Posts tagged: Gilles Deleuze
Dylan Matthews on Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti’s background as a critical theorist:
“Nobody wants to be a shill for your brand,” former Buzzfeed chief creative officer Jeff Greenspan once told New York Magazine for a profile of the company’s founder, Jonah Peretti. “But they are happy to share information and content that helps them promote their own identity.”
So where did Peretti get that idea? Peretti’s academic writings offer one clue. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1996, Peretti published an article in the cultural theory journal Negations entitled “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” After the paper was mentioned in New York’s Peretti profile, Critical-Theory.com’s Eugene Wolters read through it, and found that it more or less lays out (and critiques) Buzzfeed’s entire business model—a full decade before the company was founded.
In brief, the paper argues that, going forward, capitalism will need to be constantly producing identities for people to adopt at an ever-increasing rate. And now Peretti’s at the helm of a firm that’s doing exactly that.
This reminds me of Zizek quoting Jean-Jacques Lecercle about how Deleuzian thought ironically became the ideology of the ruling class. In this excerpt, Lecercle imagines a Paris yuppie reading Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy:
he incongruity of the scene induces a smile – after all, this is a book explicitly written against yuppies /…/ Your smile turns into a grin as you imagine that this enlightenment-seeking yuppie bought the book because of its title /…/ Already you see the puzzled look on the yuppie’s face, as he reads page after page of vintage Deleuze…  What, however, is there is no puzzled look, but enthusiasm, when the yuppie reads about impersonal imitation of affects, about the communication of affective intensities beneath the level of meaning (“Yes, this is how I design my publicities!”), or when he reads about exploding the limits of self-contained subjectivity and directly coupling man to a machine (“This reminds me of my son’s favored toy, the action-man who can turn into a car!”), or about the need to reinvent oneself permanently, opening oneself up to a multitude of desires which push us to the limit (“Is this not the aim of the virtual sex video game I am working on now? It is no longer a question of reproducing sexual bodily contacts, but to explode the confines of established reality and imagine new unheard-of intensive mode of sexual pleasures!”). Is today’s popular culture not effectively permeated by Deleuzian motifs, from the Spinozean logic of imitatio afecti (is this impersonal circulation of affects, by-passing persons, not the very logic of publicity, of video clips, etc., where what matters is not the message about the product, but the intensity of the transmitted affects and perceptions?) to new trends in childrens’ toys (the so-called “Transformer” or “Animorph” toys, a car or a plane which can be transformed into a humanoid robot, an animal which can be morphed into a human or robot… is this not Deleuzian? There is no “metaphorics” here, the point is not that the mechanical or animal form is revealed as a mass containing a human shape, but, rather, the “becoming-machine” or “becoming-animal” of the human, the flow of continuous morphing. What is blurred is also the divide machine/living organism: a car transmutes into a humanoid/cyborg organism – therein resides the horror…)?
A former student of philosopher — or perhaps “ex-philosopher? — Nick Land writes about the man’s work on the occassion of a collection of his writings:
Before I met Land, I already knew of him through the gossip of new undergraduates taken aback by what they had heard on the grapevine: Did Land really claim that he had come back from the dead? Did he really think he was an android sent from the future to terminate human security? In person he belied these outrageous claims (both of which he did indeed make in writing), being thoroughly polite and amiable and, above all, willing to engage in earnest conversation with anyone. He had paid his philosophical dues and could hold his own in a discussion with any professor; these discussions often turning vituperative, however, as Land railed against the institution and its conservatism. But he preferred to spend his time in the bar with undergraduates, always buying the drinks, smoking continually, and conversing animatedly (and where possible, vehemently) about any topic whatsoever.
Land was perhaps not the greatest teacher from the point of view of obtaining a sober and solid grounding in one’s subject – but more importantly, his lectures had about them a genuine air of excitement – more like Deleuze at the Sorbonne in ’68 than the dreary courses in Epistemology one had to endure at a provincial British university in the 90s. Not only was the course he taught pointedly entitled ‘Current French Philosophy’ – a currency otherwise alien to our curriculum — more importantly, Land’s teaching was also a sharing of his own research-in-progress. This was unheard-of: philosophy actually being done, rather than being interpreted at second-hand?! He would sweep his audience into a speculative vortex of philosophy, economics, literature, biology, technology, and disciplines as-yet unnamed – before immobilizing them again with some startling claim or gnomic declaration. And as Land spoke, he prowled the classroom, sometimes clambering absentmindedly over the common-room chairs like an outlandish mountain goat, sometimes poised squatting on the seat of a chair like an overgrown mantis.
Full Story: Divus: Nick Land – An Experiment in Inhumanism
Also, Simon Reynolds wrote a piece on Land’s CCRU group back in 1999 that sheds some light on the period:
“It was pretty obvious that a theoretically Left-leaning critique could be maintained quite happily but it wasn’t ever going to get anywhere,” says Plant. “If there was going to be scope for any kind of….not ‘resistance’, but any kind of discrepancy in the global consensus, then it was going to have to come from somewhere else.” That elsewhere was certain passages in A Thousand Plateaus where Deleuze & Guattari suggest that, in Plant’s words, “you don’t try and slow things down, you encourage them to go fast as possible. Which was interestingly connected to Marx’s ideas about capitalism sweeping away the past. So we got into this stance of ‘oh well, let it sweep away! Maybe it should sweep away faster’.” Other crucial influences were neo-Deleuzian theorist Manuel De Landa’s idea of “capitalism as the system of antimarkets”, and, says Plant, historian-of-everyday-life Fernand Braudel’s conception of capitalism as “an amalgam of would-be free market forces and state/ corporate/centralised control functions. So there isn’t really any such thing called ‘capitalism’, it’s just a coincidence of those two really extreme and opposed tendencies.”
Plant and the CCRU enthuse about bottom-up, grass-roots, self-organising activity: street markets, “the frontier zones of capitalism”, what De Landa calls “meshwork”, as opposed to corporate, top-down capitalism. It all sounds quite jovial, the way they describe it now–a bustling bazaar culture of trade and “cutting deals”. But “Cyberpositive” actually reads like a nihilistic paean to the “cyberpathology of markets”, celebrating capitalism as “a viral contagion” and declaring “everything cyberpositive is an enemy of mankind”. In Nick Land solo essays like “Machinic Desire” and “Meltdown”, the tone of morbid glee is intensified to an apocalyptic pitch. There seems to be a perverse and literally anti-humanist identification with the “dark will” of capital and technology, as it “rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities”. In “Meltdown”, Land declares: “Man is something for it to overcome: a problem, drag”.
This gloating delight in capital’s deterritorialising virulence is the CCRU’s reaction to the stuffy complacency of Left-wing academic thought; a sort of rubbing salt in the wounds (as when Land jibes at the “senile spectre” of Socialism, an allusion to The Communist Manifesto). “There’s definitely a strong alliance in the academy between anti-market ideas and completely schleroticised, institutionalised thought,” says Mark Fisher. “Marx has been outdated by cybernetic theory. It’s obvious that capitalism isn’t going to be brought down by its contradictions. Nothing ever died of contradictions!”. Exulting in capitalism’s permanent “crisis mode”, CCRU believe in the strategic application of pressure to accelerate the tendencies towards chaos. The real struggle, says Fisher in fluent Deleuzian, is within capitalism and between “homogenisation processes and nomadic distribution.”.
(Both links via hautepop)
Many of Land’s former students — including Fisher — seem to have given up this fetishization of capitalism in favor of an anti-neoliberal “accelerationsim” that sounds an awful lot like autonomism to me (see also this critique of accerlerationsim).
Land, meanwhile, has ridden that neoliberal reality tunnel to its (il)logical conclusion: neo-reactionaryism.
Lengthy review of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives by written by François Dosse and translated by Deborah Glassman:
Deleuze and Guattari were hardly alone in thinking that the unconscious might have something to add to left-wing politics, and that it might even speed the revolution. Attempts to fuse Marx and Freud were very much in vogue. But Anti-Oedipus had little in common with Freudo-Marxism, with its lyrical dream of a revolution that would, in a single stroke, free individual desire from bourgeois repression and the proletariat from capitalism. The individual was of no interest to Deleuze and Guattari, and though they referred to the proletariat the mention seemed dutiful. Their goal wasn’t to liberate human beings, but rather the current of desire that happened to flow through them. […]
Guattari, at La Borde, had tried to enable subjugated groups to become subject groups, and he and Deleuze had come to believe it was patronising, authoritarian, even fascist, to speak on anyone else’s behalf, which is what intellectuals in France had always done. As Foucault noted in his introduction to the American edition of Anti-Oedipus, their true adversary was not so much capitalism as ‘the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us’.
Full Story: London Review of Books: Desire Was Everywhere
(via Abe Burmeister)
Christopher Vitale has been writing essays comparing Buddhism and, for want of a better term, post-structuralism. I don’t feel like I know enough about either subject to know how well he does.
Here’s a bit from the first in the series:
Meditation, then, is practice in separation from narratives and images which we have felt determine some aspect of who or what aspects of ourselves and/or our world are. As each thing comes by in our mind, we separate from it. I’m thinking that thought, but I am not that, it doesn’t bind me, I’m free from it, I can separate from it. I feel that emotion, and yet, it doesn’t control me, it is a part of me, I acknowledge it, I see it as caused by its contexts, but I am free to choose to dive into it and explore it, or let it fade, because I’m not that. I’m rather, a principle of infinite negativity, to use a Hegelian term, a site of infinite creativity. I am only limited by my relation to my contexts, and I can alter this through action, by making the world a better place, a freer place.
And this desire to free the world doesn’t mean doing what we think is best for it, to control it. Rather, it means to try to help the world free itself from its own chains, its own illusion of the necessity of the narratives and images, the essences, which imprison it. It is to want the world to self-actualize, on its own terms. A good therapist wants this both for themselves and their clients. This is what a Buddhist means by compassion.
See also: Defending Post-Modern Theory (As Always) by Adam Rothstein.
Zero Hedge sums up the ways in which the majority of the U.S., including both Occupy and the Tea Party, agree on the most important issues:
This isn’t to say that health care reform, reproductive rights, immigration reform, and civil liberties for women and ethnic and sexual minorities aren’t important. But with the possible exception of the Federal Reserve issue, these are issues that affect everyone, and both liberals and conservatives can mostly agree on.
I’ve been hoping for some sort of left-alliance with the Tea Party for a long time (and I’ve made my own proposal for a left/libertarian alliance, but given the debt-ceiling debate, it’s not one I think would actually go over well). It may finally be happening. But it’s not an easy proposition, there’s a big clash of cultures.
This is not a trivial challenge. A few years ago Slavoj Zizek wrote in a somewhat meandering critique of both Alexander Bard’s and Jan Soderqvist’s Netocracy and Michael Hardt’ and Antonio Negri’s Empire:
Is it then true that these tendencies (these lignes de fuite, as Deleuze would have put it) can coexist in a non-antagonistic way, as parts of the same global network of resistance? One is tempted to answer this claim by applying to it Laclau’s notion of the chain of equivalences: of course this logic of multitude functions - because we are still dealing with RESISTANCE. However, what about when - if this really is the desire and will of these movements - “we take it over”? What would the “multitude in power” look like? There was the same constellation in the last years of the decaying Really-Existing Socialism: the non-antagonistic coexistence, within the oppositional field, of a multitude of ideologico-political tendencies, from liberal human-rights groups to “liberal” business-oriented groups, conservative religious groups and leftist workers’ demands. This multitude functioned well as long as it was united in the opposition to “them,” the Party hegemony; once they found THEMSELVES in power, the game was over.
This is not, I don’t think, an insurmountable problem, but it must be kept in mind. These conflicts could destroy a coalition.
Manuel DeLanda is a philosopher and the author of A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines and other books. He is a leading expert on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. DeLanda was a video artist previous to his career as a philosopher.
He is is Adjunct Professor at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the Gilles Deleuze Chair of Contemporary Philosophy and Science at the European Graduate School EGS Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Previously, he was Adjunct Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.
Manuel Delanda Annotated Bibliography exhaustive bibliography, kept up-to-date. Includes links to writings and interviews where available (many more links than presented here).
Part 1 of a lecture on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, 2007. The rest of the videos are here.
CTheory interview 2003
Switch interview 1998