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Deleuze, Guattari, & the New Right, Part 1

DeleuzeGuattari

Left: Gilles Deleuze, 1925–1995; right: Félix Guattari, 1930–1992

2,847 words

“A creator is someone who creates their own impossibilities, and thereby creates possibilities.” – Gilles Deleuze[1]

It Begins with Nietzsche 

It begins with On the Genealogy of Morality. It accepts the challenge of Nietzsche’s critique of morality, of his presentation of the origins and omnipresence of ressentiment and bad conscience. It explains what we must do to free ourselves from the reign of reactive forces. It is a philosophy of extreme affirmation, one that makes a metaphysics of force and desire. It is a philosophy – perhaps the only post-Nietzschean philosophy – that embraces the implications of his thought without reservation and without fear (which is not the same as without compromise). It is a philosophy that demands only one thing: that we think differently – that is to say, critically. The hard part, though, is in actually doing so. Because not only the content, but also the form, of how we think is given us by the modernity we so despise.

This idea is what makes reading Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari so challenging, because the content of their philosophy is a demonstration of how radical – how nonsensical – thought must be if it is liberated from modernity.

As with the band of loosely conjoined thinkers that we call the New Right, Deleuze and Guattari base their attack on modernity on Nietzsche’s de-naturalization (and re-naturalization) of morality.[2] However, where the New Right thinkers critique modernity from the standpoint of Nietzsche’s explanation of the Jewish slave revolt in morality (presented in the Genealogy’s First Essay), Deleuze and Guattari use the presentation of ressentiment and bad conscience (in the Genealogy’s Second and Third Essays) as the ground for a revolution in thought. It is hoped that, by incorporating the New Right and the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari, we might actually complete the mission of the Genealogy and more fully realize Nietzsche’s revolutionary potential – and our own.

The Illiberal Left and the Counter-Enlightenment

Although it is common for New Right thinkers to extend the search for examples of anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian thoughts and practices to the Greeks, those still confined to the corridors of State academia tend to begin their search for such odious refutations of truth and justice with reactions to the Enlightenment and French Revolution. It is this latter tendency that has given us an intellectual tradition called the Counter-Enlightenment. While there are serious consequences for choosing to begin with the Enlightenment itself – the most obvious of which are the normalization of the Enlightenment principles of reason, humanity, and equality; and subsequent denial of the ontological power and legitimacy of anti-democratic thought – one may still use Counter-Enlightenment as a valid designation of the vast current in Western thought that overruns the ramparts of the “city upon a hill.”

This current is comprised of an array of concepts – among them aristocracy, warrior-caste, tradition, particularity, reverence, and honor – and thinkers – such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Joseph de Maistre, Johann Herder, Georges Sorel, and Julius Evola.

However, any list of Counter-Enlightenment thinkers is incomplete without the names of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Like their May 1968 contemporary Michel Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari wage war against reason, freedom, democracy, and humanism, explaining the tyranny and reactive forces triumphant in each of them. It is a conundrum not lost on the liberal Leftists of the Academy: if it were the case that only the Right opposed modernity on behalf of cultural, political, and social aristocracy, no one would have noticed the continued power of the Counter-Enlightenment; nor perhaps when former colonial subjects like Amilcar Cabral and Frantz Fanon had the impudence to discount the value of Enlightenment ideals, for what could Nietzsche have possibly meant to them?

But, when modernity was attacked by French academics, well schooled not only in liberté, egalité, and fraternité, but also in the essentials of the logocentric secular philosophy of Man and the State, the liberal Academy not only took notice, but also sought ways to use the new illiberal philosophies of these “postmodernists.” In some cases, like Jean Baudrillard, most of what is said against modernity is interpreted as an easily assimilable attack on Ronald Reagan’s America. In other cases, like Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard, the objects of scorn – governmentality, power, and metanarratives – are mistakenly believed to be the problem of clock-punching proletarian wage slaves.[3] Finally, in the case of Jacques Derrida, the methodological destruction of value and meaning is all too vengefully turned against the canon of Western literature, without the slightest inkling of how it undermines their own cushy authority.

In appropriating the illiberalism of these philosophers, the liberal Academy diffused the revolutionary potential of their thought. Instead of finally destroying the operative regimes of morality and truth in the modern West, the liberal Left used postmodernism to undermine instead “white privilege,” “racism,” and “patriarchy.” In other words, the liberal Left hijacked an illiberal conceptual revolution and brought it to a fight against conservative Rightist liberalism. However, the illiberalism of postmodernism’s skillful demolition of the foundations of the modern West paves the way to a final reconciliation of the Left and Right.

Richard Wolin merely alludes to this possibility, mostly because, as a textbook liberal Leftist, he understands the New Right as a collection of vulgar anti-Semitic, anti-immigration, racists without anything to offer political philosophy beyond low-brow hysteria and fear-mongering: in short, the typical reactionary capitalist swine that Trotsky railed against. Thus, while Wolin concedes that postmodernism anticipated the arrival of the Nouvelle Droite by undermining the very values of “Western civilization” (a mistake New Right thinkers also make by reading postmodernism as anti-Western instead of anti-modern) – including relativism! – he fails to consider how useful either group might be to the other.[4]

In many ways, both conceptual and political, the contemporary New Right is the promise of the reconciliation between the illiberal Left and Right. In short, both groups scorn modernity and the Enlightenment, and both groups have their origins in Nietzsche. Where the two diverge, though, is in problematizing the liberal state and in rehabilitating a pre-modern form of life. Whereas postmodernism often aims each of its attacks at the state, the New Right has little to say about it beyond the utopia of the ethno-organic-state. Conversely, the New Right maintains a super-legitimate claim to the Counter-Enlightenment by revitalizing pre-modern/pre-Christian European life forms, while, for the most part, postmodernism merely mines the Classics for useful sources without desiring to create a new narrative on which to found truly post-modern life. These two counter-forces, however, need not be mutually exclusive. This becomes clear when we read Deleuze and Guattari, two illiberal philosophers so radical that they still remain unreconciled with the liberal Left’s political/conceptual agenda.

Prehistory

Deleuze and Guattari were both born in Paris to petite-bourgeois fascist fathers. While Guattari’s was a member of the interwar Croix-de-Feu, Deleuze’s was an anti-Semitic sympathizer of the Croix who opposed the Popular Front and presidency of Léon Blum.[5] During the war Deleuze was sent to Normandy so as to continue his education without the disruptions of the Occupation. He was too young to participate in the war, but his militarily trained older brother was killed while working for the Resistance. It was in Normandy that Deleuze began studying philosophy. For his part, Guattari’s family stayed in Paris during the Occupation, and, despite his family’s support of Vichy, he was enamored of the Resistance.[6]

Already considered a prodigy, Deleuze moved back to Paris after the war to continue his studies, while Guattari (five years younger than Deleuze) joined a network of student hostiles and became a violent Trotskyite anarchist. Both would ultimately find their way to the Sorbonne’s philosophy department, Deleuze after failing to qualify for the École Normale Supérieure, Guattari after quitting pharmaceutical college; although they did not meet until 1969 when a mutual friend introduced them for a conversation about Lacanian structuralism.

In the meantime, Guattari continued his subversive Trotskyite politics, joining and/or infiltrating several Communist parties, and also becoming an apprentice to Jacques Lacan. This led him to get involved with radical psychotherapy and the La Borde psychiatric clinic in the Loire Valley. It is his combination of Marxian anti-party politics and Lacanian structural psychoanalysis that eventually shapes the form of his philosophy with Deleuze.

Coming to maturity in the shadow of phenomenology and the structuralisms of Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Jacques Lacan, which refused to differentiate between democracy and fascism – seeking instead to “dissolve” the conception of Western man that made both possible – it is no surprise that Deleuze found it natural to critique the foundations of liberal modernity.[7] But unlike Guattari, Deleuze’s politics were, and would always be, subtle and seemingly inconsistent. While Guattari was a literal street fighter, Deleuze was an extremely critical philosopher who used his vitality to do battle with the history of philosophy.

These battles were fought in order to exalt what he saw as a small elite handful of “non-philosophers” – or non-traditional, non-State philosophers – whose thought served no purpose for the liberal State. For Deleuze, traditional philosophy functions on the basis of codes that have effectively turned into a “bureaucracy of consciousness.”[8] The task of his philosophy is to revolutionarily controvert traditional philosophy by creating something that will not allow itself to be codified by the State.

Shifting now to the language he later used with Guattari, these codes become the conceptual foundation of his political philosophy, allowing him to ground desire, active forces, and reactive forces in the bodily, instinctual, and societal strata that give form to human life. The codes of which he speaks function both individually and collectively; ordering life, determining its forms, boundaries, and significance.[9]

Thus, while all of his Sorbonne classmates were de rigueur Marxists and phenomenologists – political and philosophical systems, that is, that fail to problematize the metaphysical belief in a rationally thinking and acting subject whose experiential nature (it just so happens, evidently) is perfectly compatible with the terms and conditions of the modern bourgeois form of life – he was expounding the virtues of thinkers like David Hume, Henri Bergson, and Friedrich Nietzsche, whose work demonstrated the fragility of the habitually and uncritically accepted model, or “image,” of thought in the West.

The image of thought is the “image thought gives itself of what it means to think.”[10] In philosophical terms, the image of thought is an immanent plane or set of pre-philosophical presuppositions that condition the determination of problems and creation of concepts. In the case of Descartes’ Cogito, the presuppositions that structure thought are identified by Deleuze as the essence of the dogmatic bourgeois image of thought: thought is a natural human capacity; it naturally possesses a good will and an upright nature; it has a natural affinity with truth, so that it is error and unsound thinking must be eradicated. Most importantly, though, thought is based on recognition: good morning; this is a train; I am a man.[11]

This recognition presupposes the harmonious coordination of each of the human faculties that relate to the different representations of a single object. This further implies an underlying agreement of the faculties themselves: the thinking subject. But this is only the most timid aspect of thought that functions at the most banal level of life. That it has been selected as the model of thought – even functioning as the dominant paradigm of philosophical thought in the modern West – demonstrates why we no longer distinguish between thinking and knowing. In Deleuze’s mind, this image of thought is a “betrayal of what it means to think and of life,” as it sustains a complacent conception of thought that is incapable of critiquing dominant values.[12]

Deleuze’s Nietzsche

Deleuze found his counter-image of thought in the then-largely-unknown-in-France thought of Friedrich Nietzsche. Firstly, the rational Cartesian subject was non-existent in Nietzsche’s work, replaced instead by a bodily-inscribed chaos of competing wills, instincts, and forces; making of thought a problem instead of the basis of humanness. Secondly, Nietzsche’s thought was affirmatively critical of dominant bourgeois values. Unlike Kant, who critiqued certain truths, certain beliefs, and certain morals, Nietzsche critiqued truth, faith, and morality.

He made a smooth space of the mountains and molehills modernity had created in its own decadent image. In language closer to Deleuze and Guattari’s spatial dynamism of A Thousand Plateaus (1987), Nietzsche creates thoughts no longer suffering the administrative machinery or moral economy of the state, but that are instead displaced into frontiers and labyrinthine streets where new movements and distributions become possible.[13]

Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy (2006) pushes Nietzsche’s thought to its absolute limit, making it clear that there can be no simple Manichean shift between active noble forces and reactive slave forces in order to transcend what is modern in each of us. In other words, there must be “no simple substitution” of values, but a radical conversion of valuing itself.[14] Transvaluation thus becomes less about a genealogy of oppositions between the Classical world and Judeo-Christian modernity than about re-constituting the very ground of human thought.

As mentioned above, where the New Right gravitates toward On the Genealogy of Morality’s First Essay, Deleuze concentrates on its Second Essay. This gives him an advantage in understanding the deepest implications of Nietzsche’s thought: namely, how even those on the most radical edge of modernity are still children of ressentiment as long as they think with bourgeois modernity’s image of thought.

As Deleuze says:

The instinct of revenge is the force that constitutes the essence of what we call psychology, history, metaphysics, and morality. The spirit of revenge is the genealogical element of our [i.e., modern] thought, the transcendental principle of our way of thinking. [. . .] We do not really know what a man denuded of ressentiment would be like. A man who would not accuse or depreciate existence – would he still be a man, would he think like a man? Would he not already be something other than man? To have ressentiment or to not have ressentiment – there is no greater difference, beyond psychology, beyond history, beyond metaphysics.[15]

Deleuze is clearly talking about the Übermensch, but whereas other thinkers – perhaps drunk on Nietzsche’s poetic proclamations of his arrival – discount the sacrifices necessary for moving men in his direction, Deleuze is unsparing in connecting ressentiment with the very tools of modern consciousness:

Evaluations, in essence, are not values but ways of being, modes of existence of those who judge and evaluate, serving as principles for the values on the basis of which they judge. This is why we always have the beliefs, feelings, and thoughts that we deserve given our way of being or our form of life. There are things that can only be said, felt, or conceived, values that can only be adhered to, on condition of “base” evaluation, “base” living, and “base” thinking. This is the crucial point: high and low, noble and base, are not values but represent the differential element from which the value of values themselves derives.[16]

This is the capstone that maintains the verticality of Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy. As Gregory Flaxman says, “One must come to terms with Deleuze’s relationship to Nietzsche for any of his work to make sense philosophically.”[17]

Notes

[1] Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, 1972–1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 133.

[2] Nietzsche de-naturalizes morality by showing its genealogical association with certain reactive human forces. He re-naturalizes it by suggesting ways to judge that re-connect active men with their natural instincts.

[3] Thank you John Black Morgan IV for suggesting “wage slave.”

[4] Richard Wolin, The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 269.

Wolin’s book is invaluable as a demonstration of the distance between the Left and postmodernism.

[5] François Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, trans. Deborah Glassman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 26, 89.

[6] While Dosse’s book is one of the most effective philosophical biographies I have read, it fails to consider what might have prompted both Deleuze and Guattari to reject their fathers’ Far Right politics. One suspects that Dosse’s progressivism leaves him uncritical of parameters of such a betrayal, as he devotes one paragraph to Guattari’s conversion, and hardly a sentence to Deleuze’s. In both cases the rejection of both father and Right politics is presented as natural, just, and logical.

[7] Richard Wolin, 5.

[8] Adrian Parr, ed., The Deleuze Dictionary, Revised Edition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 160.

[9] Gregory Flaxman, Gilles Deleuze and the Fabulation of Philosophy: Powers of the False, Volume 1 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 56.

[10] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 37.

[11] Paul Patton, “Introduction,” in Deleuze: A Critical Reader, ed. Paul Patton (London: Blackwell, 1996), 6.

[12] Patton, “Introduction,” 7.

[13] Flaxman, 197.

[14] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 175.

[15] Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 35.

[16] Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 1–2.

[17] Flaxman, 23.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Ricky Moore
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I think as much as Nietzsche, Stirner is what the modern Right – in almost any form – can not come to terms with. Stirner and Nietzsche have somewhat different topics, but I think Max Stirner is essentially correct in his core contention, which he shares with Nietzsche, i.e. ‘people just make these things up and go around behaving as though ghosts were real’.
    The AltRight tends to want to forge their own value codes, ala Nietzsche, but I can’t help but think Stirner still has the better than you. Perhaps Stirner’s key insight is followed through best in Georges Palante – people really aren’t worth saving/helping, and being a ‘master’ isn’t worth dealing with slaves. Maybe the temperament that can actually come to terms with Stirner is exactly the sort of person who would prefer hermitage to expending one drop of blood to help such ungrateful pigs.
    What I am saying is: I am substantially convinced that Stirner is right and, while the Rightist and reactionary radicalism have many attractive aspects, it’s still correct that God and Morality and the Nation are virtually meaningless nonsense and I can’t possibly take you seriously.

  2. Lew
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I would be very interested in your reflections on this question if you ever have time.

    http://markdyal.com/about/#comment-154

    • Posted March 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Ciao Lew,

      This question is never far from my mind. I know I need to explain it in long paper form. First and foremost I use bourgeois form of life to explain modernity and liberalism. It is the form of life that triumphed via the Enlightenment: economic man (capitalism and socialism both work because we assume man is a rationally economic creature with interests that are served by a free market), liberal politics (including secularization of the public field, the nation-state, and democracy), Cartesian mind-body dualism, mob as norm rather than aristocratic elite, materialism (both vulgar and conceptual, also summed up in the Cartesian subject), and the relationship between judeo-Christian morality and opinion-based truth (this includes the popular media and its plebeian ethics); it is not class-based, other than by being the field of reality that gives sense to Marx. In this I am totally consistent with Nietzsche, as he greatly broadened the parameters of discourse on modernity.

      I have no need to answer the query about my class status as it is irrelevant. I can tell you my father is working class and I have a PhD which I use only to the extent that I can write these papers.

      • Lew
        Posted March 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. That’s a helpful explanation.

        I didn’t realize the person who left that comment on your blog embedded a personal question in the comment. I hope I didn’t give offense. I didn’t mean to ask about petsonal matters. I was looking for your thoughts on the bourgeois concept and overlooked that a personal question was in there.

  3. Will
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Deleuze is probably one of the best expositors of Nietzsche’s thought in terms of its conceptual subtlety and complexity. But his study of Nietzsche is not a critical one. This makes it both valuable as such, but also – from a Traditionalist perspective – in need of a counterbalance. The best counterbalance, in my view, is Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger, the first section of which is largely a commentary on Nietzsche’s philosophy and an evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses. Whereas Deleuze, with Nietzsche, affirms the Dionysian force of immanent chaos, Evola points out that Tradition has always recognized and affirmed a superior transcendent order, which Evola calls Apollonian or Olympian.

    At its best, Deleuze’s and Nietzsche’s philosophy has much in common with non-dualist systems of thought and practice, such as Tantra and Daoism. Deleuze and Nietzsche do not so much deny transcendence as insist on its non-duality with immanence, in opposition to dualist philosophies and religions which, as Nietzsche famously said, devalue this world in favor of some other world.

    At its worst, Deleuze’s philosophy is post-modernist claptrap, littered with neologisms for their own sake and making mountains out of molehills. The relevant questions for radical traditionalists are: 1) Is study of an obscure and difficult philosophical system like Deleuze’s necessary or desirable (heh-heh) given that much if not all of the wisdom and insight to be gained from such a study is just a re-working and re-conceptualization of wisdom and insight also contained in Traditional teachings (such as the aforementioned Tantric tradition); and 2) Does this study tend to edification, or confusion, given that Deleuze’s oeuvre is heavily compromised by his leftism.

    The insinuation that Deleuze was in any way right-wing is laughable. The only way in which he was an elitist was in that all-too-common way that intellectuals regard themselves as superior to the masses. He comes closest to something else in his study of Nietzsche, where, because he is expositing and not criticizing, he channels some of Nietzsche’s pathos of distance. But even there – and that was written in 1961, before the Sixties really took off – he gives the obligatory “Nietzsche would have hated the Nazis” and also interjects a rather ridiculous assertion that even the weak can be strong if they ‘do their best.’

    Deleuze saw himself as continuing Nietzsche’s “overturning of Platonism.” What this often means in practice, for Nietzsche and even moreso for Deleuze, is the subversion of Tradition. Deleuze wrote a very telling essay on the Simulacrum in Plato’s Thought (I forget the exact title – it’s in the appendix to Logic of Sense) in which he contrasts Plato’s hierarchical and metaphysical view to his own leveling and materialist view.

    I do think that Deleuze can be made use of by New Right critical theory, but in much the same way that Deleuze himself made use of other philosophers. He famously said that he envisioned himself as appropriating the work of another thinker through a kind of buggery, which would produce an offspring that was recognizably descended from the original thinker, but was also monstrous. He also said that his works were a kind of conceptual toolbox, from which one could take whatever tools one needed for a particular task. In that sense, it’s fair game. And it’s probably worth doing just for the sake of pissing off all the leftist academics who worship at the altar of Deleuze.

    Deleuze’s last work was to be a study on “the greatness of Karl Marx.” Alas, he did not complete this work. He has since gone on to become the golden boy of contemporary philosophy and critical theory, or at least he was when I was at university. Perhaps some other Frenchman has since displaced him. The French have a peculiar talent for saying in four hundred pages what could have been said in four. This is why academics favor them – it keeps them busy.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      Very nice comment. When are you going to write something new for CC?

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Ciao Will,

      Yet again we find a creature of a certain critical intellect in the NANR that is consistently lacking on American campuses.

      Be assured I am attempting to bugger Deleuze, as he so described, but as I am a Nietzschean and not a Traditionalist, I applaud the demolition of Platonism and any other form of metaphysics that denies the affirmative possibilities in this life. So, certain aspects of Deleuze’s thought I will find more liberatory than you might. That being said, I am using Deleuze to promote open and hostile revolution against capitalism and all expressions of modernity in our NR form of life.

      As for Deleuze and the Right, his Leftist proclivities were quite soft compared to his contemporaries and closet friends. He came to Marx after Nietzsche and one can see the results of that succession in both Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, wherein Marx is taken to task as an utterly bourgeois thinker. (And to his credit, he never wrote the book on Marx, so it is impossible to judge him only for thinking him an important figure in modern life. Hell, Nietzsche could’ve easily written a book on the greatness of Christ, since he was the originator of affirming while negating.)

      Deleuze, as a philosopher, is hard to quantify as Leftist. His methodology makes Leftist politics virtually impossible – unless one sees anarchism and statelessness as Leftist, which many do – myself included in some cases. His greatest influences were most often shunned by the Left, and he had no compunction about using known fascist sympathizers like Dumezil for important textual examples. His critique of Hegel/Plato were always from a particularist position, not from a mobbish/universalist one. His Nietzschean thought runs very deep, so much so that I think Left and Right are pointless quantifiers of his thought.

      Even politically, what would you have had any of the postmodernists do? Support neoliberalism and globalization? Be Fascist militants fighting for ___? (I’m a fascist so I ask that sincerely.) Let’s be honest: Tradition seems to appeal more to those coming to the NR from the Old Right than from Nietzsche, so any critiques of Nietzsche from that perspective always reek of the fundamental rupture between him and all transcendental thought. I love Evola, but his Tradition always feels like a copout to me, as if I’ve come this far to cast off my chains, only to reapply another set just so as to fit in with a different mob.

      I’m glad that a few postmodernists left us the tools to more critically dismantle liberalism and capitalism. When combined with the NR, we will have the greatest revolutionary ontology in the world. Literally.

      In any case, dogmatic refutations of thinkers of Deleuze’s caliber don’t cut it for me anymore, so your learned critique is much appreciated and exactly the kind of dialogue that Counter-Currents is promoting. It’s time we grow up as critical thinkers and revolutionaries. I’m as prone as any of us to fall back on comfortable truths, so one should read my Deleuze papers as personal attacks on myself, first and foremost. And any ire detected in my comment is only due to the Evola v. Nietzsche debate.

      • Will
        Posted March 28, 2013 at 1:50 am | Permalink

        Mark,

        Thanks for your reply. I’m very glad that you’re doing this project, and I’ll second your comment about any ire being due to the debate itself rather than being personal since I’m prone to polemics myself. Also, I too regard Deleuze and Nietzsche as high caliber thinkers worthy of thoughtful engagement.

        That being said, here’s my partial response:

        “I applaud the demolition of Platonism and any other form of metaphysics that denies the affirmative possibilities in this life. So, certain aspects of Deleuze’s thought I will find more liberatory than you might.”

        Platonism and other traditional metaphysical systems are the opposite of a denial of the affirmative possibilities of this life. Rather, they affirm the full possibilities of human life by showing that it can transcend itself, that man can transcend himself as the merely human creature he appears to be and realize his true nature. (This is not terribly different from Nietzsche’s idea of self-overcoming, except that Nietzschean self-overcoming, or “self-overbecoming” as Jonathan Bowden called it, lacks direction and purpose, whereas traditional spiritual paths are just that – paths that have been tred by others and which lead somewhere. I see Nietzsche as a man who tried to make his own path, a new path. How much he succeeded in doing so is debatable.)

        As for “liberation” I think this has become a buzzword (as can any term, like “Being” or “transcendence”) and needs to be defined. Liberation of whom, and liberation for what? (“Free for what?” as Zarathustra asks.) Deleuze’s idea of liberation seems to me to be an unleashing of chaos. It’s a horizontal rather than vertical liberation. Man “shatters all the codes” (even those which make him a man) and is now “free” to do – what? He has become an amorphous chaos of forces, which is indeed the Nietzschean and Deleuzean definition of a human being.

        Platonism also starts with this definition of man, but from there lays out a method of ordering these forces to create something higher and better. (In this sense, Platonism and other traditional systems are legitimate possibilities of creative becoming in Deleuzean thought.) Plato calls this process of development, or becoming, the “ordering of the soul.” Why is an ordered soul better than a chaotic soul? Only the man who has experienced both knows.

        Tradition holds that one feature of the dark age is that human perception actually devolves such that people can no longer recognize superior beings. In the time of the Buddha, people could still see that he was qualitatively different from others, such that they would ask him not “Who are you?” but rather “WHAT are you?” Similarly, we have reached a point where the value of an ordered soul, or ordered mind (the Greek psyche carries both connotations) is now in question. This to me is the position of postmodernism: embrace the chaos, unleash all the subterranean forces within you. Perhaps this is merely a necessary feature of the times we live in. But Traditional wisdom knows this to be destructive foolishness for most people. (Even though destructive foolishness does have its place in traditional cycles, as Trevor Lynch admirably demonstrated in his analysis of the Joker in the Dark Knight film.)

        Christian Kopff tells a story in his book The Devil Knows Latin about a man who visits another man’s home and notices that he has a fish in a bowl. He begins to pity the fish because of the limitations of the bowl, and so when the homeowner leaves the room, the man removes the fish from the bowl and throws it on the ground. The homeowner returns and sees his fish lying on the ground. “What have you done?” he asks. “I have liberated the fish,” the man replies.

        This to me sums up the dangers of modern and postmodern notions of “liberation” which are often rooted in ignorance of human nature, either by positing a false definition of human nature such as the modern liberal one, or by denying the very idea of human nature such as in postmodernism. I admire the sentiment in Deleuze and Nietzsche (and for that matter in Fascism) that man can be made anew into something better, but all of these systems, by ignoring or discarding Traditional wisdom – which is the cumulative wisdom of humanity about itself (or more specific to the NR, the cumulative wisdom of Indo-European peoples about what we are) – they lack a base from which to embark on this project.

        Deleuze says we begin with the body and with Spinoza’s statement that “We don’t even know what a body can do.” Fair enough, but from there Deleuze chose to look at sado-masochism rather than at yogic traditions or martial arts. I think the distinction between noble and base is applicable here, and I also think this illustrates my point about a horizontal rather than vertical liberation. It also points to the Freudian and Reichian, rather than Jungian, influence on Deleuze, i.e. of a materialist psychology rather than a more spiritual (and more Indo-European) psychology.

        The difference between the postmodern attack on reason and the Traditionalist critique of reason is that Tradition esteems intellectus higher than ratio (to frame it in Scholastic terms) whereas postmodernism devalues reason from the perspective of the lower appetites. In Platonic terms, Tradition’s critique comes from the nous or logistikon, whereas postmodernism’s critique comes from the appetites – the lowest part of the soul. That’s why Deleuze is always talking about desire. There is far greater wisdom about desire to be gleaned from Tantra than from Deleuze, though as I said in my earlier comment, there is some overlap (the notion that desire is a fullness and not a lack, for example.)

        It’s also worth pointing out that Deleuze’s philosophy, while ostensibly anti-capitalist, ends up being a supreme affirmation of the logic of capitalism. All his talk of “freeing the flows” ends up justifying the flows of money, materials and people in the global marketplace. And as for “liberate your desire” – was there ever a better ad campaign for unrestrained consumption?

        I wrote this in a bit of a flurry and if anything is muddled I will try my best to clarify it. I also want to reiterate that I really appreciate the chance to even have this discussion with someone, and I look forward to the remaining sections of your article.

      • Posted March 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        It’s quite something that you and I are cross threading the same screw! It seems we’ve each read the same books but from entirely different and conflicting perspectives. Nonetheless, at least we can converse. I’m writing the second paper of three on D&G at the moment, so I must be super brief.

        I always read D&G as proto-fascists. In fact, I came to Fascism largely because of how they turned me against modernity. (Nietzsche came to me later and then destroyed most of what I’d come to love.) Anyhow, I’ve seen the idea that D&G end up legitimizing capitalism by suggesting that a DT always implies an RT. But that was where I placed fascism! If we must have a narrative, so to speak, and all narratives are totalizing, then pick the one based in “your/our” ethics and move on. I created my own little deleuzean/Fascist/Nietzschean worldview. This time, being much smarter(?) I’m reading them as the anarchist/nomadists they more likely are. But, that’s ok with me, as politically, we need some of that spirit.

        I figure you’ll hate my next paper, as it tries very hard to deal with D&G on their own terms. But the third should explain why. (And, you may ask Greg what some of this is about. We wanted at least one paper here that was irrefutable to an academic adviser, so that my heresy/buggery may sneak into the discourse on D&G. Feel free to ask him my contact info as well. I’d love to know more about your role in our NR.)

  4. ronnie w
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    So, you have no basis to judge anything as good or bad, unless you have accepted cultural standards as reference points. I’m just a white working-class right-winger, but am I close?

    • Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Yes and no, Ronnie. On the one hand the culturally based image of thought conditions the possibilities of thought. Thus, for those who just buy into the norm, the image of thought will think for them. But, for MEN LIKE US, who have stepped beyond a small amount of the image of thought, the freedom to think and act differently becomes a real possibility. I’m bringing Deleuze and Guattari into the realm of the New Right so that we may see if there are areas of our thought that are still tied to the liberal bourgeois image of thought.

      So, the the unthinking mob is just so because it cannot think for itself. But it is possible to be free and creative once you destroy your own bourgeois regime. Don’t think basis of judgement in the liberal political discourse of efficacy. Instead, re-read the two quotes from Deleuze’s Nietzsche and think about the instinctual basis of judgement. Slavish humans will adore base evaluation because it justifies their own ressentiment. Noble humans judge without consideration of anyone but themselves (or their noble cohorts). Not to be an ass, but let’s make sure we are not just slaves posing as nobles, if you know what I mean.

  5. Posted March 23, 2013 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    I’m also not certain that “the New Right maintains a super-legitimate claim to the Counter-Enlightenment by revitalizing pre-modern/pre-Christian European life forms.” In “On Being a Pagan,” Benoist makes it pretty clear that he’s not calling for a return to any prior form of civilization, nor is he urging people to begin wearing horns and drinking mead, but rather that he thinks we should return to a “pagan attitude toward life.” That’s not the same thing.

    • Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      I was going for a fully contextual point here, one that generalized the New Right based on Counter-Enlightenment standards. de Maistre, one of the most outspoken critics of the Enlightenment, was concerned (as Nietzsche would be) that nobility, aristocracy, and hierarchy were being attacked on account of popular vengeance against mere economic exploitation (but in the name of liberty – from who? for what?). He called for a rehabilitation of these “traditional forms of social organization.” Perhaps the European New Right has not called for a rehabilitation qua return to the past, but surely one can admit that they make a politics and ethics of these forms.

  6. Posted March 23, 2013 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure why Mark says that it is “a mistake New Right thinkers also make by reading postmodernism as anti-Western instead of anti-modern.” Actually, the European New Right thinkers, including Alain de Benoist himself, have frequently made use of postmodernism in their own work.

  7. Dan McCulloch
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to the installment in which it’s explained – as of now I find no explicit meaning in this. Resentment in everything, including metaphysics? Resentment against whom, or what?

    These guys are very close to redefining words to make their “system of no system” work, at which point it degenerates into another drooling “postmodern” school of liberalism.

    Here’s the money quote:

    “This is the crucial point: high and low, noble and base, are not values but represent the differential element from which the value of values themselves derives.”

    Is Deleuze saying that noble and base aren’t objective criteria, but only resentment against something? But notions of noble and base are *ancient* and predate modernity – they haven’t changed much – at least not for traditionalists.

    • Christopher P
      Posted March 23, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      “Is Deleuze saying that noble and base aren’t objective criteria, but only resentment against something? But notions of noble and base are *ancient* and predate modernity – they haven’t changed much – at least not for traditionalists.”

      I don’t read it in this way. I think the point is that modern man evaluates and deconstructs the canon of Western Culture without sufficiently deconstructing his own post-enlightenment assumptions. So the evaluations he makes are still suffused with resentment. Deleuze seems to be suggesting that modern evaluations of nobility, high, low, etc. are derived from base assumptions, from resentment. A further deconstruction of this assumption would enable the return of pre-enlightenment assumptions (or ‘Tradition’) and thus free up the space for New Right discourse. I suspect Dr Dyal might be pushing the New Left into taking its final logical step whereby it cannibalises itself. At least, that’s my interpretation.

    • Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Ciao Dan.

      Whereas you’ve read Deleuze (or me) wanting to weaken nobility (and base), in fact, he wants to strengthen them by explaining that noble and base are more than just values but also bases of evaluation. In essence he is saying that noble is far far beyond anything we modern men can comprehend because it is based in an entirely different conceptual universe. You can’t get there from science, liberal democratic politics, Judeo-Christian morality, anthropology, or any other modern tool of valuation, because these are all based on the same anti-noble assumptions of a universal man, a rational subject, and the virtue of morality and truth. Without giving away the next two papers, he is saying that no revolution, and certainly no moving beyond man (think moving beyond the Last Man toward the ubermensch – not just merely reconceptualizing what it means to be human), is possible if we fight only to switch the poles (white for black) of the liberal order. In the end, you will have only a liberal order.

      He wants us to revolutionize our entire conceptual apparatus based on Nietzsche’s affirmative and fully active nobility. In other words, transvaluation that only changes values (but keeps the same logic of sense, as he says) is not truly transvaluation.

      • Dan McCulloch
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

        Mark, Thanks for the clarification. This is an excellent, very radical project. I’m very excited to see you work it out.

  8. Posted March 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! Check out this gem of a description of life under capitalism from Anti-Oedipus: “There are no longer even any masters, but slaves commanding other slaves.”

    The more I read, the more I’m convinced that the American Academy has attempted to do with D&G what it did with Nietzsche: cut his balls off and hand them to an audience it knew was too mediocre and lazy to go read D&G for themselves.

  9. rhondda
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this Dr. Dyal. I do not know the works of these two gentlemen, but it is always good to try and think differently. Your essay has sparked this question. Do you think that Nietzsche’s idea of ressentiment is linked to the feeling of resentment? I ask because that is the feeling I get from the feminist literature I have read — that it is based on resentment and little more. It is a pretty powerful emotion if you let it grow.

    • Posted March 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      It is one and the same resentment. Nietzsche’s great triumph was in connecting that oh so common and celebrated emotion with the entire conceptual basis of modernity. Just look at how widespread is revenge throughout almost every song, movie, casual conversation, and even law and institution that we encounter. Now imagine that it also hides in every evaluation we modern men and women make. The affirmative life that Nietzsche (and Deleuze) imagines, is the one that has been liberated from those evaluations, not to mention the social strata that they support.

      What Deleuze and Guattari have done for me is provide the impetus and methodology to better discern how things that even the New Right adores are linked with resentment and, more prosaically, the apotheosis of modernity: the liberal state. Nietzsche asked, “who compels you to judge?” meaning the weak and defeated. Deleuze and Guattari ask the same, only wanting you to answer, “the State.” The next paper will explain this as deeply as I can while still being clear, but I appreciate that you asked about Nietzsche, because if we understand him, and so many of us do, then Deleuze and Guattari can be very useful in bringing his thought to bear on 21st Century America.

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