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Iain Mackenzie & Robert Porter “Dramatizing the Political”

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Mackenzie, Iain; Porter, Robert 2011. Dramatizing the Political: Deleuze and Guattari. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

The dramatization of struggle would seem to be intrinsic to any struggle itself. (2)

[…] to dramatize the political, in the manner of Deleuze and Guattari, is to make a work of art. The dramatization of the political, therefore, forges a methodological link between politics and aesthetics. As we will argue, dramatization expresses the intrinsically aesthetic nature of moments of politicization – those moments when the machinations of politics are deemed insufficient to meet the demand of the political – and it does so by way of constructing an aesthetic response to those moments. The proper methodological response to a significant political event, for example, is to treat it as an art-work that demands a response appropriate to its form – that is, another work of art. (3)

[…] dramatizing the political is not simply a critical method vis-à-vis other forms of political thought but a way of doing political philosophy that explicitly links it to the need to challenge the institutions and formations of everyday politics by way of an art of critical intervention – through writing, but also cinema and other image-forms, as well as the dramatic irruptions of political movements. (4)

[…] political philosophers need to start thinking like artists or, better still, along with artists, in bringing to life concepts that provoke, resonate and allow us to meaningfully access the domain of the political. (8)

[…] philosophical-political thought, or the very formulation of political concepts, implies an aesthetic moment, a drama that necessarily and inevitably plays through conceptualization as such. (9)

Deleuze and Guattari and Political Theory
[…] the method of dramatization in Deleuze and Guattari aims to determine the nature of political concepts and how we to access, know and feel the resonance of political concepts. (20)

First, and most obviously, there is a need to develop a critical sense that the medium, form or genre in which political concepts are formulated and expressed is immanently constitutive of their meaning and significance. Second, though less obviously perhaps, the drama implied by the formulation of political ideas should fundamentally impact upon our sense as political theorists of what is involved in the process of conceptualization itself. […] Put all too simply: what we may think of as the aesthetic dimensions of political thought […] are not contingent or inessential, but necessary and constitutive. (23)

Dramatization as Critical Method
[…] a critical method is one in which we come to know the world through changing it; whether or not this change will be ‘for the better’ is a question of a different order. […] [the method of dramatization] is the acquisition of knowledge about the political world through the activity of changing it. (37)

[…] if all concepts express relations (to the extent that they group elements together under the concept and they always exist in relation to other concepts) and there is no rational necessity for the relations they express, then the determination of concepts must itself be a practical activity (rather than a merely theoretical activity aimed at unearthing the essential characteristics of the related elements). (39)

[…] Deleuze treats ideas as real problems: as outside and yet productive (rather than inside and regulative) of thought. (41)

[…] the method of dramatization is firmly established as that approach to ideas whose indeterminate experience exceeds the subject, which sets them into motion through a process of intense characterization […] (42)

[…] this is the reality of concepts we use: they are always locked into a field of dynamic interactions; otherwise concepts would have no meaning or resonance for us at all and they would simply fall dead on the ground. (43)

A concept, though, is not simply that which ‘surveys’ the conceptual field (grouping certain forms of the state together, for instance); it also ‘inaugurates’ a plane of immanence (the idea that there is a world of states that can be thought about, for example). (49)

[…] the persona is the character that brings to life the relationship between thought and the non-thought that it implies. […] In dramatizing the critic, the philosopher is able to establish a territory upon which the method becomes a critical method: a means of not merely interpreting a pregiven reality but changing that reality in the name of alternative forms of knowledge. (50)

Dramatization: The Ontological Claims
[…] philosophical texts should not be read with a view to interpreting what they mean, but performed with the aim of bringing to life the forces that animate the text. (55)

[…] we will typically think of intensity in very human terms, notably as the emotional domain that traverses human interaction and identity. (55)

For Deleuze, all the relations that we experience are the result of processes of intensification. In other words, it is not simply that things exist in a series of intense relationships; it is intensification that brings things into existing relationships. (56)

What is intensification? In the context of our discussion of method, intensification is the process constitutive of the extensive diversity implied by conceptualizations. While concepts group together elements that appear the same from the perspective of some criterion of identity, the point of creating the concept is to express the intensity of the elements that it groups together by bringing them into relations with each other. (56-57)

[…] when we think of individuals (people, performances and so on, as well as crystals) we must always remember that process has primacy over product. (58)

1)    First, Deleuze argues that all relations of quantity and quality are conditioned by intensity […];
2)    Second, he argues that intensive relations are relations of ‘pure difference’ – self-differing variations within things, so to speak, rather than the differences between things whose essence we already know. […]
3)    Third, he argues that intensive difference is always subject to a principle of indetermination. […]
4)    relations of pure difference are indeterminate (they have a role in determining individuals but cannot in themselves be determined) and, as such, they are an ideal but nonetheless real component of actual – determinable – things. (60-61)

Conceptualization always expresses an idea but it does so by taking a perspective on that idea: we always bring a persona to bear within the methods we use, and if we do not recognize this then we will tend toward idealism – the collapse of concept and idea. (63)

To know the idea behind the concept, therefore, is to change the relations within and between concepts so as to express the system of pure differential relations constitutive of the non-representational idea that conditions our determination of the concept. To put it as a slogan: make an event of thought! (65)

To dramatize concepts in order to access the ideas they express, therefore, is to ‘make a difference’ by making an event of thought. (65)

Every concept already has more than one component to it. […] Equally, each of these concepts has multiple components. That said, concepts do not have infinite component parts because every concept must leave out other concepts in order to define itself. So a concept is ‘a finite multitude’, to use Deleuze and Guattari’s phrasing from What is Philosophy? (66)

The dramatization of concepts […] is the process by which one ‘recovers’ the events that conditioned their emergence. (67)

Language and the Method of Dramatization
Humour plays a role in learning, for Deleuze, precisely because it creates an important felt sense that what often passes for supposedly informed or rational instruction […] has limited sense, that it remains problematic in some way. There is therefore wisdom to be found when one embarks on ‘this adventure of humour’ (Deleuze 1990, 136). (78)

It is a pragmatics that insists, inevitably, on the importance of performance in language, or the use of language in speech action, while simultaneously retaining the idea that language is characterized by a kind of intrinsic or immanent movement that issues from the medium itself. (82-83)

Events and the Method of Dramatization
Badiou (2009, 384): “The event is always what has just happened, what will happen but never what is happening.”

This ‘bloc of sensations’ is ‘a compound of percepts and affects’ distinct from the perceptions of the perceiver and the affections of those affected. It is a ‘bloc’ of sensations, therefore, because it is not simply some thing that some one then senses; it is a structured domain of intensity in which thing and person […] are implicated. Put like this, we see no reason why the dramatic event cannot be described as a work of art. (129)

[…] the ‘bloc of sensations’ that Deleuze and Guattari’s words here evoke is what the art-worj is said to preserve in itself. The art-work stands up on its own to the extent that it remains ‘independent’ or autonomous from its creator, from its potential audience, from its material situation, and even from the medium or form in and through which it is expressed. Something happens in the art-work, something new is created, a cut in being, the structuring of a domain of intensity. (133)