Gilles Deleuze

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Gilles Deleuze
Western Philosophy
20th-century philosophy
Full name Gilles Deleuze
Born 18 January 1925
Paris, France
Died 4 November 1995 (aged 70)
Paris, France
School/tradition Continental philosophy · Empiricism
Main interests Aesthetics
History of Western philosophy
Metaphilosophy · Metaphysics
Notable ideas Affect · Assemblage
Body without organs
Deterritorialization · Line of flight
Plane of immanence · Rhizome

Gilles Deleuze (French pronunciation: [ʒil dəløz]), (18 January 1925 – 4 November 1995) was a French philosopher of the late 20th century. From the early 1960s until his death, Deleuze wrote many influential works on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular books were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), both co-written with Félix Guattari. His books Difference and Repetition (1968) and The Logic of Sense (1969) led Michel Foucault to declare that "one day, perhaps, this century will be called Deleuzian."[2] (Deleuze, for his part, said Foucault's comment was "a joke meant to make people who like us laugh, and make everyone else livid.")[3]




Deleuze was born into a working-class family in Paris and lived there for most his life. His initial schooling was undertaken during World War II, during which time he attended the Lycée Carnot. He also spent a year in khâgne at the Lycée Henri IV. In 1944 Deleuze went to study at the Sorbonne. His teachers there included several noted specialists in the history of philosophy, such as Georges Canguilhem, Jean Hyppolite, Ferdinand Alquié, and Maurice de Gandillac, and Deleuze's lifelong interest in the canonical figures of modern philosophy owed much to these teachers. Nonetheless, Deleuze also found the work of non-academic thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre strongly attractive.[4] He agrégated in philosophy in 1948.

Deleuze taught at various lycées (Amiens, Orléans, Louis le Grand) until 1957, when he took up a position at the Sorbonne. In 1953, he published his first monograph, Empiricism and Subjectivity, on Hume. He married Denise Paul "Fanny" Grandjouan in 1956. From 1960 to 1964 he held a position at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. During this time he published the seminal Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962) and befriended Michel Foucault. From 1964 to 1969 he was a professor at the University of Lyon. In 1968 he published his two dissertations, Difference and Repetition (supervised by Gandillac) and Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (supervised by Alquié).

In 1969 he was appointed to the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes/St. Denis, an experimental school organized to implement educational reform. This new university drew a number of talented scholars, including Foucault (who suggested Deleuze's hiring), and the psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. Deleuze taught at Vincennes until his retirement in 1987.

Deleuze, a heavy smoker, suffered from a debilitating pulmonary ailment throughout the last 25 years of his life. In his last decade this condition grew more severe and was compounded by respiratory problems.[5] Although he had a lung removed, the disease had spread throughout his pulmonary system. Deleuze underwent a tracheotomy, lost the power of speech[6] and considered himself 'chained like a dog' to an oxygen machine.[7] By the last years of his life, simple tasks such as handwriting required laborious effort. In 1995, he committed suicide, throwing himself from the window of his apartment.[8]

Upon Deleuze's death, his colleague Jean-François Lyotard sent a fax to Le Monde, in which he wrote of his friend:

"He was too tough to experience disappointments and resentments — negative affections. In this nihilist fin de siècle, he was affirmation. Right through to illness and death. Why did I speak of him in the past? He laughed, he is laughing, he is here. It's your sadness, idiot, he'd say."[9]

The novelist Michel Tournier, who knew Deleuze when both were students at the Sorbonne, described him thus:

"The ideas we threw about like cottonwool or rubber balls he returned to us transformed into hard and heavy iron or steel cannonballs. We quickly learnt to be in awe of his gift for catching us red-handed in the act of cliché-mongering, talking rubbish, or loose thinking. He had the knack of translating, transposing. As it passed through him, the whole of worn-out academic philosophy re-emerged unrecognisable, totally refreshed, as if it has not been properly digested before. It was all fiercely new, completely disconcerting, and it acted as a goad to our feeble minds and our slothfulness."[10]

Deleuze himself almost entirely demurred from autobiography. When once asked to talk about his life, he replied: "Academics' lives are seldom interesting."[11] When a critic seized upon Deleuze's unusually long, uncut fingernails as a revealing eccentricity, he drily noted a more obvious explanation: "I haven't got the normal protective whorls, so that touching anything, especially fabric, causes such irritation that I need long nails to protect them."[12] Deleuze concludes his reply to this critic thus:

"What do you know about me, given that I believe in secrecy? ... If I stick where I am, if I don't travel around, like anyone else I make my inner journeys that I can only measure by my emotions, and express very obliquely and circuitously in what I write. ... Arguments from one's own privileged experience are bad and reactionary arguments."[13]


Deleuze's works fall into two groups: on one hand, monographs interpreting the work of other philosophers (Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson, Foucault) and artists (Proust, Kafka, Francis Bacon); on the other, eclectic philosophical tomes organized by concept (e.g., difference, sense, events, schizophrenia, cinema, philosophy). Regardless of topic, however, Deleuze consistently develops variations on similar ideas.


Deleuze's main philosophical project in his early works (i.e., those prior to his collaborations with Guattari) can be baldly summarized as a systematic inversion of the traditional metaphysical relationship between identity and difference. Traditionally, difference is seen as derivative from identity: e.g., to say that "X is different from Y" assumes some X and Y with at least relatively stable identities. To the contrary, Deleuze claims that all identities are effects of difference. Identities are neither logically nor metaphysically prior to difference, Deleuze argues, "given that there exist differences of nature between things of the same genus."[14] That is, not only are no two things ever the same, the categories we use to identify individuals in the first place derive from differences. Apparent identities such as "X" are composed of endless series of differences, where "X" = "the difference between x and x'", and "x" = "the difference between...", and so forth. Difference goes all the way down. To confront reality honestly, Deleuze claims, we must grasp beings exactly as they are, and concepts of identity (forms, categories, resemblances, unities of apperception, predicates, etc.) fail to attain difference in itself. "If philosophy has a positive and direct relation to things, it is only insofar as philosophy claims to grasp the thing itself, according to what it is, in its difference from everything it is not, in other words, in its internal difference."[15]

Like Kant and Bergson, Deleuze considers traditional notions of space and time as unifying forms imposed by the subject. Therefore he concludes that pure difference is non-spatio-temporal; it is an idea, what Deleuze calls "the virtual". (The coinage refers not to the "virtual reality" of the computer age, but to Proust's definition of what is constant in both the past and the present: "real without being actual, ideal without being abstract."[16]) While Deleuze's virtual ideas superficially resemble Plato's forms and Kant's ideas of pure reason, they are not originals or models, nor do they transcend possible experience; instead they are the conditions of actual experience, the internal difference in itself. "The concept they [the conditions] form is identical to its object."[17] A Deleuzean idea or concept of difference is not a wraith-like abstraction of an experienced thing, it is a real system of differential relations that creates actual spaces, times, and sensations.[18]

Thus Deleuze, alluding to Kant and Schelling, at times refers to his philosophy as a transcendental empiricism. In Kant's transcendental idealism, experience only makes sense when organized by intellectual categories (such as space, time, and causality). Taking such intellectual concepts out of the context of experience, according to Kant, spawns seductive but senseless metaphysical beliefs. (For example, extending the concept of causality beyond possible experience results in unverifiable speculation about a first cause.) Deleuze inverts the Kantian arrangement: experience exceeds our concepts by presenting novelty, and this raw experience of difference actualizes an idea, unfettered by our prior categories, forcing us to invent new ways of thinking (see below, Epistemology).

Simultaneously, Deleuze claims that being is univocal, i.e., that all of its senses are affirmed in one voice. Deleuze borrows the doctrine of ontological univocity from the medieval philosopher John Duns Scotus. In medieval disputes over the nature of God, many eminent theologians and philosophers (such as Thomas Aquinas) held that when one says that "God is good", God's goodness is only analogous to human goodness. Scotus argued to the contrary that when one says that "God is good", the goodness in question is the exact same sort of goodness that is meant when one says "Jane is good". That is, God only differs from us in degree, and properties such as goodness, power, reason, and so forth are univocally applied, regardless of whether one is talking about God, a man, or a flea.

Deleuze adapts the doctrine of univocity to claim that being is, univocally, difference. "With univocity, however, it is not the differences which are and must be: it is being which is Difference, in the sense that it is said of difference. Moreover, it is not we who are univocal in a Being which is not; it is we and our individuality which remains equivocal in and for a univocal Being."[19] Here Deleuze at once echoes and inverts Spinoza, who maintained that everything that exists is a modification of the one substance, God or Nature. For Deleuze, there is no one substance, only an always-differentiating process, an origami cosmos, always folding, unfolding, refolding. Deleuze summarizes this ontology in the paradoxical formula "pluralism = monism".[20]

Difference and Repetition is Deleuze's most sustained and systematic attempt to work out the details of such a metaphysics, but his other works develop similar ideas. In Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962), for example, reality is a play of forces; in Anti-Oedipus (1972), a "body without organs"; in What Is Philosophy? (1991), a "plane of immanence" or "chaosmos".


Deleuze's unusual metaphysics entails an equally atypical epistemology, or what he calls a transformation of "the image of thought". According to Deleuze, the traditional image of thought, found in philosophers such as Aristotle, Descartes, and Husserl, misconceives of thinking as a mostly unproblematic business. Truth may be hard to discover—it may require a life of pure theorizing, or rigorous computation, or systematic doubt—but thinking is able, at least in principle, to correctly grasp facts, forms, ideas, etc. It may be practically impossible to attain a God's-eye, neutral point of view, but that is the ideal to approximate: a disinterested pursuit that results in a determinate, fixed truth; an orderly extension of common sense. Deleuze rejects this view as papering over the metaphysical flux, instead claiming that genuine thinking is a violent confrontation with reality, an involuntary rupture of established categories. Truth changes what we think; it alters what we think is possible. By setting aside the assumption that thinking has a natural ability to recognize the truth, Deleuze says, we attain a "thought without image", a thought always determined by problems rather than solving them. "All this, however, presupposes codes or axioms which do not result by chance, but which do not have an intrinsic rationality either. It's just like theology: everything about it is quite rational if you accept sin, the immaculate conception, and the incarnation. Reason is always a region carved out of the irrational—not sheltered from the irrational at all, but traversed by it and only defined by a particular kind of relationship among irrational factors. Underneath all reason lies delirium, and drift."[21]

Deleuze's peculiar readings of the history of philosophy stem from this unusual epistemological perspective. To read a philosopher is no longer to aim at finding a single, correct interpretation, but is instead to present a philosopher's attempt to grapple with the problematic nature of reality. "Philosophers introduce new concepts, they explain them, but they don't tell us, not completely anyway, the problems to which those concepts are a response. [...] The history of philosophy, rather than repeating what a philosopher says, has to say what he must have taken for granted, what he didn't say but is nonetheless present in what he did say."[22] (See below, Deleuze's interpretations.)

Likewise, rather than seeing philosophy as a timeless pursuit of truth, reason, or universals, Deleuze defines philosophy as the creation of concepts. For Deleuze, concepts are not identity conditions or propositions, but metaphysical constructions that define a range of thinking, such as Plato's ideas, Descartes's cogito, or Kant's doctrine of the faculties. A philosophical concept "posits itself and its object at the same time as it is created."[23] In Deleuze's view, then, philosophy more closely resembles practical or artistic production than it does an adjunct to a definitive scientific description of a pre-existing world (as in the tradition of Locke or Quine).

In his later work (from roughly 1981 onward), Deleuze sharply distinguishes art, philosophy, and science as three distinct disciplines, each analyzing reality in different ways. While philosophy creates concepts, the arts create novel qualitative combinations of sensation and feeling (what Deleuze calls "percepts" and "affects"), and the sciences create quantitative theories based on fixed points of reference such as the speed of light or absolute zero (which Deleuze calls "functives"). According to Deleuze, none of these disciplines enjoy primacy over the others[24]: they are different ways of organizing the metaphysical flux, "separate melodic lines in constant interplay with one another."[25] For example, Deleuze does not treat cinema as an art representing an external reality, but as an ontological practice that creates different ways of organizing movement and time. Philosophy, science, and art are equally, and essentially, creative and practical. Hence, instead of asking traditional questions of identity such as "is it true?" or "what is it?", Deleuze proposes that inquiries should be functional or practical: "what does it do?" or "how does it work?"[26]


In ethics and politics, Deleuze again echoes Spinoza, albeit in a sharply Nietzschean key. In a classical liberal model of society, morality begins from individuals, who bear abstract natural rights or duties set by themselves or a God. Following his rejection of any metaphysics based on identity, Deleuze criticizes the notion of an individual as an arresting or halting of differentiation (as the etymology of the word "individual" suggests). Guided by the naturalistic ethics of Spinoza and Nietzsche, Deleuze instead seeks to understand individuals and their moralities as products of the organization of pre-individual desires and powers. In the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari describe history as a congealing and regimentation of "desiring-production" (a concept combining features of Freudian drives and Marxist labor) into the modern individual (typically neurotic and repressed), the nation-state (a society of continuous control), and capitalism (an anarchy domesticated into infantilizing commodification). Deleuze, following Marx, welcomes capitalism's destruction of traditional social hierarchies as liberating, but inveighs against its homogenization of all values to the aims of the market.

But how does Deleuze square his pessimistic diagnoses with his ethical naturalism? Deleuze claims that standards of value are internal or immanent: to live well is to fully express one's power, to go to the limits of one's potential, rather than to judge what exists by non-empirical, transcendent standards. Modern society still suppresses difference and alienates persons from what they can do. To affirm reality, which is a flux of change and difference, we must overturn established identities and so become all that we can become—though we cannot know what that is in advance. The pinnacle of Deleuzean practice, then, is creativity. "Herein, perhaps, lies the secret: to bring into existence and not to judge. If it is so disgusting to judge, it is not because everything is of equal value, but on the contrary because what has value can be made or distinguished only by defying judgment. What expert judgment, in art, could ever bear on the work to come?" [27]

Deleuze's interpretations

Deleuze's studies of individual philosophers and artists are purposely heterodox. In Nietzsche and Philosophy, for example, Deleuze claims that Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality is an attempt to rewrite Kant's Critique of Pure Reason,[28] even though Nietzsche nowhere mentions the First Critique in the Genealogy, and the Genealogy's moral topics are far removed from the epistemological focus of Kant's book. Likewise, Deleuze claims that univocity is the organizing principle of Spinoza's philosophy, despite the total absence of the term from any of Spinoza's works. Deleuze once famously described his method of interpreting philosophers as "buggery (enculage)", as sneaking behind an author and producing an offspring which is recognizably his, yet also monstrous and different.[29] The various monographs thus are not attempts to present what Nietzsche or Spinoza strictly intended, but re-stagings of their ideas in different and unexpected ways. Rather than misinterpretation, then, Deleuze's peculiar readings aim to enact the creativity he believes is the acme of philosophical practice.[30] A parallel in painting Deleuze points to is Francis Bacon's Study after Velázquez—it is quite beside the point to say that Bacon "gets Velasquez wrong".[31] Similar considerations apply, in Deleuze's view, to his own uses of mathematical and scientific terms, pace critics such as Alan Sokal: "I'm not saying that Resnais and Prigogine, or Godard and Thom, are doing the same thing. I'm pointing out, rather, that there are remarkable similarities between scientific creators of functions and cinematic creators of images. And the same goes for philosophical concepts, since there are distinct concepts of these spaces."[32]


Deleuze's ideas have not spawned a school, as Lacan's did. But his major collaborations with Guattari (Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus, and What Is Philosophy?) were best-sellers in France, and remain heavily cited in English-speaking academe. In 1994 and 1995, L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, an eight-hour series of interviews between Deleuze and Claire Parnet, aired on France's Arte Channel (a still from the program appears in the infobox above).[33]

In the 1960s, Deleuze's portrayal of Nietzsche as a metaphysician of difference rather than a reactionary mystic contributed greatly to the plausibility of "left-wing Nietzscheanism" as an intellectual stance.[34] In the 1970s, the Anti-Oedipus, written in a style by turns vulgar and esoteric,[35] offering a sweeping analysis of the family, language, capitalism, and history via eclectic borrowings from Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, and dozens of other writers, was received as a theoretical embodiment of the anarchic spirit of May 1968.

In the 1980s and 1990s, almost all of Deleuze's books were translated into English. Like his contemporaries Foucault, Derrida, and Lyotard, Deleuze's influence has been most strongly felt in North American humanities departments, particularly in literary theory. There, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus are oft regarded as major statements of post-structuralism and postmodernism,[36] though neither Deleuze nor Guattari described their work in those terms. In an English-speaking context, Deleuze's work is also identified as part of "continental philosophy".

Deleuze has attracted critics as well. The following list is not exhaustive, and gives only the briefest of summaries.

In Modern French Philosophy (1979), Vincent Descombes argues that Deleuze's account of a difference that is not derived from identity (in Nietzsche and Philosophy) is incoherent, and that his analysis of history in Anti-Oedipus is 'utter idealism', criticizing reality for falling short of a non-existent ideal of schizophrenic becoming.

In What Is Neostructuralism? (1984), Manfred Frank claims that Deleuze's theory of individuation as a process of bottomless differentiation fails to explain the unity of consciousness.

In "The Decline and Fall of French Nietzscheo-Structuralism" (1994), Pascal Engel presents a global condemnation of Deleuze's thought. According to Engel, Deleuze's metaphilosophical approach makes it impossible to reasonably disagree with a philosophical system, and so destroys meaning, truth, and philosophy itself. Engel summarizes Deleuze's metaphilosophy thus: "When faced with a beautiful philosophical concept you should just sit back and admire it. You should not question it."[37]

In The Mask of Enlightenment (1995) Stanley Rosen objects to Deleuze's interpretation of Nietzsche's eternal return.

In Deleuze: The Clamor of Being (1997), Alain Badiou claims that Deleuze's metaphysics only apparently embraces plurality and diversity, remaining at bottom relentlessly monist. Badiou further argues that, in practical matters, Deleuze's monism entails an ascetic, aristocratic fatalism akin to ancient Stoicism.

In Reconsidering Difference (1997), Todd May argues that Deleuze's claim that difference is ontologically primary ultimately contradicts his embrace of immanence, i.e., his monism. However, May believes that Deleuze can discard the primacy-of-difference thesis, and accept a Wittgensteinian holism without significantly altering his practical philosophy.

In Fashionable Nonsense (1997), Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont accuse Deleuze of abusing mathematical and scientific terms, particularly by sliding between accepted technical meanings and his own idiosyncratic use of those terms in his philosophical system. (But see above, Deleuze's interpretations.) Deleuze's writings on subjects such as calculus and quantum mechanics are, according to Sokal and Bricmont, vague, meaningless, or unjustified. However, by Sokal and Bricmont's own admission, they suspend judgment about Deleuze's philosophical theories and terminology.

In Organs without Bodies (2003), Slavoj Žižek claims that Deleuze's ontology oscillates between materialism and idealism,[38] and that the Deleuze of Anti-Oedipus ("arguably Deleuze's worst book"),[39] the "political" Deleuze under the "'bad' influence" of Guattari, ends up, despite protestations to the contrary, as "the ideologist of late capitalism".[40] Žižek also calls Deleuze to task for allegedly reducing the subject to "just another" substance and thereby failing to grasp the nothingness that, according to Lacan and Žižek, defines subjectivity.[41] What remains worthwhile in Deleuze's oeuvre, Žižek finds, are precisely those concepts closest to Žižek's own ideas.

In Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (2006), Peter Hallward argues that Deleuze's insistence that being is necessarily creative and always-differentiating entails that his philosophy can offer no insight into, and is supremely indifferent to, the material, actual conditions of existence. Thus Hallward claims that Deleuze's thought is literally other-worldly, aiming only at a passive contemplation of the dissolution of all identity into the theophanic self-creation of nature.


  1. ^ Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues II pp.57-8, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam: "Apart from Sartre, the most important philosopher in France was Jean Wahl." Deleuze goes on to credit Wahl for introducing him to English and American thought. Wahl was among the very first to write about Whitehead and James - both arguably very important to Deleuze - in French. The idea of Anglo-American pluralism in Deleuze's work shows influence of Jean Wahl (see also Mary Frances Zamberlin, Rhizosphere (New York: Routledge, 2006))
  2. ^ Foucault, "Theatrum Philosophicum", Critique 282, p. 885.
  3. ^ Negotiations, p. 4. However, in a later interview, Deleuze commented: "I don't know what Foucault meant, I never asked him" (Negotiations, p. 88).
  4. ^ Dialogues, p. 12: "At the Liberation we were still strangely stuck in the history of philosophy. We simply plunged into Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger; we threw ourselves like puppies into a scholasticism worse than that of the Middle Ages. Fortunately there was Sartre. Sartre was our Outside, he was really the breath of fresh air from the backyard."
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ A.P. Colombat, "November 4, 1995: Deleuze's death as an event", Continental Philosophy Review 29.3 (July 1996): 235-249.
  7. ^ Philip Goodchild, Deleuze and Guattari: An Introduction to the Politics of Desire (Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996).
  8. ^ "Gilles Deleuze". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 8, 2009. 
  9. ^ J.-F. Lyotard, Misère de la philosophie (Paris: Galilée, 2000), p. 194.
  10. ^ Mary Bryden (ed.), Deleuze and Religion (New York: Routledge, 2001), p. 201.
  11. ^ Negotiations, p. 137.
  12. ^ Ibid., p. 5.
  13. ^ Ibid., pp. 11-12.
  14. ^ "Bergson's Conception of Difference", in Desert Islands, p. 33.
  15. ^ Ibid., p. 32.
  16. ^ Proust, Le Temps Retrouvé, ch. III: see the fourth line from the bottom of this page, or, in English translation, the thirteenth paragraph here: "I began to discover the cause by comparing those varying happy impressions which had the common quality of being felt simultaneously at the actual moment and at a distance in time, because of which common quality the noise of the spoon upon the plate, the unevenness of the paving-stones, the taste of the madeleine, imposed the past upon the present and made me hesitate as to which time I was existing in. Of a truth, the being within me which sensed this impression, sensed what it had in common in former days and now, sensed its extra-temporal character, a being which only appeared when through the medium of the identity of present and past, it found itself in the only setting in which it could exist and enjoy the essence of things, that is, outside Time. [...] Nothing but a moment of the past? Much more perhaps; something which being common to the past and the present, is more essential than both. [...] a marvellous expedient of nature had caused a sensation to flash to me—sound of a spoon and of a hammer, uneven paving-stones—simultaneously in the past which permitted my imagination to grasp it and in the present in which the shock to my senses caused by the noise had effected a contact between the dreams of the imagination and that of which they are habitually deprived, namely, the idea of existence—and thanks to that stratagem had permitted that being within me to secure, to isolate and to render static for the duration of a lightning flash that which it can never wholly grasp, a fraction of Time in its pure essence. When, with such a shudder of happiness, I heard the sound common, at once, to the spoon touching the plate, to the hammer striking the wheel, to the unevenness of the paving-stones in the courtyard of the Guermantes’ mansion and the Baptistry of St. Mark’s, it was because that being within me can only be nourished on the essence of things and finds in them alone its subsistence and its delight. It languishes in the observation by the senses of the present sterilised by the intelligence awaiting a future constructed by the will out of fragments of the past and the present from which it removes still more reality, keeping that only which serves the narrow human aim of utilitarian purposes. But let a sound, a scent already heard and breathed in the past be heard and breathed anew, simultaneously in the present and in the past, real without being actual, ideal without being abstract, then instantly the permanent and characteristic essence hidden in things is freed and our true being which has for long seemed dead but was not so in other ways awakes and revives, thanks to this celestial nourishment."
  17. ^ Desert Islands, p. 36.
  18. ^ See "The Method of Dramatization" in Desert Islands, and "Actual and Virtual" in Dialogues.
  19. ^ Difference and Repetition, p. 39.
  20. ^ A Thousand Plateaus, p. 20.
  21. ^ Desert Islands, p. 262.
  22. ^ Negotiations, p. 136.
  23. ^ What Is Philosophy?, p. 22.
  24. ^ Negotiations, p. 123.
  25. ^ Negotiations, p. 125. Cf. Spinoza's claim that the mind and the body are different modes expressing the same substance.
  26. ^ Negotiations, p. 21: "We're strict functionalists: what we're interested in is how something works".
  27. ^ Essays Critical and Clinical, p. 135.
  28. ^ Nietzsche and Philosophy, p. 88.
  29. ^ Negotiations, p. 6. See also: Daniel W. Smith, "The Inverse Side of the Structure: Zizek on Deleuze on Lacan", Criticism (2004): "Deleuze's all-too-well-known image of philosophical "buggery," which makes thinkers produce their own "monstrous" children"; Robert Sinnerbrink (in "Nomadology or Ideology? Zizek’s Critique of Deleuze", Parrhesia 1 (2006): 62-87) describes the "popular topic" of Deleuze's "notorious remarks"; Donald Callen (in "The Difficult Middle", Rhizomes 10 (Spring 2005)) describes "intellectual buggery" as "what Deleuze himself famously said about his encounters with the works of other philosophers." Deleuze's buggery analogy is also cited by, among many others, Brian Massumi, A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia (MIT Press, 1992), p. 2; Slavoj Žižek, Organs without Bodies (Routledge, 2003), p. 48; Ian Buchanan, A Deleuzian Century? (Duke UP, 1999), p. 8; Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Deleuze and Language (Macmillan, 2002), p. 37; Gregg Lambert, The Non-Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (Continuum, 2002), p. x; Claire Colebrook, Understanding Deleuze (Allen & Unwin, 2003), p. 73; and Charles Stivale, Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts (McGill-Queen's, 2005), p. 3.
  30. ^ Desert Islands, p. 144.
  31. ^ Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, pp. 46f: "[Bacon] let loose ... presences" already in Velázquez's painting. Cf. the passage cited above, from Negotiations, p. 136: "The history of philosophy, rather than repeating what a philosopher says, has to say what he must have taken for granted, what he didn't say but is nonetheless present in what he did say."
  32. ^ Negotiations, pp. 124-125.
  33. ^ An English language summary can be found here: [2]
  34. ^ See, e.g., the approving reference to Deleuze's Nietzsche study in Jacques Derrida's essay "Différance", or Pierre Klossowski's monograph Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, dedicated to Deleuze. More generally, see D. Allison (ed.), The New Nietzsche (MIT Press, 1985), and L. Ferry and A. Renaut (eds.), Why We Are Not Nietzscheans (University of Chicago Press, 1997).
  35. ^ Sometimes in the same sentence: "one is thus traversed, broken, fucked by the socius" (Anti-Oedipus, p. 347).
  36. ^ See, for example, Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, Postmodern Theory (Guilford Press, 1991), which devotes a chapter to Deleuze and Guattari.
  37. ^ Barry Smith (ed.), European Philosophy and the American Academy, p. 34.
  38. ^ Slavoj Žižek, Organs without Bodies, pp. 19-32, esp. p. 21: "Is this opposition not, yet again, that of materialism versus idealism? In Deleuze, this means The Logic of Sense versus Anti-Oedipus." See also p. 28 for "Deleuze's oscillation between the two models" of becoming.
  39. ^ Ibid., p. 21
  40. ^ Ibid., pp. 32, 20, and 184.
  41. ^ Ibid., p. 68: "This brings us to the topic of the subject that, according to Lacan, emerges in the interstice of the 'minimal difference,' in the minimal gap between two signifiers. In this sense, the subject is 'a nothingness, a void, which exists.' ... This, then, is what Deleuze seems to get wrong in his reduction of the subject to (just another) substance. Far from belonging to the level of actualization, of distinct entities in the order of constituted reality, the dimension of the 'subject' designates the reemergence of the virtual within the order of actuality. 'Subject' names the unique space of the explosion of virtuality within constituted reality."


(Near complete bibliography, including various translations)

By Gilles Deleuze
In collaboration with Félix Guattari
In collaboration with Michel Foucault

Most of Deleuze's courses are available, in several languages, here.


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External links

Nikolas Rose

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Nikolas Rose (born 1947 in London, UK) is a prominent British sociologist and social theorist. He is currently the James Martin White Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and acting director of LSE's BIOS Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society.

Nikolas Rose

Born 1947 (age 61–62)
United Kingdom
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Sociologist
Institutions London School of Economics
Goldsmiths, University of London
Brunel University
Influences Michel Foucault, Georges Canguilhem



Life and Work

Before joining LSE in 2002 as the Convenor of the Department of Sociology (2002-2006), he was previously Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, where he had been Head of the Department of Sociology, Pro-Warden for Research and Head of the Goldsmiths Centre for Urban and Community Research and Director of a major evaluation of urban regeneration in South East London.

Originally trained as a biologist, he has done extensive work on the history and sociology of psychiatry, on mental health policy and risk, and on the social implications of recent developments in psychopharmacology. He has also published widely on the genealogy of subjectivity, on the history of empirical thought in sociology, and on changing rationalities of political power. He is particularly known for his interpretation of the work of the French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault and the revival of the literature on governmentality in the Anglo-American world.

His book, Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self, is widely recognised as one of the founding texts in a new way of understanding and analysing the links between expertise, subjectivity and political power. He argues that the proliferation of the 'psy' disciplines has been intrinsically linked with transformations in governmentality, in the rationalities and technologies of political power in 'advanced and liberal democracies'. (See also governmentality for a description of Rose’s interpretations of Foucault’s writings).

For six years he was managing editor of Economy and Society, one of the UK’s leading interdisciplinary journal of social science, and he is now co-editor of BioSocieties: An interdisciplinary journal for social studies of the life sciences.

He was brought up in London in a Jewish family, the younger brother of Steven Rose, a prominent British neuroscientist, professor of Biology and Neurobiology at the Open University and University of London.

In 1989, he founded the History of the Present Research Network, an international network of researchers whose work was influenced by the writings of Michel Foucault. Together with Paul Rabinow, he edited the Fourth Volume of Michel Foucault's Essential Works.

In December 2001, he was listed by The Guardian newspaper as one of the top five UK based social scientists, on the basis of a twenty year analysis of citations to research papers, and the most cited UK based sociologist.

He was awarded in 2007 an ESRC Professorial Research Fellowship - a three year project entitled 'Brain, Self and Society in the 21st Century'[1].

More recently, the UK's Engineering and Physical Science Research Council has awarded the BIOS centre at the LSE and Imperial College £8 million to establish the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation, the first publicly-funded UK centre dedicated to synthetic biology which will be based at Imperial College [2]. Prof. Rose will be heading the team that will examine the social, ethical, legal and political dimensions of this emerging practice [3] and that will train researchers to examine the socio-economic impacts of biotechnology, and developing practices of regulation and good governance [4].

His work has been translated into Swedish, Danish, Finnish, German, Italian, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Romanian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Selected Publications


Chapters in edited collections (selected)

Papers in refereed journals (selected)


  1. ^ Brain Self and Society project, LSE, [1]
  2. ^ "Synthetic biology gets ethical ", Nature, May 2009,[2]
  3. ^ "Synthetic biology gets ethical", Nature, May 2009 [3]
  4. ^ "New centre launched to spearhead UK research in synthetic biology", LSE News, December 2008 [4]

External Links


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Ecogovernmentality, also spelled Eco-governmentality is a term used to denote the application of Foucault’s concepts of biopower and governmentality to the analysis of the regulation of social interactions with the natural world. Begun in the mid 1990s by a small body of theorists (Luke, Darier, and Rutherford) the literature on ecogovernmentality grew as a response to the perceived lack of Foucauldian analysis of environmentalism and in environmental studies.

Following Michel Foucault, writing on ecogovernmentality focuses on how government agencies, in combination with producers of expert knowledge, construct “The Environment.” This construction is viewed both in terms of the creation of an object of knowledge and a sphere within which certain types of intervention and management are created and deployed to further the government’s larger aim of managing the lives of its constituents. This governmental management is dependent on the dissemination and internalization of knowledge/power among individual actors. This creates a decentered network of self-regulating elements whose interests become integrated with those of the State.

Ecogovernmentality is part of the broader area of political ecology. It can be situated within the ongoing debates over how to balance concern with socio-natural relationships with attention to the actual environmental impact of specific interactions. The term is most useful to authors like Bryant, Watts and Peet who argue for the importance of a phenomenology of nature that builds from post-structuralist concerns with knowledge, power and discourse. In addition, it is of particular use to geographers because of its ability to link place based socio-environmental phenomena with the non-place based influences of both national and international systems of governance. Particularly, for studies of environmental changes that extend beyond the borders one particular region, ecogovernmentality can prove a useful analytical tool for tracing the manifestations of specific policy across scales ranging from the individual, the community, the state and on to larger structures of international environmental governance.



Resource Management & the State

Work done by Rutherford, on US Environmental Impact Assessments, and by Agrawal on local forest governance in India, are examples of this method of analysis. Both illustrate how the production of specific types of expert knowledge (statistical models of pollution, or the economic productivity of forests) coupled with specific technologies of government (the EIA assessment regime or local Forest Stewardship Councils) can bring individual interest in line with those of the state. This, not through the imposition of specific outcomes, but by creating frameworks that rationalizes behavior in particular ways and involve individuals in the process of problem definition and intervention.

Within a geographical context, this type of analysis provides insight into how territory is brought under state control, and how the regulation of human interaction with this territory is achieved. Focusing on the evolution of techniques of cartography, systems of natural classification, and early attempts at scientific resource management in the 18th and 19th centuries, Braun (2000, 2003) and Scott (1998) show how new systems of knowledge extend systems of governmentality into the natural world. Fundamental to this analysis is a connection between the abstract utilitarian logic employed by states and the shape of the territory under their control. In Scott, for example, measuring nature in terms of concepts of production and natural resources “allowed the state to impose that logic on the very reality that was observed” (Scott, 14). The complex natural systems of a given place are first depicted as simplified sites of managed resource extraction. As part of this management their ecological composition is changed (through types of planting, harvesting and extraction) in an attempt to make them resemble more closely the simplified statistical systems with which they are measured.

In this manifestation, which focuses primarily on the administration of particular resources at a national level, ecogovernmentality is linked to the larger governmental aims identified by Foucault of securing the wellbeing of its inhabitants by managing “a complex composed of men and things” (93). Scott’s work on scientific forestry in early modern Europe shows how the rational models constructed by state foresters were part of the larger body of statistical knowledge created to manage population and facilitate “taxation, political control, and [[[conscription]]” (23). Likewise, Braun’s analysis of the Geological Survey of Canada creates a clear link between methods of measuring and representing the mineral composition of a territory, and the structures of government put in place both to create the concept of a unified nation and “to manage individuals, goods and wealth so as to improve the condition of the state’s population” (27).

Here, ecogovernmentality is seen as a subset of concerns within of the larger Foucauldian concept. But implicit in this is an important claim: that the types of knowledge produced in the process of making nature intelligible to the state have an important influence on the evolution of state rationality itself, an influence not adequately covered in Foucault’s original formulation. They seek to add to Foucault’s discussion of population and the operation of systems of knowledge/power that normalized certain ways of acting and being and marginalized others. Building on Foucault’s brief references to “resources, means of subsistence [and] the territory with its specific qualities”(93), their contribution is the investigation of the parallel systems of measuring and assigning value to the natural world (the “crop” and the “weed” (Scott, 13) acting as homologies to categories like “sanity” and “insanity” in Foucault’s work) and to give these their due in discussions of the formation of state rationality and structures of governmentality.

Eco-power and discipline

The work of Timothy Luke pushes the reach of this concept further, by envisaging a radically different relationship between governmentality and ecogovernmentality. He argues that the ecological domain has become the “ultimate domain of being”(150) the key location for the production of knowledge and power. Following Foucault, Luke traces this transformation back to a specific historical moment, the period of the early 70s encompassing the oil crisis and the détente between the USSR and the US. From these beginnings, environmental considerations grow, fertilized during the 1980s by the formation of international bodies, like the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, and increased concern and awareness over ecological limits to human development. The end result is the “environmentalization” of the production and exercise of knowledge and power. Reversing the earlier focus on the integration of environmental knowledge into broader state projects of socio-economic management, here it is these projects themselves which are reshaped by new forms of environmental knowledge (specifically the concepts of “ecology” and “sustainability”). It is this new structure that becomes known as Ecogovernmentality.

Luke argues that heightened awareness of social vulnerability to environmental factors coupled with the increased importance of macro-economic competition (rather than Cold-War military confrontation) in geo-political power struggles led to the rise of sustainable development as the synthesis of these two interrelated concerns. The disciplinary power of governmentality is refigured as “enviro-discipline”, a broader concept that “expresses the authority of eco-knowledgeable, geo-powered forces to police the fitness of all biological organisms and the health of their natural environments” (146). This constitutes an important expansion of the object of governmental rule and the area to be managed. Foucault’s focus on “population” now includes “all of life’s biodiversity” (Luke, 122) and, given the interconnected nature of environmental systems, states must now seek to extend their control far outside of their territorial boundaries to ensure the security and productivity of their population (Luke 134).

Uniting both broad and narrow definitions of Ecogovernmentality is the attention paid to environmental subject formation, or the creation of environmental subject positions. Definitions of these subject positions vary from Darrier’s (1999) construction of the environmental subject as a site for resistance to consumerism and the commodification of the relationship between the individual and the environment, through Agrawal’s broadly neutral concept of “environmentality” which denotes an acceptance on the part of the individual that nature is an object to be managed and their accompanying involvement in this process, to Luke’s (1999) assertion that “the environment emerges as a ground for normalizing individual behavior” that supersedes the previous influences of “the ethical concerns of family, community and nation” (149). Underlying these divergent definitions, is the common claim that the relationship between individual and environment is key to current analysis of systems of state management and governmentality.


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Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen or, more recently by a movement called Enoughism. Veblen's subject of examination, the newly emergent middle class arising at the turn of the twentieth century, comes to full fruition by the end of the twentieth century through the process of globalization.[1]

In economics, consumerism refers to economic policies placing emphasis on consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the belief that the free choice of consumers should dictate the economic structure of a society (cf. Producerism, especially in the British sense of the term).[citation needed][2]




Consumerism has strong links with the Western world, but is in fact an international phenomenon. People purchasing goods and consuming materials in excess of their basic needs is as old as the first civilizations (see Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Ancient Rome, for example).

A great turn in consumerism arrived just before the Industrial Revolution. While before the norm had been the scarcity of resources, The Industrial Revolution created an unusual situation: for the first time in history products were available in outstanding quantities, at outstandingly low prices, being thus available to virtually everyone. And so began the era of mass consumption, the only era where the concept of consumerism is applicable.

It's still good to keep in mind that since consumerism began, various individuals and groups have consciously sought an alternative lifestyle, such as the "simple living",[3] "eco-conscious",[4] and "localvore"/"buy local"[5] movements.

Consumerism, the promotion of consumer rights and protection. Subject to the doctrine of caveat emptor (Latin, "let the buyer beware").

The older term and concept of "conspicuous consumption" originated at the turn of the 20th century in the writings of sociologist and economist, Thorstein Veblen. The term describes an apparently irrational and confounding form of economic behaviour. Veblen's scathing proposal that this unnecessary consumption is a form of status display is made in darkly humorous observations like the following:

"It is true of dress in even a higher degree than of most other items of consumption, that people will undergo a very considerable degree of privation in the comforts or the necessaries of life in order to afford what is considered a decent amount of wasteful consumption; so that it is by no means an uncommon occurrence, in an inclement climate, for people to go ill clad in order to appear well dressed." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899).

The term "conspicuous consumption" spread to describe consumerism in the United States in the 1960s, but was soon linked to debates about media theory, culture jamming, and its corollary productivism.

By 1920 most people [Americans] had experimented with occasional installment buying.[6]

While consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it has become widespread over the course of the 20th century,[citation needed] and particularly in recent decades.


Webster's dictionary defines Consumerism as "The movement seeking to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards.

or alternately "The theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial.". It is thus the opposite of anti-consumerism or of producerism.


In many critical contexts, consumerism is used to describe the tendency of people to identify strongly with products or services they consume, especially those with commercial brand names and perceived status-symbolism appeal, e.g. a luxury automobile, designer clothing, or expensive jewelry. A culture that is permeated by consumerism can be referred to as a consumer culture or a market culture.

Opponents of consumerism argue that many luxuries and unnecessary consumer products may act as social mechanism allowing people to identify like-minded individuals through the display of similar products, again utilizing aspects of status-symbolism to judge socioeconomic status and social stratification. Some people believe relationships with a product or brand name are substitutes for healthy human relationships lacking in societies, and along with consumerism, create a cultural hegemony, and are part of a general process of social control[7] in modern society. Critics of consumerism often point out that consumerist societies are more prone to damage the environment, contribute to global warming and use up resources at a higher rate than other societies.[8]

In 1955, economist Victor Lebow stated (as quoted by Rees, 2009):

"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate".[9]

Critics of consumerism include Pope Benedict XVI,[10] German historian Oswald Spengler (who said, "Life in America is exclusively economic in structure and lacks depth"[11]), and French writer Georges Duhamel, who held "American materialism up as a beacon of mediocrity that threatened to eclipse French civilization".[12]

In an opinion segment of New Scientist magazine published in August 2009, reporter Andy Coghlan cited William Rees of the University of British Columbia and epidemiologist Warren Hern of the University of Colorado at Boulder, saying that human beings, despite considering themselves civilized thinkers, are "subconsciously still driven by an impulse for survival, domination and expansion... an impulse which now finds expression in the idea that inexorable economic growth is the answer to everything, and, given time, will redress all the world's existing inequalities."[9] According to figures presented by Rees at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, human society is in a "global overshoot", consuming 30% more material than is sustainable from the world's resources. Rees went on to state that at present, 85 countries are exceeding their domestic "bio-capacities", and compensate for their lack of local material by depleting the stocks of other countries, which have a material surplus due to their lower consumption.[9]

Consumerism in the 21st century

Beginning in the 1990s, the most frequent reason given for attending college had changed to making a lot of money, outranking reasons such as becoming an authority in a field or helping others in difficulty. This statement directly correlates with the rise of materialism, specifically the technological aspect. At this time compact disc players, digital media, personal computers, and cellular telephones all began to integrate into the affluent American’s everyday lifestyle. Madeline Levine criticized what she saw as a large change in American culture – “a shift away from values of community, spirituality, and integrity, and toward competition, materialism and disconnection.” [13]

Businesses have realized that wealthy consumers are the most attractive targets for marketing their products. The upper class' tastes, lifestyles, and preferences trickle down to become the standard which all consumers seek to emulate. The not so wealthy consumers can “purchase something new that will speak of their place in the tradition of affluence” [14]. A consumer can have the instant gratification of purchasing an expensive item that will help improve their social status.

Emulation is also a core component of 21st century consumerism. As a general trend, regular consumers seek to emulate those who are above them in the social hierarchy. The poor strive to imitate the wealthy and the wealthy imitate celebrities and other icons. The celebrity endorsement of products can be seen as evidence of the desire of modern consumers to purchase products partly or solely to emulate people of higher social status. This purchasing behavior may co-exist in the mind of a consumer with an image of oneself as being an individualist.

Counter arguments

There has always been strong criticism of the anti-consumerist movement. Most of this comes from libertarian thought.[15]

Libertarian criticisms of the anti-consumerist movement are largely based on the perception that it leads to elitism. Namely, libertarians believe that no person should have the right to decide for others what goods are necessary for living and which aren't, or that luxuries are necessarily wasteful, and thus argue that anti-consumerism is a precursor to central planning or a totalitarian society. Twitchell, in his book Living It Up, sarcastically remarked that the logical outcome of the anti-consumerism movement would be a return to the sumptuary laws that existed in ancient Rome and during the Middle Ages, historical periods prior to the era of Karl Marx in the 19th century.

See also