(The following is a guest post by Anthony Paul Smith, a contributor to The Weblog.)
First, let me voice my thanks to the powers that be at Long Sunday for allowing me to participate in this event. Reading Schmitt for the first time a few months ago (Political Theology) I had the feeling of aporia, that this was a thinker who causes a pause and then a speeding up of thought if one thinks first with and then past him. I’ve been working my way through Deleuze and Guattari as of late for a variety of projects and Schmitt’s thought kept creeping into my thoughts on their philosophy. I’ve presented some fragments here, as I lack a full picture of the problem currently, that I hope will be interesting for the symposium.
Deleuze and Guattari are famous for making thought political. For attempting bring attention to thought as it was already political. Following the many failures and weaknesses of commentary on Deleuze and Guattari this is usually taken to mean something carrying with it a moral goodness. Deleuze and Guattari resist stratification! Vive le différance! Becomings! The Body without Organs is magic! But it seems that this is preciously what politics is not. Schmitt’s thesis on the political is that it is the distinguishing between friend and enemy; this is the political project par excellence. The political is a stratification and that goes for the micropolitical. Here I realize my reading may be contested and is not standard in the blogosphere, but let it be said that Deleuze and Guattari in their collaborative work show that the micropolitical is not resistance qua resistance as most people tend to suggest in blog commentary. Rather, the micropolitical is a site where one can resist at a ‘molecular’ level just as fascisms arise out of the micropolitical happenings within macropolitics (and this is why Goodchild’s attempt to create a transformer to wield the power of Deleuze and Guattari thought is appropriate). (Let it be noted that Guattari is less explicit about this in his singular work.) Micropolitics and macropolitics are not a moral binary and they tend to fall into one in the hands of socialists, anarchists, and communists (among whom I count myself).
So what would it mean to make thought political in the Schmittian sense? Is it not deciding the distinction between friend and enemy on a conceptual level? There is an interview in Desert Islands and Other Texts, which I don’t have near me currently, where Deleuze says that he has made Hegel the villain or the enemy because every good story (l’historie) needs one in this case the history of philosophy (I’ve always been somewhat fascinated, surely naively, that the French language uses the same word for story and history). He has distinguished within conceptual thought an enemy (Hegel). Are we not to understand that to make thought political or recognize that it is already political is to say that we must or we have distinguished friend and enemy within our thought? It would seem to me that we do indeed make thought political in this manner (but we shall have to engage the question of the political more deeply). So when Deleuze and Guattari employ the Bergsonian binaries we must distinguish what is a friend and what is enemy, but not to a State. This is the addition that Deleuze and Guattari make to the concept of the political, in this odd and experimental reading I’m employing here, rather than the State it is life that becomes the plane upon which the distinctions are made. It is a non-stratified space upon which we stratify thought. This surely risks the worst kind of abuse, the worst kind of totalizing political actions. If you are an enemy to life than you are a friend to death. And, like Schmitt, they warn us against such an absolute distinction between friend and enemy, though for them it is a warning against the war machine (the deterritorialized partisan) being plugged into a State and taking it to its suicidal limit.
So do Deleuze and Guattari really want to make thought political, or are they attempting to make us recognize that thought is already political in this stratified way and that the trick is to move beyond the political, the stratified, through a series of cut-ups, becomings, lines of flight, creative assemblages, etc.? A politics that goes beyond stratification? Initially I would conceive of this as a way of going beyond the friend/enemy distinction, but would we not still stratify by making the going beyond a conceptual friend and the stratified a conceptual enemy? A meta-stratification. The friend/enemy distinction becomes a plane upon which singularities are laid out in different intensities, but with which we cannot still escape from the war machine. We cannot call for justice, even as we are able to construct a political ethics, which in this case means figuring out what a body can do and then putting it in such a position that is able to flourish to its limit. How do we remain political and not stratify, how is thought to be made this non-stratified political? Is it possible?
Philip Goodchild’s new book, described on the faculty bio page as a ‘theology of money that determines our everyday’, may be helpful for deepening the concept of the political. Following Schmitt’s formulation he conceives of the political as a combination of the two kinds of power in modern thought – the purely physical and the human will. The political, as that which may wage war, is simply an authority of the will over another will through the exercise of a superior physical power. However, Goodchild discloses that war is simply one example of ‘accurate distribution or restriction of [physical] power.’ “The political, more broadly, may take as its foundation the determination of the use of resources. While war enables the possibility of an enemy, sharing resources enables the possibility of a friend.” But this political will to distribute physical power must derive it’s authority from something other than physical power, and Goodchild notes Schmitt’s concession that the political derives its energy from a variety of human endeavors – three inter-related ones being economic, religious and moral activities. Should we then admit of three kinds of power? Goodchild believes so, he names it the intangible energy of the political. (Should we ignore the resemblance this third kind of energy shares with the third kind of knowledge (beatitude) in Spinoza?)
The partisan, in Schmitt’s theory, comes across as a force that comes from the earth. He speaks of the ties the partisan has with the land, they are not citizens so much as a war machine, though not an absolute deterritorialized war machine for they have stratified to a geographic region. I’m reminded of the scene from Eisenstein’s Strike! where the unscrupulous provocateurs arise out of the Holy Earth to assist the State in bringing down the strike. Only, they take it to the suicidal limit when they perish in the fire they’ve set to frame the striking workers. Though one is drawn to the workers in Eisenstein’s movie, these dis-figures arising from the earth have something about them which is also attracting us to them. I’d venture a guess that it is their tellurian character (the King’s abode is a hollowed out car). But Schmitt is wrong to say, due to his prejudice against technology, that the motorized partisan loses this tellurian character, it would be more accurate to say that the motorized partisan takes the whole earth for it’s territory. The motorized partisan more fully moves towards the war machine.
But what of the political in thought? Is there a becoming-partisan in our way of thinking? It seems, in the terms I’ve sketched above, that any becoming-partisan within thought is a threat to the political nature of thought itself. That is, the becoming-partisan in our thought, when fully deterritorialized and thus tied to the full earth, is a partisan of humanity – it is stronger than its enemies and it has no enemies. Is the trick not to make thought political, but to make it a partisan of humanity?