On the notion of the political in postmarxist theory.

Seminars

04.12.2014
Speculative materialism in queer-feminist perspective
Emerging life and syntheses of matter and time

14.06.2013
Aesthetic existence and the ontologisation of poverty
Whatever life

20.04.2013
The practise of doing nothing 

Unemployed positivity

04.11.2012
Miguel Abensour as reader of Spinoza
Spinoza, Marx, Moses Hess

05.10.2012
Agamben and Nancy as readers of Spinoza
Leaving Immanence?

06.06.2012
Feminist readings of Spinoza
Becoming woman?

03.05.2012
Deleuze on Spinoza's theory of affects 

From the ontological to the affective

04.04.2012
Spinoza with Deleuze
The underground current of the philosophy of immanence

07.03.2012
Macherey's Spinoza
Ontology of multiplicity or materialist dialectic?

08.02.2012
Althusser's concept of immanent causality 
- Seminar
Marx with Spinoza

08.12.2011
Exhausting politics 

Being out of class (Deleuze)

01.11.2011
What is an inoperativity that consists in contemplating one's own potentiality to act?
The messianic class

29.06.2011
Sharing the inappropriable
The retreating class

26.05.2011
The political capacity of the proletariat
The subtractive class II

07.04.2011
The political capacity of the proletariat
The subtractive class

03.03.2011
Disrupting the logic of division
The supplementary class

04.02.2011
The antinomies of proletarian politics
The paradoxical class

02.12.2010
Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe on political difference
Retreating the political

08.11.2010
Lars T. Lih as Reader of Lenin
What Is to be Done? and Bolshevism

03.10.2010
The concept of capitalism in "Anti-Oedipus"
Capitalism deterritorialized

30.06.2010
Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan
An impossible encounter I

28.05.2010
An impossible encounter: Deleuze, Guattari and Lacan
Preparatory Meeting

27.05.2010
Micropolitics in "A thousand plateaus"
Molecular Politics I

07.04.2010
On affectivity and potentiality
Spinoza with Deleuze

04.03.2010
Nietzsche with Deleuze
The negative in the positive

04.02.2010
The notion of becoming in Deleuze and Guattari
Becoming

04.11.2009
On Esposito's concept of bio/politics
Biopotentiality

08.10.2009
Reading Althusser

07.10.2009
Rancière's farewell to Althusserian Marxism
La leçon d'Althusser

06.10.2009
Debating Althusser's philosophy of the encounter
What is aleatory materialism?

03.09.2009
Negri on materialism
Kairos, Alma Venus, Multitudo

02.09.2009
Tronti and Cacciari's concept of the political
The autonomy of the political

17.06.2009
"From Capital-Labor to Capital-Life" by M. Lazzarato
Invention

20.05.2009
Reading Simondon
Individuation

09.04.2009
Nancy on the singularity of death
Excess

11.03.2009
Agamben and Deleuze on pure immanence
Immanence

11.03.2009
Encountering Althusser
Preparatory meeting

11.03.2009
Workshop: becoming-major, becoming-minor
Preparatory meeting

07.02.2009
Foucault with Deleuze
The force of the outside II

06.02.2009
Superimposing diagrams: discipline and governmentality
The force of the outside

06.02.2009
Encountering Althusser
Preparatory Meeting

05.12.2008
Reading Jacques Rancière's "Dis-agreement"
Marx's Metapolitics

04.11.2008
Reading Balibar's "The Vacillation of Ideology in Marxism"
The non-totalizable complexity of the historical process

05.10.2008
Reading Jacques Derrida's "Specters of Marx"
Deconstructing Value Theory

11.09.2008
Reading Moishe Postone's "Time, Labor and Social Domination"
Value and Capitalist Capacities

01.07.2008
Debating "The mirror of production" by Jean Baudrillard
Marx with Bataille

06.06.2008
The coming communities of commons

05.06.2008
Feminist comments on the relation between politics and labor
The arcane of reproduction

09.05.2008
Rancière on the inactuality of communism and the intelligence of the unqualified

07.05.2008
Virno on Marx's "Fragments on machines"
Notes on the general intellect

04.04.2008
Virno on the concept of bio-politics in Postoperaism
What is living and what is dead in Marx's philosophy? II

03.04.2008
Jason Read on abstract and living labor
What is living and what is dead in Marx's philosophy?

07.03.2008
Reading Negri's "Twenty Theses on Marx"
The autonomy of living labor

08.02.2008
Class composition in Italian autonomist Marxism
The emergence of the socialised worker II

07.02.2008
Class composition in Italian autonomist Marxism
The emergence of the socialised worker

07.12.2007
On Badiou's concept of truth procedure
Assigning a measure to the excessive power of the state

09.11.2007
Reading Jacques Ranciere's "Ten theses on politics"
The supplementary part that disconnects the people from itself

04.10.2007
Deleuze and Guattari on the concept of minoritarian struggle
Micropolitics

07.09.2007
On class composition and radical negativity
Domestic work and class struggle within the class II

06.09.2007
On class composition and radical negativity
Domestic work and class struggle within the class

02.07.2007
From class to minority
The relationship of Marxism and Post-Structuralism III

01.07.2007
On the concept of the concrete universal
The relationship of Marxism and Post-Structuralism II

30.06.2007
On Marx and Foucault
The relationship of Marxism and Post-Structuralism

30.05.2007
Dictatorship of the proletariat and council movement
The Soviet experience II

29.05.2007
Rosa Luxemburg on the Russian Revolution
The Soviet experience

06.04.2007
Negri on Lenin
Democracy beyond law II

05.04.2007
Lenin's concept of the dictatorship of protetariat
Democracy beyond law

09.03.2007
Benjamin's concept of mysthic and divine violence
To bring about the real state of exception II

08.03.2007
Agamben's reading of Benjamin
To bring about the real state of exception

09.02.2007
Agamben's sovereign theoretical turn in thinking potentiality
Potentiality of impotentiality II

08.02.2007
Agamben's theory of autonomous potentiality
Potentiality of impotentiality

Feminist readings of Spinoza
Becoming woman?

Becoming Woman? Feminist interpretations of Spinoza

The iron hand of the throw of dice, be it contingent, be it necessary, caused that we will tackle the problematic of sexual difference two times today in radically divergent ways. In this morning session, we will deal with the question in a feminist perspective following a Deleuzo-Spinozist line of argumentation by asking how sexual difference differs in itself. How to think an interval between sexual positions, in which a differentiation takes place that suspends the model of dual sexuation, even in the complexified version of the non-relation of its terms. We will approach this question in three steps refering to two texts each presenting another theoretical version of this idea of the immanent differentiation of sex.

We will start with Genevieve Lloyd’s reading of Descartes and Spinoza on the body-mind relation in ‘Dominance and Difference’, which has first been published as chapter of her 1994 book Part of Nature, Self-Knowledge in Spinoza’s Ethics. Llyod is an Australian philosopher who works, partly in cooperation with Moira Gatens, on the ethical implications of Spinoza’s thought both in a feminist and philosophy historical dimension. In the chapter we discuss she shows how Spinoza completely reverts the problematic posed by Cartesian dualism. Descartes, Lloyd argues, intoduced a new idea of human dominance. With this new model the Aristotelean superiority of form over matter is absorbed into the idea of the superiority of a mind entirely separated from matter. Descartes thought he could solve the ambivalent position of the intellectual animal human being by reformulating this position in a dualist way: our bodies are part of nature, but our minds transcend nature, so that only the composite moments of intermingling of mind and body in the human being which Descartes discusses in the Sixth Meditation remains problematic. Spinoza intervenes in Descartes position right at the point where the ambivalence returns: with mind and matter intermingled, it is difficult to be clear, what is to count as us and what as the nature we come to know and to master by our knowledge.

To the idealised universalism of an unsexed mind in Descartes, a mind that is rigorously separated from body, a mind that correspondingly transcends nature, that exempts its necesseties, a mind that is supposed to be active when the body is passive and the other way round, Lloyd opposes Spinoza’s model of immanent causality which abandons the dualist matrix characterising the doctrine of the two substances in Descartes. In the 1968 book on Spinoza, Deleuze holds that the Anti-Cartesianism of Leibniz and Spinoza has to be traced back to the idea of expression. According to Spinoza, on one hand, it is the same substance, the same being that non-hierarchically expresses itself in its effects in infinitely different ways (that is to say, in all existing things, among them extended and thinking things), since it is composed of an infinity of attributes, in which one and the same causal order exists. On the other hand all those effects do express the substance in dissimilar modifications due to the fact that they are all singular, each of them expressive in a singular way.

The mind-body-parallelism in Spinoza, on which Lloyd draws at the beginning of the chapter, knows in general two dimensions: At the level of infinite attributes, of which we according to Spinoza only know two, thought and extension, the following proposition applies: ‘The order and connection of ideas is the same than the order and connection of things.’ (E2p7). If one excludes the Hegelian interpretation that there are basically only two attributes standing in an exterior relation to one another mediated by the intellect who cognizes them, one has to understand the infinity of attributes in a positive way. They do not build a system of negative relations, in which the attributes as sort of parts could be compared through their differences. Precisely in order to destroy this interpretation, Macherey holds in Hegel or Spinoza that the proposition E2p7 has to be understood in a peculiar way. One has to read it in the following sense: the order andconnection of ideas is the same than the order and connection of all other things.. Macherey emphasises, that we can read the proposition in this way, because Spinoza understands by things not exclusively extended things, but all things, among them thought-things and extended things.

Llyod discusses Spinoza’s causal parallelism in particular at the level of modal existence. In two famous propositions in the second and third book of the Ethics, Spinoza holds that ‘mind and body are one and the same thing, conceived first under the attribute of thought, secondly, under the attribute of extension’ (see E2p7s and E3p2). Lloyd pinpoints that the theoretical consequence drawn from this proposition is that ‘[t]he body cannot determine the mind to think, neither can the mind determine the body to motion or rest’ (E3p2). If each thing is defined by Spinoza as a differential of activity and passivity, this differential is expressed in body and mind in the same way. It is one single causality that is expressed in different attributes. The more active the body, the more active the mind and the other way round and the same goes for passivity.

By discussing Spinoza’s model of parallel causation in relation to the question of sexual difference, Lloyd tries to solve a deadlock in feminism that she judges to be arrested in a wrong alternative of either essentialist or constructivist concepts of sexual difference. Lloyd rejects both alternatives. She keeps theoretial distance to deconstructive essentialisms of the Irigarayan type, in which female sex is conceived as being essentially not-One, already at the bodily level, with the form of the labia presenting an active-passive auto-eroticism, a touch that deconstructs the One while refusing to separate into two. Lloyd does not only reject feminist essentialisms that give to the materiality of sexual difference a substantialist sense, she equally refuses to approach the problem of sexual difference through the conceptual pair of sex and gender that combines the idea of biological determination with that of social construction. By refering to Spinoza’s model of transindividuality Lloyd proposes to conceive of bodies and minds as metastabile creative instances, that necessarily also differentiate in sexual terms. Her key hypothesis is that sexual difference is to be conceived as not possessing an essence or a content preceding or underlying the production of difference. Hence, the polemical hypothesis put to test in Dominance and Difference, intervening in the alternative of essentialism and constructivism in 1990s feminism, is that of the existence of a female mind the femininity of which is without content and essence, but presents one line of differentiation in ontological and social perspective.

At this point it is key to mention, that the third major element of Spinoza’s thought Lloyd is drawing on–besides the idea of immanent causality and the mind-body-parallelism–is the continuity between the the natural body and the socialized body as presented yesterday by Filippo del Lucchese in his paper on jus sive potentia, on right and law equalling the potentiality to act. Basically, Spinoza holds that there is always already given a transindividual socialisation of all individuals without any civil contract; civil law does thus never fully interrupt natural law, but gives it an organisational form. It cannot entirely suspend natural law and it does nothing but institiutionalise and fixate basic modes of transindividual socialisations by affects and acts that always already exist. This continuity of natural and socialised bodies makes Lloyd drawing the consequence that the power of female individuals are minimised in male dominated societies and maximised in radically democratic and equal societies.

Remarkable in Lloyd is her unidealising strategy to read Spinoza, by which she rather pinpoints the unconventional twists Spinoza gives to conventional themes in philosophy, to the theme of human dominance, to the theme of anthropology and human nature, to the theme of adaequatio and sameness, to the theme of male supremacy, etc, without presenting Spinoza as the anomaly of western philosophy.


The second text we will visit is Moira Gatens’s Through a Spinozist Lens: Ethology, Difference, Power. It starts right at the point, where Geneviève Lloyd stops her considerations. It has been published in Deleuze, A critical reader, but it first version stems like Lloyd’s chapter from the mid-1990s, where the discussion about the conceptual pair sex/ gender was as its peak in theoretical feminism. In particular, it has been triggered by the publication of Butler’s Gender Trouble in 1990 followed by a huge discussion both on the irreducibility of the female body and the idealist voluntarism underlying the idea of a socially constructed and hence entirely mouldable and changeable gender, a debate to which Butler reacted with Bodies that matter published in 1993. Refering to this debate Gatens states right at the begining of her text, that ‘[t]he sex / gender distinction has been at various times both ... a received grammar’ (p. 163, 164) Where Lloyd–against the Cartesian withdrawal from nature to reason–discusses, in how far Spinoza’s mind-body-parallelism can be used for a feminist interpretation of sexual difference that understands differentiation as continuously stretching from bodies, to affects and minds and equally from natural to social organisation, Gatens turns to the inner differentiation of sexual positions themselves deactivating the duality of sexuation that stayed intact in Lloyd. Gatens therefore deals with a problem in Spinoza that we start to know a bit better: the question how one can think together the physics of bodies and the theory of singular essences in Spinoza, or, if you prefer, the relation between the composition of bodies and the dynamisms of passive and active affects. The affects are here understood in form of intensive degrees, in which the potentiality to act which characterises each individual thing is expressed between minimal and maximal thresholds.

Gatens discusses the differentiation of sexual difference by refering to the relation of extensive and intensive quantity in Spinoza following the use Deleuze made of the works of the medieval philosopher Nicolas Oresme. His reading of the 14th century philosopher is inspired by Pierre Duhem’s classical studies on the history of philosophy (see Le système du monde) and also by Pierre Chatelet’s work on Oresme who is best known for his economist, mathematician and phycisist writings (see Chatelet, Figuring space. Philosophy, Mathematics and Physics). Deleuze turns to Oresme, in order to highlight the specificity of the intensive as that, in which the variation of qualities is expressed. Intensities, Deleuze holds, explicate the differential degree of qualities and predicates, the more or less of white, the more or less of warm, the more or less male, the more or less of female, of smart, dumb, drunken, etc. Against the western tradition of converting intensive quantity into extensive quantities and then into quality, Deleuze claims that intensities show up for us as extensities and qualities, while being indeed their real conditions, even if they do not show up for us as intensities themselves. The extent, to which variations in intensity are imperceptible is the problematical threshold of perception, its inner limit, which characterises – as Deleuze argues in Difference and Repetion, the transcendent use made of perception, when one follows what forces perception to the critical point of the imperceptible:

‘For it is not figures already mediated and related to representation that are capable of carrying the faculties to their respective limits but, on the contrary, free or untamed
states of difference in itself; not qualitative opposition within the sensible, but an element which is in itself difference, and creates at once both the quality in the sensible and the transcendent exercise within sensibility. This element is intensity, understood as pure difference in itself, as that which is at once both imperceptible for empirical sensibility which grasps intensity only already covered or mediated by the quality to which it gives rise, and at the same time that which can be perceived only from the point of view of a transcendental sensibility which apprehends it immediately in the encounter.’ (DR p. 144)

Gatens presents a remarkably restricted transposition of this idea onto the question of sexual difference. The problem that is at stake for her is to radicalise the idea of becoming-woman presented in A thousand plateaus. She demands to take the idea of the inner differentiation of sexual difference to its limit, so that it detaches from the terms male and female, also in its minoritarian configurations. To be thought is then the interval of difference itself, the differenciating of difference, which expresses sexuality’s transition to impersonality and inhumanity. In her reading of A thousand plateaus Gatens deconstructs the supposed initial character of becoming-woman as – in the words of Deleuze and Guattari „key to all becomings“, as the first passage each becoming begins with and passes through. Gatens destroys this blatant evolutionism, this latent teleology of becomings formulated by Deleuze and Guattari in A thousand plateaus, in which becomings are periodised until they arrive at the „cosmic formula“ of becoming-imperceptible. To my view, Gatens polemical hypothesis is to subtract figurations from minoritarian thought and giving preference to becoming impersonal, inhuman, imperceptible and its eliminating force: undoing forms and functions. That might be the reason why (in order to think impersonal sexuality) she discusses Tournier’s novel Friday, an adaptation of Defoes Robinson Crusoe, on which Deleuze commented in an article that has later been published as one of the appendices to Logic of sense and was one of the key objects of an early and influential feminist critique of the concept of becoming-woman – Alice Jardine’s 1985 Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and Modernity.

This brings me to the third step I would like to make in today’s session to discuss the short-circuiting of ontology, ethics and politics that regularily comes with Deleuzo-Spinozist interpretations of the movements of becoming. Against the backdrop of a restricted feminist interpretation of A thousand plateaus as presented by Gatens, I want to pose the question wether the becoming-impersonal of sexuality is one and the same mode of practice than feminist politics? In a way, I think, Lloyd and Gatens both negate this question. Lloyd implicitely does this by refering to the politics immanent to Spinozian Ethics without being identical to it. By emphasising Spinoza’s hypothesis of the continuity between the multitude being a part of nature and its self-institution, it is not said that the ethical potentialisations of an individual in its milieu is the same act as the institution of a democratic republic to which Spinoza points in the Theological-political Treatise and the Political Treatise. The position I want to put forth is that the existentialist experiment of differentiating sexuality to the limit of the impersonal is another practice than the experiment of instituting a radically equal society that fights heterosexist supremacy. Gatens distinguishes these practises by highlighting the necessity of doing both macro- and micropolitical feminist politics. Instead of assuming that this formula is already the solution, one seeks for, that it guarantees an easy combination of existentialist and political operations, I propose to understand this combination as a problem, as that what forces to think politics, to step forth to the question how heterogenous dimensions of activities are characterised by divergent immanent dynamisms.

— Moira Gatens: Through a Spinozist Lens. Ethology, Difference, Power, in Deleuze. A critical reader, edited by Paul Patton, Oxford and Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 1996, pp. 162-187

— Geneviève Lloyd: Dominance and Difference (chapter 5) in Part of Nature. Self-Knowledge in Spinoza's Ethics, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 1994, pp. 149-168; republished in Feminist Interpretations of Spinoza, ed. by Moira Gatens, The Pennsylvania State University, 2009,  pp. 29-41



— Gilles Deleuze/ Félix Guattari: A thousand plateaus (Chapter 10: 1730 – Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible ... (Memories of a Spinozist I, II, etc.)), Minneapolis, University of Minneapolis Press, 2005, pp. 253-272


Further references:
 Mary-Beth Mader: The Difference of Intensity: Deleuze and Nicolas Oresme (paper invited by the Society for the Study of Difference, 2008)
—Gilles Deleuze 1990, The Logic of Sense, London: The Athlone Press (appendices: 'Simulacrum and ancient philosopy', pp. 253-279)