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March 07, 2006

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Amish Lovelock

I thought the way he relates this with the Hegel's Spirit (only as a result of itself) in the first section of the book pretty impressive.

McKenzie Wark

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who divide things into two kinds, and those who don't. The former (zizekians) are dualists and the latter, (deleuzians) are monists.

Keith

I happen to have been influenced by Deleuze a great deal, and I fail to agree with McKenzie that the line between the Deleuzians and Zizekians is that simple (I can't imagine that statement as being entriely serious either). It's an unfortunate state of affairs we have recently with so many critical responses to Deleuze sending him to the trash can as a 'thinker of the One'. I guess all I'm trying to say here is that, yes, Zizek sounds persuasive - though I definitely would have to read the book first. And more importantly, read more of Zizek to begin with.

Thanks for the post. I would assume there's more to come on Z's new book?

marcegoodman

As regards to Deleuze as a "thinker of the One", here is Dan Smith from his essay, "The Doctrine of Univocity: Deleuze's Ontology of Immanence":

In an immanent ontology, Being necessarily becomes univocal: not only is being equal in itself, it is equally and immediately present in all beings, without mediation or intermediary. There is no distant cause, no 'chain of Being', no hierarchy, but rather a kind of anarchy of beings within Being. 'The rock, the lily, the beast, the human equally sing the glory of God in a kind of crowned anarchy'. (18) One must not be led astray (as Alain Badiou seems to have been) by the prefix 'uni' in the term "univocity': a univocal ontology is by definition irreconcilable with a philosophy of the One, which necessarily entails an equivocal concept of being. (19)

Footnote 19 continues, "...Alain Badiou rightly notes the influence of Heidegger on Deleuze, but wrongly presents Deleuze's 'univocal ontology' as if it were a neoplatonic 'philosophy of the One'. ..."

I feel woefully underequipped to explicate further any of the above, but highly recommend the entire essay. It is collected in Mary Bryden's Deleuze and Religion. Here is its Amazon page whose "Search Inside!" function will enable those who've figured such things out to read most of the essay right there: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0415240298/sr=8-1/qid=1141800521/ref=sr_1_1/002-0983758-8322445?%5Fencoding=UTF8

Jodi

Marc--thanks for the cite.
Keith--yes; I'm currently adding an engagement with Parallax View into the ms. for my book on Z's Politics. It's rather slow going since the ms. is at the copyediting stage.

McKenzie: and, perhaps, your statement actually proofs the truth of Z's reading of Hegel. There are actually 3 types of people in the world: those who divide things in 2; those who do not; and those who assert or frame this actually making it appear as 'something' (making it actual, for itself). (Funny, I wouldn't have figured you for a Hegelian!)

Kenneth Rufo

I think there are four kinds of people in the world: the dividers, the uniters, the framers, and the children. That last group speak like children, understand like children, and think like children. Not to worry though, they eventually put away their childish things.

Or maybe there's not types of people but rather a four-fold: mortals, earth, sky, and divinities.

Or maybe there's five golden rings...

Or maybe there's an ineluctable gap between kinds of people, a parallax, that makes them share no type, and thus cannot be grouped or classified as components of an aggregate.

I could go as far as to say there's six kinds of people, but I'd prefer not to.

Alright, jokes aside, here's a serious question: it seems like Z here has come full circle and transformed into Baudrillard, who has been making a pretty identical argument about the escape of the real and the inability to approach it as the proof/hope of what he calls "impossible exchange." Am I wrong in finding it hard to differentiate the two positions, or is there something decidedly psychoanalytical here (with Z) that I'm missing?

One other question, if what you describe above regarding the parallax, why isn't psychanalysis a symbolic fiction rather than a critical principle?

Jodi

Kenneth--ah geeze, Baudrillard. I was just saying to my partner the other night that I've dismissed Baudrillard for the same reasons many dismiss Zizek--too pop, not serious, etc. And, I recognize that this is illegitimate. But, that is my current excuse for not being able to respond well--I haven't read Baudrillard seriously.

Psychoanalysis is a method--a practice of thinking, a philosophy of subjectivity. So, it isn't a critical principle; rather it's a way of thinking through and formulating critiques. Of course, for Lacan, psychoanalysis can be rendered scientific (his bizarre mathemes) and thus an account of the Real (like mathetmatics). Zizek seems to me to be rather agnostic on this question, especially once he recognizes that today there are different kinds of symptoms (because of the internalization of psychoanalytic texts and approaches). One might then say that the split in the subject is Real and that the various kinds of psychoanalysis are ways of grappling with, explaining, coming to terms with, this split.

Kenneth Rufo

I've noticed JB gets a lot of crap from folks, and I've never really sure why that's the case. He's not that serious, it's true, but he's pretty explicit about why he's abandoning too much seriousness (at least as far as "academic" seriousness goes), and why he's favoring something more like theory-fictions. Anyway, I'm just saying that he makes a very similar claim to the one you're explicating on behalf of Zizek, except that JB does it while maintaining a pretty robust attempt at circumventing Hegel and while arguing that Lacan/psychoanalysis is just as much a social fiction and a reality simulation as is the things it purports to explain. I'll post on this as soon as I finish a read-through of JB's _Intelligence of Evil_.

McKenzie Wark

JB revives the Nietschian project for a secular age. After the death of God; the death of the Real. So not much common ground with SZ there, for whom the problem of the Real replaces that of orginal sin.

And, seriously, there's not much one can say about SZ and GD precisely because the way they think is so vastly different. As Deleuze, following Nietzsche, says, interesting thinkers are singularities. Try to blend them together and all you get is goo.

Dan Smith has done us all a wonderful service in writing the outline for the book Zizek pretended to write on Deleuze, but did not in fact write. And not surprising, given that it would be a herculean labour to track their parallel (parallax?) appropriations of Lacan.

There would be a good PhD thesis in that for an historian of ideas, but perhaps less of interest for thought.

Amish Lovelock

Problem is, thinkers kind of tend to matter in the world at large. Which usually means if you don't try to "blend them together," or at least explore their antagonisms rather than just recognise and represent them as singularities - multifarious ones to say the least of multitudes of multiplicity - what are you left with except personal preferences?

Aside from the Alliez-esque ranting on about critiques of the H&N phenomenon which, in order to appear to be getting at the core stuff - pose as critiques of Deleuze (Deleuze's severe dislike of communication is a blow in itself to anything political statements that rest on the primacy of non-material labor), surely there is something to come to terms with in the work of those like Zizek and Badiou who, in Badiou's words, are striving to keep the Two alive - at least on their terms. Anything else just seems like multicultural denkverbot just because Deleuze is "not the philosopher of the One."

marcegoodman

Amish,

I agree with your first paragraph so I am eager to understand more fully what you say in your second paragraph. Can you sketch this out a little more? Thanks.

Discard

Amish, the point you make about communication is exact, I don't understand why this is not talked about more often.

More generally, i think, yes, the antagonism between SZ and GD is pretty much set. But i agree, that the antagonism should be addressed. I think Jodi puts it well:

"So, multiplicity isn't the ultimately fact of being/becoming. Rather, it is the fact that being is non-identical with itself and that this non-identity stimulates ever more efforts (that will necessarily fail) to fill it, supply it, respond to it, etc."

I think Deleuze's response would be that we see here a privation of the many beneath the One; although it's not a neoplatonic, etc., one, b/c it's split or nonidentical.

But of course, classic Lacanian move to make the subject reside in this split. In the end, we have the subject-being (split) framework on one side (Lacan, Zizek, Badiou), and a substantive, pre-individual multiplicity on the other side (Deleuze).

(A very direct discussion by Deleuze of Lacan, and this entire trajectory, at http://www.webdeleuze.com/php/texte.php?cle=167&groupe=Anti%20Oedipe%20et%20Mille%20Plateaux&langue=2)

As an aside, b/c it's a substantive multiplcity, i think we could say monism and pluralism at the same time.

Also, multiculturalism surely would not be Deleuzian, insofar as the definition of a "culture" here would be incredibly state-of-affairs-ish.

Ok, perhaps all these points are banalities, but perhaps they coudl serve as things to argue against/overcome for a discussion.

Keith

Deleuze's severe dislike of communication is a blow in itself to anything political statements that rest on the primacy of non-material labor

Sure, it's a dislike of communication, if only for the purpose of utilizing 'non-communication' to interrupt the system, to block it or plug it up. For Deleuze, desire should be invested and language freed up in a way that doesn't circulate through the already recognized channels. That being the case, he hardly produces a blow to "immaterial labor" - it only takes a cursory reading of the Italian Marxists such as Virno, Lazzarato, or Bifo to see that Deleuze isn't out of the equation there.
With Badiou there's even a dislike of communication - and he arguably presents more of a blow to "immaterial labor" than Deleuze ever could. And as has already been pointed out, to draw such a clear line between Deleuzians and Zizekians without bothering to think them together, as if they were irreconcileable, is to completely miss the point of their projects when taken "as singularities". It creates an illusory abyss between the 'vitalists' and the 'lacanian aleatory rationalist' while refusing to use the antagonism that exists between them. Maybe one would end up with goo - but it's the kind of goo that, precisely because it baffles the thinker a bit when they first encounter it, is worth exploring because of the problems it produces for thought.

Jodi

Discard--thanks for the link.

This conversation is very helpful to me. I'm on the side of trying to explore the antagonism, to get a better sense of what is at stake in the disagreements or even the differences in approach. This is why I've found Dan Smith's work quite helpful.

Pathetically, my problems are quite basic: what is convincing about the account of desire in Anti-Oedipus? I can't find anything like an argument that would make this persuasive. Is the account of desire there akin to Zizek's version of the Lacanian drive? And, what does it mean to get beyond language?

I think more important is the issue of multiplicity. The sticking points I encounter in discussions with Deleuze inspired political theorists always turn on multiplicity. So, they reject any decision or line drawing. They attack any position that doesn't begin from asserting its own contestability. They view the 'ultimate problem' in terms of sovereignty. What I find interesting in Zizek (and he discusses it well in Parallax View) is the acknowledgement that power is an irreducible stain or excess, and thus, that to think there can be human relations void of power makes no sense. And, I sometimes get the impression that the Deleuzian multiplicity contingent thinks that such a thing is possible (hence the cries against sovereignty).

McKenzie Wark

Anti-Oedipus does not proceed by way of argument. It's a construction. It is not an argument about something, its a construction of and with something.

Imagining that there is something interesting in between, say Deleuze and Zizek is already to think in a certain way, in which what is interesting is always an antagonism.

But what might be more interesting, more fun, and more productive is to read this, read that, and then produce a third thing which is not like either.

Otherwise you're stuck in this world where what is not mimetic is antagonistic, and what an impoverished world that would be.

There's really no point trying to persuade someone to think in the path of X rather than Y. It really is initially just an aesthetic preference to be a zizekian or an arendtian or whatever. But then the test is what you can make of it.

Hence is doesn't matter to me that Jodi for example is a 'zizekian'. I am interested in what she makes out of it in its own terms. The foreigness of it as a mode of thought is precisely why it would be interesting to me.

Kenneth Rufo

McKenzie - are there things in this world not mimetic?

Adam Kotsko

It is inconceivable to me that Zizek is intentionally staking out a concept of the Real that would be at variance from Lacan's. I think we have to take his absolute loyalty to Lacan as axiomatic until he explicitly renounces it.

This might represent a shift from the perspective of Seminar VII (which dominates his work up to Ticklish Subject) in favor of Seminar XX -- where Lacan himself has a much more fully developed concept of the Real. (Or Zizek's position is itself the shift between... har-har.) The "always returns to its place" quote is from Seminar VII, for instance -- not that I know that off the top of my head, but I just had to read it for a class.

Jodi

Adam: pg. 26 opposed to the (standard) Lacanian ...

Are you joking about 'absolute loyalty'? I don't find that convincing at all, unless you mean loyalty as was exemplified by Lacan's loyalty to Freud. Zizek emphasizes changes in Lacan's position over time. He has offered the supplement of the tripartite division of the Real. And, he has been very critical of Jacques-Alain Miller in recent work.

So, I don't think this parallax Real is opposed in a strong sense to Lacan; I think, though, that it differs from Lacan (is unlike it); the parallax Real seems to be a way of thinking of a split in the Real (between the One and its place) that then enables the emergence of variations (where I would insert the tripartite Real that is also not 'the same' as Lacan's).

On mimesis: I think mimesis can also be antagonistic. Or, that it is interesting to find the small, barely discernible difference that mark the mimetic as antagonistic.

At the same time, I recognize (although, really, honestly, this is quite hard for me grasp) that there are ways of thinking that do not emphasize (or choose to stage) antagonism. Also, I don't think that difference is inherently antagonistic, although, many interesting (to me) differences can be rendered antagonistically.

Jodi

Oh, Adam, one more thing, in the afterward to Lenin at the Gates, he rejects he rejects Lacan's view of the holocaust as a 'sacrifice to the obscure gods' in favor of Agamben's account of homo sacer as that which cannot be sacrificed.

Amish Lovelock

Great start to what should be Long Sunday week-long discussion or something here.

Just on the communication point. Keith, you're right that for Virno this is not so much of a problem. It is for Negri though and this is the point where things are strained in Negri's interview of Deleuze.

Adam Kotsko

It's the "standard" thing -- being faithful to the orthodoxy established by J-A Miller is not simply identical to being faithful to Lacan himself, and since Lacan's thought it so open-ended and constantly shifting in nature, it makes sense that Zizek would eventually do a further development... but now I also see how doing something that is "inspired by" or a "development of" Lacan would not necessarily be viewed as absolute loyalty to Lacan.

Amish Lovelock

"The Pervert's Guide to Cinema"

A four-part documentary series hosted by Slavoj Zizek looking at the underside of modern Western Cinema to be broadcast on British tv Channel 4.

Oh dear...

Keith

Jodi - You might want to look at Deleuze's essay "How Do We Recognize Structuralism" in Desert Islands. He discusses Lacan, Althusser, and Foucault at length. Though for my part this presents difficulties since I still have read very little of both Lacan and Althusser, but they're in the top five on the infinte reading list and I hope to get to them later this year.

At one point, when he is explaining how the "empty square" functions he does so in terms of a void that he says is not a fullness or a non-being, but the positivity of the problematic being of a question. Wondering what your take on that might be. He also does this while referencing J.A. Miller's use of the zero-function, in a way that is reminiscent of Badiou, were it not for the "positivity" aspect.

There may be Deleuzians who would think it possible for there to exist human relations devoid of power, though I don't see this as Deleuze's position at all. In an interview, Guattari expresses a distrust of the organization of small splinter groups as repressive of desire (or to see the failure of revolutions, you only need to look to the workers and the party, he says). You take the young revolutionaries and become a leader, channel their desires. Doesn't work for him. But then, there is also no such thing as a complete all inclusive liberation of desire either.

I'm all for line drawing. At times it's necessary. But I'm not sure I really grasp how following the 'model' provided by D&G, one loses the possibility of doing so.

Jodi

Keith, thanks for the cite. I'll take a look at it. It may be that model is the wrong word, unfair to D&G. It seems to me, though, that people use them as a model (at least I know political theorists who do). What I had in mind when I mentioned line drawing was what seems to me an embrace of all modes of becoming and a skepticism toward any kind of limitation or control. But, I may be attributing views to D&G that are not theirs, but those of folks who draw on them.

Nate

This is an interesting discussion. I would like to second Amish's discussion for a week on some/all of this - I've read almost none of Zizek, Lacan, and Deleuze and would love it if a short piece from one or the other or all three (in succession or at the same time) could be used for a symposium a la Critique Of Violence or Strategy Of The Refusal. That said, please permit me a neophyte observation and questions: it strikes me that much of this seems to involve something like "the world is ultimately this or that way" (unity or multiplicity) and either founding a politics on that, or using that for a political purpose. Is that a fair characterization? If so, is this a metaphorical operation, or is it sincere, for lack of a better term? And must one proceed that way? (For instance, whether or not I'm right that there's no god, I'm still a communist and a feminist etc and the attendant goals, political problems, and approaches don't really change.)

Nate

"I would like to second Amish's discussion for a week (...)"

Should be "Amish's suggestion," sorry. Sloppy and hasty of me.

Jodi

Nate--I don't think it is just a metaphorical operation. Stuff that becomes involved in it includes whether representation is necessary or unnecessary, whether production is inherently progressive, etc. Some of the other matters are more technical, but end up influencing the ways that one can argue and where one looks for potentials for change.

Discard

For my part, I'd like to add my agreement to Jodi's formulation, as well as to the recommendation of Amish and Nate for a Long Sunday forum.

Jodi

Thanks, Discard. Long SUnday should take it up. I confess that I've not jumped on the band wagon because I can't see how to set up the discussion. It strikes me as quite enormous. I suppose we could try to do it on Multiple/One or something like that. But I'm not sure about the texts. It would likely need to work so that folks with strong knowledge of Deleuze suggest something to read. Or, do others have suggestions as to how this kind of thing might work?

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