Friday, 29 August 2008

Transcendental Revolution

Of all the thinkers I have analysed so far for The Persistence of the Negative it is Deleuze that has gone up in my estimation, from an admittedly low starting point (and I'm sure you're all happy to know my fickle changes in intellectual appreciation...). Although I discuss and critique his work as the subject of chapter four this point in Difference and Repetition (1968) struck me as uncanny and prescient.

Analysing Marx's Social Idea - which Deleuze takes to be the economic as the virtual field posing problems - Deleuze notes that the economic problem is actualised as a false problem – ‘the solution is generally perverted by an inseparable falsity.’ (1994: 207-8) In the case of the economic the false problem is the fetishism of the commodity conceived as ‘an objective or transcendental illusion born out of the conditions of social consciousness in the course of its actualisation.’ (Deleuze 1994: 208) Already here we can see the similarity to Slavoj Žižek’s argument that fetishism is incarnated into social reality in the form of materialised beliefs (1989: 31-37). This fetishism produces effects which both enable some to live and others to suffer – the false problem makes history ‘the locus of non-sense and stupidity’ (Deleuze 1994: 208). We have a situation in which the nonsense of alienation and exploitation is rendered as ideological commonsense, precisely through the inscription of this nonsense in social consciousness. Commodity fetishism is both real and false. For this reason we cannot appeal to consciousness as the site of a solution – it appears that Deleuze implicitly rejects the Lukàcasian solution of ‘class consciousness’. Instead, his analysis prefigures Althusser’s argument that the imaginary conditions of ideology create an effect by which consciousness is by necessity ‘false’ (see Althusser 1971: 121-173). How does Deleuze resist the problem Althusser courts – that of functionalism, in which the depth of ideological structuring appears to prevent any rupture with such a ‘system’? Deleuze argues that to perform this rupture requires the power to raise the false existent sociability to the level of a ‘transcendent exercise’ that can break this regime of commonsense. This ‘transcendental object’ is revolution as ‘the social power of difference, the paradox of society, the particular wrath of the social idea.’ (Deleuze 1994: 208)

Although sketched with startling rapidity the conclusion appears to be that to prevent the stabilisation of affirmative differences in happy co-existence – ‘the counterfeit forms of affirmation’ (Deleuze 1994: 208) – it is necessary to return to the virtual to re-actualise the true problem that will break with this necessary illusion of individual consciousness and sociability (although what is left unclear is the agency that will perform this ‘transcendent exercise’).

Here endeth the extract...

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