- ---- by Cliff StagollDeleuze's conception of force is clearest in his interpretative readings of Friedrich Nietzsche, but implicit throughout his corpus. Much of what he writes on the subject is borrowed directly from Nietzsche, although the way in which he uses the notion to theorise difference and becoming is Deleuze's own.For Nietzsche, the world comprises a chaotic web of natural and biological forces without any particular origin or goal, and which never comes to rest at a terminal or equilibrium state. These forces interact ceaselessly, constituting a dynamic world-in-ﬂux rather than a collection of stable entities. The world is always in the process of becoming something that it is not, so that, for Deleuze, the principal (and eternal) characteristic of the world of forces is difference from whatever has gone before and from that which it will become.Neither Deleuze nor Nietzsche provides a clear definition of 'force'. Deleuze states overtly that he does not mean by it 'aggression' or 'pressure' (although Nietzsche is not so clear). For Deleuze, we can only truly perceive forces by intuiting them; that is, by grasping them without reference to a conceptual understanding of existence. To try and capture in a few words or sentences what is learned through intuition is impossible. Generally, though, 'force' means any capacity to produce a change or 'becoming', whether this capacity and its products are physical, psychological, mystical, artistic, philosophical, conceptual, social, economic, legal or whatever. All of reality is an expression and consequence of interactions between forces, with each interaction revealed as an 'event' (in Deleuze's specific sense of the term). Every event, body or other phenomenon is, then, the net result of a hierarchical pattern of interactions between forces, colliding in some particular and unpredictable way.This enigmatic characterisation of forces is developed in Deleuze's account of their activity. Every force exerts itself upon others. No force can exist apart from its inter-relationships with other forces and, since such associations of struggle are always temporary, forces are always in the process of becoming different or passing out of existence, so that no particular force can be repeated.Deleuze holds that types of forces are defined in both quantitative and qualitative terms, but in special ways. First, the difference in quantity is the quality of the difference in forces. Second, a force is 'active' if it seeks dominance by self-affirmation, asserting itself over and above another, and 'reactive' if it starts its struggle by first denying or negating the other force. Whereas 'quality' usually refers to a particular complex, or body, that results from interactions between forces, Deleuze uses it to refer instead to tendencies at the origin of forces, regardless of the complex that derives from them. On his reading, Nietzsche finds the origin of both quantitative and qualitative characteristics of forces in the Will to Power, and a kind of genealogy should be used to trace qualitative attributes of forces to particular cultures and types of people.Having no substance, forces can act only upon other forces, even though the interactions between them might result in an apparently substantial reality. 'Things' are merely a temporary outcome, and so ought not to be considered as having an independent existence or essence.Contrary to Immanuel Kant, for example, there are on this view no 'things-inthemselves', and nor are there, contrary to Plato, perfect originals of which all things are but copies. Furthermore, a physical world cannot be considered as an inevitable or permanent consequence of the cognitive equipment of a perceiver or of the nature of whatever is being perceived.Indeed, for Deleuze, this dichotomous understanding of the perceiver and the perceived is also groundless. In his view, the particularity of a pencil, here and now, involves not simply one 'gazing upon' an object, but a complex set of circumstantial interactions involving a whole 'plane' of events and organising principles ranging from the biology of sight to the circumstances of the pencil's being positioned here, and the physics of carbon structures. As such, the theory of forces challenges the traditional philosophical dualism between essence and appearance, and also draws attention to the contingent and infinitely complex nature of lived reality.Connectives§ active / reactive§ body§ event
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.