BADIOU ON DELEUZE’S POLITICS (6): Deleuze’s politics is ethics

We have seen that Badiou sets out from a perceived absence of politics in Deleuze’s system and proceeds to search for an explanation. His first attempt to explain his impression gives us only contingent reasons (absence of interest, absence of place in the system), providing only the semblance of an explanation. The explanatory hypothesis is too weak, a post hoc rationalisation: Deleuze doesn’t discuss politics as a separate domain because he doesn’t want to, or he can’t. Badiou then corrects his observation, and reverses his judgement. He talks of a perceived omnipresence of politics in Deleuze’s system. In both cases (absence of politics, omnipresence of politics) politics does not embody a specific thought for Deleuze.

This contradictory complex leads Badiou to propose a solution that preserves both sets of observations. Politics is omnipresent as a politics of becoming and creation that invests each specific mode of creation (philosophy, art, science), and it is absent by that very fact from the list of modes. There is no place for politics, as specific mode of political creation, because it is already accounted for as general normative instance, overviewing and guiding each specific mode. The only specific place that remains for politics is theoretical, and not practical: universal history and social analysis.

ou bien la politique est partout, et, comme en Mai 1968 en France, nous dirons que l’expérience humaine tout entière fait partie de la politique, et qu’il y a de la politique dans la sexualité, politique dans l’art, politique dans la vie courante ; ou bien la politique est spécifique, et elle est, et n’est que, l’analyse philosophique de l’histoire et des nouvelles formes de l’histoire.

(“Either politics is everywhere, and, as in May 1968 in France, we will say that the whole of human experience is part of politics, and that there is politics in sexuality, politics in art, politics in everyday life: or politics is specific, and it is, and is only, the philosophical analysis of history and of the new forms of history”).

The movement of this argument is dialectical. Badiou passes from the observation that Deleuze is a-political to the conflicting observation that Deleuze is hyper-political. Then he proceeds to resolve the contradiction with the synthesis: Deleuze’s idea of politics is one of universal becoming. But Badiou goes on to ask what is the nature of a politics that is in art, in science, in sexuality, in everyday life, that is everywhere except in politics? He seeks to formulate Deleuze’s politics in the form of maxims: prefer becoming to history, create something new, believe in the world, precipitate events, escape control. He concludes that these “political” maxims are better seen as ethical, and that Deleuze’s politics is in fact an ethics.

il est clair que croire en le monde, précipiter les événements, échapper au contrôle, sont les maximes éthiques de Deleuze. Nous pouvons distinguer la maxime négative ( « échapper au contrôle » ), la maxime subjective ( « croire au monde » ), et la maxime créative ( « précipiter les événements » ). L’éthique, selon moi, doit relier ces trois maximes.

(“it is clear that believe in the world, precipitate events, escape from control, are Deleuze’s ethical maxims. We can distinguish the negative maxim (escape from control”), the subjective maxim (“believe in the world”), and the creative maxim (“precipitate events”). Ethics, in my opinion, must tie together these three maxims”).

thesis 12: Deleuze’s “politics” is in fact an ethics

Badiou concludes this part of his analysis by declaring that these three maxims (of revolt against the society of control, belief in this world, and the creation of events)  “completely constitute Deleuze’s ethics”. He can now find a positive function for Guattari, that of contributing to Deleuze’s theoretical analysis of capitalism:

Il y a, dans la politique deleuzienne, une brillante analyse du capitalisme, pour laquelle la participation de Guattari a été déterminante. Mais il y a aussi une éthique deleuzienne sous le nom de « politique », parce qu’il y a, chez Deleuze, un nouveau nœud de la révolte, de l’affirmation et de la subjectivité.

(“In Deleuze’s politics there is a brilliant analysis of capitalism, for which the participation of Guattari was decisive. But there is also an ethics in Deleuze, under the name of “politics”, because in Deleuze there is a new knot of revolt, affirmation, and subjectivity”).

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2 Responses to BADIOU ON DELEUZE’S POLITICS (6): Deleuze’s politics is ethics

  1. I am not used of how discussions take place in French academia. The one you show here seems to me very humaine. Like having a real concern to listen to the other and respond to the other.

    Like

    • terenceblake says:

      Badiou does not always show the same concern, sometimes he is more reductive and more polemical. However, here he is trying hard to do Deleuze justice, while still indicating points of disaccord. This is why I wanted to give the text such an extended treatment.

      Like

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