Complicating the Dualisms: History versus Becoming.
Craig Lundy's History and Becoming: Deleuze's Philosophy of Creativity is an ambitious work that engages the question of history in Deleuze's thought, attempting to demonstrate "the vital importance of Deleuze's philosophy of history to his wider creative agenda" (1). Lundy claims secondary works to date have largely misconceived the relation of history to Deleuze's thought. He criticizes Jay Lampert's problematic distinction between a "good" and a "bad" history in Deleuze--Lampert associates the former with "nomadic" history based on "pure becoming" and the latter with "historicism" (103)--as well as Manuel Delanda's distinction between ideal, top-down histories and material, bottom-up histories (8).
Lundy claims "Deleuze's hostility towards history is highly superficial" (37). Critical remarks Deleuze makes concerning history bear on a specific account of history, an understanding of history as "historicism." Hence, Lundy's primary aim is to show that "history need not be condemned to historicism" (157), and that conceptual resources exist in Deleuze's work to formulate an account of history in terms other than historicism, what Lundy describes as an understanding of history as a process of creation (38). Lundy links this account to figures discussed by Deleuze throughout his work, "Peguy, Nietzsche and Foucault, who all promoted an alternative kind of history" (181). Lundy includes Braudel in this list as well (180).
Central to an understanding of history in these terms is Deleuze's notion of becoming. The relation between history and becoming in Deleuze's thought should not be understood in either/or terms--where Deleuze rejects history in favor of becoming. Rather, one can take up and explore Deleuze's conception of becoming, explaining how this notion lies at the heart of a Deleuzian account of history.
Towards this end, Lundy focuses on complicating--or "complexifying"--a number of dualisms in terms of which Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari are commonly explained (66). The oppositions Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari establish between--for example--depth and height, and the nomad and the state, consist in "extractions or abstraction of de jure purities from de facto mixtures" (102). Deleuze's characterization of "a monism that in fact equals pluralism," says Lundy, can be understood in these terms (89), as well as the emphasis Deleuze places on "the diagonal" in his reading of Foucault (90-91).
Lundy justifies this approach with reference to Deleuze's "distaste" for extremes (63), the fact that Deleuze gives priority to the "between" (56) or "middle realm" (97). Building on this claim, Lundy says Deleuze's thought should not be understood in terms of "revolutionary becoming" alone, but is characterized by precaution and prudence (98). Similarly, one cannot overly demonize capitalism or overly valorize schizophrenia in reading Deleuze and Guattari (140). In fact, capitalism has itself a great capacity for change--creating new things--which Lundy explains in terms of the fact capitalism is characterized by an axiomatic; it lacks an essential "code or sign of its own" (122). Lundy goes on to further complicate the distinctions made between depth and height, Chronos and Aion, the nomad and the state, and the smooth and the striated in Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari's thought.
Lundy explores Deleuze's concept of becoming in relation to these distinctions, such that by complicating these dualisms, showing how Deleuze navigates between a preference for either extreme-explaining instead how the two are involved in each other-one can see that Deleuze does not simply reject history in favor of becoming. Rather, a concept of becoming could itself determine a Deleuzian conception of history: "becoming is not opposed to history but aligned with it," such that one can locate in Deleuze's thought "an ontology of historical creativity that is other than historicism" (180).
In the 18th series of the Logic of Sensation, for example, Lundy says the real opposition is between height and depth rather than surface and depth-such that the surface would be a movement between the two (57). Deleuze opts for neither a simple becoming of depth nor that of the surface (incorporeal events), but moves between them (3). Brining this to bear on a conception of history, Lundy says he'll "show how historical reality is always already more than the actual and in productive relation with the virtual and incorporeal ... irreducible to both historicism and pure becoming" (9). The type of becoming operative in a Deleuzian account of history is one that eludes the present-neither Chronos nor Aion--as a mixture of both depth and surface (42).
Similarly, whereas scholars of Deleuze generally present the nomadology as the "foil" of history-historicism as a state history (65)-Lundy shows that "the nomadology will itself promote a creative conception of history-a philosophy of history that does not side with pure becoming or history alone, but always both together for the production of another. In short, a nomadic history" (90). Versus the state, the figure of the nomad and nomadology do not lack order. Rather, the nomad's difference from the state consists in its strategy or principle of organization (71, 96).
Grounding this distinction on the more basic notion of space in Deleuze's thought, Lundy shows that the relation between the smooth and striated cannot be characterized in terms of a simple either/or distinction. Deleuze and Guattari's primary interest is in the ways the smooth becomes striated, and vice versa, "the transmutation of forms" (78), such that a space can never simply be distinguished as "either nomos or polis," but is-in some sense-both at the same time (81).
All in all, Lundy makes an excellent case for reconsidering the question of history in Deleuze's thought, although this work has two shortcomings worth mentioning. First, Lundy only touches on the work of Hegel in a cursory fashion. Given Hegel's legacy within the philosophy of history, and Deleuze's explicit criticisms of Hegel, I had expected that Lundy would outline a Deleuzian conception of history in contradistinction to Hegelian history. Second, although Lundy does an excellent job arguing against a dismissal of history in Deleuze's thought, making the case for an account of history based on Deleuze's conceptual edifices, he does not develop this understanding, never explaining what a Deleuzian account of history would consist in. Given Lundy's excellent work here, however, I am confident he will address these issues in the future.
Reviewed by Rockwell F. Clancy, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
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|Author:||Clancy, Rockwell F.|
|Publication:||Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2013|
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