On the notion of the political in postmarxist theory.
Speculative materialism in queer-feminist perspective
Emerging life and syntheses of matter and time
Aesthetic existence and the ontologisation of poverty
The practise of doing nothing
Miguel Abensour as reader of Spinoza
Spinoza, Marx, Moses Hess
Agamben and Nancy as readers of Spinoza
Feminist readings of Spinoza
Deleuze on Spinoza's theory of affects
From the ontological to the affective
Spinoza with Deleuze
The underground current of the philosophy of immanence
Ontology of multiplicity or materialist dialectic?
Althusser's concept of immanent causality - Seminar
Marx with Spinoza
Being out of class (Deleuze)
What is an inoperativity that consists in contemplating one's own potentiality to act?
The messianic class
Sharing the inappropriable
The retreating class
The political capacity of the proletariat
The subtractive class II
The political capacity of the proletariat
The subtractive class
Disrupting the logic of division
The supplementary class
The antinomies of proletarian politics
The paradoxical class
Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe on political difference
Retreating the political
Lars T. Lih as Reader of Lenin
What Is to be Done? and Bolshevism
The concept of capitalism in "Anti-Oedipus"
Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan
An impossible encounter I
An impossible encounter: Deleuze, Guattari and Lacan
Micropolitics in "A thousand plateaus"
Molecular Politics I
On affectivity and potentiality
Spinoza with Deleuze
Nietzsche with Deleuze
The negative in the positive
The notion of becoming in Deleuze and Guattari
On Esposito's concept of bio/politics
Rancière's farewell to Althusserian Marxism
La leçon d'Althusser
Debating Althusser's philosophy of the encounter
What is aleatory materialism?
Negri on materialism
Kairos, Alma Venus, Multitudo
Tronti and Cacciari's concept of the political
The autonomy of the political
"From Capital-Labor to Capital-Life" by M. Lazzarato
Nancy on the singularity of death
Agamben and Deleuze on pure immanence
Workshop: becoming-major, becoming-minor
Foucault with Deleuze
The force of the outside II
Superimposing diagrams: discipline and governmentality
The force of the outside
Reading Jacques Rancière's "Dis-agreement"
Reading Balibar's "The Vacillation of Ideology in Marxism"
The non-totalizable complexity of the historical process
Reading Jacques Derrida's "Specters of Marx"
Deconstructing Value Theory
Reading Moishe Postone's "Time, Labor and Social Domination"
Value and Capitalist Capacities
Debating "The mirror of production" by Jean Baudrillard
Marx with Bataille
The coming communities of commons
Feminist comments on the relation between politics and labor
The arcane of reproduction
Virno on Marx's "Fragments on machines"
Notes on the general intellect
Virno on the concept of bio-politics in Postoperaism
What is living and what is dead in Marx's philosophy? II
Jason Read on abstract and living labor
What is living and what is dead in Marx's philosophy?
Reading Negri's "Twenty Theses on Marx"
The autonomy of living labor
Class composition in Italian autonomist Marxism
The emergence of the socialised worker II
Class composition in Italian autonomist Marxism
The emergence of the socialised worker
On Badiou's concept of truth procedure
Assigning a measure to the excessive power of the state
Reading Jacques Ranciere's "Ten theses on politics"
The supplementary part that disconnects the people from itself
Deleuze and Guattari on the concept of minoritarian struggle
On class composition and radical negativity
Domestic work and class struggle within the class II
On class composition and radical negativity
Domestic work and class struggle within the class
From class to minority
The relationship of Marxism and Post-Structuralism III
On the concept of the concrete universal
The relationship of Marxism and Post-Structuralism II
On Marx and Foucault
The relationship of Marxism and Post-Structuralism
Dictatorship of the proletariat and council movement
The Soviet experience II
Rosa Luxemburg on the Russian Revolution
The Soviet experience
Negri on Lenin
Democracy beyond law II
Lenin's concept of the dictatorship of protetariat
Democracy beyond law
Benjamin's concept of mysthic and divine violence
To bring about the real state of exception II
Agamben's reading of Benjamin
To bring about the real state of exception
Agamben's sovereign theoretical turn in thinking potentiality
Potentiality of impotentiality II
Agamben's theory of autonomous potentiality
Potentiality of impotentiality
In a dense, hermetic and allusive way, Deleuze's text "Immanence: a life ..." poses the question of immanence, conceived as immanent not to a subject or an object but to itself. This text is an enigmatic short version of what Deleuze and Guattari noted about the problem of immanence in the chapter "The plane of immanence" in "What is philosophy?". It presents the last reformulation of a series of reformulations of the concept of immanence by Deleuze that he understood as one of the most dangerous and urgent questions in philosophy that never stopped haunting his thinking.
What does the question of immanence mean for Deleuze and Guattari? And what does it mean to understand absolute immanence as an impersonal life? In his commentary of Deleuze's text, Agamben solely deals with the second question by problematizing the idea of immanence at the very point where it is presented as a life. Thereby, Agamben leaves the ontological terrain of absolute immanence Deleuze and Guattari aim at constructing and passes to the terrain of the relation of impotentiality and sovereignty by consulting language in the words of which, Agamben assumes with Heidegger, a forgotten insight is enclosed. In this sense, Aristotle's determination of the nutritive faculty as the principle through which all living things have life (cf. "De anima") is used by Agamben to analyze the relation of sovereignty and bare life which he started to examine at the time the text "Absolute immanence" was published:
"Yet one may legitimately ask if this concept [resistance as a force of life] truly suffices to master the ambivalence of today's biopolitical conflict in which the freedom and happiness of beings is played out on the very terrain – bare life – that marks their subjection to power". (p. 232)
Agamben problematizes that immanence thought as a life shares with power the same matter and the same plane of intervention: "But what, then, separates this pure vegetative life [of institutional biopolitics] from the 'spark of life' in Riderhood and the 'impersonal life' of which Deleuze speaks?" (p. 232)
In a striking way, his critique misses Deleuze's conceptual decisions. Though Agamben restricts the validity of Aristotle's determination of nutritive capacity as the founding principle of life for a critique of Deleuze in two ways – firstly, in Aristotle nutritive life functions "as the principle allowing for the attribution of life to a subject", while in Deleuze, conversely, a life, "as the figure of absolute immanence, is precisely what can never be attributed to a subject"(p. 232), and secondly, Aristotle introduces the principle of nutritive faculty in the course of a series of divisions distributing life in vegetative life/ relational life, animal on the inside/ animal on the outside, zoe/ bios, etc., while in Deleuze a life "marks the radical impossibility of establishing hierarchies and separations" (p. 233) – he sticks to the strategy of questioning immanence through the problematic of biopolitical sovereignty that he grounds in Aristotle's principle of life. He does so without giving this argument any further specification in relation to Deleuze's thinking.
At the end of his text "Absolute immanence", Agamben summarizes the probem of Deleuze's concept of the plane of immanence as problem of virtual indetermination (p. 233) that would already be present in Spinoza's idea of the conatus. For a second time, he analogizes nutritive life with immanence conceived as a life and defined by the Spinozian concept of conatus (the desire to persevere in one's own being) (cf. p. 235). His sole argument for this analogy is that both, nutritive capacity and desire, are characterized by self-preservation (cf. p. 236). Hence, he overwrites Deleuze's problematic with the problematic he himself is dealing with: the constitution of sovereign being through the suspension of its own impotentiality, and the indistinction that is established between bare and political life after having separated them.
Agamben does ignore a series of decisive conceptual elements of the idea of the plane of immanence in Deleuze and Guattari, especially the relation of virtual indetermination and singular determination, the infinite movement of the two potentialities constituting the plane of immanence (potentiality of thinking, potentiality of being), and the transformations of the planes of immanence in the discontinous time of becoming which leads to the difficult question of micropolitics and of how the actual can effect the virtual.
Due to his references to Heidegger and especially to Nancy, Agamben comes from a tradition to think being in a transcendent perspective as ecstatic being exposed to the unthinkable and unsharable event of singular death that brings sharing in to play. In his critique of Deleuze's idea of immanence, he misses the theoretical demands as a consequence of which Deleuze invented the concept of an immanence that is only immanent to itself:
Deleuze, partly together with Guattari, aims at constructing an ontology with which it is able to articulate infinity, transformation and multiplicity beyond transcendence, representation, subject-object relationality, mediation, and the work of the negative.
Deleuze departs from Spinoza's concept of the substance as the One-All, an immanent cause, that is expressed by infinite attributes (we only know two, thought and extension), which again are themselves modified by the modes that are to be understood as affections of the substance: "A substance is conceived through itself"; "Attributes are what the intellect perceives of a substance as constituting its essence." (Spinoza, Ethics 1D4)
At stake is not a One above or beyond difference and multiplicity but a One-All that "takes what is expressed as involved, implicit, wound up, in its expression ... or explicates, unwinds expression so as to restore what is expressed" (Deleuze, Spinoza, p. 333).
In the course of the intense rereading of Spinoza in Germany in the 1790s initiated by Jacobis's "Über die Lehre des Spinoza, dargestellt in Briefen an Herrn Moses Mendelssohn" (1785) – Hegel adopts the idea of a genetic self-differentiation of the substance while at the same time he criticizes Spinoza of having conceptualized a substance that is non-dynamic, lifeless and abstract. What he rejects, is the idea of an infinite inner positive differentiation of an immanent cause, the effects of which never leave the cause, but modify its intellectual and material being. Instead Hegel thinks an explication of the logicity of being through negation, determination, self-reflexivity. To be is to be something for Hegel. The dynamic genesis, he conceives, is moved by the negativity of difference, realizing the telos of the explication of the absolute.
For Deleuze, this idea of a genesis moved by the work of the negative destroys the thinking of difference by reducing it to contradiction. The teleological explication of the logicity of being destroys the thinking of event and evental transformation in time. The centrality of consciousness destroys the possibility to think consciousness without self, not-attributable to a subject. In opposition to Hegel's logicitiy of being, the plane of immanence is defined by Deleuze and Guattari as "the non-thought within thought" (DG, What is philosophy?, p. 59). Immanence is what cannot be thought, but has to be thought, a "vertigo" (p. 48), constituted by the simultaneity of the outside and inside of thought, of the "not-external outside" with the "not-internal inside of thought". For Deleuze and Guattari, on the plane of immanence the empirical, the object, the subject remain indeterminate while the singular occurs fully determinate. This indetermination of the person and the simultaenous determination of the singular is expressed in "Immanence: a life ..." by Dickens' figure of Riderhood who, dying, oscillating between life and death, opens himself to impersonal singularisations of a life: a gesture, a smile, a grimace.
Simultaneously, in Deleuze's and Guattari's concept of immanence, we find the cernel of an attempt to think a materialist theory of radical transformation beyond subject-object-relations and the primacy of contradiction and negativity. Deleuze and Guattari point out, that the infinite differentiation happening on the plane of immanence is not continous. The infinite movement of potentiality is selective. It allows for a passage, it constitutes transformation. When Deleuze and Guattari explain that the plane of immanence as a fold of the potentiality of being and the potentiality of thought is transformative, they pose the very question of how change, how the passage from one plane of immanence to another is to be thought. That is to say, immanence is a plane of infinite specification that transforms in time. In his letter to Foucault Deleuze explains this specification of the virtual:
"I would say for my own part: a society, a social field does not contradict itself, but what is primary is that it flees, it flees first from all sides, the lines of flight are primary (even if 'primary' isn't chronological). Far from being outside of the social field or leaving it, the lines of flight constitute its rhizome or cartography. The lines of flight are more or less the same thing as the movements of deterritorialisation: they imply no return to nature, they are the points of deterritorialisation in the desiring-assemblages. What is primary in feudalism are the lines of flight that it presupposes; as also for the 10th-12th centuries; as also for the formation of capitalism. Lines of flight are not necessarily 'revolutionary', but they are what the systems of power will plug and bind. Around the 11th century, all the lines of deterritorialisation which accelerate: the last invasions, the pillaging hordes, the deterritorialisation of the Church, the peasant emigrations, the transformation of knighthood, the transformation of the cities which abandon territorial models more and more, the transformation of currency which injects itself into new circuits, the change in the condition of women with the themes of courtly love which even deterritorialises knightly love, etc. The strategy could only be second in relation to lines of flight, to their conjugations, orientations, convergences or divergences." (Deleuze, Desire and pleasure, p. 127)
At this point two difficult problematics for a materialist theory of radical transformation occur:
Firstly, how to think the effect, strategies of dissidence can have on the conjugation of the lines of flight, i.e. the virtual, and thereby on the plane of immanence? In the "Micropolitics"-chapter in "A thousand plateaus" Deleuze and Guattari negotiate this question stating that the political occurs inbetween the virtual and the molar, in the micro-texture of social relations, in which both, power and dissidence embed and anchor their procedures.
Secondly, the question occurs, what does the one strong axiomatic (the presupposition of the primacy of an impersonal, positive and creative desire) on which Deleuze's and Guattari's concept of immanence is founded make impossible to think? We can see how the impossibility to think archi-passivity, inoperative negativity, and impotentiality disturbs the conceptual development of immanence in "What is philosophy?" itself.
In the chapter "The plane of immanence" Deleuze and Guattari claim that the plane of immanence is twofold, a fold of thought and being, of the image of thought and the matter of being. In this sense, it is built by the coexistence of two potentialities, the potentiality of being and potentiality of thought (cf. p. 57). That is to say, being and thought are the two sides of the same, thought is fully expressed by being (cf. p. 46).
At this point, for a brief moment, it becomes obvious, to which extent Deleuze and Guattari oscillate between a Blanchotian idea of outside and the primacy of impotentiality and the Spinozian idea of the knowledge of the third kind wich allows to a life a maximum intensity of potentiality to the extent it has an adequate idea of its own singular essence which is its own degree of potential.
This idea of maximizing the intensive quality of a life overwrites the idea of impotentiality Deleuze finds in Blanchot. When he and Guattari describe three characteristics of the plane of immanence as image of thought, they mention:
- Thinking is not related to truth.
-Thought is a potentiality to think that does not define a thinker but desubjectifies. That is to say, with Blanchot and Levinas, Deleuze and Guattari state that thinking is to be conceived as the potentiality not to think.
- And, simultaneously, they claim that thinking is conceived as the becoming of active creation.
The Blanchotian ontology of impotentiality is overwritten by an Spinozian ontology of creation.
For a further discussion of Deleuze's idea of affection and the three kinds of knowledge in Spinoza see his courses on Spinoza's theory of affects at Vincennes at the end of the 1970s.