3

POWER

Power and will to power

Deleuze has had a profound impact on contemporary approaches to the theory of power. Through his studies of the philosophies of Nietzsche and Spinoza, he develops a concept of power which has none of the juridical and moral presuppositions typically associated with power in the tradition of modern political thought. This concept of power none the less enables a form of ethical evaluation which plays an important role in the social and political theory developed in collaboration with Guattari. It informs both the theory of desire that is the basis for their critique of psychoanalysis in Anti-Oedipus (1977) and the theory of assemblages developed in A Thousand Plateaus (1987). The key elements of Deleuze’s concept of power are presented in his 1962 study, Nietzsche and Philosophy (1983). The aim of this chapter is to outline the concept of power developed through Deleuze’s interpretation of Nietzsche, and to show how this is developed further in his subsequent collaboration with Guattari.

In order to do so, it will be helpful to trace some of the important continuities with as well as divergences from Foucault’s concept of power. To a considerable degree, Deleuze’s impact upon contemporary political thought has been mediated by the work of Foucault, who acknowledged the influence of Deleuze’s ‘superb book about Nietzsche’ on his own thinking about power (Foucault 1983a:203). 1 Deleuze in turn commented upon and elaborated Foucault’s theses about power, first in his review of Discipline and Punish (Deleuze 1975:1207-27) and then in the additional comments on power in his Foucault (1988b). In fact, there are several ‘zones of indiscernibility’ between the concepts of power deployed throughout the texts of Deleuze, Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari, but also a number of differences between them. The most important of these differences has to do with the explicitly normative character of Deleuze’s approach to power. We will take up this issue, and the evaluative character of the social theory developed with Guattari, in the third section of this chapter.

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Deleuze and the Political
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Concept and Image of Thought 11
  • 2 - Difference and Multiplicity 29
  • 3 - Power 49
  • 4 - Desire, Becoming and Freedom 68
  • 5 - Social Machines and the State 88
  • 6 - Nomads, Capture and Colonisation 109
  • Conclusion 132
  • Notes 138
  • References 149
  • Index 159
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