Political Normativity

From Deleuze’s essay “Three Group-Related Problems” — which is a preface to one of Guattari’s books — in Desert Islands and Other Texts.

At this point in the essay, Deleuze is thinking about the relationship between psychoanalysis and revolutionary politics in Guattari’s writing. D&G do not think psyschoanalysis should be applied to groups, nor that there is a therapeutic group that should be tasked with treating the masses. Rather:

“It’s about constituting in the group the conditions of an analysis of desire, for oneself and for others; it’s about pursuing flows that constitute myriad lines of flight in capitalist society, and bringing about ruptures, imposing interruptions at the very heart of social determinism and historical causality; it’s about allowing collective agents of enunciation to emerge, capable of formulating new utterances of desire; it’s about constituting not an avant-garde, but groups adjacent to social processes, whose only task is to advance a truth along paths it usually never takes – in a word, it’s about constituting a revolutionary subjectivity about which there is no more reason ask whether libidinal, economic, or political determinations should come first, since this subjectivity traverses traditionally separate orders; it’s about grasping that point of rupture where, precisely, political economy and libidinal economy are one and the same.”

I constantly read D&G and think what they are proffering in terms of politics is an individual project of self-preparation, and a collective process of assemblage, but here I’m hung up on the part in bold above. I’m inclined to read this as a revolutionary politics for those — like myself — who are not engaged in any sort of direct action. Such a reading seems to create a radical political space for academics who see their role in a classroom or in print, rather than in a public square. The obvious question here is, “is this enough?” and as I seek out a political normativity for my work, I’m constantly asking myself that very question.

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5 Responses to Political Normativity

  1. Take the time to read Dosse’s D&G biography, if you haven’t already. I found it absolutely engrossing and it definitely builds the context of their lives around their philosophy.

  2. Keith Harris says:

    I’ve picked it up multiple times in the book store and started reading, but keep reshelving it so that it won’t “distract” me…But I’ll take your advice and hold on to it next time. Thanks!

  3. This makes me think of our conversation today regarding Difference and Repetition- and the third passive synthesis: that the present is the condition of the past, and the future presents a infinite number of variations. Thinking about this in relation to ‘choosing to choose’- together I think it suggests finding a means of keeping oneself open to other possibilities that we might not ordinarily consider as being possible. And then I think about our conversation about the ‘series’ and if all series exist, we can’t privilege one over the other. Connecting it to AO and their insistence to getting outside of identifying with the group ‘I am one of you’, it seems the most potential is in finding those who have not identified with the group. If ‘only connect’ is considered, and multiple paths open up, we have in front of us paths that were never considered possible- or even visible for that matter…. I think as we act into the world- the active synthesis- we can start acting in ways that are more productive, rather than falling back on established norms and conventions… So, the question of whether it’s enough…. I think it’s a constant process, and it’s the small scale, but sustainable shift in orientation that might make a difference… Kind of like what Eugene talks about in starving capitalism with the general strike- we can’t wait for a revolution, we need to start now in areas where we can easily put this into practice… anyway- just a stream of thoughts… but it makes me want to read the article- and it makes me look forward to revisiting AO…

  4. Mark Hop says:

    I think this short Deleuze text you talk about here is HUGELY significant for the questions the left faces today. It offers perhaps the most inspiring and rich attempt to trace out the problems – and to begin to move beyond them – of the traditional and utterly disastrous form of Leninist, vanguardist organisation that has dominated twentieth century anti-capitalism and unfortunately still today sucks up so much revolutionary potential through groups such as the SWP in the UK.

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