ZIZEK/DELEUZE (2): Negation

Deleuze’s thought was devoted to a an exploration of the primacy of difference, multiplicity, movement, and alterity, so it is only fitting that Zizek misreads it, and Deleuze’s work generally, as avoiding any encounter with Hegel, who he (Zizek) claims represents “absolute Alterity”. Deleuze’s principal objection to Hegel is that he gesticulates in the direction of alterity but that he misses it entirely, just as he misses real movement. Deleuze condenses his critique of Hegel into the rejection of Hegel’s “triads and negativity”. Triads with their synthesis efface difference, negativity gives a false movement. However, this critique is more subtle than it seems, as, contrary to a popular opinion, Deleuze’s work is full of “triads and negativity”, but in a sense that is not obvious to perceive or understand.

Zizek’s resolution of the divergence of Deleuze and Hegel involves proposing a new concept of negativity as it occurs in Hegel, in accord with the primacy of deterritorialisation in Deleuze. He criticises Deleuze’s superficial reading of negativity: « does Deleuze’s argument against the (Hegelian) negative not hold only if we reduce the negative to the negation of a pre-existing positive identity? » This would be a substantialist reading of Hegel, whereas Zizek argues very strongly for a de-substantialist reading. In other words, according to Zizek, Deleuze sees Hegel’s negativity only in classical substantialist terms, missing the revisionary concept of negation: « What about a negativity which is in itself positive, giving, ‘generative’? », asks Zizek. He envisions negativity as movement without a substantial substrate, as pure processuality, as generativity.

Deleuze’s negativity, which can be seen in the abundance of negative prefixes (de-, as in decoding, a-, as in asignifying, in-, as in informal, non-, as in non-formed), is thus present in his concepts of difference, becoming, movement, and process. It is to be understood as underlying his affirmation of the primacy of deterritorialisation,  of the thesis that deterritorialising comes first. This omnipresent negativity is to be found not just at the level of the concept, but at that of affect as well. It is to be found in Deleuze’s constant talk of solitude and becoming-secret, of ascesis and striking a blow against stupidity, of seeing the intolerable and the shame of being a man.

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