothing other than a product of the organization of immanent relations. Frédéric Lordon and Andre Orlean have coined the term “immanent transcendence” to characterize the production of the transcendent by the immanent.[20] Their primary point of reference is Spinoza, whose ethics and politics could be understood as an examination of how it is that the organization organization of striving produces multiple ideals of transcendence, from the state to God. These are not empty illusions, but actually reorganizations of desire functioning like feedback loops—the points of resonance that Deleuze and Guattari discuss. We organize our lives around these concepts, making them effectively true. The same point could be raised with respect to emotions, once an affect is labeled, recognized, and made a common point of comparison, it functions as an ordering principle for future affects. Affects become the raw material for a socially recognized system of emotions. From this perspective it then becomes even easier to relate these affects to “ideal” and transcendent modes of causation—the taste of wheat tells us nothing of the conditions that have produced it. 

Such a reading of the distinction between emotion and affect corresponds to the shift in the definition and deployment of axioms in the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. In the first volume the emphasis on axioms was on their indifference to meaning and belief as social reproduction was in some sense divorced from the reproduction of the family. Axioms were juxtaposed to both the collective meaning of codes and the private meaning of recoding. The affective tenor of axioms was that of cynicism, of an indifference to meaning and belief, this affective evacuation was coupled with the recoding of various forms of piety and nostalgia. In the second volume, however, the emphasis shifts from an opposition between axioms and codes to one internal to axioms; it is an opposition between the denumerable sets that axioms act on and manipulate and the nondenumerable sets that exceed them. As Deleuze and Guattari write, 

What characterizes the nondenumerable is neither the set nor its elements; rather, it is the connection, the “and” produced between elements, between sets, and which belongs to neither, which eludes them and constitutes a line of flight. The axiomatic manipulates only denumerable sets, even infinite ones, whereas the minorities constitute “fuzzy” nondenumerable, nonaxiomizable sets, in short, “masses,” multiplicities of escape and flux.[21]

The nondenumerable relates to the becomings that exceed capture and subjectifications. Axioms can be added or subtracted for every identity, but cannot contend with the passages and transformations which exceed identity. Affects are the moments of transformation, the increases and decreases of power that pass between the determinable and identifiable emotions. They are preindividuated, to use Simondon’s terminology, or ambivalent in Spinoza’s sense. Affects are what exceed the defined and denumerable states of feeling. However, as such they risk being simply epiphenomenal, vanishing moments of transformation that pass between determinate states. 

The opposition of affect and emotion then returns us to what could be considered the question of revolution as understood by Deleuze and Guattari. It is not a matter of consolidating all of these various affects and intensities of change and transformation into a new code or axiom, referring them back to some higher unity of organization, but of constituting a politics of becoming, a minor politics of transformative possibilities. In Anti-Oedipus there was a search for the figure of this transformation, the schizo, the revolutionary etc., while A Thousand Plateaus searches for the nomad, the minority, the becomings that pass beneath identities and relations. The overall project remains fundamentally the same. However, there is a difference in that the first book stresses the figural dimension this rupture, hence the “schizo,” while in the second the schizo not only disappears almost entirely, but the emphasis is on the minority the becoming, that which exceeds representation and axiomatization. This difference of focus could be seen as something of an improvement, removing the awkwardness of arguing for something that could be considered pro-schizophrenia. The minor politics of the nondenumerable, of the minor, avoids such awkward identifications. However, the difference of focus also raises the question as to what extent a politics can bypass figures, codes, and emotions altogether? (This is Jameson's question) Is it possible to constitute a politics of affects that would not require reterritorialization in new emotions, a new structure of feeling. 

Affective Consumptions and Productions

The concept of affect and its attendant concepts and provocations shifts in the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia In the first, the genealogy of affect, pivots around a central conceptual opposition, that between production and consumption, but this general distinction between production and consumption, also constitutes a specific genealogy of affects, of the cynicism and piety that constitute the affective composition of capital. In the latter volume the conceptual distinction shifts from production and consumption to becoming and its capture, and the genealogy of affects, to an opposition between affects, understood as indices of transformation, and emotions, understood as determined and subject to capture. History gives way to categorical distinctions, even a morality of good and bad. (This is Jameson’s critique.) 

Rather than read the transitions and transpositions of affect from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus as a either a linear trajectory of improvement, in which the concepts are developed as the polemics and figures pass away, or denigration, in which original insights are lost, I prefer to read the two different texts as each posing distinct and different problems. These different problems can be understood to be a genealogy of affects in the first text, in which each particular epoch or era of social production can be understood to have dominant affect, or affects. In this instance cynicism and piety, rationalism and sentimentality, can be understood as the particular affective composition of capital, of a mode of production defined by the separation of production and reproduction. (To which I could add, but it really deserves more than a parenthesis, that these two different tasks can be understood to constitute a gendered division of labor, with the gendering of cynicism as the masculine affect par excellence, while sentimentality is feminized. This division cuts through culture as well as economy, constituting various genres of entertainment, from cynical anti-heroes of action films to the sentimentality of Lifetime movies). There is much to be said for such an understanding of contemporary capital, which makes it possible to understand not only the current fatalism that defines economics but also the sentimentality that defines contemporary politics. From this perspective political candidates can be understood by precisely how they articulate and embody this combination of cynicism and sentimentality, deferring to the market while posing for the right photo ops, and shedding tears at the right moment. However, such a division also risks being too historicist, too oriented towards a hegemonic structure of feeling. Against this conception A Thousand Plateaus provides a necessary corrective. It makes it possible to label the hegemonic structures of feelings as emotions, as recognized, comparable, and public structures of feeling, reserving the term affects for the transformations that pass between and under these states, never being named or conceptualized. It is through these affects that change happens, not just the change of passing from one emotion to another, but becoming, the transformations that disrupt and undo the existing emotional order. 

The first offers us a history of affects, a history that situates affects within the divide between axiom and code, the abstractions that govern life and the codings that constitute its experience, while the second posits affects in terms of their untimely becomings that exceed historical determination. Both are required to not only make sense of both the stabilizations and uncertainties of the present moment, but to ultimately transform it. In order to change the present it is necessary to identify both the dominant structures of feeling, the cynicism and sentimentalisms, but also to identify the affects and becomings that pass between them, that constitute a new sensibility dwelling in the heart of the old. 

Works Cited 

Bove, Laurent 1996. La stratégie du conatus: affirmation et résistance chez Spinoza, Paris: Vrin. 

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix 1983 [1972], Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, Translated by Robert Hurley et al. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix 1987 [1980] A Thousand Plateaus, Translated by Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Jameson, Fredric, 1997, “Marxism and Dualism in Deleuze,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, 96:3.

Lordon, Frédéric and André Orlean 2008, “Genèse de l’État et Genèse de la monnaie: le modele de la potential multitudios” in Yves Citton and Frédéric Lordon, Spinoza et les sciences sociales: De la puissance de a multitude à l’économie des affects, Paris: Éditions Amsterdam. 

Massumi, Brian 2002, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham: Duke. 

Sharp, Hasana 2011, Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization, Chicago: University of Chicago. 

Simondon, Gilbert 2005, L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information, Grenobe: Jerome Million. 

Spinoza, Benedict 1994. The Ethics, in The Collected Works of Spinoza, translated and
edited by Edwin Curley, Princeton: Princeton University. 

Virno, Paolo 2004, A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of ContemporaryForms of Life, Translated by Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito, and Andrea Casson, New York, Semiotexte. 

Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo 2009, Métaphysiques Cannibales, Translated by Oiara
Bonilla, Paris: PUF. 

[1] Massumi 2002, p. 28.
[2] Simondon 2005, p. 248.
[3] Simondon 2005, p. 261.
[4] Sharp 2011, p.40.`
[5] Bove 1996, p. 130.
[6] Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 29.
[7] Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 41.
[8] Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 24.
[9] Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 264.
[10] Deleuze and Guattari 1983, p. 225.
[11] Virno 2004, p. 18.
[12] Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 213.
[13] Viveiros de Castro 2009, p. 133.
[14] Viveiros de Castro 2009, p. 133.
[15] Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 444.
[16] Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 442.
[17] Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 237.
[18] Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 240.
[19] Jameson 1997, p. 411.
[20] Lordon and Orléan 2008, p. 246.
[21] Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 470.


Dr. Greg said...

nicely done my friend ... lots to chew on by the end..

Unknown said...


I had a problem in understanding what you mean by intensive affects and extensive emotions. I understand these terms (intensive and extensive) on the basis of properties of objects: so I think volume as an extensive property and density as an intensive property (I am referring to DeLanda's Intensive Science, Virtual Philosophy for these definitions). If I am to follow DeLanda's explanations I will end up by saying, emotions are discontinuous, it is possible to discern them while it is not possible for affects, they are not differentiated. But this sounds so simplified and I am unable to come up with anything better. So what do you mean when you say intensive affects and extensive emotions?

Thank you

unemployed negativity said...

Hi, that is fairly close to what I was getting at. I was mainly following Anti-Oedipus in positing an intensive, or intensity, that is marked, quantified and extended. Affects are thus intensive, while emotions are extended.

mk said...

Dear Jason,

first of all, thank you for this great article!! I have learnt a lot from it. Secondly, I was wondering if you could perhaps elaborate a bit on the link between emotions and transcendence. You claim that with emotions 'there is always a reference to a hidden plane of transcendence. Emotions always seem to refer us back to some transcendent idea of human nature, an idea that is all the more pernicious in remaining entirely hidden.' In what way are emotions, human nature and the idea of transcendence related?

Thank you in advance,

unemployed negativity said...

In part I was referring back to Deleuze and Guattari's idea of psychoanalysis, which they see as a paralogism of sorts. It seems to me that if emotions are understood to be named, identified, and self identical, and seen as expressions of some unchanging essence than that is a kind of transcendence, a human nature that remains unaffect by time and history.

mk said...

Thank you for the explanation! From your perspective then, psychoanalysis appeals to human nature as it assumes that human psyche is initially formed within familial context and takes this as an ahistorical fact, right?

There is one more thing that I was wondering about. Why do you situate affect within the conjunctive synthesis of consumption? Does it not concern all three syntheses? It would be greatly appreciated if you could elaborate on this a bit.

Thank you again for everything!

whirringnoises said...

Hi, quick question - do you remember where + when you took the photo at the beginning of the article ? Or if it isn’t yours, do you remember where + when you got it from ?

unemployed negativity said...

It was on the website and flyer for the conference that I first presented this paper at. Unfortunately it seems that the link no longer works.

whirringnoises said...

Ah, I see ! Thanks for the clarification. Do you remember what year the conference took place ?

unemployed negativity said...

May of 2014.