AS: What do you think of Alexander Galloway’s comments on forgetting Deleuze?
TB: I can only sympathise with him. Galloway seems to regret having wasted much of his time reading a lot of media theorists, no doubt for professional reasons, who make very uninformed use of Deleuze. His head seems to be in a mess at present: he can’t decide whether he is against “Deleuzianism”, or against 1972 Deleuze and in favour of 1990 Deleuze, or in favour of a paltry cluster of Deleuzian values that Laruelle rather than Deleuze gives us the means to think through. Maybe a close reading of Laruelle’s CHRISTO-FICTION would get rid of his confusion.
AS: Are you calling Alexander Galloway, one of the founding members, along with Eugene Thacker, of the New Clarity, “confused”?
TB: There is quite a lot of confusion in Galloway’s discussion of Deleuze. As I have already mentioned, he confuses Deleuzianism, Deleuze, and salvageable Deleuzian values. He also confuses the periodisation of various readings and receptions of Deleuze’s texts with the periodisation of Deleuze’s ideas themselves. Yet concerning the basic concepts of event, pluralism, multiplicity, and assemblage there is continuity between ANTI-OEDIPUS and the last writings.
We must remember Deleuze. To go forward we need anamnesis, a return to texts whose pluralist deconstructive power is richer, more abundant, and more multiple than the Deleuzianism and the anti-Deleuzianism that have followed.
First, we must forget the Badiousian Deleuze, the vitalist philosopher of “life” equated with an organic Totality. The primary concept is assemblage, not life. Deleuze describes himself as a “vitalist”, but the whole movement of his thought is in the construction of the concept of a non-organic, or unliving, life. There is no essence of life in Deleuze. The fold of life is unfolded to expose it to non-living forces of the outside (such as silicon) and recompose other folds of “life”. This is the source of Laruelle’s later, derivative concept of the “lived-without-life”.
Secondly, we must forget the Laruellean Deleuze, the so-called “philosopher of difference”. Laruelle’s version of Deleuze should be added to Galloway’s list of misunderstandings of Deleuze, as his ideas on Deleuze have nothing to do with any of Deleuze’s texts (except for surreptitiously borrowing major ideas from them). Deleuze is primarily a pluralist, not a differentialist.
AS: But Galloway does not reject Deleuze outright, he also wants to remember Deleuze.
TB: Galloway wishes to remember Deleuze for a few core values: antifascism, materialism, communism, and immanence, yet he has a one-sided politicist vision of these concepts. But the concepts he cites as worthy of remembrance cannot be separated from those of assemblages, multiplicities, and events.
AS: But just as he did with Harman’s OOO, Galloway shows that there is a formal homology between Deleuze’s anti-foundationalism and capitalism. Isn’t this alarming?
TB: The formal homology Galloway notes between Deleuzian ontology and capitalism is no discovery, as Deleuze himself draws our attention to it as a positive feature of his anaysis, as long as we understand that it permits us to see not just the progessive potential but the limit of capitalism as well.
AS: But Deleuze has been used to justify the facile spontaneism and relativism of the hippies and the post-moderns.
TB: Lyotard, the only one to propose a coherent philosophical concept of the post-modern, included Deleuze under the label not for any wild-eyed postmodern relativism (anything goes, everything is equivalent), but for his notions of sense from nomadic encounter, of incommensurability and of heterogeneity. All the concepts that Galloway attributes to Deleuze are travesties, because he homogenises them.
On the confusion between Deleuze’s constructivism, or assemblage theory of desire, and the Woodstock hippyism of free love and free desire, Deleuze is not at all in favour of pure expressive unfolding or decompression. He constantly emphasised the necessity of the fold and compression. Any examples he gave (drugs, schizos, nomads, networks, folds) had to be deterritorialised, or they were in danger of establishing new territories.
Note: this is a fictitious dialogue between Agent Swarm and Terence Blake. I am grateful to a real dialogue on facebook with Adrian Martin, Bradley Kaye, and Gil Morejón for helping me to clarify my ideas.