Theory Talk: Roundtable on Deleuze (with Justin Murphy) with Transcript

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Transcript

The transcription below was provided by Taylor Adkins. (The roundtable picks up around the 26-minute mark.)

Joseph Weissman (Joe): Welcome to Theory Talk, a critical thinking jam session, a weird and wonderful philosophy podcast. I am Joseph Weissman, here alongside my colleague, Taylor Adkins. Today we would like to bring another voice into this dialogue, make it more of a roundtable. I’m pleased to introduce Justin Murphy to this audience. Justin, would you like to say hi? How’s it going?

Justin Murphy (Justin): What’s up? I like this music.

Joe: Thanks, man! We’ll let it drop after a little bit.

Taylor Adkins (Taylor): Why don’t you say something about the music, since it’s your own creation?

Joe: It is! In fact, all the music on the show is little jams I’ve written at one point or another. I mean, I’m not a professional musician: most of the time it’s just me, in a little sound loop, trying to comfort some animal part of me. With this song, I was at a really nice part of my life, spending a whole afternoon listening to this genre of music called solarpunk. Again, this is amateur, not really an entry into that genre, but just something my heart responded to in a similar kind of way. It’s thinking about particles flowing through the universe, light as it speeds from the sun to the earth, and so, that’s the cosmic vision here. Solarpunk is music that’s trying to envision a future that’s green, and clear glass, and solar-powered everything; really a green, an alternate future, sort of implicitly a socialist one in that way.

Justin: Well, I really like the psychological effect it’s having on me.

Joe: Cool! Well, so with that, beautiful glorious utopia in mind, do you want to pose us a question from the Cthelll of the underworld and Nick Land, and right Deleuzianism? Do you want to help us break into some of this stuff?

Justin: First of all, I just want to say thank you for wanting to have this conversation with me. I’m looking forward to picking your brains. What we started talking about before we recorded is that I just finished recording a podcast with Nick Land. It’s almost three hours recorded over two sessions, and we talked about a lot of things, but one of the things we talked about that you guys might be especially interested in and I want to get your opinion on is how Nick reads Deleuze. As you probably know, but I’ll recapitulate briefly in case any listeners don’t know, Nick has a reading of Deleuze in which Deleuze is firmly anti-leftist, almost explicitly capitalist. Nick basically thinks that capitalism and critique are basically the same thing. That Deleuze is fundamentally interested in dimensions that are, you know, at the most generous, orthogonal to leftism, and really trying to cut across leftism. And so when I first came across Nick’s readings of Deleuze in his blog posts and writings, I was baffled, I found it so preposterous, ridiculous and insane. Because, as we all know, Deleuze and Guattari were very deeply embedded in the radical left, post-1968 milieu–Guattari more than Deleuze, but both of them were more or less involved in different types of activist projects, Guattari especially, obviously. Deleuze was more of a loner, and was not quite as interested in all the radical groups like Guattari. Nonetheless, I took it kind of for granted that anyone in their right mind would see Deleuze and Guattari as radical left-wing anti-capitalist sort of theorists…but the more I kind of read up on Nick’s perspective…

Joe: And Nick Land himself in the early 90s–this is how he seemed to take D+G, is that right?

Justin: Yeah sorry, I just wanted to pose you guys a question…I just started to go on a rant, which I always do in podcasts…

Joe: No no, this is all good.

Justin: …anyway, to bring us to the point I wanted to raise: the more I read Nick Land’s writings, the more I kinda see what he’s getting at. Also, today, you can see certain tendencies of the leftwing mentality really kinda melting down and shooting off into very strange and almost reactionary varieties or tendencies…

Joe: Can you specify some of that?

Justin: I don’t want to get too lost in a sub-point… All I’m saying, from my perspective, how things look to me, as I take these things altogether, these observations, the more Nick Land’s reading of Deleuze as anti-leftist really starts to resonate somewhat, and I tried to pick his brain in this podcast with him, and he basically reiterated his view of Deleuze as anti-leftist, so I basically wanted to ask you guys: what do you think about that view?

Taylor: So can I field this Joe, and then send it off to you?

Joe: Please.

Taylor: So, I would say that one of the ways that Deleuze is anti-leftist is perhaps the way in which Nietzsche is anti-leftist, which is that they both are about cultivating a certain aristocratic perspective. Now, on the other hand, the second point I wanted to make…

Justin: Hmm…

Taylor: …is, that, this seems to privilege a reading of Deleuze that would isolate him from the collective assemblage with Guattari, especially in the Machinic Unconscious, where Guattari is really the one who is pushing the perspective of leftism to what we might call unconditional accelerationism, at least in the 70s around Anti-Oedipus, and as you said post-68, and as you know we are coming upon the 50th anniversary of that non-event…

Justin: Ha!

Taylor: Well, they themselves say May 68 didn’t happen. I don’t want to speak for Nick Land, as I haven’t read as much of him as others, so I’m kind of a neophyte, but I feel like it’s to under-privilege, like a lot of Deleuze scholars do, the role that Guattari had, not only on Deleuze’s writings, but also on the intellectual milieu in France specifically: the reception of Anti-Oedipus was actually fairly broad, and it sold out within the first few months, and it had a huge impact in Italy in their revolutionary movements. Deleuze himself, even though he was a homebody, went and participated with Guattari in these events, helped write letters to free political prisoners, like Antonio Negri. Anyway I could go on, but I’ll let Joe take off from that.

Joe: The thing that’s jumping out to me is: what is the formulation of left and right being used here, right? I think we’re dealing with a series of presuppositions that everyone knows what left and right is supposed to…

Taylor: Right.

Joe: …mean: they’re these mutually reinforcing chiralities within a theo-political space or something, but they’re actually not very well analyzed. And maybe that word analysis gets us to another that you posed, which is the identity of capital and critique. I would say it differently: it’s an identity of capital and crisis. That in both cases there’s a mode of transcendental speculation that’s like a halo or an illusion covering over something that’s actually an extended crisis, right?

Justin: Hmm.

Joe: Deleuze’s philosophy as such, his pure metaphysics, such as you can extract it from everything else, is Nietzschean. It is about the permanent revolution of the eternal return, and that phrase, that permanent revolution that unilateralizes the turning of the left and the turning of the right, it’s really…

Taylor: It’s a phrase from Marx, too. But…

Joe: It’s inherently a leftist notion of continuous transformation, right. And this extended crisis, of the world, of the body, but also of thinking and of cities, and of the relations between cities, this virtual space of all these different strata… There are these crises, these critical points, and they always return, they’re like singularities. They come back in different orders, and you can sort of identify a left and a right tendency at every point, but there’s…

Taylor: Yeah.

Joe: In the last instance, there’s not some operation of unification which stitches together all of the left and all of the right, except through transcendental speculation… except from the point of view of capital, or a given. That’s the thing: we’re in this crisis of thinking. There’s this problem of not being able to think; and the left and the right offer these modes of “well here’s a move, here’s a tendency you can take in this space”. But the point is, the space itself is double articulated. I don’t know, I feel like I’m going around in circles here.

Taylor: No, you’re not. Can I interject for just a second and throw it back to Justin?

Joe: Please, please!

Taylor: Justin, the thing I would also add to Joe’s… I like the notion of chirality, and double articulation, and this is why I called Deleuze aristocratic and linked him to Nietzsche. There’s actually a great book on Nietzsche’s aristocratic tendencies, not all of which I agree with. But, you know, in any case: just because Deleuze is anti-left, does that mean he’s particularly right? It’s the question of then is that the best we can do is define him negatively in terms of his politics?

Justin: Well that’s a good…

Joe: Yeah…

Taylor: And that’s a loaded question, I just want you to reflect on it and not necessarily answer my question.

Justin: Sure, sure. In some sense, I think I prefer the framing of whether or not Deleuze is anti-leftist precisely because it sets aside the question of whether he is a rightist, which I think is just, we might as well answer the first question before answering such an even more preposterous question. I don’t think anyone would…

Taylor: Would it be, would it be more…I’m sorry…

Justin: That’s ok.

Taylor: Would it be more that he’s liberal in the way in which the French tradition understands it? Is he an aristocratic… Is he sort of an Enlightenment-liberalism figure, more than left…? And you have to think too, I think that left on the sphere now on the American side is much different than left in France at the time, which is much more like Guattari was at least in the university system: militant, engaged in politics. Post-68 Deleuze gets involved in that new undertaking, that new university space, which is maybe one of the positive outcomes of May 68, which was undertaking experimental work, and all of these things. I’m not trying to defend Deleuze…

Justin: Right.

Taylor: I’m only trying to complexify and suggest…

Justin: Sure.

Taylor: …does that work? Can you say something maybe, too, if you want, about liberalism in French thought, if that even makes sense. Lyotard talks about liberal politics and left politics, and we wouldn’t even understand that today as an American. But at the time he’s also talking about liberalism as a political-philosophical approach, in line with the Great Terror and its outcomes. So, I wanted to throw it to you with all of that, and just say whatever you would like…

Justin: Is that to me?

Taylor: Well, I wanted to inflect and maybe throw it back to you…

Justin: Sure.

Taylor: I asked a lot of questions, but you can continue with what you were talking about with Nick Land.

Justin: That’s all very good and rich. I guess I would say a few things to what you just said. One is that, I mean you guys might have a deeper understanding of French liberalism than I do. But the idea of thinking of Deleuze as a liberal just on the face of it strikes me as preposterous…

Joe: Yes.

Justin: I would maybe put forth the following kind of minimal version of the argument about Deleuze that Nick Land is making that I’m kind of sympathetic to at this point. I think you can see leftism and rightism as molar aggregates that sort of lump together a whole bunch of more microscopic energies or flows or whatever you want to call them, and, I think what you see throughout Deleuze’s project is that he’s interested in the conditions for novelty and for creativity, for how, I’m hesitant to say people, because it’s not necessarily about people per se or humans per se or subjects per se, but you know, how can wherever an entity might find itself, how can an entity generate genuine novel creative departures? So, if that is a very non-controversial claim, it’s very easy to see leftism as an overly rigid mass-molar aggregate, that any person seeking liberation or emancipation or these traditionally left-wing ideals, would need methods and techniques and a philosophy for seeing how to find exit-roads from the kind of repressive molar gravity of leftism as an aggregate, so, in that way…

Joe: Yeah, no no no, Justin, I think you’re totally on it, I think this is really sharp. In the last instance, Deleuze won’t be identified with a molar leftism or a rightism. But, in the last instance, is it not clear that he is identifiable with molecular revolution, with permanent revolution of an intensive field of differences? Like you’re saying, the novelty, the encounter, the departure…

Justin: Right.

Joe: …the creative work that combines… A tiny phrase of music that combines a life and a work into a destiny. It’s a literary leftism of these tiny differences…

Justin: Right, so…

Joe: …or resolving, reducing the big molar conflict into the intensive field of differences, where there are a thousand points of movement and freedom and not stasis and dialectic, right?

Justin: Exactly, and I’m totally with that, and that’s my kind of version of leftism that I’m interested in…here’s where Nick’s argument is so interesting and befuddling and usefully provocative: it’s because what Nick says is that precisely what you just identified is essentially the capitalist movement. That is, that micro-movement in which entities can roundabout escape from control structures, that that is essentially what capital is. And leftism as a molar aggregate, leftism as we know it, is essentially the brake on that freedom of movement. That’s what Nick thinks, I think.

Joe: That’s interesting… You’re talking about a control structure that escapes from itself. It reminds me of how the content overflows its container, right? And it does speak to the… but it’s not capital. I think capital in the last instance… the market is just an instance of this extended crisis or criticality or continuous transition that we see at work in the morphogenesis of the living body. It’s life, and capital is like its vampiric reflection in a black pool of oil…

Justin: Well that’s a good question…

Joe: …it’s the morphogenetic and autopoietic dynamisms at work in life, in thinking, in the city, in the soul, right? And then only finally in the market as an aftereffect of the accumulation of all these treasures in the other strata, and the market helps distribute and hierarchize the others, but it’s not, it only partakes in the morphogenesis of the body of the earth, of life. I don’t know; What do you make of that?

Justin: Yeah, I think you gave a few good signposts for intelligent and nuanced rebuttals to Nick’s perspective. The reason I’m kind of rehashing Nick’s perspective is that I really don’t know how I come down on this quite yet. My intuitions are with you, my intuitions are that Deleuze is looking for liberation and emancipation and traditionally the dreams of the left-wing tradition. Deleuze is trying to basically follow through on those, and that he has very little sympathy for capitalism and capitalists, but that’s why I’m kind of so obsessed with Nick’s very fascinating alternative reading, where basically that freedom of movement is precisely capitalism itself. It’s sort of a completely different alternative set of premises. I don’t know. I would like to hear maybe a little bit more from Taylor about how Deleuze…

Joe: Yeah…

Justin: …is aristocratic? That’s kind of interesting to me; what do you mean by that?

Taylor: Oh, well…ok so, when I talk about Deleuze, I always rigorously distinguish works he wrote before collaborating with Guattari…

Justin: Ok.

Taylor: …and so, a lot of the times, when I’m thinking of them, sometimes I prefer to talk about Guattari’s work at the time, and… In any case, I preface that just because Deleuze’s aristocratism is partially inherited from Nietzsche? And it’s inflected by that kind of cosmopolitan… Spinoza as the Christ of philosophers kind of thing, Spinoza as inflecting that Nietzschean aristocratic impulse with a kind of cosmopolitanism, which may or may not be used by capitalism on behalf of its own expansion of its axiomatic…so, part of what’s aristocratic about Deleuze is the cultivation of monumental history, right? When Nietzsche talks about the use and abuse of history for life, it’s clear… There is room for each mode, but the one that Nietzsche partakes in, I think, the one that Nietzsche tries to cultivate for the possibility of a German culture, is about… It’s not just this cult of genius, but about the monumental perspective, and so so much of Nietzsche is about this possibility of great persons, who are rare…

Justin: Right.

Taylor: …and so it’s that understanding of the great person as rare and to be cultivated.  Part of what Deleuze talks about in the beginning of Difference and Repetition is being one of the last to be schooled in this rigorous processing of the history of philosophy, and in that sense he’s a part of the old guard…

Justin: Hmm.

Taylor: …and I think that too is an acknowledgement of, hey, all the monographs I’ve put together starting with Hume up to and through Nietzsche and specifically the work he’s doing on Spinoza and Expressionism is the highlight of cultivating these monumental figures in the history of philosophy…but then the aristocracy turns in on itself, because it is about buggery…right? And there’s something then…if Deleuze is honest or really thinks of the history of philosophy as needing to be read as though it could be buggered, needing to see a bearded Hegel, a beardless Marx, this is what he does to Kant, and he even talks about the different successes and failures of buggery: he tried to bugger Nietzsche, but Nietzsche buggered him, he could never take Spinoza from behind, and in that sense…

Justin: Ha!

Taylor: And here I’ve ranted too. In that sense, he resuscitates the old Socratic metaphor of the possibility of philosophy, what philosophy is doing. I think specifically in the Symposium he talks about the philosopher as impregnating the young male philosopher with philosophy, with the love of wisdom, and thereby giving birth to future philosophers…

Justin: Hmm…

Taylor: There’s something that Deleuze I think modernizes in this reinvention of buggery. That’s a couple of forms. I didn’t structurally analyze it…

Justin: Yeah.

Taylor: I gave some of the indications I see in how Nietzsche and Deleuze participate in this. So, I don’t know. I’ll open it up to either of you guys.

Justin: Yeah, that’s good, that was all good! Yeah, I was just asking, and what you said was all very useful, because if Deleuze is…if he has this aristocratic dimension…

Taylor: Yes…

Justin: …that’s kind of a data point in the anti-leftist reading. Aristocratism is a quite and anti-leftist vector…

Joe: But, Taylor, you also said the counterpoint: he’s also an aesthete; he’s effete; he’s an aristocrat, but he’s a class betrayer. He’s a leftist, an artist, into creation and poetry, et cetera… Maybe this is where all the ambiguity lives: because we want to read that conceptual persona of the aesthete as a leftist, but they’re not… That’s like a certain traditional perspective on it.

Taylor: Yeah…

Joe: In fact, Nazis have rich inner lives. This is the horror; the ethical horror of fascism is that they also have poets. And just to make the point, you don’t actually get to the worst in human civilization without some asshole, fascist poet, whose rich inner life and stupid series of miraculations leads him to beautify horrors. It’s really this: it’s the lack of, in the last instance, some kind of moral basis in poetry.

Justin: Hmm…

Joe: But at the same time, this is the open horizon that Nietzsche wants to open…

Taylor: Yeah…

Joe: It is beyond left and right, and it does lead on to really dangerous kinds of things in the future, and this is why I think that Deleuze is an enigma, even for leftists: he’s not anti-left, he’s non-left. That would be, I think, where I’m at.

Justin: That’s a really interesting and possibly compelling thesis. I definitely have to think about that. Because I’m not quite sold…ya know, the idea that he’s anti-leftist is perhaps, it’s a useful provocation, but that he’s non-leftist is, I think, much less preposterous and has more validity on its face. I think that’s pretty good. I’ll have to think about that one.

Taylor: What I’d say back to Joe is that I still rigorously distinguish between that period that culminates with Logic of Sense and the impasse at the end of what he calls a psychoanalytic novel, and it’s that threshold that prepares him for Guattari, for this encounter with Guattari that becomes a collective, semiotic, and asignifying assemblage at the limit, and that’s what to me transforms. If you understand that Deleuze is aristocratic, there is an epistemic break…right? There is a kind of before and after to that story. After meeting Guattari, and the work with Guattari, what they produce together, specifically, even especially with Capitalism and Schizophrenia, but also the works after that, too…I separate off…

Joe: Right! I love this. The fact of Deleuze’s composition with Guattari is itself a counterproof to any thesis, any hypothesis of his anti-leftism. The fact that his, the singular points of his mind and his spirit were able to come into conjugation with those of the militant leftist Guattari…

Justin: I don’t know…

Taylor: Well, now…

Joe: What do you think Justin?

Taylor: Well now we might have to search for a better prefix…we’re looking for a prefix…you said non-left…are there any other…

Justin: Yeah! I understand what you’re saying Joe. It would seem, on the face of it, the fact that Deleuze entered into such lengthy collaborations with Guattari, who was such a kind of quintessential, radical-left activist, would seem to put away the case for Deleuze as an anti-leftist. But, I’m not at all sure about that, because I think you could very well imagine that what’s going through Deleuze’s mind—I’ll give you a very cartoonish kind of representation of what one could reasonably imagine is behind Deleuze’s thinking—which is something like: all of these crazy leftists are stupid idiots, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, following these molar aggregates that they don’t even really understand, and it’s leading even people interested in liberation and emancipation to do all of this kind of accidentally reactionary wasteful, idiotic kind of herd behavior…but, you know, because I have kind of this aristocratic attitude that Taylor alluded to earlier, I can see the real pathways for genuinely novel, creative departures from this kind of repressive, molar, leftist phenomena…so what I need to do is find a way to sneak in my intelligent pathways to true liberation and emancipation into this network of a kind of ignorant, stupid, misled sheep…and the best way to do that…

Joe: Yeah…but also…

Justin: …the best way to do that would be to find a highly active and influential person with activist credentials…and I’ll just…collaborate with him.

Joe: No, no no, and look, I think both of those are valid interpretations and readings…I think the real…would be to see Marx in this way…

Justin: Hmm…

Joe: …right? As, you know, trying to intervene…Zizek tells an anecdote about Marx that’s really illuminating here, possibly…he talks about how Marx got worried that the revolution was outpacing him, that the revolution would occur…

Justin: Haha!

Joe: …before his theorization had been completed. And that in other words it would take place according to singularities that didn’t line up with his analysis, that the world would diverge from his philosophy. And so, he needed to insert the singularities of politico-economics into the world in such a way that it could transfix with the actual…that it could transduce into the actual political movements…

Justin: Hmm…

Joe: I feel like this is part of Deleuze’s thing: I’m trapped in this university space, this metaphysical space. I need a nonphilosophical interlocutor. And that’s what he finds in Guattari, someone who wants to look at instead the sciences and the arts and philosophy too, but who has a distrust of it, which Deleuze shares in a certain way. I don’t know, I’m not sure where I’m going with that or if it even really responds necessarily…but I like the idea of Marx as trying to build an apparatus of capture for the proletariat.

Justin: Sure. Yeah, I take your larger point to be that what I just described about Deleuze might just be the kind of…the structural conditions of theoretical contributions to political movements that…yeah…

Joe: I kind of wonder…if it doesn’t ask what is a theory in the first place. Because there’s often this thing in leftist meetings where some privileged person who actually has theoretical capabilities is saying: “oh, don’t let me speak and overtake this space”. And someone else, often someone of less privilege and more rudimentary theoretical capacity is like: “no dude, you are educated, please tell us, please help us understand, right?” Like, please, help us break the shackles that the system has put in front of us, illuminate us, bring your light of interpretation to bear, even if it is privileged, it will help us, you know what I mean? It’s the ideas that matter, in the last instance, I think that’s the real thing here…

Justin: Well, to be honest, I don’t think there’s very much of that in what is today called the left, insofar as the left is a kind of an actual sociological phenomenon with specific bodies in it. There’s extremely little of what you just described: like active, honest seeking of knowledge about how the world works. I’m afraid to say, but that’s…

Joe: So wait, you’re just imputing bad faith to the entire assemblage of the left?

Justin: No, no, I wasn’t… I didn’t use the word bad faith. All I’m saying is that I have quite a large sample of experiences. I wouldn’t call them a perfectly random sample of experiences that’s perfectly representative… But through my years as a radical leftist in the US, and then through my years as a radical leftist in the UK also, getting to know a large number of different individuals in a very large different number of groups doing different types of projects, I have a pretty big sample database of what contemporary Western–at least Anglo–leftists are talking about and what they do and what they don’t do. So, with those caveats in mind, I won’t pretend to make perfectly generalizable inferences, but I also wouldn’t say, that I can’t make any generalizations, and as a social scientist with this kind of experience, I have almost never once in any of my interactions with leftist groupuscles ever been asked about how my knowledge of causal inference could be leveraged for improving social movements…haha…

Joe: Well, wait a second, so like, there is a disjunction between pure theory and pure practice, but you’re saying in all your years of attending leftist meetings and rallies and doing protest actions and engaging in radical politics that you never met anyone curious about theory, that no one ever wanted to pick your brain about theory for its own sake? That there was no general spirit of enlightenment?

Justin: Oh no! I’m not saying anything so grand as that…obviously people are interested in theories…

Joe: Ok!

Justin: …obviously people are interested in learning…Yeah, yeah, no, don’t get me wrong…

Joe: Yeah! Right!

Justin: Let me back up, and I’ll try to clarify. How should I put this…of course people on the left are interested in learning. Of course they’re interested in theory…

Joe: Right!

Justin: …of course they’re interested in improving how they see things, in some sense…what…the only thing I was pushing back against, Joe, was what you said about specifically about an interest…you cited an interest in expert knowledge or specific knowledge about gaining specifically kind of empirical or causal traction on how the world works. At least that’s what I had in mind in my counterexample. So…

Joe: Interesting…that’s interesting…

Justin: That’s all I was getting at…my experience here has been so, I think, revealing, how I see it, is that you know, as a social scientist, I have literally one expert skill…

Taylor: Right…

Justin: …that I have worked on for several years now…and that is the identification of causes and effects in social phenomena. It’s actually an extremely confusing, difficult thing to do…

Taylor: Yeah…

Justin: …and even with expert training, it requires extraordinary care, and it’s fragile and difficult, even with years of expert training, and I find it very fascinating that in all of my journeys and adventures through radical left groups I’ve tried to kind of share my abilities to identify things, but I’ve almost never once been like…no one has ever actively asked me: oh hey, that expert knowledge you have that takes years to get that most of us don’t have, is there any way you can give us leverage to solve some of the problems that we’re interested in solving…people are not interested in that. They just aren’t. And I’m sorry, but they just aren’t…

Joe: Well, I mean look, it cuts both ways, you gotta meet it halfway, but, sorry, Taylor, go ahead…

Taylor: No, it’s fine, it’s fine…I was just trying to wade in…I think it’s…first, it is a shame that Justin your knowledge wasn’t tapped into…and that does say something about some of the failures of the left, just in terms of recent years, since 2010, right? It’s the representativity of the Democrats in Congress. It’s taken a downturn. We may see a difference in this coming year…and if history serves right, we probably will. The incoming party usually suffers that first midterm…

Justin: Haha.

Taylor: Anyway, that’s not the point, the point being, yeah, your knowledge should have been tapped into for its…it’s a specialized knowledge that neither of us have, and it’s a unique perspective. The thing is, the way that Deleuze talks about it…and even Guattari himself, who may mention the left here and there…it’s not…Guattari shifts the aristocratic element of Deleuze, to return to what I kinda mentioned earlier…is…I wouldn’t primarily call Deleuze anti-left. I would call him anti-fascist…

Justin: Yeah…

Taylor: You know the collective assemblage that Deleuze assembles with Guattari becomes overtly…takes up the question of fascism, specifically with Anti-Oedipus but also leading into A Thousand Plateaus…which starts to, you know, form the concept of microfascisms, it’s molecular fascism that becomes perhaps more insidious because of that…

Justin: Right.

Taylor: …but if you remember that Anti-Oedipus starts with a nice, really beautiful preface by Michel Foucault, and he kinda puts forward this thesis that Anti-Oedipus is one of the…it’s a real book of ethics…a genre that hasn’t been formulated in some time…he says it can be retitled…what does he say…a guide for the non-fascist life…

Justin: Yeah.

Taylor: …or something like that…so I would say, calling him anti-left primarily seems to preclude or obscure perhaps a better, if we had to come up with one word inflected by an anti-, I see it as a good faith attempt to tackle the question of fascism, analyze it and then move to not only formulate a theory, involving a theory of capitalism, etc., but also proposing a therapeutic…in the last instance a therapeutic analytic mode…right?

Justin: Hmm…

Taylor: That’s the schizoanalytic mode…

Joe: Yes.

Taylor: …to be able to diagnose fascistic tendencies and to be able to explain them and not just simply ward them off but, and this is what Guattari takes up in the Machinic Unconscious that’s so fascinating, is showing the different ways in which there are different transformations in these regimes of signs that point to how a left-wing and how different fields in the left and right can transform into one another…and just to leave off here, we mentioned earlier this question of the molar and molecular aspects of the left, and I think that what gets left out, too, is the importance of abstract consistency, right? The molar and the molecular sometimes gets turned into a binary…

Joe: Yes!

Taylor: …dialectical opposition, but in fact it is inflected first and foremost by the reality of the virtual, which is abstract machines, machinic nuclei, all that stuff…but really, the abstract is just as important for rigorously understanding the molar and the molecular…so what’s the…so instead of an anti-leftist, I think what Deleuze tries to cultivate with Guattari is the abstract leftist, instead of the anti…so…

Joe: Can I jump in here?

Taylor: Yes, please. Go ahead.

Joe: A tiny proposal for a concept to tie together some of these things: what about a microsocialism, right? That sort of fuses together these concerns of an ethics of non-fascism with some of these psychoanalytic concerns of fascism and sadness and the way it uses resentment and guilt and the way it programs the sad passions…this is the register that they’re talking about when they talk about the problem of leftist collectivity and the specific problem of the leftist meeting. Right? How do we form new abstract consistencies so that these meeting spaces, these planes of consistencies… They have moods…they have tonalities, and there’s a virtual cloud hanging over the head of the left, and it’s black and depressing at the moment, and the question is how do we make it transparent, more refractory to light, more of a vessel of enlightenment…but the thing is…I think it’s a challenge to do this at the level of the molar aggregate…you have to work for transparency at the level of microsocialism, sort of in the moment, being cunning…being on the lookout for singularities, for places where symmetries can change…for opportunities for a new crystallization…this is where I’d really go to build a new crystal of time, where you can affirm the disjunction, the differences, the space in the heterogeneity in itself. These would be some of the themes of a concept of microsocialism, something I would want to encapsulate there… It’s a socialism that is about the ethics of molecularity and understands the need to have this space or distance…

Justin: Yeah, what you’re saying is absolutely music to my ears…the question though to me is…and this is what I’m genuinely befuddled by and I don’t have an answer to…the question is, the beautiful picture you just painted of a Deleuzian microsocialism: how does that map onto the contemporary sociological reality of the primary political dimension of left versus right? Joe, I think maybe what we disagree on and where we’re coming from different perspectives is that, Joe, you seem to be more confident that that microsocialism maps onto the contemporary macrosociology of the capital-L Left and maybe…that doesn’t seem to be the case for me.

   

INTERLUDE

The Author

mostly noise and glare

6 Comments

  1. maybe one key to understanding Land’s conception of capital is to see it as a “real individual” (the way he talks about cities here: https://oldnicksite.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/scaly-creatures/ and here: http://www.ufblog.net/an-introduction-to-urbanomy/ also elsewhere). capital as a converging wave of inventions and creative acts building up an artificial intelligence. not sure how much of that is supported by Deleuze or D+G, but he sees capital as a life-form, if more systematic than organic.

  2. Great conversation! I was wanted to add a little something on the topic of the aristocracy, which is a really fascinating subject and maybe prone to misinterpretation due to the sort of connotations that the word has, for people on the left on the right. In my understanding the Nietzschean aristocracy (this might be a vulgar reading, a passing of Nietzsche through certain anarchist readers of his like Renzo Novatore) is more an open aristocracy, to be contrasted with the closed aristocracy of old, moneyed, decadent interests – which would conform precisely to what we might later call a molar aggregate. Whereas the old/closed aristocracy has barriers to entry built into it, with a series of rigorous, external testing mechanisms that allow access, the new/future/open aristocracy opens precisely through internal testing: there are barriers to access, but you achieve access through affirmations, a testing of the self, that occur in a space free from arbitrary political mechanisms. Nietzsche exhibits all the classic structures of a traditionalist hierarchy; even his ‘accelerationist fragment’ urges acceleration to ‘level European man’ to make way for a completely new type of rulers – but it’s configured in the language of a future culture, artist-tyrants, etc.

    Similarly, Novatore talks about an “aristocracy of tramps” as rulers of Nothing, as well as “aristocratic outsiders” who will always be a minority relative to the progression of the social megamachine. Deleuze and Guattari strike something very similar to this line in What is Philosophy, clearly drawing back on Nietzsche’s privileging of arts, culture and becoming:

    “The creation of concepts in itself calls for a future form, for a new earth and people that do not yet exist. Europeanization does not constitute a becoming but merely the history of capitalism, which prevents the becoming of subjected peoples. Art and philosophy converge at this point: the constitution of an earth and a people that are lacking as the correlate of creation. It is not populist writers but the most aristocratic who lay claim to this future. This people and earth will not be found in our democracies. Democracies are majorities, but a becoming is by its nature that which always eludes the majority.”

    I think a case can be made that Land also follows along this path. Take, for example, the CCRU mythos, which presents the full trappings of an occult order: the numogram, the Pandemonium matrix, AQ, etc, which are all continued by Land in his more recent theory fiction books and on the Deadliner twitter account.. it’s an incredible condensing and transvaluation of various occult traditions and mystical currents, but one doesn’t need to pass through stages of initiation and folding-in to a per-existent hierarchy of a cult or traditionalist secret society to grasp what’s going on. All the materials and tools are laid out, and the task falls upon the reader or thinker to carry out decryption, if they so choose. And this clearly is reiterated in his NRx work as well, especially on posts like “Gnon and OOon” (http://www.xenosystems.net/gnon-and-ooon/) and “Open Secret” (http://www.xenosystems.net/open-secret/). The first one of these – OOon – resonates very sharply with the above quote from D&G.

    “Any system of belief (and complementary unbelief) that appeals to universal endorsement is necessarily exoteric in orientation. Like the witch-finders, or Francis Bacon, it declares war upon the secret, in the name of a public cult, whose central convictions are dispensed commonly. The Pope is the Pope, and Einstein is Einstein, because the access to truth that elevates them above other men is — in its innermost nature — the equal possession of all. The pinnacle of understanding is attained through a public formula. This is democracy in its deepest, creedal sense.”

  3. Thanks for the lengthy reply Ed. All of this is great, and it was in that spirit that i tried to qualify the type of aristocratism that I had in mind, which as you point out is ‘t about shoring-up a reterritorialized East-Egg (i am thinking of the narrator’s opening comments about Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s great work).

    I will try to think of more to say on the topic, but at the moment I’ll leave your comment open for further responses.

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