IS RED NIETZSCHE MADE OF BROWN CHEESE? A response to Jan Rehmann (part 2)

Having disposed of Nietzsche’s global critique of ideologies by reducing it to « fictionalism » Rehmann can now award him a bonus point for his specific ideology critiques (e.g. his critique of resentment).

Rehmann then mitigates this point by claiming that Nietzsche equates all resistance « from below » with ressentiment. I cannot explore this seemingly simple and easily decidable question here but I will have to content myself with an allusion to Deleuze’s concept of the « cone of sense ».

For Deleuze a philosophical concept resonates on all the levels of sense, from lowest to highest, and so what is « lower » sociologically speaking may well be « higher » in terms of sense. So Rehmann’s pseudo-naive appeal to an empiricist idea of « lower » glosses over enormous conceptual obstacles.

Daniel Tutt then poses the question of Deleuze’s account of Nietzsche allowing Rehmann to push further in a seemingly specific case the conflation of scholarship and propaganda that gives his more general argument against « postmodernism » its surface plausibility.

Rehmann very briefly discusses Deleuze’s influential 1962 book NIETZSCHE AND PHILOSOPHY and its conceptualisation of will to power as based on a « differentialism » of the will. Then in a single conflationary sentence he permutes to Deleuze’s 1972 « Nomad Thought » essay. He denigrates this as an example of « allegorical » interpretation, claiming that by its means

« the staunch anti-democratic anti-socialist philosopher Nietzsche morphs into what Deleuze actually calls a nomadic rebel ».

The only « morphing » here is Rehmann’s confusion of Deleuze’s early recourse to difference as a major concept with his later 1969 deployment of multiplicity as the primary concept.

In 1969 Deleuze published two major works: DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION, a synthesis of his earlier work, where « difference » still figures as an important concept, and a few months later LOGIC OF SENSE, where « difference » plays no role at all.

In the succeeding decade every major French philosopher abandonned the concept of « difference » as a dead-end, just as they all abandonned the concept of « transgression ». I have argued constantly on my blog, for 12 years now, that contemporary French philosophy is a pluralism of multiplicities, and not at all a philosophy of difference, for the last 50 years. If Rehmann finds it so easy to critique postmodern « philosophies of difference » this is because he is very much a late-comer to that party.

Rehmann tries to buttress his argument by doing a sketchy intellectual biography of Nietzsche, whose concept of power was different than Spinoza’s but then Spinoza’s concept was endorsed by Nietzsche then repudiated then re-endorsed in the equation virtue = power, in an act of « hostile » hermeneutic domination that one could call aggressive co-optation.

At best, on this view, Nietzsche was ambivalent about Spinoza’s concepts, at worse he was engaged in a sort of manic-depressive appropriation/dispropriation.

If nevertheless the terms in Rehmann’s clincher quotes meant to show Nietzsche’s brutalism can be read Spinozistically at least some of the time, the so-called allegorical mode of interpretation collapses into the conceptual, and a radical doubt is cast on Rehmann’s whole reading strategy.

Remember that for Deleuze the objection to allegory (and metaphor) as ordinarily understood is that it is based on conceptual conservatism, in which the only movement allowed is the lexico-semantic play of figures of speech. On this view, we can only give new words to old meanings (concepts).

The idea that Nietzsche could use Spinoza’s concepts (amongst other references) to give new meaning to old words escapes Rehmann’s purview.

In fact Rehmann has no reliable criterion of demarcation between the allegorical and the conceptual and so his arguments are based on haphazard conflations that he then projects onto Deleuze and Foucault to accuse them. De-conceptualised « allegory » and reconstructed « theoretical surplus » are mixed together in the blind hope of reconstituting the original product, but the result does not match, nor does it have to. It need only create an impression that the necessary work has been done by an expert scholar.

AT this point

Then Rehmann shifts into in free fall, leaving all sense of reasonable scholarship and of just measure far behind, he affirms that Deleuze « overlooks » the opposition « between social cooperation power as social cooperation on the one hand and projected genocide ».

To get a sense of perspective, I only accuse Rehmann of intellectual laziness, of conflating allegory and concept to justify a, no doubt widespread, in his milieu, rejection of French critical thought. Rehmann on the other hand accuses Deleuze of confusing social cooperation and genocide and we are supposed to blithely accept that as a plausible thesis? This would make Deleuze even worse than Heidegger who at least was aware of what he was saying. This is not scholarship, it is just saying anything to defeat your enemy.

Deleuze one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century is accused by Rehmann of unconscious genocide-legitimation. This is Rehmann’s self-reductio ad absurdum, but he notices nothing. For me, it’s over here.

However the interview continues so I will continue what I have begun.

Rehmann tgoes on to repeat his previous point in other words, by talking about what he calls Nietzsche’s « Spinozian disguise ». This dubious notion is spelled out as

« Nietzsche’s skill to couch his perspective of unfettered domination in the language of a free and active affirmation of life without any moralistic restraints ».

This claim is based on a version of the empiricist layer-cake model where the meaning of theoretical terms is determined by trickle-up effect from the observation language. A more philosophical approach would acknowledge that theoretical meaning can exist as a relatively autonomous creation and trickle down to the observation level. This is how for example Einsteinian meanings (for example for mass and time) trickle down into formerly Newtonian vocabulary.

It happens all the time Rehmann, get used to it!

Pursuing this risky line of thought Rehmann asserts

« Leftist Nietzscheans accept and reproduce this Spinozism in disguise and so they do not pull apart the life affirming language on the one hand and the standpoint of domination on the other hand ».

Once again Rehmann de-concepts and reduces innovatory thought to neo-language.

Rehmann regards the new connections that Nietzsche’s linguistic innovation deploys in order to shift entrenched meanings as « completely arbitrary ». He literally cannot see the conceptual innovation as other than linguistic innovation plastered onto old meanings.

Rehmann is concept-blind but he projects his intellectual infirmity onto Nietzsche’s text as an arbitrary disjuncture between language and meaning.

I have no interest in pursuing on Rehmann’s remarks on Foucault, and my main interest is not so much in his remarks on Deleuze as in the conceptual strategy, and striking ignorance, behind them. My polite verdict is « not proven! ».

Nonetheless I shall persist in my commentary.

Rehmann on Foucault, 1:07:12:

« he has no objections against the neoliberal dismantling of the welfare state and the widening gap between rich and poor and and this is certainly due to a Nietzschean disregard for social equality ».

First Rehmann regaled us with a portrait of Deleuze who « overlooked » that he justified genocide, now he portrays a Foucault who, thanks to his Nietzschean aristocratic élitism, is quite on board with the neoliberal suppression of public financement of medical care, university, unemployment benefits, etc. and with the ever increasing exploitation of the poor by the rich.

Rehmann is implicitly accusing Foucault of self-cooptation, of pushing further the post-68 concerns with liberation but not noticing (« overlooking ») that this translates into the neoliberal war of the rich against the poor. Foucault would then be a neo-avatar of Nietzsche (in Rehmann’s conceptual portrait) who plasters a Spinozian language of freedom and affirmation over a blond beast practice of neoliberal predation.

Rehmann is increasingly what Wittgenstein would call a wheel spinning freely in the void, faster and faster, disengaged from all considerations of verisimilitude. He is moving in the realm of fantasy and caricature, but he prefers to project this outward onto Foucault as living in the fantasy of a « neoliberal utopia » of « post-disciplinary governmentality », and of promulgating « caricatures » of Marxist ideology critique.

Rehmann ends with the affirmation that Foucault was obsessed with texts to the point of the exclusion of materiality, and he diagnoses this as the central weakness of « postmodernist » theory. We must bear in mind that he includes both Deleuze and Foucault under the rubric of postmodernism and its purported hegemony of discourse and signification.

He thus reduces Deleuze and Foucault to being the very opposite of what they were and he « overlooks » that it is precisely this hegemony of discourse that they fought so hard against.

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