Posts Tagged ‘difference’

alienTitle: Dark Deleuze: A Glossary

Author: Andrew Culp, PhD, The Ohio State University

Abstract: This paper explores the Dark Deleuze by dramatizing the difference between joyfully creating concepts and apocalyptically destroying worlds. Contextualizing this dispute in recent work, the paper draws a contrast between the use of Gilles Deleuze’s thought for a realist ontology of the object and a revolutionary materialism of destruction.

The contemporary turn to realist ontology commonly adopts Deleuze’s metaphysics of positivity (DeLanda 2002; Bryant 2011; Protevi 2013). 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 (Dosse 2010 [2007]). 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 (Stengers 2011, Braidotti 2005/2006; DeLanda 2006; DeLanda 2011). The effect of this image of thought is a sense of wonder but also the joy 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 (Caserio et al 2005; Galloway 2006; Lovink 2014). The refashioned Deleuze forms a counter-canon out of the perfuse negativity of his concepts and affects.* On the level of concept, negativity impregnates the many prefixes of difference, becoming, movement, and transformation: de-, a-, in-, and non-. On the level of affect, Deleuze talks 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 (Deleuze 1994 [1968], xx-xxii).

It is time to move from the chapel of joy to the darkness of the crypt.

There are two parts to my Dark Deleuze counter-canon project: a philosophical justification of Dark Deleuze based on textual evidence and a consideration of recent secondary literature; a description of terms that outlines the elements of the counter-canon for use.

Neither of the two parts has been published yet. I leave it up to the editors of xxxx to determine which half of the project they would prefer.


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Those who knew Gilles Deleuze consistently note his firm commitment to joyful affirmation and his distaste for the ressentiment of negativity. Beatifying this sentiment, Deleuzians have established a whole canon of joy. But what good is joy in this world of compulsive positivity?

It is time to move from the chapel to the crypt. There is sufficient textual evidence to establish this counter-canon. And from it, we can create a glossary of the “Dark Deleuze.”

Joyous: Dark:
Our Task Create Conceptions Destroy Worlds
Substance Techno-Science Political Anthropology
Existence Genesis Transformation
Ontology Realism Materialism
Subjects Assemblages Un-becoming
Speed Acceleration Withdrawal (more…)

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nevelsonThe reconfigured terrain of network culture frustrates many traditional modes of social engagement. Political power has both spread and concentrated – spreading as global corporations, international bodies, and private interests bypass the forces of traditional political institutions, and concentrating as information systems employed in government and industry enable the surveillance, registration, and control of populations.[i]

The common form of dissent in digital culture is rather the tactical use of media to signify “the intervention and disruption of a dominant semiotic regime, the temporary creation of a situation in which signs, messages, and narratives are set into play and critical thinking becomes possible.”[ii] Tactical media’s emphasis on symbolic disruption leads to a focus on artistic practices, from persuasive video games made to criticize immigration policy to chat-based interventions in the US Military’s controversial recruiting game America’s Army.[iii] The prevalence of cultural and artistic critique as the preferred style of political engagement should be expected, as it echoes a wider transformation in contemporary power whereby “the dissolution of an autonomous sphere of culture is rather to be imagined in terms of an explosion: a prodigious expansion of culture throughout the social realm, to the point at which everything in our social life – from economic value and state power to practices and to the very structure of the psyche itself – can be said to have become ‘cultural.’”[iv] The literary import of tactical media threatens to obscure potentials singular to media, however, as it focuses on the expression of and not the struggle within the “computational layer” or information itself – a slippage that threatens to ruin tactical media by “confusing tactics and strategy.”[v]

There is a way to cut through this confusion: if the urban space of the Metropolis is theorized as a media object, whereby “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium,” then culture and materiality intersect, which allows analysis to go from signs to signals and from semiotics to physics and back again.[vi] This principle is elegantly demonstrated by Austrian design studio mischer-traxler’s project “The Idea of a Tree,” an autonomous solar-powered production project that transduces the intensity of inconstant natural inputs to mechanically produce one object a day from sunrise to sunset. The product of process is a bench-like object that incorporates the sun conditions of the day by varying thread and glue color and thickness as it is wrapped around a mold to make a three-dimension representation of the day and place of production.[vii] The simultaneous transduction and transcoding of environmental energy into a material object exemplifies that multidimensional objects can be both technically diagrammed and studied according to their cultural expression. Generalizing from “The Idea of a Tree,” then every media object similarly contains both a diagram and an expression that make up its emergent environment.[viii] Media and literary studies have outlined theories for such a multi-dimensional analysis, demonstrating the different operations of speech, writing, and code.[ix] The Metropolis should then be described in similar terms to network culture not only by information, but the vectors of change that result from an abundance of information and an acceleration of informational character.[x] In particular, the Metropolis can be said to utilize information in three distinct ways: as “the relation of signal to noise,” “a measure of the uncertainty or entropy of a system,” and “a nonlinear and nondeterministic relationship between the microscopic and the macroscopic levels of a physical system” – all of which find corollaries in culture.[xi] Bringing together digital telecommunication flows and physical corporeal flows, urban geographers have conceptualized the contemporary process of urbanization through Internet eXchange points and MIDT airline traffic data[xii] It is through a similar combination of digital culture and informatization more generally that strategies common to struggles in the culture, technology, and environment of the Metropolis can be identified, analyzed, and enhanced.

Abstractly, the Metropolis connects through inclusive disjunction, a process that puts otherwise foreign elements into communication with one another and does not require its pieces to operate through a shared logic but unfolds their interiors through exposure.[xiii] (more…)

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itz-meThis post contained an draft version of a dissertation section. A more recent version is now available on the works page.

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This post contained an draft version of a dissertation section. A more recent version is now available on the works page.

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The follow notes were presented after Black Crow Collective’s screening of The Empire Strikes Back, and were used to prompt a discussion on the implications of the film for contemporary radical politics.

Today, we are stuck. Stuck stuck stuck. But our sticky situation does not come from an adherence to old models, but rather, today, we find ourselves stuck in the funk of modern life without a nose good enough to sniff our way out.

Consider the popularity of a new materialism that promises to re-enchant modern life by putting the spirit back in objects we otherwise take for granted. A dead rat and plastic bottle cap do not often capture our attention because our minds are trained on things like our job, a passing thought, or a creative project. Yet one academic wants us to break those habits and stop to investigate the “thing-power” of each cap, or imagine that a demon still animates dead rats.

But this crude materialism, typified by this attempt to imbue the world with new value, is not new. In fact, commodity fetishism is the perspective par excellence of global capitalism. And it is the weapon of choice against our political rebellion, as demands for “complexity” freeze us in our tracks, interrupting and deferring action until we get to the bottom of a nearly infinite amount of “differences.” This is not to say that difference is bad, in fact, it is wonderful. But when do we stop looking and start acting?

One possible answer comes from an unlikely place: Star Wars. The characters of Star Wars inhabits the same swirling cosmos of the new that we find ourselves in, sharing the same nearly infinite difference, yet they somehow maintain the clarity and certainty of good and evil, right and wrong. So in our postmodern era, with its dizzying menu of choice, maybe Star Wars is what we need to return some decisiveness to our political lives.

To make this argument, I will first describe the conservative side of Star Wars: it’s nostalgic timelessness. I will then set the stage for the current moment by describing the molecular revolution of the twentieth century, and the subsequent counter-revolution wages by Empire. To finish, I will describe contemporary attempts to short-circuit political change and the possible antidotes offered by Star Wars. (more…)

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What is the reasoning, perceptive, ‘singing’ monad that is only in the passions, affection, and perceptions that it expresses?

Claire Colebrook suggests it’s a queer passive vitalism. Consider this:

In concrete terms, we might begin by thinking of gender. Active vitalism, at least in the form that Deleuze and Guattari trace back to Kant, regards all concepts and categories as originally imposed by the subject upon an otherwise meaningless life. Active vitalism might regard gender as one of the ways in which life or the social ‘constructs’ categories that differentiate an otherwise general or undifferentiated humanity: so the criticism of stereotypes (as clichés or rigid forms imposed upon life) would lead to an overthrow of rigid categories in favour of what we really are (as unique individuals) or would expose that there are no such things as individuals, only effects of gender as it is represented. Genders and kinds are known in the vague and general opposition between male and female, distinctions that are imposed upon life and that need to be reactivated by being traced back to their social and familial origins. By contrast, for Deleuze and Guattari’s passive vitalism genders, kinds and stereotypes are not categories imposed upon life that might be overcome or criticised in the name of a universal and self aware humanity; instead, it is life as a multiple and differentiating field of powers that expresses itself in various manners. (more…)

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