In this call for papers, La Deleuziana proposes to outline a practical philosophy adequate to the task of deconstructing the prism of fear which inhabits us today… To achieve this, we encourage a collective reflection on the concept of excess, historically linked to Georges Bataille, in order to refashion it into a weapon able to parry and ward off the anxiety, uncertainty and pain we suffer from today. The urgency with which our daily lives call for alternatives – both materially and vitally – is in fact without precedent. Yet it is precisely through this articulation between consciousness and its projects, on the one hand, and our intimate animal existence, on the other, that we can start to create[/compose] a collective becoming. This is perhaps the most important lesson Deleuze taught us.
What connects us today, globally, is that we are all currently questioning and redefining what in life is useful, essential, necessary, and inalienable. The ease and speed with which all these notions have been rethought globally forces us to consider the following double headed theorem. Firstly, as philosophers of biopolitics have correctly pointed out, on the socio-anthropological plane nothing is immune to the invocation of a state of exception, according to which all preventative measures can be implemented in the name of survival. Secondly, and parallel to this (albeit also in a way opposed), the fear of death comes to take the place of the struggle for survival, a fear that Bataille had precisely defined in terms of the dissolution of the real and of its stability. Following this second line of analysis further, that of an anthropology of fear (as Bataille put it), we discover a radical critique of utility, a falsehood tied to capitalist notions of acquisition and conservation. The inalienable and unproductive dimension of expenditure – that of the dissolution of the order of things – reveals to us the paradoxical foundations and functioning of this order, which is to say of consciousness. By objectifying and traumatically separating itself from the real (and from the real subject), the constituted subject attributes a transcendent status to these illusory socio-politico-economic objects (Law, State, Capital) that only exist relative to itself (and vice versa). On the basis of this movement, the ego which lies at the heart of any genealogy – ‘as unreal as it is the origin in a Cartesian space’ (Bourdieu) – recognises the relative character of its being. Consequently, it recognises the arbitrariness of its constructions. This is why a Maussian anthropology able to disengage itself from the logic of consumption, and to explore a world without measure, opens onto the dimension of excess. This is the dimension of tension that not only throws into crisis the metaphorical light of knowledge and equilibrium (Bataille speaks of a ‘conscious humanity [that] has remained minor [in this regard]’), but which also empties the soul of its sacredness, in short challenging psycho-physical dualism. In this sense, expenditure becomes indifferent to its own destiny, to its own consumption, an unidentifiable object in a diagram without coordinates of reference. If Deleuze translates the duality ‘order of things/intimate order’ into that of the ‘molar/molecular’, he nonetheless doesn’t privilege either the concept of expenditure or its unidirectional guiding tension. Instead, he locates expenditure in the bi-directional assemblage of these two dimensions, because ‘the genesis of the machine lies precisely here: in the opposition of the process of production of the desiring-machines and the non-productive stasis of the body without organs’ (Anti-Oedipus). Excess therefore becomes the name of the asymmetrical assemblage of these two non-identical halves or multiplicities, an assemblage that is at the same time both free and artificial since it always needs to be reconstituted anew. This is a joyful articulation immanent to the movement of the real itself, and opposed to all attempts to model one half on the other – the latter giving rise to what Spinoza calls a sad passion, which is to say thinking on the basis of fear.
This is why the paralysing fear we experience, faced with a world that shows us the gap between our cognitive understanding of phenomena – whose unity we only perceive partially in stratified assemblages – and the total unity of the complexity of lived experience brought about by continuous integration, cannot and shouldn’t become the epistemo-sociological basis of thought. These current events force us to think in a way that brings to light the constricted nature of the transcendental and its immanent crisis. The isolation we all find ourselves in now doesn’t prohibit the collective project of establishing a ‘great Health’, the beating heart of literature and philosophy. Being the physician of both oneself and the world means to not renounce living through the current event with intensity, to not renounce accessing its excessive and transformative dimension, to not renounce playing a role in our becoming-other and in the becoming-other of the entire world. In this sense, and as our issue 7 on literature had shown, the philosophical analysis of symptoms cuts all biological ties to illness in order to emphasise another aspect of its etymology. A symptom is literally what ‘survives together’ or ‘co-incides’. There are multiple figurations of this ‘co-incidence’ of the order of things and of the lived, or as Bergson would put it, extended space and the élan vital.
- The first of these figurations is coincidence, the most intense and perhaps the most dangerous. Ishmael helplessly witnesses the impossible superposition of Captain Ahab, the loner, with the gigantic monster of the seas: it seems in fact that the prosthesis that Ahab is forced to use, and which, paradoxically, replaces with a whale bone the leg that a cetacean tore off, reveals the impossible symbiosis between the two, the rejection (at the same time mental and physical) of the transplant. This excessive dimension of coincidence is perhaps even clearer in Bataille’s On Nietzsche, where it is translated into simultaneously philosophical, literary and autobiographical writing. In his search for the total man, Bataille rejects history and interpretation to immerse himself in the experience of Nietzschean thought. Thus, he renounces a chronologically ordered reading of lived experience, i.e. every theology, causal relationship, project, morality, in favour of a ‘total friendship of man to himself’, sketching a philosophy of the future in which every moment goes beyond the alternative between sense and non-sense to assert itself in its fullness. This first figuration teaches us then that the thought that rejects non-sense is a thought that at the same time rejects being in its totality, a thought that fails to excise transcendence and, consequently, to experience the vertigo of immanence. But such vertigo can only be reached by saying “we”, as Nietzsche does. Here’s the unspoken fact of the figuration of coincidence: the adventures of Captain Ahab would not be possible without a narrative voice, that of Ishmael, and a crew; there would be no Bataillan chance without a collective game that defines the impossible. Solitary reflection on death is transformed into a collective experience of the limit, the most powerful expression of life: this is why ‘writing has never been capitalism’s thing’.
- The second figuration is contestation, namely the movement through which an experience conditions the real. Among the Deleuzian examples of contestation as a strategy of structuring the world, we find Sade and Masoch’s contestations of the order of things. This contestation is in fact based on questioning the Law. Irony and humour become the main tools used to overturn the latter. Here, excess is embodied in lived experience and it co-affects reality by reversing its order. With Sade, the tyrant is denounced as a product of the law and society is subtracted from the capitalist demands of conservation. Anarchy, emerging between two regimes of law, testifies not only to its radical difference from any other system of law, but also to its own ability to forge it: Sade reminds us, in fact, that when the government has to renew its constitution, it cannot but turn to anarchy. The suspension of the time of politics becomes the place of a possible transformation of the institutions and the social body. The highest point of this contestation of the State is found in the criticism of the Urstaat, as we discover it in Anti-Œdipus: ‘the despotic State is indeed the origin, but the origin as an abstraction that must include its differences with respect to the concrete beginning’. In the case of contestation, it is then the excess of the concrete beginning that puts into crisis the abstract dimension within which the Urstaat is given in one fell swoop and already armed; it is the desire for a body that goes beyond the desire of any State. With Masoch, excessive zeal in the application of the law shows its paradoxical effects: it is at this point that it becomes clear that the domain of the absurd is the realm in which the chain of causes and effects is suddenly destroyed. As soon as the symptom stops being considered as a mere effect of illness on a passive body, it becomes possible to think of it the other way around as the exaggerated, apparently self-sabotaging yet salvific reaction of an experience faced with the order of things. And it is precisely in this becoming quasi-cause of oneself that a new health emerges and opens the possibility of resistance;
- The third figuration is co-incision. To co-incise means to leave a mark through a practice, to orient criticism and the clinic towards the concrete. Co-incising is given at every moment when excess draws its own vanishing line in the order of things: thus, the pathology is not only the scrap of what we call health, but also the position from which one can erode knowledge. At the same time, the minor does not leave the major intact, but creates a collective concatenation of enunciation whose most powerful result is a radical questioning of subjectivity. Schizoanalytic practice (which La Deleuziana explored in issue 9) perfectly embodies this transformative effort of the real. It is here, in fact, that the production of subjectivity offers itself to the diagnostic gaze of those who do not cure the disease that the biological body faces today, but the one which will involve the social body tomorrow. In co-incision, the limit between the individual and the collective is abandoned, the paranoid centripetal movement leaves room for the multiplicity of schizoid centrifugations. Starting from co-incision, a new ethico-aesthetic paradigm, to use Guattari’s words, becomes possible.
Through these three figurations, we can resist the objectifying effect of fear and isolation, without sinking into the drift of obsessive self-analysis, in favour of a collective discourse that aims at the “great Health”. Excess is then configured, through the three figurations, as a theoretical and practical position at the same time. This is a concrete alternative to survivalism, which consists on the contrary in living as little as possible, in reducing existence to what is strictly necessary (and which shares a certain American tradition linked to individualism, to each for himself, if not to isolation and xenophobia, very influential in the libertarian and nationalist currents of the extreme right) and to globalizing capitalism, which today more than ever shows its intrinsic limits.
- Excess (the unproductive side of expenditure) as a symmetrical figure opposed to the austerity of neoliberal policies and as a “remedy” for economic recession. More generally, the question of debt (public or other) and its cancellation;
- Artistic forms of excess and their role in the order of things and in the vital order: irony, humour, caricature, rhetorical figures as weapons of critical thought;
- Alternatives to the biopolitical analyses of state measures of confinement as a reduction to a purely biological condition: can confinement also be a moment of “re-individualization” through which the individual rediscovers his or her own political and social dimensions?
- Distinguishing good excesses (weapons to fight against paralyzing fear) from bad excesses (disempowering excesses);
- Redefining the useful, the essential, the necessary, the inalienable in life;
- Viruses as what surpass us, what are excessive in ourselves (a virus is in us, because we host it, but it is not us) and the result of our excess, of our being outside ourselves (infectious diseases emerge from the transformations of human/animal relations, especially where industrial agriculture and deforestation bring animals closer to humans); the question of the relationship, how to learn to live with animals, how to form a society with the virus;
- Excess as an alternative to survivalism and capitalism.
Send the full text (20,000 – 50,000 characters, spaces included) to firstname.lastname@example.org before September 15, 2020.
Languages accepted: French, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese.
15 September 2020: Deadline for Submission
15 October 2020: End of Peer-Review Process
1 December 2020: End of Revision Period
15 December 2020: Final Proofs and Publication