Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Philosophical High

All this Oscar-watching can make a person feel a little shallow, especially in the midst of international disarray, the looming "deadline" for Iraqi "elections," the Senate Democrats' debates over Condi, the contentious anniversary of Roe v. Wade (marked by new, severe, and unprecedentedly perverse laws being introduced for discussion in state and federal legislatures), and any number of weightier topics of conversation. And then, since it always comes back to me—it's my party, and I'll self-obsess if I want to—I've still got a dissertation to finish, somehow, someway, amidst wondering whether Cate, Virginia, or Natalie will be declared the year's Best Supporting Actress. (My money is currently on Virginia.)

So, to the rescue comes Ian Buchanan's Deleuzism, a monograph from the Duke University Press that attempts to make an "-ism" out of Deleuze the way people already have out of Marx, Freud, and comparably copious philosophers. Holding Deleuze on a level with those thinkers is already an implicit value claim on the book's and the subject's behalf, and one of which I totally approve. If you're new to Deleuze, he was a French philosopher and critic who virulently opposed transcendental systems like Freud's or Marx's that attempted to construe all of human history and activity through a single model of behavior, psychology, or politics. Deleuze, in his own work and in several scholarly collaborations, focused his ideas around the paradigmatic figure of the "schizophrenic" (as opposed to Freud's Oedipus or Marx's worker), not just in the medical-diagnostic sense of a divided personality but in the sense most of us understand of moving through a world of profound divergences, irregularities, and discontinuities, even within our everyday thoughts, routines, and world impressions. Deleuze's system emphasizes the ceaseless iterations of difference in the world, believing that they supersede any false ideas of the stable personality/subject or of massive Marxian or Freudian-type systems with which we falsely attempt to bring a sense of order and conformity to a world of infinite and tumultuous variation.

For that reason, Deleuze opposed the whole notion of his work as a system, even a self-disrupting one. What Buchanan does so nicely in this book, however, is to situate Deleuze as both a predictor and a participant in postmodern theory and as an intellectual compatriot (despite lots of denials, including Deleuze's own) of Hegel, Benjamin, and other dialecticians of history. The implications of Buchanan's reading not only help to explain Deleuze to readers who struggle with his work, but it elucidates several ways in which Deleuze's work might helpfully serve or "apply" in other critical, analytical, or intellectual projects, even though there's no single method or ideology imposed by Deleuze's work that seems to make this possible. I love the book and plan to draw on it extensively in my own dissertation. If any of y'all reading this blog are into a good scholarly head-exercise every now and then (esp. a 200-page, fairly quick read), I hope you'll consider this one.

Oscar and Deleuze. Schizophrenia indeed.

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Blogger Dr. S said...

I have found your blog!

Deleuzism sounds fantabulous, and offers me a convincing account of why I should read Deleuze and Buchanan on Deleuze.

Hope the class is going exquisitely well.


11:55 PM, January 26, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:40 AM, August 03, 2005  
Blogger Clifford Duffy said...

actually you know that book is off key completely. its the least deleuzian of the commentators who've published.

5:11 PM, October 09, 2005  

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