Deleuzo-Hegelianism, Part I: Why We Need It
How Hegel Came Up On Me From Behind . . . by way of Deleuze!
To anyone following this blog recently, it’s pretty clear that Hegel’s been very much on my mind recently. The reason for this has to do with the book manuscript. Right now I’m doing final cleanup, from here to final proofread and reworking the introduction. My hopes are to be able to turn it in during the month of September, with a shipping date on Amazon hopefully 6-9 months after that (Spring 2012).
As I’ve been immersed in finishing this project, it has really become clear to me, and in stages, just how deeply Hegelian it is. I wrote first draft sketches of the entire Networkologies project, three books, about 500 some MS Word pages, when the project started. I think went back to the start, and rewrote the first part/book (the one forthcoming from Zer0), which is now about 300 MS Word pages (about 150 book pages).
Midway through this rewriting of the first book to get it ready for publication, I realized that in some ways, what I was doing was strongly yet almost unconsciously influenced by Hegel’s Logic. This was hardly my intent, I’ve never thought of myself as a Hegelian, though I’ve often found Zizek’s spin on Hegel fascinating, and though I’d read Hegel pretty extensively, I’d never studied him as deeply as, say, Lacan or Deleuze, my two biggest theoretical influences up to this point. But early in the year, I’d made a really in-depth, careful study of the Encyclopedia Logic to shore up my Hegel knowledge, and I guess it had settled into the bowels of my brain more than I’d figured.
I had to take a break from rewriting during the second half of the academic spring semester, but then began rewriting night and day over this summer. And as it increasingly dawned on me how the project was getting more, not less Hegelian, seemingly despite my intentions, I felt it necessary to dive back into Hegel. If people who really knew Hegel, few and far between, were likely to read my book and see very radically reworked yet unmistakable influence, I’d better really know what I was talking about.
So, I dove back into The Phenomenology of Spirit, making sure to really spend time on the ‘sociological’ and religion oriented chapters that so many gloss over, so I could really get a sense of the movement of the whole text deep in my bones. And many secondaries on Hegel, adding to those I’d already familiarized myself with long ago, like Taylor, Kojeve, Zizek, Jameson, Baugh, Hartnack, Butler, Beiser, Pippin, Singer, Burbridge, to now include the new Jameson, Nancy, Hyppolite, Pinkard, Krasnoff. And the previous year I’d really immersed myself in Fichte and Schelling, so I could fill out this context in German Idealism, largely to be able to really get what Zizek was doing. But now I went back to all my notes on the Phemenology and Logic, and began to systematize them, organize them, pore through them for their deeper structures. And the result has been a flurry of Hegelian blog posts, and part of me is even considering using these blog posts as part of the foundation for a book length project on Hegel.
As Deleuze famously said, when he was busy taking the history of philosophy, giving it monstrous children, Nietzsche came and took him from behind. I’d always thought that Deleuze was the one who’d ‘had my back’, so to speak. But as I found myself writing a text that had started under the primary influence of Deleuze, had Hegel been influencing me through Deleuze all the time? But what would it mean to be a Deleuzo-Hegelian, was this even possible?
A Deleuzian Cryptonomy: Learning to Read the Traces of Hegel in Deleuze
While my first post on the strange similarities between Deleuze and Hegel that were becoming clear to me is that tracing parallels between Deleuze’s Cinema books and Hegel’s Logic, this was an isolated insight for a while. I’d also come to realize that Gilbert Simondon, a crucial influence on Deleuze, one whose influence, despite Simondon’s rising star, is I think still vastly underappreciated, saw Hegel as a crucial precursor. Deleuze also found great kinship with Dewey, who started as a Hegelian, if under the influence of the British Idealists. And while Bergson said that Spencer and Spinoza were large influences, the very relational side of Spencer that Bergson found had impacted him deeply was simply watered down Hegel.
The more I studied Hegel this summer, the clearer it was to me that Deleuze was deeply Hegelian, despite his vehement protestations to the contrary. The fact that he’d never written a book on this ‘enemy’ like he did with Kant seemed to me symptomatic. But it wasn’t until Ryan David Mullins, of the blog The Hegel Diaries, suggested to me that the link was Hyppolite rather than Kojeve, that it began to make sense. And as I mentioned in my last post, reading Hyppolite was something of a revelation, not only in relation to Deleuze, but the history of the thought of his generation in general. Here was the key I’d been missing to make sense of some of the riddles of this period. And with ramifications in the present.
It became clear to me just how deeply Deleuze was influenced by Hyppolite, yet also just how strongly he tried to distance himself from this uncomfortable influence, Oedipal style, in the manner described by Harold Bloom as an ‘anxiety of influence’. Here was the ‘vanishing mediator’, to use a Jameson/Zizek term, that started to make sense of things (and for more on this, see here).
It was also not just any Hegel that influenced Deleuze and his compatriots, nor truly Kojeve (aside from Bataille, Sartre, and the early Lacan), rather, it was Hyppolite’s. And Hyppolite’s Hegel is an extreme, a distortion of Hegel that is as much Hyppolite as Hegel, in the manner in which Deleuze’s Spinoza or Nietzsche or Bergson is as much him as them. Deleuze learned how to read, and how to enter into a becoming with a thinker, from the best. And if he surpassed his teacher, he also carried his ‘crypt’ (to use a term from Abraham and Torok), and its baggage, deep within the recesses of his project. From here, it becomes a question of decoding the crytopological traces of Hyppolite’s Hegel as it marks Deleuze’s corpus from one side to the other.
But to what end? It seems to me that thinkers like Jameson, Nancy, and Zizek are arguing that a radical Hegel can be a crucial guide to the impasses of the present. This is the Hegel who is the thinker of radical contingency, anti-teleology, and immanent productivity of difference. Of course, this is not the only Hegel there is, as I’ve argued in previous posts. Hegel’s writings are complexly overdetermined, and his abstruse philosophical language grants him the ability to be many things at once while also being highly precise in the manner in which his thought fuzzily relates to the world beyond it. The question of ‘which Hegel’ has haunted Hegel interpretation since the start, and seems unlikely to abate anytime soon, as Hegel keeps rising, undead, to keep splitting in two like this. As Jameson argues, how ironically fitting for a thinker so occupied with the notion of a unity of opposites.
It seems to me that the reason to resurrect Hegel is, as Marx so clearly saw in his day, that Hegel allows one to radically warp one’s relation to one’s time, once one pushes the telelogical, totalizing side away, and get in touch with the side described by Zizek and Nancy, the Hegel of radical freedom, finitude, contingency, and freedom.
to be continued . . .