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Chapter 4 Ideology and Social Subjectivity
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Deleuze and the New Philosophy: Postmodernism and the New Right

For Althusser, science is influenced and sometimes even perverted by ideological interests and political power, but these influences are external, not internal, to scientific practice; in its concept, scientific practice remains uncontaminated by all motives other than the production of knowledge. Structural Marxists, intent on defending the category of the scientific, have been relatively indifferent to the ideological effects of scientific practice and the functioning of various scientific institutions as ideological apparatuses. Althusser, of course, acknowledges the institutionalization (and dissemination) of knowledge to be an ideological force: he insists, for example, that the educational system is the central ideological apparatus in industrial capitalist societies (Althusser 1971, 157). Althusser is quite aware that ideology invades theoretical practice through the "spontaneous philosophy" of scientists and he insists that science, being historical and social in nature, always exists in a certain relation to ideology and power.


The way the exact sciences . . . are taught implies a certain ideological relation to their existence and their content. There is no teaching of pure knowledge [savoir ] that is not at the same time a savoir-faire —that is, the definition of a know-how-to-act-in-relation-to-this-knowledge, and to its theoretical and social function . . . . All science teaching, whether it wants to or not, conveys an ideology of science . . . based upon a certain idea of the place of science in society and a certain idea of the role of intellectuals who specialize in scientific knowledge and therefore of the division between manual and intellectual labor. (Althusser 1990, 94-95)

However, Althusser tends to portray science, and not just the Marxist science of history, as liberating and positive. It is a form of power, to be sure, but for Althusser, it is a latent power, a potential and positive power to understand and operate on the world. Science produces knowledge effects that may or may not be corrupted by power, but power itself comes from elsewhere; it is external to knowledge, not intrinsic to the very production of knowledge. About the darker side of science, the tyranny of instrumental reason (what Weber calls the "iron cage" of rationalization) and its normalizing effects on social subjectivity (insofar as the human subject becomes an object for science), Althusser has been significantly silent. In light of the Bolshevik transmutation of Marxism into an anti-democratic ideology rationalizing the class power of party functionaries, the social-political dimension of science—specifically the human sciences and most specifically Marxism as a science of history—cannot be ignored.

Althusser's defense of Marxism as a science and his assumption of the desirability of scientific knowledge were often criticized in the aftermath of the events of May 1968. In the early seventies various "ultraleftisms" enamored of spontaneity, Mao, and the Cultural Revolution denounced Althusser's "fetishism of knowledge" in favor of a view of science as simply another repressive aspect of bourgeois society. Jacques Rancière, one of the original coauthors of Lire le Capital , contended in La leçon d'Althusser that Althusser had betrayed his initial project of undermining the stranglehold of the party bureaucracy on Marxist theory and had erected a new form of "petty bourgeois" elitism, replacing the party leaders with professors and displacing concrete social struggles into a meaningless series of abstract conceptual oppositions (Rancière 1974, 55-111). Two other former students of Althusser and former Maoists, André Glucksmann and Bernard-Henry Lévy, moved beyond even Rancière in their condemnation of science, identifying Marxism with totalitarian politics and rediscovering the Cold War rhetoric of libertarian individualism. This self-styled "New Philosophy"


was an instant media sensation and typified the distressingly smooth shift of intellectual fashion in Paris to a virulently anti-Marxist, post-modern poste-gauchisme during the mid-seventies.[6] Peter Dews succinctly sums up the basic tenets of the nouvelle philosophie : "Marxism is responsible for the terror of the Soviet camps; the State is the central source of oppression and therefore any politics directed towards the seizure of State power is dangerous and vain; science always operates within and reinforces relations of power or, to raise the stakes a little higher, 'reason' is inherently totalitarian; since any political ideology will eventually be used to justify crimes against humanity the only 'safe' form of political action is a militant defense of human rights" (Dews 1979, 129).

Aside from the shamelessness of their opportunism, there is little that is noteworthy in the writings of the nouveaux philosophes . However, they are important here for two reasons: first because they represent a French variant of an international phenomenon, the neo-conservative intellectual movement known as the New Right, and second because their ideas (and those of the New Right generally) reflect a symbiotic relationship with those of the postmodern Left, a relationship rarely acknowledged yet absolutely fundamental to any understanding of the contemporary malaise of social theory. To illuminate the "elective affinity" that unites the New Right and the postmodern Left, it is therefore useful to examine the French case: the relationship between the New Philosophy and postmodern dissidents Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, from whom the New Philosophers parasitically derive their rhetoric of power and the substance of their critique of science. I begin with a brief introduction of Deleuze because his neo-Nietzschean gauchisme most accurately reflects the characteristics of postmodern dissidence and because he provides the philosophical foundation for certain of Foucault's historical investigations. Foucault's work, by contrast, must be given greater attention because Foucault is something of a renegade Althusserian and because he, more than any other figure, attempts an immanent critique of Structural Marxist concepts and proposes a post-modern alternative to Structural Marxist concepts of history, science, and ideology.[7]

From a neo-anarchist position, post-Marxist from the very beginning and postmodern avant la lettre , Gilles Deleuze has produced a series of original and important books—Différence et répetition (1968), Logique du sens (1969), and, with antipsychiatrist Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980)—each


attacking all structuration in theory and in society from a neo-Nietzschean perspective first elaborated by Deleuze in Nietzsche et philosophie (1962). For Deleuze, ontology is difference: the essence of all being is plural, productive, and devoid of deeper unity or meaning. Behind every thing or idea there are differences, yet behind difference there is nothing. By ontologizing the concept of difference, Deleuze seeks to escape from the labyrinth of absence and presence that envelops discursive practices, and it is this illusion of absence that serves as the (anti-) foundation of his thought. For Deleuze, the concept of difference is different from simple conceptual difference: the latter is merely a pseudo-difference established within a general framework of identity; the former, however, marks an authentic difference, the difference between identity and non-identity. Primal difference, according to Deleuze, is "nomadic" and "extraterritorial," totally foreign to all structures or boundaries. The historical condition of difference, however, is to be structured or coded by society, a process Deleuze calls "territorialization." Territorialization constitutes all social phenomena, according to Deleuze, yet it lacks any unified or central locus, logic, or meaning. Difference, being ontologically prior and antithetical to society, resists the coding process, and therefore all forms of territorialization are inherently unstable and incomplete.

Throughout its history, Western philosophy has attempted to repress or conceal difference by means of concepts and structures organized around "representation, similarity and repetition." These operations, Deleuze maintains, obscure the production (both the "bringing into existence" and the "showing") of differences by stressing re-presentation, identity, and "repetition of the same." For Deleuze, identity is mere illusion because there is no essence to represent; nothing exists beneath the arbitrary surface coding of difference. Meaning is precisely the existing physical state of affairs, beneath which is primal chaos, undifferentiated and formless flux. Language, which Deleuze also sees as nomadic, infinitely productive, and ultimately devoid of any "deep structure" of meaning, has also been territorialized by structural thinking, which imposes an illusion of systemic organization on language from which meaning may then be derived. In contrast, Deleuze insists that language, which appears to be built on two codings (signifiers and signifieds), is in fact based on a primal, paradoxical, self-referential illusion, a "sombre precursor," or "esoteric word." This latter term is literally nonsensical, for its self-reference simply masks the endless proliferation of difference. Language conceals difference behind the facade


of its own "logic of sense." For Deleuze, "the logic of sense" is based on "events," the meaningless conjuncture of the "mélanges" of bodies that make up the physical world, but it occludes the arbitrariness of such events by means of endless mechanisms of reference. The meaning of a sentence (the event itself) is only apparently "referred to." In actuality, because the event is the precondition of meaning, it can be referred to only by another sentence, then another, and so on in an infinite evasion (which is also a repression).

Similar and more directly political processes are at work in the realm of social institutions and the human sciences. The basic unit of meaning of Deleuze's interpretation of human existence is the "body," which he defines, in Nietzschean terminology, as a "relation of forces," or more precisely as a relation between "dominating" and "dominated" forces. All reality is always already made up of a proliferation of forces in tension with each other. The living body is an arbitrary product of the forces that compose it in a "unity of domination," a multiple phenomenon composed of "active" and "reactive" qualities whose unity is hierarchical. The historical situation of the body is to have experienced the "genealogy" of Nietzschean resentment, which Deleuze interprets as a denial and reversal of difference and the triumph of a reactive, deformed nihilism, a "will to nothing" that destroys all affirmative values from within. For Deleuze, the actualization of difference by the individual (will to power of the living body) is affirmative and healthy. The denial of difference by society (the reactive social body) is repressive and unhealthy. The social body plays the same repressive role as representation does: it serves to contain the nomadic distribution of differences and has resulted (by a kind of negative Hegelianism) in the triumph of reactive over active forces.

In Anti-Oedipus , psychic development is interpreted in much the same way. In contrast to Freudian interpretations (and their Lacanian re-interpretation), Deleuze and Guattari deny any "primal lack" or yearning for a pre-Oedipal, instinctual desire for unity. The Oedipus complex, Deleuze and Guattari maintain, does not involve the resolution of problems created by pre-existing, instinctive desires; it is first and foremost the territorialization of desire, the organization and coding of a fragmented, differentiated "desiring production" that is the essence of human reality. The various "desiring machines" that make up the unconscious are first organized by the parents (and by society) and then "resolved," that is, further territorialized into a social body, a corporal form of representation. For Deleuze and Guattari, desire is


"active," productive, a part of the social "infrastructure" yet "revolutionary" since to question its repression by a "reactive," guilt-based psychoanalysis will always reveal complementary structures of social repression.

The anti-Althusserian implications of Deleuze's work are clear. While both Althusser and Deleuze oppose domination in the form of capitalist property relations and recognize the importance of the constitution of subjectivity in maintaining these relations, the basis of explanation is radically different for each. Deleuze, following Nietzsche, sees a chaotic will to power as the ahistorical, ontological motor of history. To be sure, this chaosmos is always historically structured, but the principle of that structuration lies outside history. For Deleuze, as for Nietzsche, history is merely one more (false) structure of meaning imposed on meaningless differences taking a historical form. Change is purely formal, never substantive. Liberation, insofar as such a thing makes any sense at all for Deleuze, consists of refusing and contesting the territorialization of difference in theory, in the psyche, and in society. The social world is a mélange of structured differences lacking a central structure or an overarching pattern. Contestation cannot be localized but must be as nomadic as difference itself. Schizophrenia, a psychological refusal of the Oedipus complex, is a passive example of resistance by desiring production. Deleuze and Guattari call for an "active schizophrenia," the conscious refusal of all structures of exploitation, subjection, and hierarchy. For Deleuze, a Marxist theory of society is hopelessly narrow in its explanatory framework (classes are beside the point, and the repression of desire is universal) and dangerous in its theoretical rigor and its political implications (it entails yet another imposition of meaning on difference and implies a centered and therefore illusory locus of repression which can serve as a target for political action but which will not attack the roots or reverse the process of structuration).

Deleuze's problematic was a powerful influence on the French Left in the seventies, the decade Nietzsche replaced Marx as the central reference for French intellectuals. It seemed to provide a framework within which the ideals of May 1968 could survive the pessimism that attended their defeat. Indeed, that defeat could be rationalized by stressing the deficiencies of Marxism, which was ultimately held responsible for the failure of the revolution (Althusserian theory as a repressive and narrow rationalism; the reactionary nature of the French Community Party, which lost the revolution by pursuing limited, tra-


ditional, self-interested tactics; and so on). Leaving aside (for the moment) the theoretical significance of the neo-Nietzschean dissidence, it is clear that its negative thrust cut two ways. It did attempt to provide a critical perspective against which domination could be measured, but it also exploited the extreme disappointment within the ranks of the Left after 1968 and contributed significantly to the general anti-Marxist fervor that swept Paris after 1975. Positively, it joined with poststructuralism to form the theoretical core of what became known in the United States as postmodernism.

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