Deleuze’s difficult style

26 April 2008 at 9:14 pm 2 comments

In reading Deleuzian Interrogations I was happy to see an acknowledgment of how difficult Deleuze’s writing is. DeLanda writes/says the following:

I think the main obstacle to engaging with Deleuze directly is the style. He writes as if he deliberately wanted to be misunderstood, or at least that’s the way it impacts someone who, like me, is trained mostly in Anglo-American analytical philosophy. (I suppose that if one is used to struggle with Continental authors one may get a different impression). He changes terminology in every book (so that the virtual dimension becomes a ‘plane of consistency’ in one, a ‘body without organs’ in another, a ‘machinic phylum’ in another and so on) and never ever gives explicit definitions (or hides them well). I suppose that was an attempt on his part of preventing a given terminology to solidify too soon, to keep things fluid and heterogeneous. Fine. But I cannot deal with that and hardly expect complexity theorists to put up with it either. (19-20)

Wow! DeLanda can’t deal with it. I don’t feel so alone anymore! I always found it difficult but never wrote him off as so many others do (as they do with Lacan and Derrida as well). After struggling for 15 years or so with all of these difficult, shifting concepts, I have had the benefit of recent books that help a great deal with putting Deleuze into plain English: Peter Hallward’s Out of This World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation, Todd May’s Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction, and everything by DeLanda has been incredibly helpful, and I highly recommend these to those struggling with the primary texts of Deleuze.

In the same interview, Protevi also comments:

Once you get past their style (and yes, it is less daunting for someone like me who came up through the ranks reading Heidegger and Derrida, but the ontological shift, from post-phenomenology to materialism, is wrenching!), there are indeed lots of reasons why the Deleuze and complexity theory connection is so interesting. (21)

I have had the same experience as he has, having cracked my theoretical teeth on deconstruction as presented through many of the professors I had while working toward my M.A. & Ph.D. degrees at the University of Florida from 1986-1994 (including one of Derrida’s translators, John Leavey)–though I have to say that some of Deleuze’s work is the most challenging reading I’ve ever done. Even Derrida strives to make sense–and does most of the time, despite his resorting to “puncepts.” One thing is for sure: it makes reading anything else a piece of cake…

I have also experienced this “wrenching ontological shift” that Protevi speaks of as well, and didn’t realize it until I read some of the explanatory works listed above.


Entry filed under: complexity theory, delanda, Deleuze, philosophy.

e=mc squared + information Cognitive Surplus

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gustav  |  1 August 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I cannot agree more.. Part of me grew to revere Deleuze but as soon as I meet his texts.. shudder. Can’t stand it. The constant word play, his delight in paradoxical constructs, shifting terminologies… is he having a laugh?

    Another problem is that, after reading multiple explanations, the concept of the Virtual still sounds wishy-washy. Why does every explanation start with “the virtual is not bla bla, not bla bla , not bla bla.” Tell us what the hell it is for god’s sake, not what it is not.

    I find his work with Guattari easier to appreciate, probably because it’s got a pop element. And..

    Protevi has a fantastic way of grounding everything.

  • 2. Energonomics and Morphogenesis « Scholaris Erratus  |  26 August 2009 at 10:49 pm

    […] by Manuel DeLanda, whose writing I find to be some of the most lucid in terms of explicating the difficult concepts and style of Gilles Deleuze.  It might be that I find it clear because I’ve been reading about complexity theory and […]


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