Charles J. Stivale -- Deleuze & Guattari


Magazine littéraire 406, February 2002 -- Dossier: "L'effet Deleuze"

Updated February 26, 2003

Magazine littéraire 406, February 2002 - Dossier: "L'effet Deleuze" [The Deleuze effect]

Deleuze, Pour Quoi Faire? 5 [Deleuze, What's the use?] - Michael Hardt

Comments elicited by David Rabouin

"A Non-Liberal Conception of Pluralism"
by Michael Hardt

"Deleuze's most important contribution to political thought is his non-liberal conception of pluralism. Throughout his career, Deleuze was interested in all sorts of pluralities. The concept of difference constitutes the orientation of most of his early works, such as the books on Nietzsche and Bergson. Subsequently, especially in his work with Guattari, singularities and multiplicities become more and more the central point. Beings and societies are fundamentally plural entities; furthermore, we should celebrate this plurality. "Becoming-multiple" can thus serve as the central political injunction in Deleuze's thought.

"Moreover, modern political theory in the European tradition considers liberalism, particularly its Anglo-American form, to be the dominant theory of political pluralism. In contrast, the principal non-liberal traditions, whether on the left or the right, are generally conceived as fundamentally anti-pluralist: for example, they insist on the unity of sovereign power, the unity of the party, or the unity of class. Deleuze's pluralism breaks completely this shared division. He does not conceptualize the individual as ground for social organization. Social subjectivities are always above or beneath the level of the individual, composing and decomposing collectivities of all sorts.

"Thanks to this conception of pluralism, Deleuze's work, and particularly his collaboration with Guattari, allows for renewal of a large part of political theory, and particularly Marxist thought. For example, look at the fantastic extension that Deleuze and Guattari impose on the categories of work and production in Anti-Oedipus. Production is detached from the factory space and from its relation to salaried work in order to proliferate across the entire social field. Desiring production and the other social becomings multiply in every possible direction.

"I consider A Thousand Plateaus to be Deleuze's (and Guattari's) most important political work. Before, processes of multiplication, of pluralization, lines of flight, and so forth, seemed to possess an unconditional liberating power. But in A Thousand Plateaus, the tone is more sober and the political analysis more penetrating. Certain lines of flight are not creative, but suicidal and destructive. Certain becomings are not liberating, but fascist. Politics necessitates more pragmatic processes of evaluation, and this is what Deleuze and Guattari strived to develop.

"The largest part of Deleuze's books, of course, do not refer explicitly to political questions and problematics. However, I believe that behind all of these conceptions - whether aesthetic, ontological, or epistemological - there is a fundamental and constant political preoccupation, that of the plurality of social subjectivities and of the multiplicity of social forms."

* Michael Hardt is Associate Professor of literature at Duke University in North Carolina, USA. He is the author of Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy (1993) and co-author with Antonio Negri of Labor of Dionysus (1994) and Empire (2000, French translation, Exils 2001).

CJ Stivale

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