The Deleuze/Zizek pact and Spike Jonze’s HER

Zizek’s LESS THAN NOTHING is a very interesting and impressive synthesis not only of Hegel and Lacan, along with Badiou, but also of Deleuze, Foucault, and Lyotard.

Zizek was influenced by Deleuze more than many seem to think, but I would argue that by retroaction reading Deleuze in terms of Zizek allows us to see Deleuze in new ways.

In LESS THAN NOTHING Zizek provides us with a good example of this weird logic of creative re-reading. The book is implicitly written from the point of view of what Zizek elsewhere calls the « pact » between Lacan and Deleuze. This pact means abandoning the standard image of Deleuze as pure affirmation, which then requires a compensatory supplement of negativity (as in the recent promotion of a « dark » Deleuze).

Although I disagree with some of Zizek’s arguments and emphases he provides us with a very useful creative interpretation of Deleuze’s work, isolating out the meta-ontological heuristic core from the ontological instantiation (where many pro- and anti-Deleuzians get stuck) and opening it to be re-instantiated in many different ways.

Zizek comes even closer to Deleuze than in his previous writings, deriving several key concepts from Deleuze’s LOGIC OF SENSE: appearance-qua-appearance and retroactive causality (that Deleuze calls « quasi-causality »), and also the  cut.

This notion of a cut or a gap is to be found everywhere in Deleuze’s work. He talks of it as the « fêlure », which can be translated objectively as « crack » and subjectively as « crack-up ».

One theme for which Zizek is closer to Deleuze than to Badiou is in his treatment of religion as a mode of subjectivation capable of instantiating his most general meta-ontological categories. This is something that is not fully assumed by Badiou as he refuses to count religion as a « fifth » condition on a par with science, art, politics, and love.

However, I disagree with Zizek’s take on Eastern Religion, in particular Buddhism. I do not think it essentially proposes enlightenment based on withdrawal from appearances, on treating the desire as an illusion. This may be the case of Theravada (or Hinayana) Buddhism, but Mahayana Buddhism favours immersion in the world of appearances.

For an imagistic presentation of these impressions one could refer to Spike Jonze’s film HER. Clint Burnham and Matthew Flisfeder have written a very interesting analysis of the film from a Zizekian perspective, but neglect some positive elements to be found in the unfolding of the story.

Viewing HER from a Deleuze/Zizek perspective one could see a sort of progression of ontological levels. Theodore buys the OS as a sort of ontic consumerist supplement to his life (like taking up a new philosophy as a new worldview), but evolving from simply « OS » to Samantha it (or she) moves from merely ontically organising Theodore’s existing life more efficiently to an ontological transformation that finally allows him to retro-actively re-vision his past and to open to the possibility of new love. In dialogue with her fellow AIs they create a « hyper-intelligent » AI (or meta-ontology) that they call Alan Watts (but that could have been called equally Zizek, or Deleuze).

Zizek’s talent for creative hybridization is such that his own followers most often lag behind him, inevitably simplifying him. I would add that most « Deleuzians » are lagging behind him too.

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4 commentaires pour The Deleuze/Zizek pact and Spike Jonze’s HER

  1. early Buddhism and eastern approaches in general advocated a refusal of the world (appearances) but Tantra and Shavism, more recently, Aurobindo, have had a more positive view of appearance as a expression of « divine « energy. More recently in philosophy « new materialism » and process theology seem to be moving in that direction.

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  2. Thank you for the post.

    I really agree that some of Zizek’s refreshing takes on Hegel were inspired by Deleuze (altough he does an interesting job in tracing them back to Hegel as an « already-there »). I also agree that this « zizek’s selection of deleuze » allows us a « return to Deleuze » in a way that our sensitivity is oriented to his « hidden » realm of negativity.

    But I don’t think that this return is properly made whithout including a severe critic of how Deleuze tried to disqualify negativity at all costs. Although Andrew Culp’s « Dark Deleuze » takes the risk of staging Deleuze in a form that himself would probably disagree, he seems to dismiss that this « dark deleuze » is actually a « haunted deleuze » (a project of my own, that’s why I’m specially concerned about this topic).Negativity being found in an oblique way where’s not supposed to be.

    There’s an occurrance that always comes to my mind: in Difference and repetition Deleuze writes that « Those who bear the negative know not what they do: they take the shadow for the reality, they encourage phantoms, they uncouple consequences from premisses and they give epiphenomena the value of phenomena and essences ». I love how he initially rejects the act of giving « phantoms » the value of essence, as the inadequate process of the negative. But in « Logic of sense » what does he do? He claims that the « ressonance » between two series in disjunctive synthesis is « positive and affirmative use (no longer negative and limitative) ») But how does him describes this process of ressonance? « the process of the phantasm ». And, what a surprise, it is ressonance as the process of the phantasm is what is « essential ».

    I can’t help but to think how he initially disqualified a certain scheme of thought only to be haunted again by it some time later.

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    • terenceblake dit :

      Hello Pedro, yes I agree that Deleuze is haunted by more than he is usually willing to admit. He is haunted by Hegel, because he gives us only the standard Hegel (cf. his remarks in Dialogues) and standard negativity. I agree also that readers neglect the great transformation between DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION and LOGIC OF SENSE. In the latter the concept of « difference » is left behind in favour of the promotion of « multiplicity ». The « dark » Deleuze is totally unnecessary, a negative supplement to a simplistic positivist reading of Deleuze will not give us the complete picture. Deleuze is haunted by Hegel and Heidegger (at least!) and it would be good to give his work a vaster reading than he himself authorised. Good luck with your project of a « haunted » Deleuze, which is in effect vaster than the more trendy « dark » Deleuze.

      J’aime

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