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Ray Brassier

Posthuman Pragmatism: Selecting Power / The Human: From Subversion to Compulsion


Posthuman Pragmatism: Selecting Power (Informal Q & A Session)

Posthuman Pragmatism: Selecting Power: For all its paeans to the primacy of exteriority, A Thousand Plateaus is ultimately a self-enclosed, self-sufficient construction; but one rooted in a gesture of negation that it cannot avow or integrate within itself. What it rejects is representation, together with its ‘arborescent’ dichotomies between inside and outside, subjectivity and objectivity, truth and falsity. It tries to purify this rejection of negation by construing rejection as selection and negation as a quality of power. Thus the rejection of representation (together with all its dichotomies, oppositions, and negations) is not supposed to be a denial but a mere effect or consequence of the book’s selection of affirmation over negation. Rather than seeking to justify itself, this is a book that insists on affirming its own power, which is precisely the power of affirmation. But the attempt to reduce negation to affirmation and denial to selection rests upon the affirmation of a difference between affirmative and negative power which turns out to be all but essential. Differences in the quality of power (affirmative or negative) turn out to be fundamental differences in being. By the same token, making the difference between affirmation and negation turns out to be indiscernible from accepting it as something that is already given; which is to say, representing it. This indistinction testifies to a fundamental inconsistency, which might also be called a contradiction, between what the book says and what it does. Despite its extraordinary ingenuity, A Thousand Plateaus cannot give a wholly positive account of the limit between the relative and the absolute, the finite and the infinite. This is to say that its systematic disavowal of dialectics, negativity, interiority, and transcendence leads it to hypostatize the difference between negative and positive, inside and outside, immanence and transcendence, into a brute given, an ultimately transcendent datum: stratification. Everything in the book relies on giving a positive sense to the de- in destratification, or delimitation, but this positive sense is merely the inversion of the limitation of absolute movement that it cannot but presuppose as its starting point: stratification. Thus the book absolutizes limitation in a forlorn attempt not to define the absolute limitatively. Circumventing negation and mediation, which is to say, the constraints of justification, it seeks to install itself immediately (or immanently) in between the relative and the absolute, but in doing so ends up absolutizing in-between-ness. But can this absolute in-between-ness be so confidently contrasted with the utilitarian compromise which is the fabric of the everyday?


Ray Brassier ‘Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines: Form and Function in A Thousand Plateaus’ in A Thousand Plateaus and Philosophy, Ed. by Henry Somers-Hall, Jeffrey A. Bell, James Williams (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), pp. 260-279.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari 'Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines' in A Thousand Plateaus, Tr. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 501-516

Ray Brassier obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Warwick in 2001. From 2002 to 2008 he was a Research Fellow at Middlesex University’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. Since 2008, he has been a member of the philosophy faculty at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (Palgrave Macmillan 2007). He is currently writing about Marx, freedom, and fate.

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