Why I Remember Deleuze, Some Quick Thoughts on Galloway's Remarks

So, in my admittedly small world of news and social media, Alexander Galloway's comments that "[w]e must forget Deleuze" made a bit of a splash (here's an abbreviated version). Terence Blake wrote a considered response which I recommend reading here. As Blake points out, Galloway "can’t decide whether he is against “Deleuzianism”, or against 1972 Deleuze in favour of 1990 Deleuze, or in favour of a paltry cluster of Deleuzian values that Laruelle rather than Deleuze gives us the means to think through."

I want to take a slightly different approach to Galloway's comments. Galloway finds four breeds of Deleuzians: Google Deleuzians, Carl Sagan Deleuzians, Wet Diaper Deleuzians, and then the Deleuze he likes, the Communist Deleuze. My problem is that, for the most part, I see all these versions of Deleuze as folds within the origami, if you will, that is Deleuzianism. And that while there I agree with Galloway that there are no doubt certain complicities between capitalism and a certain Deleuzianism, and while no doubt people make facile claims in Deleuze's name, this does not mean we have to amplify Deleuze's communism in order to find the radical potential. On the contrary, I believe we need to amplify the will to multiplicity of the Google Deleuzians and the wonder of the Carl Sagan Deleuzians. 

Ok, so I am indeed both a Google and Carl Sagan Deleuzian (although certainly not a Wet Diaper Deleuzian — eesh! And I loathe Google, for the most part). I see multiplicity everywhere, networks everywhere (including the capitalist network that stems from distributed but swollen points of corporate power; we know networks don't flow every which way equally!), systems everywhere. And I love the wonder of it all! The joy of it all! The billions and billions of stars of it all! This, to me, is radical. If everyone enjoyed such wonder, such a will to multiplicity, then manic ideology would lose its grip — including capitalist ideology. TED-style reductions of Deleuze's lines of flight do not nullify Deleuze. 

Like Galloway, I find the ready proffering of multiplicity in the name of profit-driven networks and the corporate state troubling, to say the least. It's disconcerting. But rather than turn away from Deleuze's systems thinking, I want to emphasize it, amplify it, make it more intense, more dramatic, more resonant, more resounding. I want to introduce all the non-human becoming that Deleuze finds in these systems until thought itself is so reorganized, and critique so different, that TED would simply vanish in one great woosh! of disorienting becoming.

And, yes, Deleuze's conception of the event is indeed banal. But it is precisely this banality that demands our relentless wonder. Galloway wants us to distinguish between the ubiquity of Deleuze's event and the grandeur of Badiou's. But the power of Deleuze is that he does not offer an external hierarchy; he does not suggest that the French Revolution, say, is a bigger or more essential event than my scanning the horizon and folding infinity into my becoming. 

This is the difference between Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. While Astaire, in his tuxedo dances on stage in the spotlight, Kelly dances in the street, in the rain, in a tenement, anywhere and everywhere. Kelly makes the banal and everyday an opportunity, a vital moment: an event. This is joy which, to me, is always radical — not the expression of joy as TED might have it but the internal movement of infinite, continuous affirmation. This undoes all adamancy, all certainty, all those who would disregard others for a buck, for God, for whatever. Joy may be amoral but it is profoundly ethical. 

This doesn't mean there are different intensities amongst events. This doesn't mean events don't differentiate themselves in the course of a life. It means this differentiation is not essential or external but is immanent, is of the bodies involved, as circumstantial as it is multiple. I don't see how introducing a hierarchy of events makes for a more radical politics. It seems to me that's the same old ideological nonsense, whether it's coming from the so-called Left or Right. 

Is it disconcerting to see people engage Deleuze while avoiding this wonder, this proliferation, this will? Of course. Is it good to amplify Deleuze's edge now and again, his destructive will as well as his affirmative will? Of course. But not, for me, at the cost of forgetting Deleuze's joy and wonder. Deleuze may be working his way into the canon, if not already entrenched there, but that only demands that we who love the radicalness of Deleuze have to extend his thinking, amplify it — and remember it, not forget it. 

There is a certain delight in a punk rock, tear it down, I'm different, fuck off approach while joy can seem so easy, so happy. But that is not joy. We know from Nietzsche that joy means migraines and vomiting phlegm for days but still not being sick at bottom. Affirmation is not easy, not glib. On the contrary, it's relentlessly demanding and involves a surrender to a certain vertigo, a disorientation, a reorientation, a becoming non-human, a becoming with difference, sometimes tearing things down, often being indifferent, other times smiling a goofy smile. I see all this in Galloway's comments and it makes me smile: I hear him and, with him, I remember Deleuze. 

1 comment:

Wayne said...

Well done Daniel.