Historically speaking, production is the act of transforming material objects into marketable commodities. Today, however, this activity has extended beyond the physical world. As Maurizio Lazzarato argues, contemporary relations of production are not so much about acting on material bodies as they are about acting on minds and subjectivities. The immaterial or virtual, in other words, closely accompanies the actual in modern industrial processes.
Power here operates less and less on material earth and more and more on perceptions, desires and attention. Modern technologies operate on minds, capturing the imaginations of viewers. The constitutive role of television, cinema and the internet, after all, is to capture belief and attention, in contrast to producing tactile things.
That the immaterial is becoming more central to production is not by accident. “Before products can be sold, or even made, attention and memory must be captured by the technologies that work on publics” (Read, p. 97).
This is especially true in the case of surplus production. Given the inherent dynamic of capitalism to increase production on a continually larger scale, thereby threatening a crisis of over-production, surplus stockpiles of goods must be absorbed in some way to keep the wheels of capitalism turning. Forestalling this crisis is none other than marketing and advertising, which are used to bolster consumer demand.
Eugene Holland, Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus
Brian Massumi, A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia
Jason Read, “The Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual” in Deleuze and Marx, ed. Dhruv Jain
In the polemical piece ‘Molecular Revolutions’ in Deleuze and Politics, Isabelle Garo correctly argues that a Deleuzian mode of politics retains a paradoxical character, an insurmountable aporia between engagement and disengagement. This is in part due to the fact that Deleuze’s conception of the economy is as a philosopher. No doubt Deleuzian theory gives ample attention to the economy and the market, but at no point does Deleuze deal with economic issues from a tradition of scrupulous historical and economic research. On the contrary, Deleuzian economic analysis is situated on the ground of an ontology of flows and becoming.
The privileged ontology of Deleuze, as we all know, in the words of Garo, “presents itself as a heightened form of attention to the concrete diversity of things as a respect for their constitutive multiplicity” (p. 57). This is chiefly done through the concept of desire, characterized by flows or exchanges of energy, which Deleuze and Guattari famously describe as belonging to the infrastructure itself. The vague expression of flows is considered to be the most important consideration of Deleuzian philosophy, constituting “the heart of an ontology that is vitalist in inspiration” (p. 58). On this view the conventional Marxist distinction between base (the domain of production) and superstructure (the realm of culture) is eschewed, leading to the leftist conclusion that everything is political.
The thematic of flows demonstrates the conviction that the dimensions of the real are indistinct but at one and the same time effectively sidelines political mobilization. This is so because while the notion of flows celebrates destabilizing movements, small events and molecular contestations, it nonetheless evacuates all content out of politics as such. The strictly formal exposition of politics, on the other hand, is “reduced to repressive state practices of surveillance and control”—that is, the maintenance of the normal state of affairs. In short, political specificity is canceled out in favor of a nebulous dispersion of abstract, deviant flows while a more traditional idea of politics is relegated to the intransigent State apparatus and its constitution. Inherent to the Deleuzian approach and its particular politics then is an underlying tension or aporia between the miniatruization of politics on the one hand and the relatively autonomous sphere of State politics on the other.
To be more precise, the State sphere plays a specific role under capitalism. For Deleuze and Guattari, capitalism has “haunted all forms of society as the vital flow which tirelessly seeks to throw off all constraints” (p. 60). Capitalism, otherwise stated, is nothing more than the dissipative, regressive or decomposing tendency inherent to life itself. This systematic deterritorializing or decoding movement, in the parlance of Deleuze and Guattari, seeks at all times to overcome obstacles and barriers to its dynamic self-expansion, embodied par excellence in the flows of commerce and trade under capitalism. The State, consequently, “is nothing other than that which opposes limits to these flows” (p. 60). In other words, the State apparatus is burdened with the responsibility of managing capital flows and blocking them from becoming uncontrollable.
So how does one conceive of the end of capitalism, the momentous abrupt turn in history away from the market and its so-called ‘laws’ and towards, say, socialism or communism? From this perspective, since regulating the flows of capital is crucial to its very functioning as per the State, “the only thinkable and even desirable possibility is to go to the limits of the present system” (p. 61). Shockingly, this definition of ‘politics’, the pursuit and acceleration of mercantile flows, is an entirely liberal approach: a process that finds its clearest expression in economic and financial deregulation. Indeed, this analysis comes closest to the liberal thought of such thinkers as Hayek, a far stray from Marx to be sure.
Although Deleuze is without a doubt indebted to Marxist ideas, if the scattered remarks on Marx that haunt Deleuze’s work is anything to go by, he is ultimately making use of a quite heterodox Marx. By constantly reworking borrowed Marxian concepts as “a momentary support in order to move off in a new direction” or in an effort “to produce something new”, Deleuze never provides a precisely elaborated coherent commentary on Marx (p. 63). What Deleuze offers instead is a smattering of spectral, allusive and indirect remarks on Marx, which are, we might add, notoriously anti-Hegelian and dialectic-adverse in character.
At the same time, the notion of revolution is renewed by Deleuze (and Guattari), but with a twist. The only real means of radical chance henceforth are ‘micro’: “politics is no longer a privileged sphere of authority”, its is rather the deployment and expansion of diverse deviant practices (p. 63). Revolution, in sum, is no longer the unraveling of an historical logic of development, but rather is redefined as a counter-culture.
In the eyes of Garo, and this is crucial, this thinking is ultimately reflective of a post-May ’68 renunciation of any project to change the current politico-economic conjuncture. For Garo, “with the rejection of any participation in the institutional game of parliamentary democracy as well as with the global critique of this form of governance”, the only potential cadence of change are minorities and their private forms of rebellious spontaneity (p. 64). Revolution itself, situated on the ground of a vitalist ontology, comes to stand for fleeting moments of individual upheavals that nevertheless leave the rhythm of capitalism fully in tact. Or, to use a slightly different formulation, private gestures of rupture are celebrated at the expense of the political unification of social struggles. On this line of argument, a Deleuzian political stance goes along with a position of withdrawal, a declared indifference with regard to any form of political activity.
For these reasons, my own assessment for how we imagine things being otherwise is, surprisingly, Žižekian. In Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations Adrian Johnston, as the title would suggest, analyzes the processes of transformation within given sets of circumstances, noting that for both Badiou and Žižek the “slow-moving inertia of status quo realities” is shattered by revolutionary events or acts, respectively, that abruptly shift the established run of things (p. xxix). But while it can be maintained that the Badiouian event and the Žižekian act both essentially entail positing a stark discrepancy between the structure of a situation and the sudden impact of alteration, there is (at least one) decisive difference between the two.
For Badiou, the state of a situation is suddenly interrupted disruptively by a mode of “politics-without-the-partystate, based on the purported disjunction between explosive events of subversive political ‘truth’…and reified regimes of institutionalized statist ‘knowledge’” (ibid.). In Žižek’s view, on the other hand, the stasis of repetition of a given situation is ruptured through “endorsements of strong socialist part-state apparatuses (justified by the need to ‘re-politicize’ the deceptively depoliticized economic sphere)” (ibid.).
In the opening of In Defense of Lost Causes Žižek presents an accurate assessment of the postmodern response to the current politico-economic conjuncture, a position we should now be quite familiar with:
the era of big explanations is over, we need ‘weak thought,’ opposed to all foundationalism, a thought attentive to the rhizomatic texture of reality; in politics too, we should no longer aim at all-explaining systems and global emancipatory projects; the violent imposition of grand solutions should leave room for forms of specific resistance and intervention (p. 1)
Although I have just started working my way through the text, it should be observed that Žižek is not sympathetic to this political bent. On the contrary, reality-shattering shifts are the work of mass-movements or, as he calls them, ‘grand solutions’. Indeed, this approach, though one I once pushed beyond the pale, increasingly sounds right, especially when the celebration of small events ends up confirming the dynamic of capitalism rather than undermining it.
An earlier version of this post was published @ Indigenous Ink
Novelty, innovation, creativity, experimentation emerges, according to Deleuze and Guattari in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, within the minor, or more precisely, among the oppressed; in a word, minority peoples. This is so because minorities experience chocked conditions wherein they are cut off from the ready-made structures of culture that enable one to fit into the generic history, narrative, tradition or ‘lines of mobility’ that majority groups enjoy. ‘Minor politics’, in the parlance of D & G, begins with the experience of those who exist in ‘cramped spaces’. The minor, then, is fully overwhelmed by social forces that engenders a situation where creation occurs: ‘A creator who isn’t grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator’ (Negotiations, p. 133). Minorities, unable to pass easily along legitimate social routes within a culture, are forced to maneuver within each foreign or constrained situation they encounter. This sort of cramped experience, recounts Nicholas Thoburn in Deleuze, Marx and Politics, draws minority groups “back into a milieu of contestation, debate, and engagement, and forces ever new forms of experimentation” and creative social solutions (p. 19).
It should be highlighted here that minor politics is not simply the challenge of voicing a preexisting, though silenced, identity. Minor politics is not merely the process of ‘speaking out’. The minor is not a question of who one is as per a set of identities, practices, relations, or languages, as if minorities were only required to communicate a previously unheard community. It is the genesis, composition, creation of identity as such. Gone, then, is the sense, with D & G, that socio-political engagement arises from ghettoized marginals who must ‘shore up their own particularity against the world’ or ‘carve out an autonomous identity’ against the monolithic logic of the major form (Deleuze, Marx and Politics, p. 44). Rather, the minor is directed at the order and structure of molar regimes that cramp virtual minority potential. As such, the minor always occurs in the middle of the major. It works within a given set of conditions and possibilities offered and, causing them to mutate, forms new relations to create something new. Each individual, after all, is embedded, implicated, situated or positioned in or by the major in some way. One is always an ‘insider’ in this general regard. Therefore the task of cramped minorities is to intensify the major, send it racing: ‘make one’s own major language minor’ (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 105).
Since the minor is always fully traversed, composed of and cramped by molar social forces, one need only interlace a disparate conjunction of relations, objects, subjectivities, etc. to delineate or actualize the minority milieu in yet unknown vectors. The intimate affect of oppression, in other words, always concerns those enmeshed in a situation of concrete social arrangements. With one pole ‘plugged into real assemblages’ and the other nomadic, plugged into anarchism, the minor actualizes the potential difference vibrating within the unified, expressing a different sensibility and collective configuration as a result (Deleuze, Marx and Politics, p. 27). In fact, this strategy sounds strikingly similar to the handy-man or -woman bricoleur, as conceptualized by Derrida. Only D & G apply such linguistic collage work to the ontological field wholesale. Although somewhat inaccessible to the non-initiated, Nick Srnicek, following the non-philosophical movement as propelled by Francois Laurelle and Ray Brassier, outlines a parallel position of manifesting a new world (as event or Advent) in accordance with the limitations of the present (philosophical) world:
It is in this manner that the Advent presents itself, with a portion being given in solitude…and another portion relative to the world (from which it draws its material and occasional cause for its ‘unique face’). In this way it can both escape any determining constraints imposed upon the Real by the world, and use the wold as a sufficient but non-necessary source of material. In other words, while we are always already determined in accordance with the Real, we are only phenomenalized as potential political actors in the world, through the material provided by our contemporary Decisional structures. The intra-worldly subject, therefore, is merely the phenomenal face of the non-philosophical subject—the radical locus of resistance clothed in an arbitrary, yet non-determining, philosophical material. It is with this material clothing that we can function to effect transformations—not in, but of—the phenomenolgical world we inhabit. […] What still remains to be thought, however, is the manner in which the solitude of the Advent can be transformed, or perhaps simply extended, into the type of full-fledged world in which we are normally given. What is required, in other words, is some functional equivalent to Badiou’s concept of forcing, whereby the event is investigated and its findings integrated into a new situation (‘Capitalism and the Non-Philosophical Subject’ in The Speculative Turn, p. 181).
Minor politics of becoming, in short, is a productive engagement with the cramped conditions of life and the social relations therein. It does not proceed with a utopian or teleological hope, but is no less engaging for that. Rather, it is ‘packed full of disagreements, tensions, and impossibilities’, while at one and the same time inducing a certain humor and joy: involuntary laughs, after all, are are a functional element of political engagement, given that it remains a very difficult task. For as D & G put it, at some point the cramped space of the minor becomes so absurd, engendering a general feeling of impossibility, that it takes on a satirical or comic quality. This, D & G argue, is exactly where minor politics begins.
In Rosy Martin’s photographic project Unwind the Lies that Bind, a fairly straightforward two-image phototherapy work of the 1980s produced in response to Martin’s coming out, the viewer is presented with a definitive and emotive visual addressing female sexuality, specifically “beyond externally-imposed and debilitating stereotypes of passivity, objectification and/or deviance” (Meskimmon, Women Making Art, p. 98). “[T]he first image in the series shows Martin’s body and face bound by bandages on which words such as ‘pervert’, ‘predator’, ‘evil’, ‘disease’ and ‘dyke’ are written and the second image sees the artist breaking free of her text-laden bondage, like a chrysalis emerging from a cocoon” (Ibid., p. 100). This accessible and evocative political narrative gives a startling account of subjectivity, one that is neither acquiescent to socially determined stereotypes of sexuality nor one that merely appraises a marginal status. Rather, Unwind the Lies that Binds steers a course beyond these two positions of identity towards one that is open to change and development.
According to standard queer theory, of what I understand of it, a common strategic maneuver in response to denigrating terms such as ‘queer’ is not to openly resist them but to appropriate them as one’s own, valorizing such designations as constitutive of one’s identity. However, as the author here shows, such inversion or valorization of terms often has the deleterious effect of keeping the normal order of things fully in tact, specifically the boundary demarcating ‘normal’ sexual orientation from more ‘indecent’ forms.
‘Coming out’ offers both potential empowerment and further ghettoisation; its immense individual and political significance for many gay men and lesbians is a function of its dangerous transgression of the boundary between inside and outside. Coming out demonstrates what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has famously called the ‘epistemology of the closet’, which, in an important sense, describes an exclusionary theoretical border between those ‘in’ and those ‘out’. Performing the self as ‘out’ can thus reinforce the privileged status of the heterosexual/homosexual binary as a ‘natural’ or authentic locus of identity even as it interpellates a resistant and alternative subject (Ibid., p. 100)
Simply to re-describe “the names which defined lesbian sexuality negatively” as a positive set, therefore, is not political enough. Gone, then, is any political security of a ghettoized margin, one that seeks to carve out an autonomous identity against the world. What is required, rather, is to engage directly with the relations that make up the socius in an incessant bustle of experimentation. Granted, there are very real difficulties in re-composing the political; this is certainly not a politics of optimism. But the becoming of subjectivity, as signalled above, “is able to live with, even be nourished by its incompleteness, its difficulties, and its ‘impossibilities’” (Thoburn, Deleuze, Marx and Politics, p. 148). It can be said, in other words, that the performative process of subjectivity is not gridlocked by cramped conditions but is actually animated and cultivated by such space. It is in this sense that Unwind the Lies that Bind, as a collaborative, therapeutic practice, “provides the space for subjects to experiment with staging themselves within and through competing visual tropes” (Women Making Art, p. 102). As with other forms of narrative, phototherapy allows us to experiment in our imaginations with the probable effects of acting on one subjective assemblage over another, offering us a relatively safe way to explore our ‘options’ without one having to experiment with our own lives. Or again in the case of Unwind the Lies that Bind, one’s subjectivity, though interpellated by the socius, is always open to negotiation and maneuver, signalling ‘a speaking subject’ rather than a ‘mute object’.
Only out of distress or disharmony can the soul create. Indeed, this is in strong resonance with a previous post, Thinking the uncommon, in which I signalled, invoking Erdem’s treatment of Melanie Klein, that uncommon, novel creative thought emerges out of disorienting positions. This necessary condition for the possibility of new thought is delineated by Deleuze in his account of “Foucault’s eight-year break in book production after the first volume of The History of Sexuality—a period Deleuze describes as one of ‘general crisis’” (Thoburn, Deleuze, Marx and Politics, p. 42). According to Deleuze, the mark of disorientation for Foucault was a mode of inquiry, invention, crisis and probing concerning the reliance on ‘power’ and ‘resistance’ in his earlier years. We are told by Deleuze in Negotiations that Foucault had a sense of becoming “trapped in something he hated” and was in need of some opening (p. 109). In grappling with his sense of being in a cramped position, Deleuze sees Foucault overcome his stagnation in conceiving politics primarily in terms of resistance or mere reaction to power, offering instead, after the creative crisis, an as yet unseen argument centered around the problem of ‘subjectification’ and ‘techniques of the self’ in volumes II and III.
It is precisely at this time of ‘crisis’ that Foucault probelmatized his antecedent categories and founded new ones, albeit a very difficult, eight-year process. This disruption in the trajectory of Foucault’s thought was a violence whose victim was himself. However, his desire to break free from himself, though a perilous act, lead him to “invent new concepts for unknown lands” (Negotiations, p. 103). The point is that cultural invention is induced by cramped, complex and intense positions “that offer no easy or inevitable way out, and are packed full of disagreements, tensions, and impossibilities” (Deleuze, Marx and Politics, p. 145).
In one of the most interesting post I have encountered recently in the blogosphere–Object-Oriented Psychoanalysis and Derridean Deconstruction–Cengiz Erdem argues that the common things of everyday existence are produced out of the depressive position or abnormalities. As the author comments, psychic development is complemented by the death drive. Whereas this relationship is typically represented as a binary opposition in mainstream discourse, it is here presented as a reciprocally determined double-bind. Erdem’s claim, following Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion, is that “for a healthy creative process to take place giving birth to new thought” an antecedent disintegration or fragmentation of common sense is required. In other words, the breakdown of one’s consciousness and knowledge is the necessary condition for the possibility of reintegrating novel ideas and producing creative new thought.
In psychoanalytic terms, this entails the negation or considered dissent of the predominant symbolic order in which one explicates the problems inherent to the structure of society. In this questioning process–given that individuals are necessarily complicit in socio-symbolic acculturation–the subject loses him- or herself, splintering one’s formerly stable and consistent identity. That is to say, since subjects are constituted by symbolic structuring, to interrogate this is to persecute one’s very self. As the author says later on, “The subject of the death drive shakes the foundations upon which is built its own mode of being”. But following the confrontation of the “banalities of symbolic societies” the subject tends towards the reparation, reconciliation, and reconstructing of the symbolic order, albeit in a structure otherwise than before.
This becoming self-consciousness doubtless entails pain and subjective intensity. In the case of Heidegger’s being-towards-death, this process involves hopelessness, despair, and angst. Or in Kierkegaardian terms, it is the anxiety or dizziness of freedom. But rather than focus on escape as the solution, as the existentialists understood Platonic rationalism and Western culture as a whole doing, this interior angst should be valorized as the creative agency constitutive of the subject. As Nietzsche put it, pain, suffering, and horror are prerequisites for the novel becomings of existence because the creation of new thoughts and uncommon individuation requires the destruction of old forms to clear space for the new.
Erdem identifies a similar theme in critical theory: “The critical theorist breaks down the meaning of the text and out of the pieces recreates a new meaning, which is to say that creativity bears within itself destructivity and inversely. It may not be necessary to destroy something intentionally to create something new, but to have destroyed something is usually a consequence of having created something new”. In Derridean terms, the peripheral meaning of a text internally contradicts the dominant meaning, causing the text to split and collapse on its own accord. In this sense, the creative drive of a text that brings it into being and the destructive drive that causes its ultimate dissolution “are within and without one another at the same time”. In the final analysis, Erdem concludes that Derrida and his deconstruction project are ineffective when it comes to the generative strategy of re-creating objects or texts out of disintegrated ruins, claiming that he “perpetually postpones” effective or affirmative action, a judgment I will let stand as is and let the reader decide on.
Given my own interest in Deleuze, the psychoanalytic notion that creative thought emerges out of meaningless chaos strikes me as very close to Deleuze’s objects of encounter as considered in Difference and Repetition. What engenders thought or what forces us to think, as Deleuze tell us, is an object of encounter, something that is not immediately recognizable to the dogmatic image. That is to say, it is discordant from the vantage point of recognition and identity. It “perplexes” thought and “forces it to pose a problem” (p. 140). In this way the violent encounter of something unthinkable unhinges common sense from its streamline functioning, creating a discord in the faculties of recognition, and compels thought to grasp that which is not immediately intelligible. In a memorial passage Deleuze states the experience of an uncommon object in this way: “It is not a sensible being but the being of the sensible. It is not the given but that by which the given is given. It is therefore in a certain sense the imperceptible” (p. 140).
So while the object of an encounter indeed stumps thought, it can only be said of intensive objects that thought truly begins. In this sense, familiar thoughts and opinions are only ever the product of events in which thought is disturbingly faced with what it does not directly identify as something previously observed. Or to express it in a simple sentence, thought is engendered by introducing aberration into thought. All of this suggests that objects of encounter are the necessary condition for possible new and stable thoughts to emerge. This is, for Deleuze, what it means to think an original, novel or uncommon thought: neglect the common values and sensible concerns of how things stand in society at large. Knowledge is only conditioned by the unidentifiable condition of the uncanny, the imperceptible.
How does Deleuze stand in relation to Marx? According to an interview conducted by Toni Negri in 1990, Deleuze is committed to the Marxist project, even if the methodology and instruments of Deleuze’s revolutionary theory is demarcated in specific ways from Marx. Deleuze defends his fidelity to Marx insofar as “political philosophy finds its fate in the analysis and criticism of capitalism as an immanent system that constantly moves its limits and constantly re-establishes them on an expanded scale” (‘Minor Marxism’ in Deleuze and Marx, p. 102). But rather than speak in terms of the final resolution of conflict or a self-moving teleology as Marx does, Deleuze envisions the contemporary political scene to be inhabited by lines of flight, minorities and war machines. Deleuze proposes a typology along different lines than Marx, forgoing the Marxian instruments of social contradictions, classes and the State apparatus that were so important to Marxist militant praxis. By speaking in terms of lines of flight, minorities and war machines rather than dialectical movement, Deleuze breaks with any logic of progress.
Reality under capitalism is always mutating, for sure, but this does not necessarily entail a change for the better. According to Deleuze, singular entities are arranged in patterns to form collective assemblages, but these serial organizations do not imply an ascending development or determinate goal. For Deleuze, struggle never achieves any totalization of reality in which all elements of existence would function harmoniously or in unity. As critical theory has discovered, the unification of resistance forces simply ends up making the packaging and marketing work of capitalism all that much easier. The ‘untimely’ for Deleuze, in this regard, does not lead to any form of stable or enduring institution. “What we have, therefore, is a notion of militant praxis that, without giving in to the demands of power, but at the same time without aspiring to power, embraces—beyond government and opposition—the vocation of resistance” (pp. 104-5).
Existence, for Deleuze, is not a totality but a network or thick mesh of disparate singularities, which do not always fit together. Macro-assemblages or power formations, in this sense, despite their appearance to the contrary, are occupied by unstable, agitated and changing vectors. As Eduardo Pellejero puts it in ‘Minor Marxism’, “The social field is not composed by isolated and immutable formations: only stratifications of knowledge and power may give some stability to it” (p. 105). Pellejero again: “The social field leaks everywhere” (p. 105). State otherwise, lines of flight, minorities and war machines are constantly agitating from within the assemblages we are altogether familiar with and consider enduring.
Whereas there is no revolution as the end of history for Deleuze as there is with Marx, Deleuze nonetheless defends revolution as an agent of unrest. Rather than the radical and irreversible advent of a society finally totalised and reconciled amongst all its parts, Deleuze conceives of revolution as ephemeral and unpredicrtable events. Although these local events as opposed to the global advent of communism do not mark a clear major break from the established state of things and open up onto a new kind of society, Deleuze claims that such micro-revolutions still produce immanent and incalculable effects within the societies they historically fail.
The object of struggle, as a result, is not the fulfillment of a possible utopia, but the “multiplication of perspectives” (p. 106). Following these space clearing gestures new sensibilities and assemblages are asserted, making possible uncommon or novel visions of society not previously envisioned. According to Deleuze, this is the only strategy for the maturation or mutation of society: the de-stratification of structures and the re-arrangement of life and society. Alterations of society, in other words, are brought about by events that interrupt the normal flows and exclusions of life.
These mutations, consequently, have unpredictable results. Power formations, after all, have a great capacity for adapting to stimulated dissent and new types of human relations. Collective assemblages or systems, in other words, exhibit great shrewdness in maintaining stability despite constant semi-turmoil, even benefiting from such restlessness by recovering marginal inventions for the sake of its own growth and expansion. Lines of flight, as a result, are not necessarily revolutionary. It goes without saying, “these micro-revolutions do not lead automatically to a social revolution, to a new society, an economy or a culture liberated from capitalism” (p. 108).
More often than not such misfirings in the system are the required condition for the possibility of the machine to continue functioning properly. In this sense, the success of micro-revolutions depends upon how “the lines of flight that cross though a given society” are articulated by subjects who converge with these constructivist vectors (p. 108). For one to decode a system or an assemblage successfully and create an opening for new spaces of freedom, Deleuze tells us, requires one to move slowly and carefully; advice that is more commonsensical than profound. The essential point to bear in mind however is that
What matters is that, suddenly, we do not feel condemned in the same old way anymore; a problem which nobody could see a way out of, a problem in which everyobyd was trapped, suddenly ceases to exist, and we ask ourselves what we were talking about. Suddenly we are in another world, as Péguy said, the same problems do not arise anymore – though there will be many more, of course (p. 109).
Although this new form of criticism remains unsatisfactory for someone like Negri whose political work points to “the institution of a new constituent power beyond the Empire” rather than Deleuze’s alternative of “superficial and ephemeral resistance”, Deleuze gives a more compelling subversive grammar that fits better with the facts of the case (p. 109). Like Marx, Deleuze is concerned with the “creation of spaces of freedom, strategies of torsion of power, conquest of individual and collective forms of subjectivity, invention of new forms of life”, but unlike Marx, Deleuze does not have any doubts over the fact that we do not possess any reliable means to preserve resistance aimed at undermining knowledge and power from becoming compromised itself (pp. 109-10). For this reason, according to Deleuze, we are condemned to everlasting restlessness. “Deprived of any progressive project, of the idea that if we do everything possible things will improve, will change for the better— thus, aware of its tragic destiny—the struggle goes on” (p. 110). In short, what is required for Deleuze is the infinite movement of new struggles.
Deleuze stakes his entire political thought on the revolutionary potential of redistributing singularities and relationships. As Deleuze calls it, the ‘untimely’ is precisely this interruption of a specific situation or assemblage by way of drawing out novelty, discrepancy or molecular lines of flight therein. By this Deleuze does not mean the abolition of molar organization as such. Rather the “molecular re-distribution of power and knowledge” is an instrument for the transformation of molar organizations; viz., acknowledging and following the different compositions of power formations that keep colliding and do not fit, despite the attempts of molar assemblages to control them.
For Deleuze, like other agonistic thinkers such as Derrida, Žižek, Carl Schmidt, William Connolly and Rom Coles, the existence of dissent is inevitable. There are always going to be losers, including humans, trains, viruses and social contracts. But while Deleuze’s thought of immanence is beyond any reliance on a messianic structure in which a future revolution would bring history as we know it to a utopian end, Deleuze “still gives us reasons for resistance, to go on thinking, when it comes impossible to go on seeing certain things without doing nothing, or go on living as we do” (p. 111). Pellejero again: “We do not have faith in the advent of a new happy world, but we cannot renounce to the exercise of a resistant thought, in the difficult, unpredictable and dangerous intersection of our powerlessness” (p. 111).
Although revolutionary praxis will be an everlasting work, there are already a multitude of agents of change or resistance, millions of people convicted every day by the current state of things, such as “people who die from diseases that a simple pill could cure, victims of collateral damage from anti-terrorist operations, but also students educated for unemployment, adolescents enclosed in urban ghettos or suburbs, elderly people without pensions or social security” (p. 111). But even if there is no creation of a utopia on the horizon, will we stop working and struggling for that reason?