December 2011


In the polemical piece ‘Molecular Revolutions’ in Deleuze and Politics, Isabelle Garo correctly argues that a Deleuzian mode of politics retains a paradoxical character, an insurmountable aporia between engagement and disengagement. This is in part due to the fact that Deleuze’s conception of the economy is as a philosopher. No doubt Deleuzian theory gives ample attention to the economy and the market, but at no point does Deleuze deal with economic issues from a tradition of scrupulous historical and economic research. On the contrary, Deleuzian economic analysis is situated on the ground of an ontology of flows and becoming.

The privileged ontology of Deleuze, as we all know, in the words of Garo, “presents itself as a heightened form of attention to the concrete diversity of things as a respect for their constitutive multiplicity” (p. 57). This is chiefly done through the concept of desire, characterized by flows or exchanges of energy, which Deleuze and Guattari famously describe as belonging to the infrastructure itself. The vague expression of flows is considered to be the most important consideration of Deleuzian philosophy, constituting “the heart of an ontology that is vitalist in inspiration” (p. 58). On this view the conventional Marxist distinction between base (the domain of production) and superstructure (the realm of culture) is eschewed, leading to the leftist conclusion that everything is political.

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The current political conjecture, after a long-running string of defeats for the Left, conveys an oppressive, immobilizing pessimism. According to Adrian Johnson in Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations, the innovative experiments in emancipatory politics of the 20th century have not fared well. Given this scenario, “the era of revolutionary politics certainly looks to be over” (p. xiv). It is therefore difficult not to see capitalism nowadays as the only game in town; “the sole viable option available for organizing humanity’s multiple forms of group coexistence” (p. xxvii). How likely is it then that today’s political circumstances will remain imperious to abrupt ruptures and turns in history?

Given the established run of capitalism, Johnson detects two pitfalls to the present-day political situation: complacent quietism and hubristic utopianism. The first danger is overconfidence or the belief in historical teleologies proffering guarantees “to the effect that socialism can’t fail eventually to succeed” (p. xvi). In the view of economism, “the flow of sociohistorical trends inevitably will carry one effortlessly to the shores of a post-capitalist paradise” (p. xv). The dialectics of history, in other words, unambiguously point to a utopian society beyond capitalism.

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The nature of dignity, responsibility and ultimately commitment roots itself within the contours of a language that has evaded the stranglehold of Westernism. This evasion invokes the question as to how a language can structure and conceive a world fundamentally different in ethical and moral codes; a language that emanates from those endeavors to incur a responsibility and an indebtness to its ancestors and forbearers. A provisional blueprint of Indo-European Language manifests a world that dichotomizes, fragments, and disengages the subject from Self and Others. Does any language bear intrinsic elements of inclusiveness and responsibility, a responsibility directed towards community and in ensuring the community yields a model that those intrinsic elements listed above are embraced? These are questions that are fundamentally important for the nature of how one constructs narratives, mythologies, and conceptions about one’s world in relation to their self and to the broader community.

When examining Indo-European Culture in regards to the dimension and construct of language; the underlying element that characterizes its ‘structure’ would be the subject-verb-object dynamic. A prime example of this ‘structure’ becomes the phrase ‘I Speak To You’ which engenders a distinction and disjunction between the “active” speaker and “passive” listener. Henceforth, the ‘I’ and ‘You’ foster a dichotomy that disengages the speaker and listener, and renders the speaker detached from its action and The Other.  The detachment itself collapses and becomes conducive for the ‘individualism’ that has prevailed and permeated the discourse of Occidental Culture. This form of detachment from the ‘Other’ inheres a detachment from one’s community. This does not intend to be a gross and broad generalization about the entire vicissitude of Western Culture; rather it intends to formulate a framework to comprehend how Language shapes our personal construct and its incurred ramifications.

In stark contrast, indigenous languages like Tojolabal are antipodal to the Western Framework; antipodal in regards to how the intrinsic elements of responsibility and dignity are immanent within their mode of communication. Intersubjectivity plays a principal role in the formation of their language and their community; it is an intersubjectivity embodied through multiple agents and subjects being implied through verbs. Henceforth, ‘I’ and ‘You’ are coterminous and implied by their verbs e.g. “I Speak You Hear” or “She Speaks We All Hear.” A rudimentary sentence ‘I speak’ will roughly translate into “I Speak to you my brother, you my brother hear me.” Now, individual agency and responsibility are entwined; entwined through a shared responsibility towards a horizontal and egalitarian approach to community. Anthropologist Carlos Lenkensdorf asserts that “intersubjectivity informs the cosmovision of the Tojolabals and subject-object relationships inform the cosmovision of the speakers of Indo-European Languages.” Ultimately, a question raised becomes whether our cultural logistics wields the capacity to recognize the element of shared dignity? This is a not a mere implication that we are completely incapable; yet does the exclusion of a shared and intersubjective approach within the dynamics of our language hinder us to a degree from a community orientation at large?