- capitalism + universal history
- ---- by Eugene HollandDeleuze and Guattari are alone among post-structuralists in their resuscitation of the notion of universal history. But by drawing on Karl Marx rather than Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, they insist that this is an 'ironic' universal history, for three reasons: it is retrospective, singular and critical. It is retrospective in that the perspective of schizophrenia only becomes available toward the end of history, under capitalism; yet at the same time, capitalism does not represent the telos of history, but rather a contingent product of fortuitous circumstance. This confirms the singularity of capitalist society: it is not some hidden similarity between capitalism and previous social forms that makes capitalism universal, but rather what Marx (in the Grundrisse) calls the 'essential difference' between it and the others: it exposes the source of value that previous societies kept hidden. And hence capitalism offers the key to universal history because with capitalism, society can finally become self-critical.Capitalist modernity represents the key turning point in this view of universal history, for a crucial discovery is made in a number of different fields: by Martin Luther; by Adam Smith and David Ricardo; somewhat later by Sigmund Freud, who will therefore be considered 'the Luther and the Adam Smith of psychiatry'. The key discovery is that value does not inhere in objects but rather gets invested in them by human activity, whether that activity is religious devotion, physical labour or libidinal desire. In this fundamental reversal of perspective, objects turn out to be merely the support for subjective value-giving activity. Yet in each of the three fields, the discovery of the internal, subjective nature of value-giving activity is accompanied by a resubordination of that activity to another external determination: in the case of Luther, subjective faith freed from subordination to the Catholic Church is nevertheless resubordinated to the authority of Scripture; in Smith and Ricardo, wage-labour freed from feudal obligations is resubordinated to private capital accumulation; in Freud, the free-form desire of polymorphous libido is resubordinated to heterosexual reproduction in the privatised nuclear family and the Oedipus complex. To free human activity from these last external determinations is the task of world-historical critique: Marx provides the critique of political economy to free wage-labour from private capital; Friedrich Nietzsche provides the critique of religion and moralism to free Will to Power from nihilism; Deleuze and Guattari provide the critique of psychoanalysis to free libido from the private nuclear family and the Oedipus complex. If capitalism makes history universal, this is ultimately because it promotes multiple differences, because the capitalist market operates as a 'difference-engine'.ForMarx,thekeyhumanuniversalwasproduction:the species-being of humanity was defined in terms of its ever-growing ability to produce its own means of life rather than simply consume what nature offered. For Deleuze and Guattari, the key universal is not just production (not even in the very broad sense they grant that term in Anti-Oedipus), but specifically the production of difference free from codification and representation. The market fosters an increasingly differentiated network of social relations by expanding the socialisation of production along with the division of labour, even though capital extracts its surplus from the differential ﬂows enabled by this network, by means of exploitation and the never-ending repayment of an infinite debt. Even though the differenceengine of capital fails fully to realise universal history, it nonetheless makes universality possible; puts it on the historical agenda. So while the capitalist market inaugurates the potential for universal history in its production of difference, it is the elimination of capital from the market that will multiply difference and realise the freedom inherent in universal history.
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.
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