Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Socially Invaded: The Biosocial Subject

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Socially Invaded: The Biosocial Subject

Article excerpt

There seems to be a rather unremarkable and domesticating project that frames John Protevi's latest book, Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences. Gilles Deleuze's philosophy, he argues, is compatible with recent scientific advances and can provide a legitimate ontology for claims regarding the human body, the brain, and its extension into the social-political world. First appearances, and the tendency towards recognition, are not the guardrails for Deleuzian philosophy generally, nor for Protevi's work in particular. Part of reading Protevi's work fruitfully lies in negotiating its manifest claims to being unremarkable and merely synthetic with what it eventually creates, which is far more than anything like 'applied' philosophy directed to sociopolitical cases.

It may well be that the seeming disjunction between a work that offers itself as nothing more than an assemblage of already articulated positions, as opposed to a solitary monograph of a lone thinker, needs to be set aside. Should we be approaching disciplines and discipline in terms of a great thinker (Deleuze) whose abstract philosophical claims might then be applied or concretized by a series of worker bee social scientists, political theorists, or literary critics? Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1994) themselves challenged that notion of philosophy as groundwork for other disciplines in What is Philosophy?, arguing that philosophy, science, and art are different modes of creation, rather than philosophy being pure thought that might then be used to analyze artistic creation. It might be the case that one always encounters some mixture of these three potentials for thinking, and that philosophical thought is always intertwined with some functional (scientific) or affective and perceptual (artistic) thought, but that should not preclude us from allowing each tendency to exist and persist in its own right. Indeed 'the philosopher' or 'the artist' may well be made possible only by various disturbances to what has counted as his or her discipline, just as Deleuze the philosopher came into his own when coupled with Guattari the psychoanalyst. It might seem sometimes as though no philosopher did as much as Deleuze to destroy the vagueness of the call for 'interdisciplinary' thinking: philosophy meets art or science in order to produce heightened philosophy, not some general and easily agreed-upon synthesis. The coupling of different forces creates further difference, not a mixture or halfway point. Similarly, one thinker writes with another to produce something exceptional rather than consensus.

So this brings me back to Protevi's work, which by conventional standards might seem rather unremarkable: a philosopher provides the ontology for a series of scientific advances, and these in turn are used in or applied to a series of political cases. We seem to have two hierarchies: first, a hierarchy of originality, comprising original foundational thinkers worthy of exegesis and capable of providing an ontology (Deleuze), the scientists whose findings seem to demand philosophical reconceptualization (the cognitive scientists, the biologists, the physicists), and then the synthesizers (Protevi). Second, a hierarchy of disciplines: philosophy (providing ontology), science (demonstrating that ontology), and then social science (Protevi, piecing it together, doing nothing more than synthesizing). To these two hierarchies I would respond that we are ill served by such attempts to render life equivocal: as though one voice provided the ground and reason of another. I would suggest that we reevaluate the image of thought that underpins such hierarchies, where the thinker is one who breaks away from the noise of life to give some original insight, as though origins or thinking from one's sole being as a being could enable thinking or newness. Deleuze and Guattari wrote of crowds, swarms, monstrous couplings, and even thinking as forms of invasion or violence done to integrity. …

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