Monday, November 05, 2007

Encounters With Deleuze

My first personal tame effort towards the works of Gilles Deleuze was almost 3 years ago when after many attempts, I gave up on A thousand Plateaus. I knew this work was difficult and academic and a layperson like myself is barricaded from entering the realms of such philosophy, of wolf men and rhizomes. And yet, since I have sometimes found Foucault within grasp and poetically approachable, I wondered whether perhaps I should not try again, try to enter this Deleuzian world, a philosopher now considered to the most important of the last century, with that century being called Deleuzian, though that is the vanity of his fervent believers.

I am reading his collected essays and interviews called Two regimes of madness, a work that he conceived himself and which covers the last 20 years of his life. I find this work more approachable, less daunting and easier to read. It has several important essays, debates involving Deleuze and Barthes talking about Proust and others, his open and extended involvement with politics, and some essays on cinema, from his two famous works on cinema. All of the arguments presented are as relevant now as when they were written, for instance the question of the secular in France and the debate over the veil in French schools.

Deleuze calls philosophy as an attempt to look and seek concepts, a discipline that is just as inventive as any other discipline, and it consists in creating or inventing concepts. Concepts have to be produced. Philosophy tells stories, stories with concepts. He constantly compares the concepts within philosophy to cinema, to scientific activity, as each new philosophical concept is akin to movements within cinema. Regarding a philosophical text, Deleuze tells us that it can take the form of a dialogue: concepts then correspond to the characters that support them.

This text also contains easier pieces to read, including introductions to other books, prefaces to his two important works on cinema, interviews conducted about and specifically on cinema and a few short essays on Palestine. Deleuze wrote extensively on Focault and this book has a few essays on Foucault and his important works. I will attempt to approach Deleuze again in the future, perhaps with less temerity, though I understand that one must have tools to read and understand philosophy. This book has his more intimate and personal thoughts, relating how he first met Felix Guattari and how their initial differences complemented their styles, their approach to philosophy and how they worked those out to their advantage, ending in their famous collaborated works, including Anti-Oedipus. In his thoughts on Guattari's death, Deleuze says that "the most important aspects of remembering a dead friend are the gestures that still reach us, that still come to us long after he is gone".

Writes Deleuze, " People tend to compare the quest for freedom with the embrace of capitalism. It seems doubtful that the joys of capitalism are enough to liberate a people. The bloody failure of socialism is on every body's lips, but no one sees capitalist globalization as a failure, in spite of the bloody inequalities that condition the market, and the populations who are excluded from it. The American revolution failed long before the Soviet revolution." Deleuze then says that his contribution regarding forwarding concepts is formulating a concept of the ritornello in philosophy, a concept that I have no clue about right now. I end by quoting a small extract from Stones, a poignant short essay on the Palestinian issue.

"Europe owes its Jews an infinite debt that Europe has not even begun to pay. Instead, an innocent people is being made to pay- the Palestinians.
The Zionists have constructed the state of Israel out of the recent past of their genocide, that unforgettable European horror, but also out of the suffering of other people, using the stones of this other people. The Americans have made a multi-billion dollar western out of the whole affair. We are to believe that the state of Israel has been established in an empty land which has been awaiting the return of ancient Hebrews for centuries. the ghosts of a few Arabs that are around, keeping watch over the sleepy stones, came from somewhere else. The Palestinians, tossed aside, forgotten-have been called on to recognize the right of Israel to exist while the Israelis have continued to deny the fact of existence of a Palestinian people.
from the beginning, the Palestinian people have carried out, on their own, a war which continues to this day in defense of their land, their stones, their way of life.
How will Israel succeed-- with its annexed lands, its occupied territories, with its settlers and its settlements, with its lunatic rabbis? Through occupation, through infinite occupation: the stones raining down on them come from within, they come from the Palestinian people, to remind us that there is a place in the world, no matter how confined, where the debt has been reversed. The stones thrown from the hands of the Palestinians are their stones, the living stones of their country.The Palestinians sound the depths of that soul and torment it with their piercing stones".


Marta said...

:) ciao! ? I can relate so much to what you say here! Do you know we all Deleuzian readers have been through the same pains Some of us, like myself, with much less consciousness than you! Deleuze and Guattari are pretty hard, particularly if you read them in English, at least this is my experience. In my language, or in French, the poetic side, the displacement effect of the reading, takes control of the process. I abandon myself, without looking for meaning, without enquiring for consistency. Then I feel I have to go back to the English for the second reading, when I try to stop, to lock concepts into discourses, when I need ‘to cite, to quote’ Deleuze within a discourse of mine.

Anonymous said...

i do think you have found a good way with starting the essays, Deleuze is certainly one of the most interesting, as for me someone who always had difficulties with what is called purely conceptual thinking or strict analytical philosophy i had no such difficulties in reading him. But then i encountered him relatively late in my reading life and maybe was not so 'shockeable' anymore. Needless to say he is not taught much or only reluctantly, at least here. His book on Francis Bacon is also great.

Kubla Khan said...

Hello Marta:
yes, as you say rightly, without looking for meaning or consistently. yet, i feel there must be a way of getting through it or around it, these concepts for it asks for a language or resolving the effects of that language.
Antonia:i can guess this is right up your street and thus easy. but, with Adorno or Benjamin, there are possibilities, of understanding.
I have a couple of books by Gramsci, including prison notebooks which are slightly bothersome, for clarity is lacking at this stage.
but his cultural notes are fabulous, and he is easily the best marxist writer on culture.
i want to write a post on that, maybe.