Žižek on Deleuze (part 3 – last one)

So, I finished reading Organs without Bodies yesterday, or, more precisely, I finished reading what I chose to read from it – not very scholarly or me, eh? Anyway, I am ambivalent about Žižek’s move to interrogate Deleuze (and Guattari, in spite of Žižek’s antagonism towards him) with the help of psychoanalysis. This move appears throughout the book, e.g., when Žižek discusses D&G’s view of fascism (187-92). I can’t decide if it’s a fair thing to do. Firstly, D&G reject psychoanalysis outright – see the common subtitle of Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus which serves as a common thread – because of the negativity that psychoanalysis induces and of its complicity with capitalism in subjugating desire and hindering the lines of flight and the creation of bodies without organs (simplistically put). So, is it fair to try and verify Deleuze’s claims by introducing a parameter that he had discarded as problematic? Secondly, is this interrogation valid because it should serve as a verification of Deleuze and Guattari’s theses? In other words, even if they throw it out, can psychoanalysis still be a tool in validating their own schizoanalysis?

If I’m not making sense, it’s probably because I’m confused myself. So please disregard. I think Žižek is somehow trying to reconcile Deleuze and Guattari with psychoanalysis, which, again, seems futile, given their rejection of it. If Žižek succeeds in this project, it means that their whole project doesn’t stand. Or does it? As Heather would say, I’m probably splitting hairs right now, and consequently wasting time (mine and yours). Moving on: Žižek offers a critique of Hardt and Negri’s Empire, arguing that “Today’s global capitalism can no longer be combined with democratic representation: the key economic decisions of bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Trade Organization (WTO) are not legitimized by any democratic process, and this lack of democratic representation is structural, not empirical” (195). In other words, Žižek faults Hardt and Negri with coming up with an idealist solution, one that is both inapplicable and too vague (or inapplicable because too vague and idealistic). Žižek remarks that “Their wager is to repeat Marx. For Marx, highly organized corporate capitalism was already a form of socialism within capitalism (a kind of socialization of capitalism, with the absent owners becoming superfluous) [a citation/footnote would have been greatly appreciated here], so that one need only cut the nominal head off and we get socialism. In an identical fashion, Hardt and Negri see the same potential in the emerging emerging hegemonic role of immaterial labor. Today, immaterial labor is ‘hegemonic’ in the precise sense in which Marx proclaimed that, in nineteenth-century capitalism, large industrial production was hegemonic as the specific color giving its tone to the totality – not quantitatively but playing the key, emblematic, structural role. This, then, far from posing a mortal threat to democracy (as conservative cultural critics want us to believe), opens a unique chance of ‘absolute democracy’ – why?” (196).Thank you, sir! Basically, Hardt and Negri’s ingrained Marxism renders them irreconcilable with D&G’s immanence, in spite of their efforts… and Žižek has put it so much more eloquently than I ever could.

Ultimately, Žižek becomes Deleuzian in spite of himself, as he asks “What would the ‘multitude in power’ look like” (198), and starts to exemplify this impossibility by imagining the possibilities of the Zapatistas’ rhetoric of identification with any subaltern from around the world, in the case of their gaining power. The same rhetoric that serves a rebel group would be construed as the harshest of totalitarian demagogy. Thus Žižek does away (or suggests, at least) with the possibility of organized resistance, with the old Marxist panacea of the revolution of the proletariat. As Žižek asks in a dramatic end to the book: “How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing? Perhaps, this is the question today” (213).

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2 responses to “Žižek on Deleuze (part 3 – last one)

  1. I’d be interested in discussing this Zizek issue with you, as I’m familiar with the book. I think you make some fairly unfair assertions.

  2. Sure, Jake. If you don’t want to talk about it here, you can email me at corplit00 at gmail.com

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