Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Deleuze (week 14)


  1. A current pet project of mine is looking at the parental rights as a condition within the movement to legalize polyamorous relationships in a post-gay marriage United States – so I am especially interested in the ways that a legalized polyamorous relationship might disrupt or affirm societies of control. In the United States, civil marriage is undoubtedly a means of regulation and control as it offers over a thousand benefits for those willing to take part in it and is a function of the heteronormative family state (as we all well know). When gay marriage was legalized, part of its appeal (and the subject of many pro-gay marriage ads) was the way in which it mimicked the traditional family structure – two parents, two kids, a dog and house in Minnesota. The only change was the substitution of a different gender parent for one of the same gender (and likely the presence of rainbow flags and an Ani DiFranco collection in the household). The gay marriage never disrupted nor *queered* the family structure because it chose to mimic it – the legalization of it (despite the hard fight) was a matter of changing the language on some forms. However, the polyamorous relationship and the legal affirmation of it is interesting because polygamy is explicitly illegal in the United States specifically because of the benefits that marriage produces in the United States. Polygamy is illegal because it yields issues of fraud (tax fraud, food stamp fraud, and so on); we, as a state, are concerned about polygamy as a disruption of the benefits of control rather than in a moral sense. So then, if the next big movement in queer rights is theoretically the question of legalizing polyamorous relationships then I want to question if this movement has the possibility of disrupting a control society because it so drastically disrupts the traditional (and legally affirmed) family model? I’m tempted to say no for the reason that the polyamorous relationship is difficult to legally affirm with benefits not because of the way it disrupts the traditional family model but because of the difficulty of changing the legal structures surrounding this family model. In addition, the polyamorous relationship would have to “prove” validity in a similar fashion to the way greencard marriage interviews are done. In doing so, the polyamorous relationship might instead reinforce what a marriage-worthy relationship looks like – with the notable inclusion of another (or multiple) actors. In the act of the polyamorous relationship we are not doing whatever we want and disrupting the control but rather the search for legal affirmation confirms that the society of control is effective.

    1. I like where you're going with this, Emily. But, would Spinoza, or Deleuze interpreting Spinoza, say that the State made polygamy illegal essentially to keep certain people "sad" and therefore to keep them from productively living their lives? Or, is polygamy, along with other types of sexual practices, illegal in order to keep our explorations of ourselves limited, therefore limiting the powers of anyone trying to live outside of the norms of culture? I guess it's like asking if racism exists ways like being emobidied in laws because people didn't really believe in the equality of races, or if they were actually just afraid of the full powers of the race currently being oppressed. Someone could make the argument that people are already perfectly free to be in polyamorous relationships right now, but how many societal and legal forces are already in place to deter a person who might be on the fence about whether to commit to that kind of relationship? Doesn't, in the end--and by end I mean the conservatism that unfortunately attaches itself to getting older--the force of the state almost always find a way to disrupt our natural curiosities about bodies and sexuality in favor of the illusion of the security a state provides in the long term for citizens who are adhering to the law?

      I may have lost the point. Anyway, I like what you said above. There's a lot to think about.

  2. To be honest, I feel as if a pretty bland understanding of control societies gets deployed in a lot of the scholarship, so I was pleasantly surprised how intelligible this short exchanged was. Thinking through societies of control, I have a few areas of musing/confusion, though I’m sure hearing the presentation/lecture will give me more clarity.

    This is what I'm chewing on this morning: What exactly is the role of communication for Deleuze? Because in “Control and Becoming,” it seems pretty limited. “You ask whether control or communication societies [they’re synonymous? why am I studying this again?] will lead to forms of resistance that might reopen the way for a communism understood as the ‘transversal organization of free individuals.’ … Maybe speech and communication have been corrupted. They’re thoroughly permeated by money….” (4). I wouldn’t be so huffy if I take that “maybe” seriously. & for the most part, I agree with the assessment that communication can be super capitalistic (& not just in a Citizens United way—which seems like the most obnoxious embodiment of this point about money)—profiting machines are communicating and using us constantly. Immaterial labor. The sort.

    “They key thing may be to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control,” he writes (ibid). I get it. Down with representation, but it seems our communication is also exceedingly material, no? Is the symbolic really so separate from the material? Is the brain really a locus of being “inside/outside”? Would hijacked communication look like a system of mime, nonverbal cues, and nonverbal performance techniques like “image theatre”? I've got some Audra Lorde in my mind-- can we not use or at least play with the master's tools... just a little bit? Maybe I’m feeling bummed out & weighed down by capitalist realism, but a world without communication (in its current iterations) seems improbable.

    Now, if Deleuze means “communications” in an electric, mass communication way—okay. I can get more on board with this since it seems to fit nicely with the emphasis on the third type of machines—computers. But communication generally? Eh. I think I’ll side with Virno & the usefulness of the general intellect for now. I will say the way Deleuze describes joy seems to fit nicely with Virno’s hopes for the general intellect, but that’s a discussion for another blog post. Get back to me later-- if my reading of Deleuze & Deleuze himself are useful/correct, then I might be searching for a new Ph.D program.

  3. It's interesting to me to read Deleuze on Foucault, not to mention Deleuze on Spinoza, whom he seems quite taken with in a wondrous way, enamored by some of his philosophical starting places for forces up against each other. It seems to me that both fascinations really hinge on the Deleuzian preocuppation with multiplicities, the forces which produce their affects and movements, and the structures which connect them at certain points. In "Strategies or the Non Stratified," Deleuze describes "power-relations" as "differential relations which determine particular features (affects)." He seems most interested in the way Foucault calls attention to the way knowledges produce forces (or maybe knowledge only harnesses forces through their relational points). In my reading, Deleuze tends to gravitate toward the points where these relations meet, intermingle, and re-enter into the world. He suggests that there is "a multiplicity of local and partial integrations, each one entertaining an affinity with certain relations or particular points. The integrating factors or agents of stratification make up institutions: not just the State, but also the Family, Religion, Production, the Marketplace, Art itself, Morality, and so on." These are not institutions which necessarily produce these forces, but make them visible by making their ends meet. He calls them "practices or operating mechanisms" which is very much a good re-presentation of what Foucault imagines as disciplines and powers of conditioning (I think, if i'm drawing ballpark conclusions.) He says "there is no State, only state control." (75) This last part, while it seems to make sense in line with what he's suggesting about the way power manifests itself through institutions (not as a result of them), I wonder if this is actually an important departure from Foucault, or if this is fundamentally Foucaultian in spirit. As Foucault would say, power can be understood in terms of intensifications. Deleuze's take on this intensification feels so similar that I'm wondering where, in the nuances of vocabulary, that I'm mistaking the restatements for departures. I know it's crucial for both of these thinkers to produce new, more appropriate vocabularies toward new understandings. So it's interesting (and often-times the most confusing, here with Foucault, and especially with Spinoza) how an even new-er vocabulary hinges on an already-new vocabulary, if that makes sense.

  4. I found Deleuze's chapters on Foucault really fascinating and fruitful, especially as I consider the problem I've been thinking about for much of this semester -- how does an institution, specifically a religious institution, emerge within the political field. Foucault's "Method" section in History of Sexuality has been my anchoring point for thinking of politics as the movement of bodies and forces, rather than the legal-juridical system of policy and law enforcement. Here Deleuze has pushed Foucault's insights further into the light so that I can understand more clearly how this movement occurs, how these mechanisms function in the web of immanent power relations, knowledge, and belief.

    Deleuze establishes in several of the pieces we read this week that the new emerges out of the existing state of things -- that becoming arises out of history as a line of flight. As I understand it, this is basically a version of historical materialism: the material conditions of the world found virtuality, the possible, and becoming is the constant, incomplete actualization of virtualities. If we consider the origins then of a religious instition, the power which coalesces into the material/political structures of religious institutions follows, like a mole, the tunnels of virtuality afforded by the extant historical conditions - meaning that different states of affairs afford different virtuality, that any given messiah could only arrive "in the fullness of time." This emergence, I would think, usually begins as a resistance to the normal flow of forces, the desire for a rebalancing of powers and the movement toward actualizing that new balance. (I suppose a religious institution could also emerge in order to fortify the normal flow of power - however, I would think this usually occurs through hegemonic appropriation of existing religious structures, shifting the direction of their resistance.) Hence, one thematic which describes Jesus as an insurrectionist political rebel, pushing against the power of Rome -- and here we arrive at the matter of the statement.

    A belief or creed seems to fit the bill for what Deleuze calls the "statement." Notice that the fundamental Christian creeds came into being at a time when the integrity of the nascent institution was in crisis against the internal & external forces which would divide its strength. We get a set of "I believes..." ostensibly to clarify what the church was, but the violence of policing the institution is inextricably linked to those statements. The power-relations supporting the integrity of the institution were actualized by these statements, and that actualization was always their primary function - not knowledge, but force.

    There are clear parallels with the political institutions / political parties (on both sides) as well, but I've said enough for now. More later, in my seminar paper I guess . . .

  5. Page 104 of Deleuze on Foucault seems to leverage the imagination of Heidegger’s four-fold through a (re)articulation of Aristotle to clarify the relation between Knowledge-being, Power-being, and Self-Being. Here, the Deluzian imagination and Bennett’s re-imagination part ways. The fold of the outside aligns with the final cause, the telos, in the Aristotelian system. Rather than being discovered and moved toward—the best thing is for a thing to be no other than itself (actuality arises from the negation of impotentiality— A thing can Ø Ø be X=the movement to actuality), the outside constitutes the virtual horizon within from which all emerges and which permits the unending folding of subjectivity in the perpetual interplay of repetition of difference (I have no idea what that expression means). This also seems to accord with Foucault’s technology of the self, which the discussion of the Greeks makes clear. Here, Deleuze seems to identify the outside with promise of rendering the actual impotential (Agamben’s profanation), which opens the space for an alternative becoming where a the vital capacity of life can enter into the interplay of folding outside of control.

    The form of knowledge and truth (the interplay of light and speech in the formation of calcification) constitutes the formal cause that beings the virtual into being in specific, historically bound ways. This seems to align with Foucault’s technology of power(-Knowledge) that acts on others capacity to act (conducts the conduct of others) through these calcified forms, which are always open to recomposing through the process of folding.

    The fold between forces seems the question of strategy that marks the non-calcified forms of power, the possibility of action, of reforming through folding the calcified fields through interacting with the outside. Here, we have the other face of power, the productive face which allows for the change.

    Incidentally, this division between knowledge-being and power-being seem to align with the division between the biopolitics, the calcified form that captures life’s vibrant potential to capture the potential. Power-being, in contrast allows for a strategic motion that seems to open the space for contacting the outside.

    Here, rather than Bennett’s seeing the vital forces with the movement of mater itself, Deleuze’s Foucault would locate the vibrant matter as constituting the power-being that always exceeds knowledge-being to re-form the conditions of knowledge and self, but the self, the contingent, virtual outside that tilts in a heterogeneous assemble with the other two, but the strategic motion that governs the movement from the virtual to the actual, while leaving the virtual unexhausted and re-foldable, which constitutes the possibility for thought an change.

    The material cause constitutes the technologies of communication and production that is surrounded and enfolded through the other three motions. While the material conditions are implicated in all four, they are the matter seen from different aspect, which are irreducible. Here, we begin to understand the outside that is farther than exteriority but closer. The distance is the irreducible but mingling heterogeneous component that is differs in its effect (thought imbricated with the others). An irreducibly different kind of folding, but it still differences as a folding. The inability to separate these folds, the constant interplay of different foldings, within the same thing marks the closeness. Each folding is already within the object fold, but it is the same thing seem from a different angle, a different zone interrogation, which also explains the shift in interest from history of sexuality and the use of pleasure. The same thing, irreducibly close seen from a different aspect, irreducibly distance—an outside that is within and father than the exterior of the fold.

  6. I found Deleuze’s explication of Foucault’s notions of power and knowledge to be very illuminating. As he gets into speaking of insides and outsides, the feeling of complete mystification I’ve come to associate with reading Deleuze starts to set in. From my very rudimentary grasp on Deleuze’s Foucault, I am left feeling like his talk of insides and outsides follows a similar logic to his treatment of immanence and transcendence in “Immanence: A Life.” As this discussion was a little more comprehensible to me, it seems like a decent entry point for me to start examining Deleuze. Deleuze delineates two basic categories: transcendental fields and immanent planes. This terminology evokes a sense that--to put it mundanely--the transcendent is three-dimensional and the immanent is two-dimensional. The plane of immanence extends and permeates in all directions. It is seemingly wholly constitutive of existence, until the perspective is tilted to reveal the third-dimension: the transcendent which is coextensive with the immanent, but which extends above and below it. What troubles me is that the transcendent in Deleuze seems to go back and forth between an actual ontological assertion and a metaphor employed to attempt to grasp and explain consciousness. The former I believe has no place in an ontology of immanence. The latter must be admitted as at least a linguistic and conceptual necessity; a consciousness or language devoid of appeals to the transcendent or universals is nearly unthinkable. Deleuze begins by stating that a transcendental field appears as “a pure stream of subjective consciousness” (421). This seems to be evidence for transcendental fields to be metaphorical. When Deleuze starts to speak of immanence though, we see the appeal to universals pop up. With the statement of “the immanent that is in nothing is itself a life,” we see the universal concept implied. If immanence can be in nothing then it must be existent in some realm of transcendent universals, waiting around to be instantiated. Again, with “a life is the immanence of immanence,” we see an appeal to the logic of universals. Immanence can be seen as effectively the act of a universal’s instantiation into a particular. In this example the first immanence is the act of instantiation (which presupposes transcendent universals); while the second immanence is immanence proper, or that which exists solely and completely as permeating the non-transcendent. Deleuze seems to expound upon the transcendent in such a way as to make it seem that it is metaphorical, but there isn’t a plain effort to break it completely off from an understanding of the transcendent as an actual ontological assertion. “The transcendental field is defined by a plane of immanence;” “the immanent contained within a transcendental field;” “all transcendence is constituted solely in the flow of immanent consciousness;” these statements seem to waver back and forth between a notion of transcendent fields as a metaphor rising necessarily from a wholly immanent existence and a notion of them as a real ontological being.