June 7th, 2011 / 10:00 am

The Beginner’s Guide to Deleuze

Over lunch, Christopher Higgs and I talked about Gilles Deleuze. I was saying how a lot of my friends–Chris, Blake Butler, and Derek White, to name a few–are really into his writing, especially the ginormous book A Thousand Pleateaus, co-written with Felix Guattari. I’ve tried to read it and get into it a few times, and kept putting the book up, scared off by not being able to immediately comprehend the text, not being able to decipher the numerous codes, terms, coinages. Recently, I changed. I picked up A Thousand Pleateaus again and flipped to a random chapter and read. I enjoyed it, and am enjoying it. Like my experience with Finnegans Wake, there are lucid swathes that I feel I understand, and then there are times when it’s packed dense or just orgiastically conceptual and I tune out a bit. But that process of coming in and out of lucidity is nice. Sort of trancelike.

I mentioned asking Chris some questions about Deleuze, his thinking, the books. I’m sort of acquainted with his ideas through the book A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (amazing book!), and what Deleuze I’ve now read. But, let me ask you/Chris some maybe dumb questions.

Firstly: Why should we read Deleuze?

Deleuze is the future.  He is almost the now, but not yet.  Just out of reach, just over the horizon, he is akin to the force that makes the sky pink after the sun sets and pink again right before the sun rises.  He is both pre and post everything, like the feeling before a meal of being famished followed by the feeling after the meal of being stuffed.  He does what no other thinker before him could do: he upends Plato, he quiets Hegel, he puts all the little thinkers to bed.

Consider it this way: if we imagine the past as a hallway full of doors marked dualism, binary thinking, either/or, mind/body, transcendence, then Deleuze makes philosophy contemporary by drawing a series of escape hatches on the ceiling of that hallway and marking them multiplicity, schizoid thinking, both/and, non-dialectical materialism, immanence.  Deleuze is open, associative, connective.  Deleuze is digital, affirmative, productive, innovative.  In him, we have a blueprint for navigating the 21st century.

Okay, I better stop there for now.  I can get pretty wound up and easily begin sounding like a preacher – I think my wife mentioned to you how I am sort of like a proselytizer for Deleuze.

But to respond to something else you said: I think many readers share your experience of being “scared off by not being able to immediately comprehend the text, not being able to decipher the numerous codes, terms, coinages” when first encountering his work—individually, and with Guattari.  It’s a totally valid response, but it’s also a manageable hurdle.

Here’s the trick: do not bother trying to comprehend or understand the text.  A desire for that level of control will only hinder your ability to experience it, use it, think it, and become it.  To apply an analogy, I do not need to understand or comprehend my car in order for me to experience driving, to use the car to get to the grocery store, to think about the fact that I am sitting motionless while simultaneously moving rapidly through time and space, to become an extension of the car or vice versa.  (In this way, Deleuze has really helped me formulate my general approach to all works of literature: I do not care to comprehend them or understand them in any way.  I wish instead to experience them and use them and become them.)

Maybe I’m jumping the gun here, but I’ll share this great passage from one of my favorite contemporary thinkers/writers, Steven Shaviro, which serves as a great primer for understanding Deleuze’s approach and also frames an additional answer to your question, Ken, about why we should read Deleuze:

Deleuze’s treatment of the philosophers he writes about is a complicated one: one that is obscured more than it is explained by Deleuze’s flippant and notorious comment about impregnating the past philosopher from behind, in order to produce a monstrous offspring. Deleuze is always closely attentive to the words, and the concepts, of the thinkers he is writing about. He quotes them a lot, and paraphrases their points using their own vocabularies. At the same time, Deleuze never provides an interpretation of the thinkers he is discussing; he is uninterested in hermeneutics, uninterested in teasing out ambiguities and contradictions, uninterested in deconstructing prior thinkers or in determining ways in which they might be entrenched in metaphysics. All this is in accord with Deleuze’s own philosophy: his focus is on invention, on the New, on the “creation of concepts.”

It’s not a matter of saying, for instance, that Plato and Aristotle and St. Augustine were wrong about the nature of time, and Kant or Bergson are right. Rather, what matters to Deleuze is the sheer fact of conceptual invention: the fact that Kant, and then Bergson, invent entirely new ways of conceiving time and temporality, leading to new ways of distributing, classifying, and understanding phenomena, new perspectives on Life and Being. A creation of new concepts means that we see the world in a new way, one that wasn’t available to us before. This is what Deleuze looks for in the history of philosophy, and this is why (and how) he is concerned, not with what a given text “really” means, but rather with what can be done with it, how it can be used, what other problems and other texts it can be brought into conjunction with. Deleuze writes about philosophers whose ideas he can use, or transform, in order to work through the problems he is interested in (full text here).

Like the avant-garde or experimental or innovative artist/writer, Deleuze is a philosopher of the new.  He is all about thinking in new ways, which seems like a damn fine reason in-and-of-itself to read him, in my opinion.  Of course, that also makes him difficult, which makes your Finnegans Wake comparison truly apt.

How can we use his philosophy in everyday life? Does he supply new or preferred ways of not only thinking but being? In other words: if I was looking for philosophy to guide me ethically and aesthetically, how does Deleuze show me how to live?

Danger warning!  Deleuzian ethics are unconventional in ways that tend to piss people off, especially Marxists!

Prevailing wisdom would suggest that opposition is essential to change.  Put in Hegelian terms, a thesis meets its antithesis in order to create a synthesis.  Tit for tat.  Action is met with reaction. For example, the government or big business or whomever does something you dislike, so you protest.  They throw a punch, so you throw a punch.  Back and forth.  Eventually, this way of thinking tries to convince us, the tides will change.  Eventually my punch will be the knockout punch, and those aggressive forces that pushed me to react will meet their doom.  (“And the meek shall inherit the earth.”)

This is, unfortunately, a fantasy.  Action will always prevail.  Reaction will always fail. (Did protest end the war in Vietnam?  Did protest stop the war in Iraq?  Did protest stop the destruction of collective bargaining in Wisconsin recently?  — No.  It did not.  Why?  Because protest is reactive, not active; it is negative rather than affirmative; it assumes the subordinate position “I am against X!” rather than the dominate position “I am for X!”)  It is the myth Nietzsche exposes in his groundbreaking and devastating Genealogy of Morals, a book that is central to my understanding of Deleuze’s ethical applicability.  For Nietzsche, Deleuze, and myself, direct engagement is a mistake.  Diffuse or indirect engagement is preferable.  Diagonal rather than horizontal or vertical attack.  Non-Euclidean game plans. Rhizome rather than root, molecular rather than molar, dynamic rather than static: reroute the flow of power toward new creative constructions.  Think of it like a tug of war: the opposition relies on your engagement, on your antithesis.  Without it, they would fall on their butts in the same way a person would fall on their butt if you were playing tug of war and suddenly let go of your end of the rope.  By engaging with the opposition you merely serve to validate and empower that opposition.  The only form of power one can truly wield is the power of action, of affirmation, of creation.  Let go of the rope!  You’re tired of going to the grocery store and finding fruits and vegetables from overseas, which have been treated with cancer-causing chemicals?  Don’t bother fussing with the management or writing a letter to your congressman…let go of the rope and go build an organic community garden. Action.  Creation.  Do not be duped into thinking that you can win a battle against the powers that be – they are the powers that be because they took action, because they created something.

This also imbricates Spinoza’s view of ethics, which serves as the other major pillar of my understanding of Deleuze’s ethical applicability.  For both thinkers, affirmation engenders creation and negation engenders destruction.

In everyday life, this means reconsidering our actions.  It means asking oneself: am I acting or am I reacting?  Am I creating or am I destroying?  Am I affirming or am I negating?

That sort of speaks to the ethical issue.  In terms of the aesthetic, I think Deleuze can help us in everyday life by encouraging us to foreground difference, to find beauty in difference, to seek heterogeneity rather than homogeneity, to focus our desire toward the unfamiliar, the strange, the new.  A Deleuzian aesthetic is predicated, at least in part, on change, movement, transformation, repositioning, shifting, flowing, mutating, multiplying, generating, and, of course, magic.

If you could give someone a Deleuze bundle of five items, what would it contain? (It can include anything: any of Deleuze’s books/essays, anything Deleuze writes about often, other texts, other media, a desert root system, etc.)

Wow, tough question.  There is so much good stuff out there, so many options.  And it really would depend on what angle a person was particularly interested in exploring.  Thinking in general terms, here is a bundle of five possible entry points:

An Introductory Bundle

*First, I would give them Deleuze’s book on Nietzsche, because I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Hardt’s opening statement in his Forward to the revised edition: “This book is, in my view, the best introduction to Deleuze’s thought.” (You can read Hardt’s entire Forward here.)

*Second, I would give them Michel Foucault’s critical examination of Deleuze’s first two books of independent philosophy (Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense) called “Theatrum Philosophicum,” which opens with Foucault’s famous statement,  “Indeed, these books are so outstanding that they are difficult to discuss; this may explain, as well, why so few have undertaken this task. I believe that these words will continue to revolve about us in enigmatic resonance with those of Klossowski, another major and excessive sign, and perhaps one day, this century will be known as Deleuzian.” (You can read the whole thing here.)

*Third, I would give them the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, which contains Deleuze & Guattari’s concept of the Rhizome. (You can read the entire introduction here.)

*Fourth, I would give them this lecture on Deleuze by Manuel De Landa, which elaborates lucidly on crucial concepts such as expressivity and morphogenesis.

*And fifth, I would give them Félix Guattari’s book Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews 1972—1977, because one of the most effective ways of familiarizing oneself with Deleuze is by seeing him through the eyes of his longtime collaborator.

As an added bonus, I’ll offer three other useful bundles…

The Background Bundle

Five works to inform, expand, and enhance one’s engagement with Deleuze:

*Baruch Spinoza – Ethics

*Friedrich Nietzsche – On the Genealogy of Morals

*Henri Bergson – Creative Evolution

*Antonin Artaud – The Theatre and Its Double

*James Gleick – Chaos: Making a New Science

The Secondary Bundle

Five works that utilize or otherwise illuminate Deleuze in ways that I have found particularly provocative and/or useful:

*Steven Shaviro – Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics

*Bruce Baugh’s essay “How Deleuze can help us make Literature work” (which has been anthologized in the collection Deleuze and Literature)

*Gerald Bruns’s essay “Becoming Animal: Some Simple Ways” (published first in New Literary History, 2007, 38: 703–720, but also included in his newest book On Ceasing to be Human)

*John Rajchman – The Deleuze Connections

*Alain Badiou – Deleuze: The Clamor of Being

The Case Study Bundle

Five entries to get one thinking about the application of Deleuze’s philosophy:

*David Markson’s Author Quartet (Reader’s Block, This is Not A Novel, Vanishing Point, The Last Novel)

*William Burroughs’s Cut-Up Triptych (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, Nova Express)

*Jean-Luc Godard’s Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle

*Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

* Ryan Trecartin – P.opular S.ky (section ish)

And finally, your favorite sentence or paragraph from Deleuze’s writing.

Okay, I’m not going to over think this or second guess my first impulse, which is this:

Writing has nothing to do with signifying.  It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come. (A Thousand Plateaus 4-5)

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  1. davidpeak

      oh wow. thanks, guys. i can’t wait to read this again later today. this might just be my summer reading list.

      chris, did you ever read bergson’s matter and memory? that book, coupled with deleuze’s cinema 1 and 2, pretty much encapsulates my entire understanding of film. i’d love to hear your thoughts on those books someday.

  2. alex crowley

      this is fantastic, thanks fellas  (Gleick’s Chaos is phenomenal, too)

  3. Oneiric Bazaar

      That someone as engaged with the contemporary as Shaviro recommends Deleuze might be reason enough to try him, but if you’ve read Norman O. Brown, Bateson, maybe Laing, then you know Deleuze is not the original his epigones make him out to be.

      Most of the post-68 theorists would seem to be frustrated writers who lacked the courage to create worlds in fiction and poetry. Deleuze isn’t even a poetic theorist. Most folks seem to think De Landa does better work of explaining Deleuze than Deleuze himself.

      Why new concepts? What’s wrong with looking at things as they are? Yes, existing hierarchical discourses need upending, but with new synthetic concepts one is still falling back on linguistic mediation or the mediation of images.

      Deleuze is interesting to read for his comments on American writers; in this respect he is like Bolano.

      Deleuze & Guattari, Dolce & Gabbana.

  4. deadgod


      letting go of the rope is a tug strategy

      winning by not playing is investment in triumph

      ‘building an organic community garden–but not in reaction to or negation of anything’ is a sieve made out of holes:  a perfectly successful sieve fist pump

      but no buts

      why be logical

      why interpret

      that’s just western-metaphysical imperialist fascist shit

      act! rhizome of stardust!

      create! little moonbeam!

  5. Christopher Higgs

      Thanks, David.

      Yes, yes: Matter and Memory is also fantastic mindfood.  And Deleuze’s Cinema books kick bowling balls over dandelions, most certainly. 

      I read Cinema I & II before reading a lick of Bergson, so when I got around to actually reading his work it felt very comfortable and accessible.  I tell anybody who will listen that the best way to wrap one’s noodle around Bergson is to first read those Cinema books and then read Deleuze’s book on Bergson (Bergsonism). 

      –As a sidebar, even if someone weren’t interested in cinema, Bergsonism is a fantastic book, if for no other reason than the way Deleuze explains Bergson’s distinction between differences in kind versus differences in degree.–

      You know, I sometimes think of thinkers as Medusas.  One should not look directly into their faces at first, but should instead look at them through the eyes of another, and then swing the sword to lop the head and examine the carcass of their thought thereafter.         

      At any rate, I think you would enjoy Shaviro’s book The Cinematic Body, David.  It utilizes Deleuze’s ideas about cinema in really interesting ways. (He has another (even newer) book that just came out from Zero Books called Post Cinematic Affect, which I haven’t had time to read yet, but will undoubtedly be awesome, too.)   

  6. Jessehu2003


      I felt the same way with Derrida. I thought, “holy shit this is like a block of some foreign language”. But, finally, I just decided fuck it, that I would nosedive in and glean what I could. It sounds weird to say but it’s true: Of Grammatology kind of changed my life. Or, at least, the way I think about it and, most importantly, how I think about writing. There were sections where I had that “trance” like feeling you described. And there were sections (especially in his earlier books on Husserl) were it felt like my head was being sawed in half with piano wire. But it was so worth it. Deleuze is coming up on my list. Especially Capitalism & Schizophrenia. 

  7. Christopher Higgs

      Hello Oneiric Bazaar,While Gregory Bateson is certainly an important and original thinker — Deleuze is not shy about his adoration for Bateson — what distinguishes Deleuze is the fact that he brings Bateson’s constellation of ideas into the same sky as handfuls of other thinkers and other flows of ideas, and by doing so he creates a new zodiac. Likewise, I would argue that Brown presents a single constellation of ideas, as does Laing: significant and important in their own right, but merely constellations; whereas Deleuze has created a zodiac.  I am curious about your assertion that D. is interesting to read for his comments on American writers…could you say more?  Which American writers does he write about in interesting ways, and where can folks find those writings?   

  8. Laurachristinecarter

      Deleuze is fabulous! Thanks for this post. The Deleuze I most admire is not the one of Anti-Oedipus, but the one of Thousand Plateaus and some of the lesser-known books. His book on Proust is fantastic, too, as well as the Baroque book called _The Fold_. Brian Massumi has also written some great accompanying books to much of what Deleuze has done. And you kind of gotta love the long fingernails and whatnot, too.

  9. Laurachristinecarter
  10. Samuel Gulpan

      This is one of the best posts I’ve read this week, anywhere, and has sparked a fire in me. Thank you, gentlemen, for this fascinating and insightful interview. To the library, ho!

  11. Ian keenan

      Deleuze’s activism included the Prisoner’s Information Group formed with Foucault in 1971, pro-immigration marches, anti-racist marches, standing with Foucault outside the prison to protest the extradition of Klaus Croissant, saying about his varied forms of activism “‘Every partial revolutionary attack or defense in this way connects up with the struggle of the working class.”

      As to whether he “pisses off.. especially Marxists” it was Badiou who wrote probably the most insightful book about him, and Negri with whom he co-authored “Control and Becoming” in 1990 on prisons and state surveillance, Derrida who wrote “I never felt the slightest “objection” arise in me, not even a virtual one, against any of his discourse” and “I reread tonight what [Deleuze] said in 1990 on this subject: ‘…Felix Guattari and I have always remained Marxists, in two different manners perhaps, but both of us. It’s that we don’t believe in a political philosophy that would not be centered around the analysis of capitalism and its developments. What interests us the most is the analysis of capitalism as an immanent system that constantly pushes back its proper limits, and that always finds them again on a larger scale, because the limit is Capital itself.”

  12. Ian keenan

      Deleuze’s activism included the Prisoner’s Information Group formed with Foucault in 1971, pro-immigration marches, anti-racist marches, standing with Foucault outside the prison to protest the extradition of Klaus Croissant, saying about his varied forms of activism “‘Every partial revolutionary attack or defense in this way connects up with the struggle of the working class.”

      As to whether he “pisses off.. especially Marxists” it was Badiou who wrote probably the most insightful book about him, and Negri with whom he co-authored “Control and Becoming” in 1990 on prisons and state surveillance, Derrida who wrote “I never felt the slightest “objection” arise in me, not even a virtual one, against any of his discourse” and “I reread tonight what [Deleuze] said in 1990 on this subject: ‘…Felix Guattari and I have always remained Marxists, in two different manners perhaps, but both of us. It’s that we don’t believe in a political philosophy that would not be centered around the analysis of capitalism and its developments. What interests us the most is the analysis of capitalism as an immanent system that constantly pushes back its proper limits, and that always finds them again on a larger scale, because the limit is Capital itself.”

  13. Manuel DeLanda Lecture on Deleuze « avian architext

      […] Ken Baumann and Christopher Higgs posted a pretty thorough primer on Gilles Deleuze over at HTMLGiant. They discuss his work a bit and also provide resources for further exploration. A few years ago I […]

  14. M. Kitchell

      Not to butt in, but I’d expect, regarding American writers, Oneiric Bazaar is probably referring, at least in part, to one of the ‘discussions’ in Dialogues (or maybe it’s the additional one printed in Dialogues II— I’ve only read the expanded version so I don’t particularly remember).  Of course, I haven’t read the essay/conversation/”dialog” in a few years & I’m at work while my book is at home, so I can’t offer any more specificity beyond that, but I do know I have shit underlined & dog-earred in that particular essay, so I’ll give it a look if Oneiric Bazaar doesn’t respond before.

  15. Don

      I like the Guattari collection ‘Chaosophy’, which is written in a less arcane style.

  16. Troyweav

      “It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id.” When you begin a book like that how can you go wrong, especially in the field of philosophy. Also later on in the same book (anti-oedipus: capitalism and schizophrenia) we come across this: Society is not exchangist, the socius is inscriptive: not exchanging but marking bodies, which are part of the earth…(you’ll have to read it for yourself). Great stuff, great interview. When I first came across Deleuze some years ago he blew my mind, and now when I reread Deleuze my mind is equally blown. And I’m very pleased that people are finally talking about him out in the open instead of keeping him to themselves behind the staircase of their minds.

  17. Christopher Higgs

      Good points, all, Ian.  But since Deleuze died before completing his last book, which is said to have been his ode to Marx, I think we will unfortunately be left with only a partial picture of his position in the Marxist assemblage.

      That said, it has been my experience in academia over the past eight or so years that Marxists dislike much of Deleuze’s philosophical approach.  For one thing, Deleuze wrote often against concepts of hierarchical power structures–a necessary assumption for Marxists, given that they rely on the dialectical confrontation of Hegel’s master/slave (subject/object) narrative.  Using the example you have given re: Deleuze’s activism — “Every partial revolutionary attack” refers to a molecular activism predicated on micro-politics rather than a molar Marxist macro-politics.  Deleuze disagreed with any theoretical position that valorized the negative — his entire ontological project hinged on the n+1, the both/and, the power of difference engendered by proliferation (affirmation).  Whereas Marx would advocate for the power of the negative, the power of the antithesis, Deleuze would advocate for the power of the thesis.  Treat thesis with thesis, Deleuze would say.        

      For another thing: contra Deleuze, Marx was a teleological thinker.  Marx, following Hegel, viewed history as a progression.  Deleuze did not.  For Deleuze, following a thread he drew from Hume to Nietzsche to Bergson, history is a flow of difference and repetition, a plane of consistency articulated through variable magnitudes of intensity.  “A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance” (25).  Marx is a tree, not a rhizome. 

      Obviously loads more ways exist in which Marxists come to dislike Deleuze…these are just the first few that come to mind.

      As to Badiou’s book on Deleuze, which I included on my secondary list, I think you are right that it is an insightful book, although I would say that it is fundamentally flawed by what I perceived to be an undertone of jealousy Badiou had for Deleuze.  That book gave me the impression that their relationship was tenuous at best.  And frankly, if memory serves me (which it hardly does, so I should be careful here) I seem to recall thinking that Badiou unproductively misunderstands Deleuze’s concept of multiplicity, no doubt due to Badiou’s mathematical proclivities, his binary assumptions, his position regarding the distinction (or his perceived lack thereof) between the multiple and multiplicity.  I should probably omit this criticism, since it’s been some years since I last read that book…but this sentiment is lodged in my noggin so I figured, why not purge it.     

  18. deleuzeisnotphilosophyitself

      as for me, i really disapprove of deleuze! i think philosophy which is not immediately accessible is just a prank from a foreign country! if i do not feel confirmed in the immediacy of my convictions what’s the point in siphoning some delusional poison? isn’t it nice to read something and feel relaxed rather than to feel upset by the bad jokes and alien images? Now a philosophy of warm milk, a philosophy of penitent hand wringing is more my style. Perhaps a philosophy of regulation or a philosophy of the polishing of the bronze busts of philosophers is more in order. Deleuze is too interesting to be of use. 

      I don’t know much about deleuze or philosophy but i definitely think it is better to just read all the commentary ! plus recent work in all fields is better than deleuze himself. i like the idea of just taking something and pasting it on to something else for bricolage is my frenzy and it is a revolution in the ill fitting of ideas. an idea really has no specific contour does it? a concept is surely a triviality when we have internets and amusements! 

      the series from edinburgh press in which deleuze is stapled to everything is very helpful! he would have approved for isn;t he the famous inventor of n+1 and rhizomatic affirmation? i will dispute all his rigor for he has occasionally written an interesting sentence and it seems like he would like me to have some fun at work and to enjoy the marijuana cigarettes at the weekend. 

      the world is a stack of rigid historical errors but fluidity and molecules and the laughter of obscure desire will redeem it without end!

      he does not deserve the time and attention of someone like kant who is very systematic. deleuze is not systematic is he? after all his books are full of many complicated feelings and i get the sense enjoyment is at stake not concepts. 

      who should read his books? are artists fond of them? are engineers? i am concerned he may have been some kind of dissident. i would like a clear assessment of his politics please! just what did he say about marx anyway? 

      isn;t commentary the tradition of the medievals and ourselves too? therefore it is very good all this work which purports to explain deleuze for he had no sense in the ordering and presentation of his thoughts. if he was a scholastic it was after all a very ponderous joke! 

      as for his commitment to an ontology of joy: isn’t it nonsense to waste time on this kind of illuminated jargon? 

      what we need are jobs! not more imposture in the imponderable francophone style. after all they curse and make love with their faces. also, he was probably a homosexual with his odd companion the militant tactician of unemployment, felix the luck of disorder. 

      he is a great gorgon isn’t he? let us wail in his wilderness. 

  19. Christopher Higgs

      Award for kookiest comment in a while.  High five on the estrangement, deleuzeisnotphilosophyitself.

  20. M. Kitchell

      i think part of the reason it seems like people specifically outside of some academic engagement with philosophy don’t really talk about him as openly is because he is ostensibly resistant to definitive meaning, so I think people are honestly afraid that whatever they say, someone will come along and tell them they’re ‘wrong’, which of course doesn’t exactly conform to his entire project.

  21. Dennis Cooper

      Great post!  Thanks a lot, Ken and Chris!

  22. Alec Niedenthal

      Very insightful guide here. Thank you, Ken and Chris. A couple of questions:

      The problem with Deleuze’s Marxism as he articulates it here is: where is contradiction? Zizek can get away with this “capital’s incompletion is its own presupposition” talk because he retains contradiction, as he says again and again, at the heart of the One. To be more specific, what does it mean to say that Capital “pushes back” its limits, and on what basis does it do so? This “pushing back,” which D might call (following the little Deleuze I know) a contraction or something–is the class struggle not its motor? I just don’t understand how Deleuze can say something like “capital pushes back its limits” without contradiction. What pushes? This would be my “what gives?” question to Deleuzians.
      And I understand even less this compulsion to forge a Deleuzian ethics as “opposed” to a politics. Why an ethics of resistance/inaction rather than a politics of action? Why are they contradictory, and moreover, what’s the deal with this abandonment of mass and class struggle in favor of gardening? Who decides that mass and class action are ineffective and weak forms of struggle: Capital, or avant-garde philosophers who are perhaps its conduit? 

  23. deleuzeisnotphilosophyitself

      thank you sir! this deleuze poison must be met and countered with all the means at our disposal! I propose a moral calculus extracted from the good intentions of philosophers who work in the sober traditions of semantics and evolutionary epistemology! or maybe a return to aristotle as has been suggested by some. aristotle is the truly untimely figure here! as long as there is a neat arrangement of figures in their little taxonomies i feel capable of a deep and deathly sleep. 

  24. Troyweav

      True, and I’d be lying if I pretended to be one of those academics who understands everything, because I am not. But it’s like Christopher pointed out, it’s about the experience, not necessarily the comprehension of the experience. And I’ve always been a believer that in discussing philosophy, it is better to be ‘wrong’ than it is to be right, and there isn’t any right anyway, i think, I don’t know, but something like that. Because to be right about it would mean my interest in it is gone. Once I understand the experience I vacate it. I move on. And yeah, you’re right.

  25. Don

      D&G write somewhere that subjectivity is produced like aluminum or electricity.

  26. Troyweav

      “Altmann’s Tongue strikes me as powerful, by reason of the mode of the language and the unusual style, by reason of the violence and the force of the words… I admire this book.”           —Gilles Deleuze

      Another reason Deleuze kicks ass, putting his work aside: good taste

  27. Nick

      I haven’t indulged in much theory, but this is definitely makes me want to.  Great stuff!

      Christopher:I wonder, would The Case Study Bundle benefit from The Marvelous Works of Marvin K. Mooney?  It’s obvious why you would omit it from your list, but talk to me about your book and how it enters into your proselytization of Deleuze.  Do you feel like his work was a major impetus for the book?

      It feels like there is a connection there…

  28. Oneiric Bazaar

      Thanks for your comments, Christopher (and M.). It’s been awhile since my fingers tripped through D, but I do remember my surprise in reading of his unguarded fondness for F. Scott Fitzgerald. (I also seem to remember his writing of singers, but this could be a false memory.) You know how Bolano is able to show this remarkable familiarity with writers from around the world? I felt the same way about Deleuze. Sorry my memory isn’t better in this case.

      Your remarks about constellations and the zodiac pieced together register. I wasn’t aware D had been open about his admiration for Bateson. There’s no disputing Deleuze has impeccable taste. There’s an analogue to his work in 90s music – one you might not like, but I’ll offer it and let you ignore it if it seems off:

       Ween or Royal Trux?

      Ween started off with a real statement (GWS), then retreated behind extremely clever reworkings of the musics that permeated popular consciousness up until each album. Gifted as they are, they have failed to create genuine sonic art since that first explosion.

      With Royal Trux, you have a nonpareil cipher who absorbed pretty much all of the great music (and some not-so-great) which came before, then shattered it and baited you in with recognizable shards to his explorations of the furthest sonic realms still tenuously anchored to the canon.

      Do you feel Deleuze’s “buggery” advanced the multilogue beyond the nothing-new-under-the-sun-but-let’s-keeping-looking-in-the-bottom-of-crates DJ culture of our adult years?

  29. Oneiric Bazaar

      and yet Badiou has replaced Deleuze as the coolest philosopher now, at least until Quentin Meillasoux gets his 9.6 from Porksword. Or maybe Latour will do a comeback album.

      Dreyfus had to interrupt one of his online UC lectures to let a student know the measure of his disdain for Badiou when that student tried to say something clever about Heidegger and Badiou.

      Just as Foucault confessed on his deathbed that he was the secret son of Heidegger, all the post-soixante-huitard enfants terribles always had a soft spot for Marx in the end.

  30. Ken Baumann

      Love that Medusa thinking.

  31. Ken Baumann

      I haven’t gotten into Derrida deeply yet, but Of Grammatology is at the top of my list. That book seems to really hit people.

  32. Oneiric Bazaar

      Would it be fair to say D&G is “cool media”? 

  33. Ken Baumann

      Modern ethics is the most complicated, maddening thinking, terrifyingly non-figure-outable; it would make sense that Deleuze’s writing is so interrelated, tangential, maddening (sometimes)… 

  34. Ken Baumann

      Our pleasure!

  35. Oneiric Bazaar

      Yes, that sounds like them – or rather like De Landa.

      Unfalsifiable. If that matters to you at all. 

  36. Oneiric Bazaar

      Which was used to sell Dark Property. 

  37. Oneiric Bazaar

      Why do you think ethics has become so complicated now?

  38. lorian long

      i have to read the cinematic body; this is like the 3rd or 4th time it’s come up. ‘deleuze’s cinema books kick bowling balls over dandelions’ –yessss.

  39. Troyweav

      sure, if you wish

  40. Ken Baumann

      A pleasure!

  41. Troyweav

      which worked

  42. Anonymous

      fuck yes.  thank you.

  43. Christopher Higgs

      Arg!  I hope you’re wrong about Badiou being the coolest philosopher now.  He irks me.   

      I could get down with Latour getting more love, though.  Now that you bring him up, I wonder why I haven’t read a paper that brings his line of flight into the Deleuzian assemblage?  Actor network theory seems like it could imbricate nicely with Deleuze…I’ve always thought so…but then again I tend to connect everyone I like to Deleuze. :)  

      Meillasoux is great, too.  I like all those OOO folks — speculative realists? — probably especially Ray Brassier.  I think M. Kitchell is, like myself, also steeped in studying their stuff for fun….right, Mike?

      I’d like to bring OOO to literature.  As far as I know, nobody is doing that yet, are they?


  44. Ian keenan

      Chris, Your making Hegel’s master-slave dialectic seem like an endorsement of the process on Hegel’s part, which it wasn’t.  What Hegel meant has been debated for years, but it’s not for being taken out of context to make it to sound like an affirmation of slavery.  Marx was critiquing the existing power relations.  I’ve come up with 3 names of prominent Marxists that have praised Deleuze to the skies and you have come up with unnamed people in “academia” who “rely on the dialectical confrontation of Hegel’s master/slave (subject/object) narrative” so much that he “dislike(s) Deleuze’s philosophical approach.” I surmise that Deleuze’s critique of the dialectic had something to do with the choice of subject matter here, and that’s to be expected, but my main concern is that if you want to ridicule people who protest wars, if you want to ridicule the Marxists, that’s your right, but invoke a philosopher who wasn’t an activist and a self-described Marxist.

  45. Oneiric Bazaar

       Check out Graham Harman if you don’t know him. He used to have a really great blog, but he shut it down in frustration.

      Last time I tried to get my finger on the pulse, Badiou was the coolest of the cool. That was three years ago. Sartwell wrote something about his essay in Infinite Thought being the only real advance in philosophy in 25 years, and Sartwell likes Deleuze too. But Sartwell doesn’t set the dialogue. Lots of people gathered together with the hope Badiou would “restore” rigor or math or metaphysics, ie, the classics, to contemporary philosophy and they proclaimed him the cat to watch.

  46. Ken Baumann

      The new hyper-interrelatedness of individuals, their work, trade, culture.

  47. Oneiric Bazaar

      hell yes it did. I bought it sight unseen. But not because of that quote. 

  48. Oneiric Bazaar

      Bernhard should have written a short book on Deleuze. I’d read that. I’d read any Bernhard, though. 

  49. Oneiric Bazaar

      but my wishing it were so is the proof itself of its cool medianess.

  50. Troyweav

      I don’t see what your getting at, except the obvious intellectual bully fest. Evenson is a great writer minus the quote. I didn’t buy a book based on a quote either. So i guess i just have my head in my ass and can have no opinions whatsoever, however playful. That’s fine, you go on with your bad self. Take yourself too seriously and you might come off as a dick. No offense intended of course. I know you are smart. You don’t have to dissuade or persuade me any which way–whatever you are trying to do.

  51. Christopher Higgs

      Hey Alec.

      If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with Hardt & Negri’s work, you might dig their triptych: Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth.  They utilize Deleuze in interesting ways to theorize a politics of action.

      In terms of contradiction.  The problem is in the either/or, which is implied or assumed by the very notion.  That is to say, in order for me to accept the term “contradiction,” I must first believe that there exist things or positions which are contradictory.  Stable forms.  Solid positions.  For Deleuze, this is a false assumption.  All is flux.  Change.  All is, in fact, inherently contradictory because all is both/and. 

      Think of Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”  Or think of Keats’s “negative capability.”  Or Piaget’s “cognitive dissonance.”  Consider how matter exhibits both wave and particle properties simultaneously.  Matter is not an either/or.  It is both/and.

      Therefore, in a Deleuzian paradigm all positions are complimentary (rather than contradictory) — some to a greater degree, others to a lesser degree.

      So instead of [-> ->] (or: +/+)

      This schema is, as Deleuze says in that quote about capital pushing back its limits, predicated on an ontological position of immanence rather than transcendence.  Thus, capital is embodied in culture — as culture is simply a manifestation of various assemblages and intensities whose origin can be traced back to the plane of immanence.  In other words, there is no outside, as there would be in Marx.  There is no position whereby one can create space outside of all other conditions, or from which one might attempt to combat any other position.  All is caught in the same flow of forces.  The issue, or question, then becomes one of agency.  How does an individual exert agency?  That’s a much trickier thing to suss out.  But hopefully I’ve made some sense here in regards to your questions?  Thanks, Alec.

  52. Christopher Higgs

      You rock, Nick.  Thanks for making the connection. 

      Indeed, Mooney owes a great debt to Deleuze.  I see it in many ways as an attempt to present the novel as rhizomatic assemblage.  Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler also greatly influenced Mooney, and it is also what I would consider a rhizomatic assemblage.

      I would encourage you and others who’ve yet to explore theory to embrace the hell out of it.  I’m willing to bet that the benefits will astound you.  If for no other reason, it will infect your brain and change your ways of thinking.  It will open new doors and make old doors look outmoded.    

  53. M. Kitchell

      Meillasoux’s only got one book tho (at least in English)– can we really pronounce him king?  I’d agree that Badiou has replaced Deleuze as ‘coolest’ philosopher for the time being, but hey if the ‘coolest’ philosopher has a big investment in set theory (I know not all of his work does) it almost seems like we’re pushing further outside the realm of pure speculation and into something definite.  Besides, the cool kids are more interested in Land & Laruelle right now, at least until they go mainstream (/end hipster music posturing here).   

  54. deckfight

      heart of the matter: Rhizome rather than root

  55. Ken Baumann

      Chris: Followup question: How does an individual exert agency?

  56. Alec Niedenthal

      First, there would be no outside for Marx. Marx, and certainly not Deleuze, developed the notion that capital is its own immanent limit; he says exactly that in Capital Vol. I, in plain German. One of Althusser’s most crucial insights is that critical philosophy, at its origin, is ruptured by an antagonism between idealism and materialism–and that either one dominates in the work of a philosopher at a given juncture. I prefer this subtle mode of reading to the position of: “Marx was a bad guy,” “Hegel was a bad guy,” and so on, because it gets very difficult to have a conversation about our dead German friends. And it supposes that another reading of these very complex thinkers is not possible, a position, to my mind, entirely opposed to what I would call an ethics of reading. 

      Secondly, it’s funny that you mention the “and”-multiplicity trick, because it’s very close to Hegelian rhetoric: but/also. The master enslaves the slave, but also himself is a slave to the immediacy of Life, and so must go under. This is Hegel’s basis for movement, and the closeness between the two discourses (“and… and” and “but… also”) is one reason, among others, why I suspect that Deleuze never even read Hegel, and got all of his Hegel from what he rejected in Sartre. But short of that, Deleuze’s petulant rejection of Hegel reminds me of a child who detests his or her father for no reason other than that man over there is his or her father. Regardless, we have to keep in mind Deleuze’s disjunctive synthesis, don’t we? “Either/or,” an addition and subtraction always on-the-go, a process of recording, etc., the logic of which is a constant permanent and non-linear disjunction. 

      Perhaps we have here the essential but minimal difference between Hegel and Deleuze. If I take you at your word, Deleuze would say to Whitman, “Yes, so many contradictions, and if you affirm them as differences then you affirm the being of becoming, and so on,” whereas Hegel would say, “Yes, so many contradictions, but ideology tells you that you can contain them without sublating your identity as _this_ container of contradictions.” Which is just Hegelian difference–as soon as you identify yourself, even if it is as a bundle of contradictions, you already differ from yourself; you do not contain contradictions but are absolved of them. 

  57. Christopher Higgs

      Ugh.  I wish I could make this comment box emit my groan at your comment, Ian.  I’ll respond this once and then that’s it because it’s obvious you’re after some kind of weird battle, of which I don’t care to engage.

      I never intended to ridicule Marxists or protestors.  Never meant to imply that Hegel endorsed the master/slave narrative.  Never, as a matter of fact, denied that Deleuze was a self-described Marxist.  (Of course he also self-describes as a wizard and a werewolf in ATP, so I’d take his self-descriptions with a grain of salt.)

      The fact that Badiou, Derrida, and Negri praised Deleuze does not diminish from his glaringly antithetical position vis à vis the dialectic.  This is very simple, Ian:

      Marx goes: Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis

      Deleuze goes: Thesis – Thesis – Synthesis

      Hopefully you can see the difference between those two equations.  If you can, then please omit my empirical data from academia and replace it with the formula.  This should be enough for you to understand why it might piss off a few Marxists.  (Badiou would certainly be down with a good ole fashion math formula as proof of difference.)      

  58. Alec Niedenthal

      Also, did you guys know that–for better or for worse–G. Lish calls Difference and Repetition his favorite book?

  59. Hegel

      Hegel is the coolest philosopher! Go Hegel!

  60. Alec Niedenthal

      I meant to change my name to “Hegel” for that comment, but I guess it didn’t work because Disqus wants me to look like a four-year-old today. 

  61. Alec Niedenthal

      Everyone, don’t listen to him, he really is Hegel! He hacked into my computer and was posting as me. Thankfully I was able to fight him out of my computer. I guess that’s why I bought Norton Antivirus 2010.

  62. Corey Wakeling

      De Landa does better work than Deleuze himself? That’s fucking laughable! I think De Landa’s emphasis of natural expressivity is about all that is good in De Landa’s readings of Deleuze.

  63. deleuzeisnotphilosophyitself

      Oh Hegel! it is so nice to see you! I was fearful this little celebration would miss out entirely on your very convivial and well considered admonition of deleuze, who does need a bit of admonishment by your powerful logical apparatus! It is true Deleuze never read you, how could he have done so in a context so alien to the Hegelian apparatus? Althusser so beautifully indicates a difference between idealism and materialism, it is a scandal is it not? Who would have thought the “crisis” in “criticism” would be engaged by something as meaningless as the difference which makes no difference between an idealist and a materialist? The little motiff by which one thing might pass by an invisible saturation of its limit into another? The “hidden truth” as the apologists of ideology critique like to remind us and then to have a good laugh. Althusser had the good sense to reject Hyppolite’s very clumsy misreading of Hegel which went so far as to suggest that idealism itself defaulted into various modes of materialism and so perhaps the game of idealist totality and materialist antagonsim was after all much neater than anyone required.  And after all Hegel taught us all these lessons in his impeccable triads. It is predictable the stubborn idiocy of deleuze on Hegel’s method: that there should be no concept of difference predicated on internal negation, that this is insufficient and betrays what we want from the transcendental side of things , that there is an unthought in thought irreducible to propositions, that there is an unfelt in feeling irreducible to sentiment, and something imperceptible in perception irreducible to objects, all this is a trivia or a word play and requires from hegel the tidy critique of empiricism, of the immediate, of the sensuous, and the rising bluster of the concept which is grasping at things where it empties them out. Hegel has the concept of difference: deleuze supposed thinker of difference admits it can have no concept at the very outset of his project! unless there is a more sophisticated gesture at work and deleuze also means to reposition the whole apparatus by which we allow ourselves metaphysics? Deleuze is very petulant and is a bad child. Like a child he should be scolded, and we are the ones to scold him. Philosophy is nothing if not this parental regulation of the dumb child. Happily we are on the right side of history: the side of castration! Back to the sequin mines…a deleuzean is being beaten within an inch of his little life by someone who knows better…I will wander a while until someone gives me what i deserve…

  64. Oneiric Bazaar

      I think I wrote “most folks think.”

      I’m not moved by either party. 

  65. Oneiric Bazaar

      Is that “hyper-interrelatedness” of which you write occurring principally (or only) through electric media? My next question would be: Is this new interrelatedness illusory or de facto?

  66. Corey Wakeling

      I share both yours and Higgs’ enthusiasm for Deleuze and it develops all the time. However, I’m not fond of this notion of open interpretation, it is licence to lazy reading. First of all, Deleuze is hard going sometimes, it must be attended to by rigour. It must! I don’t accept this “take what you can” from Deleuze, though I absolutely encourage “do what you can” with Deleuze. Do you see the difference? I think his concepts are very much as Higgs explicates them, the concepts themselves having open-ended applicatory potential. But, before one starts declaring they sat in a theatre and became a body-without-organs, they must understand what the BwO is. One must understand what sensation is for Deleuze to discern this model from what might otherwise seem like Heideggerian anxiety. The problem with many applications of Deleuze is the use of him as metaphor, the very thing he railed against. So, for me, the emphasis should be “what do you intend to do with Deleuze”, not some attenuated notion of interpretation, a counterpart of the euqivocity of being Deleuze contested.

  67. Oneiric Bazaar

      “Longing on a large scale is what makes history. This is just a kid with a local yearning but he is part of an assembling crowd…”

      from the very beginning of DeLillo’s Underworld.

      Could the Don being playing coy with Deleuzean legerdemain here, I have often wondered….

      Your thoughts?

  68. Christopher Higgs

      I never got into Ween or Royal Trux.  The former never struck me as being as interesting as some of the rabid fans made it seem, and the latter only barely flickers in my name recognition brain bank.

      Deleuze and DJ culture…that would make for an interesting paper or even book!

  69. Christopher Higgs

      Yes, thank you, Dennis!

  70. Alec Niedenthal

      very nice.

  71. Ken Baumann

      No. The production and consumption of goods is a huge matrix, influence by internal and external ethical dilemmas (how are laborers being treated, defining quality of life, taxation, their relation to the state and the market, how much autonomy corporate employees are given, the size of institutions in relation to the ‘social good’ they provide, quantifying what ‘social good’ is at all, etc.). All of these relationships was born long before the television. 

  72. deadgod

      Deleuze is a careful and fruitful reader of Nietzsche, Spinoza, and Kant – perhaps he resists his ‘body’ being read with as much care, and perhaps he attracts or somehow rewards readers who read his ‘body’ of the absolute flux of “rhizomes” unlike he reads others’ ‘bodies’.

      Is it such a paradox that one effective at making stylistic veils around other ‘bodies’ mostly transparent would choose and prove to be obversive or enjoyably unread herself or himself?

  73. deadgod

      sokal and bricmont are two physicists who have talked for some time in a non-philosophically-academic way, openly, and with some apparent (to me, anyway) pleasure about deleuze’s uses of scientific terms and concepts

      they have not stinted at all in declaring deleuze simply ‘wrong’ in his joyous rhizomatic appropriations of scientific terms and concepts

      that coldly debunking deleuze’s science fictions conforms as a rhizome to rhizomatic self-difference and fluctuancy is a joy to say yes yes I will oh yes

  74. Oneiric Bazaar

      just soft lulz. I’m not trying to persuade you of anything. We’ve both read an Evenson book – that’s all. I thought we were making jokes on the same page. Sorry mine didn’t come across.

  75. Oneiric Bazaar

      I see what you mean. Thanks.

  76. Oneiric Bazaar

      See, I’d never even heard of those two. I’m definitely behind. Way behind. 

  77. deadgod

      deleuze’s books are stacks of rhizomes winking in and out of ‘existence’ in a quantum foam of text or a textual foam of quanta or a foamy quantum of text or a foamy text of quanta or a quantum text of foam or a textual quantum or foam or any combination of quanta, text, and foam

      use mirrors to read deleuze’s books and frolic!

      dance from peak to peak, oh wail of rhizome!

  78. Oneiric Bazaar

       Hi Christopher,
      Paul D Miller would have written that book a hundred times over if he thought a large enough audience existed. Maybe he already has.

  79. deadgod

      it is the fascism and the imperialism and the scholasticism of subjective time consciousness that one must have been before one can “return”

  80. Corey Wakeling

      As I said, “doing” something with Deleuze is wonderful and in its own way continues the rhizomic image of creation. But, interpret-and-do-whatever-you-want-with-Deleuze is not a Deleuzian concept. Moreover, purportedly being inspired by Deleuze and writing rabidly phenomenological texts about the body and disease might be cool writing but continues no Deleuzian project. To add a personal preference, I love reading work that continues ideas of Deleuze’s like the significance of the membrane and McSweeney’s ‘necropastoral’, but am bored by writers who write of a Deleuzian cosmology and merely repeat it crudely. I would rather read Deleuze. They might just call our time the time of crude Deleuzianism, as the first half of the twentieth century sometimes succombed to crude Freudianism.

  81. Alec Niedenthal

      But, I don’t know, I really admire this comment and would gladly respond to it if it weren’t a defeat of the position that I briefly entertained–and to be clear, I wasn’t making a fuss about Deleuze so much as I was defending the German “totalitarian” heritage (Hegel, Marx, et al.). But yes, that’s a very good point that Deleuze, rather than, as you put nicely, distending the limit of metaphysics, can be said to have shifted its coordinates and assigned to it a new regulative idea, i.e. difference. And then like the old-fashioned Kantian regulative idea, it would be forever severed from concept, object, and world. (Contra your comment, though I might have misread you here, I don’t believe that difference for Hegel is the sublated fact of “Differenz” but the process of sublation itself–critique that as you will, I’m not a real-life Hegelian and I might be very wrong.) Which would bring Badiou, with his Idea of communism, and D, with his difference in excess of a concept, closer together than maybe either one would want to be. And moreover, is there a way to think what Zizek adorably calls “Hegelo-Deleuzism” (which he then even more adorably follows with “sic”)? Hegel and Deleuze are, in the end, the two crowning philosophers of immanence; I think Hegel only descends into real “transcendentalist madness” at the site of the absolute, which I am willing to defend, but this obviously isn’t the place. A key difference might be Hegel’s so-called monism and what some have called Deleuze’s “dualism.” But more likely the crucial difference is not difference, but the location and function of the subject. Sorry that this is a hell of a lot of name-dropping, but what else am I going to do on a Tuesday night?

  82. Alec Niedenthal

      Damn, crude Deleuzianism–yes.

  83. Christopher Higgs

      Alec…aka “Hegel”…

      You’ve been corrupted by Zizek!  He, too, echoes your argument re: Deleuze being more akin to Hegel than anti-Hegelian, as he set out to be.  Doesn’t hold water on this simple distinction:

      Hegel: thesis -> thesis -> = synthesis 

      And for the record, I’m not really on team “Hegel-is-a-bad-guy” — as you put it — but more like team “Hegel-is-not-really-too-significant-anymore-perhaps-he-never-was-yes-I-think-that-is-it.”

      At any rate, bold claim re: Deleuze never actually read Hegel.  I like your moxie!

  84. Christopher Higgs

      haha.  Of course you’d ask me that, Ken. :)

      I think the answer has to do with micro-political action, with small moments, little reroutes of power here and there….I’ll give it some more thought and see if anything comes to me.

  85. Anonymous


  86. deadgod

      Fair enough:  methodologically rigorous rhizomatics are to be preferred; universal complementarity – in which terms no deleuzional assemblage is inaccurate or oxymoronic or incompatible with any other – , less so.

  87. guest

      Does anyone know in which works Deleuze himself writes on expressivity?

  88. Alec Niedenthal

      I mean, I’m sure he literally read a lot of Hegel, there’s no doubt, but as our farceur above I think rightly points out, Hegel was alien to the coordinates of the ’68ers, i.e. to the desiderata of that moment in leftist theory. But all of that is history of ideas, so difficult to speculate on. But I think there’s definitely something to your argument that Hegel is no longer relevant. After reading Zizek’s fiery and bizarre new preface to Sublime Object, my friend and I had a long talk during which he said something like: what Zizek calls “the sublation of sublation” in that essay is fascinating, but it’s so far afield of conventional Hegel-talk that it seems silly to stamp his genuinely new concepts with that name.

  89. blm

      Probably most extensively in his dissertation (well, one of them, the other was “Difference & Repetition”): “Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza” (1968).

  90. Ken Baumann

      Is it that everything is flowing and informing and arriving from one plane, that everything has the same intensive origin, so maybe agency is created by action bereft of projection/goal? The only pure exercise of agency is that of the amnesiac or sleepwalker. (That last sentence/sentiment feels Deleuzian.)

  91. alan

      “Here’s the trick: do not bother trying to comprehend or understand the text.”
      I’m sure that’s good advice.

  92. Troyweav

      No, it’s cool. I’m basically just taken aback by your quick snaps. I went into panic mode.

  93. Guestagain

      heh heh, said the mathematician to the philosopher, I can only hope you are being sarcastic. In the future, we will not read for comprehension, but osmosis, for there are no provably correct constructs. This philosophy seems a French/Western mindthunk adaptation of conclusions arrived at centuries ago in martial arts, particularly Judo (no fight, no flee, yes flow)

  94. Guestagain

      heh heh, said the mathematician to the philosopher, I can only hope you are being sarcastic. In the future, we will not read for comprehension, but osmosis, for there are no provably correct constructs. This philosophy seems a French/Western mindthunk adaptation of conclusions arrived at centuries ago in martial arts, particularly Judo (no fight, no flee, yes flow)

  95. Christopher Higgs

      “The only pure exercise of agency is that of the amnesiac or sleepwalker.”  Nicely put.  Indeed, very Deleuzian.

      I was thinking about the ways in which agency is exerted through inaction, how inaction is sometimes the greatest tool of (affirmative) agency. 

      Take the comment field of an htmlgiant post.  Someone posts an inflammatory comment, meant to arose a combative response.  We have the choice of reacting to that comment, which would be a negative agency (going back to that Nietzschian distinction between action/reaction) or…ignoring it.  To ignore it would be the course of affirmative agency.  By not engaging in particular battles one is actually exerting agency.  It is the same thing as letting go of the rope.  I have taken this policy with the commenter “deadgod” whom I have not responded to in months.  I intend to never respond to that commenter again.  I see the comments he/she makes, but I do not engage with them.  I do not give them power.  I do not feed them with response/reaction. 

      This extends to the real world, as well.  Agency comes from action, not reaction.  Framing (or, if necessary, re-framing) an argument rather than allowing someone else to set the terms.  Knowing when inaction is the best choice of action.  Recognizing that reaction is not agency.  Reaction is motor fuel for the action of someone or something else.

      In basketball, often times you will hear a losing player say in a postgame interview, “We let them set the pace.  We couldn’t get control of the game.  We couldn’t play our game.”  (As a side note, this was part of the reason why the Lakers got swept by the Mavs this year: the Lakers tend to play a slower, more choreographed game; whereas the Mavs play a fast-paced game.  The fact that the Mavs were able to exert their agency, forcing  the Lakers to react rather than act, made it impossible for the Lakers to win.  Dirk and company framed the game and exerted a greater magnitude of intensity.  Kobe and company were put in a subordinate position of constantly reacting to the Mavs affirmative agency.)           

  96. alanrossi

      many thanks for this.  the videos were especially great.  he must have a connection to/interest in zen, from the little i’ve learned – does anyone know off the top? 

  97. David

      I think Zizek sees himself as talking Hegelian, Alec, in the sense of a language he’s inventing new words for, so in terms of the sublation of sublation, it’s not there in Hegel but I do think it is fundamentally correct to call it Hegelian, even if it’s a genuinely new notion. To the argument above, I just wanted to say (otherwise generally agreeing with your brilliant articulation of reservations in regards to Deleuze) that the problem with Deleuze’s difference, for me, is precisely that the rhizome presents itself as this extraordinarily elaborate complexification and amplification of an abundance in the world of things yet can only do so by an utter reduction of that selfsame mangle of immanence by flattening it into the complementarity of its complexity – which, is, perhaps, an abbreviated but I don’t believe inaccurate definition of what Deleuze means by immanence. In that sense, not only is contradiction something of a puppet show in Deleuze, while in Hegel such puppetry is the show; it’s also that Deleuze has no theory, really, of wreckage, of trauma, of violence, and so to resort time and again to pilloring the “conservatism” of molarity whenever it encounters a blockage. This is Latour’s problem too, in essence. Hegel’s master/slave dialectic, before anything else, forefonts the problem of breach in an originary sense, because, for Hegel, the greatest curiosity is not where a thesis comes from exactly but how an antithesis is even possible, unless, in fact, reality is riven. Sublation, in that sense, has always been about how reality rips itself a new reality in the form of the new riven contradictions a solution itself occasions. Ontologically prior for Hegel is always the difference of the world from the logic of itself. Deleuze, oddly, for all his emphasis on difference, is exactly the opposite.

  98. blm

      there’s some engagement with the zen tradition, for its interest in paradox, in “the logic of sense” (for example, in chapter/”series” 19), although the stoics and lewis carroll are deleuze’s main reference points in that book.

  99. alanrossi

      this answers the question i just asked i believe.  absolutely zenlike, but rather than putting it in terms of action/reaction, zen would talk more about effortlessness.  not action or reaction, but non-action (ken’s sleepwalker idea). 

      i will add though that a good part of the reason that the lakers got swept wasn’t just that they were reacting, but that the internal dynamics of that team were fucked.  they were not a team, they were five separate dudes, and that’s what made them only able to “react” – none of them were “acting” together.  they were reacting separately. 

  100. david

      Killer comments, Cory, I’m totally with you. And to echo Alec: “crude Deleuzianism”, that’s a keeper.

  101. Ken Baumann

      As expressed by a Mr. Mooney, as well. :)

      Nassim Taleb, who I think is a pretty wise dude, wrote something like: If you’re given the option of two paths/options, choose neither. An older known sentiment, though, basically ascribing evil to any binary, which seems Eastern in thought. 

      What I wonder immediately, though… Does this dictate that “He who acts first, wins.” (maybe not the war, but certainly the battle) (p.s. fuck who/whom) in that terms are set only from action? Tricky, too, because it’s such a non-human response; to forgo revenge. Makes me wonder about agency and emotion… Emotion is primarily response. Must agency be supremely diverted emotion? Art in a lot of cases is the product of diverted emotion. Any structure of agency/will that favors the artist is, in my book, A OK. 

      This gels with what I believe to be the most effective/affective criticism of any commodity, art included: silence.

  102. alanrossi

      cool.  thanks for that.  will check out.

  103. Andrew

      dunno if chris is still taking questions from the floor
       and didnt read all these comments (or any of them, really) but had two basic questions or maybe just one:

      should anti-oedipus be read before a thousand plateaus?is the latter better? working my way through the former, thought i should be reading that first, have read some of the recommended intro stuff before

      was gonna write something about resistance/opposition and ethics but decided against it or was just too tired

  104. deadgod

      Ha ha ha ha ha – ‘stone is hard and water is soft, but remember!, the stream is still running long after the boulders have become sand’ —

      That’s lovely, Perfesser.

      When, in a comment field, a reader responds to some comments and not others, the absence of responses might feel self-affirmative – which is surely what preference is or wills – , but, because response consists of selecting-out as well as selecting-in, both it and its absence [+(+)/+(-)] are traces of, in deleuzional terms, “reaction” and “negation”.

      (That’s what’s difficult about Nietzsche, as opposed to his being trippy or badass:  “affirmation” which does not “negate” affirms no particular ‘thing’.  Are there no ‘particular things’?  Is one sure one wills the “life” that Zarathustra lives??)

      Perfesser, it wasn’t ridicule that you first reacted to and tried to negate by pretending to ignore; it was unemotional challenge to (what I took and take to be) your philosophical mischaracterizations of Aristotle, etc.

      – and it’s not being teased that you’re pretending to ignore here:  it’s indication of the carelessness of your claims, which are vulgar deleuzions, in my view.

      I think your advice to yourself is reasonable:  you should pretend to ignore  assertions of your argumentative infelicities and inaccuracies.

  105. Christopher Higgs

      Hey Andrew.

      It’s not necessary to read AO before ATP, but it could help, being that they are complimentary texts: they introduce in AO a lot of the craziness that comes to real fruition in ATP, but in many ways the two books are very different beasts.  One thing that trips some people up is the way D&G discusses the body without organs in AO is different than in ATP — if you go from AO to ATP and try to apply the same sort of understanding of the BwO, you’re likely to get a stomachache.  Another thing that one might find strange is that ATP doesn’t really harbor the same obsession with the machine as you’ll find in AO.  Also, after Freud gets his ass kicked in AO, that line of flight doesn’t get much shrift in ATP.  All in all, I favor ATP, but both are really rad in different ways.  I guess I would say, if you’re not digging AO put it down and pick up ATP and see how it fits.  Then go back to AO.  I, myself, read them in reverse order (ATP first) and I think that made me like AO better than if I had read them in order. 

      Hope that helps. 

  106. deadgod

      I agree about the Lakers:  the coherence of their play was inferior (in the superficial (?) sense of counting points) to the Mavs’ effecting of Mav tactics.  To go a bit to what Ken says right below, it’s just not true that counter-punchers are at a systemic disadvantage (Pacquiao? Ali??); which team leads the league in points-off-turnovers? – the South Beach Talents.

  107. Whatisinevidence

      deadgod, it’s too bad that behind all your funny wordplay you are an anti-semitic creep.

      (see your comments on the recent Heaven of Others post and pretty much any post relating to Jews and/or Israel)

  108. Whatisinevidence

       Deleuze played D&D?

  109. deadgod

      Ken, “silence” can be “effective[ly]” disciplinary, but surely it’s reactive and negative discipline as much as it is or can be ‘constructive’.

      And, as I think Ian is pointing out elsewhere on this thread, in terms of political economy and its discourses, “silence” is obedience, permission, in the sense that “silence” facilitates the accumulation and expression of power regardless of virtue.  “Silence” which politically enables is, as it were, an other of ethics, however pleasurable be the aesthetics of self-affirmation.

  110. deadgod

      Whatisinevidence, I’ve never posted an “anti-semitic” comment.

      You express your personal problem on a thread devoted to Deleuze; that’s probably a good creepy joke.

  111. Troyweav

      i agree

  112. kb

      Deleuze makes a straw man out of Hegel, or he is honestly trying to unpack him with a meat tenderizing hammer instead of a razor. It’s kind of goofy, honestly. Like Heidegger when he was at his worst, except that Heidegger actually tried to explain why his reasoning behind his wild accusations.

      It’s all very fun and sexy and all that, but  Whitehead’s process is on a whole other level. But he’s not as fun to read. For a real treatment of Hegel that actually dispel’s D’s “arguments” before he made them, try Adorno’s Negative Dialectics. Though, again, not as fun to read.

      I like the stuff about the illusory nature of ‘self’, but his solutions to this illusion are ridiculous and seem to be operating on a level of pure Fichte-like idealism and have nothing to do with actual human beings.

  113. jeroen

      Dear Chris, OOO to literature?: what about Charles Olson & the Objectivists. Plus contemporary Conceptual poets think of them what you may are also object-oriented. Check out Nathan Brown’s (UC Davis) critical work, he has connected OOO with Olson as well as Conceptual writing. 

      Also would second Oneiric Bazaar that Badiou is definitely hot right now. Zizek also is very heavily Badiou influenced & keeps saying how friendly they are together. @dcb1e572c04497b921fca262c36a1e01:disqus  : Graham Harman deleted his blog but only for a few weeks, he has been blogging again for a long time, but nowadays mostly boring personal stuff about his kitten or sumfin. Really amazing prolific hardcore blogger & also Deleuzian inflected Object oriented philosopher is Levi Bryant at larvalsubjects.wordpress.com. He is comign out with a new book The Democracy of Objects which promises to be amazing, but he has also written a book about Deleuze’s metaphysics: Difference & Givenness. Cannot recommend his blog too highly. (Also really enjoyed yr book Chris, read it in one feverish sitting). 

  114. Troyweav

      I’m pretty sure Zizek’s entire book Violence is about this, though I’m not as smart as most of the people who have filled this entire thread with negativity. I don’t know why some people think they are smart enough to totally reject something so involved. I’d like to know where all their awesome ideas were published. I think I might have just broken the positive. But no worries, I love everybody and all ideas…even the ones who know way way way more than I do. Chris, you have been most gracious and polite in your responses, and i’m going to try from now on to live by the example, at least on here. I wish others would do the same. More productivity that way.

  115. Christopher Higgs

      Thanks, Jeroen, for the kind words re: Mooney and for all this great info. 

      Am not familiar with Nathan Brown’s work, but will check it out asap.

      Larval Subjects is a tremendous blog, agreed.

  116. davidpeak

      agreed and now also i want to play kid icarus

  117. jackie wang

      i tend to agree with deleuze’s positivization of politics–but most folk attribute this concept to deleuze rather than, say, spinoza, who really was the first to put forth a non-binary, non-dualistic ethics. i love spinoza and i love deleuze’s book on spinoza, but i tend to enjoy negri’s reading of spinoza more because it isn’t so damn apolitical. the positivization of politics certainly isn’t incompatible with all marxism, esp when you look at what hardt and negri do w/ deleuze and spinoza in their work. it’s the hegelianism that’s specifically being targeted…but there are many thinkers who think it’s possible to excise the hegel in marx. i think of negri’s whole thing about coomunism being too negative, and using spinoza to talk about the JOY of being a communist, affirmative politics, etc.

      that being said, i think there’s a certain danger that comes with adopting such an ethics, namely the danger of depoliticization and the ability to potentially justify anything. i am somewhat disturbed by the deleuzian mantra regarding the need to “accelerate” capitalism. there seems to be a gleeful attitude about globalization, virtuality, deterritorialization with little-no critical attitude about the violence of late capitalism (can a deleuzian attitude account for being “critical”? what are the consequences of abandoning all criticism?). i think there are positivistic ways to tackle the problem of capitalism (developing new modes of relating to people, creating different political infrastructure, etc…replacing rather than opposing). reading merleau-ponty recently, i’m struck by the overlap in MP’s and deleuze’s philosophy. sartre told MP that his emphasis on infinite multiplication led him to adopt a politically ineffectual position. this led MP to have a falling out with the French Communist Party (like deleuze, he was also critical of classical marxism [and the applied marxism of the soviets]). like D, MP privileged contingency over ontology…and the creation of the new through connection and exchange. but i wonder if this leads to a certain kind of idealization of the singular. hmmm. i think i like MP and spinoza for similar reasons…both are tender and somewhat naive idealists who are a little out of touch with reality. even though deleuze is trying to reinscribe positivity–i kind of don’t find him affectively positive enough for me hahaha. the mechanization of all connection is a lil cold and seems to draw on the worst aspects of capitalism. but hardt and negri talk about love. that’s cool.

  118. Odd Words « Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans

      […] Odd Words June 9, 2011 Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, Odd Words, Toulouse Street. Tags: Blake Butler, HTML Giant trackback In this way, Deleuze has really helped me formulate my general approach to all works of literature: I do not care to comprehend them or understand them in any way. I wish instead to experience them and use them and become them. – Ken Baumann on HTML Giant […]

  119. deadgod

      what is your interest in how “smart” you think other people think they are

      less productivity that way

  120. Troyweav

      Deadgod, you remind me of a politician. Your know-it-all posturing makes you seem less credible. You are like the George W. Bush of philisophical discussion. Where the fuck are the WMD’s, man? More humane productivity comes from possitivity, not the reverse. Unless you’re some kind of sadistic idiot, which it’s becoming more apparent that you are. Besides, why do you ask such questions? I don’t have such an interest, I’m just making an observation. You’re telling me that you get less productivity from possitivity, which tells me that you could concievably be the next heir to a new North Korea, one in which nothing has changed except the leader. 

  121. Gus

      thanks for this helpful list, totes gonna read some of these.  & i wanted to throw it out there that i was knocked over by Francois Dosse’s Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, its like couples biography or something and its writ real good.

  122. Laurachristinecarter

      Meillasoux’s After Finitude is really a great book. It opens up a new space, at least it did for me. I think speculative realism is one of the best things going, as long as it doesn’t become immediately displaced by some other school. And Badiou is deceptively annoying—Ethics is troubling because it seems to be sort of Platonic, but Being and Event is still a nice way to think about art and politics. I read Badiou’s discussion about Deleuze (book-length) and was moved by the fact that he considers Deleuze a monist, but is that all bad? That could actually be to Deleuze’s credit, though maybe Badiou (despite his “idealism”) and Deleuze are working with similar multitudes. Anyway, just my two cents.

  123. Laurachristinecarter

       Larval Subjects is operated by the man who was my Lacanian analyst! A Deleuzian, no less. :)

  124. deadgod

      Hanoi George is a telling reference for you to make, Troyweav:  what I said was that I get “less positivity” from imagining that how “smart” someone thinks she or he is has anything to do with engaging with her or his ideas.

      There are several criticisms of Higgs’s deleuzions on this thread.  It is, by his account, “affirmative” of him to drop the rope of his own assertions when he pretends to suppose that he is merely being ‘inflamed’ by contrariety “meant to ar[i]se a combative response”. – which might “tell” you where Higgs’s WMDs are.

      Here is another WMD:

      At a deeper level than forces or their qualities there are modes of becoming of forces or qualities of the will to power.  To the question “is man essentially reactive?” we must reply that what constitutes man is still deeper.  What constitutes man and his world is not only a particular type of force, but a mode of becoming of forces in general, not reactive forces in particular, but the bcoming-reactive of all forces.  Now, such a becoming of forces always requires, as its terminus a quo, the presence of the opposite quality, which in becoming passes into its opposite.  […]  There is therefore a human activity, there are active forces of man; but these particular forces are only the the nourishment of all forces which defines man and the human world.  In this way Nietzsche reconciles the two aspects of the higher man, his reactive and his active character.  At first sight men’s activity appears to be generic; reactive forces are grafted onto it, perverting it and diverting it from its course.  But more deeply, what is truly generic is the becoming reactive of all forces, activity being only the particular term presupposed by this becoming.

  125. Laurachristinecarter

      If you haven’t read What Is Philosophy? by Deleuze and Guattari, I highly recommend it. I used to have a copy but have somehow lost or given it away, or I’d send it to you…. He talks about three crucial “figures” (which, again, cannot quite be “figured”): concepts, affects, and percepts. I put them in that order because that’s how I think they are hierarchized, at least to me. It’s good on ethics, too, in a way that is not entirely “for show,” as some of the 1968 related revolutionary Anti-Oedipus work is.

  126. Ken Baumann

      Thanks, Laura! I’ll add that to the list.

  127. Troyweav

      I’m pretty sure you are missing the point. Anyway, it was nice meeting you. I hope I never see you again. And if I do, I’ll just ignore you anyway. Surely.

  128. Laurachristinecarter

      Adorno is all thorns. I love that about him, too. 

  129. deadgod

      Atta grasshopper, Troyweav!

      That quotation is from Nietzsche and Philosophy, by Gilles Deleuze (transl. Tomlinson).  Among how many other things, it means that ‘dropping the rope’ is a way of tugging it.

      I agree that neglect is your best play.

  130. Oneiric Bazaar

      Jeroen, thanks for the updates & clarifications. a group of object oriented phils worth checking out would seem to be the ones in Bryant’s June 2 post at LS. I also wonder if you’d include Zukofsky in that Olson group of Objectivist writers. It’s been a lifetime since I read “A,” but he seemed to be presenting a subjectless world. I do recall Harman writing that Fatal Strategies had an impact on him when the first translation came out. That is an engaging book, if only for the language. I don’t follow philosophy and theory much today. Thanks.

  131. Troyweav

      this is rediculous. I get it. Do you? You’ve proved that you are obviously more well versed in this area than I am, that or your spend your days doing research online to tell people off in comment threads. Either way doesn’t matter to me. Perhaps I should just never comment on anything I like, no matter how deeply or shallow I seem to understand it. I also like the films of David Lynch, but I don’t go online and pretend like I know everything about them either. 

  132. deadgod


      I think you should comment as often as you want on whatever you want.  I don’t pretend to know everything about anything, and I don’t think I’ve pretended to know anything at this site.  If you “like” Deleuze, we have that in common – obviously, no?

      I also “like” saying when I think people contradict themselves – which is inevitable and humanly universal, but which is nevertheless worth comment.  I also “like” saying when I think people say things which I think are not true.

      Deleuze is not a Daoist or “Zen” sage; in my view, that’s not only a foolish thing to assert:  it’s foolish in a way that beggars what (I think) you mean when you say “credibility”.

      – but don’t take my word or anyone else’s for Deleuze’s words.

  133. Troyweav

      Pretty sure I never said anything about him being Daoist or “Zen”, never asserted anything like that. Plus: I don’t think there has ever been a philosopher that did not contradict themselves in one area or another. So I guess you have one up on them too. I think you are confused. I wasn’t asserting anything besides personal opinions, no philosophy behind it really, just saying I enjoyed the read, the ideas. I never have and never will live by this stuff. I like an interesting read, that’s it. You should try and think more abstractly sometimes, it’ll do you some good. Logic can be such a muddled mess, especially if you let the philosophers speak for you all the time. There is no relief in that, is there? Anyways, I am sorry if I came off as a dick. It’s been a hellish week. You’ve made good points. And I appreciate your clarity.

  134. Troyweav

      Pretty sure I never said anything about him being Daoist or “Zen”, never asserted anything like that. Plus: I don’t think there has ever been a philosopher that did not contradict themselves in one area or another. So I guess you have one up on them too. I think you are confused. I wasn’t asserting anything besides personal opinions, no philosophy behind it really, just saying I enjoyed the read, the ideas. I never have and never will live by this stuff. I like an interesting read, that’s it. You should try and think more abstractly sometimes, it’ll do you some good. Logic can be such a muddled mess, especially if you let the philosophers speak for you all the time. There is no relief in that, is there? Anyways, I am sorry if I came off as a dick. It’s been a hellish week. You’ve made good points. And I appreciate your clarity.

  135. Anonymous


  136. deadgod

      No, you haven’t made deleuzional assertions.  Look again at the blogicle and, especially, its (equally) self-canceling repetition on this sub-thread.

      In the comment you’re responding to here, I say I think self-contradiction is “inevitable and humanly universal”, meaning that I agree that “there has [n]ever been a philosopher that did not contradict themselves”. 

      Deleuze engages with contradiction in an interesting way; the chapter I quoted above is subtitled, baldly, “Against the Dialectic”.  That could be an interesting paradox to unpack, no?

      – and, for a reader of that unpacking, to adventure whether Nietzsche – or Deleuze – actually does in and through the saying what either says is done “against the dialectic”? (- which, (I think) they agree, would be for them to live philosophically – however discontent either would be with that phrasing.)

      I’m surprised – and foolishly pleased – that someone thinks I “should think more abstractly”.

  137. Troyweav

      I think what I’m saying is that if contradiction is “inevitable and humanly universal” than why do you want to rage against it? Do you think you are the exception? Besides, I just want to be friends–and give you a smooch.

  138. deadgod

      – an “exception” to a universality?  Not me. – except for death, for which I’m counting on a unique extinction waiver.

      Contradiction and self-contradiction are occasions for thought, and for conversation.  Mockery would indicate a different focal point.

  139. Troyweav

      You just explained what I’ve been trying to tell you the whole time: “Mockery would indicate a different focal point.” Get a job!

  140. Troyweav

      You just explained what I’ve been trying to tell you the whole time: “Mockery would indicate a different focal point.” Get a job!

  141. fuckoff

      needs less commentary and more deleuze, also chris needs history lessons.

  142. Kalan Sherrard
  143. Brian Kubarycz

      I was taught, long ago, to read philosophy as if it were poetry (and vice versa), and that instruction has served me well over the years.  I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.  This post promotes a whimsical use of Deleuze, which treats his writings
      as if they were koans or aphorisms from Eastern philosophy, which can
      be read and employed in a random or capricious manner. Deleuze is not an intellectual grab bag.  The points he makes are precise, and they originate from very intense engagements which key thinkers and specific ideas of theirs.  To read Deleuze without a proper preparation, and to read him without at least the intention to parse even his most complex sentences, is to indulge in the kind of whimsical narcissism a book such as Anti-Oedipus was written to corrode.  Even simple statements to the effect that Deleuze is “of the future” (from Michel Foucault) have very precise meanings, which depend on an understanding of the function of Latin participles.  Deleuze is not simply an important instance of new and quirky thinking that can really shake things up.  “Of the future” (‘futurus’) make reference to Deleuzes primary interest in morphogenesis; i.e., bodily forms and the set of laws governing their emergence through shifts from higher to lower levels of symmetry.  Amongst other things, it’s the exactness and necessity of these laws which requires Deleuze to focus so much attention on higher-order mathematics, in particular topology (which he inherits from Lacan) and catastrophe theory (which he adopts from Rene Thom).  Deleuze’s aim is to demonstrate the various ways in which radical, though entirely mappable, reversals or transformations of the basic structural components of bodies will permit for the construction, or ‘modeling’, of outlandish new anatomies, monsters.  In this, Deleuze follows up not only on the work of 20th mathematicians, but more fundamentally, he picks up on the morphological investigations first inaugurated in early 19th-century biological research, in particular the teratological studies of Meckel and Serres.  The possibility of applying, by way of analogy, such biological studies to mappable formations and deformations of the personality and mind, are what motivates Deleuze interest in psychiatry.  The normative ego, for Deleuze, is a formation whose structural instability and potential for radical change has been strictly policed and inhibited by the therapeutic apparatus.  Deleuze’s work, then, begins with a careful reading of Freud’s theory of ego development (through various stages of sexuality) and the array of possible perversions which can alter the course toward normality.  However, where Freud, for all his innovations in thought and practice, remains and avid scholar of the perversions, Deleuze steps forward as their champion.  In a similar manner, Deleuze understands all philosophy, practiced with sufficient bodily passion, to represent not simply arbitrary gambits of thought, but deliberate attempts to pervert the will (what Augustine would call ‘heresies’) and create new and monstrous forms of consciousness.  This, in the most simplified terms, is what Deleuze means by ‘futurity’.  It may please us to say it is simply one possible poetic interpretation of Deleuze amongst others.  But Deleuze is not simply a collection of provocative to be read ad libidum.  His texts, like the bodies they describe, has a specific anatomy and functions according to identifiable grammatical and logical rules.  And as long as we continue to gawk at Deleuze instead of approaching him methodically (which the proper tools and training) we are not really practicing biology but simple touring the zoo – an institutional apparatus (cousin to the clinic) of the very sort Deleuze’s thought has taught up to repudiate.

  144. Christopher Higgs


      I appreciate you taking the time to comment, but I am truly disappointed by your response.  You’ve brutally mischaracterized this post, to the point where I feel compelled to correct you.

      To begin, the fact that you were “taught to read philosophy as if it were poetry” implies that there is a universally accepted way to read poetry.  The history of 20th century literary criticism, from say Brooks to Bloom, proves otherwise.  As Deleuze would say, how you were taught to read poetry is what matters.  Since you seem to be well versed in his philosophy, I need not remind you of his admiration for Kant’s redirection of philosophy toward the minor questions, and their significance.

      Next, your implication that I have suggested that one should “read Deleuze without a proper preparation” is either offensive or else implies that you have not read the post with which you are erroneously engaging.  I invite you to revisit the list I have provided under the title “Introductory Bundle.”  There you will see that the #1 entry is Deleuze’s book on Nietzsche.  Perhaps you disagree with myself and Dr. Hardt that this is in fact the greatest preparatory material available for an introductory engagement with Deleuze, but this proves that you are in error to accuse me of suggesting that anyone should “read Deleuze without a proper preparation.”

      Next, I am hoping that your claim “Deleuze’s work, then, begins with a careful reading of Freud’s theory of ego development” is meant only to correspond with his collaborative project with Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, because in fact Deleuze’s work does not begin with Freud.  Notwithstanding his little book on Hume, Deleuze’s work begins with his book on Nietzsche!   

      And I’ll just end with this one, because I don’t have time to deconstruct your whole response.  Your assertion, “as long as we continue to gawk at Deleuze instead of approaching him methodically (with the proper tools and training)” is heartbreaking given the time and care with which I devoted to this post and to the follow-ups in the comment thread.  Do you seriously misunderstand the very reason for this post?  Do you seriously misunderstand the fact that this post is meant to serve as a helpful introduction to the tools and training necessary for a methodical engagement?  I gotta tell you, that bums me out.  That you think I have spent all this time and all this energy to simply reduce Deleuze to “an intellectual grab bag” of zen koans truly belittles my honest attempt at opening a door for people to enter the complex, notoriously difficult philosophy of Deleuze — whom I have dedicated years of my life to studying!

      I hope you will reconsider your response here.

  145. Brian Kubarycz

      I studied under Shaviro, disagree with Hardt.  See my chapter on the latter.

      If Difference and Repetition (to say nothing of the even earlier Coldness and Cruelty) is not powerfully prompted by Freud’s Beyond The Pleasure Principle, I’ll eat Eukanuba.

  146. Brian Kubarycz

      The comment above is very brief, so there’s not much either to support or debate.  But it does show a familiarity with the prior reading materials necessary for a worthwhile engagement with Deleuze.  Because of his interest in mathematics and ontology, Whitehead, though we here less of him today, seems an eminently informed and sound recommendation.  Also, I like the talk of “fun” and “sexy”.

  147. Brian Kubarycz

      Deleuze’s positivization of politics is an important topic, one which brings into the open his connection with the events of May ’68.  For Deleuze, politics is always biopolitics – not in the sense that most people would conceive of this, but rather in terms of populations, their differential flows across critical limits, and their capacity for self-organization of the sort which is today studied under the name assembly theory.

  148. RJ

      Unfortunately, you can’t drive a book to the grocery store– a car is primarily functional, a book of philosophy is not. Some degree of understanding is generally needed to appreciate a book, unless it’s poetry.

  149. RJ

      One could make a very strong argument for the fact that anti-war protests did indeed hasten the end of the Vietnam war.

  150. RJ

      “In everyday life, this means reconsidering our actions.  It means asking
      oneself: am I acting or am I reacting?  Am I creating or am I
      destroying?  Am I affirming or am I negating?”

      Isn’t this itself either/or thinking? Every act of creation involves some level of destruction . Every affirmation is a negation of something.

  151. deadgod

      the time and care with which I devoted to this post and to the follow-ups in the comment field

      To David, no response.  To Corey Wakeling, no response.  To Ian keenan, a weirdly battling non sequitur.

      – the sound of three claps one-handed!

  152. Brandon Paul Weaver

      Ranciere has an article on delueze and aesthetics, though I have not read it: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20686174

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  156. Marc Ngui

      Thanks Chris and Ken for this study guide. I really appreciate the birds eye view on Deleuzian thought provided here, and the links are extremely helpful. I am currently working on an illustrated interpretation of 10,000 BC from 1000 Plateaus. The structures they are describing in the 2nd chapter/plateau are much more complex than in the the Intro and the 1st chapter/plateau. Your discussion here has been most illuminating.

      If you are interested you can see the complete drawings for the Intro and 1st Plateau here: http://www.bumblenut.com/drawing/art/plateaus/index.shtml

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      Seo Hemel Hempstead

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