Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Potentials

A few days late, as this was posted while I was away at the conference, but I wanted to draw attention to a fantastic post from Nick at the accursed share, which explores the complexities of grasping potentials for political change within a philosophy of immanence. The full post covers a great deal of ground, and is worth reading in full. A few brief selections will give some sense of the whole:

One of the first and most important questions facing any immanent ontology of politics that aims at being revolutionary is the question of how to discern the potentials that exist immanently within a given situation. Such an analysis precludes all the teleological and transcendent determinations of social movement, since they exist precisely as overarching logics that determine immanence from a distance (remaining themselves untransformed by the vagaries of time). For much of contemporary philosophy, such a transcendent conception is a reversal into traditional metaphysics. Following John Mullarkey’s Post-Continental Philosophy, we can describe Deleuze, Badiou, Henry and Laruelle as thinkers of immanence. To this list we could add Žižek, who, like Badiou, seeks to discern the gaps within immanence. The problem faced by all these thinkers, on a political level, is how to determine the possibility of true revolution without, however, falling into what Daniel Bensaid has called “the miracle of the event” (TA 94).

Nick goes on to contrast approaches that confront this problem through what he terms “negative immanence” – that seek “to proclaim the inauguration of the New as a complete break with the past” – an approach that he sees in the work of Žižek and (in a more qualified sense) Badiou:

In both Badiou and Žižek, therefore, there seems to be a sense that the only way to account for a truly revolutionary and immanent politics is to put forth some conception of a radical rupture at the heart of being (for Badiou, the event that breaks with the situation; for Žižek, the subject as void being the foundation of any positive order). The problem with such a radical rupture is twofold: one, it can lead to political apathy by avoiding any question of fostering the conditions for a new order to arise. By this I mean that the rupture is determined as essentially aleatory and unpredictable, and therefore incapable of being prepared for. Secondly, it tends to avoid the question of actual politics.

With a more Deleuzian alternative, which Nick describes as “positive immanence”, that:

strips negativity of any foundational status. Rather, ontology is immediately a becoming, a constant individuation premised upon intensive systems composed of a continually changing set of heterogeneous elements that differentially determine each other. Beyond the actualized, identifiable elements of our situation there exists unactualized, yet real potentials exerting force on the dynamics of the actual. The problem of revolutionary change becomes not a matter of seeking evental sites and immanent ruptures, but rather of discerning the productivity of the potentials immanent to the real sociohistorical situation we live in.

Nick moves next to Marx – and to Negri and Hardt – repositioning common critiques of Negri and Hardt’s work in order to set up for the concluding challenge:

The question is, and I’m left without an answer for the moment, can there be a rigorous method of seeking potentials? It is necessarily an immanent and hence constantly rejuvenated method, but when Deleuze and Guattari speak of ‘indices’ in Anti-Oedipus (e.g. A-O 350-3), it seems that they have in mind precisely such a method. Similarly, Deleuze’s work on Nietzsche brings up the question of a “symptomatology” which sees that a “phenomenon is not an appearance or even an apparition but a [non-representational] sign, a symptom which finds its meaning in an existing force” (N 3). It is such a science of symptoms that seems to me to be key to working out a revolutionary politics that truly faces up to immanence.

Good stuff – go read the original.

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