post-structuralism + politics


post-structuralism + politics
  ---- by Alberto Toscano
  The post-structuralist, or even anti-structuralist, character of Deleuze's writings following his encounter with Guattari can be said to rest on four elements: a theory of subjectivation, a critique of the notion of ideology, an ontology of control and an analysis of capitalism. Deleuze's poststructuralism is best gauged, not only by his attack on structuralism in the 70s, but by considering his earlier appropriation of structuralist themes, especially his formulation of the fundamental criteria for structuralism in the essay 'How Do We Recognize Structuralism?'. This text stands out for its attention to how structuralism articulates the empty place at the heart of the symbolic, the accidents of structure (or spatio-temporal dynamisms) and an instance of subjectivity. It indicates what is perhaps the key political problem for Deleuze, the problem of novelty (or becoming). By portraying the structuralist subject (or hero) as comprising impersonal individuations and pre-individual singularities, affected by events immanent to the structure, Deleuze, in 1967, formulated one of the few consistent definitions of post-structuralism - otherwise a vague and faddish designation.
  By emphasising the importance of praxis in the mutation of structures, Deleuze lay the ground for a conception of politics that would leave structuralism behind. Treating the unconscious, with Guattari, as a factory driven by flows of desire, rather than as a theatre of representation, Deleuze broke with the whole thematic of ideology (and its critique) which defined the Freudo-Marxism of the 60s (and thus continued his earlier empiricist concern with institutions and jurisprudence). The emphasis on a sub-representational, libidinal dimension to social and psychic (re) production heralded a move from a focus on structures to what might be called a constructivist or ethological approach, aimed at discerning the modalities of synthesis at work in the collective production of subjectivity. Accompanying this shift was one from an earlier concern with problems of organisation and genesis (see the discussion of the idea of revolution in Difference and Repetition), to a focus on evental forms of individuation (haecceities) populating a plane of immanence that cannot be captured by any structure of places and differences.
  By shifting the focus of an analysis of capitalism from labour and exploitation to codification and desire, whilst retaining many elements of the Marxian problematic, Deleuze and Guattari aimed to evade a dialectical correlation of political subjectivity and systemic change, preferring an inventory of the types of operations (or syntheses) whereby desiring subjectivity is produced, along with an outline of how capitalism and its states are able to axiomatise and capture subjectivity, in order to bend it to the imperatives of surplus-value. It is the material effects of the axiomatic on subjects, and not their placement in a structure through ideological interpellation, which are at stake. It is not only from the side of command that the systemic correlation (whether structural or dialectical) between power (or domination) and subjectivation is undermined.
  In their formulations of the concept of minority and of the war machine, Deleuze and Guattari also delineate the constructive autonomy or externality of certain forms of subjectivation to the mechanisms of control and exploitation. Rather than identifying the subject with an instance that accompanies the structure and appropriates it 'heroically', the minoritarian subject (or the subject of the war machine) is defined by a line of flight, which signals both its capacity for independent ontological creativity and the manner in which it affects the society that perpetually seeks to capture or identify it. This attack on symbolic and dialectical understandings of politics is both a matter of principle and of conjuncture.
  On the one hand, Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy is determined by an anti-dialectical impetus to think the independence of becoming, and the possibility of an ethics outside any framework of legitimation or regulation. Consider their separation of becoming and history, such that becoming-revolutionary is a trans-temporal event that can detach itself from the fate of an actual revolution. In conjunctural terms, Deleuze's definition of the society of control, following Burroughs and Foucault, argues that we are no longer in a situation where, even at the formal level, we could speak of a correlation or transitivity between the system and its individual subjects. As mechanisms of discipline come to be superseded by technologies of control, politics is more and more a matter of 'dividuality', where the impersonal and the preindividual become the very material of control, but also of minoritarian subjectivation and the construction of effective alternatives. Whence Deleuze's preference for notions of combat or guerrilla over the martial ideas of antagonism or (class) struggle: for Deleuze, the combat between and within individuals, as becoming, is the precondition of the combat against or resistance. This is what differentiates combat from war, which takes the confrontation of subjects as primary.

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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