Jon Beasley-Murray - Deleuze, Guattari & the Human Security System

Virtual Futures
University of Warwick, 26-28 May 1995
VirtualFutures.co.uk

This paper starts from the premise that Michel Foucault was correct to term Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus "a book of ethics... an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life" and that thus their thought has to be historicized, read within a trajectory of thought concerning the political role of the intellectual. Moreover, I argue that in the slippage between the term "ethics" and the delineation of their project as "non-fascism" we see the function of Capitalism and Schizophrenia to be the articulation of a politics based upon ethics rather than upon morality--as Deleuze defines these terms in his reading of Spinoza. If, therefore, Deleuze's more strictly "philosophical" work outlines the space for an ethical project of immanent affirmation (as in Michael Hardt's reading of Deleuze's early work), in his collaboration with Guattari this project is re-situated within a problematic defined by the historical experience of fascism, to effect the politicization of philosophy. At the same time, however, Deleuze and Guattari manifest a pronounced distaste for the political, and fascism is seen not as an aberration but as inherent to current forms of political organization.

Some have taken this position at face value as either apoliticism or antipoliticism. While the traditional Left criticizes them for a supposed "evasion" of politics, others celebrate Anti-Oedipus as an injunction against any form of political organization. In contrast to either of these critiques, however, I argue that Capitalism and Schizophrenia has to be re-inserted into debates surrounding the historical crisis of the political. In this context, what is under attack is a representational politics that mobilizes dependent subjectivities--either in fascism, or by political movements premised on the party or the vanguard intellectual as a dialectical counter-mobilization. On the other hand, Deleuze and Guattari see the possibility of the irruption of a new form of politics, new forms of organization, both as positive potential in May '68 or the Italian New Left, and correlatively as a continuation of an "interminable resistance" to fascism.

Those who read Deleuze and Guattari as an evacuation of the political, then, make the dual mistake of: first, ignoring their numerous (and, in A Thousand Plateaus, increased) calls for caution, premised upon historical analysis of nazism; and second, mistaking social and philosophical affirmation for a critique of politics which would, in any event, remain merely on the level of Hegelian negation. Indeed, Capitalism and Schizophrenia is structured around the search for a response to fascism, such that the transition (and clearest difference) between the two volumes is in the discovery that the most extreme deterritorialization may return upon itself as a line of death. The anxiety this induces for Deleuze and Guattari is, I argue, in part also a function of their unresolved analysis of the role of the intellectual, and an uncertain relation to the populist sloganeering that would seem almost inevitably to accompany deterritorialization, whether formulated as "More perversion! More artifice!" or "Death to the Human Security System!"

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