Gilles Deleuze does not conform to the standard image of a political philosopher. He has not written about Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau and when he has written on philosophers who rate as political thinkers, such as Spinoza or Kant, he has not engaged with their political writings. He does not address issues such as the nature of justice, freedom or democracy, much less the principles of procedural justification. His work shows an almost complete lack of engagement with the central problems and normative commitments of Anglo-American political thought. Explicitly political concerns are not the largest part of his oeuvre and they emerged relatively late in his career. He co-authored with Félix Guattari only two overtly political books: Anti-Oedipus (1977) and A Thousand Plateaus (1987). In addition, he published a chapter of the Dialogues jointly composed with Claire Parnet entitled ‘Many polities’ (Deleuze and Parnet 1987:124-47), a book on Foucault (Deleuze 1988b), an essay on Foucauldian themes entitled ‘Postscript on control societies’ (1995b:177-82), and several interviews which address political issues. Despite his lack of engagement with issues of normative political theory, Deleuze is a profoundly political philosopher. His collaborative work with Guattari offers new concepts and a new approach to thinking philosophically about the political.
The profusion of idiosyncratic terminology makes it difficult for many to read this work as political philosophy. 1 Deleuze and Guattari discuss society and politics in terms of machinic assemblages, becomings, nomadism, forms of capture and processes of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation. Thus, A Thousand Plateaus opens with the blunt declaration that ‘All we talk about are multiplicities, lines, strata and segmentarities, lines of flight and intensities, machinic assemblages and their various types’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987:4). The difficulty in reading their work is further compounded when many readers assume that Deleuze and Guattari employ much of this terminology as metaphor, while the authors insist that their use of language is not metaphoric but conceptual. 2 So, for example, in Anti-Oedipus they follow Lewis Mumford in arguing that a society may be regarded as a machine ‘in the strict sense, without metaphor’ (Deleuze and