On the notion of the political in postmarxist theory.
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
At the forthcoming March and April seminar group meetings, we will read the onto-political notion of becoming Deleuze and Guattari have developed in A thousand plateaus with Deleuze's reflections on Spinoza's concept of affect and Nietzsche's concept of force. We discuss two rather technical texts in which Deleuze has focussed on conceptual definitions: the transcript of Deleuze's seminar on Spinoza, held in January 1978, in which the concepts of affect, affection and the three kinds of knowledge are explained, and the second chapter of Deleuze's 1962 study on Nietzsche and philosophy in which the concepts of force, will to power and eternal return are reconsidered.
Deleuze's reconsideration of Nietzsche's conceptual inventions was ringed in by his 1962 publication of Nietzsche and philosophy. Two years later, in 1964, Deleuze organised a Nietzsche colloquium in Royaumont during which the Italian project of a complete edition of Nietzsche's writings issued by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari had been presented to the publisher house Gallimard. In 1965 the first volumes of the French translation edited by Deleuze and Foucault had been published. Together they introduced to the Gay Science and the posthumous fragments from the years 1881 and 1882, ending with the famous demand of a "return to Nietzsche". During the time writing Nietzsche and philosophy, the Colli and Montinari Nietzsche edition wasn't available yet why Deleuze used the 1940 compilation Transvaluation of all values posthumously published by Friedrich Würzbach, the founder of the Munich Nietzsche-Gesellschaft known for a nationalist and biologist reading of Nietzsche who reedited the 1901 compilation The will to power issued by Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the Nietzsche Archive and Heinrich Köselitz giving several passages of Nietzsche's unpublished textual fragments a further national-socialist turn (cf. Günzel, Mittmann 103).
In 1972 Deleuze presented the paper Nomadic thought at the Nietzsche colloquium Nietzsche aujourd'hui in Cerisy-la-salle. While the 1964 colloqium was characterised by the tension of multiple positions in the framework of a German-French-Italien encounter – Jacob Taubes and Karl Löwith were present, Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, the Jaspers and Heidegger influenced French philosophers Jean Wahl and Jean Beaufret –, the 1972 colloquium at Cerisy-la-Salle was dominated either by hyperpolitical readings of Nietzsche like Deleuze's lecture Nomadic thought and Lytoard's Remarks on return and capital or strongly deconstructive lectures like Derrida's Eperons. Les styles de Nietzsche, and Bernard Pautrat's opening talk Nietzsche medusé.
As introduction to our discussion, I would like to comment on the difference that Deleuze makes between Spinoza's and Nietzsche's idea of being as becoming and on the position that negativity takes in Nietzsche's thought of affirmation.
While Spinoza understands being as an infinite dynamism of ideas, affects and affections on a subindividual, individual and collective plane, Nietzsche understands being as infinite dynamism of forces in which an internal differential element is operative: the will to power. This differential element of the will determines the relations of forces by selecting their becomings. Hence, from Spinoza to Nietzsche, we are able to detect a forcing of the dynamic definition of being as continuous becoming. This forcing changes the way how the synthesis of the continuous variations of affects or forces is thought. Spinoza thinks the synthesis of infinite relations of bodies through knowledge paralleled by affect, Nietzsche through will.
For Spinoza, the knowledge of the second and the third kind, notion-ideas and essence-ideas, allow not only to understand the effect one body (mode) has on another body, but they allow to understand the causes that have led to a certain state of relationality between bodies. To put it very short: Spinoza assumes that understanding in how far bodily forces agree or disagree, in how far they combine or decompose, is linked to a change in affects: A good encounter of bodily forces, in which they mutually combine and increase, causes joy. A bad encounter causes sadness. Here we see that already in Spinoza an internal motor is effective within the composition of the modes: knowledge combined with joy.
At this point, Deleuze and Balibar deviate in their interpretation of Spinoza: Deleuze stresses the internal effectivity of affects, Balibar that of intellect: In sadness, Deleuze says in his January 1978 seminar on Spinoza, you cannot build an adequate knowledge of the bodily mixtures you are composed of, because you are affected by bodies you have nothing in common with and disagree with. Conversely, joy, Deleuze puts it boldy, makes you intelligent. A small joy, related to a good encounter of bodies, releases a trigger. It propels you beyond the continuous variations of ideas and affects. It makes you acquire the potentiality to build a common notion. Implicitely, Deleuze thereby states, affect (as a sort of non-representational thought) is the internal selective element that allows for intervening in the contingent relations of modes, that allows for the production of a good relation, a good encounter of modes, paralleled by an adequate idea of its causes. An ethics of joy and of self-perfection of being is elaborated from here onwards.
Balibar, instead, sees an astonishing ambivalence at work in Spinoza’s thought that makes him oscillate between an ethics of joy and an ascetisim of spiritual exercise. The possibility to "free oneself from the passions" as announed in the fifth part of the Ethics, Balibar writes, "that is, to combat sad passions not only by reinforcing joyous passions but by developing active affects, which would immediately result from an adequate knowledge of causes", would lead to a primacy of knowledge. Thus, a strong tension occurs: On one hand Balibar detects in Spinoza the idea of a continuous concatenation of natural causes and the related idea of a continuous variation of ideas a mind is capable of and of potentia agendi a body is capable of. On the other hand Balibar detects in Spinoza the idea that a small group of thinking men might be able to leave this continous variation. By uniting in "the intellectual love of God" and in reason they are able to break the rule that, in general, people are not guided by reason. With this idea, Balibar argues, the model of a monastic community is brought into play that withdraws from society’s influence and the continous concatanation of natural causes by means of asceticism, intellectual self-mastery and spiritual exercise.
In the eleventh passage of the chapter in Nietzsche and philosophy that we are going to discuss today Deleuze deals with the Spinozist impact on Nietzsche, especially the idea of the will to power conceived as potentiality to be affected, as sensibility for related forces to be approachable. Deleuze attempts at showing how this Spinozist impact is effective in Nietzsche though Nietzsche does categorically reject Spinoza's notion of will: according to Spinoza, voluntas is conatus (i.e. the drive of a body to persevere in its being) in its relation to intellect. For Nietzsche, however, will does not will each body to persevere in its being, but to overcome itself. Due to the will to power being is self-overcoming of being. Nevertheless, Deleuze points out, Nietzsche takes from Spinoza the idea of affect as non-representational thought in order to develop his notion of will to power:
"This is why Nietzsche always says that the will to power is the 'primitive affective form' from which all other feelings derive (VP II 42). Or better still: 'The will to power is not a being not a becoming but a pathos' (VP II 311). That is to say, the will to power manifests itself as the sensibility of force, the differential element of forces manifests itself as their differential sensibility: 'In order for the will to power to be able to manifest itself, it needs to perceive the things it sees, and feel the approach of what is assimilable to it.' (VP II 89)". (NP 62-63)
Hence, Deleuze assumes that the will to power is a radicalisation of Spinoza's idea that each thing, each body is determind by its potentiality to be affected. The more ways a body can be affected, the more potentiality it has according to Spinoza.
Let's turn to the problematic of negativity as effect of positivity. While Spinoza elaborates an ethics of an affirmative self-perfection of being through the second and third kind of knowledge that is propeled by joy, Nietzsche thinks the self-overcoming of being through a negative passage: the completion of nihilism. The effectivity of the will to power operative even in the reactive forces will lead to a self-negation of these forces and a final affirmation and return of the active ones in the highest hour of noon, the eternal instant of the overman.
Two points are of interest here: (a) the polyvalent multiplicity of the becomings-reactive and (b) the self-negation and active self-destruction of the reactive forces.
Nietzsche detects all and everywhere a predominance of becoming-reactive due to the predominance of nihilism. As Nietzsche understands the will to power as transimmanent to force, even to reactive force, the will is determined by the relations of forces while simultaneously transcending them guiding the directions of their becomings that are always multiple and polyvalent. Here Nietzsche proves to be a genealogical physician and artist interpreting and evaluating the differential dynamics of becomings and their potential inversions always in detail, always concrete:
"Every time Nietzsche speaks of Socrates, Christ, Judaism, Christianity or any form of decadence or degeneration he discovers this same ambivalence of things, beings and forces. Is it, however, exactly the same force that both separates me from what I can do and endows me with a new power? Is it the same illness, is the same invalid who is the slave of his illness and who uses it as a means of exploring, dominating and being powerful? [..] In fact the reactive forces are not the same and they change nuance depending on the extent to which they develop their affinity for the will to nothingness. One reactive force both obeys and resists, another separates active force from what it can do; a third contaminates active force, carries it along to the limit of becoming-reactive, into the will to nothingness; a fourth type of reactive force was originally active but became reactive and separated from its power, it was then dragged into the abyss and turned against itself – these are the different nuance, affects and types that the genealogist must interpret [..]." (NP 66-67)
Ultimately, the only way how reactive forces can become active is through their own active self-destruction. For Deleuze, this idea of self-destruction through nihilist self-completion is still in accord with Nietzsche's general anti-Hegelianism, the bottomline of which Deleuze sums up in the axiom that difference is the genetic and productive principle of being and thought. Dialectics would omit this first axiom of an ontology of becoming, it would omit the primary and positive differential mechanisms that constitute contradictoriness as a possible but secondary expression of the relations of forces. Due to this first theoretical premise – difference as positive both differential and differentiating constitutive principle – Nietzsche is obsessed with the concrete and careful genealogical examination of all topological displacements and variations of the becomings of forces that are produced by the will to power (cf. NP 70-71).
The second problematic, I would like to indicate, is in how far Nietzsche's thought of the negative within the positive is marked by splits and strong tensions: on one hand the idea of a selective becoming, or, as Karl Löwith has put it (with Heidegger), of the resoluteness and decisiveness of being that overcomes itself producing the overman, on the other hand being as something that gives itself corresponding exclusively to the pure Lauterkeit, the pure innocence of the child that loves the chance of existence, that loves the contingent this-and-then-that of existence, that affirms contingency as destiny. Löwith says that, in this sense, the eternal return and its internal principle of the will to power has a double face: on one hand a militant ethics of the decisiveness of the will to power, on the other hand a cosmology of the natural circling of being, a coming and perishing, a world being both, with itself and without target, a non-willed so-and-not-other of being as physical world.
In his lately translated book Bios, Roberto Esposito pinpoints a different deep ambivalence in Nietzsche's concept of the will to power which coins his entire politics of life and is rooted in the idea of life as self-transgression. Identifying life with its own overcoming means that it is no longer in itself, it is always projected beyond itself. Its full realisation coincides with a process of extroversion or exteriorization that is destined to carry it in contact with its own not. The presupposition that is at work here, Esposito points out, is that life is superabundance and profusion, an infinite excess, a transindividual explosion of vital energies. In contrast to this presupposition, Nietzsche himself is dealing with a vocabulary of regulation and protection of life. He is obsessed with the themes of purity and integraty of the non-degenerated parts of the population. His race of masters is in need of protection of the contaminated and slavish parts of population. For Esposito this vocabulary of protection that stands in opposition to the thesis of the abundance of life leads to a proto-fascist marking of a non-life in life, which has to be eliminated in order to foster the excess of the life. Death, Esposito says, is made to the mechanism for life's excess. The elimination of parasitic and degenerative species, as Nietzsche puts it in Ecce homo, and Deleuze affirms it as expression of being as selection (cf. NP 71), is the most extreme self-contradictory element in Nietzsche's program of a "new party of life" (EH).
Blanchot, in L'entretien infini, to which Deleuze refers in Nietzsche and philosophy, puts the splits and contradictions in Nietzsche's thought as symptom of a thought that is forcing itself, that is ascribing its own principle to itself: provisionality and perspectivism of thought, multiplicity and self-overcoming of thought.
Deleuze, instead, ascribes to Nietzsche a certain stable conceptual rigor, a precision in inventing new concepts, especially concerning force, will to power, eternal return that Deleuze reconsiders in the second chapter of Nietzsche and philosophy. Let's see by reading the chapter what can be done with this thesis of Nietzsche's conceptual rigor.
NP: Gilles Deleuze (1962): Nietzsche and Philosophy, New York: Columbia University Press, 2006, Chapter II, Active and Reactive, pp. 39-72
EH: Friedrich Nietzsche: Ecce Homo (1888), trans. W. Kaufmann, Random House
VP: Friedrich Nietzsche: La Volonté de Puissance, trans. G. Bianquis (from the edition of F. Wiirzbach), NRF, 1935 and 1937
Etienne Balibar: "Spinoza, the Anti-Orwell: The Fear of the Masses", in Masses, Classes, Ideas, London and New York: Routledge, 1993, 3-38
Maurice Blanchot: "Reflections on Nihilism", in The infinite conversation, University of Minnesota Press, 1993, 136-171
Roberto Esposito: "Biopower and Biopotentiality" in: Bios, University of Minnesota Press, 2008, pp. 78-109
Stephan Günzel: "Wille zur Differenz. Gilles Deleuzes Nietzsche-Lektüre"
Karl Löwith: Nietzsches Philosophie der ewigen Wiederkehr des Gleichen, Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1986
Thomas Mittmann: Vom 'Günstling' zum 'Urfeind' der Juden. Die antisemitische Nietzsche-Rezeption in Deutschland bis zum Ende des Nationalsozialismus, Würzburg: Königsmann & Neuhausen, 2006
Benedict de Spinoza: Ethics. Treatise on the correction of the intellect, London: Everyman, 1993
For Nietzsche's texts see