Dark Deleuze

dark 2
This is the opening to Dark Deleuze: The Power of the Outside. I am fortunate enough to be hosted by the University of Washington Department of Urban Planning and Design to finish the project during Summer 2015. Expect portions of the draft to be posted as I complete the project in the few coming weeks. Those of you near Seattle are invited to a brief presentation based on this work at the end of the month.

Summarizing his deeply idiosyncratic work, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze describes writing about others as “a sort of buggery” or “immaculate conception” that is the result of “taking an author from behind and giving him a child.”[1] Deleuze is still quick to distinguish his project from outright falsification. He strictly limits himself to what the author actually says; he attends to a thinker’s “shifting, slipping, dislocations, and hidden emissions” to give them “a child that would be [their] own offspring, yet monstrous.”[2] More than 30 years after making these remarks, Deleuze now has plenty of little monsters of his own – rootless rhi-zombies, dizzying metaphysicians, skittish geo-naturalists, enchanted transcendentalists, passionate affectivists… My aim is to give him another child that shares his last name: “Dark Deleuze.”

Deleuze once told a friend that a “worthwhile book” performs at least three functions: polemics, recovery, and creativity. In writing the book, one must reveal that (1) other scholarship commits an error; (2) an essential insight has been missed; and (3) a new concept can be created.[3] You will find all three is this book. First, I argue against the ‘canon of joy’ that celebrates Deleuze as a naively affirmative thinker of connectivity. Second, I return to the destructive force of negativity that pervades his work. Third, I propose a strategy of darkness based on the power of the outside.

Picking out a particular strain of thought: the contemporary turn to realist ontology commonly adopts Deleuze’s metaphysics of positivity.[4] The basis for the realist side of Deleuze is perhaps best evinced by his biography. Those who knew Deleuze consistently note his firm commitment to joyful affirmation and his distaste for the ressentiment of negativity.[5] Beatifying this sentiment, Deleuze has been used to establish a whole canon of joy. In the canon of joy, the cosmos is a complex collection of assemblages produced through the ongoing processes of differentiation.[6] The effect of this image of thought is a sense of wonder, but also the enjoyment of creating concepts for knowing how the world really exists.

A different Deleuze, a darker one, has slowly cast its shadow. Emerging from scholars concerned with the condition of the present, the darkness refashions a revolutionary Deleuze; revolutionary negativity in a world characterized by compulsory happiness, decentralized control, and overexposure.[7] This refashioned Deleuze forms a counter-canon out of the perfuse negativity of his concepts and affects. On the level of concept, it recognizes that negativity impregnates Deleuze’s many prefixes of difference, becoming, movement, and transformation, such as de-, a-, in-, and non-. On the level of affect, it draws on Deleuze’s talk of indiscernibility and concealment, the shame of being human, and monstrous power of the scream. The ultimate task of this approach is not the creation of concepts, and to the extent that it does, the Dark Deleuze creates concepts only to write apocalyptic science fiction.[8]

[1] “Letter to a Harsh Critic,” Negotiations, 6.

[2] “Letter to a Harsh Critic,” Negotiations, 6.

[3] Letter to Arnaud Villani (August 1, 1982). Published in La guêpe et l’orchidée, 125-126.

[4] A sampling of works taking this approach include Jane Bennett’s The Enchantment of Modern Life (2001), Manuel DeLanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (2002), Levi Bryant’s The Democracy of Objects (2011), and John Protevi’s Life, War, Death (2013).

[5] François Dosse, Intersecting Lives (2010 [2007]).

[6] Isabelle Stengers, Thinking with Whitehead (2011), Rosi Braidotti, “Affirming the Affirmative: On Nomadic Affectivity,” Rhizomes 11/12 (2005/2006), Manuel DeLanda A New Philosophy of Society (2006), and Manuel DeLanda Philosophy & Simulation (2011).

[7] Robert Caserio, Lee Edelman, Judith Hlaberstam, José Esteban Muñoz, Tim Dean, “The Antisocial Thesis in Queer Theory, “PMLA 121.3 (2005), Alexander Galloway, Protocol (2006), Geert Lovink, “Hermes on the Hudson: Notes on Media Theory after Snowden,” e-flux 54 (2014), Geert Lovink, “Speech at Franco Berardi’s PhD Defence in Helsinki,” net critique (2014).

[8] Deleuze proposes philosophy as a form of apocalyptic science fiction in the preface of his primary dissertation, Difference and Repetition (1994 [1968]), p xx-xxii. The task is taken up by Gregory Flaxman as “sci-phi” in the final chapter of his Gilles Deleuze and the Fabulation of Philosophy (2011), “Coda.”


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