Friday, 2 December 2011


Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

The text immediately below is the first version of the abstract for my PhD thesis. My supervisor, Dr Adam Sharman, ever wise and infinitely patient, was quick to point out that I needed to write something sober and straightforward, as per the convention. His words were: “It’s not often I caution you against doing something, but I really wouldn’t advise this abstract. It’s far too indulgent and anecdotal, and clever. Gives the wrong impression and will put people off reading it once it’s lodged in a library. The how you came about it is for a conversation; it needs to be scholarly, descriptive of the thesis’s contents, and shorter (no more than one side of A4).

I was happy to oblige, but it didnt tell the story so well...


The emergence of the present text – its first discernible, manifest (co-)cause – was, as is the case with everything else, an encounter: a Master’s Degree candidate, splashing about – floundering – in Postmodernist Theory primers (texts that seemed to suggest that language caused everything, a pantextualism that one could not get outside or beyond…), one day stumbled across the passage from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus (or a paraphrase thereof) that has been used as this work’s epigraph.* Desiring-repression, you say… Why is it that people rally to causes that are not in their objective interests, and invest with the last drops of their passion a system that crushes them – like royalty, say? (They cannot simply be deceived into acting this way, for Christ’s sake.) Further: what are the factors that group people together? How do you form an Us, and how does the Us relate to a Them, or its Thems? Politics. Desire.

A passional connection and a genesis, but an aperçu not yet fully formed. With this embryonic thought in mind, off I wandered, over the smooth space of the seas in search of an ‘object’; not yet so much of an Ahab pursuing his specific whale as a Columbus looking for the East Indies. Then a protean figure appeared – a fascist colonel, a prophet apparently leading his people to the socialist Promised Land – about whom neither historians nor Peronistas ‘themselves’ could agree. An uneasy, murky Us and Them. Are you the Judean People’s Front?

What follows, then, is not the Colón-izing attempt to provide a definitive answer to the enigmas of Perón and peronismo – it would take a whole network of texts to paint in the lines of enquiry excluded here: its virtual inter-textual rhizome – so much as a selective tracking through a forest of material, an attempt to search in the right places, and in the right ways, so as to aid the understanding of historical causal processes. Not to look for different objects, then, but to look differently at the same objects. A meta-historiography, if that’s not too immodest a claim to make…

Does history have a pattern, a logic? If not, is it, in its freewheeling ‘irrationality,’ its chance and indeterminacy, nevertheless intelligible, susceptible to analysis? The famous Japanese butterfly… If desire is the motor of history, locked in a permanent tango with a power that captures it, seemingly (or else switches roles, occasionally leading the dance), then why and how is it made to coincide with the diktats…no, the needs of the group or the social formation? (Gordon Gekko’s American Dream swirling over London Fields’ Lord Sugar, Ian Beale and Keith Talent: singing from the same hymn sheet, maybe, but not at all following a belief implanted from on high; rather, embodying an identical mode of desire: self-interest as the common good. Zeros and Heroes. Zeros and Ones. No need to persuade them – Them – of anything any longer…)

Where do words fit into all this? What is the relation of signs (“peronista”) to material bodies? Can you capture your own imagination?

[February 2011]

* Here is that epigraph:
Even the most repressive and the most deadly forms of social reproduction are produced by desire within the organization that is the consequence of such production under various conditions that we must analyze. That is why the fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly, and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered: “Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” How can people possibly reach the point of shouting “More taxes! Less bread!”? As Reich remarks, the astonishing thing is not that some people steal or that others occasionally go out on strike, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice, and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike: after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, they actually want humiliation not only for others but for themselves? Reich is at his profoundest as a thinker when he refuses to accept ignorance or illusion on the part of the masses as an explanation of fascism, and demands an explanation that will take their desires into account, an explanation formulated in terms of desire: no, the masses were not innocent dupes; at a certain point, under a certain set of conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Anti-Oedipus

1 comment:

  1. Your PhD adviser was right. This isn't an abstract. Academia rarely entertains!