BADIOU ON DELEUZE’S POLITICS (3): politics is (anti-) history

Having amputated Deleuze of that portion of his work that he wrote in collaboration with Guattari, Badiou can now concentrate his analysis on Deleuze the serious philosopher, a strange thinker who published several monographs in the history of philosophy and two books of philosophy, and who managed to sleep through the next twenty years of his life mostly as a “pre-fascist ideologue”, only to wake up to philosophy again at the end of his traversal of anarcho-desiring ideology.

Badiou returns to a rather empirical observation:

Dans Pourparlers, par exemple, il y a cinq parties : la première, sur L’Anti-Œdipe et Mille plateaux ; la seconde, sur le cinéma ; la troisième, sur Michel Foucault ; la quatrième, sur la philosophie ; et la cinquième, sur la politique.

(“In NEGOTIATIONS, for example, there are five parts: the first, on ANTI-OEDIPUS and A THOUSAND PLATEAUS; the second, on the cinema, the third, on Michel Foucault, the fourth, on philosophy; and the fifth, on politics”).

Badiou chooses to concentrate his analysis on the fifth part, entitled “Politics”. This is the shortest part of the book, only 14 pages out of 180. The first chapter talks about politics and psychoanalysis (two of Badiou’s four conditions), but they belong to the “Guattarian” phase that Badiou has eliminated from consideration. The second part on the cinema is ignored, perhaps as dealing with one specific condition, that of art, and so irrelevant to Badiou’s investigation into Deleuze’s politics. The part on Foucault is not discussed either, despite the political dimension of Foucault’s thought and of his concrete engagements. No discussion of the part on philosophy, as Badiou is looking for a separate specific thought of politics as one of the conditions of philosophy. After having eliminated more than 90% of the book (which is not even a systematic work of Deleuze’s, but a collection of occasional pieces), Badiou finds to his regret that the part devoted to politics does not come up to his high standards:

dans la partie consacrée à la politique, trouvons-nous des considérations concrètes à propos d’orientations politiques ? Non. Nous trouvons, sous le nom de politique, deux types de choses. D’abord une théorie, ou philosophie, de l’histoire, qui propose trois étapes dans l’histoire universelle… C’est en fait un grand schéma historique, une sorte de reconstruction posthégélienne du devenir global des sociétés humaines. Mais, et c’est le second point, Deleuze ne montre pas là un véritable souci d’historien. Il y a, dans sa philosophie, comme chez Nietzsche, un violent anti-historicisme. La distinction cruciale passe entre « histoire » et « devenir ».

(“in the part devoted to politics, do we find concrete considerations of political orientations. No. We find, under the name of politics, two types of things. First, a theory, or a philosophy, which proposes three stages in universal history… In fact, it is a grand historical schema of the global becoming of human societies. But, and this is the second point, here Deleuze shows no real interest in history. There is, in his philosophy, as in Nietzsche’s a violent anti-historicism. The crucial distinction lies between ‘history’ and ‘becoming'”).

After reducing the book to one tenth of its length Badiou follows his “empirical” method. On inspection of the “politics” section, he finds that it does not talk about politics at all, but about “history”, but a history that has become so abstract and schematic that it is not history at all. Deleuze proposes a grand historical narrative of the passage from sovereign societies to disciplinary societies to control societies. Badiou has no objection to such a grand narrative, he is not a “postmodern”. But he regards this narrative as history, and not politics.

Badiou is quick to supply us with the explanation of this schematic character of Deleuze’s narrative: Deleuze has no interest in history (subjective aspect) and is only interested in becoming (systematic aspect). Badiou quotes a short excerpt from the politics section, and declares it to be “fundamental”:

Le devenir n’est pas une partie de l’histoire […] ; il s’y agit de créer quelque chose de nouveau.

(“Becoming isn’t a part of history … it is a matter of creating something new”).

Note: this seems to be a truncated quote from the interview between Negri and Deleuze. The full text reads:

Becoming isn’t part of history; history amounts only the set of preconditions, however recent, that one leaves behind in order to “become,” that is, to create something new (NEGOTIATIONS, 171).

This leads to Badiou’s next three theses on Deleuze’s politics, one negative and the other two positive:

thesis 4: politics for Deleuze does not belong to history

thesis 5: Deleuze proposes a politics of becoming

thesis 6: a politics of becoming involves the creation of something new

It is interesting to see that Badiou limits his discussion to “becoming” in general. Faithful to his method of de-Guattarization. Despite his demand for a specific thought of politics,  he does not consider any specification of becoming: woman becomings, animal becomings, molecular becomings, or minority becomings. Yet these same specifications are the very substance of Deleuze and Guattari’s thought of politics. One begins to suspect that the “absence” of politics observed by Badiou is an artefact of his own mode of observation of Deleuze’s text.

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