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Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and

Finally Revolution

Dhruv Jain York University

Gilles Deleuze, in an often-cited interview with Antonio Negri, says

that both he and Flix Guattari are Marxists. Deleuze insists: I think
Flix Guattari and I have remained Marxists, in our two different ways,
perhaps, but both of us (Deleuze 1995: 171). However, this spectre of
Marx haunting Deleuzes works, both individual and collaborative, has
yet to be fully reckoned with, although commentators such as Eugene
Holland, Jason Read and Nick Thoburn have all made significant strides
in mapping the important contours of this philosophical and political
relationship (see Holland 1999; Read 2003; Thoburn 2003). Thus, once
again we intervene in the middle, in the middle of a discussion that
has already begun and indeed did not simply begin in the heady days
of 1968. But the situation in which this intervention is being made
could perhaps not have been more timely, as we globally experience the
deepest and most crippling economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Indeed, Capital is no longer undergoing the simple popping of some
temporary economic bubble, as with the or housing bubbles,
or even the credit crunch (even if all these contributed to the current
erosion of the economic and social base); rather, it is undergoing a
crisis. Yet forces on the Left remain unable to provide an appropriate
response. Over a century and a half ago, Marx and Engels ended the
Communist Manifesto with Workers of the World, Unite!, and yet we
remain as fragmented as before, indeed we remain a sack of potatoes.
It is these very forces on the Left who stubbornly argue that the need for
a rethinking of the Marxist project outside of orthodox texts Lenin,
Luxemburg, Trotsky, Mao, and so on is not only unnecessary but
indeed constitutes heresy, yet simultaneously argue that it is only they
who creatively apply Marxism to their particular conditions while being
painfully aware of their increasing marginalisation in contemporary
politics. It is in this stagnant and stultified context that Deleuze
and Guattaris work becomes pivotal. They put forward a Marxism
that rejects many of the essentialist, evolutionist teleologies that have
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burdened Marxist theory for so long, while remaining committed to the

Marxist project for emancipation in the wake of the failures of orthodox
Marxist State-building projects.
The contributors to this volume do not claim to be presenting a
totalising whole (indeed a rejection of the totalisation of life is a
consistent theme in many of the essays), or to be providing a manifesto
or a party programme; nor are they necessarily in agreement over the
nature of Marxs influence on Deleuze and Guattaris thought, or the
appropriate Deleuzian strategy by which to change the world. Their
essays do, however, constitute in their different ways 1) a serious
attempt to demarcate Deleuze and Guattaris relationship to Marx
and to discern which useful tools for analysis and for action must be
appropriated from Marxs methodology; 2) an honest appraisal of the
current situation, including problems of the State and the structure of
Capital and capitalism; 3) an attempt to demarcate a strategy arising
from Deleuze and Guattaris rethinking of the Marxist project. Only
through discussions and debates such as these might an appropriate
revolutionary theory and guide to political praxis be worked out, in line
with Lenins famous maxim that Without a revolutionary theory there
can be no revolutionary movement (Lenin 1973: 28).
In their respective contributions, Simon Choat, Aldo Pardi and Aidan
Tynan each attempt to fully draw out the relationship with Marx
through very different gestures: both Choat and Tynan see Deleuze and
Guattari as being essentially the inheritors of the Marxist tradition,
while rethinking significant sections of the Marxist ideological corpus
such as the relationship to Hegel and the mode of production.
Choat grounds his analysis in Deleuzes Difference and Repetition
and Nietzsche and Philosophy, arguing forcefully against depoliticised
readings that produce an apolitical or liberal Deleuze. Indeed, rather
than claim that any appearance of Marx in Deleuzes intellectual oeuvre
can simply be seen as a result of Guattaris influence, Choat argues
that Deleuzes troubled relationship with Marx and Hegel is already
evident in Difference and Repetition and Nietzsche and Philosophy.
Choat provocatively suggests that any hesitation on Deleuzes part in
endorsing Marx arose not from a fear of over-radicalism, but from
a doubt as to whether Marx was radical enough in comparison to
Nietzsche. Furthermore, Choat shows how Deleuze and Guattaris
excavation of Marxs theory of universal history, while rejecting its
inevitablism and teleology, results in a necessary re-conceptualisation
of the structure of capitalism itself. This re-conceptualisation relies on
Deleuzes interrogation of Hegels dialectic, vis--vis the problem of
Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and Finally Revolution 3

representation, and the rejection of the concept of contradiction. It also

results, Choat argues, in a reformulation of other Marxist concepts such
as that of modes of production.
Tynan, for his part, follows the shifts in Deleuzes thought between
Difference and Repetition and Logic of Sense to Anti-Oedipus, focusing
on the relationship to Marxs Capital and other works critiquing
political economy, again addressing the problem of the mode of
production, taking up where Choat left off. Indeed Tynan asserts
that Deleuzes philosophy of difference is compatible with desiring
production. Furthermore, while marking different contours in the
DeleuzeMarx relationship than does Choat, Tynan argues that Deleuze
is attempting to engage in an immanentisation of Capital through
an analysis of four constitutive moments of the Capital circuit:
production, distribution, surplus-value and consumption. Tynan does
not attempt to crudely reduce Deleuzes terminology to Marxs, but
rather demonstrates how the new vocabulary developed by Deleuze and
Guattari allows for a re-establishment of Marxism within a different set
of intellectual parameters. Radically, Tynan suggests that Deleuze and
Guattari are fundamentally engaged in the same intellectual strategy
as was Marx, in so far as, through abstraction from empirical data,
they are able to perceive general laws, in particular in relation to the
role of desire. For example, they are able to show how Capitals tense
relationship to production and reproduction is mediated through desire
and the connective-synthesis of desire to Capital, or desiring production.
The role of the State is thus to regulate and absorb debt while also coding
society, allowing for the axiomatisation of capitalism.
Pardi displaces the relationship from being that of progeny to that
of ally, presenting Marx and Deleuze as intellectual and political allies
seeking to address the same problems. Thus rather than focusing on
the reformulation of specific features of Marxs analysis in Deleuzes
work, the existence of which Choat and Tynan have well demonstrated,
Pardi focuses on a second encounter with Marx, occurring after the
intellectual deconstructive detour of transcendence and the thought of
the One. Indeed Marx here appears as an initial and essential entry point
into the central problem of ontology which, Pardi suggests, must be
situated within the grid of need/production and subject/society, it being
this very grid that allows for the establishment of a definition of the
transcendental coordinates of the existent. Pardi argues that Deleuze is
attempting to deal with the problem of liberation posed necessarily in
juxtaposition to Hegels unified totality, and that traditional Marxism
is inadequate in and of itself to accomplish such a task. Pardi
4 Dhruv Jain

reassembles Deleuzes intellectual framework Bergson, Kant, Spinoza

and Nietzsche in constructing the intellectual line of flight necessary
to construct an adequate response. It is at this point that Marx returns
to Deleuzes side: the Marx of the revolution and the struggle for new
modes of production and a new society. This is not simply a political
affinity, but a theoretical recognition of the revolutionary content of the
critique of the unified totality as being a configuration of forces that
constitutes a specific mode of production, and of the field of politics
as a competition of different forces of production. The configuration
of forces on the field of politics determines the form of State that is
produced and the resulting socius produced by the State.
Jason Read picks up this emphasis on the concept of mode of
production in his essay, analysing its relationship to the image of
thought, and addressing the problem of the relationship between
materiality and abstraction. Indeed, Read examines more closely the
theoretical methodology that, according to Tynan, Deleuze appropriated
from Marx himself. Deleuze, Read argues, attempts to arrive at a
new definition of revolutionary thought that attempts to immanentise
revolution as an exceeding of society as fetish, rather than take
refuge in the traditional Marxist proposition that one must seek the
conditions of the future revolution in the present situation. Read points
out that while Deleuze rejects Althussers emphasis on ideology, he
simultaneously revives Marxs concept of commodity fetishism as a
model which critiques the form and the limits of thought itself, and
not merely the empirical limits of error. Indeed, Read points out that
Deleuze, in agreement with Althusser, recognises that the economy is the
determination of a problem which is solved through differential relations
rather than through historical necessity or the determination of the base.
These differential social relations are in the virtual. Read then also briefly
turns to the problem of the State to argue that the latter is itself an image
of thought a position consistent with Pardis claim that the State is the
configuration of forces not simply in the economy and social relations,
but also in the determining field of politics itself.
Thus far, we have been presented with different, albeit not
incompatible, analyses of the State and of Capital. We have noted
the numerous different lines of flight and contours that Deleuze and
Guattari map in relation to Marxs work. Furthermore, each author
has argued that only through a change in social relations can there
be an achievement of liberation. The Deleuze and Guattari presented
thus far have been Marxists who seriously appreciate the need for
a revolutionary politics. However, thus far a strategy for such a
Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and Finally Revolution 5

politics has been lacking. The basic question: What is to be done?

remains unanswered. Eduardo Pellejero and Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc,
in their respective essays, reflect on this lack and seek to formulate
Deleuzian strategies of revolt. Both locate Deleuze and Guattaris
revolutionary theory in the concept of minority and becoming-
minoritarian, although in differing ways.
Pellejero attempts to discern a Deleuzian praxis allowing for a
liberatory politics that results in the detotalisation of life. Pellejero
poignantly reminds us that Deleuze re-reads Marx in light of the failures
of already existing regimes, especially the Soviet Union, and argues that
the minor, or the line of flight, which has been attempted thus far in
traditional political movements has not developed in revolutionary ways.
In fact, it has allowed only for the subsumption of those revolutionary
movements under the sign of Capital. Thus, we cannot and must not
return to the field of politics utilising a revolutionary strategy that re-
conceptualises politics outside of the narrow band of power determined
by the simplistic binary of Government and Opposition; rather, we
must reject the totalisation of life by power through an affirmative
politics of revolutionary-becoming arising from the immanent event and
not grounded in a utopian vision in which all of History is realised.
Indeed, Pellejero controversially argues that power formations are
inhabited by an essential powerlessness that is incapable of capturing
all the micro-moments of resistance, creativity and transformation.
Revolution, as Pellejero further argues, is no longer the Event in
itself, but is, rather, a process of becoming. No longer can we hold
onto the utopias of the past that must be realised; we must, rather,
recognise that the revolution is a continuous everlasting process. Rather
than invoking merely an empty catch-phrase, Pellejero asserts that
this revolutionary-becoming must occur through 1) the envisioning
of differential possibilities; 2) the creation of new assemblages for the
realisation of the revolutionary praxis; and 3) the articulation of new
revolutionary lines of flight.
Sibertin-Blanc addresses the concept of becoming-revolutionary by
grounding his analysis of Deleuzo-Guattarian praxis in minorities.
Sibertin-Blanc recognises that the contours of capitalism, the State and
the contradictions within these assemblages gesture towards the problem
of the collective subject and of its articulation as proletarianisation
and minoritarianisation. Sibertin-Blanc reminds us that one should
not romanticise becoming-minoritarian since Capital, for example,
minoritises flows that cause famine. Capitals minoritarian axioms result
in a double process: 1) the formation of class assemblages and resistance;
6 Dhruv Jain

2) the formation of minorities and the manipulation of their positions

within the national economy and society that allows for particular
forms of manipulation. Sibertin-Blanc differs from Pellejero in his
attempt to rearticulate and re-conceptualise traditional revolutionary
movements. Despite the intimate connection between proletarian and
minority, Sibertin-Blanc is quick to point out that we cannot simply
collapse these movements into an undifferentiated series of working-
class struggles, and that revolutionary minoritarian movements must
remain independent of the State. Indeed, this push for autonomy
parallels Pellejeros argument that revolutionary movements should
not be encoded within the binary of the State and an Opposition
that simply attempts to capture State power. He points out, however,
that the problem of minorities remains that minoritarian sets are
immediately constituted in the State-form. He shares Pellejeros call
for the formation of new assemblages, but also emphasises the need
for an accompanying minoritarian culture, thought and practices.
It is in this context that Sibertin-Blanc argues that minoritarian
movements have been revolutionary in so far as they have challenged
both capitalist axiomatisation and the modern State-form through
troubling the basic borders that demarcate that form: for example, the
national/exterior boundary by which an influx of immigrant populations
results in the production of a discomforting resident foreigner, or the
individual/collective boundary arising from the relationship between
the majoritarian (or national) subjectivity and the subjective position of
the minority. Again, the struggles of minorities are not revolutionary
in and of themselves, and an evaluation must be made within the
context of the situation in which they find themselves. Sibertin-Blanc
then turns to the need for a minoritarian internationalism capable of
responding to the historical task that it faces, but without resorting to the
What I have given here is not a tracing of the arguments as carefully
laid out by the authors in their respective essays, but is rather a single
mapping of this collection as concerned with the problems outlined
above: 1) the intellectual relationship between Deleuze and Guattari and
Marxs work and methodology; 2) the contours of modern capitalism
and the State-form; and 3) the appropriate strategy for realising
liberation. Indeed, authors and readers alike may be uncomfortable
with the particular connections between essays I have made, and
I urge readers to arrive at their own intellectual assemblages. It is
these various connections between the essays, but also their links to
other literary machines, revolutionary minoritarian movements and new
Capital, Crisis, Manifestos, and Finally Revolution 7

social assemblages that will allow for the further development of the
revolutionary theory needed.
What is clear from this collection, however, is that Deleuzes claim
that he and Guattari are Marxists is grounded in a common project they
share with Marx, namely, that of liberation from the totalisation of life
by capitalism and its accompanying State-form. From Marx they also
adopt the methodology of peering into the particular with a view to
discerning the abstract; and, while remaining loyal to many of Marxs
key propositions, they are able to rethink his analysis of capitalism,
society and the State without recourse to the more vulgar economic
determinisms that have been endemic to the Marxist movement. This
reinterpretation of the world is accompanied with a re-thinking, in light
of previous failed attempts, of what political strategies might be adopted
and followed in order to change the world. It is clear that we cannot
work within the parameters of the formal political structures currently
in place, since they are constituted by the very capitalist axiomatisation
and stratified State-politics that have resulted in our being everywhere in
chains. Furthermore, we cannot simply cling to the worker movements
of the past. We must, rather, develop and work immanently within social
movements that allow for the development of new social assemblages
capable of demonstrating that another world is indeed possible.

Deleuze, Gilles (1995) Negotiations 19721990, trans. Martin Joughin, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Holland, Eugene W. (1999) Deleuze and Guattaris Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to
Schizoanalysis, London: Routledge.
Lenin, V. I. (1973) What Is To Be Done?, Peking: Foreign Languages Press.
Read, Jason (2003) The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the
Present, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Thoburn, Nicholas (2003) Deleuze, Marx and Politics, London: Routledge.

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000683
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation
of Philosophy

Simon Choat Queen Mary, University of London

Against those who wish to marginalise Deleuzes political relevance,
this paper argues that his work including and especially that produced
before his collaborations with Guattari is not only fundamentally
political but also profoundly engaged with Marx. The paper begins
by focusing on different possible strategies for contesting the claim
that Deleuze is apolitical, attempting to debunk this claim by briefly
considering Deleuzes work with Guattari. The bulk of the paper is
concerned with a close examination of the appearance of Marx in both
Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition, establishing
that the pre-Guattari Deleuze was fully engaged with both politics and
Marx and demonstrating that the concepts and arguments of the Marxist
politics of the DeleuzeGuattari books can be traced back to Deleuzes
own work. It is argued that an analysis of Deleuzes work on Marx is
significant not only for deepening our understanding of Marx, but also
for understanding the possibilities for Deleuzian politics.
Keywords: Deleuze, Marx, Nietzsche, philosophy, politics, social
machines, capitalism
In some ways Deleuzes unfinished book on the Grandeur de Marx the
book that shortly before his death he announced he was working on
(Deleuze 1995a: 51) leaves us with a frustrating gap in our knowledge
of his work: there is no text on Marx to compare with those on Spinoza,
Nietzsche, Bergson, and so on. On the other hand, it might be better to
think of Grandeur de Marx not as some kind of missing key, but rather
as an unnecessary distraction: speculation about the content of the lost
book brings with it the risk of drawing attention away from the presence
of Marx in Deleuzes published writings. Rather than using the book on
Marx as a touchstone by which Deleuzes Marxist credentials can be
safely guaranteed, it may be better to focus on what we know Deleuze
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 9

has actually said about Marx. This, however, is not as easy as it sounds,
for in fact Deleuze himself wrote little about Marx: of all his works, it is
those jointly authored with Flix Guattari, particularly the two volumes
of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, that are most obviously influenced by
and comment most often upon Marx. The problem with relying on the
joint works is that it leaves open the suspicion that Deleuze was not a
Marxist at all, and that the Marxism was all Guattaris: a special case
of the claim that Deleuze was not a political thinker at all, the politics
being all Guattaris.
Against this suspicion, I shall argue that the interest in Marx comes
just as much from Deleuze as from Guattari. Much fascinating work
has been done by commentators who have taken Deleuze and Guattaris
Marxism seriously, substantially advancing our knowledge of Marx as
well as of Deleuze and Guattari.1 But rather than looking at the books
written with Guattari, I want primarily to examine the references to
Marx in Deleuzes solo writings, focusing on Nietzsche and Philosophy
and Difference and Repetition. Doing so can help demonstrate that even
before he began collaborating with Guattari, Deleuzes work was both
deeply politicised and engaged with Marx. Indeed, these two things are
in some senses inseparable: Deleuzes philosophy was deeply politicised
because it followed in the footsteps of Marx, the thinker who more than
any other politicised philosophy. If we want a political Deleuze or a
Deleuzian politics then a good place to start would be by recognising
the place of Marx in Deleuzes work. This recognition must, however,
be made against those who claim that Deleuzes own work is not

I. Deleuze and Marx

There have been numerous strategies for rejecting Deleuze as a political
thinker: deferring the political moment until the DeleuzeGuattari
books, dismissing his political formulations, explicitly denying the
political relevance of his work, or simply ignoring his political pro-
nouncements in favour of something else.2 Perhaps the strongest
allegation that Deleuze is not a political thinker comes from Slavoj
iek, who claims simply that there are no politics in Deleuzes own
work: It is crucial to note that not a single one of Deleuzes own texts
is in any way directly political; Deleuze in himself is a highly elitist
author, indifferent toward politics. Any direct political moments are,
according to iek, only found in those books co-authored by Guattari,
whom iek names as a bad influence on Deleuze (iek 2004: 20).
10 Simon Choat

iek argues that Deleuzes solo texts, while in themselves strictly

apolitical, contain the potential for the development of a different
materialist, even Marxist, politics. iek contrasts this potential politics
both with the supposed idealism of the DeleuzeGuattari books and
with what iek sees as the dominant form of Deleuzian politics today,
namely a Hardt and Negri-style politics of the Multitude. Hence for
iek, while we can find both Marx and politics in the DeleuzeGuattari
books, they are there only as a result of the (bad) influence of Guattari,
soaked in a pernicious idealism and productive of an inane political
standpoint; whereas when we read Deleuze in himself we are not
dealing with a political thinker at all, let alone a Marxist. Against iek,
however, it can be shown that Deleuzes own work is both already
politicised and engaged with Marx and that this work anticipates the
Marxist politics of the later collaborative work. There are a number of
strategies that could be pursued in order to establish this point.3
One way to counter ieks image of an apolitical Deleuze is simply
to think about the composition of the DeleuzeGuattari books, their
literary construction. A few small clues help undermine the notion
that in this partnership Guattari was the Marxist revolutionary and
Deleuze the dry, apolitical philosopher subject to bad influences. Deleuze
has presented himself as a lightning rod for Guattaris thoughts,
systematising things by bringing together and ordering Guattaris
inventive but chaotic ideas (Deleuze 2006: 239). If we accept this image,
then it can be seen that the analysis of capitalism in the DeleuzeGuattari
books rigorous, methodical and systematic bears all the hallmarks of
Deleuzes style: given how profoundly indebted to Marx this analysis is,
this suggests that Deleuze as much as Guattari was deeply engaged with
Marx. This intuition finds some support in the correspondence between
the two authors. During the writing of Anti-Oedipus Guattari wrote to
his friend: I have the feeling of always wandering around alone, kind of
alone, irresponsibly, while youre sweating over capitalism. How could
I possibly help you? (Guattari 2006: 137). These are hardly the words
of someone who has imposed his Marxism on a passive or indifferent
collaborator. Rather, they suggest that we should take Deleuze at his
word when he claimed: I think Flix Guattari and I have remained
Marxists, in our two different ways, perhaps, but both of us (Deleuze
1995b: 171).
Elizabeth Garo has noted suggestively that it is somewhat peculiar
for a philosopher so committed to processes of becoming to claim to
remain a Marxist: For a thinker of becoming, remaining cannot be
a very stimulating objective but, at most, a slightly disenchanted and
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 11

necessarily sceptical stance (Garo 2008a: 609). But aside from the fact
that we should not put too much weight on the casual use of a particular
word in what was an interview remaining does not necessarily imply
static adherence or loyalty. The very fact that it is possible to remain
Marxist in two different ways implies that this is not a question
of stubborn or sheepish attachment to a given dogma, but rather of
an active interpretation of the Marxist heritage: a dynamic process in
which neither he who remains nor Marxism itself stay the same less
a question of remaining Marxist than of becoming-Marxist. Evidence
that Deleuzes claim to have remained a Marxist indicates a renewed
commitment to Marxism is also provided by the historical context: it
was a way of distancing himself from the violent reaction against Marx
that took place in France after 1968, when the nouveaux philosophes
competed with each other to renounce Marx and Marxism. To remain
a Marxist when those around you are denouncing Marxism as the
philosophy of the gulag is a profoundly political act as Garo herself
recognises (Garo 2008b: 66; 2008a: 614).
There are other reasons, however, why picking over the details of
how Capitalism and Schizophrenia was written is unsatisfactory as a
response to ieks charges. For a start, although it may tell us a
little about Deleuze and Guattaris respective contributions, it risks
misrepresenting their work, implying a clear division of labour between
two isolated contributors. This was not the case at all; as Deleuze
said of their relationship: we do not work together, we work between
the two (Deleuze and Parnet 2002: 17). Hence, rather than focusing
on the DeleuzeGuattari books, it may be more productive to turn to
Deleuzes own work, establishing a continuity between this early work
and the later collaborative texts. For while the co-authored books may
be the most obviously political, the themes, concepts and arguments
of those books emerged out of Deleuzes solo work.4 The rejection
of dialectical notions of negation and contradiction, the Nietzschean
affirmation of active over reactive forces, the ontology of pure difference,
the understanding of being in terms of multiplicity, the imperative to
highlight the virtual conditions of all actually existent beings all these
ideas came from Deleuze, so it is senseless to claim that the later,
political work with Guattari is somehow a break with or regression
from the supposedly apolitical work that preceded it. Rather than
pointing to broad themes, however, it is possible instead to look for
Marx in Deleuzes early work: this search can show that the specifically
Marxist politics of the later books can also be traced back to Deleuze,
who was writing on Marx long before he met Guattari, in addition
12 Simon Choat

to demonstrating that to remain Marxist was not merely an act of

resistance when surrounded by apostates but also a creative use of Marx.
Perhaps the two most prominent appearances by Marx in Deleuzes
pre-Guattari work occur in Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference
and Repetition.

II. Marx and Nietzsche

Nietzsche and Philosophy gives the lie to the claim that Deleuze is an
apolitical thinker: this is a highly politicised Nietzsche, in at least two
senses. First, Deleuzes theoretical reconstruction of Nietzsche presents
him as a political thinker worth reading: a novel claim at a time when
Nietzsche was dismissed by many as at best an individualist forerunner
of existentialism unconcerned with broader social and political issues
and at worst a proto-fascist whose politics should be unequivocally
rejected. Second, Deleuzes book itself had wider political consequences,
playing a vital role in facilitating the introduction of Nietzsche into
political thought in postwar France. It is worth considering the
manner in which Deleuze politicises Nietzsche before examining the
role that Marx plays here. Deleuze argues that, like Kant, Nietzsche
offers a critical philosophy. But Nietzsche goes much further than
Kant. While the latter undertakes a critique of the forms and claims
of knowledge, truth and morality, he does not criticise knowledge,
truth and morality themselves: they remain outside critique, acting as
transcendent standards that are used to measure, judge and ultimately
denounce life. Kants critique is thus fundamentally compromised and
is effectively a form of nihilism, depreciating and denying that which
exists in the name of another, superior world. Nietzsche, in contrast,
replaces the question of truth or falsity with the problem of forces and
power: no longer an attempt to establish the essence of truth in order to
judge life, philosophy now pursues an interpretation of the forces that
give sense to things and an evaluation of the will to power that gives
values to things (Deleuze 1983: 54). Rather than seeking to determine
the essential nature of a thing, essence itself must be recognised as
the result of the forces and powers that take hold of a thing. What
Nietzsche seeks, according to Deleuze, is a thought that would affirm
life instead of a knowledge that is opposed to life (Deleuze 1983: 101).
This does not mean that we simply indulge in a celebration of everything
that exists. Genealogy is at once interpretation and evaluation: forces
can be active or reactive and the will to power can be affirmative or
negative. As affirmation of life, thought must reject all ressentiment and
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 13

take a genuinely critical stance that can explain and subvert reaction
and negation. Philosophys role is therefore not to establish timeless
principles but, in Nietzsches phrase, to be untimely: to remain vigilant
in upsetting existing values and institutions.
Deleuzes Nietzsche is political because he reveals that apparently
stable and immutable values and institutions are products of struggle
between competing forces and powers, and in doing so he undermines
the established order and points to the possibility of a different world.
This politicised philosophy is sharply contrasted by Deleuze with the
piety of Hegelian dialectics, which effectively acts as a functionary of
the Church and the State by sanctioning the present order. Whereas
dialectics can only recognise what is already established, Nietzsche seeks
to create the new. It is in his discussions of the relation of Nietzsche
to dialectics that Deleuze introduces Marx. Nietzsche and Marx are
placed in a provisional alliance with the claim that they both found
their habitual targets in the Hegelian movement, the different Hegelian
factions (Deleuze 1983: 8). As it stands, this claim does not necessarily
imply approval of Marxs project by Deleuze: the claim is not that Marx
targets Hegel as well as the Hegelian factions, nor that Marxs critique of
Hegelianism is identical to or even compatible with Nietzsches critique.
It does, however, suggest that it might be interesting to pursue the
relation between Nietzsche and Marx and this suspicion is rewarded
by further examination of Nietzsche and Philosophy, as Marx makes a
number of cameo appearances. Deleuze clearly recognises that Marxs
relation to Hegel is more complicated than is Nietzsches. At one point
he draws a parallel not between the attitude of Nietzsche and Marx
towards Hegelianism but between their attitudes towards Kant and
Hegel respectively: Nietzsche stands critique on its feet, just as Marx
does with the dialectic. He goes on to add, however, that this analogy,
far from reconciling Marx and Nietzsche, separates them still further
(Deleuze 1983: 89). They are separated still further because while Marx
was trying to stand dialectics on its feet Nietzsche rejected dialectical
thinking altogether. This comparison neatly captures Marxs place in
Nietzsche and Philosophy: intriguing hints about possible connections
are quickly complicated or undermined, leading to what can look like
a dead end, yet with the possibility of further links never entirely
foreclosed. Marx is posed a series of challenging questions by Deleuze,
either directly or implicitly. Is Marx trying to save the dialectic from
sliding into nihilism or does he join Nietzsche in defeating it? Is Marx,
like Nietzsche, interested in inventing new possibilities of life, or is he
engaged in a nihilist subordination of life to transcendent values, driven
14 Simon Choat

by the spirit of proletarian ressentiment and hoping to return to the

working class what is rightfully theirs? Is negation in Marx an active
self-destruction, or is he caught up with the concept of contradiction,
unable to recognise more subtle, fluid forces? That these questions are
left largely unanswered in the Nietzsche book should not lead us to
conclude that Deleuze has no answers, or that they are posed rhetorically
as a way of confronting and condemning Marx. These questions do not
suggest a rejection of Marx by Deleuze, or a lack of interest in Marx.
Instead they suggest that he was grappling with Marx, and that if he was
reluctant to endorse him fully then this reluctance did not come from
an elite indifference towards politics but, on the contrary, from a fear
that Marxs political position was not radical enough: that compared to
Nietzsche, Marx did not go far enough.
That Deleuze had such fears is hardly surprising, and can be explained
(at least in part) by the intellectual and political context within which
he wrote. Given the somewhat dismissive attitude toward Nietzsche
in France in the immediate postwar period, Deleuze could come to
him relatively fresh. Marx, on the other hand, laboured under a joint
burden: stifled by a sclerotic Stalinism within the PCF, and anaesthetised
through official sanction within the academy. In both realms, Marx was
also eventually aligned with a Hegelian humanism. Within academic
circles, various factors led thinkers like Sartre and Goldmann to forge
a humanist Marxism. (These factors included but were not limited
to: the lectures and writings by Kojve and Hyppolite; the interest
sparked by the release of Marxs early writings; and the translation
into French of Marxists like Lukcs, Korsch and Marcuse.) This trend
was then mirrored in the PCF as its leading theorist Roger Garaudy
sought an alternative to Stalinism for the Kruschev era. Given all this,
it would not have been surprising if, in his attempt to generate a
new, post-humanist and non-Hegelian philosophy of difference, Deleuze
had rejected Marx completely. Deleuzes contemporaries dealt with
the situation in different ways. Michel Foucault made a conscious
and conspicuous effort to distance himself from Marx and Marxism
(even while simultaneously continuing to draw upon Marxs conceptual
innovations). Jacques Derrida was more or less silent on Marx until
Specters of Marx was published in 1993, at a time when reference
to Marx could act as a useful codeword for resistance to a newly
triumphant neo-liberal hegemony. Jean-Franois Lyotard and Jean
Baudrillard effectively abandoned Marxism altogether. For Deleuze to
continue to speak favourably of Marx in such an environment is in itself
highly significant.
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 15

That the tentative attempts in Nietzsche and Philosophy to link

Nietzsche and Marx are more than idle speculation is confirmed in
an interview from 1968 in which Deleuze maintains that both Marx
and Nietzsche offer a radical and total critique of society: not a
reactive, negative critique but one that is the prelude to an equally
radical moment of creation: a great destruction of the known, for
the creation of the unknown (Deleuze 2004a: 136) essentially what
Deleuze himself calls for. Nietzsche and Philosophy can tell us not
simply that Deleuze was engaged with Marx before he collaborated
with Guattari, however, but also something about the kind of Marx
that Deleuze was interested in. Indirectly, we can make comparisons
with the manner in which he reads Nietzsche. Deleuze uses Nietzsche
rather than merely interpreting him, producing a specifically Deleuzian
Nietzsche in whom it is almost impossible to discern where Deleuze
ends and Nietzsche begins. This is not a playful eclecticism in which
Deleuze chooses and combines elements of Nietzsches work more or less
at random, but a systematic reconstruction of Nietzsches philosophy.
This approach mirrors Deleuzes readings of other thinkers, and we
might anticipate that he will read Marx in a similar way: reconstructing
a Marx who is recognisably Deleuzian but who is nonetheless drawn
from the heart of Marxs work. Clearly this Marx will be one separated
from the dialectical method: it cannot be a Marx for whom historical
change is driven by societys contradictions. Equally, a Deleuzian Marx
must avoid offering an idealist judgement of life using transcendent
standards, yet without on the other hand capitulating to a relativism
that uncritically accepts things as they are: he must instead undertake an
immanent critique that challenges the established order.
This is the Marx that we find in Anti-Oedipus, where Deleuze and
Guattari pursue the allusive connections between Marx and Nietzsche
that are found in Nietzsche and Philosophy. Marx is arguably the key
influence upon Anti-Oedipus, though it is a Marx transformed by being
filtered through numerous other thinkers, including Nietzsche. Perhaps
the most obvious example of this double reading of Marx with Nietzsche
is found in the books adaptation of Marxs universal history: this is not
a Hegelianised, totalising history in which capitalism is the inevitable
culmination of a necessary process of historical development, but rather
a kind of Nietzschean genealogy of capital: universal history is the
history of contingencies, and not the history of necessity. Ruptures
and limits, and not continuity (Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 140).
By using universal history, Deleuze and Guattari claim, it is possible
to retrospectively understand all history in the light of capitalism
16 Simon Choat

(Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 140). Yet rather than being an imposition
upon Marx, or a simple hybridisation of Marx and Nietzsche, this
conceptualisation of universal history comes directly from Marxs
work itself, or at least a part of it. In the Grundrisse Marx argues
that bourgeois society provides the key to understanding all previous
societies. He uses a well-known analogy to make his point: Human
anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape. The intimations
of higher development among the subordinate animal species, however,
can be understood only after the higher development is already known
(Marx 1973: 105). Rather than an attempt to naturalise historical
development, this passage should be read as Deleuze and Guattari
read it: as a rejection of teleology and recognition of the uncertainty
and irregularity of historical development. Human anatomy can help
us understand apes not because apes are destined to become humans
but because humans have developed from apes; likewise, bourgeois
social relations can illuminate previous social forms not because they
were predestined but because bourgeois society has developed out of
social formations that have now vanished and yet whose traces are
still carried within capitalism. Bourgeois political economists were able
to formulate the category of labour in general a category that could
then be used to analyse previous social forms because under capitalism
labour has in reality become generalised, as deskilled labourers separated
from the means of production (or deterritorialised, to used Deleuze
and Guattaris language) move regularly from one type of work to the
next. This creation of a propertyless labour force was not the result
of a preconceived plan but of entirely contingent circumstances, as a
peasantry that had been forced from its land for quite different and
varied reasons was then incorporated into a production process that
required them as a precondition: the emergent capitalist class thus made
use of events in which they had played no part whatsoever (Marx 1976:
875). The history of capitalism according to Marx is a history of rupture
and contingency, not necessity.
Just as they modify Marxs universal history, so do Deleuze
and Guattari modify his analysis of capitalism. Where Marx seeks
to expose the contradictions upon which capitalism depends yet
which will ultimately be its undoing, Deleuze and Guattari instead
analyse capitalism in terms of its deterritorialising and reterritorialising
tendencies. In doing so they maintain Marxs focus on the tensions
within capitalism between, for example, its subversion of all traditional
political institutions and forms of authority and its simultaneous need
for such institutions and forms to enforce the established order yet
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 17

without understanding them in terms of contradictions that will

ultimately be superseded and resolved. If Deleuze does not understand
capitalism in terms of resolvable contradictions, then nor does he posit
an outside to capitalism that could act as both a transcendent standard
of judgement and a point of potential resistance (be it unalienated
labour, pure use value, or an immediate transparency of social relations
under communism). This does not mean, however, that he resorts to
either a celebration of or a resigned submission to capitalism. Just
as Nietzsche and Philosophy calls for an affirmation of active forces
over reactive forces, so the central imperative of Anti-Oedipus is to
push further the deterritorialisations of capital, against its efforts to
reterritorialise. It has been suggested that this argument aligns Deleuze
with a Hayekian liberalism: if the state is that which reterritorialises
the decoded flows of the market, then Deleuzes call to deterritorialise
effectively becomes a call for the deregulation of the market against the
restrictions of the state.5 The reverse is true, however: it is precisely
Deleuzes argument that distances him from Hayekian liberalism and
makes a mockery of attempts to portray Deleuze as the ideologist of
late capitalism (to use ieks phrase) (iek 2004: 183). Following
Marx, for Deleuze and Guattari the reterritorialisations of the state are
not opposed to the deterritorialisations of the market, as a reactive
limit on a boundless natural energy: the state is a necessary model
of realisation for the axiomatic that capitalism requires. The call to
push deterritorialisation further, far from being an exultation of the
market, is in fact what provides Deleuzes analysis of capitalism with
a critical perspective. It offers recognition that the deterritorialising
tendencies of capitalism offer the potential to lead somewhere different
and unexpected, and it demands that this deterritorialisation be pursued
against capitalisms simultaneous tendency to reterritorialise in order to
further and protect private accumulation. This position is inspired in
part by Nietzsche, echoing the distinction between active and reactive
forces in Nietzsche and Philosophy. But it is also a strictly Marxist
position: like Marx, Deleuze recognises both the possibilities and the
dangers immanent within capitalism.
In Anti-Oedipus we thus have the Marx that was promised in
Nietzsche and Philosophy: a reconstructed, non-dialectical Marx who
proposes a radical, immanent critique of the present in the name of
something yet to come. This is not to say that the Marx of Anti-Oedipus
had already been worked out by Deleuze in Nietzsche and Philosophy
and needed only further elucidation or application. Rather, in the same
way that Deleuzes collaborative work with Guattari develops concepts
18 Simon Choat

that had already been created by Deleuze alone, so too does that work
develop Deleuzes Marx. Something similar can be said of Deleuzes first
great work of philosophy, Difference and Repetition.

III. Marx and Social Ideas

Like Nietzsche and Philosophy, Difference and Repetition is a funda-
mentally political text. Nietzsche and Philosophy sought to champion
the creation of new values over the recognition of established values:
Difference and Repetition maintains this critical distinction, and takes
as its central target the dogmatic image of thought, whose contours had
been sketched out in the Nietzsche book. The dogmatic image of thought
operates through recognition, and in so doing rediscovers the State,
rediscovers the Church and rediscovers all the current values that it
subtly presented in the pure form of an eternally blessed unspecified eter-
nal object (Deleuze 2004b: 172). It is politically conservative, even re-
actionary, endorsing established values rather than promising new ones.
Deleuzes critique of representation and the dogmatic image of thought
in Difference and Repetition thus has political consequences: it aims to
expose and undermine forms of thought that reinforce the status quo.
But this is not a primarily epistemological or ontological critique that
also happens to produce political effects: to a great extent it is motivated
in the first place by political considerations. In the concluding chapter
of the book, Deleuze states abruptly that if the truth be told, none of
this would amount to much were it not for the moral presuppositions
and practical implications of such a distortion (Deleuze 2004b: 337).
He is referring here specifically to the dialectic, in particular Hegel. But
Hegelian dialectics is only the most pernicious form of orthodox think-
ing; the warning can be extended to give it wider significance and cover
the distortions of the dogmatic image of thought in general: the critique
of representation amounts to little if it does not combat the presupposi-
tions and practical implications of those distortions. The presuppositions
are not merely moral but profoundly political: it is presupposed that
the established values of Church and State, the values that maintain the
present political order, must be protected. If there is any doubt about the
political significance of the practical implications that Deleuze refers to,
a few lines later he provides a pertinent example: it is the bourgeoisie that
uses the weapon of contradiction to defend itself, while the (proletarian)
revolution proceeds by the power of affirmation (Deleuze 2004b: 337).
Deleuzes battle against the concepts of contradiction, opposition,
analogy, and so on his struggle to show that these categories, though
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 19

they may be indispensable, are only effects of a more fundamental differ-

ence is therefore profoundly political. Thus while it is acceptable even
necessary to question and challenge the political consequences of
Deleuzes metaphysics (as Badiou [2000] does), it would be profoundly
misguided to argue that Deleuze is merely apolitical (as iek does).
Where does Marx fit in this time? Deleuzes reference to the proletariat
may once again suggest an ambiguous attitude: employing Marxian
phraseology while simultaneously implicitly rejecting Marxs reliance
on the concept of contradiction. Yet we have already seen that in
Deleuzes work rejection of apparently fundamental Marxian tenets
(like the notion of societal contradictions) is perfectly compatible
with continued use of Marx. The broad arguments of Difference and
Repetition can be seen to reflect the Deleuzian analysis of capitalism
that has already been outlined: capitalism both generates and curbs
difference, at once subverting what Deleuze calls the qualitative order
of resemblances (destroying all traditional representational codes) and
reinforcing what he terms the quantitative order of equivalences
(reducing every relation to one of exchange) (Deleuze 2004b: 1).6
More than this, it can be said that although there are not many more
references to Marx in Difference and Repetition than in Nietzsche
and Philosophy, Marxs presence is stronger in the second book:
rather than allusive suggestions and unanswered questions there is
a concrete use of Marx. His main appearance comes in the fourth
chapter on Ideas and the Synthesis of Difference. Deleuze posits that,
following Marx, we can say that there are social Ideas. What this
means is that we can think of society as a structure or multiplicity:
a system of differential elements with no prior identity, determined
by reciprocal relations and incarnated in actual relationships. In the
case of capitalist society, and following Marx, we can say that virtual
relations of production are incarnated in actual relationships between
wage-labourers and capitalists. These relations which are here class
relations are not characterised by some pre-existing identity but are
reciprocally determined. In this way, it is possible to claim that the
economic conditions of a society determine all other aspects of that
society not because actual economic relationships are the essence of
society considered as a totality, but because those actual relationships,
and all social relationships, are the incarnation of economic relations
as differential virtualities that may be actualised in different ways.
So we have something like the priority of the economic as found in
Marx, without the economic essentialism as found in certain forms of
20 Simon Choat

Deleuze acknowledges that this reworking of Marx is not entirely

original: Althusser and his collaborators had already read Marx in
similar terms, and Deleuze quotes Althusser approvingly throughout
Difference and Repetition. For Althusser, Marxs great theoretical
contribution was to rethink the concepts of structure and structural
causality (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 186): the Marxist conception
of society is not a Whole in which the elements are expressions of an
inner essence, but a complex and differentially articulated structure in
which the elements are reciprocally determined. Deleuzes rereading of
Marx thus looks very much like that of Althusser yet Deleuze goes a
step further. Althusser introduces the concept of overdetermination in
order to combat Hegelian Marxisms: instead of reducing the complexity
of a society to a simple, central contradiction (as Althusser claims Hegel
has done), overdetermination allows us to think society precisely as a
structure in which differential elements are codetermined. But as Deleuze
points out: It is still the case that for Althusser it is contradiction
which is overdetermined and differential, and the totality . . . remains
legitimately grounded in a principal contradiction (Deleuze 2004b:
87). Thus, for Deleuze, Althusser remains too tied to the dialectic
(which, after all, is for Althusser the crucial gift that Hegel gives to
Marx [Althusser 1972: 174]). In addition, and relatedly, the Deleuzian
language of virtuality allows us to avoid the risk of reintroducing a
simple determinism such as comes with the Althusserian determination
in the last instance by the economy: the movement from the virtual to
the actual is creative and always leaves other potentials unactualised. So
Deleuzes critique of certain forms of Marxism is thus also in part an
escape from Althusserianism. Of course Althusser himself later sought
to break away from Althusserianism: in particular, the turn towards
aleatory materialism in the 1980s can be characterised as an attempt to
offer a more open philosophy that is less beholden to dialectical thinking
and provides greater sensitivity to the contingent singularity of events.
Yet this move by Althusser comes long after Deleuzes radical reading
of Marx in Difference and Repetition. Indeed, while there were clearly
numerous factors both theoretical and political that led Althusser to
reformulate his philosophical approach, it is not fanciful to speculate
that in doing so he may have been influenced by Deleuze: certainly he
cites Deleuze positively in his later work (Althusser 2006: 189).
We have seen that Deleuzes Nietzschean Marx resurfaces in Anti-
Oedipus; similarly, the presentation in Difference and Repetition of the
Marxist conception of society is developed in A Thousand Plateaus.
Rather than referring to social Ideas, in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 21

and Guattari refer to social machines. There are virtual abstract

machines that can be actualised in a variety of social assemblages.
Deleuze and Guattari refer to machinic assemblages: concrete assem-
blages effectuate or actualise abstract machines and [a]bstract machines
operate within concrete assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari 1988:
510). There remains a common purpose, however, behind the two
terminologies of social Ideas and social machines: namely, to theorise
social forms without reference to any kind of organic totality or any
transcendent imposition of unity. In one sense Deleuze and Guattari
do this in conscious opposition to Marx: We define social formations
by machinic processes and not by modes of production (these on the
contrary depend on the processes) (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 435).
But this reflects a transformation rather than a rejection of Marx. The
concept of a social machine enables Deleuze and Guattari to rethink
Marxs concept of a mode of production in various ways. A machine is
made up of fluid connections: it selects, connects and combines different
elements, interrupting and arranging flows flows of people, of wealth,
beliefs, desire, and so on. The Deleuzian machine is therefore more
dynamic than either simply the Marxian mode of production or the
Althusserian structure: a machine is a process rather than a static
combination of determined elements. The terminology of machines also
allows Deleuze and Guattari to overcome certain traditional binaries.
It identifies different elements and levels of analysis without depending
on a simplistic basesuperstructure model whereby one needs to dive
beneath the surface to find the hidden, determining instance, the inner
essence that drives the whole. As Jean-Jacques Lecercle has said of the
concept of assemblage (as actualised machine): It makes it possible
to go beyond the separation between material infrastructure and ideal
superstructure, by demonstrating the imbrication of the material and the
ideal (Lecercle 2006: 200). Deleuze himself claims: There is no base or
superstructure in an assemblage (Deleuze and Parnet 2002: 71). Related
to this deconstruction of the relation between a supposedly material base
and a supposedly ideal superstructure is the machines imbrication of
labour and desire: in a machine, there is no division between that which
is objective, political and real and that which is subjective, libidinal and
fantastic or ideological. This is, however, not a repudiation of Marxs
concept of the mode of production but rather a development of it: an
attempt to push Marx in an even more materialist direction.
Some commentators have argued that Deleuze and Guattaris theory
of machinic assemblages distances them from the Marxist tradition.
This argument has perhaps been best articulated by Manuel DeLanda.
22 Simon Choat

DeLanda must be considered one of the foremost commentators

upon Deleuze better, in fact, simply to call him Deleuzian than a
commentator upon Deleuze, precisely because the value of his work lies
in the fact that he does not merely comment on Deleuze but attempts to
reconstruct Deleuzes philosophy, not unlike the way in which Deleuze
himself approaches other thinkers. But there is in DeLandas work a
curious blind spot when it comes to Marx, or rather a strange hostility.
Although DeLandas best work is a Deleuzian study of the philosophy
of science (DeLanda 2002), he cannot be counted among those who
obliterate Deleuzes politics by ignoring it, for elsewhere he has offered
lucid and thoughtful accounts of the implications of Deleuzes work
for social and political thought. Marx, however, is eliminated from
these accounts: else occasionally explicitly condemned as the kind of
anachronistic thinker Deleuze tried to escape from, but more often
simply ignored. From Deleuzes work on abstract machines and social
assemblages DeLanda develops what he calls assemblage theory, the
value of which he claims is that it can account for entities without
having to suppose either that there is an organic totality whose parts
are seamlessly fused together or that the whole is nothing more than
the aggregate of its parts. In contrast to these flawed approaches,
assemblage theory is an approach in which every social entity is
shown to emerge from the interactions among entities operating at
a smaller scale (DeLanda 2006: 118). This does not mean simply
recognising that societies are made up of relations between individuals.
The problem with existing theories, DeLanda argues, is that they treat
scale as absolute so that, for instance, individual persons are considered
micro while whole societies are macro. In contrast, assemblage theory
relativises scale: both individuals and societies have both micro- and
macro-levels, depending on how you view them (DeLanda 2008: 166).
Given this, to continue to talk of entities like society as a whole or
the capitalist system is misguided or spurious, because it erases the
very distinctions of scale that assemblage theory reveals: a society or the
capitalist system are not wholes of which other entities are component
parts, but can themselves be component parts (if considered in a global
or even planetary context, for example).
In his discussions of assemblage theory DeLanda largely passes over
Marxs work in silence, pausing only to accuse Marx (amongst others)
of a macro-reductionism within which only the social structure really
exists, with individuals relegated to the status of epiphenomenonal
effects of the social structure (DeLanda 2006: 5). If Deleuze and Guattari
continue to talk of capitalism then according to DeLanda this only
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 23

attests to the fact that the Marxist tradition was like their Oedipus
the little territory they did not dare to challenge (DeLanda 2008: 174).
This is a problematic argument, in at least two (related) ways. First,
Deleuzes dependence on Marx is far more than a residual terminological
affiliation: as we have seen, in his own writings and those produced
with Guattari, a critical engagement with Marx is an important part of
the development of Deleuzes (and Guattaris) analyses of social forms.
Second, Deleuzes work itself demonstrates that we do not need to read
Marx as a theorist who prioritises the social structure at the expense
of its components: any society is an actualisation of virtual relations,
and thus a dynamic solution to the problem of how to order relations
of production rather than a static structure that determines and fixes
the relations within it. A major problem with DeLandas presentation
of assemblage theory is his insistence on interpreting it in terms of
scale. What Deleuze and Guattari call micropolitics that is, the central
project of A Thousand Plateaus has nothing to do with scale.7 They are
unequivocal on this point: the molar and the molecular are distinguished
not by size, scale, or dimension but by the nature of the system of
reference envisioned (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 217). Micropolitics
therefore does not entail a rejection of a concept like capitalist society
for being too generalised or too large, unable to account for scale; it
entails a different kind of analysis of capitalism. Micropolitics means
analysing different kinds of line: molar lines of rigid segmentarity,
molecular lines of supple segmentarity, and lines of flight (that which
escapes and provides new connections and the possibility of change).
A micropolitical analysis of capitalism is an analysis that recognises
that capitalism is traversed by deterritorialising lines of flight indeed
that these lines of flight are its very conditions of operation: in
order to function capitalism must necessarily release and encourage
flows that may lead in unexpected directions which it cannot control
(Deleuze 1997: 189). This insight is taken in large part from Marxs
analysis of capitalism as a mode of production that must constantly
revolutionise the instruments and relations of production and that
hence, in Deleuzian language, is always creating new flows and lines
of flight. Far from being predicated upon a rejection of Marx, the
micropolitics of social assemblages is deeply indebted to his work.

IV. Conclusions
Analysis of the place of Marx in Deleuzes early works achieves
a number of things. First and foremost, it validates and reinforces
24 Simon Choat

Deleuzes self-description as a Marxist. This aids understanding of his

later work with Guattari. The point is not to attempt merely to reverse
the orthodox view of the DeleuzeGuattari books, so that the Marxist
politics therein becomes all Deleuzes, to the neglect of Guattaris
contribution. Rather, by recognising that both Deleuze and Guattari
were Marxists when they came to work with each other, we are better
able to trace the lineage of their arguments and concepts: it is not only
with reference to Deleuzes broader conceptual innovations that we can
sketch a line between his early and his later, collaborative work, but
also with reference to his specific use of Marx. In addition to throwing
new light on the joint works, recognition of Deleuzes Marxism alters
our understanding of his solo work, bringing out passages or insights
that have been ignored. The image of Deleuze that arises from both
Nietzsche and Philosophy and Difference and Repetition is not at all
that of an apolitical elitist yet to show an interest in Marx, but of a
politically committed thinker involved in contemporary debates within
Marxism and making the first steps towards a reformulation of Marxs
ideas, unafraid to deal with him even though he was still associated
with trends that Deleuze must have found repellent and that many of
Deleuzes contemporaries had abandoned Marx altogether.
There has in recent years been an effort by some commentators
to align Deleuze with a liberal-democratic, even Rawlsian, politics.8
This effort is not in itself illegitimate, and may even yield significant
insights. Nor is it wholly incompatible with recognition of the important
place of Marx in Deleuzes work. But there is a risk that if Deleuze
is aligned with the liberal tradition in this way even if as a critical
interlocutor then what makes his work interesting in the first place
may be smoothed away, to the extent even that Deleuze may effectively
become depoliticised: assimilated into mainstream thought and practice
and into an academic exercise in the history of thought, his work
loses his political impact. It might be argued that, on the contrary, to
align Deleuze too closely with Marx is to depoliticise him. There has,
after all, been a long-standing accusation made against Marx that he is
depoliticising, in that he supposedly effects an economistic reduction or
effacement of the political. But Deleuze and Guattari know that this
is not true: what they show throughout both volumes of Capitalism
and Schizophrenia is that far from reducing the political to the
economic, Marx demonstrates that it is capitalism itself that performs
this reduction, as it functions directly through an axiomatic, without the
need for political codes or beliefs. Simultaneously, they show that Marx
politicises realms that had been previously thought to be apolitical: it
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 25

is true that capitalism effaces politics by making political institutions,

values, beliefs, practices, etc., secondary or even unnecessary but this
effacement of politics is itself a political manoeuvre: it is generated by
economic forces that prior to Marx (in the work of the classical political
economists) had been considered an apolitical realm of natural and
spontaneous order, but which Marx reveals to be pervaded by political
relations of power and domination. When they claim that it is Marxs
analysis of the encounter between the deterritorialised worker and
decoded money that lies at the heart of Capital (Deleuze and Guattari
1977: 225), Deleuze and Guattari indicate the importance of Marxs
section on primitive accumulation. They do this not simply because
this section counters determinist readings of Marx and demonstrates his
recognition of capitalisms contingent origins, but also because it is here
above all that Marx politicises economics. For Marx as for Deleuze and
Guattari, the recognition that the capitalist economy depoliticises must
be based upon the simultaneous recognition that the capitalist economy
is highly politicised.
Furthermore, all this rests upon a politicisation of philosophy. Marx
directs philosophys attention to the political struggles and forces that
exist as an integral part of apparently apolitical domains, including that
of philosophy itself: philosophys function after Marx is no longer to
separate the true from the false but to analyse, interrogate and change
the material conditions of its own emergence, challenging the existing
order in the name of a new world. Deleuzes Nietzsche and Philosophy
and Difference and Repetition, far from being apolitical, are in a similar
way politically motivated by the need to challenge established values and
create a new order. To recognise this is to begin to recognise Deleuzes
debt to Marx. A political Deleuze and a politicised Deleuzian philosophy
are both possible and welcome but we will get nowhere until we
acknowledge the profundity and persistence of Deleuzes Marxism.

1. See in particular the excellent studies found in Lecercle (2005), Read (2003) and
Thoburn (2003).
2. I think that one way (among others) to distinguish between the well-known
critiques of Deleuze by Badiou (2000) and Hallward (2006) is to say that whereas
the former rejects the political implications of Deleuzes work, the latter denies
that Deleuzes work has any real political relevance at all.
3. It is not my aim to offer a thorough critique of all of ieks arguments
concerning Deleuze (which are more interesting and sophisticated than many
Deleuzians have acknowledged): I am interested only in ieks claim that
Deleuze is neither political nor Marxist.
26 Simon Choat

4. This point is well made by Paul Patton (2000: 132).

5. It should be said that the links between Deleuze and Hayek are more often alluded
to than actually worked out: see Garo (2008a: 612) and Mengue (2003: 67).
6. Eugene Holland opens his informative account of the relation between Marx and
Deleuze (and Guattari) in this way, arguing that the first page of Deleuzes most
important philosophical work, Difference and Repetition, lays the groundwork
for his analysis of capitalism (Holland 2009: 147).
7. For further criticism of this sort, see the review of DeLandas A New Philosophy
of Society by Read (2008).
8. Patton is perhaps the leading figure here; see Patton (2005, 2007, 2008). See also
Tampio (2009) and the review of Pattons Deleuze and the Political by Smith

Althusser, Louis (1972) Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Hegel and
Marx, trans. Ben Brewster, London: New Left Books.
Althusser, Louis (2006) Philosophy of the Encounter: Later Writings, 19781987,
eds Olivier Corpet and Franois Matheron, trans. G. M. Goshgarian, London:
Althusser, Louis and tienne Balibar (1970) Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster,
London: New Left Books.
Badiou, Alain (2000) Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, trans. Louise Burchill,
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
DeLanda, Manuel (2002) Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, London:
DeLanda, Manuel (2006) A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and
Social Complexity, London: Continuum.
DeLanda, Manuel (2008) Deleuze, Materialism and Politics, in Ian Buchanan and
Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Deleuze, Gilles (1983) Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, London:
Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1995a) Le Je me souviens de Gilles Deleuze, Le Nouvel
Observateur, 1619, pp. 501.
Deleuze, Gilles (1995b) Negotiations 19721990, trans. Martin Joughin, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1997) Desire and Pleasure, trans. Daniel W. Smith, in Arnold I.
Davidson (ed.), Foucault and His Interlocutors, Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, pp. 18394.
Deleuze, Gilles (2004a), Desert Islands and Other Texts 19531974, ed. David
Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taormina, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).
Deleuze, Gilles (2004b) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London:
Deleuze, Gilles (2006) Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 19751995,
ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Michael Taormina, Los Angeles:
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1977) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, New York:
The Viking Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1988) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, London: Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Marx and the Politicisation of Philosophy 27

Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (2002) Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, London: Continuum.
Garo, Isabelle (2008a) Deleuze, Marx and Revolution: What it Means to Remain
Marxist , in Jacques Bidet and Stathis Kouvelakis (eds), Critical Companion to
Contemporary Marxism, Leiden: Brill, pp. 60524.
Garo, Isabelle (2008b) Molecular Revolutions: The Paradox of Politics in the Work
of Gilles Deleuze, trans. John Marks, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn
(eds) Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 5473.
Guattari, Flix (2006) The Anti-Oedipus Papers, ed. Stphane Naduad, trans. Klina
Gotman, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).
Hallward, Peter (2006) Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation,
London: Verso.
Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri (2000) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Holland, Eugene (2009) Karl Marx, in Graham Jones and Jon Roffe (eds), Deleuzes
Philosophical Lineage, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 14766.
Lecercle, Jean-Jacques (2005) Deleuze, Guattari and Marxism, Historical
Materialism, 13:3, pp. 3555.
Lecercle, Jean-Jacques (2006) A Marxist Philosophy of Language, trans. Gregory
Elliott, Leiden: Brill.
Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy
(Rough Draft), trans. Martin Nicolaus, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Marx, Karl (1976) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One, trans.
Ben Fowkes, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Mengue, Philippe (2003) Deleuze et la question de la dmocratie, Paris:
Patton, Paul (2000) Deleuze and the Political, London: Routledge.
Patton, Paul (2005) Deleuze and Democratic Politics, in Lars Tnder and Lasse
Thomassen (eds), Radical Democracy: Politics Between Abundance and Lack,
Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 5067.
Patton, Paul (2007) Utopian Political Philosophy: Deleuze and Rawls, Deleuze
Studies, 1:1, pp. 4159.
Patton, Paul (2008) Becoming-Democratic, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn
(eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 17895.
Read, Jason (2003) The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the
Present, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Read, Jason (2008) The Full Body: Micro-Politics and Macro-Entities, Deleuze
Studies, 2:2, pp. 2208.
Smith, Daniel W. (2003) Deleuze and the Liberal Tradition: Normativity, Freedom
and Judgement, Economy and Society, 32:2, pp. 299324.
Tampio, Nicholas (2009) Assemblages and the Multitude: Deleuze, Hardt, Negri,
and the Postmodern Left, European Journal of Political Theory, 8:3, pp.
Thoburn, Nicholas (2003) Deleuze, Marx and Politics, London: Routledge.
iek, Slavoj (2004) Organs Without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences, New
York: Routledge.

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000695
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus

Aidan Tynan Cardiff University

The meeting of Deleuze and Guattari in 1969 is generally used
to explain how the formers thought became politicised under the
influence of the latter. This narrative, however useful it might be
in explaining Deleuzes move away from the domain of academic
philosophy following the upheavals of May 1968, has had the effect
of de-emphasising the conceptual development which occurred between
Difference and Repetition and Anti-Oedipus. Worst of all, it has had
the effect of reducing the role of Marxs philosophy to the superficial
level of political alibi, impoverishing our understanding of its importance
with respect to the conceptual assemblage of Anti-Oedipus. This paper
attempts to restore Marxs relevance to Deleuze and Guattaris project
by understanding Anti-Oedipus through the Marxian categories of
production, distribution, surplus-value and consumption, and argues for
a conception of schizoanalysis which does not relegate the name of Marx
to the garbage heap of poststructuralist intellectual strategy.

Keywords: Marx, Anti-Oedipus, capital, production, surplus,

distribution, consumption, ideology
The story of the meeting of Deleuze and Guattari in the summer of 69
has attained something of a mythological status. The reason for this
is clear: Anti-Oedipus is one of the most important and controversial
intellectual responses to the political tumult of May 68. The accepted
version of the origin myth suggests that Deleuze, the respectable
professor, needed the sense of political urgency which Guattari offered,
while Guattari, the lifelong activist, needed the theoretical grounding
which Deleuze provided (Holland 1999: vii). While this characterisation
is based on the authors own statements, and is obviously in some
respects accurate, it has led to a certain picture, most luridly painted
in recent times by Slavoj iek, of the radicalism of Anti-Oedipus
as a purely strategic interjection whereby, in the climate of political
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 29

reaction which followed May 68, Deleuze cynically acquired a political

alibi (iek 2004: 201). Such a strategic explanation of Deleuze and
Guattaris joint enterprise, moreover, has been used by Deleuzians partly
as a way of explaining the change in tone between Difference and
Repetition and The Logic of Sense on the one hand, and Anti-Oedipus
on the other, and partly as a means to perceive Deleuze and Guattaris
relationship to Marxist theory as extrinsic.1
While the strategic explanation is no doubt a useful shorthand
in accounting for Deleuze and Guattaris fulminating style, it tends
to impoverish our understanding, emphasising a paradigm shift in
Deleuzes thought at the cost of a sense of logical development and
continuity. Whats more, Deleuzes apparent shift from the history of
philosophy to political theory has been interpreted by some critics
as little more than a superficial retooling of an ultimately apolitical
philosophy of difference.2 What I wish to argue here is that the
transition from Difference and Repetition to Anti-Oedipus represents
neither a dramatic change of terrain nor a post-conceptual politicisation.
We should instead regard Anti-Oedipus as the necessary and logical
development of concepts already active in Deleuzes thought prior to
his meeting with Guattari.3
In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze writes that the name of
Marx is enough to save his philosophy of difference, and particularly
his rejection of Hegel, from being merely the discourse of beautiful
souls (Deleuze 1994: 207). What are we to make of this, especially
when Marx appears only in passing in the pages of Difference and
Repetition and only once, briefly, in Logic of Sense? I wish not
only to argue that the critique of the philosophy of difference which
Deleuze performs in these books is logically consistent with the Marxian
theory of desiring-production presented in Anti-Oedipus but that this
logical consistency needs to be grasped in order to understand fully
the Marxism of the latter book. In the place of Hegels concepts of
contradiction, opposition and alienation, Deleuze puts his processual
theory of different/ciation which in Anti-Oedipus is termed desiring-
production. The concept of a surface upon which actualisation and
counter-actualisation take place, and the objective illusion which attends
this process, functions in Anti-Oedipus to account for the historical
development of capital, the ideological image of the real relations
of production, the law of the tendency to a falling rate of profit
and the displacement of capitals immanent limit which secures the
counteraction of this tendency. In short, the philosophy of difference
and repetition, of actualisation and counter-actualisation, of surface and
30 Aidan Tynan

depth, are given an explicitly Marxian expression in the pages of Anti-

Oedipus and this in no way entails a crude politicisation of Deleuzes
thought. The commitment to Marx which Anti-Oedipus displays is at
least as much a theoretical as a strategic commitment.

I. Productive Dissymmetry
In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari use Marxs concepts to give an
account of the immanentisation of capital, the means by which capitals
interior limits become its principle of expansion. If a reconstruction
of this account in Marxs own terms is rarely done, this is due to the
conviction that Marx is largely external to Deleuzes thought. But such
a reconstruction is vital in dispelling the pervasive misunderstanding
that the theory of desire put forth in Anti-Oedipus is complicit with
the postmodern stage of capital.4 If Marxs chief contribution was to
disengage capital from its concrete manifestations in order to perceive
its laws, then desire, like capital, must be understood not in any sense as
a thing but as a process which goes through different phases in order to
reproduce itself. If Deleuze and Guattari emphasise desiring-production,
rather than a desiring subject or a desired object, it is because they want
us to grasp this processual aspect as primary.
Marxs critique showed how bourgeois political economy begins at
the level of exchange, distribution or consumption, whereas these are
always secondary with respect to production. If political economy tends
to uphold and justify capitalist exploitation, Marx argued, it is because
it begins with the phenomenal or ideological form of capital as concrete
rather than with production as the rational abstraction capable of
explaining how the concrete became what it is (Marx 1973: 1001).
Similarly, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, psychoanalysis, beginning as it
does with a concept of desire already installed in the subjectobject form
(desire as sexuality), tends to naturalise the repressive social structure
constitutive of this form. Desiring-production, then, is Deleuze and
Guattaris rational abstraction and the desiring-machine the form of
desires autoproduction.5
For Marx, the economic categories of exchange, distribution and
consumption must be considered moments of the process of production
even when these categories appear to exert a determining influence on
that process. We might suppose for example that need is primary with
regard to the products which satisfy it. Anyone with any experience
of consumer culture, however, will quickly deny this, as the market
clearly creates the needs for whatever objects it believes consumers
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 31

will be willing to purchase. This essentially cynical, consumerist insight

corresponds to the economic principle of Says law which states that
the supply of goods in the market creates the demand for them. At
first glance, this appears to be in accord with Marxs emphasis on the
determining role of production. The production of ever more consumer
goods appears necessary for the capitalist system to maintain stability
and fend off crises caused by wars, shortages of raw materials and so
on. All that is required for the market to regain stability is to create
more commodities and stimulate more demand. Hence, although we
might admit the primacy of production in the creation of commodities,
it is consumption which has the true determining influence since it is the
latter which governs the reproductive process. To assert the priority of
production in the midst of mass consumerism and artificial needs might
then seem hopelessly nave.6
Marx was quite vociferous in his condemnation of Says law and its
adherents (Marx 1973: 94; Harvey 1982: 76). The reason for this is
simple: to say that supply creates its own demand in other words that,
given the right conditions, they cancel one another out is to suppose
that the market is essentially equilibrating and that disequilibrium
always has some external source. Marx, however, argued that the crises
which afflict capital are generated by capital itself, and this for the
simple reason that capitalist production is founded on the unequal,
antagonistic relationship between the worker, who owns nothing but his
labour-power, and the capitalist, who owns the means of production.
This fundamental inequality is what allows the capitalist to extort
surplus-value and realise it as profit through a system based on the
general equivalent of money (the market). Exchange, distribution and
consumption explain nothing in themselves because there is a necessary
disjunction between the worker as producer and the worker as consumer
(Hardt and Negri 2000: 222). In order to furnish the capitalist with
profit, the worker must produce more than he consumes. The laws of
equivalence which condition the wage-system (an honest days work
for an honest days pay) and the market (you get what you pay for)
are derived and secondary with respect to this productive dissymmetry
(Deleuze 1994: 20).
This last point is key to understanding the theory of desire put forth
in Anti-Oedipus. For desire to produce, it requires machines (a form
of autoproduction) and, to the extent that this link is the fundamental
connective principle which governs all life, every machine is a desiring-
machine. But this does not mean that every machine functions according
to the same laws, or uses, by which it has been produced (Deleuze and
32 Aidan Tynan

Guattari 2004: 31416).7 The primary and direct link between desire
and the machine should not lead us to believe that every desiring-
machine is equally legitimate, or that production and machine are
cognate terms. It is quite possible, for example, to desire fascism, but
this does not mean that desire is essentially fascistic. Similarly, we are
not revolutionaries simply because we desire.
To say that a society consumes as much as it produces is to say
ultimately that it produces only in order to consume. But Marxs claim
is that capitals ultimate goal is to reproduce itself in ever greater
magnitudes and to displace the limits, internal to it, which reproduction
imposes. This, as many have pointed out, is the only way of accounting
for the global dominance capitalism has attained. It is only on the
surface of capitalist society, that is, in ideological phenomena and the
movements of the market, that production and consumption appear
to cancel one another out. This illusion is maintained by commodity
fetishism. In the first volume of Capital Marx examines this phenomenon
closely. The free worker, owning nothing but his labour-power, stands
in an unequal relation to the capitalist the relationship between worker
and capitalist is only productive to the extent that it is unequal and
relative.8 The capitalist can exchange the commodity thus produced for
the equivalent of its value. Hence, Marx speaks of two entirely different
forms of value: the relative form and the equivalent form are two
intimately connected, mutually dependent and inseparable elements of
the expression of value; but, at the same time, are mutually exclusive,
antagonistic extremes i.e. poles of the same expression (Marx 1954:
55). In Marxs expressive theory of value a commodity (a roll of linen
or a coat) can be said to express x amount of another commodity. A
coat can be expressed in x rolls of linen, a roll of linen in x number of
coats, and so on. But changes in the conditions of production (increasing
exploitation, technological development, etc.) cause this equation to
fluctuate continually. Hence the disjunction between value, measured by
production, and exchange value, measured by money. What this means
is that value exists only in its expression as production and cannot be
said to pre-exist it.
We might be tempted here to object that labour-power is the form
value takes prior to its realisation in commodities, however, Marx
insists that labour-power is not value but what creates value (Marx
1954: 57). Productive capacity is the source of all value but is not itself
a value. If the commodity fetish has a mystifying function, it is that it
gives an equivalent expression to an unequal relationship. In this sense,
the distinction between production and capital appears quantitative and
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 33

calculable: the worker exchanges an amount of his labour for a set wage,
the more he works, the more he earns. But underlying this is a qualita-
tive distinction between labour-power as value-creating activity and the
general equivalent through which value is expressed. The difference be-
tween production and capital is both quantitative and qualitative, which
is what allows labour to be turned into a commodity and sold, and why
Marx continually speaks in both equivalent/absolute and relative terms.
Marxs solution to the problem of the genesis of value was only
possible by separating human labour-power in the abstract from its
embodiment in both commodities and concrete forms of labour. The
concept of simple abstract labour was derived by Marx from Smith and
Ricardo, who posited the existence of a form of wealth on the side of the
subject, prior to its embodiment in objects (Deleuze and Guattari 2004:
2801). The liberation of labour-power from traditional social forms
means that, unlike the serf, the slave or the bondsman, the free worker
has to sell his labour-power in order to become a factor of production.
As a consequence of this, the worker himself is produced as an adjacent
part, peripheral to the production process which his labour constitutes
in concert with the means of production. This is what Marx means when
he says the worker is literally devalued by capital. But how was the free
worker separated from the means of production in the first place and
how is he continued to be separated from them? This brings us to the
problem of primitive accumulation and the disjunctive synthesis.9

II. Separation, Distribution and Disjunction

Deleuzes jettisoning of Hegelian categories appears to place his
philosophy in a compromised position with respect to the bloody
contradictions out of which history is inevitably made. If difference is
not given in terms of contradiction then the difference which Deleuze
emphasises might seem to be somehow indifferent to materiality, austere
and otherworldly. Supposing, as is generally done, that the inequality
between production and capital is made known only through contra-
diction and opposition, does this not put Deleuze in league with the
mystifications of capital itself? As Marx points out, the specific illusion
to be dispelled is that capital rather than labour is productive: [Capital]
becomes a very mystic being since all of labours social productive
forces appear to be due to capital, rather than labour as such, and seem
to issue from the womb of capital itself, while the market becomes an
enchanted, perverted, topsy-turvy world, in which Monsieur le Capital
and Madam la Terre do their ghost-walking (Marx 1972: 82730).
34 Aidan Tynan

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari stress that desire composes

the material infrastructure as much as the cultural and ideological super-
structure. In other words, desire is immediately constitutive of reality. If
this is so, how can we account for a specifically political domain defined
by desire, the transition from formal to real subsumption in the labour
process, the increasing dominance of technical machines in social repro-
duction, and most importantly the mystification of the relations of pro-
duction in social life?10 This relates to a larger debate within Marxism
relating to the problem of political consciousness and the opposition of
theory and practice. Marx invokes historical examples (chiefly the British
land enclosures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) to explain
the origins of primitive accumulation, the process by which the worker
was separated from the means of production in order to render him
free, the bearer of labour in its abstract form (Marx 1954: 66970).
But Marx de-emphasises historical subjectivity in order to lay bare the
very laws of capital, which do not appear directly in experience and over
which no one has direct control. This ambiguity in Marxs thought con-
cerning the merits of history and practice on the one hand and theory on
the other has led to much intramural debate (as, for example, between
E. P. Thompson and Perry Anderson in the 1970s). But for Deleuze and
Guattari, primitive accumulation is neither solely historical (materialist)
nor continuous (ideological), and, while they dispense with ideology as
crude false consciousness, they do in fact give a very powerful account
of the mystification of desire, its capture in social reproduction.11
In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze states that every phenomenon
refers to an inequality by which it is conditioned (Deleuze 1994:
222). We can take this as one of the essential statements of Deleuzes
critique of the philosophy of difference. If empirical phenomena can
be constituted as a set of differential relations between terms (Peter is
taller than Paul, Paul is taller than John) then this has given rise to
philosophies of difference (Aristotle, Leibniz and Hegel are Deleuzes
main examples) which emphasise negation over positive terms and
derive difference from identity. Deleuzes critique, however, not only
charges that the primacy given to negation and identity stems from an
illusion, but, and this is the crucial point, that the illusion is internal
to difference itself (Deleuze 1994: 240). Difference generates its own
illusory appearance it generates, through its embodiment in concrete
particulars, its own inverted image or self-negation precisely because
through its distribution in these particulars it is cancelled in them. The
concepts of opposition and contradiction are not the causes but only
the effects of cancellation. The phenomenal world is doubled by an
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 35

intensive, noumenal one, but this double is asymmetrical with respect to

the extensive particulars whose production it conditions.
We might suppose from this that Deleuzes philosophy is crudely du-
alistic (as some readings tend to argue12 ) but the dissymmetry pertaining
between intensive and extensive is reducible to neither domain. To do
justice to Deleuzes philosophy, then, we must speak of three distinct
elements: 1) a field of pure differentiation/intensity which qualifies the
phenomenal field; 2) the phenomenal, differenciated field itself, where
the laws of quantitative and qualitative determinations (contradiction,
opposition, etc.) come into being and intensity is cancelled; 3) something
which allows a communication, interaction and reciprocal determina-
tion between the two but is reducible to neither one. In other words,
between intensity and extensity there is the all important factor of dis-
tribution. Distribution here plays for Deleuze the role of what, for other
philosophers, would be epistemology. We can only know difference in
its cancellation in empirical things but, and precisely because of this fact,
we can think difference as that which conditions phenomena. Similarly,
the distribution of difference in phenomena causes the empirical to
be mistaken for what conditions it. The cancellation of difference in
phenomena [measures] the time of an equalisation, and in this way
the principle of physical causality finds . . . its categorical physical
determination (Deleuze 1994: 223). The cancellation of difference
appears at one with irreversible physical causality, so that we take the
cancellation of difference for difference itself.
If the cancellation of difference in the empirical experience of quantity
and quality takes on the character of irreversible physical causality
(an apparent objective movement as Deleuze and Guattari call it),
then intensity allows us to grasp this movement from the perspective
of difference in itself: intensity defines an objective sense for a series
of irreversible states which pass, like an arrow of time, from more
to less differenciated, from a productive to a reduced difference, and
ultimately to a cancelled difference (Deleuze 1994: 223, emphasis mine).
The apparent objective movement by which the producer is steadily
impoverished through distribution of the product has an objective
sense defined by the intensive states which qualify this distribution. If
we are to find a concept of ideology in Deleuze, we should seek it here
in the concepts of sense and distribution:

Good sense is the partial truth in so far as this is joined to the feeling of
the absolute. . . . But how is the feeling of the absolute attached to the partial
truth? Good sense essentially distributes or repartitions: on the one hand and
36 Aidan Tynan

on the other hand are the characteristic formulae of its false profundity or
platitude. . . . Good sense is the ideology of the middle classes who recognise
themselves in equality as an abstract product. . . . [F]or example, the good
sense of eighteenth century political economy which saw in the commercial
classes the natural compensation for extremes, and in the prosperity of
commerce the mechanical process of the equalisation of portions. (Deleuze
1994: 2245)

The distribution which good sense effects repartitions (separates) and

equalises in a compensatory manner according to the logic of the part
and the whole, the part which belongs to the whole and the whole which
lacks the part. In opposition to this, however,

there is a completely other distribution which must be called nomadic, a

nomad nomos, without property, enclosure or measure. Here, there is no
longer a division of that which is distributed but rather a division among
those who distribute themselves in an open space a space which is unlimited,
or at least without precise limits. Nothing pertains or belongs to any person,
but all persons are arrayed here and there in such a manner as to cover the
largest possible space. (Deleuze 1994: 36)

The discourse of Anti-Oedipus is organised around these two distinct

forms of distribution. The molar corresponds to mass phenomena
and the laws of large numbers while the molecular is described as
micropsychic and micrological (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 31116).
What needs to be remembered is that these are types of distribution
and not differences in scale. We must avoid at all costs interpreting
Deleuze and Guattaris position here as a sort of cult of the small.
The crux of the matter is that, while all production corresponds to
molecular laws, which are schematised as the three syntheses of desire,
when it comes to reproduction these syntheses can become subject to
illegitimate uses corresponding to the molar distribution. This is how
Deleuze and Guattari account for the apparent objective movement
which allows a fetishistic, perverted, bewitched world to come into
being as a requirement of social reproduction (Deleuze and Guattari:
2004: 12). We must also note that this process through which the
real source of production (labour) is mistaken for something dependent
on it (capital, the earth, the despot) is, for Deleuze and Guattari, a
characteristic of all societies to the extent that all societies reproduce
themselves. Desire, then, in its revolutionary mode, produces without
reproducing, and so is antithetical to any kind of social organisation,
whatever its character.
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 37

Anti-Oedipus is concerned with understanding the role of capital

with respect to this tension between production and reproduction, and
specifically how capital, unlike other modes of production, draws on
desire directly in order to secure its reproduction. Capital releases a
form of desire, described by psychoanalysis as libido, freed from any
social or organic ties, an eminently flexible form of energy which can be
channelled into any imaginable activity. This is how we should account
for the bizarre array of desiring-machines in the opening passages of
Anti-Oedipus. But free desire, like free labour, is something of a
misnomer: in order to function, it needs some kind of surface on which
its effects are registered, recorded, stored-up, that is, distributed. This
is why Deleuze and Guattari need the concept of the body without
organs. The latter is what orchestrates desire, it is a surface on which the
desiring-machines can become productive. Capital, then, forms the body
without organs of capitalist society. But what really interests Deleuze
and Guattari is the discovery of different kinds of bodies without organs
in the pathological states of schizophrenia, in which the functioning
and distribution of the machines follow the laws of production, not
the laws of the reproduction of capital. While these pathological states
are in no way desirable in themselves, they provide a heuristic for the
revolutionary imagination.
If a society which reproduces in the same way it produces is literally
impossible according to the criteria of the syntheses of desire this is sug-
gested by the fact that, at the heart of desire, there is an antiproductive
element which tends to resist the desiring-machines. The body without
organs emerges not only as something which allows the machines to op-
erate but also as a means to resist them (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 9).
Every investment of desire in an organ or a machine is a source of pain
and anxiety, much in the same way that the investment of money in
a large piece of constant capital, such as a manufacturing plant, is a
cause of great concern for the capitalist. An organ, like a factory, is not
in itself productive but only becomes so through investments of desire.
This is why the body without organs forms a disjunctive surface which
attracts the desiring-machines but also repulses them. Without this
attractionrepulsion, no machine would ever work: The genesis of the
machine lies precisely here: in the opposition of the process of produc-
tion of the desiring-machines and the nonproductive stasis of the body
without organs (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 10). It is only by being con-
stituted in opposition to any sort of organisation of desire, social or or-
ganic, that the body without organs is capable, in a seeming paradox, of
performing a regulating or distributive role with respect to the machines.
38 Aidan Tynan

When the machines and the body without organs become opposed in
this way (a functional opposition) the latter

falls back on (se rabat sur) desiring-production, attracts it, and appropriates it
for its own. The organ-machines now cling to the body without organs . . . An
attraction-machine now takes the place, or may take the place, of a repulsion-
machine . . . The body without organs, the unproductive, the unconsumable,
serves as a surface for the recording of the entire process of production of
desire, so that desiring-machines seem to emanate from it in the apparent
objective movement that establishes a relationship between the machines and
the body without organs. (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 12)

This whole process, in which the desiring-machines are attracted and

repelled, explains the phenomenon of primitive accumulation, the
separation of desire from its productive organs, and the transition to
the properly ideological stage when desire labours under the repression
which both keeps it apart from its final satisfaction and constantly
stimulates it into new investments and counter-investments. Capital,
and the relations between money and commodities that it establishes
in its opposition to production, draws on desire directly in order to meet
the needs of capitalist reproduction. If Deleuze and Guattari condemn
the discourse of Freud it is because psychoanalysis never (with rare
exceptions such as Wilhelm Reich) points up this complicity. In the
Oedipus complex, the molecular (or pre-personal) way in which desire
is produced (the id) is related to the molar (or personal) object forms:
the father and the mother. By insisting on this molar distribution in
the processes of psychic repression which constitute Oedipal sexuality,
psychoanalysis argues that the desiring subject is produced as a function
of these objects, as what is missing to and what is lacking them, whence
the triangle of daddy-mummy-me. The paternal law separates the child
from the body of the mother, through its prohibition, then grants access
under certain conditions (the molar distribution) which re-constitute
desire as a function of the law. Whence the topsy-turvy, perverted and
bewitched world.
It is vital to note here that desire is never duped into its complicity
with authority, it simply continues to desire under conditions alien to its
laws of production. Desire cannot be deceived because it is immediately
constitutive and so has nothing to be deceived about. But this does
not rule out something which performs the ideological function of
capturing desire. This is why Deleuze and Guattari insist that the es-
sential thing is the establishment of an enchanted recording or inscribing
surface that arrogates to itself all the productive forces and all the organs
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 39

of production, and that acts as a quasi cause by communicating the ap-

parent movement (the fetish) to them (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 13).
The body without organs, then, plays the role of an ideological surface,
what Marx calls the surface of society. The laws which determine the
production of desire are not the same as the laws which determine the
distribution of desire on this surface: when the productive connections
pass from machines to the body without organs (as from labor to capi-
tal), it would seem that they then come under another law that expresses
a distribution in relation to the nonproductive element as a natural
or divine presupposition (the disjunctions of capital) (Deleuze and
Guattari 2004: 13). The real cause refers to the inter-molecular modifi-
cations of the desiring-machines, while the distribution of the machines
on the surface presents a fictive quasi-cause whereby the real cause is
displaced in the apparent movement of separation/disjunction (Deleuze
2004: 1089). This double causality is the only thing capable of consti-
tuting the social world of desire and its capture. It is in the space opened
by the two causalities that we find the domain of sense, the distribution
and inscription of effects, or the ideological domain as such.13
Primitive accumulation, in which production is shorn from its
products, is never accomplished once and for all but persists as a
necessary part of the process; it is a necessary double movement which
at once transforms the social means of production into capital and the
producers into wage-labourers. The historical development of capital
is dependent on this double movement which brings into being a
disjunction between abstract production in general shorn from the
means of production, but also a conjunction, in which the two meet
again but this time under conditions set by the capital relation. Once
formulated in this way, we can understand Deleuze and Guattaris
conception of the dynamic of accumulation constitutive of the specific
power of the capitalist axiomatic as a disciplinary force.

III. Surplus-Value of Code, Surplus-Value of Flux

In chapter four of Theories of Surplus-Value, Marx writes:
Productive labour, in its meaning for capitalist production, is wage-labour
which, exchanged against the variable part of capital (the part of the capital
that is spent on wages), reproduces not only this part of the capital (or the
value of its own labour-power), but in addition produces surplus-value for
the capitalist. It is only thereby that commodity or money is transformed into
capital, is produced as capital. Only that wage-labour is productive which
produces capital. (This is the same as saying that it reproduces on an enlarged
40 Aidan Tynan

scale the sum of value expended on it, or that it gives in return more labour
than it receives in the form of wages. Consequently, only that labour-power
is productive which produces a value greater than its own.)

Capital, in order to reproduce, must reproduce at an expanded rate

because it only produces to the extent that it produces a surplus.
Conversely, the way the worker produces is not the same as how
he reproduces, or consumes in order to reproduce his labour-power,
because the disjunctive surface of capital excludes the greater part of his
product. Here we have the fundamental Marxist proposition regarding
surplus-value, prior to its breakdown into profit, interest, rent, costs of
circulation and so on. Under capitalism, products are not produced for
their immediate use-value, they are kept in a reserve in order to be sold
at a later date. For this reason, Marx saw clearly that the sphere of
exchange, of values, is constituted as a function of a superabundance
on the side of products, which itself presupposes the appropriation of
labour above and beyond that required for the production of immediate
use-values (Marx 1973: 4569). Although Marx insists that surplus-
value is unique to the capitalist mode of production, he does suggest that
a form of accumulation in the capitalist manner is a naturally occurring
and universal phenomenon:
No production [is] possible without an instrument of production, even if this
instrument is only the hand. No production without stored-up, past labour,
even if it is only the facility gathered together and concentrated in the hand
of the savage by repeated practice. Capital is, among other things, also an
instrument of production, also objectified, past labour. Therefore capital is a
general, eternal relation of nature. (Marx 1973: 86)

What Deleuze and Guattari call surplus value of code is the means by
which primitive economies regulate society through direct inscriptions
(scarifications) on the body which block any movement towards
decoding. The emergence of capital, on the contrary, marks the
transition to a society regulated by a surplus-value of flux, the latter
being a conjunction of two kinds of decoded flows: a flow of
workers without any ties and a form of general equivalent capable of
buying and selling anything at all, including labour-power (Deleuze and
Guattari 2004: 290). The regulative principle of capitalist society, then,
corresponds not to coding but to this interior limit between the mutually
exclusive decoded/ing flows. This limit is regulative precisely because it
both attracts and repels the organs of capital.
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 41

Capital is constantly deterritorialising, finding new, exotic markets

and innovative practices of decoding at its periphery, but as part of the
same movement it must reterritorialise, rediscovering within its centre
zones of archaism and lack which check this expansion. Without subjects
ready and willing to occupy, to live, this interior limit, capitalism itself
would not be possible since it would be unable to legitimate its periods of
crisis. Capitalism, then, must constitute a subjectivity based on hostility
towards codes, but it must also produce subjects unwilling to follow
decoding all the way beyond the social relations which condition the
production of the decoded flows themselves. The psychoanalytic subject
discovers desire in the abstract, a free floating desire (libido) which,
however, is only free to the extent that it is tied to a social order that
denies it satisfaction (prohibition of incest). Capitalist society constitutes
the limit between production in general (desire) and production for the
sake of capital (work) as its own interior, uncrossable limit (Deleuze
and Guattari 2004: 333). The libidinal objects of the parental fantasy
are discovered only to the extent that they are rediscovered outside
the family as symbolic substitutes (the cop, the priest, the nation).
Deleuze and Guattari characterise the disciplinary power of capital
entirely within the terms of this double movement, or axiomatic, the
conjunction/disjunction of the two mutually exclusive flows:

In Das Capital Marx analyzes the true reason for the double movement:
on the one hand, capitalism can proceed only by continually developing the
subjective essence of abstract wealth or production for the sake of production,
that is, production as an end in itself, the absolute development of the social
productivity of labor; but on the other hand and at the same time, it can
do so only in the framework of its own limited purpose, as a determinate
mode of production, production of capital, the self-expansion of existing
capital. Under the first aspect capitalism is continually surpassing its own
limits, always deterritorializing further, displaying a cosmopolitan, universal
energy which overthrows every restriction and bond; but under the second,
strictly complementary, aspect, capitalism is continually confronting limits
and barriers that are interior and immanent to itself, and that, precisely
because they are immanent, let themselves be overcome only provided they
are reproduced on a wider scale (always more reterritorialization local,
world-wide, planetary). (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 281)

The necessarily expanded reproduction of capital cannot be separated

from a form of subjectivity which seeks to surpass its immanent limits
(the unconscious) only by displacing them, redrawing them at a further
remove hence the psychoanalytic drama of Oedipus, in which the
42 Aidan Tynan

subject overcomes the familial figures only by rediscovering them in the

social and political domains.
The Marxian theory of money, then, is of particular interest to
Deleuze and Guattari because it relates specifically to the production
of axiomatised subjects (Thoburn 2003: 97). The two decoded flows,
the flow of workers and the flow of money capable of buying their
labour-power are characterised as a differential (a difference between
two differences). Money as a result appears in two forms, a flow of wages
which goes into the pockets of the workers (what Marx called variable
capital), and a flow of profits which the capitalist takes and reinvests in
the means of production in order to extract more surplus-value from his
workers (what Marx called constant capital). In establishing a common
measure money effects the cancellation of the intensive difference, which
qualifies the two flows:

Let us return to the dualism of money, to the two boards, the two inscriptions,
the one going into the account of the wage earner, the other into the balance
sheet of the enterprise. Measuring the two orders of magnitude in terms of
the same analytical unit is a pure fiction, a cosmic swindle, as if one were
to measure intergalactic or intra-atomic distances in meters and centimeters.
There is no common measure between the value of the enterprises and that of
the labor capacity of wage earners. (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 250)

Capital is not defined by a homogeneous flow, but by two mutually

exclusive flows which act as checks on one another: a flow of payment
and a flow of financing, a flow of tangible assets and a flow of
credit, a market flow and a flow of technological innovation (Deleuze
and Guattari 2004: 407). For this reason, Marxs theory of money
is conceived on the one hand as a measure, or store, of value, and
on the other as a medium of exchange, facilitating the circulation
of capital (Harvey 1982: 251). The great cosmic swindle which the
social authority of capital performs is to conflate these two aspects of
money, to displace the limit which separates them, and to mystify this in
commodity-fetishism and exchange (Marx 1970: 879).
Deleuze and Guattari are insistent on a Marxian theory of money
which gives adequate importance not only to the general equivalent
but to banking practice, to financial operations, and to the specific
circulation of credit money since it is in the opposition of the two kinds
of money (payment and finance) that difference is cancelled and surplus-
value realised (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 250). This explains why they
are hostile to Freuds account which emphasises the role of the general
equivalent in psychic life. According to Freud, the libidinal structure
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 43

which accounts for the significance of money is primarily anal-erotic

rather than phallic. Hence, the famous equation money = shit which
Deleuze and Guattari so vehemently deride (Deleuze and Guattari 2004:
31). The phallus, being the standard or the unit of measure (gold), refers
to excrement as the medium of exchange value, the general equivalent
(credit-money). As Jean-Joseph Goux writes:

Supplementary (superfluous) elements are what govern the circulation of

substitutes. The surplus is excluded to act as measure of the replacements. In
general, whatever the register, the universal exchange value is linked to excess.
In the election of gold as in that of the phallus, the surplus is charged with
measuring the deficit in transactions involving value whether in a positive
form (as surplus of wealth in gold or surplus of vitality in the phallus) or in a
negative, archaic form (as excrement, matter that is excluded and expelled).
(Goux 1990: 31, my emphasis)

Surplus brings into being a lack or exclusion (something withheld in a

reserve) which functions as a principle of calculation (or cancellation)14
and allows a separate flow to be set up as the medium of exchange. A
detatched complete object is excluded or excepted, only to return as the
totality which the parts lack; the parts lack what is in excess of them.
The function of the State is to establish an infinite debt capable
of appropriating and absorbing everything and this, precisely, is what
establishes money as the general equivalent (Deleuze and Guattari 2004:
21415). The despotic or Asiatic formation does not eradicate the
primitive codes and their finite debts; it overcodes them by relating them
all to a single, transcendent higher unity, rather than each other. The
despotic mode of production brings into being two flows, a flow of
credit (debt) and a flow of payment (tribute), crucial to the development
of capital. In this sense, capitalism does not replace feudalism. Rather,
feudalism becomes capitalism by being monarchised, democratised,
etc., over a long historical period (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 242).
Capitalism lacks a body of its own on which it could inscribe its codes
precisely because it is hostile to coding and this is why it finds an archaic
body on which to reterritorialise. Capitalism does not replace feudalism,
but rather maintains elements of feudal authority, exercised no longer
from a point of transcendence but immanently, through capital itself.
The limit between attraction and repulsion is the regulatory principle
of all desire. This limit is universal, not only to all societies but to
nature. In phenomena of co-evolution, such as the orchid and the wasp,
two elements double and are thus in excess of one another, but also
attract one another as what each lacks. In primitive society, similarly, the
44 Aidan Tynan

limits which regulate behaviours such as incest are coded and thus the
limit remains purely virtual (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 270). Capitalist
society is distinct from every other because its limits are constantly being
brought into reality as something lived, and, indeed, this occupation of
the social limit is precisely how capitalist society can dispense with codes.
The limit which constitutes capital is experienced in different realms as
the limit between payment and credit, production and capital, variable
and constant capital, but also as that between desire and work. Money,
in so far as it functions as a means of social regulation, concretises this
limit, makes it a lived reality. The zones of lack and archaism which
capital hollows out in the midst of abundance and innovation serve as
graphic examples of this.

IV. Realisation, Consumption and Counter-actualisation

The realisation of the surplus-value immanent in commodities is
necessary for the maintenance of social authority since realisation, and
not production, is what governs the distribution of desiring-machines:
Furnishing or realizing surplus value is what establishes recording
rights (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 12). Social authority is dependent on
the ability to realise surplus-value and thus crises of realisation are part
and parcel of capitalist reproduction. If capital cannot accommodate
itself to the expansion of products and markets which its reproduction
necessitates, it will enter a period of crisis; surplus-value will be produced
but will not be realised as profit. All crises are crises of realisation in
this sense. The entire mass of commodities . . . must be sold. If this is
not done, or done only in part, or only at prices below the prices of
production, the labourer has been indeed exploited, but his exploitation
is not realised as such for the capitalist (Marx 1972: 244). The barriers
to realisation were known to the political economy of Marxs day but
were explained, for example by Ricardos theory of rent, by factors
external to capital. It was Marx who discovered that the barriers to
realisation arose out of the antagonism, internal to capital, between
the conditions under which surplus-value is extracted and those under
which it is realised as profit. Similarly, we can say that Deleuze and
Guattari were the first to discover the disjunction between the productive
conditions of desire and the ideological conditions of its consumption.
What David Harvey calls the structural problems of realization can
be read, then, following Anti-Oedipus, as the problem of how capital
manages to displace its interior limits, encountering them as something
external but constantly redrawn at a further remove (Harvey 1982: 87).
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 45

Deleuze and Guattaris analysis proposes that capital fabricates a

psychic interiority which places these limits inside the subject itself,
forcing the subject to occupy them libidinally as psychic repression,
as the trauma of the family romance, as dream and fantasy, as
psychotherapy and hospitalisation (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 338).
The fundamental argument of Anti-Oedipus is that capitals limit,
while being perfectly real and concrete, produced as it is by desire,
is populated with the fantasy figures of an archaic authority, mommy
and daddy, as a condition of desires realisation. For this reason, we
need to think in terms of three elements in the ideological process: the
repressing representation which performs the repression; the repressed
representative, on which the repression actually comes to bear; the
displaced represented, which gives a falsified apparent image that is
meant to trap desire (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 125). Desiring-
production, as distinct from social (re)production, always occurs at the
limit of society, but the synthesis of conjunction is deemed illegitimate
when it derives what lies beyond the limit from the limit itself. In
the Oedipal drama, the subjects desire is constituted as a function of
the paternal proscription from which the desired object, the mother, is
derived. The social limit is thereby lived, but only as dream, fantasy and
the representations of the subject. This is precisely how unconscious
material is fabricated through the synthesis of conjunction (Deleuze and
Guattari 2004: 345).
The problem from the point of view of the capitalist is precisely
that the consumption powers of the worker are constantly being
undermined by capital itself through the impoverishment of workers.
The capitalist deprives the worker of the greater part of his product,
not in order to consume directly but to sell at a profit. But the
proletariat, precisely because of their exploitation, are incapable of
buying all the commodities they produce, and so capital must constantly
find new means of disposing of its reserve, discovering new markets
(whence imperialism, but also the psychoanalysts consulting room) for
realisation. Capitalism, then, brings into being models of realisation
which do not necessarily involve consumption, and which may be
explicitly ascetic. As Deleuze and Guattari write:
Marx has clearly demonstrated the importance of the problem: the ever
widening circle of capitalism is completed, while reproducing its immanent
limits on an ever larger scale, only if the surplus value is not merely produced
or extorted, but absorbed or realized. If the capitalist is not defined in terms
of enjoyment, the reason is not merely that his aim is the production for
productions sake that generates surplus value, it also includes the realization
46 Aidan Tynan

of this surplus value: an unrealized surplus value of flux is as if not produced,

and becomes embodied in unemployment and stagnation. (Deleuze and
Guattari 2004: 255)

As a result, capital includes as part of its vast productive process

a moment of antiproduction, something which prevents immediate
consumption. Indeed, capital can be defined as the unity of production
and antiproduction, since what intervenes in order to separate the
producers from the product (the State, its police and its army) likewise
function to prevent consumptions, even on the part of capitalists, which
do not serve the interests of capital. There must be something to prevent
unfettered technological advancement, a flow of stupidity to counter the
flow of knowledge; there must be an asceticism to counter the flow
of excess, and an archaism to counter the tendency towards absolute
deterritorialisation. Capital produces far more than it can accommodate,
and so must bring its vast resources of repression to bear on whatever
escapes realisation.
This conceptualisation represents a recurring theme in the history of
Marxism. Rosa Luxemburg in her Accumulation of Capital famously
proposed that militarism and imperialism provide the vital markets
in which surplus-value is absorbed or realised. Sweezy and Baran, in
their landmark book Monopoly Capitalism, suggest that the problem of
absorption becomes ever more pressing when capital enters its late, or
monopoly, phase where price fixing and centralisation become the norm.
The problem, however, must be related back to what Marx, in volume
three of Capital, considered the central law of capitalist accumulation,
the so-called law of the tendency to a falling rate of profit. As Marx

proceeding from the nature of the capitalist mode of production, it is . . . a

logical necessity that in its development the general average rate of surplus-
value must express itself in a falling general rate of profit. Since the mass of the
employed living labour is continually on the decline as compared to the mass
of materialised labour set in motion by it, i.e., to the productively consumed
means of production, it follows that the portion of living labour, unpaid
and congealed in surplus-value, must also be continually on the decrease
compared to the amount of value represented by the invested total capital.
Since the ratio of the mass of surplus-value to the value of the invested total
capital forms the rate of profit, this rate must constantly fall. (Marx 1972:

What this means is that even if the rate of surplus-value grows, this can
only be expressed in an ever decreasing rate of profit. Marx schematises
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 47

this as follows: if a capitalist employs 100 workers for one week and pays
out 100 in wages (variable capital) in order to produce 200 worth of
total product, then the rate of surplus-value is 100%. But if we suppose
that the same capitalist spends 50 on constant capital (machinery, raw
materials) the rate of profit will be expressed as 66 2/3%, if he spends
100 on constant capital it will be 50%, and so on (Marx 1972: 211).
Increasing technological development entails a relative decrease in the
amount of labour and an increase in productivity, leading to a general
glut of products and an increasingly impoverished proletariat incapable
of purchasing them. As a result, even if the absolute rate of profit goes
up, the rate of profit relative to total capital (constant and variable)
decreases (Marx 1972: 220).
A number of influences counteracting the falling tendency have been
noted by Marx and others writing after him. All of these influences,
whether they involve the depression of wages or the channelling of
money into bureaucracies such as civil government and social welfare,
into military spending and public works, are ways of devaluing,
depreciating or destroying capital.15 Deleuze and Guattari reinterpret
this from the unique perspective afforded by schizoanalysis. The
schizophrenic is produced in the same way as any other commodity
but with the vital difference that the schizo is not saleable; the desire
of the schizophrenic is produced by capitalism but is unrealisable in
it, whence the repressive forces of psychiatry, anti-psychotic drugs and
the asylum, all of which are means capital finds to counteract the
unprecedented liberation of desire it precipitated (Deleuze and Guattari
2004: 266). The neurotic, on the other hand, is perfectly realisable, and
neurotic illness has provided capital with a whole new set of markets
(therapy, anti-depressants, and so on). It is for this reason that Deleuze
and Guattari condemn the practice of psychoanalysis as a gigantic
enterprise of absorption of surplus value (Deleuze and Guattari 2004:
260). Psychoanalysis, in other words, contributes to the diffusion of
antiproduction, that bourgeois asceticism on which realisation depends,
in that consumption in the realm of fantasy is no consumption at all.
Realisation, then, is opposed both to production and consumption
proper. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze distinguishes the virtual
from the possible, arguing that while the possible is realised, the virtual
is actualised: The possible is opposed to the real; the process undergone
by the possible is therefore a realisation. By contrast, the virtual is not
opposed to the real; it possesses a full reality by itself. The process it
undergoes is that of actualisation (Deleuze 1994: 211). The social limit,
which the schizo occupies, is in no way realisable (its realisation is its
48 Aidan Tynan

displacement) but is actualisable. To the extent, then, that actualisation

is opposed to realisation, we can argue that every actualisation is
already a counter-actualisation to the extent that the latter de-realises
a corresponding realisation. This, in fact, is in accordance with Marxs
own conception of the influences which counteract the falling rate of
profit, since these influences are literally destructive of capital. Counter-
actualisation, then, must be seen as part of capitals self-destruction,
since it signifies the production of something unrealisable in the heart
of capital itself. As long as the falling tendency and its counteraction
are regulatory, this secures the immanentisation of capital. Legitimate
consumption, on the other hand, would be a deregulating counter-
actualisation, a displacement of the limit common to both desiring and
social production, not the displacement of one into the other.
If realisation involves the calculation, or cancellation, of difference,
then legitimate consumption always involves something incalculable and
unrealised, a remainder: the conjunctive synthesis . . . implies a veritable
migration of the remainder or residue (Deleuze and Guattari 2004:
359). The schizo then, like the worker, receives a share of the product,
of what is left after each division (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 17).
But, unlike wages, which serve to reproduce labour-power, this share
remains unrealised. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze describes
the process as follows: God makes the world by calculating, but his
calculations never work out exactly [juste], and this inexactitude or
injustice in the result, this irreducible inequality, forms the condition of
the world. . . . [I]f the calculation were exact, there would be no world.
The world can be regarded as a remainder (Deleuze 1994: 222,
emphasis mine). These remainders can be found migrating everywhere
on the body without organs of capital as what capital cannot consume,
and from these remainders we make our own bodies without organs.16

V. Conclusion
Anti-Oedipus gives us a coherent and compelling account of how capital
constitutes a whole field of immanence that is reproduced on an always
larger scale, that is continually multiplying its axioms to suit its needs,
that is filled with images and with images of images, through which
desire is determined to desire its own repression (Deleuze and Guattari
2004: 407). Deleuze and Guattari exhort us to think this process of
immanentisation in terms of three different planes of the body without
organs of capital. First, there is the plane of the unequal productive
relationship between worker and capitalist, or desire and machine. This
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 49

is the differential in the unequal relationship between the owner of

labour capacity and the owner of the means of production constitutive of
surplus-value. Second, there is the plane of disjunction or recording on
which the two incommensurable forms of money, the flow of wages and
purchasing power on the one hand, and the flow of finance and credit
on other, come into being to constitute the interior limit of capital. This
is the limit that capital is constantly displacing through the cancellation
of the difference constitutive of the productive relationship. Third, there
is the unity of production and antiproduction which capital needs as
a condition of realisation. The great forces of repression (the State, its
police and its army) are joined to the permissiveness of the market. The
permissive structure is the repressive structure (Deleuze and Guattari
2004: 291). Whence, the dualism of capital, which on the one hand
produces for the sake of production, but on the other produces strictly
for the sake of the capitalist social formation. The ideological function
which psychoanalysis performs is the displacement of the absolute limit,
which is the exterior limit of all societies, into the relative limit (capitalist
reproduction) through a repressing false image of this externality derived
from the interior limit of capital and fabricated in the unconscious to be
invested and consumed.

1. The question of their relation to marxism is one that is only posed from
outside the theoretical work of Foucault and Deleuze; within it, the question
of marxism does not arise. At the level of intellectual strategy, it is the positivity
of this approach that must be underscored. These authors deploy elements of
marxist theory in the process of elaborating something else, a different form
of intelligibility of social reality (Patton 1988: 126). In a similar vein, Isabelle
Garo argues that the appeal to Marx was a convenient way of opposing the
wave of reactionary sentiment which followed May 68 but was never internal
to Deleuzes thought (Garo 2008: 657). Manuel DeLanda, meanwhile, avers
that the Marxist tradition was like [Deleuze and Guattaris] Oedipus, the little
territory they did not dare to challenge (Delanda 2008: 174). Patton, Garo and
Delandas comments, although divergent in tone, amount to the same thing: that
Marx figures in Deleuzes thought as a sign of bad conscience.
2. See for example Hallward (2006: 162).
3. It is not at all my intention here to write Guattaris influence out of the story,
but rather to emphasise that his influence must not be taken to be a crude
politicisation of Deleuze. This much is a prerequisite to understanding Guattaris
true influence which, however, is a matter that lies beyond the scope of this
4. Boltanski and Chiapello associate the triumph of neo-liberalism in the 1980s
and 1990s with Deleuzes critique: Much better in effect, from the standpoint of
unlimited accumulation, that the question be suppressed, that people convince
themselves that everything can no longer be anything but a simulacrum, that
50 Aidan Tynan

true authenticity is henceforth excluded from the world, or that the aspiration
to the authentic is only an illusion (quoted in Callinicos 2003: 11).
5. Like Marx, contra Hegel, [Deleuze and Guattari] attempt to set things right
by making a new beginning, a new type of beginning in fact, one which, as
in Marx, starts with a rational abstraction, namely production in general
(as process). Desire as process, as production, is as much of a corrective as
Marxs general production is (Buchanan 2000: 21). On the importance of
distinguishing between desiring-production and desiring-machine, see Buchanan
(2008: 4950).
6. This is the criticism of Anti-Oedipus Baudrillard makes in The Mirror of
7. Deleuze and Guattari employ the terms laws and uses interchangeably.
Whether illegitimate or legitimate uses are at stake, these refer to the same
syntheses (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 127).
8. In Theories of Surplus Value Marx writes: Productivity in the capitalist
sense is based on relative productivity that the worker not only replaces
an old value, but creates a new one; that he materialises more labour-
time in his product than is materialised in the product that keeps him in
existence as a worker (
9. The history of the debate over the meaning of primitive accumulation goes
back to Lenins The Development of Capitalism in Russia, which argued that
primitive accumulation was a one-off historical occurrence characterising the
transition from the corve to capitalism. Rosa Luxemburgs famous argument in
The Accumulation of Capital was that capital necessarily expands into a world
system in order to find pre-capitalist markets, and hence primitive accumulation
is a continuous and necessary feature of capitalist reproduction. The latter thesis
has been instrumental in the conception of postmodern capital as imperialist by
Hardt and Negri and Samir Amin, among others.
10. This is Badious critique of Deleuzes political theory, see Thoburn (2003: 5).
11. Thoburn argues that, since capital is amoral, Deleuze does not need a concept
of ideology. Thoburn, however, understands ideology purely as belief system
and not, as Marx does, as part of a system of distribution (Thoburn 2003: 94).
12. For a recent example of this type of dualistic reading, see Reynolds (2007).
13. As Brian Massumi writes, The power of the quasi-cause is essentially
distributive, and_ last/works/realer.htm). For the
Marx and Engels of The German Ideology, the role of distribution is central to
the historical development of the division of labour and the ideology of the State:
With the division of labour . . . is given simultaneously the distribution, and indeed
the unequal distribution, both quantitative and qualitative, of labour and its
products, hence property: the nucleus, the first form, of which lies in the family,
where wife and children are the slaves of the husband. . . . This fixation of social
activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power
above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught
our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.
This objective power above us is precisely what gives rise to the State, which
re-constitutes an illusory communal life from real ties (Marx 2000: 1845).
14. Surplus-value only becomes calculable through its realisation as profit.
Realisation of surplus-value and cancellation of difference then are to be
understood as cognate terms in the discourse of Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze and
Guattari 2004: 251).
15. See Harvey (1982: 845) for a discussion of these terms.
The Marx of Anti-Oedipus 51

16. Finance, for example, while representing a flow which facilitates realisation
through banking power (credit money constitutes purchasing power), cannot
itself be realised (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 249; see also Deleuze 2006: 12).

Baran, Paul Alexander and Paul Marlor Sweezy (1968) Monopoly Capital: An Essay
on the American Economic and Social Order, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Baudrillard, Jean (1975) The Mirror of Production, trans. Mark Poster, St. Louis:
Telos Press.
Buchanan, Ian (2000) Deleuzism: A Metacommentary, Durham: Duke University.
Buchanan, Ian (2008) Deleuze and Guattaris Anti-Oedipus: A Readers Guide,
London: Continuum.
Callinicos, Alex (2003) An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto, Cambridge: Polity.
DeLanda, Manuel (2008) Deleuze, Materialism and Politics, in Ian Buchanan and
Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Press, pp. 16077.
Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London:
Deleuze, Gilles (2004) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark
Lester with Mark Stivale, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (2006) Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 19751995,
trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina, New York: Semiotext(e).
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (2004) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, London:
Garo, Isabelle (2008) Molecular Revolutions: The Paradox of Politics in the Work
of Gilles Deleuze, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and
Politics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 5473.
Goux, Jean-Joseph (1990) Symbolic Economies: After Freud and Marx, trans.
Jennifer Curtiss Gage, New York: Cornell University.
Hallward, Peter (2006) Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation,
London: Verso.
Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri (2000) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Harvey, David (1982) The Limits to Capital, Oxford: Blackwell.
Holland, Eugene W. (1999) Deleuze and Guattaris Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to
Schizoanalysis, London: Routledge.
Mandel, Ernest (1966) Surplus Capital and Realization of Surplus Value,
Marx, Karl (1954) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1, ed. Friedrich
Engels, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, London: Lawrence and
Marx, Karl (1970) A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Maurice
Dobb, trans. S.W. Ryazanskaya, London: Lawrence and Wishart.
Marx, Karl (1972) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 3, ed. Friedrich
Engels, London: Lawrence and Wishart.
Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicolaus, Middlesex: Penguin.
Marx, Karl (2000) Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Massumi, Brian (1987) Realer than Real: The Simulacrum According to Deleuze
and Guattari, and_ last/works/realer.htm
52 Aidan Tynan

Patton, Paul (1988) Marxism and Beyond: Strategies of Reterritorialization, in

Carly Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (eds), Marxism and the Interpretation of
Culture, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, pp. 12337.
Reynolds, Jack (2007) Wounds and Scars: Deleuze on the Time and Ethics of the
Event, Deleuze Studies, 1:2, pp. 14466.
Thoburn, Nicholas (2003) Deleuze, Marx and Politics, London and New York:
iek, Slavoj (2004) Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences,
New York and London: Routledge.

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000701
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism,
Adjacent Marx

Aldo Pardi Universit Lille III

Translated by Daniel Richter

Deleuze reworks Marxist concepts in order to identify those that
represent discontinuity and produce a theory of revolution. Marx is
important because, along with Spinoza and Nietzsche, he is a part of
a project to leave behind concepts such as transcendence and univocity
which underlie the totalitarianism of traditional philosophy. Deleuze
is looking for concepts that might form a different theory, within
which the structures of production are not organised vertically by
the domination of universal concepts, such as being or essence,
but flow horizontally through a multiplicity of relations of conceptual
singularity. The production of a different series of concepts is a
strategic and tactical operation that, in confronting prior notions of
transcendental philosophy, turns philosophy itself into a battlefield.
Marx provides the general methodology for this tactical approach
through two fundamental categories: production and conflict. Deleuze
practises Marxs theoretical method and by using Marxs own central
concepts challenges traditional Marxism, to arrive at a totally different
and revolutionary philosophical structure based on concepts such as
those of force, variation, difference, singularity, production and the war
Keywords: Conflict, production, forces, linking, battlefield, substance,
immanence, transformation
Marx is at our side. That is to say, to reconstruct a thought worthy of a
possible revolution means to cross the threshold of Marx. He has always
been thought of as the eldest brother who, representing the beginning of
a lineage, assigned and distributed roles and positions within a family
tree. Half-father and half-mother, Marx was the reference necessary
54 Aldo Pardi

and sufficient to recognize oneself, to define oneself in relation to an

identity. Marx was at the same time a space of thought and a field
of activation, the precursor who had already accomplished in advance
all the events brought about in his name. He was the first projection
of the origin, the necessary process of history, and the identity of the
motor which pushed it onward. Each event related to Marxism was,
and presented itself as, the accomplishment of a potential which history
had until then kept hidden within its folds. Marx therefore himself
contained that potential, as an iconographic image of the general form
of thought. But what thought? What thought did Marx incarnate? The
lineage that the Marxist tradition always wished to attain in making
of Marx the first son of a revolution already present and given in its
ideational terms: consumption as necessary passage, but so determined,
between production and appropriation, and the motor which powered
the two moments which accomplished each other. The first was called
natural dialectic of need and consumption, or nature. The other was
denominated subjectivity. Nature is a dialectic process that circulates
inside of a network of organic functions organised inside of a superior
system, the corporeal organism. Production appears as an exterior
application of its biological articulations, in their turn the formation
of one sole model. This model remains the accomplished figure of
the natural character of the organism and does not ideally guide its
The continuity that links function to satisfaction is guaranteed by
need. Need is the a priori form which gives to function its structure,
the direction for its undertakings, the sense of each cogwheel which
constitutes its mechanism. Need is the carving tool that gives to the
thing the image of a function, in rendering consumption a continual
labour of recuperation and incorporation. It is the motor which pushes
function beyond itself. It discovers itself in the mirror where the body
will coincide with the body of nature. The natural organism is nature
itself in the expression of its accomplished totality, form actualised by
the resolution already foreseen in its cracks. Nature is not a substrate,
a hyle, to speak like Husserl, but is the sole content, the ontological
horizon that presides over the existence of every phenomenon.
Nature projects itself forward from itself. As positional signifier and
thetic signified, it is Subject. It devotes itself to the centring of the
circuits which find their necessity in the form they accomplish. Each of
them is a variant of the logic of identity which reshuffles nature upon its
body. Its homogeneity affirms itself through the centrifugal movement
of extrusion that activates it. Its contents are nothing other than itself,
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 55

a manifestation which never strays from its origin, for it recalls nothing
other than the character which it already was. Nature is the principle
of reason that governs all processes by unifying them. Its projections
are the figures it assumes in expressing itself. Nature is the invisible
and the visible, a source which springs forth everywhere. This originary
core remains forever in its properties, and cannot surpass them because
it has already brought them back to the interior of its intentionalities.
Nature expresses itself in making of existents the signs of a supreme
signifier which engraves the marks of one sole meaning. Objects reduce
themselves to being the transcendental return of a general principle.
There are processes of subjective totalisation everywhere. Once we
suppose the existence of a function related to a body, we also admit the
presence of its specular double, the thing, and their originary unity. At
this point, it gives itself a subjective projection. Needs are always natural
needs, even originary intentionalities, of the transcendental substance
of the principle. What differentiates the manifestations of nature is not
their content, but their gradient of formalisation. We will find givens
which are still embryonic, simple inferior moments of the dialectic which
activates the passage towards a superior manifestation. We will be able
to trace an entire hierarchy of passage which makes the inorganic fall
away onto the organic, and from there to superior living forms, to
spill eventually into the human, with its capacity for manipulation and
management, and its linguistic potential which is a sign of its proximity
to the principle. Having attained the human, we installed ourselves at
the level of the totality. Human reason is only the enacted position of
transcendental contents which qualify the thetic constitution of nature.
Man is the adequate expression of its lines of totalisation. Man is nature
as given to itself, life as it is exploding forth, the transcendence of
reason which makes itself flesh. The body of man, his flesh, represents
his intentional projection, which envelops beings, and his totalisation
thanks to signifying links which intertwine. Man exercises his needs
and works in order to consume: his productive activity is the identity
of meaning and signification. For man, what happens in other natural
entities is not valuable in itself. The different manifestations of the
human are not reference points of a complete signifying expression.
Man and signifier are one. He is the model which serves as criterion for
other living and non-living elements (for they are also the superior stage
envisaged by the non-organic). Man is the universal which is in the midst
of living. His existence is totalisation because man synthesises in himself
the identity between functions and things, and distributes them all along
signifying chains. Functions and things do not indicate the collocation of
56 Aldo Pardi

the signifying chains in the pyramidal organisations which thought, and

even language, have at their summit.
In man the organism and the thing complete each other in a perfect
identity, assured by consumption. Consumption is the link which makes
of any thing a human object: the other dimension, the other face, the
second aspect, reversed, of the breaking forth of the life of man in a
completely human world. Consumption demonstrates that beings are
only pieces of the enlarged universe of humanised nature, that is to say,
of complementary modules of a milieu which does not exist if not as
a human signifier. They are managed and distributed according to the
order of signification which emerges from its projections, declinations of
a universal principle which proffers itself in its acts.
Once man has been mentioned, we are directly addressing society.
The totalisation of nature in the human anticipates a definition of man
as a general collectivity, a global horizon of human characteristics and
their intentional contents, an extensive milieu which invests the entire
space of existence. Society is the human in its totalisation. It holds in all
its partitions the same adequation between thetic signifier, signification
and meaning. Once again, it is the circuit of consumption that takes on
the value of logical sequence which strings together the active tension
of social subjectivity with all the forms which constitute the lines of
sense. The process of assuaging that fashions beings in the blast furnaces
of human expression causes the piercing cry of totalitarian reason to
resound. Each being is the song which glorifies its perfection; each thing
is a sign which indicates it; all movements are signals which indicate it,
the rays of one sun which recall its source, light.
In nature, only the interior exists. The form and actualisation of
this absolute interior is consumption. The subject is a total subject,
constituting inasmuch as it is capable of appropriation. Man realises
his materialisation at the level of transcendent principle because he is
by definition the being who has needs and thus speaks and works. He
satisfies his needs as it is given that his acts are the universal origin which
totalises itself as society. He comes a priori from a general social milieu
that represents rational value. We can thus say that a thought of the
individual as such is impossible. Every time an attempt was made to
reconstruct humanity from man in shared milieus by glances met from
far away, it was discovered, at times with horror, that the human was a
concept which has society as its form. However, what is more important
is that this human society is regulated, which is to say managed, in one
way or another. The universal rationality which displays the essence
of the human spreads its manifestations about according to an order.
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 57

Society, which does not represent acts, finds in itself the logic that
allows production to attain its ends. Society is always rational, even in
its dysfunctions. It moves in forced conduct which forcibly drags the
signifier to meaning.
Human society is a transparent collectivity that governs its
manifestations while containing within itself the identity between actions
and significations. This is the heritage that Marxist thinkers, among
others, wished to claim. Need/production and subject/society is the grid
that realised the circulation of the ontological principle in its forms, and
the schema which gave an accomplished definition of the transcendental
coordinates of the existent. Marxism was the conception which could
bring thought to its goal by ending the problem of history. It went
beyond the limits of bourgeois thought which, stuck in its divisions and
dichotomies, did not succeed in holding the four together, as the wooden
legs of a theory of universal history, adequate to its object.
But again, what thought? And why was history a problem for
thought? Once again these questions remained open, but unasked. In
fact, they were the same which invested the famous adversarial field. If
this thought was essential to the philosophy of Marx, its ends were not
to be distinguished from those of other philosophies. Surely it was a step
forward in relation to them. However, the categories, the theoretical
structures and the conclusions inhabited the same terrain. The grid of
history targeted by Marxism also marked non-Marxist thought. The
circularity that linked need, production and thing, and the historical
process of subjectification which one could pull from them, were the
points of departure of all the theories which made of the position of a
transcendental form the fundamental task of a possible ontology.
We can construct the passages of this strategy of conquest,
this imperial campaign of thought directed by exceptional strategic
intelligences. We could start with the Platonic partition of the four
genres of knowledge, which found the asymmetrical equilibrium of
all that is by organising it into a hierarchy between matter and idea.
We could continue with Aristotle, who made of the accomplishing of
souls, through their productive activation, the articulation of a universal
substance having the same quality of realness. We can follow that with
Augustine, who understood that time was the movement of totalisation
which allowed need to jump beyond the finite and establish itself directly
in the universal principle that spreads out everywhere in order to take
hold of every thing. We can see how Hobbes made scissions produced
by needs, i.e. the drives, in order to fold history onto the linear dynamic
which appeases them in a principle that was henceforth socialised, which
58 Aldo Pardi

finds in its social form the very foundation of its transcendence. We can
cite Descartes and his operation of negation of the existence of need,
which was necessary in order to subjugate it to the ideal equation that
regulates the correspondence between the absolute nature of subjective
projections and their transcendent dimension.
But the man who accomplishes this long search through the centuries
is Hegel. Hegel realised the project of rendering the spread of needs in
contingence, the realisation of their transcendence, by unifying it in one
sole and unique movement of totalisation. It is the principle itself that
is affirmed in the scissions of the finite, for they are only the unifying
and necessary journey which assures complete extension. Beyond its
movement there is no existence. Everything begins from nothing: the
nothing of reality which exists at the exterior of the universality of the
constituting foundation. It is already its beyond, projected, in any of its
parts, to the celebration of its completion. It imposes itself by making of
the negativity of the contingent a linear process of which each moment
is a sign of its manifestation. It is in its end, as intrinsic goal of its
absolute existence. It is absolute spirit, a transcendent principle which
arranges the real according to its effusion. There is no longer in Hegel
a distance between contingence and foundation. Absolute spirit is at the
same time contingence and subsistence. Hegels operation is unheard of:
all beings are organised into a hierarchy and forced to submit to the
interior of a system of domination which enlists them into its regiments.
It is not limited to assigning them forcibly an order of position, that
is, a determined value proportional to the portion of totality which
it incarnates. It also imposes upon them their form, their possibilities,
their behaviours, and thus, their goals. All objects are the intentions
of one sole source of activation. Absolute spirit is subject, possessor of
its spiritual body: the dialectic of opposites, the negation of negation,
expresses its activation. History is its property, and is controlled by it.
It is an extraordinary, dominating power, and it is no coincidence that
its definitive affirmation happens with the State. To attack Hegel is to
go in the opposite direction of the pestle of the totalitarian thought of
transcendence. Deleuze understood this well: What is philosophically
incarnated in Hegel is the enterprise to burden life, to overwhelm it
with every burden, to reconcile life with the State and religion, to inscribe
death in life the monstrous enterprise to submit life to negativity, the
enterprise of resentment and unhappy consciousness (Deleuze 2004b:
The State, as separated but immanent mechanism, is the scaffold-
ing which harnesses all of realitys movement. Need, labour and
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 59

consumption are the movement accomplished by the State to assimilate

reality. They are, under the name of civil society, the properties
incorporated by this total conscience which presents itself in the form
of order and organised human society into a hierarchy as totalising
expression of an apparatus which is in itself totalised (and thus
collective), thetic, and constituting. In other words, its primacy is
explained by its nature as absolute reason, originary and universal
conscience which imposes its norm. Its power affirms its supreme law
and its infinite power of control.
Is it possible to embark upon another project, in another direction?
Was it possible to search for a different route? Was it a hopeless
enterprise to push through the history of domination in order to arrive
at a path of liberation? Was it possible to wrench theory away from its
ostensibly natural task of affirming in the sign the power which makes
of every layer of reality the object of a tremendous domination? The
problem was that of manoeuvring oneself as an alternative force through
thought. One had to make war against the power which forced signs into
submission, in order to join with experiences of emancipation which
struggled against the actual form of domination, i.e. capitalism. Besides,
Hegel, the steel point of occidental philosophy, had been responsible for
making of history the living presence of the transcendent principle, in
order to transform the government of the bourgeoisie into the completed
reality of absolute reason under the State form. It was necessary to free
oneself from the problems which led to the imposition of a government
founded upon transcendence. To embark upon the path to liberation
meant to draw theory out of the dialectic game which rendered nature
the concretisation of the subject, and the subject the proper name of
nature. One had to put on the map an other project, to make of
thought an escape, instead of a place of integration. The tactic and
the strategy of this at the limit experience should have been twofold:
1) the desegregation of transcendence and the idea of the negative,
which sustained it; 2) the affirmation of a scission, which would enable
extrication from the process of totalisation.
It is in this direction that Deleuze engages philosophy. From the
beginning of his theoretical work, he embarks upon a lateral movement,
traversing philosophy diagonally in search of faults capable of opening
out upon the possibility of liberation. It is a veritable combat strategy
against the normalising conceptions of transcendence and domination.1
Of course, it was not an explicitly declared struggle, the sort that
provides a small pleasure which comforts narcissistically with self-
recognition in what are only self-aggrandising good deeds. It was not a
60 Aldo Pardi

question of small transgressive reassurances which give the impression of

omnipotence. In Deleuze, there is none of this sort of hidden complicity
with the ideas he fought against. He did not seek self-affirmation
through attention-seeking gimmicks, similar to many philosophers who
remain attached, in a sort of eternal adolescence, to the idealisation of
daddy-theories from which they believe themselves emancipated while
remaining all the more dependent. Deleuze constructed piece by piece
his theoretical strike forces with the concentrated silence of the artisan
who is one with the labour he is accomplishing. And like a true artisan
completely immersed in the process of creation which is not himself,
because it is only a movement of fashioning that comes from the
outside and renders him an anonymous field of transformation, Deleuze
cultivated the silent calm which gives speech, one could say humbly,
to the piecing together of a work which springs up like a collective
construction, and never becomes the auto-referential din of a paranoiac
individual haunted by himself.
What he practised was a revolutionary action of a theoretic gesture
towards escape. In positioning himself in order to perceive experiences of
rupture that produced new regimes of signs in the arts and in literature,
he allowed himself to be contaminated in order to render thought a part
of a constellation of forces, and no longer the solitary birth of a sage,
of a philosopher, but the collective construction of all the dissociations
which constitute the pluralist fields of alternatives to domination.
Thought must reconstitute itself as a network of an apparatus
of productive extrication. It should not return to a social base
superimposed upon its second manifestations, it must in itself socialise
itself. It must become an institution:

We are forced back on the idea that intelligence is something more social
than individual, and that intelligence finds in the social its intermediate
milieu, the third term that makes intelligence possible. What does the social
mean with respect to tendencies? It means integrating circumstances into
a system of anticipation, and internal factors into a system that regulates
their appearance, thus replacing the species. This is indeed the case with the
institution. It is night because we sleep; we eat because it is lunchtime. There
are no social tendencies, but only those social means to satisfy tendencies,
means which are original because they are social. (Deleuze 2004b: 21)

We must practise theory as a curve that tears the law away from
power, assemble an entirely new toolbox that can bend thought and
provoke in it radical scissions. In this sense Deleuze disperses the
traditional concepts, in particular those of nature and subject, while
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 61

traversing practices of thought which made of movement and change

precarious equilibria, always problematised by the social components
which engendered them, or their field of production. Deleuze works on
Hume (Deleuze 2001a), Bergson (Deleuze 2001b) and Kant (Deleuze
1984). In Hume, he takes up again the idea of nature composed of
sensible processes, a transferential collation which forms a socialised
imaginary. This phantasm is on the one hand a partial mechanism of
management of sensible stimulations, and on the other a schema of
regulation of practices which activate it. Humes problem is to emphasise
the juridical rather than ontological nature of natural associations,
partial applications of processes of the management of complex systems
of partial practices of regulation.
Bergson is the philosopher who first proposed the theme of change at
the heart of a possible ontology. After Bergson, reality is only visible if
one considers it from the point of view of time which passes by while
changing its connotations. This passing does not accomplish a given
present, i.e. the return of a stasis which reaffirms itself each time. It is
the past which presents itself as an already passed instant. Reality is
the leap forward which is always overtaken by a leap which overtakes
itself. It carries along with it all beings by projecting them far from
their constituted form, a transformation which has already happened,
and in spite of this, is in the process of realising itself again. Life is loss
and forgetting, for it is evolution which creates through detachment and

The Bergsonian question is therefore not: why something rather than nothing,
but: why this rather than something else? Why this tension of duration?
Why this speed rather than another? Why this proportion? And why will
a perception evoke a given memory, or pick up certain frequencies rather
than others? In other words, being is difference and not the immovable or
the undifferentiated, nor is it contradiction, which is merely false movement.
Being is the difference itself of the thing, what Bergson often calls the nuance.
(Deleuze 2004b: 25)

Kant revolutionises the theory of knowledge by producing a double

movement of scission. On the one hand, he blocks the relation between
thought and the immediately given sensible; on the other, he breaks apart
the universality without individuation of ideas founding traditional
metaphysics (God, soul and world), empty representations of a being
without positive manifestation. The faculties, and in particular the
faculty of knowing, support intuitive dynamics which intertwine with
ideas strung together by functional relations, qualified by their proper
62 Aldo Pardi

content. Their general character does not escape the indetermination

of their form, but is their result, rather than the necessary effects of
figures taken by the two coordinates which are closer to any experience
whatsoever: space and time. They preside over the movements of
coupling that reunite the sensible elements into series, arranging them in
ordered relations where each spatial point connects to the next according
to the parabola traced by the instants of time. Since space and time are
the principles of constitution of the objective syntheses, they come before
and after each real manifestation. They contain within them all sensible
elements, since these latter are only their phenomena, partial moments,
a posteriori, of a network of normal relations a priori which reconnect
the extension of all existence. Space and time are the universal forms
which govern the consistence of reality in terms of conceivable subsis-
tence. It is the reason of proximity that discharges an infinite complex
of points in a dynamic which assigns them form and function, returning
them to the norm that brings them together. They remain above things,
principles of an ideal constitution that selects the phenomenal modalities
of the presentation of beings. A concept, an existing given, finds its
objective dimension in the regulated constellations which unite it with
elements composed by a law which transcends them all. Space and time
are thus the transcendental principles of a normalising activity which
informs experience. They manage to fill the totality of what exists by
affirming the norm posed by their twistings and turnings in such a way as
to represent presence enacting the universal. They must remain detached
from empirical reality.2 They compartmentalise inside of a specific and
general physical equation an infinite number of sensible impressions,
whose concrete character is assured by their collocation in the spatio-
temporal relations. They cannot be confused with an individual given,
an empty content-less box incapable of finding its qualification. They
surround the complex evolutions which dig through existence from one
end to the other while forcing them to become the points of application
of a disciplinary power which surpasses them as proper variations.
The Kantian universe is an infinite outpouring of equation where
space is arranged in relation to unities of time. The collocation of objects
in space is a function of temporal diagrams which do not regulate
their relations. It is thus time which commands, and it is time which
divides the idea, or the active expression of the law, from the sensible
reality it incorporates into norms. However, the scission which separates
forever the concept from the individual matter subsists while imposing
obstructions. They prevent each position of existence that works to
found the universal in the immediate apprehension of a universal given
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 63

without passing through the categorical grid which gives its normal
quality to the object. Reason falls into its amphibologies when it wishes
to attain the infinite in one stroke. This is the defeat of any metaphysic
that would like to assign itself the value of a first ontology. The
general norm that governs the existent establishes itself by seizing the
dynamic of constitution which, in surpassing the particular, attaches
it back infinitely to its global application. The law is a categorical
content sprung from a general stratification of synthetic mechanisms of
regulation. This is why space and time are always ideal factors, and the
activity of transcendental constitution of real series is a production of
concepts in the form of singular indices, despite being plural, of formal
discontinuities. From this it follows that judgements are a priori active
intuitions of an activity of knowledge which is the mirror of an ideal
plane that ceaselessly develops.3
Deleuze does not approach these authors in order to assign them a
perfunctory interpretation. He does not unearth their veritable spirit in
order to offer it forward to the reader in the form of a lifeless review.
His reading is already engaged in a theoretical project which is the
affirmation of a political position inside of theory. He crosses paths with
philosophers according to the requirements of his own travels, pushed
by strange meetings which emerge from a foreign collocation inside of
philosophy. His experience of thought does not take off vertically, from
a base to a summit, but moves horizontally while it encircles, through
scission, a plane of conceptual construction where each thesis is at the
same time a rupture, an overlapping and an aggregate.4 In describing
these hyperboles, theory is separated from its spiritual ghost to offer
itself up to shapings provoked by cracks which trouble the identity of
its concepts. Philosophy is no longer the lightning flash that reveals the
essence, but the practice of difference which resides in the theatre of
relations between elements which intertwine.
We must leave behind us the grid of totalisation, hollowed out
by the dialectic binary naturesubjectivity, of which Plato defined the
assumptions and which Hegel brought to its conclusion with his idea
of the negative. Deleuze begins to produce thought in difference,
exploiting the power of liberation it contains:
It is as though Difference were evil and already negative, so that it could
produce affirmation only by expiation that is, by assuming at once both
the weight of that which is denied and negation itself. Always the same old
malediction which resounds from the heights of the principle of identity:
alone will be saved not that which is simply represented, but the infinite
representation (the concept) which conserves all the negative finally to deliver
64 Aldo Pardi

difference up to the identical. Of all the senses of Aufheben, none is more

important than that of raise up. There is indeed a dialectical circle, but this
infinite circle has everywhere only a single centre; it retains within itself all
the other circles, all the other momentary centres. The reprises or repetitions
of the dialectic express only the conservation of the whole, all the forms and
all the moments, in a gigantic Memory. (Deleuze 2008: 65)

According to this method, one touches on philosophies in order to

locate the necessary gears of an engine which does not realise itself
from total notions. It must act as a sort of drill which pierces a
hole in the domination of transcendence and its hierarchies. Deleuze
addresses himself to theories which made of difference the centre of
their questioning, to theses which took speculative knowledge as the
point of departure of a practice of putting into question, and not as
its solution. This is how Deleuze meets Hume, Kant and Bergson, from
the angle of the crises which they provoked in thought. It was said that
these were arbitrary operations of interpretation, at the very limit of
thought, and this is true: they deliberately abandon the fact that Hume
finds his equilibria in the dependence of institutions upon sympathy,
that Bergson submits change even more to transcendence in making
of time a life force (un lan) towards a personal absolute being which
accomplishes unheard-of creations, and that Kant twists the ontological
superiority of the general idea into the immanence of space and time
in order to inject it directly into the particularity of the sensible. But
Deleuze was well aware of this, to the point that these conceptions are
used by him to strike the foundations of ontology, and to invade its field
itself through the place where it seemed the most secure: the grid which
orders reality in the specular game between nature and subject. They
were only bridgeheads which served to break the defences of theories of
transcendence and begin to ravage them: Precisely, by virtue of those
criteria of staging or collage we just discussed, it seems admissible to
extract from a philosophy considered conservative as a whole those
singularities which are not really singularities: that is what I did for
Bergsonism and its image of life, its image of liberty or mental illness
(Deleuze 2004b: 144).
In order to reach a position, we first must decompose the lines of
the adversary. This action had to be accomplished by detaching the
domain of signs from the problem of the position of reference. One
intervened in signification by breaking, with the hammer of paradox,
the closed triangulation which connected designation, manifestation and
even signification itself, henceforth dispersed in the proliferations of
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 65

propositions which produce uninterrupted series of predications, points

of crossing of plural lines of sense. The first was the task of Proust
and Signs (Deleuze 2000), the second the undertaking of The Logic of
Sense (Deleuze 2004a). But this is still not enough. The decomposition
of transcendence could succeed in a real upheaval of the philosophical
field only in attaching to the decomposition of the centred structure
conceptual totalisations of apparatuses capable, in the same moment,
of affirming a new arsenal of concepts: no longer valuable transcendent
ideas such as origins and ends in a closed circuit of biunivocal and
polar designation, but zones of contact, connectors, pressure points,
of detachment and connection; practical exercises of uncoupling and
grouping in which pluralities of elements divide in a conflicting field,
the horizontal plane of serial organisation realised by scission. Deleuze
accomplished this task before and beside his search for an escape from
thought dominated by ressentiment.
He begins by positioning himself to listen to the affirmative practice
of Nietzsches thought. He gives Nietzsche the density of the sensible
in placing him in the positivity of conflicting contacts which related
singular elements to each other: this is the theme of Nietzsche and
Philosophy (Deleuze 2002), Deleuzes second book.5 The quality of these
components is not defined negatively, in relation to an essential nature
given in advance. They are dissolved and recomposed in the reversals
of asymmetrical engagements, effects of their meetings. This quality is
discovered via evaluation, that is to say by a line of division which
regroups forces among themselves by splitting them away from the
others, themselves grouped in plural and singular constellations. This
cut which welds complex and articulated bodies is what Nietzsche will
call will. Thus, the content of partial segments is defined by orientation
and position in a striated space of conflict.
These divisions criss-cross the formations, abandoning them to
conflictual games which harm every attempt at identitary formation.
The shocks blows repeat tirelessly, similar to a throw of the dice which
falls back into the same modality without ever producing the definitive
combination. The detaching of constellations prevents there from being
an interruption of the division which the objects of a group remove
in order to unite them to another. Things enter into a combat which
distributes them into infinite series of scissions, a laboured earth in
which they are affirmed by movements of conflictual disintegration and
differential formation. They are forces, sensible bodies that traverse the
terrain opened up by their tactics of combat. This terrain, a veritable
desert, does not know time, because it is the eternal return of an infinite
66 Aldo Pardi

plurality of effects, a sliced up surface that transforms itself and becomes

in relation to figures created by the scissions.
To think is no longer anything to do with an essential glance, with
reflection which looks down upon existence while judging it according
to its principles; it is action, strategic practice, a politics of construction
of conceptual bodies. This relational activation is affirmative inasmuch
as it does not refer to anything. The dynamic of forces poses their
content and their signification. It expresses the political tasks which
produce their movements. Their becoming is necessary inasmuch as it
has no other reference than the changes effectuated by their counter-
blows. The necessity which Nietzsche is talking about is the recognition,
always situated, of a strategic chessboard which draws out a political
cartography. Thought is a topological art, a geographic designation of
places where bodies hit against each other and divide up the earth into
distinct domains.6
A force can never become universal. It is the fruit of a plural
complexion, engendered by determined encounters of singular
elements.7 A body is always situated by relations to a field of manoeuvres
where other forces already assumed places. If a body is composed, it is
by seizing hold of elements which are parts of complexes present on the
terrain. If an aggregate is taken apart, it is because it was swallowed
up by an apparatus capable of incorporating it in its own process of
It is this strategic chessboard which splits up bodies between
dominating and dominated. The dominating forces are those which
succeed in becoming by attaching composites to their body. They
are thus active aggregations. The dominated forces are subjected to a
process of fragmentation, second form of activation, and submit to the
dominating forces. This difference separates the forces qualitatively. It
traces the equation which distinguishes them as different natures: the
differential relation which defines their activation potential. It does not
follow that the quality of forces is a question of quantity: the more
bodies realise anchorages, the more their power of formation grows,
the more the forces become affirmative. The concept of the will to
power expresses the practical action which posits a domination that
criss-crosses the genealogy of asymmetrical relations that realise the
singular constellations of bodies.
Forcedomination: these are the first categories of a new image
of thought. They dislocate it inopportunely, a never-finished world
made of impersonal individuations or of pre-individual singularities.8
And nevertheless, it would not be possible to guide it back into this
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 67

practical dimension where the vitality of conflicts erupts without another

theoretical operation. This intervention must block the framing of the
existent in the unconditioned supremacy of a transcendent essence. The
figures of the negative subdivide beings in proportion to their proximity
to the last principle, all the while furthering them from the being which,
always beyond them, remains frozen in a single point of concentration.
The effacement of the negative must pass through a definitive prohibition
of all possible ontology. We must construct concepts which do not
possess any ontological value, and begin to act theoretically in another
sense, on this earth, irreducible to any unity, worked upon by the
political effects of encounters between sensible bodies. To do that means
to relinquish the thread of mutual recallings that allowed the universal
and the singular (which is, besides, its negative image) to take hold of
the entire space of theory, forcing it to mechanically repeat the same
act: the analogical judgement which forced all beings onto the One and
the Same. We interrupt the vertically moving vicious circuit that makes
of objects simple variants of a general biunivocal relation, equalising
them on a plane without exteriority, the transcendental condition of
immanence which only admits singular variations. Spinozas concept
of substance and his theory of power give to difference the force to
assail all constituting ontology (Deleuze 1992). There is only one plane,
the egalitarian dimension where the eminence and ideal consistence of
transcendent contents are reduced to formal variations. Apparently, each
being lays claim to an essence. We must admit a plurality of eminent
entities which found all the levels of existence. But how can we discover
the difference of ontological constitution among these beings? How will
the absolute nature of being not be touched by the presence of these
other minor essences? There will be a multiplication of these substances
which will lay claim to all their rights. They will have to settle for sharing
the transcendent constitution of the first essence. How is it, however,
that elements of the same nature are differentiated? The relation between
beings and existence, and the successive distinction by genux proximo
et differentia specifica are abolished in their own logical possibility.
There is only infinite immanence where the substance will equalise all
elements. The movement of elevation that poses a transcendent instance
is deprived of its own presuppositions. If there is no transcendence, it
is impossible to acquire the ethereal nature that gives to essences their
metaphysical flesh. Substance is only a single material block (Deleuze
On the other hand, as it is impossible that something is totalised
while proposing itself as first essence, neither is substance ever totalised
68 Aldo Pardi

retrospectively, in affirming itself behind things in terms of creative

personality or first cause. This is the fundamental argument Spinoza
makes against Descartes. Substance exists in its singular manifestations
because it is nothing other than singularities which cannot be totalised.
And since there are no universal entities, substance varies in its infinite
series of controlled modulations. The attributes although we know
theoretically only of two, namely thought and extension are infinite,
and function by putting substance back in circulation at the material and
egalitarian level of existing singularities. Attributes contain substances
infinite modalities of pluralisation. Attributes continue to pulverise
substance into singular formations which do not designate their intrinsic
multiplicity. Nothing interrupts this collective distribution of contacts
and disjunctions. It poses the insurmountable limit for beings. This is
the theoretical motivation which makes of substance a constellation of
modes, singular and plural, and assigns them an essence, that is to say, a
reason for formation, different from that of substance. It is through the
fault opened up by this difference that substance bursts out as a horizon
of becoming.
We must take a step back: modes, never capable of beholding
themselves like faces of an identical essence, plug into each other at their
contours, at their sensible shell. They encounter each other and form
relational configurations, linking their members like pieces of a giant
machine of production. Substance is the disarticulated factory which
lives in its power of production, and production is the concept which
expresses the specific form of the becoming of substance.
Forcedomination and immanenceproduction: this is the new grid
discovered by Deleuze at the end of his long deconstructive detour of
transcendence and the thought of the One. Now, it is possible to begin
again to think positively. It is possible to leave the circle of recognition to
construct a critical theory which works to provoke crisis in the simple
identification between need and subjective projection, and to work out
a revolutionary theory of transformation.
At this moment Deleuze takes up conceptual tools which leave nothing
for the adversary. He returns to Marx. But another Marx, the Marx
of forces of conflict, of social relations of power, of strategies and war
tactics which impose systems of domination, and groups which oppose
them. It is the Marx of bloody struggles which tear apart the conformity
of the social body and indefatigably transform it. A revolutionary Marx
who makes of revolution the practice and content of his theory, and
who is close to all experiences of the same signs, at all levels and places.9
Marx is a plural name, the seal of an alliance: he is the comrade who
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 69

fights by ones side, who attacks with goals and blueprints, who shares
Traditional Marxism took Marx out of his natural place: politics,
the struggle against power and its actual form. This was a strange
reversal: they took him out of the place where he alone could explain
the meaning of his theoretical project, that being political revolutionary
practice in theory and in society, hoping that such a sterilisation would
clear the way towards an alternative. No, Marx is not the theoretician
who realises the dialectic, bringing it to a possible accomplishment
which Hegel could not achieve.10 He did not introduce the most
efficient categories with which to force nature onto a subject that would
supposedly explain that subjects dialectic development. Determined
Marxist analysis is an assault, a political investment of a social field
towards an alternative, under the conditions posed by a determined
apparatus (mode of production) of the victorious forces, i.e. capitalism.
To struggle next to Marx, one must practise another conceptual
strategy, one which makes pivots out of production, domination and
the immanence of the social field in the conflict of forces, in order
clear a path of escape towards another regime, conceptually and also in
social practice. It is no longer a question of criticising capitalism, nor
of emphasising its backwardness, its contradictions or its irrationality.
These are sterile positions, as they reproduce the capitalist ideology of
egalitarian exchange through which an identitary subject extends itself
all throughout history, or in this case, capital. It can be recognised
in the satisfaction of its needs: it is the summit and blossoming of
nature, in sum the essence of existent totality (the homo oeconomicus
of Smith and other classical economists). The only possible critique has
already been carried out by Marx. Capital is a combination of forces
which compose a mode of production. It is not a neutral movement,
set off by the nature of components which will be brought to their
accomplishment. Upon forced labour, in its multiple configurations and
strata, is engraved the mark of the power of capital: it becomes labour
force.11 It is constrained to act, to speak and think under the weight
of capitalist domination. Capitalism is an immense force of disjunction
and reconnection of a system of relations which has the production of
surplus-value as its goal. Capitalism does not work, as in feudalism, to
allow the feudal lord to make wealth the sign of his supremacy. The
ideas of the feudal epoch are not associated with a version of nature
which proceeds by degrees of minor perfection. This is the nature of
capitalism, the decoding which sweeps away the feudal code and projects
it into a world of individual subjects which effectuate by themselves the
70 Aldo Pardi

comprehensive movement of a unique need for exploitation. Labours

submission to capitalism is expressed in a closed social body, full to
the brim with the power of its apparatuses of management, selection
and control. These apparatuses discipline their subjects in reducing
their functions to the circuit of accumulation composed by conjunction:
That is why capitalism and its break are defined not solely by decoded
flows, but by the generalized decoding of flows, the new massive
deterritorialization, the conjunction of deterritorialized flows. It is the
singular nature of this conjunction that ensured the universality of
capitalism (Deleuze and Guattari 2000: 224). Capitalism does not
develop out of an interior necessity at the heart of feudalism. It has a
genealogy of alliances, combats and tactical positions taken to organise
itself as force and affirm itself as mode of production.
It is here that Deleuze returns to Marx, in occupying the same
theoretical front and reuniting himself with the latters revolutionary
struggles that would construct an other social mechanism of production,
a mechanism that works not for surplus-value but in common. The
Marxian revolution is to have first announced that each historical
formation is a disposition which results from a struggle. Each historical
formation is the investment of an organised complex, stratified into
multiple components, and to master adversarial forces is to reduce
them to the matter and cogwheels of a mechanism of production.
It causes changes there, that is to say, transformations.12 The
concept that opens the way for history in terms of revolutionary
transformations is production. These transformations have different
modalities and directions, and Deleuze endeavours to map them out.
Capital revolutionises the feudal regime by installing another system of
production. Feudalism knocks down the domination of the Urstaat, just
as it subdued the savage connections of production, by intertwining their
pieces into an utterly different apparatus of subjugation. There is conflict
everywhere because there is production everywhere. Production the
connections, overlappings and disconnections which emerge is the
category which presents the possibility of accomplishing this recognition
of history.
History is the battlefield of antagonistic productions, because
everything is production:

production is immediately consumption and a recording process

(enregistrement), without any sort of mediation, and the recording process
and consumption directly determine production, though they do so within
the production process itself. Hence everything is production: production of
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 71

productions . . . Everything is production, since the recording processes are

immediately consumed, immediately consummated, and these consumptions
directly produced. This is the first meaning of process as we use the term:
incorporating recording and consumption within production itself, thus
making them the productions of one and the same process. (Deleuze and
Guattari 2000: 4)

The body of history is a laminating constellation of strata of

production.13 It is this articulated production, its syntheses and its effects
of transformation, which are traced by genealogies divided between
domination and flight. The modes of production function by connecting
vanquished forces to engines which realise them. These vanquished
forces are the materials with which the mode of production nourishes
itself and reproduces its apparatuses.
The word being no longer has any meaning.14 It recalls the ana-
logical reference which reduces the noisy motors of engines dispersed
everywhere to dreary images, phantasms of signification. Force
immanence domination production, it is thanks to these concepts that
conceptual machines are composed which break the cages constructed by
the dialectic.
The only logic familiar to this strategic plan linked to conjunctures of
war is that of change by subordination, or even the political enterprise
which affirms the government of partial collective entities through other
partial constellations. It is the same for the Urstaat. Never was a
Deleuzian concept less understood. The Urstaat is not the model of an
ideal type of State which is regularly represented throughout history. The
Urstaat is an apparatus of coupling of a particular group of forces. These
forces compose a determined social formation which, if it conforms
politically to the formation of an Urstaat, in the process of work requires
an ensemble of systems of material production and exchange including
the market to work for its pre-eminence. The Urstaat is the notion with
which it is possible to seize the State from myths of the social nature
of man (i.e. from ideology), and from the natural disposition of social
practices to organise themselves in a juridical apparatus. The State is
also an effect, produced from the construction of a social body by packs
which conquer a territory and assume for themselves the right to inscribe
upon it their mark.
Once the State is made an object of production like the others,
we can retrace the changes of the juridical processes jurisprudence,
which so fascinated Deleuze of the various regimes. At this moment,
the state formation established under capitalism loses its sacred allure.
The differential specificity, related to conjuncture, of forms of the
72 Aldo Pardi

State permit us to discover the content belonging to the capitalist

state apparatus. It is no longer the needle which by itself guides all
the members of society, similar to what happens under feudalism.
Capitalism works through decoding. It must continually rework its
objects in order to continue to obtain surplus-value from particular
degrees of exploitation. Capitalism does not have the State at its centre
because it is its own centre. It schizophrenizes in a ceaseless movement,
incorporating everything it encounters, in changing its nature, modelling
it and modelling itself even in relation to its fundamental disposition.
Capitalism must stratify itself in occupying the entire body of society.
Marx understood this well (judging from embryonic bits of theory which
he left behind), so much so that he posed the capitalist State in terms of
a concrete category realised concretely from more abstract categories
which maintain it as a subordinated element (Marx 1970).15 The State
becomes in a differential and stratified manner under the impulsion of
the creative evolutions of capital. The capitalist norm directly manages
its world and projects it in productive flows, sliced-up strata which
spring forth from its intentional tensions similar to anonymous and
memory-less noematic nuclei.
We can thus appreciate the real value of minor flows, the
schizophrenic lines traced by the subordinated which do not succeed
in breaking free. They refuse the capitalist decoding and its law, and
find therein not transgressions, regardless of secondary troubles, but the
slices of an alternative social body, a completely other socius.
As Deleuze specifies, in the body of capital, which integrates
everything through subjugation, there are never two classes, but one sole
factory of reproduction of the capitalist axiomatic. The new full body
which results from the inverted capital is neither a development nor
the contrary of capitalism (which was called socialisation, especially
by the State, of productive forces) but the last result of the intrinsic
logic of accumulation. Socialisation resulted from the fictive opposition
of two opposing poles, or classes, of a unique molar structure. As it
happened, it only reproduced the totalitarian machine, inverted into the
collective form of State. A different socius is made instead of forces
which free themselves from this axiomatic just as they free themselves
from the despotic signifier, that break through this wall, and this wall of
a wall, and begin flowing on the full body without organs (Deleuze and
Guattari 2000: 255). They are machines which do not work towards
despotism, but produce liberation in persistently conserving a minor
dimension, that is to say, in never totalising themselves in an attempt at
ending conflicts.
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 73

Capitalist decoding flows are produced everywhere. They stock up

on resources in order to direct themselves again and again at their
subjects, swallowing them into one body, that of surplus-value. This
action which unites force, organisation and efficiency also produces
reactions. A logic of combat then imposes itself which gradually becomes
explicit, on fronts in which are formed flows of singular machines
of liberation that approach, as allies, all the other experiences which
struggle against capitals domination of governed conjuncture. It is
not said whether they will triumph in constructing other bodies, but
under the pressure of domination, processes of work are set off which
form machines of a completely different direction, architecture and
function. The molar body that encloses flows in a despotic axiomatic is
confronted by molecular actions which strike at the capitalist gears with
weapons of a social disposition that already differ from their formation.
This is the sole theoretical (and certainly political) criterion that may
distinguish machines of liberation from machines of axiomatisation.
This demolishing action occurs on all levels. There is a combat in work,
just as there is a combat in signs. They are not similar, they do not
even share modalities or movements. But they are all determining. Just
as capital is extended over the totality of the social body, imposing its
violence, various conflicts traverse it from one end to the other. Signs
are also a battlefield, a matter of forces which confront each other in a
struggle to affirm their own regime. The confrontations which produce
the body of signs are also traced out on the cartography of conflicts. It
is a true body, material as effectuated by relations between signifying
elements which touch, connect with and detach from each other, and
struggle. They are sensitive, and in this also find the reason for their
proximity to the sensitive functions of the physical body. The struggle
waged by the schizophrenic is just as central to the struggle in the factory,
for the schizo is a constellation torn apart by a struggle which plays
itself out at the level of signs. It involves reattaching, under the sign of
production, the analysis of capitalism to that of schizophrenia in order
to bring signs into the immanent domain of production and conflict.
The forces of decoding allied to capital are found on this stratum as
well. They have the name of Mommy and Daddy, and the factory
in which they are formed is the family. These figures, as material as
the materiality of capitals axiomatic, are active in the psychoanalysts
office. It is there that the ruptures provoked by the freeing of signifying
elements irreducible to despotic signification are approached, discovered
and again subjugated. However, the struggle does not end. The schizo
continues to fabricate a new regime of signs, he turns to the factory
74 Aldo Pardi

where sense is produced to carry it away from capitals totalising

axiomatic. The schizo is in himself, in his very body, an advanced
front, a field of signifying forces that command an irreducible chain of
The relations between the conflicts that tear apart the layers of the
socius are subjugated to the evolution of the respective battlefields. They
may construct reasons for alliances, confluences. Sometimes, they even
work in parallel. They will however remain different. It is this very
distinction which prevents their totalisation. This distinction becomes,
if guided with strategic intelligence, either a guarantee, or an excellent
weapon: it can obstruct the orders of the adversary, which is always a
present risk. It strikes at his defences by continuing to break his totalising
(molar) structures. The act of disjunction traverses these structures,
through processes of singularisation. The despotic machine was knocked
down by the fabrication of a social body which puts into practice the
absolute democracy of a factory of scission, made of gears of liberation
which work to open up new spaces to conflict and to ceaselessly
deconstruct totalitarian superimposition.16
Thought is also brought back to unstable equilibria which create
trembling in language, images and sounds, or the figural constellations
of the unconscious. It is swept away by the scissions and overturned as
much as these latter. It has no pre-eminence. Thought and foolishness are
one, because ideas are partial elements produced by partial layers, parts
of a divided social body, criss-crossed by the conflicts which work upon
all the strata. Theory is a singular moment in a singular proliferation
of struggles.17 It must discover itself as one combat front and renounce
its privileges. It is no longer the light which shines upon the learned,
the rulers, on collective or organic intellectuals, inscribing upon them
the marks of reason. It is a war machine, a combat apparatus which
intervenes in the concept.
A theory which works scissions and is produced to liberate itself
from the paranoiac discipline of capital is found in the wake of Marx.
It shares trenches. It ceases thus to be the prophet who sanctifies the
name of the father assigning the dignity of the son to his brothers, a
privileged voice of the sovereign principle, the dialectic of productive
forces and manager of its royal science. Marx is a celibate body. He is
a toolbox and a revolutionary movement. Marx digs escape routes in
theory, and delivers blows in the streets with the other comrades. How
many people racked their brains (one thinks of certain all too human
Italian theorists, such as Della Volpe18 or Luporini,19 for example) over
the question of fetishism, even of ideology, forgetting that it is only
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 75

comprehensible in relation to the function of thought in Marx, and thus

to the war machine in the theory he assembles. The fetish is the military
conquest of signs drafted by a despotic axiom, which struggles for and
with capital. Furthermore, the analysis of the fetish has nothing to do
with its substitution by another totalitarian truth. It is the flight which
revives theory in flows of alternative production, the assault carried
out upon a general domination which frees theory in order to bring
about conflicts everywhere in the strata of signifying production. The
Marxian theory of fetishism is analysis in so far as it is decomposition
of a totalitarian abstraction which affirms one sole law upon all signs.
Or rather, it is a force which strikes the despotic sign par excellence:
money.20 Marx, in attacking the fetish, had already moved elsewhere.
Marxist theory became a plural body of alliances, a riot of singular
war tactics against power and its machines of subjugation. Marx loses
his identity and begins to open out in thousands of growths, in a
proliferation of plural machines of liberation. We no longer encounter
Marx in the stuffy atmosphere of identitary lineages, which are houses
much too tight to give liberty its space. We meet him, with the intense joy
of a liberty always to come, in traversing as nomads the capitalist city
on our way to the desert where all encounters are possible, producing
democracy without transcendence.

1. On this see also Delc (1988).
2. The phenomenon appears in space and time: space and time are for us the forms
of all possible appearing, the pure forms of our intuition or our sensibility. As
such, they are in turn presentations; this time, a priori presentations (Deleuze
1984: 8).
3. The important thing in representation is the prefix: re-presentation implies an
active taking up of that which is presented; hence an activity and a unity distinct
from the passivity and diversity which characterize sensibility as such (Deleuze
1984: 8).
4. On this see also Fadini (1998) and Montebello (2008).
5. I refer here to Zourabichvili (1994).
6. See Agostini (2003).
7. See Hayden (1998).
8. I refer here particularly to Sibertin-Blanc (2006: 71793).
9. In this regard Deleuze makes the same theoretical move as Althusser. See
Althusser (1969) and Althusser and Balibar (1970: 18294).
10. Gianfranco La Grassa made a great contribution in a non-dialectical critical
reading of Marx (in Kautskys and Bernsteins deterministic and idealistic vein,
but also similar to the hyper-subjective and even more idealistic dialectic of
Luxemburg, Korsch and Lukcs). See La Grassa, Turchetto and Soldani (1979);
La Grassa (1989, 2002); La Grassa and Preve (1996).
11. In my opinion, the most important contribution on this subject in Marxist theory
has been made by Raniero Panzieri (1973, 1977).
76 Aldo Pardi

12. Etienne Balibar wrote a very important essay on this, which Deleuze knew very
well (see Balibar 1970: 199308).
13. See Balibar (1970: 199308).
14. This is why I dont believe that a Deleuzian ontology exists (and so ontological
interpretations of Deleuzes theory are misguided, whether for or against
Deleuzes approach). One study that makes this typical mistake about Deleuze
is Bergen (2001).
15. On this see Bidet (1985).
16. Vaccaro (1990) has worked on this.
17. I develop this idea in my introduction to the Italian translation of Deleuzes
lessons on Spinoza (Pardi 2007).
18. See Della Volpe (1964, 1968).
19. See Luporini (1974), a fundamental essay for several generations of Italian
20. On the role of money in Marxs theory, see Dumnil (1978).

Agostini, Fabio (2003) Evento ed immanenza, Milano: Mimesis.
Althusser, Louis (1969) For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster, London: Penguin Press.
Althusser, Louis and Etienne Balibar (1970) Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster,
London: New Left Books.
Balibar, Etienne (1970) The Basic Concepts of Historical Materialism, in Louis
Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital, London: New Left Books.
Bergen, Vronique (2001) Lontologie de Gilles Deleuze, Paris: LHarmattan.
Bidet, Jaques (1985) Que faire du Capital? Matriaux dune refondation, Paris:
Delc, Alessandro (1998) Filosofia della differenza. La critica del pensiero
rappresentativo in Deleuze, Locarno: Pedrazzini.
Deleuze, Gilles (1984) Kants Critical Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, London: Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1992) Expression in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin,
New York: Zone Books.
Deleuze, Gilles (2000) Proust and Signs, trans. Richard Howard, Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (2001a) Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Humes Theory
of Human Nature, trans. Constantin Boundas, New York: Columbia University
Deleuze, Gilles (2001b) Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara
Habberjam, New York: Zone.
Deleuze, Gilles (2002) Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, London:
Deleuze, Gilles (2004a) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark
Lester with Charles Stivale, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (2004b) Desert Islands and Other Texts, 19531974, trans. Michael
Taormina, ed. David Lapoujade, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).
Deleuze, Gilles (2008) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London:
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (2000) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press.
Della Vope, Galvano (1964) Chiave della dialettica storica, Roma: Samon e Savelli.
Marx as Ally: Deleuze outside Marxism, Adjacent Marx 77

Della Volpe, Galvano (1968) Critica del gusto. Crisi dellestetica romantica, Roma:
Samon e Savelli.
Dumnil, Grard (1978) Le concept de loi conomique dans Le Capital, Paris:
Fadini, Ubaldo (1998) Per un pensiero nomade, Bologna: Pendragon.
Hayden, Patrick (1998) Multiplicity and Becoming: The Pluralist Empiricism of
Gilles Deleuze, New York: P. Lang.
La Grassa, Gianfranco (1989) Linattualit di Marx, Milano: Franco Angeli.
La Grassa, Gianfranco (2002) Fuori dalla corrente. Decostruzione ricostruzione di
una teoria critica del capitalismo, Milano: Unicopli.
La Grassa, Gianfranco and Costanzo Preve (1996) La Fine di una teoria: il collasso
del marxismo storico novecentesco, Milano: Unicopli.
La Grassa, Gianfranco, Maria Turchetto and Franco Soldani (1979) Quale
Marxismo in crisi, Bari: Dedalo.
Luporini, Cesare (1974) Dialettica e Materialismo, Roma: Editori Riuniti.
Marx, Karl (1970) A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Maurice
Dobb, trans. S.W. Ryazanskaya, London: Lawrence and Wishart.
Montebello, Pierre (2008) Deleuze: la passion de la pense, Paris: Vrin.
Panzieri, Raniero (1973) Scritti: 19561960, Milano: Lampugnani Nigri.
Panzieri, Raniero (1977) La ripresa del marxismo leninismo in Italia, Roma: Nuove
Edizioni operaie.
Pardi, Aldo (2007) Prefazione, in Gilles Deleuze, Che cosa pu un corpo? Lezioni
su Spinoza, Verona: Ombre Corte.
Sibertin-Blanc, Guillaume (2006) Politique et clinique. Recherche sur la philosophie
pratique de Gilles Deleuze, Lille: Ph.D dissertation.
Vaccaro, Gian Battista (1990) Deleuze e il pensiero del molteplice, Milano: Franco
Zourabichvili, Franois (1994) Deleuze, une philosophie de lvnement, Paris: PUF.

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000713
The Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution
is Always Virtual: From Noology
to Noopolitics

Jason Read University of Southern Maine

By most accounts Deleuzes engagement with Marx begins with the two
volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia he co-authored with Flix
Guattari. However, Deleuzes Difference and Repetition alludes to a
connection between Deleuzes critique of common sense and Marxs
theory of fetishism, suggesting a connection between the critique of the
image of thought and the critique of capital. By tracing this connection
from its emergence in the early texts on noology, or the image of thought,
to the development in the critique of state thought in A Thousand
Plateaus, it can be argued that what initially appears as an entirely
infra-philosophical problem, concerned with the presuppositions of
philosophy, is not only a political problem as well, but ultimately bears
on the very nature of the conjunction between thought and politics,
making possible a re-examination of what is meant by revolutionary
thought. It is a transition from noology to noopolitics. In the end it
can be argued that revolutionary thought is no longer an eschatology,
attempting to discern the signs of the future revolution in the present,
but a thought oriented towards everything that exceeds the fetish of
society, towards the virtual relations and micropolitical transformations
that constitute society but exceed its representation.

Keywords: Commodity fetishism, ideology, labour, noology, virtual, and

The obvious starting point for any discussion of the relation between
Marx and Deleuze would seem to be the two volumes of Capitalism
and Schizophrenia, in which Marxs texts provide the backdrop for
the conceptualisation of deterritorialisation, desiring-production and
abstract machines. However, in Difference and Repetition, there are a
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 79

few references to Marx that, although disparate and oblique, suggest

a fundamental overlap of central problems. As an initial point of
provocation and orientation, we can begin with the following two
statements: The natural object of social consciousness or common sense
with regard to the recognition of value is the fetish; and secondly, a
few lines later: The transcendent object of the faculty of sociability
is revolution (Deleuze 1994: 208). In these passages we see two
of the central terms that represent the alpha and omega of Marxs
thought: fetishism and revolution; the first is synonymous with false
consciousness, a fundamental misapprehension of the world, while the
second is the overturning of that perspective and that world. The citation
of these terms is situated within Deleuzes project of transforming the
very image of thought, from one based on recognition and identity to
a paradoxical thought of difference. Of course it is possible to argue
that what links these two thinkers and problems is nothing but the
contingent and superficial connection of a context: Marx was a central,
even obligatory point of reference during the 1960s in France, and
thus the invocation of his name is nothing more than the by-product
of writing in a particular place and time. If one scratches beneath the
surface, however, it is possible to see that this superficial pairing of
problems indicates a much more significant intersection, one based on
the fundamental problem of what could be called the politics of thought:
a politics that examines how certain images of thought emerge from
different social relations, and how they in turn affect these relations.
This problem takes on different forms, concepts and names in each
thinker. For Deleuze, it emerges in Difference and Repetition as the
problem of the dominant image of thought in philosophy, and continues
through the collaborations with Guattari as noology, which they define
as the study of the images of thought and their historicity (Deleuze and
Guattari 1987: 376). Deleuzes (and Guattaris) fundamental point is
that despite philosophys attempt to function without presuppositions,
to engender itself through a fundamentally grounded and rational
discourse, it always rests on an implicit idea of what it means to think,
an image of thought. The problem of the politics of thought takes on
a somewhat different form in Marxs writing, so much so that it might
not even appear to be a problem that Marxs work addresses at all.
However, as Marx and Engels argued in The German Ideology, the
fundamental mistake of German Idealism, and thus to some extent all
of philosophy, has been to overlook its connections with its material
conditions.1 The central political and philosophical concepts of Marxs
work mode of production, ideology and commodity fetishism all
80 Jason Read

address, in one form or another, the relation between thought and its
conditions, conditions that are not conceptual, but material, the social
conditions that are the constitutive outside for any philosophy, for any
It might appear that in each case what is meant by presuppositions
is fundamentally opposed. In the first case they are conceptual, the
orientation and image that all thinking must assume; while in the second
the presuppositions concern material conditions that by definition are
lived rather than thought, reflected in Marxs fundamental assertion
that Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life
(Marx and Engels 1970: 47). My point is not that Deleuze and Marx
are the same, rather it is the differences between the two the formers
focus on the preconceptual assumptions underlying conceptual thought
and the latters focus on the material conditions that make thought
possible that give shape and meaning to a fundamental philosophical
problem. This fundamental problem is formed and transformed through
Deleuze and Guattaris writings that continue to address this problem
of the image of thought, from Difference and Repetition through the
two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, a problem that remains
strongly connected to the general problem of materiality and abstraction.
As we will see, the vicissitudes of the problem are determined as much
by extrinsic conditions by the changing relationship between thought
and labour in contemporary capitalism as they are by intrinsic factors,
or the development and revision of a line of thought. It is through
tracing this connection between material conditions and conceptual
presuppositions that we can arrive at a new definition of revolutionary
thought; revolutionary thought is no longer an eschatology, attempting
to discern the signs of the future revolution in the present, but a thought
oriented towards everything that exceeds society as a fetish, exposing
the virtual relations and micropolitical transformations that constitute a
sociality that exceeds any delimited society.

I. Society is a Fetish
In developing his idea of the image of thought, Deleuze takes as his
initial focus not ideology, but the fetish, or commodity fetishism. In the
initial gloss of Marx and Deleuze, we have treated these two problems,
ideology and commodity fetishism, as relatively interchangeable, turning
to The German Ideology for a general definition of Marxs interrogation
of thought. Deleuzes rejection of the term ideology in the 1970s is well
known; as made clear in a famous discussion with Michel Foucault,
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 81

the concept of ideology is rejected because of the manner in which

it positions social relations, knowledge and the intellectual. Ideology
presupposes both masses who are deceived and an intellectual who
possesses the truth. For Deleuze the notion of ideology obscures the
real problem, the investments and productions of desire (Deleuze and
Foucault 2004: 212). This explains the rejection of ideology, but not the
adoption of fetishism. An examination of the general contours of the
problem of commodity fetishism alongside Deleuzes general project of
Difference and Repetition begins to establish a deeper connection, one
that has less to do with the polemics of the role of the intellectual and
more to do with the problem of the relationship between thought and
the social order.
On first glance the choice of commodity fetishism as a model for a
critique of an image of thought seems like a strange move; ideology
would seem to be the obvious position from which to interrogate
the relationship between thought and its presuppositions. After all, in
The German Ideology, ideology was just another name for (German)
idealism, for a mode of thinking which, in ignoring its material
conditions, not only fails to grasp the real basis of society, but is
unaware of the way in which it serves class interests. In contrast to this,
commodity fetishism would seem to be restricted to a much more specific
problem, that of the epistemological status of political economy, and its
understanding of value. This is the difference if we focus on the objects
of Deleuzes and Marxs respective criticism, namely philosophy and
political economy. A different picture emerges, however, if we examine
the way in which each concept articulates the relationship between
thought and its social presuppositions. While ideology, for Marx, is
rooted in social conditions, such as the division between mental and
manual labour and the consequent class divisions of capitalist society,
there is no necessary relation between these conditions and either the
form or the content of ideology. In other words, while there are material
conditions that make each ideology the ruling ideas of the ruling class,
namely ownership of the means of production, there is nothing to dictate
the specific shape that ideology will take, what these ideas will be in
each case. Thus, while it is possible that Marx meant to indict the
pretensions of philosophy tout court with his critique of ideology, the
term ideology is generally understood in the plural. There are various
ideologies all of which have a merely extrinsic historical relationship
to thought. The fetishisation of the commodity form, however, is a
necessary appearance of capitalist social relations. This is why the
chapter on commodity fetishism ends with a discussion of different
82 Jason Read

societies Robinson Crusoe, medieval society and an association of free

men because fetishism can only be overcome practically through a
change in social relations (Marx 1976: 171). This is why the opposite
of fetishism is not enlightenment but revolution. In capitalist society, the
isolation of the different producers, the separation of private industry,
makes it so that social relations appear in the form of the relation
between things; the value of the various commodities, a quality that
appears to be as real as their myriad qualities, is nothing other than
the social relations of society in a distorted form. Two consequences
follow from this; first, the emphasis is not on the content but on
the form. Any attempt to develop a critique of philosophy from the
commodity form would take as its starting point not a criticism of this
or that content or concept, as in ideology critique, but would begin
from a much more troubling problem regarding the social causes of
what is seemingly most necessary and inescapable for thought, its form.2
Second, given that the fetish is most fundamentally a misapprehension
of social relations, seeing the social relations as the quality of things,
the opposition is not simply between truth and falsity, but between
a thought of difference and identity, of relations and things.3 This is
precisely what Deleuze stresses about commodity fetishism, as he writes:
For example, according to Marx, fetishism is indeed an absurdity,
an illusion of social consciousness, so long as we understand by this
not a subjective illusion but an objective or transcendental illusion
born out of the conditions of social consciousness in the course of its
actualisation (Deleuze 1994: 208). What is at stake for Deleuze in
Marxs understanding of commodity fetishism is a new understanding
of the limits of thought, not the empirical limits of error, or even the
transcendental condition of illusions hard wired into subjectivity, but
the socially produced limits that transform relations into objects.
To grasp Deleuzes understanding of fetishism, and how it relates to
Deleuze and Guattaris later engagement with Marxism, it is necessary
to at least briefly clarify the concepts that form the critical backdrop
of Difference and Repetition, specifically the critique of common sense
as an image of thought. For Deleuze common sense is a particular
presupposition of thought, a presupposition that is not objective, not
a particular concept or definition, but an implied meaning of what it
means to think. What is presupposed is an ideal of representation that
posits an identical object, a thing which remains fundamentally the same,
and a unity of the subject, as the various faculties converge on the same
object; it is the same thing, which is felt, seen and remembered by the
same subject. Truth is recognition: error is misrecognition. Common
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 83

sense is dominated by recognition; to know is to recognise, to extract

the same from the multiplicity of its instances. Against this Deleuze
suggests a counter-image of thought based not on recognition, but on an
encounter. Something in the world forces us to think. This something is
an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter (Deleuze
1994: 139). Whereas recognition is predicated on the convergence of
the different faculties on the same object, the encounter, the break from
common sense, is predicated on their fundamental discord. What is
thought, sensed, or remembered, takes each of these faculties to its limit
and does not communicate with the other faculties, except through a
kind of crisis. This includes a sociability, which has its own disjoint
relation to the faculties; it cannot be recognised, it is not an object for
knowledge, it can only be lived. As Deleuze writes:

Take the social multiplicity: it determines sociability as a faculty, but also the
transcendent object of sociability which cannot be lived within actual societies
in which the multiple is incarnated, but must be and can be lived only in the
element of social upheaval (in other words, freedom, which is always hidden
among the remains of an old order and the first fruits of a new). (Deleuze
1994: 193)

Common sense objectifies sociality, makes society a thing that can be

seen, remembered and thought. To use a term that is not entirely out
of place with Marxs understanding of commodity fetishism, common
sense reifies sociability; it displaces the practice, the process of the
constitution of social relations, with the product. In contrast to this,
in moments of upheaval and disruption, there appears a sociality that
exceeds any actually existing society, a virtual society that is always in
excess of any existing social order. In Deleuzes thought, virtual does not
mean possible (a concept that is always derived from reality, caught in
a relation of identity), nor is it unreal: it is, as Deleuze writes, abstract
and real. It is the fact that every society, every social articulation, can be
realised otherwise, can have different relations, and is thus surrounded
by a virtual cloud (Deleuze 1997: 148). At this point in Difference
and Repetition this revolutionary idea, this idea of revolution, is only
seen in the moment of disruption. It is thus no accident that in this
text the transcendent object of sociability is named anarchy (Deleuze
1994: 143). In Deleuzes later writings with Guattari, the connection
between this virtual sociability and the economy, or, more specifically,
labour, will be strengthened. The transition from anarchy to labour is
not just a matter of reviving some nineteenth-century debate between
84 Jason Read

anarchism and Marxism, but of shifting the focus from the virtual as a
revolutionary moment to a persistent presence an immanent condition.

II. Production/Representation
As Deleuze argues, the social idea, sociality as a virtual multiplicity, has
to be seen as something of a structure, which different societies realise in
myriad different ways. As Deleuze writes:
The social Idea is the element of quantitability, qualitability, and potentiality
of societies. It expresses a system of multiple ideal connections between
differential elements: these include relations of production and property
relations which are established not between concrete individuals but between
atomic bearers of labour-power or representatives of property. The economic
instance is constituted by such a social multiplicity in other words, by the
varieties of these differential relations. (Deleuze 1994: 186)

Deleuzes nod here is to Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibars reading

of Marx, which makes it possible to grasp history not as the
teleological unfolding of a fundamental contradiction, making possible
the periodisation of history, but as the differential actualisation of
a system of relations. In Althusser and Balibars view the mode
of production is most fundamentally a relation between relations
(Althusser and Balibar 1970: 224). This structure, or relation between
relations, is made up of the different practices, economic, political,
ideological, etc., that act on and in relation to each other. In this
structure of relations, the economic remains determining, but it does not
simply act on the other aspects of society, imposing its brute necessity;
it acts on them by determining their differential relations, determining
which of these relations, or practices, is dominant. The classic example
of this is drawn from Marxs discussion of feudalism, in which Marx
argues that in the Middle Ages religion was determined as dominant
(Marx 1976: 176). The constituting relations can be articulated in
multiple different ways, with different practices, economic, political
or religious, occupying the dominant position, and different relations
between these different instances. The economic instance is constituted
by such a social multiplicity in other words, by the varieties of these
differential relations (Deleuze 1994: 186). Such a conception of the
economy breaks with any teleology, any sense of the different modes of
production following each other in a linear progression, in order to stress
their differential articulation. While Deleuze stresses the determining
nature of the economy, its determination is that of a problem which
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 85

is solved in different ways, not that of historical necessity or a base. The

truth of social relations is not to be found in some concrete instance, but
in the relations between the different social relations, thus in abstraction,
in the virtual.
Deleuze deviates from Althusser and Balibar in placing abstract
labour at the foundation of this differential relation. As Deleuze writes,
In what Marx calls abstract labour abstraction is made from the
particular qualities of the products of labour and the qualities of the
labourers, but not from the conditions of productivity, the labour power
and the means of labour in society (Deleuze 1994: 186). Deleuzes
definition stresses two aspects of Marxs concept that will become
increasingly important to his later work: abstraction as indifference to
subject and object, yet socially determined. In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze
and Guattari foreground Marxs discovery of abstract labour or rather
his crediting of Adam Smith and Ricardo for the discovery in their
development of desiring-production. As Deleuze and Guattari write:

Marx said that Luthers merit was to have determined the essence of religion,
no longer on the side of the object, but as an interior religiosity; that the
merit of Adam Smith and Ricardo was to have determined the essence or
nature of wealth no longer as an objective nature but as an abstract and
deterritorialized subjective essence, the activity of production in general.
(Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 270)

This is a fundamental example, if not the paradigmatic instance, of

deterritorialisation. Whereas prior political economists had initially
sought the origin of wealth in a privileged object, such as the
earth, or in a particular kind of activity, such as agricultural labour,
the political economy of Smith and Ricardo recognises that at the
basis of wealth there is nothing other than labour as an abstract
subjective activity. Deleuze and Guattari immediately assert that
political economy no sooner discovers this abstract activity than it
objectifies it, reterritorialising it by subordinating it to accumulated
capital. Capitalism is thus the exemplary instance of Deleuze and
Guattaris fundamental point: deterritorialisation is inseparable from
reterritorialisation. This is how they introduce Marxs critique of
political economy, as a critique that not only liberates abstract subjective
activity from the territories of the earth, but also explores the way that
this activity is appropriated by the territories of capital and the State.
Abstract labour, as Marx defines it in the opening section of Capital,
is not only labour that is indifferent to, or abstracted from, its
particular concrete mode of existence. It is also, and perhaps more
86 Jason Read

importantly, labour that has been rendered interchangeable, equivalent,

despite the different individuals performing it. It is that invisible but
not impalpable unit that makes exchange-value possible. Its invisibility
outlines the fundamental problem of the question of value, and of
commodity fetishism, in which the grounds for the equivalence of
the various commodities is mysterious in theory because it is always
already answered by practice. In practice, abstract labour is a socially
necessary abstraction, an abstraction made possible by the machines and
technologies that render different kinds of work interchangeable. It is
felt as a practical reality whenever these social and technical realities
change, whenever a new machine or new more efficient labour process
is invented (Marx 1976: 135). As such, it arises only with the formation
of capitalism. As Marx writes: the most general abstractions arise
only in the midst of the richest possible concrete development (Marx
1973: 104). It is only in capitalist society, with the rise of monetary
relations and the breakdown of traditional jobs and activities, that
something like labour as an abstract activity emerges, displacing the
concrete activities. However, as Marx famously argues, just as human
anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape, so it is from the
perspective of this historically produced activity that we are able to
make sense of other societies as determined by modes of production,
as based on the articulation, distribution and use of labour. This is
precisely the position taken by Deleuze and Guattari with respect to
abstract subjective activity, or what they call desiring-production: it
emerges at the end of history, in the breakdown of codes and the general
imperative to produce, but it makes possible an understanding of other
societies, precisely in the manner in which they code or repel desiring-
production. The most fundamental abstractions, abstract labour or
desiring-production, are not found at the beginning of society, in some
primitive state, but in the most complex societies.
Returning to the passages above from Difference and Repetition,
viewed now through their development in Anti-Oedipus, we can see
that in the former text Deleuze draws together two very different strains
of Marxist thought. The first, which posits the economy as a series of
differential relations, is drawn from Althusser and Balibar, while the
second, focusing on abstract labour, does not seem to have a specific
point of influence aside from Marx, but has resonances with the idea
of real abstraction developed in different senses by Alfred Sohn-Rethel,
Moishe Postone and Paolo Virno. These two lines of thought continue
through Deleuze and Guattaris works: the first, with its emphasis on
relations, forms the basis of concepts such as that of abstract machines,
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 87

while the second underlies their conception of desiring-production.

Where these two lines of thought converge is in their refiguring of the
notion of abstraction: abstraction is no longer an activity of thought,
but the product of material relations, relations that remain in some sense
unrepresentable. This claim is in some sense already indebted to Marxs
understanding of his own critical project, which paradoxically focuses
on the status of the abstract concepts of abstract labour and surplus
value (Althusser and Balibar 1970: 80). It is only from the perspective
of the critique of capitalism that labour can appear as both absolutely
necessary, as part of mans metabolic interrelation with nature, and
as fundamentally abstract, as an indifference to its specific object or
subject. This indifference must be actualised, it must take the form
of a particular kind of work, of labour. This necessary abstraction
can only appear in particular concrete formulations. From this we can
better grasp Deleuzes earlier assertion, in Difference and Repetition,
that there are only economic social problems (Deleuze 1994: 186).
The economy is both absolutely necessary, something that meets the
most fundamental needs of existence, and fundamentally abstract, made
up of only the differential relation between the various practices, and
structures, which become concrete only in their reciprocal relations.
It is the problem that every society faces, but a problem that can
only be resolved in specific articulations, in specific social formations.
The economy, understood as the articulation of abstractive subjective
activity, of any-activity-whatsoever, is something that exists only in its
particular articulations, as specific concrete realisations of this virtual set
of relations. Deterritorialisation is inseparable from reterritorialisation.
In Anti-Oedipus the critique of recognition, of identity in thought,
is resituated from a critique of an image of thought to an opposition
between production and representation. Much of this takes a polemical
tone, in which the theatre of Oedipus is opposed to the factory of
the unconscious, the work of the desiring-machines. However, it also
extends and deepens the idea of fetishism. As Deleuze and Guattari

Let us remember once again one of Marxs caveats: we cannot tell from the
mere taste of the wheat who grew it; the product gives us no hint as to
the system and relations of production. The product appears to be all the
more specific, incredibly specific and readily describable, the more closely
the theoretician relates it to ideal forms of causation, comprehension, or
expression, rather than to the real process of production on which it depends.
(Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 24)
88 Jason Read

Just as products, commodities, obscure the process of their production,

so institutions, structures, society itself, obscure the virtual relations
that constitute them; the solution conceals the problem from which
it emerged. In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari expand upon and
develop this idea of the fetish from Difference and Repetition: the fetish
becomes the socius. It is not just that the product, society, obscures the
productive relations that generate it, it actively appropriates them. As
Deleuze and Guattari write:
the forms of social production, like those of desiring-production, involve an
unengendered nonproductive attitude, an element of anti-production coupled
with the process, a full body that functions as a socius. This socius may be the
body of the earth, that of the tyrant, or capital. This is the body that Marx
is referring to when he says that it is not the product of labour, but rather
appears as its natural or divine presupposition. In fact, it does not restrict
itself merely to opposing productive forces in and of themselves. It falls back
on [il se rabat sur] all production, constituting a surface over which the forces
and agents of production are distributed, thereby appropriating for itself all
surplus production and arrogating to itself both the whole and the parts of
the process, which now seem to emanate from it as a quasi-cause. (Deleuze
and Guattari 1983: 10)

Just as the despot appears to be the cause and not the effect of
subjection, capital appears to be the cause and not the effect of labour.
Once disconnected from the conditions of production, from the virtual
relations that make it possible, society, the socius, not only appears to
be autonomous, in the form of money making money, but is an effect
that appears as a cause. Society not only appears to exist prior to the
differential relations, the production and desire that constitute it, it also
appears to stand above these relations as their necessary condition.4
The fetish has become common sense in that we see society, with its
structures, rules and goals, as something that exists prior to and is
constitutive of the social relations of desire, perception and production.

III. The Return to Noopolitics: The Problem of State Thought

Following the line of noology, of the politics of thought, from Difference
and Repetition to Anti-Oedipus, leads to a rather strange deepening of
the problem. In Difference and Repetition the criticism was focused
on a particular image of thought, one that takes recognition as
the fundamental function of thought. At the social level, this object
of recognition, this identity between past, present and future, is in
some sense society as a fetish. Against this, Deleuze focused on the
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 89

transcendent object of thought, on the abstract and differential relations

that exceed any faculty of thought, any possible conceptualisation. The
difference still passed within thought, opposing the provocations of
thought to common sense. In Anti-Oedipus, however, the opposition
shifts; it is no longer between different figures of thought, but between
representation and the forces of production that exceed representation.
The fundamental opposition is between how social relations are
produced and how they are represented: or, as Deleuze and Guattari
put it, how desire is produced and how it is recorded. It is for this reason
that the image of thought, or what Deleuze and Guattari call noology,
disappears from Anti-Oedipus. The entire problem of the image of
thought disappears, to be replaced with the stark opposition between
representation and production.5
Of the many shifts of terminology, content and style that characterise
the transition from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus, two are
relevant for our project here: the first, as I have already acknowledged,
is the return of noology, the image of thought as a problem, and the
second is the disappearance of labour, or rather production, as that
which exceeds representation. It might be more accurate to state that it
is the polemical rift between production, or labour, and representation,
or thought, that disappears in the later text; when labour does appear,
it appears not as an absolute rupture with the logic of representation,
but as a figure of capture and subjection. Taken together these two
changes suggest a fundamental transformation of the opposition that
characterised Anti-Oedipus, that of thought and production. Production
is no longer the absolute outside of representation, nor is thought
reduced to a representation that can never intersect with production:
thought is no longer limited to the fetish of common sense to tasting
the wheat without ever grasping how it has been produced but is itself
a productive force. Thought and production become tied to the same
relations of deterritorialisation and capture.
If we turn our attention briefly back to Anti-Oedipus we can see
that the issue of labour was never quite as simple as it might first
appear, that the transformation of the question of production was
already indicated by tensions within that text. As much as Deleuze and
Guattari based their concept of abstract subjective activity, or desiring-
production, on abstract labour, this understanding was perhaps always
skewed with respect to Marxs text. (One of the strangest elements of
Deleuze and Guattaris text is that in referring to Marxs understanding
of the break represented by Smith and Ricardo, they frequently cite
Foucaults The Order of Things, locating in that text an epochal
90 Jason Read

distinction between a classical age of representation and a modern age of

production). For Marx, abstract labour is the condition of possibility of
exchange, of the exchange that makes capital possible; thus it is first and
foremost an equivalence established between different types of concrete
labour. Marx vacillates somewhat on the ground of this equivalence,
sometimes attributing it to an anthropological constant, and at other
times attributing it to the machines and techniques that render labour
equivalent and exchangeable (see Read 2003: 74). Deleuze and Guattari
do not recognise the existence of anything like an anthropological
constant underlying abstract labour, arguing that any idea of a standard
amount of labour is itself the product of an arbitrary imposition. What
Deleuze and Guattari focus on is not the equivalence underlying abstract
labour, the fact that the labour of one person is equal to that of
others, but its abstraction, or, more properly, deterritorialisation, its
indifference to object or subject. It is perhaps for this reason that in
Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari also consider the role of machines,
actual machines, in the production of surplus-value. If labour can be
abstracted from particular forms of subjectivity, from the blacksmith or
shoemaker as a particular kind of labourer, and from particular objects,
from the land or industry, then why cannot it also be abstracted from
humanity, from human hands and minds altogether? Abstract labour
becomes part of the machine; not just in the sense that Marx might have
argued, in which the pure motor force of the body is replaced by the
machine, but in the sense that abstract subjective activity, including that
of knowledge, can become part of the machine. As Deleuze and Guattari
write: Knowledge, information, and specialized education are just as
much parts of capital (knowledge capital) as is the most elementary
labour of the worker (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 234). Machinery has
a fundamentally different role to play in each account: in Marxs account
the machine internalises the skills and knowledge of the worker, leaving
behind a residue of labour that is fundamentally abstract in that it can
be performed by anyone, while in Deleuze and Guattaris understanding,
the abstraction of subjectivity crosses the divide between machine and
human, constituting and exceeding both. In the first instance the machine
makes abstract labour possible, as form of completely exchangeable
human activity, while, in the second, the machine embodies abstract
It is at this point that we can see the gulf separating Marxs
understanding of abstract labour from Deleuze and Guattari. For Marx,
abstract labour is first and foremost an equivalent, it is what makes
possible the exchange of the labour of one for others, while for
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 91

Deleuze and Guattari abstract labour is primarily defined as a flow,

as something separate from specific bodies and objects, the equivalent
of which can only be the effect of a seizure by force. This last point
is crucial, while Marx had always excavated the asymmetries of force
underlying the equivalents of exchange, Deleuze and Guattari radicalise
this point through their understanding of the primacy of difference over
identity. In a seminar in the 1970s, Deleuze makes a distinction been
an arithmetical and a differential understanding of surplus-value.6 In the
first, the quantifiable nature of labour is given, or assumed, and the only
difference is a quantitative one between the wage (necessary labour) and
profit. In the second, differential understanding, there is no equivalence,
just an encounter between a flow of labour and a flow of wages. There
is no ground for the exchange between labour and capital, the very
terms of the exchange are constituted by the relation. The scandal of
exploitation is not that labour is paid for at an insufficient rate, but
that it is paid for at all: that a unit of money becomes equivalent to a
unit of labour time (Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 249). This differential
understanding also makes possible a theory of scientific or technical
labour. Just as there is an encounter between a flow of labour and a flow
of money, there is an encounter between a flow of money and a flow of
knowledge. As Deleuze and Guattari argue, technological innovations
are only introduced if they can increase surplus-value. Technological
innovations are dependent upon a flow of money for their realisation.
This is dependent upon multiple factors, such as scale of production
and cost of labour, factors that make possible an incredibly uneven
development of technology and social relations (Deleuze and Guattari
1983: 233). As with Difference and Repetition, society only exists as a
set of differential relations between different flows: money, labour and
In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari repeat their earlier
formulation that presents capitalism as formed in the encounter between
an unqualified activity, any activity whatsoever, and an unspecified
object, any object whatsoever (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 453).
However, at this point, production, labour, is no longer presented as
the paradigmatic instance of deterritorialised subjective activity; rather,
it is integral to the manner through which this activity is seized by force,
it is an apparatus of capture. The model of abstract subjective activity
is no longer abstract labour, but free action: the figure of this abstract
subjective activity is no longer the schizo, the factory of desiring-
production, but the nomad and its war machine. This radical break
at the level of names and figures risks concealing what is in many
92 Jason Read

respects a continuation at the level of concepts and problems. As we

have seen, when Deleuze and Guattari invoke abstract labour in Anti-
Oedipus, it is never the quantifiable abstraction that is stressed, the
capacity of rendering labour exchangeable and interchangeable, but its
qualitative indifference to subjects and objects. In A Thousand Plateaus,
it is precisely this capacity to render different activities comparable that
is identified with the apparatus of capture. Activity, free activity, is
captured by being rendered comparable with other activities, by being
subject to an abstract standard that defines it as work, a standard that
is always inseparable from a surplus. The encounter between the two
flows, money and labour, is always asymmetrical, with the first setting
the terms of the relation. Surplus labour is not the simple quantitative
difference of labour above and beyond what is necessary to survive,
but the foundational excess that determines the terms of the equation.
Surplus labour is not that which exceeds labour; on the contrary, labour
is that which is subtracted from surplus labour and presupposes it
(Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 441). Labour does not exist as a generic
human capacity, but is constituted by the very act that exploits it, that
constitutes a surplus. As Deleuze and Guattari write:

Impose the Work-model upon every activity, translate every act into possible
or virtual work, discipline free action, or else (which amounts to the same
thing) relegate it to leisure, which exists only by reference to work. We now
understand why the Work-model, in both its physical and social aspects, is a
fundamental part of the state apparatus. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 490)

As the passage indicates, one of the fundamental roles of the State is to

create work as the standard for the comparison of different activities.
What is excluded from this, what cannot be measured or exchanged,
becomes unproductive labour, leisure. In something of a reversal of
classic Marxist theory, Deleuze and Guattari argue that the State as
central force of command must be prior to the economy as an organised
set of relations between disparate human endeavours. It is not the state
that presupposes a mode of production; quite the opposite, it is the
state that makes production a mode (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 429).
Moreover, in attributing this process to the State, rather than the market,
Deleuze and Guattari begin to suggest that the two problems addressed
above, the return of noology and the changing status of labour, are in
some sense related. The State is not just the name of the relations of
force that make possible the equivalence underlying the exchange of
different labours (and the commodities and surplus produced by this
exchange), it is simultaneously a model of thought. It is a model of
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 93

thought that obscures the groundless nature of the differential relations

between labour and capital, effacing the asymmetry of force with the
neutrality of law State violence is inseparable from its justification.
This justification is not based on some specific narrative, some specific
conceptual content, that would make the State reasonable, but on an
identification of the State with reason itself.
The critique of state thought develops from the critique of common
sense; in each case it is a matter of a presupposed unity, what everyone
knows, but in the case of the State, this unity is elevated to universality.
As Deleuze and Guattari write:

The classical image of thought, and the striating of mental space it effects,
aspires to universality. It in effect operates with two universals, the Whole
as the final ground of being or all-encompassing horizon, and the Subject as
the principle that converts being into being-for-us. Imperium and republic.
(Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 379)

What is striking about this passage is that the identification of the

State as functioning with two universals, the whole and the subject,
is very close to the general formula that Deleuze and Guattari use to
identify capital: the encounter between an unqualified subjective activity
and an unspecified object. Both capital and the State, or at least state
thought, function in relation to an object and a subject that is in each
case generic and universal. The crucial difference would seem to be that
capital deals with differential relations between abstract activities and
objects, while the State presents these abstract relations as equivalent,
fundamentally overcoding the differential relations with an image of
legitimacy. Capital is founded on the encounter between two flows,
an asymmetrical, contingent and groundless encounter, that the State
renders legitimate by presenting the terms money and labour or worker
and capitalist as interchangeable. For the State the difference of class,
of being a worker or capitalist, is irrelevant, they are equally subjects,
motivated to exchange by interest and dwelling in the Eden of the
innate rights of man (Marx 1976: 280). As Deleuze and Guattari
argue, the interiority of state thought is primarily a relation of identity
between capitalist and worker, or ruler and ruled, positing a common
ground of reason amongst different subjects. The state must realize the
distinction between legislator and the subject under formal conditions
permitting thought, for its part, to conceptualize their identity (Deleuze
and Guattari 1987: 376). Deleuze and Guattaris criticism of capital and
the State risks collapsing the distinction, not just to the point where the
two are identified, capital and the State as both figures of universality
94 Jason Read

and abstraction, but to the point where the opposition is reduced to a

simple binary of the State versus nomadism (or, in Anti-Oedipus, fascism
versus the schizo).
Despite the tendency to present the conflict between the State and
the nomad as timeless, or at least metahistorical, Deleuze and Guattari
fundamentally change the terms of the conflict by shifting it from
philosophy in which it was between the long line of state thought,
stretching from Descartes to Hegel, and nomadic thought to science.
As Deleuze and Guattari argue, state science is primarily hylemorphic,
working with form and content, and privileging formed and fixed
bodies. Nomadic science, however, works with movements, with
singularities: the events through which qualitative transformations take
place (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 372). The opposition between these
two forms of science is only apparent: state science constantly needs the
discoveries of nomadic science. The fluctuations of nomadic science thus
are reterritorialised onto the fixed coordinates and categories of state
science. Two things can be said about this concept of science. First, it
reiterates a theme that is central to Anti-Oedipus, in which knowledge
is presented as a deterritorialising/deterritorialised force. Second, the
situation is parallel to that of labour, which is deterritorialised only to
be reterritorialised onto property and capital. The deterritorialisations
of nomadic science are integral to state science, even as they are
subordinated to measures and concepts that are alien to them. The
idea of nomadic science allows Deleuze and Guattari to make a point
they could not make with respect to the history of philosophy: state
thought is dependent on nomadic thought, difference is prior to identity,
deterritorialisation is primary to reterritorialisation. For Deleuze and
Guattari, knowledge and labour, thought and action, are subject to
the same apparatus of capture, the same process of homogenisation
and standardisation that constitutes quantitatively exchangeable units
from differential relations of desire and action. In A Thousand Plateaus
there is no longer a division between representation and production, or
thought and action, each have their deterritorialised dimension, nomadic
science and free activity, and are thus subject to similar apparatuses of
capture. This similarity does not close the question of the relation of
consciousness to life, but opens it to its historicity.

IV. From Production to Invention: The Problem of Noopolitics

Of the many readers of and commentators on Deleuze and Guattaris
works, the Italian reception, specifically that of Antonio Negri and
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 95

Maurizio Lazzarato, is unique in that it stresses the historical dimension

of their writing. To begin with, Negris understanding of this dimension
is not the simple assertion that their work represents an example
of May 68 thought, of that bygone moment of exuberance and
revolutionary excess. Rather, for Negri specifically, what is central is
precisely what we are examining here: the changing structure of labour
and its relation to the problem of thought. Negri argues that the
machines that populate Anti-Oedipus are not metaphors, but attempts
to grasp the complexity of the interactions of humanity and the machine
that make up contemporary capitalism. The same could be said for
the assemblages and machines that make up A Thousand Plateaus
(Negri 1995: 104). What Negris reading underscores, often overlooked
by many other readers, is that it is not simply because of theoretical
sophistication that we do not accept a dualism between representation
and production, but because such dualisms no longer fit the current
reality, in which representations are themselves productive. The schema
of labour, action and intellect, first articulated by Aristotle and placed on
modern footing by Hannah Arendt, is itself out of touch with a reality
in which knowledge is productive and the uncertainty and plurality
of action has become part of the service industry.7 Thus, the shift of
philosophical positions regarding the relation of labour, subjectivity and
thought from Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus is itself a product
of the transformation of capital.
Negris reading opens, or, rather calls to attention to, a different
way of approaching the relationship between Marx (or Marxist
problematics) and Deleuze and Guattari. It is no longer simply a matter
of the way in which particular problems from Marx and Marxists inform
Deleuzes writing, providing the basis for understanding society as a
fetish, but the way in which Deleuze and Guattaris writing provokes and
continues a re-examination of Marxs concepts. Or more to the point,
since such a division is artificial, what is important is the way in which
the central problems and concerns of Marxist thought, including that of
the redefinition of labour in light of the contemporary transformations
of capital, are integral to Deleuze and Guattaris understanding:
just as Deleuze and Guattaris concepts of deterritorialisation,
noology and the virtual make possible a re-examination of Marxs
Of all of the post-autonomist thinkers who have followed Negri in
reading Deleuze and Guattari as thinkers of the present, the one who
is perhaps most interesting or relevant to our concerns is Maurizio
Lazzarato. Lazzaratos central project turns on rethinking the current
96 Jason Read

conjuncture from the perspective of both noology, the image of thought,

and an examination of the intersection of abstract subjective activity and
labour. Lazzarato takes as his starting point what Deleuze and Guattari
define as the foundation of capital, the encounter between a generic
subject, of any subjective activity whatever, and an unspecified object
(Lazzarato 2004: 13). Picking up on Deleuze and Guattaris emphasis
on deterritorialisation, on the abstraction from specific activities and
objects, Lazzarato opens the question of the adequacy of thinking this
abstract activity through the figure of work (Lazzarato 2004: 13). As
much as Marx may ground his understanding of capital on an abstract
subjective activity, labour, that works on any object whatsoever, the
commodity, he still primarily thinks of this relation as the action of
a subject on an object producing a product through the medium of a
tool (Marx 1976: 284). While we might add, in good dialectical fashion,
that this action in turn transforms the subject, the fundamental question
remains as to whether or not this schema of activity can account for
contemporary relations of production in which work is not so much
about transforming objects as it is about transforming perspectives,
desires and relations. Thus, for Lazzarato, Marxs perspective is limited
on two counts: first, in that it takes as its general schema of labour
the idea of a subject transforming an object, and second, in that it
understands this activity to be an abstract and interchangeable activity,
positing subjects who interact only through the ground of this generic
activity (Lazzarato 2002: 25). What is excluded in each case is difference,
difference that is neither quantitative nor subject to the measure of
labour time. The question is one of subjectivity, subjectivity not simply
defined as the capacity to transform an object, but understood as
temporality, invention and relation (Lazzarato 2004: 144).
For Lazzarato, the thinker who provides the true basis of an
understanding of the abstract subjective activity underlying capital is
not Marx but Gabriel Tarde, who tried to understand subjectivity as
a relation of invention, imitation and competition (Lazzarato 2002: 39).
Lazzarato uses Tardes re-examination of the sociality of subjectivity to
redefine labour, or replace it with the idea of action at a distance, of
minds affecting minds, and to return to the problem noology, or rather,
noopolitics. Noopolitics is defined as the action of minds on minds,
of subjectivities acting on each other at a distance, affecting memory,
desires and attention (Lazzarato 2004: 85). Despite the terminological
similarity with Deleuze and Guattaris study of the images of thought,
the nous that underlies noology and noopolitics, Lazzaratos point
of reference is less A Thousand Plateaus, with its battle between
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 97

state thought and nomadic thought, than Deleuzes Postscript on

Control Societies, with its emphasis on forms of control that do not
so much operate on the body, but on the mind, through the new
technologies of communication (Deleuze 1995: 181). Lazzarato places
Tardes interest in the public, and the forms of media that were emerging
in the nineteenth century, in a trajectory (borrowed from Foucault
and Deleuze) in which power operates less and less on the flesh of
the body, as in sovereign power, and more and more on perceptions,
affections and memories. Modern technologies such as the television,
cinema and the internet operate on minds; they are apparatuses of
capture, capturing attention, memory and imagination. Before products
can be sold, or even made, attention and memory must be captured
by the technologies that work on publics (Lazzarato 2004: 117). The
emphasis is on a new form of capital that works more on memory
(think of the various cinematic remakes that are nothing more than
attempts to mine a reservoir of nostalgia), belief and attention than on
the production of things. This action in which the mind acts on the
mind, on thoughts, defines a new political or social relation: if the age of
abstract labour corresponded to the political regime of discipline, which
made disparate bodies and actions abstract and interchangeable, the age
of highly deterritorialised labour corresponds to actions on disparate
minds, memories and perceptions. As Lazzarato writes: Noopolitics
is exercised on the head, implicating attention in order to control the
virtual power of memory. The modulation of memory would thus be the
most important function of noopolitics (Lazzarato 2004: 85). However,
it should be noted, especially in the face of the many arguments levelled
against epochal understandings of contemporary capital, in which the
new is posited as a complete break with the past, immaterial labour
replacing material labour, that Lazzaratos interest in Tarde is less
about a transformation of the economy than a different understanding
of the relationship between subjectivity and the economy. For Tarde,
both Marxism and theories of marginal utility overlook the constitutive
role of memory and desire in forming markets. Tardes La Psychologie
Economique argues that the economy, in the sense of the production
and circulation of goods, is itself embedded in a larger economy,
or circulation, of beliefs and desires that determines it (Lazzarato
2002: 28). Not only is there no separation between representation
and production, belief and labour the former is the ground of the
latter. The immaterial, the virtual, becomes central to production,
as goods and finance are increasingly dependent on the relations of
98 Jason Read

As much as Lazzaratos argument can be understood as posed against

the Marxist idea of labour, especially against the gulf that separates
production from representation, it is an argument that returns us
to the identification of the economy and the virtual in Difference
and Repetition (as well as the productive power of desire in Anti-
Oedipus). Lazzarato argues that the dialectic of subject and object
needs to be replaced by the relation of event and worlds. Capital
is not simply the work of an abstract subject on an undetermined
object, it is inseparable from the production of new worlds, new senses
of possibility, belonging, and orientations of affects. Every product,
every enterprise, entails not just the actualisation of particular material
and technological possibilities, but the actualisation of particular
subjective possibilities, ways of thinking and seeing. As Lazzarato writes,
Capitalism is not a mode [mode] of production it is a production
of worlds [mondes] (Lazzarato 2004: 96). These worlds emerge from
the virtual relations of belief and desire that define a particular sense
of the possible. This is not only true of consumption in which every
product is inseparable from its lifestyle, its habits and desire, but it
also effects finance capital, in which corporations are valued primarily
in terms of the level of expectations and belief (Lazzarato 2004: 112).
The stock market is also immersed in a field of beliefs and desires
that constitute the basis for value. This process of production and
effectuation, or in Tardes terms, invention and imitation, takes place
through activity, activity understood broadly to include the actions
that disseminate beliefs, ideas and knowledge, activities that involve
labour but exceed it. The two points of Deleuzes reading of Marx in
Difference and Repetition, the economy as the articulation of differential
relations and abstract labour, ultimately converge: the differential
relations constitutive of society are actualised through abstract subjective

V. Becoming Revolutionary Without the Revolution

In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze argues that different societies can
be understood as the actualisation, which is to say the solution, of a
general problem that can be called, for lack of a better word, economic.
The solution actualises one of a virtual multiplicity of relations, and
in doing so obscures the problem from which it emerges. In Anti-
Oedipus, this general problem takes on the specific form of the relation
between desiring-production and social production; every society, every
form of social production is nothing but a specific organisation and
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 99

articulation of desiring-production, assigning it specific goals and aims.

This task is in part completed by a representation of society itself, by
the socius that presents society, in the form of the despot or capital, as
something that exists prior to the various actions that constitute it. In
A Thousand Plateaus, noology, the image of thought, returns; now it
is situated within the conflict between the State and the nomad. This
conflict between the images of thought is a conflict between a mode
of thought that privileges fixed forms and stable movements versus
thought without an image that is founded upon difference and events.
The differential relation of forces that constitutes capital is obscured
by state thought which deals only with equal and interchangeable
subjects. At this point, however, the relation is less an opposition than
a process by which the former is continually captured by the latter.
State thought requires the deterritorialisation of nomad thought, just as
capital requires labour. What this trajectory underscores is not just the
virtual differential relations underlying any delimited society, that every
society is the realisation and limitation of various social possibilities,
but that these different relations are produced and actualised by abstract
subjective activity.
Deleuze and Guattari thus offer a more radical, or at least more
interesting, understanding of the phrase there is no such thing as society
than the one made famous by Margaret Thatcher: society is a fetish
(albeit one with incredibly pervasive effects), but what it misrepresents
is not some underlying reality of individuals and families but an
abstract subjective activity, which is another way of saying that what
is real is the indetermination and transformative nature of activity
itself. Deleuze and Guattari rearticulate a different link between labour
and revolutionary consciousness than the one that has traditionally
held sway in Marxism. It is not a matter of a dialectical negation, or
a historical telos, of labour-power taking the subjective form of the
proletariat as that class with nothing to lose but its chains. Production
in Deleuze and Guattari is not the act of a subject at all, it is an
abstract subjective activity, an activity that exceeds subjectivity and
constitutes it. It even exceeds any attempt to delimit it to a specific type
of activity, to designate it as labour. As Deleuze and Guattari argue,
capitalism entails a fundamental, almost ontological transformation of
what constitutes subjectivity and objectivity: an unqualified and global
subjectivity encounters an unspecified object, or, in more conventional
terms, labour-power confronts the commodity. The connection between
this activity and revolution does not pass through a subject of history,
but rather passes through the relationship between the virtual and
100 Jason Read

the actual, the creative activity constitutive of society and its actual
articulation and concealment within a specific society.
This activity does not just produce the actual world, but, as Lazzarato
argues, the possible world as well, producing the halo of the virtual
that accompanies the actual. To become revolutionary is to grasp this
potential underlying the present, the virtual underlying the actual. The
virtual is always already present in every labour, in every action. Politics
is no longer a struggle over this world, even of its contradictions, but a
production of new worlds. Another world is always possible.

1. Pierre Macherey underscores this dimension of The German Ideology, writing
the following: Hence this notion that Marxism was the first to explore:
philosophy is not an independent speculative activity, as would be a pure
speculation, but is tied to real conditions, which are its historical conditions;
and this is why, let it be said in passing, there is a history of philosophy, which
can be retraced and understood (Macherey 1998: 9).
2. In this manner Deleuzes comparison of the form of thought with the commodity
form, a form that privileges identity over difference, is similar to Theodor
Adornos critique in Negative Dialectics.
3. John Holloway, following Lukcs, Adorno and Negri, has generalised this idea
of fetishisation in terms of a rift between the doing and done, subject and object,
difference and identity. His understanding, like Adornos cited above, is not
unrelated to the intersection of Deleuze and Marx (see Holloway 2005).
4. Once again the point of reference would seem to be Althusser and Balibars
Reading Capital. In that text Althusser refers to the society effect as the way
in which the different and differential practices of society hold together through
a form of subjection. As Althusser writes: The mechanism of the production of
this society effect is only complete when all the effects of the mechanism have
been expounded, down to the point where they are produced in the form of the
very effects that constitute the concrete, conscious or unconscious relation of the
individuals to the society as a society, i.e., down to the effects of the fetishism
of ideology (or forms of social consciousness Preface to A Contribution. . . ),
in which men consciously or unconsciously live their lives, their projects, their
actions, their attitudes and their functions as social (Althusser and Balibar 1970:
5. Etienne Balibar has offered an interpretation of the limitations of The German
Ideology that is relevant here. As Balibar argues, the strong identification of
idealism, ideology and domination has as its corollary an identification of
matter, production and liberation in the body of the proletariat (Balibar 1994:
93). Put simply, in Marxs text the proletariat has no ideology, no theory, as
Marx argues, its theoretical illusions have been dissolved by the pure force of
6. The lecture, dated 12/21/71, is available here:
7. This argument regarding the breakdown of the classic schema of labour (or
poesis), action (or praxis) and thought (or theoria) is given its most concise
formulation in the work of Paolo Virno (see Virno 2004: 51).
Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual 101

Althusser, Louis and Etienne Balibar (1970) Reading Capital, trans. B. Brewster,
London: New Left Books.
Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. P. Patton, New York:
Deleuze, Gilles (1995) Postscript on Control Societies, in Negotiations: 19721990,
trans. M. Joughin, New York: Columbia.
Deleuze, Gilles (1997) The Actual and the Virtual, in Gilles Deleuze and Claire
Parnet, Dialogues II, trans. E. R. Albert, New York: Columbia.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1983) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Michel Foucault (2004) Intellectuals and Power, trans. Michael
Taormina, in Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts (19531974),
New York: Semiotext(e).
Holloway, John (2005) Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of
Revolution Today, London: Pluto.
Lazzarato, Maurizio (2002) Puissances de linvention: La psychologie conomique
de Gabriel Tarde contre lconomie politique, Paris: Les empcheurs de penser en
Lazzarato, Maurizio (2004) Les revolutions du capitalism, Paris: Le Seuil.
Macherey, Pierre (1998) In a Materialist Way, trans. T. Stolze, London and
New York: Verso.
Marx, Karl (1973) Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy,
trans. M. Nicolaus, New York: Penguin.
Marx, Karl (1976) Capital, Vol. 1, trans. B. Fowkes. New York: Penguin.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1970) The German Ideology, ed. and trans. C. J.
Arthur, New York: International.
Negri, Antonio (1995) On Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus,
trans. C. Wolfe, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, 18:1.
Read, Jason (2003) The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the
Present, Albany: SUNY Press.
Virno, Paulo (2004) A Grammar of the Multitude, trans. I. Bertoletti, J. Cascaito
and A. Casson, New York: Semiotext(e).

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000725
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a
New Political Praxis

Eduardo Pellejero Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Translated by Pauly Ellen Bothe and Davide Scarso

In 1990, Antonio Negri pointed out some problems with Deleuzes
political philosophy. Substituting infra-structures for life or desire, as
constitutive dimensions of power formations, did not imply giving up
on Marx, but it certainly did imply a change in the table of conceptual
analysis and a profound renovation of the questions that pertain to
militant praxis. Taking this into account, we intend to explore the sense
of a rare fidelity to Marx, and a certain idea of intellectual commitment
that, reframing its objects and its instruments, pretends to renew political
thinking in order to confront the unforeseeable of new knowledge, new
techniques and new political facts.
Keywords: Minor-dialectic, becoming-revolutionary, creation of
assemblages, de-totalisation, ethics of struggle
In 1990, in an interview conducted by Toni Negri for the magazine
Futur antrieur, Deleuze defended his fidelity to Marxism, that is, the
idea that political philosophy finds its fate in the analysis and criticism
of capitalism as an immanent system that constantly moves its limits
and constantly re-establishes them on an expanded scale (Capital being
itself the very limit). Furthermore, he also defended a re-evaluation of
its objects and its instruments along the lines of a differential typology
of macro and micro-assemblages as determinants of social life (Deleuze
1990: 22939).
Substituting infra-structures for life or desire, as constitutive
dimensions of power formations, did not imply giving up on Marx, if,
as Derrida suggests, Marx had already alerted us to the historicity and
the possible aging of his work; that is, to the necessity of transforming
his own thesis to confront the unpredictability of new knowledge, new
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 103

techniques, new political data (Derrida 1993: 35). On the other hand,
it did imply the problem of the type of struggle that such a shift in
the theory could produce at the level of praxis. Lines of flight (rather
than social contradictions), minorities (instead of classes), and war
machines (against the State apparatus) did not entail a change in the
conceptual framework of the analysis without requiring, at the same
time, a profound renewal of the issues that shape militant praxis.
And that renovation was imperative once we recognise that the
analysis of society in terms of assemblages of desire the concept that
Deleuze prefers over Foucaults concept of dispositifs (deployments
or devices) of power implied a break with any logic of progress or
libertarian teleology. In fact, from sovereign societies to disciplinary
societies, and from disciplinary societies to control societies, the
adjustment of collective assemblages is the expression of a change, but
not necessarily a change for the better:

It is possible that the hardest confinements may come to seem part of a happy
benevolent past, taking into account the forms of control in open spaces that
emerge . . . liberations as submissions have to be confronted one by one in its
own way. . . . There is no place for fear, neither for hope, it is just a matter of
finding [creating] new weapons. (Deleuze 1990: 2412)1

The awareness of the impossibility of any totalisation of reality by

means of representation i.e., the assumption of the local value of our
theoretical instruments as well as the renunciation of any kind of
structural messianism (Derrida 1993: 102) i.e., the desertion of any
promise of emancipation embodies the demand for a thought capable
of confronting the biopolitical mutations of capital, nonetheless, at the
same time it leads struggle to a dispersion without precedent.
The minor understood as a line of flight or a war machine did not
establish the basis of a revolutionary political programme,2 it actually
developed in the very opposite direction, that of the organisation logics
of traditional political movements (in this sense, Guattari reminds us
that the search for a big unification of resistance forces would just make
the work of the semiotisation of capital easier,3 and Deleuze says that
there is no such thing as a left-wing government there are governments
more or less receptive to the claims of the left, but the left has nothing
to do with the form of the State or the logics of government).
Taking this into account, we should not be surprised when,
confronted with the political dimension of Deleuzes work, Tony Negri
speaks from the paradoxical place of the militant who finds in this
philosophy a powerful inspiration to re-think the movement, but in
104 Eduardo Pellejero

another sense, does not understand how it could be institutionalised:

How could minor-becoming be effective? How could resistance become
insurrection? Reading your writings, I always doubt the way these
questions can be answered, even if I find in your works an impulse that
forces me to reformulate them theoretically and pragmatically (Deleuze
1990: 234). Negri celebrates the publishing of Mille Plateaux, which he
considers a remarkable work of political philosophy, but regrets a tragic
note in its excessive theoretical will, which leaves every problem open
and does not determine where it can lead us.4
Here I pose the problem from a revolutionary perspective, but
the questions raised by Negri could certainly also be raised from a
progressive perspective; as is the case with Mengue, when he writes:

If Deleuze offers us productive tools to emancipate us from the past and

encourage us to commit the matricide of History, matrix of modernity, he just
liberates us from it to throw us into an-historic becomings, but disconnected
from any social or political effectuation . . . the marriage between the
spontaneist anarchism of the untimely and the long-term work of inscribing
it on things and institutions is impossible . . . they have opposite political
directions . . . The untimely does not lead to any form of institution . . . That
is, the guerrilla has deserted the political field closing itself on an unassailable
but just ethical position. (Mengue 2003: 17, 155, 157)

In other words, the new instruments of analysis of capitalism, developed

by Deleuze and Guattari, challenge for Negri the historical sense
of struggle. If the de-totalisation, locality and dispersion of struggle
come together with the renouncement to any historical possibility of
revolution, why go on fighting? What are these lines of flight, subversion
processes or forms of resistance worth, if revolution is, by definition,
Nevertheless, an idea of militant praxis is not that strange to Deleuze,
who is looking for concepts that may bring us to an an-historical sense
of struggle. Such a pragmatics could be put in terms of a series of
impossibilities (as Deleuze would say): 1) the impossibility of a successful
totalisation of life by power (thus, the impossibility of the fulfilment of
History in the present); 2) the impossibility of any lasting subtraction of
life from power (thus, the impossibility of the fulfilment of History in the
future); and 3) the impossibility of the acceptance of the state of things,
of the actual stratifications of life by power (thus, the impossibility of
the recognition of History in the past).
What we have, therefore, is a notion of a militant praxis that, without
giving in to the demands of power, but at the same time without aspiring
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 105

to power, embraces beyond government and opposition the vocation

of resistance.5 Thus:
1) Deleuze affirms, against all strategies of totalisation of life by
power, against discipline or modulation of life by its dispositifs, that
resistance comes first; i.e., that there is an essential contingency working
out the inner nature of the social. Society is not a given totality: it
is a puzzle of heterogeneous pieces, which do not always fit together
(here lies the problem of the world that globalisation wanted to
reshape: pieces do not fit, says Marcos, in Siete piezas sueltas del
rompecabezas mundial6 [Subcomandante Marcos 1997]). Consequently,
power formations are inhabited by an essential powerlessness. The
social field is not composed by isolated and immutable formations: only
stratifications of knowledge and power may give some stability to it,
but in itself it is unstable, agitated, changing, as if depending on a
paradoxical apriori, on a micro-agitation (Deleuze 1986: 91).7 There
is no dispositif that, besides the points that it connects, does not imply
relatively free or liberated points: points of creativity, points of mutation,
points of resistance. The social field leaks everywhere. Lines of flight are
the primary determinations, they are objective lines that pass through a
2) Deleuze does not ignore the historical failure of modern
revolutionary projects. The way revolutionary groups betray their task
is well known, but does not scare Deleuze (Deleuze 2002: 278; Deleuze
1995: G comme Gauche). And if he admits that we will never assist
again to a clear major break, opening a new kind of society, he also
claims that revolutions historically failing produce effects immanently
(incalculable effects) in that very history within which they fail. In this
sense, in a 1988 interview, Deleuze said that there is a whole dimension
of revolution that history does not catch: its becoming (another
language, another subject, another object) (Deleuze and Guattari 1991:
967), so, when it is said that revolutions have an infamous future,
nothing has really been said yet about the revolutionary-becoming of
people (Deleuze 1990: 209).
3) So, Deleuze does not defend the ideals of a historical future, where
a collective and lasting expression of liberated or egalitarian life could
come to be true, nonetheless he wagers on the freedom effects of pure
explosions of desire:

even when revolutions failed, that did not prevent people from becoming
revolutionary . . . If someone says to me: You will see when they succeed,
when they win . . . It will not be good. But then problems will not be the
106 Eduardo Pellejero

same, a new situation will be created and new becomings will break out.
In situations of tyranny, of oppression, men have to become-revolutionary,
because there is no other thing to do. (Deleuze 1995: G comme Gauche)

Briefly stated, Deleuze passes from REVOLUTION as the end of

history, to revolution as a line of transformation, that is, to the
affirmation of resistance, at the expense of revolution conceived as the
radical and irreversible advent of a society finally totalised, not divided,
A logics of the ephemeral, unpredictable, neutral event, substitutes for
the global, determinist and teleological dialectic of advent.
This is the first positive principle (although in-voluntaristic) of
Deleuzes militant praxis: becoming-revolutionary, without a future
of revolution, a bifurcation, a divergence from the law, an unstable
state that opens a new field of the possible, and which can be
contradicted, repressed, recuperated, betrayed, but always entails
something insurmountable (Deleuze 1995: G comme Gauche8 ;
Deleuze 2003: 216). It is a matter of life, that takes place inside
individuals as in the exteriority of society, creating new relations with
the body, time, sexuality, culture, work; changes that do not wait
for revolution, neither prefigure it, even if they are revolutionaries on
their own: they have within themselves the power of resistance proper
of poetic life (Deleuze 2002: 2001) (that is, displacing desire or
reorganising life, make useless the dispositifs of knowledge and power
that used to channel them).
In other words, those processes find their value in the fact that, by
the time they take place, they escape from constituted knowledge and
dominant powers, even if later they are continued in new dispositifs
of knowledge and power.9 The object of struggle, in this sense, is no
more the fulfilment of a possibility, becoming essential divergence and
multiplication of perspectives.10 Zouravichbili reminds us that in The
German Ideology Marx and Engels defined communism exactly this way
(in opposition to utopian socialism): Communism is . . . neither a state
that has to be created, nor an ideal for the ruling of society. We call
communism the real movement that abolishes the actual state (Marx
and Engels 1976: 33).
Anyway, for these openings of the possible to be something other
than a vision, for this new sensibility to be asserted, it is necessary
to create proper assemblages. That creation is, after all, the task that
gives consistency to this new militant praxis (therefore it is its second
principle): the elaboration of new assemblages and the struggle for the
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 107

associated rights:

When a social mutation takes place, it is not enough to think of the

consequences or effects following lines of economical or political causality.
It is necessary that the society creates collective assemblages, associated to
the new subjectivity, in order to mature the mutation . . . There is no solution
unless it is creative. Only creative reconversions will contribute to resolving
the actual crisis. (Deleuze 2003: 21617)

This creation of assemblages covers the distance between becoming-

revolutionary and left-wing civism (according to the sharp formula
of Claire Parnet). On account of the fact that, if events overcome
any committed will (that is, events do not depend on objective
or subjective possibility), to embrace or to ignore them defines an
essential difference, that allows Deleuze to distinguish pragmatically
left from right.11 In this sense, the left-wing is defined by the search
for assemblages in order to extend the movements triggered by
events (and then, by the invention of rights from the new material
conditions generated by mutations of desire). While the right-wing
defines itself by the denial of movement and the opposition to any
form of redistribution, the left-wing is a passion for procedures . . . the
collective catch of dynamics for the de-stratification of structures and re-
arrangement of life and society following different forms of equilibrium
(Guattari 1984: 4).12
Nevertheless, if, according to Deleuze, May 68 is enough for the
purpose of illustrating what he understands by revolutionary-becoming,
it is not enough to illustrate the subjective reconversions.13 Even
creative and innovative answers to the objective and subjective demands
of the mutations unchained by the event the American New Deal,
the Japanese take-off, and Iranian Muslim fundamentalism imply all
kinds of ambiguities and reactionary structures. May 68, on the
other hand, was quickly recoded by the French government (with the
help of the PCF). That is, even at the level of objectivity and
the conscious and unconscious subjectivity of individuals and social
groups, there are mutations of unpredictable consequences; power shows
great shrewdness and a huge capacity for adaptation to the new forms
of sensibility and new types of human relations resulting from the
different mutations (commercial recovery of marginal inventions;
relative tolerance in relation to zones of laissez faire, etc.). In other
words, a semi-tolerated, semi-stimulated dissent is part of the system
(and is instrumentally recovered by it).14
108 Eduardo Pellejero

Creative articulation of the lines of flight in assemblages that allow

them to mature is not just possible and desirable, but constitutes
the constructivist vector of this new militant praxis. In La rvolution
molculaire Guattari will make this the cornerstone of his political
philosophy. The revolutionary character of the lines of flight that cross
through a given society depends on their articulation, on the convergence
of the subjective lines of flight with the objective lines of decoding of
the system in suitable assemblages, creating an irreversible aspiration to
new spaces of freedom. And Guattari offers us a minor example, one
which is much less ambiguous than the examples given by Deleuze I
am referring to the case of free radio in the 1980s: an assemblage
where the technological evolution (in particular, the miniaturisation of
transmitters, and the fact that they could be assembled by amateurs),
concurred with the collective aspiration for new media of expression.
Another example of these objective and subjective mutations are the
communities that appeared everywhere in the 1960s and 70s, in
consonance with new musical genres, from rock to punk with all
the technical innovations that they presupposed, from amplifiers and
synthesizers to acids, as well as the changes in subjective and objective
conditions: the baby-boom, the welfare state, etc. Another example we
know better is the internet. (From another point of view, maybe we
could also inscribe all these minor examples into a major Marxist line,
if, as Raya Dunayevskaya suggests, Marx set out, as a fundamental
axis of his conception, the daily creation of new forms of struggle
and new human relations between workers, between workers and the
production infrastructures, etc. Dunayevskaya relates this conception
of Marxism, more concerned with the fulfilment of freedom that with
the conquest of institutions, to the creative acts performed by the
Paris Commune, or, even, during the Russian revolution, to those
actions that, in the auto-emancipating moment of birth, gave way
to totally new forms of labour assemblages such as the Soviets
[Dunayevskaya 2004: 208]).15
Obviously, lines of flight are not necessarily revolutionary; a line
of migration (sub-Saharan or Cuban) can end in death (at sea), or in
much harder dispositifs than those which it left behind (slavery). And,
obviously, these micro-revolutions do not lead automatically to a social
revolution, to a new society, an economy or a culture liberated from
Finally, there is no way to compare, according to a progressive set of
values, which regimes are more harsh or more bearable (I mean, it is
possible to do so retrospectively, but not at the moment of adopting a
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 109

line of action); the power of resistance or, on the contrary, submission

to control, is decided in the course of each attempt. What matters is
that, suddenly, we do not feel condemned in the same old way anymore;
a problem which nobody could see a way out of, a problem in which
everybody was trapped, suddenly ceases to exist, and we ask ourselves
what we were talking about. Suddenly we are in another world, as Pguy
said, the same problems do not arise anymore though there will be
many more, of course (Pguy 1957: 3001).
Such is the scope and the limits of this new militant praxis that in a
certain way responds to the demands of what Jean-Luc Nancy named
literary communism (Nancy 1983). As we saw at the beginning, in
1990, Negri could not help feeling a certain reluctance when confronted
with it. Ten years later, however, with the publication of Empire, Negri
offered us a free re-appropriation of Deleuzes thesis.
Deleuze and Guattari after Foucault appear then as the founding
fathers of a new form of criticism, redefining the space of political
and social struggles in relation to classic Marxism: creation of spaces
of freedom, strategies of torsion of power, conquest of individual and
collective forms of subjectivity, invention of new forms of life, came to
constitute the new subversive grammar.
Negri also seems to embrace the idea of an an-historical sense of
struggle, at least if we read in a Deleuzian way the epigraph by William
Morris that opens the book (Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing
that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and then it turns
out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they
meant under another name (Negri and Hardt 2000).
But we do not need to read much more to understand that this
post-structural comprehension of biopower that renews materialist
thought remains still unsatisfactory for Negri, because it just (and only)
provides the elements for a superficial and ephemeral resistance (political
work, for Negri, is not simply resistance, but an alternative political
organisation, the institution of a new constituent power beyond the
For the wilful militancy of Empire, Deleuzian praxis is not enough.
Attached to a classic Marxism, Negri renews once more the commitment
to a dialectics in which we had no more faith (We claim that Empire
is better in the same way that Marx insists that capitalism is better
than the forms of society and ways of production that came before
it. . . . In the same way today we can see that Empire does away with
the cruel regimes of modern power and also increases the potential for
liberation16 [Negri and Hardt 2000: 434]), even if he denies its more
110 Eduardo Pellejero

oppressive historicist elements (This approach breaks methodologically

with every philosophy of history in so far as it refuses any deterministic
conception of historical development and any rational celebration of
the result [Negri and Hardt 2000: 66]). In this sense, the problem for
Negri is still the problem of a new materialist teleology (in the line of
Spinoza and the Theological-Political Treatise,17 but maybe, as well, in
the line of Merleau-Pontys Adventures of the Dialectic, that is: there is
no sense of History but an elimination of non-sense).
The problem lies elsewhere for Deleuze. There is no doubt that we do
not possess, neither in fact nor by right, any reliable means to free and,
a fortiori, to preserve the becomings that undermine the dispositifs of
knowledge and power in which we are compromised: What condemns
us to an everlasting restlessness . . . We do not know how such a
group can change, how it can fall back in history . . . We do not dispose
of the image of a proletariat which just needs to gain consciousness
(Deleuze 1990: 209). But this uncertainty does not imply any imperative
of demobilisation.
Lacking the geopolitical options known decades ago, when it was still
possible to chose between first and second worlds thus, exposed either
to inscription in the first world or sinking into the third the struggle
goes on. Lacking every form of social utopia thus open to the dispersion
of its local objectives the struggle goes on. Deprived of any progressive
project, of the idea that if we do everything possible things will improve,
will change for the better thus, aware of its tragic destiny the struggle
goes on.
Deleuze stakes the whole of his political thought on the effectuation
and contra-effectuation of the untimely as the irruption or inscription
of events in history, but at the same time he transvalues the essence of
the event, which ceases to constitute the sense of History, becoming the
agent of a redistribution of affects, relationships and singularities: the
very revolutionary potential of events lies in their novelty or discrepancy
in relation to a specific situation (objective modification of a state of
things, but also the subjective assemblages of resistances and lines of
flight):18 Against apocalyptic history, there is a sense of history that
matches with the possible, with the multiplicity of the possible, with the
profusion of the possible in every moment (Deleuze 2003: 1834).
Deleuze and Guattari are not philosophers of liberation; the chances
of transformation of the material organisation of life and desire, the
possibility of molecular re-distributions of power and knowledge, do
not imply for them the abolition of molar organisation as such. Which
does not mean that revolution
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 111

is just a dream, something that is never achieved, or that is achieved betraying

it. On the contrary, it means to posit revolution as a plane of immanence
or infinite movement, as long as these features are connected with the
struggle against capitalism, here and now, and propel new struggles every
time previous struggles are betrayed. (Deleuze and Guattari 1991: 97)

What is to be done? The old Leninist question still hangs over us, with
an irresistible weight, even if we are convinced that there is no answer
but a creative one (but to create is not a satisfactory answer for the
The question would lie, today, before and beyond any programme of
action: How to embrace such politics, a politics that proposes struggle,
not as revolution, but just as resistance? How to embrace it when we
are fully aware of the local, strategic and non-totalisable value of the
changes we can aspire to?
We gave up utopias. Perhaps we will never grow up, as Kant wished.
Philosophy relinquishes, in this sense, the possession of power (by right)
and the (factual) property of knowledge.
Maybe this is why, unlike Marxs, Deleuzes work does not constitute
the insurmountable philosophy of our time. But in its imperative
precariousness, in its radical minority, it still shows a unique critical
power, and outlines maps on the desert of the real (in a desert full of
mirages). In its joyful proclamation of a thought of immanence, beyond
any reliance on moral or messianic structures, it still gives us reasons for
resistance, to go on thinking, when it comes impossible to go on seeing
certain things without doing nothing, or go on living as we do. (Neither
dreams nor hopes, not even fidelity to old utopias;19 it is just a question
of perception, of sensibility, and, immediately, a problem of creation.20 )
The production and administration of inequality, of injustice, of
misery, are still a pervasive reality in our societies. The attempts of
the most different formations of power to control life collide, and will
keep colliding, with the shocking fact that the pieces do not fit. Power
claims to deal with this fact just as a spare, as junk. But included in
that spare are thousands, millions of people convicted every day (people
who die from diseases that a simple pill could cure, victims of collateral
damage from anti-terrorist operations, but also students educated for
unemployment, adolescents enclosed in urban ghettos or suburbs, elderly
people without pensions or social security).
We do not have faith in the advent of a new happy world, but we
cannot renounce to the exercise of a resistant thought, in the difficult,
unpredictable and dangerous intersection of our powerlessness and our
112 Eduardo Pellejero

ignorance. Without it, the various dystopias that may be glimpsed on

the horizon would see the space that distances them from their total or
totalitarian fulfilment surmounted.21
Thus, the new revolutionary praxis will be, in the first place, a work
of de-totalisation of life (the creation of a world in which many worlds
could fit, in which all possible worlds could fit). And it will be, also,
an everlasting work, because power learns from its mistakes and knows
how to take advantage of its defeats. (But will we stop working for that
reason?) After all, as Deleuze and Guattari say:
the success of a struggle lies just in the very struggle, in the vibrations, in the
embracing, in the openness that it gives to men at the moment it takes place,
and that compounds in itself a monument, always in progress, as those graves
where every new traveler adds a stone. The victory of a struggle is immanent,
and consists in the new relations it sets up between men, even if they do not
last more than their material fusion, and they quickly give place to division,
to betrayal. (Deleuze and Guattari 1991: 167)

Thought is the monument of that struggle, always to start over again

in the labyrinth of the mixed up battles in which we are compromised
every day. A monument that does not commemorate anything, does not
honour anyone, but whispers at the ear of the future the feelings that
embody the everlasting suffering of men, and its recreated protest, its
sustained fight.
In this sense, struggle without any future of revolution comes to trans-
value the imperatives of compromise we inherited from past generations;
it comes to give them sense, necessarily a new sense, in these winter years
of every man for himself.
I think of the words Sartre raised so many times as a flag: Everything
I do is probably destined to failure, but I still do it, against all odds,
because it has to be done.22
But I think also, as counterpoint, of the tough, excessive, desperate
order-word, in which against the setbacks of our recent history the
sense of a remarkable event that goes by the name of Ernesto Che
Guevara survives:
Hasta la victoria siempre!

1. There is no hope of progress, no expectation of a complete vanishing of
problems, but that does not signify the absence of an immanent hope, that is,
hope of getting out through creative solutions of the mousetraps (Sartre) in
which we find ourselves caught. Each dispositif implies new submissions, but
also, certainly, new lines of flight: Dans le capitalisme il y a donc un caractre
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 113

nouveau pris par les lignes de fuite, et aussi des potentialits rvolutionnaires
dun type nouveau. Vous voyez, il y a de lespoir (Deleuze 2002: 376).
As a matter of fact, from this statement to the affirmation of Empire as a
better sociopolitical assemblage (in the same sense that Marx maintained that
capitalism was better than the modes of production that preceded it) there is a
long way that wont be surpassed by Deleuze.
2. Even if LAnti-Oedipe ends with a Program for desiring machines,
schizoanalysis does not have a proper political program to propose (Deleuze
and Guattari 1973: 380). On the contrary, it raises a series of conceptual
contrasts that allow us to analyse social fields or processes, evaluating the
assemblages at stake (see Patton 2000: 71).
3. Well, I dont think so because, once again, the molecular revolution is not
something that will constitute a program. Its something that develops precisely
in the direction of diversity, of a multiplicity of perspectives, of creating the
conditions for the maximum impetus of processes of singularisation. Its not a
question of creating agreement; on the contrary, the less we agree, the more we
create an area, a field of vitality in different branches of this phylum of molecular
revolution, and the more we reinforce this area. Its a completely different
logic from the organisational, arborescent logic that we know in political
or union movements (Guattari and Stivale 1985). See also Anne Querrien,
Esquizoanlisis, capitalismo y libertad. La larga marcha de los desafiliados,
in Guattari (2004: 28).
4. Negris worry about the institutionalisation of Deleuzian political philosophy
was not strange to Guattari, who regretted the difficulties that molecular
revolutions have creating links between singular achievements: Will these micro-
revolutions, these profound impugnations of social relationships, be put away to
restricted spheres of the social field? Or will they be articulated in new social
segmentations that wont imply the restitution of hierarchy and segregation?
In short, will all these micro-revolutions set up a new revolution? Will they
be capable of assuming not just the local problems, but the management of
big economic sets? . . . How far could these molecular revolutions go? Arent
they condemned, at best, to vegetate in German style ghettos? Is the molecular
sabotage of the dominant social subjectivity enough in itself? Should molecular
revolutions make alliances with social forces at the molar (global) level? . . . How
can we imagine, then, revolutionary war machines of a new type that could graft,
at the same time, into the manifest social contradictions and these molecular
revolutions? (Guattari 2004: 54). We cannot be content with these analogies
and affinities; we must also try to construct a social practice, to construct new
ways of intervention, this time no longer in molecular, but molar relationships,
in political and social power relations, in order to avoid watching the systematic,
recurring defeat that we knew during the 70s, particularly in Italy with the
enormous rise of repression linked to an event, in itself repressive, which was the
rise of terrorism (Guattari and Stivale 1985). This very same problem concerns
Deleuze. But the multiplicity of revolutionary focuses does not represent a
lack or a weakness for him, but a power (potentia) of resistance to power
(potestas). Talking with Foucault, in fact, Deleuze said that les rseaux, les
liaisons transversales entre ces points actifs discontinus, dun pays un autre
ou lintrieur dun mme pays, even when imprecise, they imply quon ne
peut en rien toucher un point quelconque dapplication sans quon se trouve
confront cet ensemble diffus, que ds lors on est forcment amen vouloir
faire sauter, partir de la plus petite revendication qui soit. Toute dfense ou
attaque rvolutionnaire partielle rejoint de cette faon la lutte ouvrire (Deleuze
2002: 28798).
114 Eduardo Pellejero

5. Cf. Toms Segovias Alegatorio, in Subcomandante Marcos (1997): First, I

beg you not to mix up Resistance with political opposition. Opposition does not
oppose to power but to government, and its complete and successful form is the
party; on the other hand, Resistance, now by definition, cant be a party: It is
not made for government, but to . . . resist.
6. Cf. Alemn (2007: 91): There is no reality, as consistent and hegemonic as
it may appear, as, for example, actual capitalism, that could be considered
definitive. . . . To be left-winged implies insisting on the contingent character
of the historic reality of Capitalism. Even when the way out or the passage to
another reality is defered, even if that transit has no guarantee and could stay
unfinished, even if that other reality, different of Capitalism, could not be call
7. Every assemblage presents, on one hand, a stratification more or less hard (let us
say, the dispositifs of power; Deleuze says: a concretion of power, of desire and
territoriality or reterritorialisation, ruled by the abstractions of a transcendent
law), but, on the other hand, implies points of deterritorialisation, lines of flight
where it is disarticulated and transformed (where desire is liberated of all its
concretions and abstractions, says Deleuze).
8. Par nouveau champ de possibles, il faut donc entendre autre chose: le mot
possible a cess de dsigner la srie des alternatives relles et imaginaires (ou
bien. . . ou bien. . . ), lensemble des disjonctions exclusives caractristiques dune
poque et dune socit donnes. Il concerne prsent lmergence dynamique
de nouveau. Cest linspiration bergsonienne de la pense politique de Deleuze
(Zourabichvili 1998: 339).
9. [I]ls ont bien une spontanit rebelle. . . . Ils se lvent un instant, et cest ce
moment-l qui est important, cest la chance quil faut saisir. . . . Croire au
monde, cest ce qui nous manque le plus; nous avons tout fait perdu le
monde, on nous en a dpossd. Croire au monde, cest aussi bien susciter des
vnements mme petits qui chappent au contrle, ou faire natre de nouveaux
espaces-temps, mme de surface ou de volume rduits (Deleuze 1990: 238).
10. Lvnement nouvre pas un nouveau champ du ralisable, et le champ de
possibles ne se confond pas avec la dlimitation du ralisable dans une socit
donne (mme sil en indique ou en induit le redcoupage). Louverture de
possible est-elle alors un but, le problme tant moins de construire lavenir
que dentretenir des perspectives son sujet. . . . On passe ici un autre rgime
de possibilit, qui na plus rien voir avec la disponibilit actuelle dun
projet a raliser, ou avec lacception vulgaire du mot utopie (limage dune
nouvelle situation quon prtend substituer brutalement lactuelle, esprant
rejoindre le rel partir de limaginaire: opration sur le rel, plutt que du rel
mme). Le possible arrive par lvnement et non linverse; lvnement politique
par excellence la rvolution nest pas la ralisation dun possible, mais une
ouverture de possible . . . Le possible est le virtuel : cest lui que la droite nie, et
que la gauche dnature en se le reprsentant comme projet (Zourabichvili 1998:
11. Anyway, Guattari considers that one of the tasks of political commitment could
consist in the precipitation of events: it consists in the active research of those
differences that take place against the homogenising movement of integrated
world capitalism.
12. Deleuzian involuntarism collides with Gramscian concept of political
commitment: pessimism of reason, optimism of will. The left-wing, indeed,
generally defined itself through voluntarism, that is, by means of the idea that
if we do all we have to do, that if we do everything we can (following the
guidelines of a revolutionary project, in this case), things will necessarily change
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 115

for better. Deleuzian involuntarism implies a problematisation of this idea, but

this certainly does not mean a total alienation of the political by the pessimism
of reason. In fact, what is put in question by Deleuze is the hope of a total
fulfilment of revolutionary projects, not the will of change. Then, the question
that has to be raised is: what kind of action is possible without the hope of
its total fulfilment? Does the impugnation of any projects fulfilment imply the
impugnation of the very notion of will? I would say that Deleuze probably meets
up here with the sense that Duns Scot or Schopenhauer used to give to the
concept of voluntarism, that is, the principle according to which will is the first of
human spiritual powers (previous, in that sense, to reason or intellect). Certainly,
this will is not for Deleuze a subjective will, but an impersonal, event-by-product
will (but isnt this the case with all doctrines of will?). Deep down, Deleuzian
involuntarism states that a subjective mutation cant be decided, that is, that a
subjective mutation could never be the outcome of a dedicated fulfilment of an
idea postulated by reason; it is, indeed, the impersonal will of the event which
decides a new sharing out of the affects, a new circumscription of the intolerable
(the event is the very revolutionary potential itself [Zourabichvili 1998: 354]);
it is that impersonal will in relation to which we can react (oppose some kind of
resistance) or respond (the subjective mutation is real, but it must be prolonged
by a rational assemblage of the new relations that it provokes or shows). In this
sense, as suggested by Franois Zourabichvili (who has said the most interesting
things about this), change is not to come, but is inscribed as a tendency in the
contradictions of a situation in which we are compromised, that authorises us to
talk about the future without having a relapse into fantasy; it can be deciphered
in the very becoming of present (actuality), by opposition to the structure of
fulfilment that has the future as an image thanks to the dialectical apparatus.
Between the act of deciphering the future at the level of the virtual, and its
assemblage at the level of the actual, there must exist an act of creation, and
not the mere fulfilment of a possible (system of alternatives): le nant de volont
procde la destitution dun faux problme: le systme des alternatives. Son
envers, ou la consistance positive de la politique, est llaboration exprimentale
de nouveaux agencements concrets, est llaboration exprimentale de nouveaux
agencements concrets, et la lutte pour laffirmation des droits correspondants
(Zourabichvili 1998: 354). In short, even if it is not possible to talk about
hope in the context of this militant praxis, neither can we conclude a politics
of total despair. Deleuze writes: ne pas savoir davance comment quelquun,
ventuellement, se trouvera capable dinstaurer en lui et hors de lui un processus
de rationalisation. Certes il y a tous les cas perdus, le dsespoir. Mais sil y a
une chance, de quoi quelquun a-t-il besoin, comment procde-t-il pour sortir
de ses dmolitions? Tous peut-tre, nous naissons sur un sol de dmolition,
mais nous ne gcherons aucune chance. Il ny a pas de Raison pure, ou de
rationalit par excellence. Il y a des processus de rationalisation, htrognes,
trs diffrents suivant les domaines, les poques, les groupes et les personnes.
Ils ne cessent davorter, de glisser, daller dans des impasses, mais aussi de se
reprendre ailleurs, avec de nouvelles mesures, de nouveaux rythmes, de nouvelles
allures (Deleuze 1988: 1415).
13. [S]uivre les flux qui constituent autant de lignes de fuite dans la socit
capitaliste, et oprer des ruptures, imposer des coupures au sein mme
du dterminisme social et de la causalit historique; dgager les agents
collectifs dnonciation capables de former les nouveaux noncs de dsir;
constituer non pas une avant-garde, mais des groupes en adjacence avec les
processus sociaux, et qui semploient seulement faire avancer une vrit
sur des chemins o elle ne sengage jamais dordinaire; bref, une subjectivit
116 Eduardo Pellejero

rvolutionnaire par rapport laquelle il ny a plus lieu de se demander ce

qui est premier, des dterminations conomiques, politiques, libidinales, etc.,
puisquelle traverse les ordres traditionnellement spars; saisir ce point de
rupture o, prcisment, lconomie politique et lconomie libidinale ne font
plus quun. . . . Le mouvement du 22 Mars reste exemplaire cet gard . . . sans
prtention davant-garde ou dhgmonie, simple support permettant le transfert
et la leve des inhibitions (Deleuze 2002: 279). (The movement of March 22 was
an anti-establishment student movement that, headed by Daniel Cohn-Bendit,
would be the revolutionary seed of May 68.)
14. Yet, everything comes to flee again, opposing to the biopolitical articulation
of society a series of insurmountable becomings in the domain of libidinal
economy: Daily relationships between women and men, homosexuals and
heterosexuals, children, adults, etc., as well as production mutations, imply
coefficients of freedom irretrievable to the dominant system (Guattari 2004:
689): Jai beaucoup de mal imaginer une petite communaut libre qui
se maintiendrait au travers des flux de la socit rpressive, comme laddition
dindividus tour tour affranchis. Si le dsir constitue en revanche la texture
mme de la socit dans son ensemble, y compris dans ses mcanismes de
reproduction, un mouvement de libration peut cristalliser dans lensemble
de la socit (Deleuze 2002: 370) (it is Guattari who speaks this way).
15. Cf. Kaufman (2007: 67): A left-wing perspective would be a perspective
involved with the antagonisms that structure the conditions of injustice, much
more than with the institutional modalities that result from this concern.
16. Although Empire may have played a role in putting an end to colonialism
and imperialism, it nonetheless constructs its own relationships of power
based on exploitation that are in many respects more brutal than those
it destroyed. . . . Despite recognizing all this, we insist on asserting that the
construction of Empire is a step forward in order to do away with any nostalgia
for the power structures that preceded it and refuse any political strategy that
involves returning to that old arrangement, such as trying to resurrect the nation-
state to protect against global capital. We claim that Empire is better in the same
way that Marx insists that capitalism is better than the forms of society and
modes of production that came before it (Negri and Hardt 2000: 61).
17. In contrast, any postmodern liberation must be achieved within this world,
on the plane of immanence, with no possibility of any even utopian
outside. . . . Perhaps we need to reinvent the notion of the materialist teleology
that Spinoza proclaimed at the dawn of modernity when he claimed that the
prophet produces its own people (Negri and Hardt 2000: 83). There is not
finally here any determinism or utopia: this is rather a radical counter-power,
ontologically grounded not on any vide pour le futur but on the actual activity
of the multitude, its creation, production, and power a materialist teleology
(Negri and Hardt 2000: 66).
18. La rupture des schmes, ou la fuite hors des clichs, ne conduit certes pas
un tat de rsignation ou de rvolte tout intrieure: rsister se distingue de
ragir. Rsister est le propre dune volont drive de lvnement, qui salimente
lintolrable. Lvnement est le potentiel rvolutionnaire mme, qui se
tarit lorsquil est rabattu sur des images toutes faites (clichs de la misre et
la revendication) (Zourabichvili 1998: 354). Un vnement politique est du
mme type: une nouvelle rpartition des affects, une nouvelle circonscription de
lintolrable (Zourabichvili 1998: 341).
19. Pourquoi se rvolter? En dehors de lintrt spcifique qui motive telle lutte
pour ceux qui sont directement concerns, quelle raison de sengager au ct
de la subversion? Est-ce une question de morale ou dthique, de simple dignit
Minor Marxism: An Approach to a New Political Praxis 117

pour soi-mme, comme on a envie de rpondre, qui plus que toute autre chose
nous obligerait couter la voix des insoumis, des victimes, des singularits qui
se dressent un moment, un instant se soulvent? . . . Pourquoi se rvolter? Par
rve, espoir, fidlit lutopie . . . Soit. Mais, du coup, le caractre de ce dsir
le rapproche dangereusement du dsir freudien, dirait-on. Ce dsir, en effet,
jamais insatisfait historiquement, comment peut-il se maintenir, et relancer
continment dans lhistoire des actions toujours nouvelles sans sombrer dans le
dcouragement, le dsespoir? . . . thique et rbellion. Qui a pour mot dordre:
On a toujours raison de se rvolter. . . . La rvolution comme promesse dun juste
tat social et politique, a disparu. Ce quil en reste donc, cest, exactement, un
mode de vie, un style dexistence, avec une forme particulire de rapport soi et
aux autres (Mengue 2003 : 14657).
20. On ne peut que rpondre lvnement, parce quon ne peut pas vivre dans un
monde quon ne supporte plus, en tant quon ne le supporte plus. Il y a l une
responsabilit spciale, trangre celle des gouvernements et des sujets majeurs,
responsabilit proprement rvolutionnaire. On nest ici responsable de rien, ni de
personne; on ne reprsente ni un projet ni les intrts dune collectivit (puisque
ces intrts sont prcisment en train de changer et quon ne sait pas bien encore
dans quel sens). On est responsable devant lvnement (Zourabichvili 1998:
21. I think that the generic threat of totalisation is, nowadays, much more worrying
than eventual totalitarian threats. Capitalistic totalisation under the forms of
control societies (Deleuze), integrated world capitalism (Guattari), or empire
(Negri-Hardt) implies a vast number of forms that go much further than
dictatorial (military or party based) totalitarianisms. Current capitalism, indeed,
establishes in our societies a kind of symbolic totalitarianism, a totalisation that
overdetermines reality by representation, and reaches zones which traditionally
are far away from power. Clumsy forms of totalitarianism are, from this point
of view, just a violent and voluntaristic reaction of states facing up to the failure
of operational totalisations by worldwide legitimated dispositifs of knowledge
and power (and, in this sense, they represent a kind of step backwards in the
direction of archaic dispositifs: discipline, sovereignty, etc.).
22. Cf. Jeanson (1975: 286). I owe this reference to Ignacio Quepons (G. C.), faithful
friend and tireless partner in this patient job of giving form to the impatience of

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DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000737
Politicising Deleuzian Thought, or,
Minoritys Position within Marxism

Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc University Toulouse-Le Mirail

Translated by Daniel Richter

This text provides an analysis of the Deleuzian theory of minorities. Its
hypothesis is that this theory produces a double effect of interpellation:
upon a materialistic reading of the philosophy of Deleuze, and upon
the theoretical and political heritage of Marxism. Concerning the first
aspect, the thesis of an actual multiplication of becomings-minoritarian
reopening the question of the becoming-revolutionary of people, at
every level, in every place, has to be referred to the Deleuzo-Guattarian
analysis of the conjuncture namely, to a diagnosis of the global
capitalist systems dynamisms and the contradictions they produce in the
social, juridical and political institutions of national States. Concerning
the second aspect, I confront the adversities faced by minorities with
the schema of the classes struggle, and I examine certain links (of
continuation and integration, but also differentiation) between the
processes of proletarianisation and becoming-minoritarian, that is to
say, between two ways of problematising the collective subject of a
revolutionary politics of emancipation. Finally I assert that the concept
of becoming-minoritarian makes of the possibility of an unprecedented
internationalism the way to a renewal of the two concepts between
which the horizon of modern political thought extends, and around
which the tradition of political liberalism and thinkers of a revolutionary
politics have never ceased to confront one another: autonomy and

Keywords: Deleuzian politics, minorities, the State, global capitalism,

social struggles, universalism, internationalism
120 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

I. Writing in Minor/Reading Deleuze Politically

The question of minorities touches at the heart of Deleuzes political

thought, taking place as it does where the category of the political
becomes in every way problematic. This is true from several points of
view: from the point of view of the political meanings of this category
in the progression of Deleuzes work; from that of its effective political
implications (in the forms of theoretical instruments of decoding of the
relations of social forces, of location in these relations, of prescriptions
of intervention or simple tactical indicators); and from that of the
manner in which one defines what it means to read politically. Here
we must often hesitate between the first two points of view, which are
perhaps never entirely dissociable but which do not overlap unless thus
coerced in other words, between a hermeneutic of the political, and a
theoretical practice with political effects. It is certainly not a coincidence
that the terminological series minoritymajorminor begins to form the
base of a specific conceptual work, in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature
in 1975, about a literary experience which for Deleuze and Guattari
directly poses the theoretical and practical question of ways of writing
and reading (they will draw conclusions on this the following year in
their theory of the book, Rhizome). In the first place, minorities are not
thought of as objects of reflection, nor as objects of historical, political
or sociological knowledge. Rather, they are positions and processes
interior to a practice of writing (in this case literary), processes interior to
language which condition a creative transformation of collective regimes
of enunciation. Of course these processes themselves recall social and
historic coordinates: upheavals of frontiers and migratory dynamics
linked to the history of imperialism, the evolution of multinational
empires, annexationist movements and creations of States, territorial
redrawings and populational displacements resulting from revolutions
and from the end of the First World War which will make of minorities,
following the formula of Arendt, a permanent institution throughout
the juridico-political structure of the nation-state.1 And for Kafka
himself we recall the status of the Czech Jewish minority throughout
the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the decline of this Empire and the rise of
nationalist struggles, the sociolinguistic circumstances of this minority
in the Prague of the beginning of the century. These circumstances
were characterised by the coexistence of three languages. Lingua franca
German was the official language of administration, business, culture
and university. Czech was the vernacular language of most of the
population, characterised by an increasingly conflicting relation with
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 121

German domination. Finally, Yiddish was spoken by some of the Jewish,

mostly Germanophone population and scorned by Czechs and Germans
alike (Wagenbach 1967: 6571). What is most important for Deleuze
is the impact that such complex circumstances will have upon the
domination of a major language. When the hegemony of a major
language is established, there are always tensions and conflicts at work
within it; correlatively, the language is permeated by creative initiatives
and all sorts of vectors involved in an immanent politicising of its
enunciation (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 237; Deleuze and Guattari
1987: 1015).
In this sense, the Deleuzian theory of minorities appears first in
the problematising of the endogenous conflict which weakens every
system of majority from the inside. These systems of majority
are characterised by the hegemony of a normative ensemble which
both determines the social inscription of practices, conducts and
human multiplicities, and manages regimes of expression and subjective
positions in which groups and persons are individualised. It is
within these regimes that interests, demands, memberships, distinctions,
recognitions and identifications are articulated (Deleuze and Guattari
1987: 1056). From this standpoint, the norms of the language imposed
as the standard, along with the norms of discursive practices in force
in an institutional fabric, do not compose one hegemony among others.
They compose rather the hegemony that all the others presuppose and
by which they are reproduced. But the German of Prague for Kafka the
language of political, economic and cultural power is not imposed as
a major language without being simultaneously affected by multiple
vectors of transformation which bear witness to effects produced on
the inside of this language by geographical movements and human
migrations, relations of social forces, displacements and destabilisations
of the geopolitical balance of powers. The German language had already
been deterritorialised from its economic domains and its commercial
functions by the development of English as the new language of
exchange. It had also been transformed in bureaucratic spheres by the
administrators of Hapsburg established in Prague who transformed
aristocratic German into unheard of variations. German thus became
especially suited for strange and minor uses for recently urbanised
Czech and Jewish populations this can be compared in another context
to what blacks in America today are able to do with the English
language (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 17) such as that inextricable
mixture of German and Czech which forms Kuchelbhmisch, or that
sort of Germanized Yiddish, Mauscheldeutsch (Wagenbach 1967: 79).
122 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

The German learned by Kafka (following his fathers desire for him
to climb the social ladder), this German taught by our non-German
mothers, as he writes to Max Brod, resembles a fluid form with
irregular intonations, and is riddled with syntactical errors and semantic
fluctuations. It is not a minor language derived from or opposed to
the major language but rather a minorisation of the major language
itself, whose resources Kafka could mine for another language capable
of sweeping away the narrative contents and their actantial schemata.2
Such an immanent politicising of the means of enunciation which the
Kafkan oeuvre, in its own historical conjuncture, allows to come to
light, is not to be confused with the struggles of national minorities,
nor does it figure there as an ideological instrument (in the sense
for example that the construction of a literary history may intervene
in the ideological struggle to impose the recognition of a national
identity). It is conditioned by historical processes which minorise a
system of majority, or in other words, which subject the normative
constants of this system to variations or deviations not coded by
the system. It can only be actualised by a practical appropriation of
these processes by assemblages (agencements) capable of experimenting
with their potentialities for transformation. Even so, such practical
assemblages are necessarily linked to the aforementioned struggles, and
the Kafkan literary machine is itself adjacently connected to them in
a historic conjuncture which determines literary writing as decisive
in the formation of a collective conscience which does not yet exist
and thus remains uncertain. It is not so much a question of literary
history as of the actual creation of new forms of collective expression
and enunciation, in a historical milieu where the objective conditions
of such an enunciation are everywhere lacking outside of literature.3
We shall name minor these enunciative creations (which are not only
literary, but political, theoretical or philosophical) that are capable of
creating a new language in a major or dominant language and, in
minorising it, forging the means of another consciousness and another
sensibility, striving to induce a becoming-revolutionary in the minorities
to which they are connected. The problem is then that of more precisely
determining the nature of this connection, for it conditions both the
structure of conflictuality potentially within every majoritarian system,
and the concept of the specific effectiveness, in such a system, of these
minor practices. These latter are enacted from within by the actual or
potential struggle of minorities. In other words, they occupy positions of
minority in a discourse, in the sense used by Marxists who talk of class
positions on the inside of the theory. We will return to this analogy,
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 123

which has its limits. We mention limits precisely because it is more than
an analogy: it is a profound problematic similarity. But we can already
reformulate the initial problem. In what sense would the analyses of
minorities conducted by Deleuze be themselves enacted from within by
such minoritarian processes? At what point does one find in Deleuze,
not only a political theory of minorities, or an interpretation of the
political signification of minorities today, but a possible politicising of
his thought which could be identified with his internal minor positions?
At what point could what Deleuze writes concerning minor literary
enunciation serve for a political enunciation in Deleuzes philosophy?
Or, to twist a formulation of Louis Althusser: in what sense could
Deleuzian philosophy claim to instantiate the struggles of minorities in
theory and political thought?

II. Minorities in the Becoming-Revolutionary of the

Actual Situation
This questioning cannot begin with considerations on minorities or
becomings in general. Rather, they should start at the exact location
where Deleuze explicitly formulates his political diagnostic of the actual
situation. A double and significant location, in fact, in two texts which
echo and are connected one to the other: the penultimate paragraph of
Dialogues from 1977 (What characterizes our situation is both beyond
and on this side of the State. Beyond national States. . . ), and the last
sections of the thirteenth plateau which presents in 1980 the Deleuzo-
Guattarian theory of the apparatus of State (6. Minorities. Ours is
becoming the age of minorities. . . ). In fact nothing less than the locating
of this conjuncture seems capable of shedding light on certain factors
that are relevant for us here:

The extension which is effectuated in Deleuzes use of the term

minorities, and correlatively its apparent dispersion in a work which
never attempts to subsume multiplicity under a principle of objective
or subjective identity, such as a State or a class.
The formalisation, beyond the example case of Kafka, of the specific
conflictuality of minorities, which leads Deleuze to identify in the
actual multiplication of minoritarian sets the indication of a re-
emergence of a global revolutionary movement.
The theoretical gesture, accordingly perhaps less paradoxical than it
appears, by which Deleuze makes of this becoming-minoritarian of
increasingly numerous social and cultural multiplicities the way to a
124 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

renewal of the two concepts between which extends the horizon of

modern political thought, and around which the tradition of political
liberalism and thinkers of a revolutionary politics have never ceased
to confront one another: autonomy and universality.

Actually these ostensibly different aspects are intimately linked together.

At any rate, they must be, for the overlapping of a becoming-
minoritarian and a becoming-revolutionary not to be illusory, for
the affirmation of a becoming-minoritarian of everyone not to be
reduced to a speculative formula empty of all effective content, and
for the very term revolutionary not to conceal a political vacuity.
Bearing this in mind, we will put forward the hypothesis that the
emergence of the multiplication of minoritarian struggles, in the analysis
of the conjuncture which Deleuze carries out, takes over from class
struggle. This does not mean that it simply supplants class struggles, but
rather that it prolongs them while complicating their coordinates and
transforming their modes of realisation, but also interiorising certain of
their presuppositions and difficulties. This must be understood in at least
three senses, which will permit us to assess both the continuity and the
difference between the two forms of struggle.

1. Minorisation and proletarianisation in the State-form

Firstly, the factors related to the constitution of minorities are not
fundamentally different from the factors of proletarianisation. When
Deleuze and Guattari write that the power of minority, of particularity,
finds its figure or its universal consciousness in the proletariat (Deleuze
and Guattari 1987: 472) it is in the first place because their concept
of minority redraws the demarcating line of the base of Marxist
communism and utopian communism. We find here a refusal to consider
the socioeconomic structures forces of rupture independently of the
contradictory dynamics by which the structure sustains these forces
within itself, and by which it at least partially conditions their forms
of crystallisation and effectuation. This is why they index their locating
of becomings-minoritarian upon the systematic dynamics of worldwide
capitalism, which proceed de facto to their real generalisation. Adhering
to the geo-economic and geopolitical axes of capital accumulation within
relations of unequal dependence between Centre and Peripheries,
the following are considered by Deleuze and Guattari the principal
factors which engender minoritarian sets: decodings of alimentary flows
generating famine, decodings of populational and urban flows through
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 125

the dismantling of indigenous habitats and urbanisations, and decodings

of flows of matter-energy generating political and monetary instability.
In accordance with the transformations of relations between constant
capital and variable capital in the countries of the Centre, the following
lead to the formation of peripheral zones of underdevelopment within
the countries of the Centre itself: the development of a floating
and precarious labour force of which official subsistence is assured
only by State allocations and wages subject to interruption, and the
development of an intensive surplus labor that no longer even takes the
route of labor but goes through the modes of life, the collective forms of
expression, the means of communication, circulation and consumption
and so on. These sorts of internal Third Worlds or internal Souths
foment many new struggles in all the linguistic, ethnic, regional, sexist,
juvenile domains, but such struggles are always overdetermined by the
global system of unequal dependence (Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 1457;
Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 4689).
The global capitalist system minorises as much as it proletarianises.
The difference between the two points of view will thus be all the
more pronounced. The Marxist notion of the proletariat entails a
triple consideration: its position within the structure of production,
determined at minimum by its dispossession of the means of production
and its insertion into the process of production as a pure, abstract
labour force; the big industry working populations living conditions,
which involve not only the homogenisation of human misery, but
populational concentration and the appearance of forms of cooperation
which produce, within the pores of industrial sites, unheard forms
of solidarity, of relationships and collective consciousness; the power
of becoming of that which thus tends to be constituted as a class, or
following the expression of Etienne Balibar, its transitional value. While
considering the surprising rarity within Das Kapital of the notion of the
proletariat a notion which nevertheless condensed until then for Marx
all the implications of the point of view of class Balibar remarks:

Everything happened as if the proletariat as such had nothing to do with the

positive function that the exploited labour force carries out in the sphere of
production, in so far as productive force above all else; as if it had nothing
to do with the formation of value, the transformation of surplus labour
into surplus value, the metamorphosis of living work into capital. (Balibar
1997: 223)

As if in the end this very term connoted nothing more than the
transitional character of the working class, or the manner in which
126 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

the historically untenable character of capitalist accumulation (which

was already preparing the material conditions of another transition
which would annul the preceding one) was inscribed into the workers
condition, an unstable state in relation to normal social existence
(Balibar 1997: 2223). In a strikingly similar vein, the Deleuzian notion
of minority seems firstly to involve a signified that remains problematic,
and secondly to indicate nothing other than the transitional vector of
a substratum which is fundamentally unstable, and even unassignable
(the becoming-minoritarian of everybody). However, no effacement of
the signifier results; on the contrary, the signifiers proliferation is found
at all levels of the analysis between 1975 and 1980, a proliferation
which seems to challenge every attempt to reassemble their instances
and occurrences into a unitary form.
This is because minorities are nothing other than proletarianised
masses, but they are masses inasmuch as they are immediately formed
within institutional, social, juridical and ideological structures of
national States. Dissociated from a strictly economic determination of
the proletariat as well as from a strictly sociological determination
of the working class, the concept of minority records the States
process of socialisation, that is to say, the process through which State
power is incorporated into the social and institutional structures of
the capitalist formation. We could thus call minorisation that internal
distance, in the process of proletarianisation, between that which is
expropriated of all social power throughout the structure of production,
and that which is partially (and unequally) reintegrated into the liberal
State-form, through social and political rights, statutory and symbolic
recognitions, organs of representation and delegation. Consequently,
the notion of minority involves an irreducible multiplicity, which is
neither soluble in the sketch of a contradiction between capital and
labour, nor in the supposed homogeneity of workers conditions. The
minoritarian sets recall, in their very constitution, the variability of
national frameworks and of State apparatuses which manage these
sets, which partially integrate them, and which conflict with them in
multiple ways. This multiplicity depends on 1) the variability of States
positions within the international division of labour and the unequal
integration of their interior market into the global market (Deleuze
and Guattari 1987: 4612); 2) the variability of political structures and
regimes fluctuating between social-democratic and totalitarian poles,
namely between institutional and juridical integration of minorities
as subsystems, and exclusion outside the system of minorities
subsequently abandoned to repressive State violence (Deleuze and
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 127

Guattari 1987: 4623); 3) the correlative variability of the forms and

degrees of development of minoritarian struggles; 4) the variability of
the types of political manipulation of minorities. We know at least two
functions of such a manipulation: the instrumentalisation of immigrant
workers in order to repeat the classical process of forcing producers
into competition and sowing dissension into the working class (Noiriel
2005: 10822); the displacement of social conflicts onto cultural
norms regarding place of residence, ethnicity, linguistic or religious
criteria, generational relations, sexual conducts, etc. all norms which
ostensibly seem without relation to the norms of economic exploitation.
But these norms are sources at once of objective representations and
modes of subjectification, so that the conflicts thus displaced onto the
cultural terrain pose in turn sundry problems for the State (Deleuze and
Guattari 1983: 2578).

2. Autonomy of minoritarian struggles

This difference between proletariat and minorities is not only theoretical.
It has as a practical correlate the renouncement of a presupposition
put forward in Marxism since The Communist Manifesto: the idea
of a trend towards simplification of the antagonism supposed to
oppose, increasingly clearly and inevitably, two great diametrically
opposite classes, bourgeois and proletarian.4 If the notion of minorities
reactivates for Deleuze and Guattari the problem of the relation between
the capitalist social machine and the politicising of forces capable of
shattering it, this very notion does not at all seem to guarantee a
unified base, or a potentially unifiable subject, such as an objectively
determinable class in which the possibility of a collective awareness
and the work of its political construction could be localised. This is a
difficulty which is above all political, and is the correlate of the one
just mentioned which expressed (and constantly risked being concealed
by) the thesis of the underlying simplification of the antagonism of
the two social classes. In a way, this thesis clearly expressed the
necessity of the construction of a proletarian politics outside of the State-
form, while worker struggles forced the bourgeoisie to be recomposed
as a class inside of the State. And yet, this thesis simultaneously
tended to misjudge that same necessity. Indeed, complemented in
Marxism by an underestimation of capitalisms inventiveness and the
suppleness of institutional and State frameworks capable of developing
the capitalist relations of production, it led to the conception of the
relevant theoretical and practical problems as fated to be spontaneously
128 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

resolved by the infallible historic evolution of the mode of production.5

These problems are those of an autonomous politics of revolutionary
movement, that is to say, the invention of original forms of organisation,
but also of culture, thought and practices, capable of maintaining the
asymmetrical character of conflict, and thus of creating within the
revolutionary process the immanent conditions of a politics which would
not be modelled on the forms of bourgeois politics or the practices of
capitalist State power. Not only do minoritarian struggles encounter
in turn this problem of the political autonomy of the revolutionary
movement, but they confront it in an even more direct fashion, precisely
because the minoritarian sets are immediately constituted in the State-

The power of minority, of particularity, finds its figure or its universal

consciousness in the proletariat. But as long as the working class defines
itself by an acquired status, or even by a theoretically conquered State, it
appears only as capital, a part of capital (variable capital), and does not
leave the plan(e) of capital. At best, the plan(e) becomes bureaucratic. On the
other hand, it is by leaving the plan(e) of capital, and never ceasing to leave
it, that a mass becomes increasingly revolutionary. (Deleuze and Guattari
1987: 472)

The problem of the political autonomy of a new revolutionary move-

ment is even more crucial for Deleuze and Guattari, since it condenses
their evaluation of the ambivalent success of the worker movement.
On the one hand, it succeeded in imposing a class duality and social
antagonisms which brought the proletariat out of its state of minority,
in the specific sense of a subsystem integrated into the new industrial
system, as the Saint-Simonians would say. On the other hand, it proved
itself less and less capable of calling into question its own class identity
(and its universal class identity, destining it to establish a transitional
new hegemony), whereas the political and union apparatuses, which
were supposed to materially incarnate it, tended to be incorporated into
the State-form as organs of conflict regulation within the social State,
or as driving belts within the domination of a totalitarian bureaucracy
(Deleuze and Guattari 1983: 2557). This is the source of Deleuze and
Guattaris suspicion regarding the struggles of minorities internal to
institutional, juridical and political structures of the State, and the reason
for their insistent criticism of the aim of conquering the majority as a
simple displacement of hegemony.6 In the first part of this assessment,
they seem to reactivate familiar critiques of Parliamentarianism and
reformism. In the second part, they seem to replay a vague libertarian
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 129

impulse. The Deleuzo-Guattarian analysis is, however, more complex

because it engages the internal contradictions of the modern State: this
latter develops within its national framework the capitalistic relations
of production; but these relations are made necessary through an
enlarged accumulation and reproduction process, which passes through
a worldwide division of labour and a transnationalisation of capital
movements. As simultaneously instruments of capital valorisation
and the management of systematic disequilibria and crises, the State
institutions concentrate within themselves all the contradictions of the
process of accumulation. They also negotiate for better or for worse
its social repercussions according to both the degree of socialisation
of their political, economic and juridical apparatuses and the level of
corresponding social struggles. For as much as the minoritarian sets
are themselves taken up in the variable combinations of institutional
integration and repression, and for as much as they take part in these
contradictions internal to the State, their struggles cannot fail to take
place inside of it. Their tactics necessarily go that route, at the most
diverse levels: womens struggle for the vote, for abortion, for jobs;
the struggle of the regions for autonomy; the struggle of the Third
World; the struggle of the oppressed masses and minorities in the
East or West (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 471). And what is more,
these struggles inside of the juridical, political and economic institutions
of States are not only tactically inevitable but strategically necessary.
They are necessary to generate pressure and to influence the conditions
in which the State develops within its own order the relations of
production of global capitalist accumulation. This runs contrary to the
mystifying representation of a capitalist system which simply and purely
transcends States. These struggles interior to the institutions of the
State are necessary to exacerbate the distance between the constraints
of global accumulation and the impotence of States to regulate their
repercussions, whether those be economic, social, cultural, ecological,
etc. This in turn runs contrary to the no less mystifying representation
of an omnipotent technocracy (such a representation contributes to
the simplifying reduction of every struggle within the State to a
rcupration which could only be avoided through some isolated
regional struggles renouncing all global strategy and all exterior support)
(Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 1456; Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 463). But
henceforth, in this very movement within the State, these minoritarian
struggles reveal themselves simultaneously as the index of another,
coexistent combat which, directly or indirectly, puts into question the
global capitalist axiomatic itself and the State-form as such.
130 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

It is hard to see what an Amazon-State would be, a womens State, or

a State of erratic workers, a State of the refusal of work. If minorities
do not constitute viable States culturally, politically, economically, it is
because the State-form is not appropriate to them, nor the axiomatic
of capital, nor the corresponding culture. We have often seen capitalism
maintain and organize inviable States, according to its needs, and for
the precise purpose of crushing minorities. The minorities issue is instead
that of smashing capitalism, of redefining socialism, of constituting a war
machine . . . whose aim is neither the war of extermination nor the peace of
generalized terror, but revolutionary movement (the connection of flows, the
composition of non-denumerable aggregates, the becoming-minoritarian of
everybody/everything). (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 4723)

At this second more profound level, according to Deleuze and Guattari,

the autonomy of a revolutionary politics of minorities passes primarily
through a critique of the two cuts or two boundaries by which the
national State codes its social multiplicities. This coding is nothing
but the formation of the nation as the very operation of a collective
subjectification (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 456), which minorities
always more or less internalise but under necessarily conflicting
conditions: a) a national/extra-national boundary, which tends to make
of minorities (usually immigrant minorities, but also potentially every
minority, whatever their criteria of segregation) interior foreigners;
b) an individual/collective boundary, which inscribes in the structure
of the major national subjectivity a privatepublic division which is
particularly problematic regarding the subjective position of minorities.7
The isolation and thus the communitarianisation of minoritarian
struggles proceed through these two boundaries. They form the double
bind of a State strategy of differential and unequal integration into the
national community and identity. They permit the State to confine their
demands to the private sphere as only relevant to strictly individual
problems, or else to tolerate their collective impact and political
significance on the condition that they do not begin to connect to
international coordinates or other exterior minoritarian sets. If the actual
becoming of the world determines the emergence of a universal figure of
minoritarian consciousness as the becoming of everybody, it is not by
conquering the majority that this is accomplished. Neither is it realised
by burying oneself inside of ones minority, ones particularism, which
is only a breeding ground for marginalism. It is certainly not by using
a minor language as a dialect, by regionalizing or ghettoizing, that one
becomes revolutionary; rather, by using a number of minority elements,
by connecting, conjugating them, one invents a specific, unforeseen,
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 131

autonomous becoming (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 106) a becoming

which then passes necessarily through transversal connections between
various struggles, in a national and international space. This is a
strategic line and a criterion of evaluation. Minorities are certainly
not revolutionary in themselves. But the problem remains that of an
evaluation immanent to the very struggles they engage in, to the practical
style of these struggles, to the modes of existence which they suppose,
to the problems which they enunciate and the demands which they make
(or to the utterances which they more or less consciously interiorise). The
base criterion of such an evaluation is their variable aptitude to join with
other struggles, to connect their problems to others which may be very
different regarding interests and group identities a constructivism, a
diagrammatism, operating by the determination of the conditions of
the problem and by transversal links between problems: it opposes both
the automation of the capitalist axioms and bureaucratic programming
(Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 473). In all these ways, the true effect of
minoritarian struggles in the actual conjuncture namely at the moment
when Deleuze can affirm that our age is becoming that of minorities
and that this tendency of the present reopens the question of the
becoming-revolutionary of people, at every level, in every place is not
communitarianism, according to an already republicanised conception
of minorities throughout a universal incarnated in the tat de droit or
the Rule of law. It is rather a new internationalism which excludes the
State-form. Its task would be to construct a minoritarian universal
that would express both practices of universality which are more
effectively real than the universality of the national-capitalist State, and a
composition of power at least as powerful, confronted with the capitalist
system, as the historic worker movement.

3. The minoritarian universal within the becoming-revolutionary

How are we to understand such a universal, the minoritarian becoming
as universal figure of consciousness? At the very least, the revolutionary
workers movement could claim, even at the price of countless self-
delusions, a real underlying universality, correlative with the historic
movement of the concentration of capital resuscitating from itself its
most profound negativity: a new collective subject, a bringer of a
universal interest, a precursor of a society itself universal, liberated
from private property as principle of particularisation and antagonistic
division of the social field. We mean, of course, a society without
class. What remains certain is that the minorities must not only
132 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

surmount their own particularisms, but shatter the previously mentioned

double boundary, being both interior (private/public) and exterior
(national/international), which allows the functioning of the national
coding of minoritarian sets. But this task does not consist, for Deleuze, in
renouncing the element of the particular. This element in fact remains
crucial in order to valorise a mode of formulation of social, economic
and political problems that is capable of thwarting their bureaucratic
administration by the State.8 But this prevents at the same time the
projection of a unification of the minorities into the identity of a
collective subject whatever name one gives it, classical (people), modern
(proletariat), postmodern or again classical (multitude). . . How then are
we to conceive of a minoritarian universal which would be constructed
by and within a revolutionary process taking up the contradictions of
the actual capitalist world, and that yet does not entertain the fantasy of
the messianic universality of a new subject?
Such is ultimately the problem condensed by the Deleuzian
formulation of a system of domination resting upon, and reproducing
itself through, the distinction majority/minorities. Recall that this
formulation takes place within a semiology of collective identities, that is
to say, within a questioning regarding the logical and semiotic operations
by which are distributed social states defined by rules of identity
assignations of individuals and groups, rules of categorisation of their
conducts and utterances, or in sum, by norms of disjunctive inscription
(Pierre Bourdieu would say distinction) of social multiplicities:
Majority assumes a state of power and domination, not the other way
around . . . A determination different from that of the constant will therefore
be considered minoritarian, by nature and regardless of number, in other
words, a subsystem or an outsystem . . . But at this point, everything is
reversed. For the majority, in so far as it is analytically included in the
abstract standard, is never anybody, it is always Nobody Ulysses whereas
the minority is the becoming of everybody, ones potential becoming to the
extent that one deviates from the model. There is a majoritarian fact, but
it is the analytic fact of Nobody, as opposed to the becoming-minoritarian
of everybody. That is why we must distinguish between: the majoritarian
as a constant and homogeneous system; minorities as subsystems; and the
minoritarian as a potential, creative and created, becoming. (Deleuze and
Guattari 1987: 1056)

It obviously follows that the majority has a content, since it is

constructed precisely by the hegemonisation of particular contents
corresponding to a given state of domination. If the majority defines an
empty universal, this simply expresses the fact that, once these contents
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 133

are raised to dominant norms, these norms themselves seem constructed

less so that everyone will conform to them than to assess those who
dont conform to them, and to identify and differentially categorise the
distances between them (and not simply between them and the supposed
identity fixed by the normative utterance). This is something that
Deleuze no doubt picked up from Foucault. The normative utterances
do not simply demand an identification or conformity (normalisation).
They permit the recording of the different manners of behaving in
relation to this supposed interpellation (and which one also learns
afterward),9 to identify the different rather than to render it identical,
to assess and establish deviance within a reproducible space of
distribution of the unequal, and to make of its so-called rectification
a means of reproduction of new imputations of deviance. In such an
operation of inclusive exclusion, the majority is the analytic fact of
Nobody, while the minority, constituted as a state by this very operation,
is the synthetic fact of some particular people, whatever their number be,
gathered into a subsystem and rendered countable and quantifiable by
dominant norms. Plenty of dialectics can henceforth be tied between the
universal and the particular in such a mechanism.10 And yet according
to Deleuze, the element of conflictuality, at once dynamic factor and
immanent principle of an other universality, comes from minoritarian
processes which are not defined simply by deviances, but by their
non-coded or unregulated character in the game of differences and
differential positions. This is not a sociological extrapolation. It is an
attempt at making way, within social theory, for a non-categorisable
reality which prevents the objective representation from closing itself off,
or furthermore (and this is effectively the same thing), which prevents
the social system from coinciding with the structure of disjunctive
relations which make of it a system of differential positions. Between
the positions, there are still subjective transpositional processes which
are entirely liveable and thinkable; between the identitary states, there
are always objective becomings which are positively knowable and
feasible. What is essential thus has to do with the specific effectiveness of
such processes. They work simultaneously against the empty universal
of the hegemonic norm and against the particularisation inclusive-
excluding of minority as subsystem. At the very least they can attain this
double efficiency if determined assemblages succeed in carrying out their
practical appropriation. Such are these minor practices of which Kafka
had presented an example on the plane of literary enunciation. These
practices occupy a position of minority to weaken from the interior
the majoritys normative constants, but they simultaneously lead this
134 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

minority itself into a transformation which frees it from its state as

subsystem. And such a transformation does not abolish its deviance,
but rather renders it dissipative, or undetectable, not assessable by the
major rule of the measure of distances and assignation of unequal
identities.11 This is why Deleuze writes that even a minority has to
become-minoritarian (it certainly takes more than a state) at the same
time as it forms the agent or the active medium through which a
subject enters a becoming-minoritarian that rends him from his major
identity. As an active medium, minority thus becomes a vanishing
mediator within two simultaneous movements, one by which a term
(the subject) is withdrawn from the majority, and another by which
a term (the medium or agent) rises up from the minority. There is an
asymmetrical and indissociable block of becoming, a block of alliance
(Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 291).
Supposing it is through the multiplication of these double becomings
that the becoming-minoritarian of everyone can be constructed (that
is to say, through a universal process which involves no gushing
spontaneity of Life or History), perhaps this point only remains
obscure because of two theoretical errors which compromise the politics
of minorities in Deleuze. And these are two political errors precisely
because they result from an overly theoretical, or even ontologising,
vision of Deleuzian thought. The first is when one speculates abstractly
upon the becoming, outside of the couplings of always contextualised
becomings which make of them problems of collective experimentation
capable of rendering identity positions in reality abstract. The second
is the error of (theoretically) making of the multiple a given, in
being or in a transcendental structure, while it is (practically) only
effectively constructed by these dynamic couplings, in these connections
of asymmetrical becomings. Before being, there is politics (Deleuze and
Guattari 1987: 203), since before ontology, there is strategy. It is the
constructions of alliances which decide both the type of multiplicity
which one promotes and the practices of identity which one invents
or reproduces. Certainly then we must give up the assumption that a
collective consciousness could only have as possible content a common
identity (be that identity of objective interests, problems or conditions),
to accede to a universal consciousness having for content a community
of becomings, that is to say, of interdependent transformations capable
of modifying in their turn the very form of the universal. Then we
must consider a universality of a process of relational inventions,
and not of an identity of subsumption; a universality which is not
projected forward in a maximum of identitary integration, but which is
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 135

programmed and reshuffled in a maximum of transversal connections

between heterogeneous systems; rather than a socio-logical universal
as genre, category or class, a tactical and strategic universal as an
indefinite dynamic system of practices of alliance, where the alliance
proceeds neither through integration of terms into a superior identity
that homogenises them, nor through mutual reinforcement of differential
identities, but through the blocks of asymmetrical becomings where a
term may become-other thanks to the becoming-other of another term
itself connected to an nth in an open series. In short, no longer an
extensive and quantifiable universality, but on the contrary an intensive
and unquantifiable universality, in the sense that subjects become in
common in a process where their identitary anchorages are dissipated, to
the advantage of that conception and radically constructivist practice of
autonomy required by a new minoritarian internationalism. Minorities
from all countries. . .
It is not entirely contingent, historically speaking, that Deleuze comes
to occupy a position of minority in the political theory of the 1970s,
when the revolutionary workers movement tends increasingly clearly to
lose its major position through various struggles against the capitalist
system. The way proposed here was not a proposition to Marxianise
the Deleuzian theory of minorities, but to suggest rather that this
theory produces a double effect of interpellation, upon the reading of
Deleuzian philosophy as well as the theoretical and political heritage of
Marxism and that, in pushing Marxism to (re)become minoritarian,
Deleuzian thought itself is disposed to become political and thus to
produce real effects.

1. See Arendt (2004: chap. 5).
2. See for example the analysis of the becomings in which Kafkaesque novels
carry their conjugal and bureaucratic duos away, their bureaucratic and family
trios . . . in chapters 6 and 7 of Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. On the
deformations undergone by the German of Prague, in semantic and syntactic
as well as phonetic levels, see also Wagenbach (1967: 7782).
3. Because collective or national consciousness is often inactive in external life
and always in the process of break-down, literature finds itself positively
charged with the role and function of collective, and even revolutionary,
enunciation. It is literature that produces an active solidarity in spite of
skepticism; and if the writer is in the margins or completely outside his or her
fragile community, this situation allows the writer all the more the possibility
to express another possible community and to forge the means for another
consciousness and another sensibility (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 17).
136 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc

4. This thesis is in the heart of the first chapter of The Communist Manifesto.
5. On these questions, we must recall the decisive analyses of Etienne Balibar in
La Crainte des masses, the chapters La relve de lidalisme and Le proltariat
insaisissable (Balibar 1997).
6. The response of the States, or of the axiomatic, may obviously be to accord the
minorities regional or federal or statutory autonomy, in short, to add axioms.
But this is not the problem: this operation consists only in translating the
minorities into denumerable sets or subsets, which would enter as elements into
the majority, which could be counted among the majority. The same applies for
a status accorded to women, young people, erratic workers, etc. (Deleuze and
Guattari 1987: 470).
7. A sign of minority is precisely this impossibility, or the extreme difficulties
objective as well as subjective, in interiorising the partition between individual
and collective dimensions. Precisely because the minor subject is in an unstable,
marginal or precarious state in relation to the conditions of life and to the rights
of the majority, all events that come for the major subjects within the scope
of an individual concern (familial, marital, and so on) [joined] with other no
less individual concerns, the social milieu serving as a mere environment or
a background, immediately reach on the contrary, for the minor, collective
and sociopolitical consequences. (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 178, quoting
Kafka: What in great [major] literature goes on down below, constituting a
not indispensable cellar of the structure, here takes place in the full light of day;
what is there a matter of passing interest for a few, here absorbs everyone no
less than as a matter of life and death.)
8. However modest the demand, it always constitutes a point that the axiomatic
cannot tolerate: when people demand to formulate their problems themselves,
and to determine at least the particular conditions under which they can receive
a more general solution (hold to the Particular as an innovative form) (Deleuze
and Guattari 1987: 471). See also Deleuze and Parnet (1987: 1456).
9. Anti-Oedipus called such an operation paralogism of displacement (see Deleuze
and Guattari 1983: 1135).
10. See for example the evocative reading of Ernesto Laclau proposed by Slavoj
iek (iek 1999: Part II, chap. 4).
11. Deleuzes preface to Guy Hocquenghem, LAprs-Mai des Faunes, is absolutely
emblematic on this point (Deleuze 2004: 2848).

Arendt, Hannah (2004) The Origins of Totalitarianism II: Imperialism, New York:
Balibar, Etienne (1997) La Crainte des masses, Paris: Galile.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1983) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1986) Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans.
D. Polan, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. B. Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (1987) Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, New York: Columbia University Press.
Politicising Deleuzian Thought 137

Deleuze, Gilles (2004) Preface to Hocquenghems LAprs-Mai des faunes, in Gilles

Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts, 19531974, ed. D. Lapoujade, trans. M.
Taormina, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), pp. 2848.
Noiriel, Grard (2005) tat, nation et immigration, Paris: Gallimard.
Wagenbach, Klaus (1967) Franz Kafka: Annes de jeunesse (18831912), French
trans. E. Gaspar, Paris: Mercure de France.
Watson, Janell (2008) Theorising European Ethnic Politics with Deleuze and
Guattari, in Ian Buchanan and Nicholas Thoburn (eds), Deleuze and Politics,
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 196217.
iek, Slavoj (1999) The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology,
London and New York: Verso.

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000749
Review Essay
After Utopia: Three Post-Personal Subjects
Consider the Possibilities

Jeffrey Cain Sacred Heart University

William E. Connolly (2008) Capitalism and Christianity, American

Style, Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Alexander Garca Dttmann (2007) Philosophy of Exaggeration, trans.

James Phillips, London: Continuum.

Adrian Parr (2008) Deleuze and Memorial Culture: Desire, Singular

Memory, and the Politics of Trauma, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University

Not the least of the many challenges involved in engaging with Deleuzian
thought is the problem of writing about it without re-inscribing the
same positivistic model that Deleuze so inimitably subverts. If difference
itself grounds a virtual actuality that is also characterised by multiplicity,
univocity and pure immanence, then a merely narrative account of our
epistemological situation begins to seem like folly, a reductive process
that drags Deleuze to a standstill in order to take a snapshot of whatever
concept is most relevant to the moment. Surely there must be a better
way. But even the most sophisticated approaches can be imprisoned by
the linear nature of language or the symbolic order; perhaps this is part
of what informed Deleuzes well-known remark to Claire Parnet, that
in philosophy the aim is not to answer questions, its to get out, to get
out of it (Deleuze and Parnet 2002: 1). The task then becomes, as Claire
Colebrook and others have pointed out, to think transitively: how might
it be possible to think actuality, think immanence, think univocity, think
desire, think language itself?
These questions imply metaphysical hunger of a sort with which
theoretical discourse has been manifestly uncomfortable for several
decades. Considered another way, however, they promise new
After Utopia 139

conceptual schema based on the positive (rather than positivistic) notion

of creative and desiring production. The task for those exploring the
relationship of Deleuze to cultural issues is not to extend his thought
in a straight line, but to swerve or veer into thinking a productive
approach to the cultural events that actualise themselves in our time.
The process is then less about iconoclasm than it is about permeability:
how to theorise a way into a richly layered middle ground that comprises
interstices of desire, immanence, virtuality and difference? And how
might one do so without simply listing and exploiting some concepts
given us by Deleuze? While much has been written on the fairly explicit
Deleuzian construction of the pre-personal subject, the implicitly post-
personal subject who is actually developing concepts on a page seems to
be hypostatised inside the critical text. Nonetheless, three recent books
that work brilliantly with or from Deleuzian concepts also illustrate the
importance of writing from a flexible, deeply thought, yet actualised
subject position.
In Deleuze and Memorial Culture, Adrian Parr thinks several
sites architectural and conceptual that are based on the collective
experience of social trauma, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial,
9/11 news coverage, US military abuses at Abu Ghraib, the Amish
shootings, and ground zero. The Holocaust serves aptly as a reference
point throughout her text, and she devotes a chapter to its powerful
presence in the fractured urban space named Berlin. It is not, of course,
that there are only a few narrative choices to make, that all cultural
wounds are the same, or even that one is really worse than another.
Rather, Parr provides an intimate and agile series of readings that are
sustained by the positive desire to think memorials in their unique
contexts. A great strength of her work is that she clearly sees the body
politic as gendered, organic and ethnic. Memorials are, she remarks,
utopian memories thinking, and they work to signify the affective
disruption that writers of utopian tales usually fail to mention. As
such, Parr observes that memorials embody [a]combination of cultural
production and collective traumatic memory that can help us peel
back the skin and tissue of repression so as to uncover the utopian
demand that memory stirs forth (3). Thus Parr sets the topography
and architecture of memorial sites into motion, but the movement is not
linear. She is at pains to point out that, as Bergson and Deleuze suggest,
the present is not an effect of the past. Rather, the past and present co-
exist and alter even as they are actualised into becoming.
Parrs chapter on the Vietnam War Memorial intriguingly deploys
the Deleuzian concepts of affect, sensation and percept as well as the
140 Jeffrey Cain

distinction between minoritarian and majoritarian statement (5475).

Perhaps there is no other more powerful example of art overcoming
or, more accurately, permeating the superficial emotions of the people
to whom it is meant to speak. Parr details the numerous insults hurled
by Vietnam veterans and others at the designer, Maya Lin Ying, when
they saw the design for the memorial. The diatribe, however, was
wholly derived from majoritarian narratives about wars, heroes, world
communism and reflected glory. Remarkably, it is not political or social
pressure that has changed the outlook of most veterans towards the
memorial, it is Lins dynamic re-reading of the area as an architectural
and topographical machine for generating blocks of sensation and affect.
Parrs illuminating and sure-footed analysis of this situation maps the
majoritarian discourse onto Lins gendered, ethnic and political body.
Being young (still a student at Yale), a non-veteran, a woman and an
Asian ultimately enabled Lin to find a line of flight from the vertical and
static textuality that normally constitutes war memorials, thus leading to
a deterritorialisation of the veterans formerly monolithic position and
the creation of a minor memorial (69). This deterritorialisation did not
emerge in order to deny or undermine the soldiers collective memory
of trauma in Vietnam, but to release it (6872). One might add that no
better testimony to the potency of Lins work exists than the veterans
re-naming of the Vietnam War Memorial as The Wall, a productively
reterritorialised marker for a war memorial that has, against all odds,
become a multiplicity.
The attempt to theorise a middle ground takes on extra intricacy when
large abstract categories are involved. In particular, Deleuzian thought
highlights the limits and prevarications inherent in the molar structures
that impose themselves on everyday life. Nonetheless, in Capitalism
and Christianity, American Style, William E. Connolly essays the task
of synthesising certain internal forces in such disparate institutions as
democracy, capitalism, Christianity, secularism and the news media.
Connolly carefully but creatively transforms the Deleuzian concept
of the resonance machine in order to mobilise nuanced tensions and
influences, and he writes with a refreshing intellectual integrity. Thus
he points out that his description of a capitalist-evangelical resonance
machine does not issue from some imaginary pose of neutrality.
Connolly remarks that descriptive comments, including his own, already
contain the seeds of an agenda. For Deleuze and Guattari this was
surely true, because the resonance machine they explicate in A Thousand
Plateaus is an instrument of fascism. Connolly therefore envisions a new
resonance machine tuned to twenty-first-century progressive politics.
After Utopia 141

Whether such an assemblage can disassociate itself from the black holes
of micro-fascisms that have been elided by post-Nazi discourse is a
real question. However, Connolly does not seem to duck this problem;
he simply appropriates the part of the theory that he needs without
specifically contradicting the rest.
Pausing briefly to point out that the word resonance is no more
metaphorical than any other term used for political critique, Connolly
lists some of the components that align themselves in order to resonate
within the right-wing of North American politics. These include, but
are not limited to, Fox News, most segments of the financial markets,
the Republican Party, evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity, the Book
of Revelation, and the Bush Whitehouse. While he condemns the
ressentiment infused by the right-wing hermeneutic of the Book of
Revelation, Connolly makes distinctions with a fine deliberation: he
notes that Jimmy Carter is an evangelical Christian for whom the
vengeful sensibility is alien (52). If anything, one almost feels sorry for
hyper-conservative televangelist Pat Robertson, whom Connolly puts
to rout by arraying against him Spinoza, Weber and Nietzsche. The
evangelicals are not the only ones capable of conjuring voices from a
For students interested in Deleuzian identity formation, the most
interesting part of the book will perhaps be Connollys deeply felt essay
on the possibilities of Meliorism and tragic vision. Here he orchestrates a
triple polyphony of Deleuze, William James and Nietzsche. Only James,
he notes, draws back from sounding a tragic chord when it comes to
the concept of progress, and James brand of Meliorism depends on a
personal struggle to square faith with a philosophy of transcendence.
Connolly observes that both James and Deleuze formulate a limited god,
but that Deleuzes signal contribution is belief in radical immanence.
Deleuze, writes Connolly, experiments in those fugitive junctures
during which tradition encounters the real uncertainty of twists and
turns in the making (131). To Deleuzian immanence Connolly ascribes
an incomplete or disrupted mysticism, and it is this reading that
allows Connolly to characterise his personal position on Christianity as
Jamesleuzian (133).
Alexander Garca Dttmanns Philosophy of Exaggeration begins
with a textual experiment that situates the post-personal subject of the
author (or possibly a persona) in counterpoint with his more traditional
philosophical writing. Thus, even as the books main text states that
deconstruction recognises in its object, justice for example, an intrinsic
exaggeration that does not even permit one to speak of a recognisable
142 Jeffrey Cain

object, a text box at the top of the same page asks, is my incensed
exaggeration a weakness of temperament, an affliction, or is it precisely
that which protects me from decrepitude and annihilation (3)? The
immediate temptation is to regard the line of thought in the text boxes
as more personal, or perhaps more elemental, than the rest of the words
on the page, but quite possibly the inverse obtains. After all, the first-
person narrative is about what the I or Ego can know or wonder,
while the putatively more objective third-person academic discourse is
engaged primarily, in this case, with making fine distinctions about
imbricated exaggeration and aporia. I would aver that the voice in the
text box knows far less about the internal workings of exaggeration,
as a mode of doing philosophy, than does the voice on the main page.
And there are other moments in which percepts shift, most notably in
a brief confessional about the narrators visit to a sex club (267). This
latter passage serves to complicate the books production of corporeal
affect, which soon reappears in the chapter entitled Odd Moves, itself
a sophisticated and ironic recital of the difficulties inherent in being
a professor right after 9/11. Dttmanns method here is to reframe
the remarks of a literary critic to her college class in Manhattan a
week after 9/11, one of her students having taken notes and later
put them on the web. What follows is a devastatingly accurate satire
on postmodernism as a sort of sance, with the anonymous professor
playing the role of Madame Blavatsky or the Cumaean Sybil, or both.
The class begins with the professor ringing a small bell, which Dttmann
tells us is like an invocation of the spirits. The professor then informs
the class that language itself is inadequate except to perform meaning
or understanding when everything is shattered and disconnected. She
gives the class aphorisms, such as understanding understands only
itself (423). The professorial mystic communicates by telephone with
disembodied spirits (Derrida, Hlne Cixous and Jean-Luc Nancy) and
reports to the class that A lot of energy is coming here. A lot of language
failure (43). This role of poststructuralist as servant of a secret fire will
perhaps be not unfamiliar to those who have tried giving a paper on
Deleuze as part of their local faculty lecture series, although there it is
usually a perception of the audience, not honest Deleuzian affect.
Dttmanns writing displays his easy familiarity with every corner
of twenty-first-century philosophical discourse. Beginning with his
axiom that justifying an exaggeration thereby causes it to lose its
exaggerated status, he follows the twisting and turnings of exaggeration,
its implications and inclinations, its limits and liminalities. Drawing
attention to his complicity with Deleuze early on, Dttmann sketches
After Utopia 143

the Deleuzian project of exaggeration as a method of pitting crowned

anarchy against the familiar image of thought. Doing so requires
excision from the totalising requirement of clarity that characterises
everyday opinion as well as some academic discourse. Difference
and Repetition, for example, shows that comprehensive explication
is radically counterproductive. For Deleuze, writes Dttmann,
explanation without remainder and exhaustive interpretation integrate
difference in a determinate and articulated system only at the price of
its annulment (6). This thought sorts agreeably with something that is
well-known to students of Deleuze and Guattari: even in a philosophy
of pure immanence and radical difference, a small amount of molecular
order and subjectification is necessary in order to avoid collapse into
an infinite regression of difference. Therefore, the idea is to follow
becomings, de-subjectifications, lines of flight, and deterritorialisations
without immediately abandoning the subject to the end of becoming,
which would be solidification into a fact.
It is in this context, then, that Dttmann adduces the importance
that Deleuze and Guattari place on utopian narrative. The concept of
utopia is deeply implicated in revolutionary politics, and revolution
is immanent, as opposed to being an occasional disruption.
Utopian discourse takes place in a field of forces constituted by
exaggerations . . . in which there is no solidification that would not
harbour a becoming, and no becoming that would not harbour
solidification (72). The idea of utopia is thus trapped between two poles,
although there remain various ways to get out, to get out of it. One
way is via the utopian memory and affect explored by Parr, and another
would be to proceed according to Connollys opportunistic Meliorism.
Yet a third way consists in Dttmanns method of using exaggeration
and irony to break utopian critique on the wheel of its own institutional
and traditional status. The virtue of these three books, then, is that they
do not simply go back to the same old questions; all of them represent
departures in the best sense of the word.

Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (2002) Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, New York: Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000750