Marx, Karl

Marx, Karl
  ---- by Kenneth Surin
  Karl Marx does not receive a great deal of explicit attention in the writings of Deleuze and Guattari, though it is clear that the Marxist paradigm is a crucial if tacit framework for many of the conceptions developed in the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Especially significant is Marx's dictum in The German Ideology (1932) that 'the nature of individuals depends on the material conditions determining their production'. Deleuze, of course, interprets this dictum in a distinctive and even 'post- Marxist' fashion. The necessity for this (Deleuzian) reconstitution of the Marxist project stems from the crisis of utopia represented by the demise of 'actually existing socialism', marked in particular by the events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 (it should, however, be noted that for Deleuze and Guattari this crisis had its beginnings in 1968). Marxism is depicted by them as a set of axioms that governs the field that is capitalism, and so the crisis of utopia poses, as a matter of urgency, the question of the compliance of this field with the axioms that constitute Marxism. To know that capitalism in its current manifestation is congruent with the Marxist axiomatic resort has to be made to a higher-order principle that, necessarily, is not 'Marxist': this metatheoretical specification tells us in virtue of what conditions and principles this field (capitalism) is governed by this axiomatic (Marxism). Deleuze and Guattari provide this metatheoretical elaboration by resorting to a constitutive ontology of power and political practice. This ontology is influenced by Baruch Spinoza, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Henri Bergson more than Marx, which perhaps accounts for the charge that the authors of Capitalism and Schizophrenia are 'post-Marxist'.
  Central for the authors of Capitalism and Schizophrenia is the delineation of the mode of production, which is of course a crucial notion for Marx, but the analysis of which had fallen somewhat into abeyance as a result of the emphasis on the commodity promoted by the Frankfurt School and cultural studies in recent decades. But Deleuze and Guattari give this notion a novel twist. First, they eschew dialectics, as a matter of philosophical exigency. As they see it, dialectics is a species of the logic of identity which collapses 'difference' into the rational 'same', and so inevitably ensues in a disavowal of multiplicity. Secondly, production is not simply understood by them in terms of such items as investment, manufacturing, business strategies, and so on. Instead, Deleuze and Guattari accord primacy to 'machinic processes', that is, the modes of organisation that link attractions, repulsions, expressions, and so on, which affect the human body. For Deleuze and Guattari the modes of production are therefore expressions of desire, so that it is desire which is truly productive; and the modes of production are merely the outcome of this ceaselessly generative desire. Desire has this generative primacy because it is desire, which is always social and collective, that makes the gun (say) into an instrument of war, or of hunting, or sport, and so forth (as the case may be).
  The mode of production is on the same level as any other expressions of the modes of desire, and so for Deleuze and Guattari there is neither base nor superstructure in society, but only stratifications, that is, accumulations or concatenations of ordered functions which are expressions of desire. What enables each mode of production to be created is a specific amalgam of desires, forces and powers, and the mode (of production) emerges from this amalgam. In the process, traditional Marxist conceptions are reversed: it is not the mode that enables production to take place (the gist of these accounts); rather, it is desiring-production itself that makes the mode what it is. Capitalism and Schizophrenia is this ontology of desiring-production.
  Marx maintained that it is necessary for society and the State to exist before surplus value is realised and capital can be accumulated. Deleuze and Guattari also say that it is the State which gives capital its 'models of realisation'. Before anything can be generated by capital, politics has to exist. The linkage between capital and politics is achieved by an apparatus that transcodes a particular space of accumulation. This transcoding provides a prior realisation or regulated expenditure of labour power and it is the function of the State to organise its members into a particular kind of productive force. Today capital has reached a stage beyond the one prevailing at Marx's time. Capital is now omnipresent, and links the most heterogeneous elements (commerce, religion, art, and so forth). Productive labour is inserted into every component of society. But precisely because capital is ubiquitous, and has a prior social cooperation as its enabling condition, it has its unavoidable limits. Capital needs this prior organisation of cooperation in order to succeed, and it follows from this that collective subjects have a potential power that capitalism itself cannot capture. The question of revolution is thus the question of finding a politics that will use this collective subjectivity so that the productive force of society is subjected to nothing but the desire of its members.
   § capitalism

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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