Political Theory after Deleuze

Nathan Widder’s new book provides an introduction to those aspects of the thought of Deleuze that allow a connection with the field of political theory. It is difficult to define precisely the conceptual difference between political theory and political philosophy. Institutionally speaking, it’s relatively easy to see that academic political theory practitioners are mostly trained in and employed by political science departments rather than in philosophy departments, where political philosophers congregate. But beyond that, as Jacob T. Levy notes in his interesting reflections , there are mostly only differences in tendency and emphasis rather than sharp divisions. Among those different tendencies are the composition of the canon; the attention paid to the history of political thought; the relative emphasis on “rigor” compared to “richness”; and, in a way that is certainly relevant to the present book, the relative openness to continental philosophy. For Levy, and this seems accurate to me, political theorists are for the most part more open to incorporating continental thinkers into their work, while continental philosophers writing on political matters tend not to worry whether their work would count as political theory or political philosophy.


Read also: Political Theory after Deleuze – Book

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Marx and Wittgenstein: Knowledge, Morality and Politics

What, the reader of this review may well wonder, is the point of a collection of essays connecting Marx and Wittgenstein? After all, “it is possible to take almost any two thinkers of genuine insight and sophistication and to find some parallels and commonalities in their thought. Indeed, doing so is one of the favourite intellectual pastimes of all academics.” Indeed, one could legitimately ask whether “any two thinkers have less in common than Karl Marx and Ludwig Wittgenstein.” Consider, for a moment, the case for the prosecution. On the one hand we have Marx, political activist and economic theorist, the founder of the ’science’ of ’historical materialism,’ whose Theses on Feuerbach proclaim that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the thing however is to change it.” On the other, Wittgenstein, a philosopher who “showed virtually no interest in conventional political activity,” famous for writing that “philosophy … leaves everything as it is” and who asked himself “who knows the laws by which society evolves?” only to answer “I am sure they are a closed book to the cleverest of men.”


Read also: Marx and Wittgenstein: Knowledge, Morality and Politics – Book

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Multiplicity, Virtuality and Organization: The Contribution of Gilles Deleuze

Formal organization is often seen as opposed or resistant to change, in theory as well as in practice. Drawing primarily on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze we argue that the reverse is true — that organization is itself a dynamic quality and that change and organization are imbricated in each other. We expand several key concepts of this philosophy in relation to organization (the multiplicity of order and the multiplicity of organization, strata, and meshworks, virtuality and multitude) all of which draw attention to the unstable but ever-present forces that subvert and disrupt, escape, exceed and change organization. This enables an understanding of organization as creatively autosubversive — not fixed, but in motion, never resting and constantly trembling.


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Assemblages and the Multitude: Deleuze, Hardt, Negri, and the Postmodern Left

The article enters a heated debate about the ideals and organization of the postmodern left. Hardt and Negri, two key figures in this debate, claim that their concept of the multitude — a revolutionary, proletarian body that organizes singularities — integrates the insights of Deleuze and Lenin. I argue, however, that Deleuze anticipated and resisted a Leninist appropriation of his political theory. This essay challenges the widely accepted assumption that Hardt and Negri carry forth Deleuze’s legacy. At the same time, the essay advocates Deleuze’s concept of left assemblages — protean political bodies working for freedom and equality — as a valuable but underappreciated contribution to the liberal-democratic tradition.


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Seeing Historically: Goethe and Vygotsky’s ‘Enabling Theory-Method’

We can study dead forms from a distance, seeking to understand the pattern of past events that caused them to come into existence. We can, however, enter into a relationship with living forms and, in making ourselves open to their movements, find ourselves spontaneously responding to them, and in so doing, we can gain a sense of their character. In other words, from within our dialogically structured involvements with other living things, a kind of relationally responsive understanding, quite different from the referential-representational kind of understanding familiar to us in cognitive psychology, becomes directly available to us. Thus, rather than seeking to explain a child’s present activities in terms of their causes in the past, from the standpoint of an external observer, we can turn to a quite different aim: that of perceiving in a present behavior the possibilities and opportunities it offers for further developments. Orientation toward this aim is what I think is so special about both Vygotsky’s and Goethe’s historical methods of inquiry into the development of living forms.


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Irreconcilable differences in Vygotsky’s and Bakhtin’s approaches to the Social and the Individual

n Western psychology and education, up until very recently, Bakhtin has often been introduced as a scholar whose approach was compatible with and an extension of Vygotsky’s cultural-historical approach. I argue that this continuity is problematic. Vygotsky’s approach to the social was heavily influenced by Hegel’s universalist, mono-logic, mono-logical, developmental (diachronic), activity-based philosophy. Bakhtin developed a pluralistic, essentially synchronic, dialogic, discourse- and genre-based approach to the social, involving the hybridity of co-existing competing and conflicting varieties of logic. Extrapolating Bakhtin’s approach in education and psychology, I argue that from Bakhtin’s dialogic framework, when a child (or any other person) is a subject of development — as in developmental psychology, or a subject of learning — as in education, development, its goals, and developmental values defining the teleology of the development, become (again) unknown for the participant (e.g., a developmental psychologist or parent).


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Dialogism and the psyche: Bakhtin and contemporary psychology

The authors argue that dialogical philosophy, and particularly the work of the Bakhtin circle, offers psychology a way to conceptualize and study human experience such that the notion of psyche is preserved and enriched. The authors first introduce the work of the Bakhtin circle and then briefly outline some of the most influential theories of self and psyche. The implications of dialogism for theories of the self are then discussed, focusing on six basic principles of dialogical thought – namely, the principles of relationality, dynamism, semiotic mediation, alterity, dialogicality, and contextuality. Together, these principles imply a notion of psyche that is neither an isolated homunculus nor a disembodied discourse but is, rather, a temporally unique, agentive enactment that is sustained within, rather than against, the tensions between individual and social, material and psychological, multiple and unified, stable and dynamic. The authors also discuss what this dialogical conception of psyche implies for research, arguing first that dynamic relations, rather than static entities, are the proper unit of psychological study and, second, that a dialogical research epistemology must conceive of truth as a multi-voiced event, rather than as a singular representation of fact. Finally, the authors introduce this special issue and outline other contributions.


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Toward Dialogic Literacy Education for the Internet Age

In order to reconceptualize literacy education for the Internet Age, we first need to understand the extent to which our thinking has already been shaped by literacy practices. I begin this article with an exploration of the relationship between ways of communicating, ways of thinking, and the way in which we understand education. Face-to-face dialogue, for example, means that thought is experienced as somebody’s voice. It is not surprising then that oral cultures tend to understand education as initiation into a living relationship with voices. Literacy, by contrast, especially print literacy, has tended to afford the rather different idea that thought can be dissociated from voices and represented by signs and symbols. Under the regime of print literacy, education has often been understood as first providing access to the collective store of knowledge represented in books and then transmitting this knowledge across generations. Although the Internet preserves some of the affordances of print literacy, it also returns us to some of the affordances of oracy, since it supports two-way participation. In the second half of the article, I outline a possible response to the challenge of the Internet Age. This response is not another “new literacy” but the proposal that we locate literacy education within a larger context, the context of dialogue, not only dialogue with specific others but also with generalized others and ultimately with the Infinite Other.


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Contrasting Vygotsky’s and Bakhtin’s approaches to consciousness

Matusov (2011) sustains that Vygotsky and Bakhtin represent irreconcilable theoretical approaches. In his view, Vygotsky’s model is monologic and universalist, while Bakhtin’s is dialogic and pluralist. Although the two authors differ importantly, one cannot speak of irreconcilability for two main reasons. First, Vygotsky’s approach is much more multifaceted and even contradictory than usually thought. In fact, his concept of sense echoes the Romanticist claim that experience exceeds the limits of language. Second, a dialogical conception of mind is not outside the reach of Hegelian tradition, which, in Matusov interpretation, is where Vygotsky’s approach comes from. I emphasize that Bakhtin’s unit of analysis is the voice—a concept more sociologic than psychological. “Voice” is insensitive to selfhood and should not be taken as synonymous of “person.” Notwithstanding, Vygotsky and Bakhtin share beliefs with respect to the social constitution of the mind that allows including them in the same research program.


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`When Discourse is Torn from Reality’: Bakhtin and the Principle of Chronotopicity

The aim of this article is to secure the basis for an interdisciplinary critique of Bakhtin’s notion of the `chronotope’ (`time-space’) and to argue for its relevance to several different research agendas within time studies. First, the article outlines the contours of Bakhtin’s dialogical approach to language and its implications for theorizing a text’s ontological assumptions regarding time and space. Second, the concept of the `chronotope’ is addressed by prioritizing for discussion its advantages as a heuristic device. Next, three specific chronotopes are described, followed by an evaluative appraisal of the resultant `principle of chronotopicity’. Finally, the article concludes with a series of suggestions regarding the future refinement of this approach for alternative applications in time studies.


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