Žižek on Deleuze (part 1)

Žižek, Slavoj. Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences. New York, Routledge, 2004.

Žižek wants to find the political dimensions or implications of Deleuze’s philosophy, and shows himself quite frustrated with the realization that “not a single one of Deleuze’s own texts is any way directly political. Deleuze ‘in himself’ is a highly elitist author, indifferent towards politics” (20). This stance is in opposition with Deleuze’s collaboration with Guattari, the outcome of which Žižek considers of rather poor quality, calling Anti-Oedipus “arguably Deleuze’s worst book” (21). Therefore, in an effort to unpack the attraction of Deleuze as “the theoretical foundation of today’s anti-globalist Left and its resistance to capitalism” (xi), Žižek aims to show that beyond Deleuze’s better known collaborative work with Guattari lies “another Deleuze, much closer to psychoanalysis and Hegel, a Deleuze whose consequences are much more shattering” (xi). The ultimate argument, one of Žižek’s favourite ones, turns toward uncovering “those aspects of Deleuzianism that, while masquerading as radical chic, effectively transform Deleuze into an ideologist of today’s ‘digital capitalism’” (xii).

Two issues merit highlight so far (in what I’ve read of the book). They’re both interesting to my project for different reasons:

1. Deleuze’s duality: After reading D&G, one of the things that struck me was how they managed to critique and escape the fundamental binarization of the Western ontology. Žižek thinks otherwise: “One should therefore problematize the very basic duality of Deleuze’s thought, that of Becoming versus Being, which appears in different versions (the Nomadic versus the State, the molecular versus the molar, the schizo versus the paranoiac, etc.). This duality is ultimately overdetermined as ‘the Good versus the Bad’: the aim of Deleuze is to liberate the immanent force of Becoming from its self-enslavement to the order of Being. Perhaps the first step in this problematizing is to confront this duality with the duality of Being and Event, emphasizing their ultimate incompatibility: Event cannot be simply identified with the virtual field of Becoming that generates the order of Being…” (28).

Instead of looking at these pairs that Žižek highlights as binary opposites, I regarded them as the problem and an alternative. The alternative does not necessarily constitute an opposite, but it is true that, as Žižek points out, they are liable to be interpreted as the bad and the good. Here’s something to think about: Is one a priori condemned to enact the object of critique without realizing it? In doing away with the system of dichotomies, do D&G erect others? My immediate response to Žižek would be that he is intentionally oversimplifying, especially when it comes to Being versus Becoming in D&G. Firstly, D&G do not talk about the grand philosophical category of Being – intentionally, I think, because of their reluctance to resort to any book/tree-like system as a fundament for their theory. Instead they problematize the notion of stable Subjectivity, to which they oppose Haecceity, as an infinitesimal instant in Becoming; haecceity, again, does not equate Event; on the contrary, there is nothing momentous about one of the many haecceities that something passes through in the process of becoming. Is haecceity opposed to subjectivity? Not exactly: haecceity is like a vectorized Subjectivity, i.e., one cannot talk about stable subjectivity in time, but only of subjectivity dependent on time. In other words, haecceity is not the opposite of subjectivity, but a more refined, accurate way of describing the existence of things perpetually in motion.

2. Affect and its appropriation by corporatism;

“As Deleuze later developed in a Spinozian vein, affects are not something that belong to a subject and are then passed over to another subject; affects function at the preindividual level, as free-floating intensities that belong to no one and circulate at a level ‘beneath’ intersubjectivity. This is what is so new about imitatio affecti: the idea that affects circulate directly, as what psychoanalysis [and D&G] calls ‘partial objects’” (35).

This theorization of affects helps me mount the argument that affects are becoming a domain of high interest for corporatism. Of course, I’m not talking about a completely new trend (see advertising, for example). What has changed is the intensification of the corporate interest in affect of any kind, to the point of defining teleology (e.g., happiness is *the* goal right now and workplaces attempt to accommodate employee happiness), as well as underpinning and propping up the generalization of fear as a way of life (see Neil Smith’s discussion in “Disastrous Accumulation,” and the current climate of increased security both benefiting corporate interest primarily). Corporatism aims to dictate and manipulate affect, by offering up *the* range of available emotions to be undertaken by subjects. The alternative: becoming, and therefore shedding the need for a stable, uniform subjectivity.

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