fanclub theory — and, like, what, again?

September 29th, 2010 | No comments yet

All innovative works in words have their devout followers. In academia, especially in the discipline of Philosophy, or in the fields that comment upon philosophical discourse, the proper name of the author is propped up by an entire phalanx of scribes who are kept busy in the near limitless exegesis.

While such interpretations may be enlightening, 90% of it comes out as so much rotten praise. At its worst, fanclub theory amounts to a dreadful repetition of unexamined phrases, and despite its rhetorical claims otherwise, produces not the unthought crevices of this-or-that, but a text of dead concepts floating in a morass of jargon, without connection to a thesis, and without hope of breaking free from its tethers.

Everyone is guilty, but for the past 15 years or so it has been Deleuze’s turn (RIP). The endless plateaus of Deleuze and Guattari have for some time now been subject to the worship of scribes more devout and vicious to protect, to the law of the letter, an apparent theoretical coherence and perfection that Deleuze himself was, with all due respect, never so assured of. (And for good reason: an assured philosopher is one dead to thought.)

One particular phrase that has been taken verbatim as some kind of mantra, a password to the club, as a maxim of morals, and positioned above the many of Deleuze’s readymade catchphrases, is the invocation to connect everything, like a rhizome, in the ecstasy of the “and… and… and…”.

(And, to wit: to connect the rhizome to an unexamined moralism of the good. This has led to the simplism that rhizomes are good; trees, or the arboreal organisation of binary classification, bad. That this in itself is an arboreal classification or binarism of the worst sort is rarely noted.)

As Deleuze acknowledged in the more difficult paths of his work, not everything is connected. Deleuze struggled to complicate the above classification of classification through a triadic notion of difference rarely read nor elaborated upon because it’s not in A Thousand Plateaus. Nor is the connected necessarily good; nor is it necessarily even contingently good (and yes there is a difference – think hard, again, about what a war machine does, if you so doubt me).

Recently I came across, rereading again Foucault’s Order of Things, a statement that should be printed & pasted, large and clear, as a bumper sticker  across the Xieme printings of A Thousand Plateaus:

Absurdity destroys the and of the enumeration by making impossible the in where the things enumerated would be divided up.

Indeed.*

* Those who have read anything I have writ know two things. 1. I harbour a deep respect for Deleuze and Guattari, whom I have written about often, and whose thought is always electrifying. 2. I have conducted works of exegesis concerning Derrida, Lefebvre, the Autonomists, and countless others. Take this all with a grain of salt, but with a word of warning: enough theory lite. Dig deep, or don’t pretend to wield the shovel. (And forget about picking up the axe.) For the shovel has two edges. One to unearth the unexamined. The other to shovel the….

* And I full well know Foucault uses the above statement to launch the proposition of the episteme as a near-absurd gathering of the and. Yet, the episteme itself situates the in, halting it short of absurdity. That’s the point, and the difference, between philosophy and comedy.

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