BADIOU ON DELEUZE’S POLITICS (2): politics is present as ideology

We have seen that Badiou starts from an apparent paradox: Deleuze is widely considered to be a systematic philosopher who gives an important place to politics and to political considerations, but there is no Deleuzian politics, and politics as such is absent from his philosophical work. Nowhere is a specific thought of politics present in Deleuze’s writings nor can there be, as there is no room for politics in his system.

Yet politics is massively present in Deleuze’s texts, and Badiou admits that this is so. At first sight there is a lot of evidence against Badiou’s “politics is absent” hypothesis. But Badiou proposes a number of arguments as to why this apparently conflicting evidence does not refute his hypothesis. Badiou is not a naive falsificationist, he does not think that empirical refuting instances should be allowed to eliminate a hypothesis without a critical discussion. This is a trait of Badiou’s thought that plays an important role in his writings, for example on the “communist hypothesis”.

First Badiou proceeds by delimitation: he concedes that politics is present in the texts written in collaboration with Guattari. He fails to mention here that the collaboration extends over 20 years and over 1,500 printed pages. Then by minorisation: politics is present in these collaborations only in the form of  enlightened opinion (“conceptions”) and not of philosophical concepts. In other words, Badiou’s explanation of this “absence” is not itself conceptual, but reductive and personnological: Deleuze is not interested in politics, he only discusses it when writing with Guattari, and even then the discussion is not systematic or even philosophical.

Thus the absence hypothesis (politics is absent) is supported, or better substituted, by the reductive hypothesis it’s not him, it’s Guattari). In terms of Badiou’s logic of obsevational support, one false observation is justified and replaced by another false observation. The audio recordings and the transcripts of many of Deleuze’s seminars are available, and over a 20 year period at least, when Deleuze is lecturing on his own ideas there is no difference with what is said in the collaborative works, and politics is both present and systematically integrated.

I think that Badiou’s vision of the presence of politics in this delimited part of Deleuze’s work, that of the Guattari collaboration, coincides with his vision as expressed in a series of texts published during the “red years”, when Badiou was speaking as a militant. In two political pamphlets, THE FLUX AND THE PARTY and THE FASCISM OF THE POTATO (both published in 1977), Badiou denounces the the philosophy of ANTI-OEDIPUS and of RHIZOME as “pre-fascist” ideology. In a strange reversal based on projection, Badiou at the height of his career as a militant pamphleteer accuses Deleuze and Guattari of not really doing philosophy, but ideology. Twenty-five years later, he repeats the same verdict:

thesis 3: politics is present in Deleuze in the form of ideology.

This analysis corresponds to the conceptual portrait sketched out in Badiou’s introduction to his book on Deleuze (DELEUZE THE CLAMOR OF BEING, 1997):

For the Maoist that I was, Deleuze, as the philosophical inspiration for what we called the “anarcho-desirers,” was an enemy all the more formidable for being internal to the “movement” and for the fact that his course was one of the focal points of the university.

Deleuze was a star and an ideologue in the eyes of the Maoist militant, and so his politics was to be combatted.  Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy of desire and its appropriation by the “anarcho-desirers, constituted an ideological enemy for Badiou at that time. His later discussion conserves the trace of that period.

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