larval

I suspect that most people who read Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition–and there can’t be many of them–are reading the book through the lens provided by his and Guattari’s later Capitalism and Schizophrenia. And indeed, many of the elements of the later work are already in place here, not least the affirmation of difference and multiplicity, and the refusal of negation and representation.

The productivist ethos of Anti-Oedipus is on display: “In every respect,” Deleuze tells us, “truth is a matter of production, not of adequation” (154). As is the refusal of lack, and so implicitly an incipient anti-Lacanianism: “The unconscious is neither an unconscious of degradation nor an unconscious of contradiction; it involves neither limitation nor opposition [. . .]. The celebrated phrase ‘the unconscious knows no negative’ must be taken literally” (108).

Moreover, surely the syntheses of the later work (connective, disjunctive, and conjunctive) are anticipated in the discussion of Habitus, Eros, and Thanatos, the “three syntheses which must be understood as constitutive of the unconscious” (114). This triad reoccurs in a number of variations in the first half of the book: as present, past, and future (but also as different modalities of the past, and of time itself); and as “coupling,” “resonance,” and “forced movement” (117).

And although Deleuze’s concerns are not (yet) fully social, fully political, there are indications of both possible and actual connections with social critique. For example:

What is a thought which harms no one, neither thinkers nor anyone else? Recognition is a sign of the celebration of monstrous nuptials, in which thought “rediscovers” the State, rediscovers “the Church,” and rediscovers the current values that it subtly presented in the pure form of an eternally blessed unspecified eternal object. (135-136)

Indeed, and this is another of those subterranean connections to Bourdieu that interest me, the struggle against Philosophy’s “image of thought” is also a struggle against doxa, a posthegemonic analysis of a common sense that lies beneath or beyond ideology: “The image of thought is only the figure in which doxa is universalised by being elevated to the rational level” (134).

And I had forgotten that Deleuze attends so much to “the mystery of habit” (73), which he even discusses under the rubric of Habitus. There is something primary about habit in Deleuze: it constitutes the first synthesis, of connection or “contraction” (73). (Could one imagine a counter-contractarian tradition, then?)

larvaeHabit establishes the “larval self,” or the larval selves that inhabit us, “the primary habits that we are; the thousands of passive syntheses of which we are organically composed. [. . .] We speak of our ‘self’ only in virtue of these thousands of little witnesses which contemplate within us” (74). Habit is always already multitudinous. Or, again:

This living present, and with it the whole of organic and psychic life, rests upon habit. [. . .] We must regard habit as the foundation from which all other psychic phenomena derive. [. . .] These thousands of habits of which we are composed–these contractions, contemplations, pretensions, presumptions, satisfactions, fatigues; these variable presents–thus form the basic domain of passive syntheses. [. . .] Selves are larval subjects; the world of passive syntheses constitutes the system of the self, under conditions yet to be determined, but it is the system of a dissolved self. (78)

The issue, then, is how the Self, the Subject, is composed as an abstraction from and imposition on this teeming world. Whence the One, now all too recognizable, that stands in for this multiplicity? Deleuze here asks this question of Philosophy. And it is Plato who is the villain of the piece, though this is complicated by the fact both that Platonism has subsequently been compounded by (particularly) Descartes, Kant, and Hegel, and also that Plato at least is ascribed the virtue of having in some way failed to secure the victory of the Idea over the copy: “Was it not inevitable that Plato should be the first to overturn Platonism, or at least to show the direction such an overturning should take?” (68).

As such, an alternative tradition opens up, a fissure that runs through even the most canonical of philosophers. And it is tracing that fissure, and the larvae that spill from it, that is the object of so much of Deleuze’s other philosophical work.

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