j_spot the Journal of Social and Political

Volume One, No. 2 | June 2000

j_spot online edition ISSN 1481 8 5842

Outside of Power? or The Power of the Outside

Jon Short

Graduate Programme in Social & Political Thought
York University

    The use of the spatial tropes ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ in contemporary theoretical writing contains, and often conceals, a rather complex politics.  To begin with, as Ernesto Laclau points out, the very system of signification which seemingly allows us to describe society as the inside of a self-enclosed totality is itself internally split by an unarticulable limit against which it is articulated; signs carry on their inside an outside which cannot be signified as such, since signs create meaning only by tacitly opposing other signs which cannot be articulated.  Each utterance, each chain of signs, will produce a silent double of what is unsaid, and this doubling can never be fully explicated.  Discursive politics is possible for Laclau because every positing of social totalities in language, whatever their particular configuration, is always necessarily false, i.e., incomplete.1   In Laclau we hear the echo of Althusser’s description of that ‘other space’, which, when recognized as such, exposes the impossibility of medieval theology’s doctrine of unmediated knowledge: “this other space…is only defined by the denegation of what it excludes from its own limits.  In other words, all its limits are internal, [because] it carried its outside inside it.”2

    Not only do we have the impossibility of distinguishing with any final discretion the inside from the outside, but with this fluidity between the terms comes an interminable oscillation between them: each synthesis between outside and inside immediately shows its falsehood, renewing the process once again.  This interminable movement suggests that a ‘true totality’ as synthetic unity between inside and outside is forever deferred, that it lies ‘beyond’ all finalist accounts of perfection as a stable or static synthesis of inside and outside.

    It is all the more odd, then, that late capitalism should live off precisely this impossible eschatology—understood here as the dream of a final reconciliation—which capitalism itself more or less explicitly acknowledges to be unattainable.3  It seems that increasingly it is the awareness of the true totality’s unattainability, variously conceived in capitalism’s utopian discourses (trotted out as required to justify the capitalist economic order) as the triumph of modernization through ‘development’, the elimination of poverty through constant economic growth, or even the eventuality of full employment, which ironically serves to justify capital’s real domination.4   The very impossibility of a capitalist eschatology is what paradoxically and cynically demands that we behave ‘as if’ such were possible.5

    The structure of this ‘as if’ is brilliantly illustrated by Zizek’s discussion of the Lacanian objet a in terms of what Zizek calls the ‘fetishistic disavowal’.  This disavowal is characterized above all by the structure “I know very well, but still,” as in the Freudian example “I know that Mother has not got a phallus, but still…[I believe she has got one],” or “I know that Jews are people just like us, but still…[there is something in them].”6   If virtually all Western thought contains an implicit eschatology, the reason that late capitalist culture differs from ‘traditional’ capitalism—and perhaps this transition was inevitable—is because it has this status as a disavowed yet remaining ‘object-cause’ of desire.  Capital’s contemporary advantage over any political-economic rivals is that it has apparently superseded the dream of a final state, all the while behaving as if it had not done so.  It is this situation which seems to account for the ‘end of ideology’ thesis, which Zizek summarizes as “They no longer believe, but the things themselves believe for them.”7

    To understand this problematic structure it is necessary to properly situate the problem of the inside and outside in contemporary political terms.  More specifically, we might ask the following: what is the future of a political engagement with the institutions of the ideological state apparatus that aims to show how the normative inside is entirely based on the exclusion of an outside, that what such an apparatus takes to be a true totality is in fact false, when all the while this apparatus is perfectly aware (but still…) that its totality is a false one?  Within this problematic Foucault’s political genealogies can indeed be read as cynical documents; and yet paradoxically, for exactly this reason, the element of cynicism for which they are often reproached, their refusal of the ‘but still’, is what takes them beyond ideology critique.  In other words, at least the Foucauldian mode of post-structuralism (and I think some others as well) can be identified precisely by its refusal to postulate a true, even if impossible, totality; moreover, it is just such an abandonment of the project of the true totality and the rejection of an eschatology which accounts for its ultimately non-cynical character.  In the work of Judith Butler and Gilles Deleuze, both of whom have drawn extensively on Foucault’s analysis of power and subjectivity as an immanent relation, this ultimately political contrast between an infinitely deferred totality and the rejection of totality altogether is clearly discernible.

    In Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, we are told that the shift from juridical to normalizing forms of bio-power was brought about by radically new practices which literally created different types of bodies and subjects.  From the discourses of sovereignty, which positioned the body of the criminal as a ‘recording surface’ on which both earthly and divine vengeance was inscribed, there was a shift to modern practices promoting the ‘humane’ production of docile bodies which were obedient, malleable, and of course, much more materially productive.8   In Foucault’s analysis, the production of the docile prisoner, soldier, or worker is inseparable from the operation of power.  In his description of power’s effect on the body of the prisoner, he writes “The man described for us, whom we are invited to free, is already in himself the effect of a subjection much more profound than himself.  A soul inhabits him and brings him to existence, which is itself a factor in the mastery that power exercises over the body.”9

    For Deleuze and Guattari also, power and its products are internally related.  The primary function of language, according to them, is not the transmission of information, but the transmission of ‘order-words’.  Order-words are understood as a pragmatic or performative language-function; their role is to accomplish actions in and through speech.  Hence, language does not have as its main concern the representation of what is outside, but directly intervenes at the level of bodies, transforming them according to the dictates of “collective assemblages of enunciation.”10   Far from referring to a prior subjectivity, the order-word, as a micro-component of collective enunciation, effectively produces it: “the collective assemblage is always like the murmur from which I take my proper name, the constellation of voices, concordant or not, from which I draw my voice.”11   It is language’s plane of immanence that orders bodies so that they resonate with an ‘I’ attributable to an allegedly prior subject.

    Judith Butler also argues that subjects are constituted by a power immanent to social discourse, particularly the discourses of psychoanalysis.  For Butler, neither subjects nor bodies can pre-exist what she describes as their ‘materialization’ in discourse.  The cultural-discursive norms which assign a sex and a gender to social subjects must function by way of a materialization which, through repeated citation, literally calls into being the subjects and bodies which it names.12   Butler argues that the pre-existing materiality of bodies, always posited as prior to sociality, is in fact the power of the signifier which performatively “produces [as] an effect of its own procedure the very body that it nevertheless and simultaneously claims to discover as that which precedes its action.”13   Without taking into account the materiality of discourse in its repetitive performativity, matter would not appear in its apparently independent exteriority.14

    Foucault, Butler, and Deleuze thus all share a desire to break with the tradition positing both a transcendent exterior and a representational theory of language which faithfully re-produces its form within an interior.  All three consistently locate the outside of pre-existent subjectivity as a projection of the inside, as a dissimulation of its own power.  It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that such attempts form a simple conceptual sameness.

    To begin with, Butler criticizes Foucault in two distinct ways.  She argues that Foucault is too hasty in contrasting the juridical, and hence psychoanalytic, conception of repressive power with its productive aspect, since by his own admission to forbid is also to incite a response to prohibition.  Secondly, she criticizes Foucault for inconsistently invoking the notion of a natural body, a zone of ‘wild forces’ which precede their discursive articulation and return to disrupt the discursive economy of subjectivity.15   These two critical moments are joined by Butler’s invocation of the juridical law, in Lacanian terms, as that which produces by foreclosure.  That is, the positive manifestations of desire which appear ‘given’ or natural are in fact derived from an initial threatening constraint which forces desire to differ from itself; in psychoanalytic terms, this is the ‘Father’s ‘No’’.  But if production is accomplished by foreclosure, then Foucault’s invocation of ‘wild forces’ beyond the productive moment of prohibition must be rejected as the illicit return of a prior or natural outside, and hence the rehabilitation of the discourses of liberation which Foucault wants to reject.16

    As her criticisms imply, Butler’s work attempts to utilize psychoanalytic accounts of subject-formation, and Foucault’s understanding of disciplinarity, as productive of both the physicality and the sexuality of the modern subject.17   The psychoanalytic Law compels the assumption of a sexed body as well as a gendered identity through an action of constitutive foreclosure where the ‘one’ who becomes a subject is forced by the symbolic repetition of cultural norms to assume a normatively heterosexual identity.18   While in Lacan the process of identification never fully succeeds, thereby producing an eroticized remainder which becomes a site of resistance in the Imaginary, Butler argues (although I suspect many Lacanians would sharply disagree) that Lacan never provides the means for an explicitly political re-entry into the Symbolic, one which would allow a re-articulation of its norms.19   Here, according to Butler, Foucault presents a necessary corrective to psychoanalytic accounts of subject-formation with his focus on the social modalities by which disciplinarity produces docile bodies.  Butler argues that Foucault’s remark in “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” that the social practices which shape the body by destruction act as “a volume in perpetual disintegration,” closely parallels the operation of the psychoanalytic Law which produces the subject by psychic foreclosure.20  Butler asks if Foucault’s concept of the body signifies “a body pure and simple, or does ‘the body’ come to stand for a certain operation of the psyche,” such that against his rhetorical skirmishes with psychoanalysis, “Foucault himself has invested the body with a psychic meaning that he cannot elaborate within the terms that he uses.”21

    What Foucault does provide, at least on Butler’s reading, is an account of power’s effectivity in the Symbolic, which in constituting the subject also exceeds itself, giving rise to resistance which is an effect of the very mechanism of foreclosure.22   Since the constitution of the subject is never a one-time event, the whole point of Foucault’s analysis is to provide an account of the disciplinary mechanisms by which subjects are maintained in their subjectivity in modern societies.  The repetitive citation of the discursive ‘regulatory ideals’ as the condition of subjective intelligibility inserts temporality into subjectivation, opening up a moment of deferral where the repeated citation of norms can be used to contest and reformulate the norms themselves.23   The power of the Law creates its positive effects in the form of normative identities exclusively by means of negative foreclosure, creating an outside or forbidden zone of identification.  Such abjected zones, Butler argues, become the ‘constitutive outside’ of the inside of normative identity.24   Referring to both psychoanalysis and Foucault’s description of bodily destruction, Butler claims that this outside, as “remainder…survives for such a subject in the mode of already, if not always, having been destroyed, in a kind of constitutive loss.”25   This invokes Lacan’s notion of the retroactive constitution of the unconscious, where the moment of foreclosure upon entering the Symbolic occasions a projection into the past of an imagined state of impossible subjective completeness experienced as ‘prior’ to the traumatic foreclosure of the law.  That this moment is impossible to recover because it was never actual, but always already imaginary, is no barrier to its ‘recollection’ when the symbolic order demands the proper citation of its norms.26

    Despite Foucault’s resistances to psychoanalysis, Butler has found a way to combine his theory of power with a juridical framework as psychoanalytic Law.  Although the Law is historically variable, it always temporally pre-exists the identities, subjects, and bodies which it brings into social existence, forming an inside which articulates an outside only as its own self-dissimulating gesture.  Even though the Law inevitably produces diverging and non-normative identities, they remain confined within a matrix of foreclosure constructed in advance by the Law.

    The inside-outside pair is also (at least roughly) equivalent to the more familiar philosophical terms of identity and difference.  Within these terms, although difference as constitutive outside plays a constituting role for identity, difference is also clearly the subordinated element, remaining dependent on the active identity of juridical foreclosure which delimits in advance the possible zones of variation subsequently occupied by difference.  To go back to the beginning momentarily, juridical foreclosure can be seen in terms of true and false totalities, as an inside which ejects part of itself towards an outside, so as to remain inside.  In this same ‘space’, however, the inside contains the outside within itself, despite a certain relative autonomy; the crucial thing is that the Law ‘is’ an overlapping dimension containing both a false totality (an inside which ejects its outside), and a true but impossible totality (this same inside as agent, as a prior and impossible wholeness).  This totality is impossible because, as the agent of foreclosure producing its own outside, it fractures itself by producing identity-positions and desiring subjects which it subsequently repudiates and refuses to recognize.  Because agency is located on the inside, the outside can never be anything but the outside of the inside, since what is outside can never return to negate the event of foreclosure per se.

    If we now move to Deleuze’s work, it is apparent that the two moments of the totality, described under the figures of inside and outside or as identity and difference, subsist in a paradoxical relation of non-relationality that dissipates or breaks open the totality; here, even the non-relational is a relation.  To understand this properly, it is important to see that for Deleuze the concepts of identity and difference, inside and outside, must be re-thought in terms of Bergson’s critique of the traditional philosophical distinction between the real and the possible.27   In Bergsonism Deleuze proposes that the real/possible distinction be replaced by the concepts virtual and actual.  If the possible is the not-yet real, the possible in becoming real depends on the conditions of resemblance and limitation.28   Resemblance demands that the real resemble the possible out of which it is derived, while limitation stipulates that the real becomes real by limiting the wider possibilities from which it forms.  The problem with this for Deleuze is that the real in the possible has to be thought as pre-given; at the level of the concept there is no difference between the possible and the real except for existence, which is arbitrarily added to the real.  But this exposes what Deleuze describes as a ‘sleight of hand’: the possible does not and cannot explain the real, but rather, through resemblance and backward projection, it is the real that explains the possible.29

    To return momentarily to Butler’s concepts of inside and outside, we can see the relevance of Deleuze’s critique of the possible-real dyad.  Deleuze claims that the possible is a sterile category because it is incapable of explaining the real that allegedly derives from it; in fact, the real is the model of the possible.  In Lacan’s account of identification, as we have seen, this is explicitly acknowledged: the real moment of foreclosure produces the possible psychic resistances by retroactively constituting them in the unconscious.  And for Butler, the temporal repetition of the real is the agency of the Law that produces possible divergent or different identities.  In both cases, it is the real as the identity of the Law which is taken as primary and which allows the different to emerge.

    But does this critique really pose a problem for either Lacan or Butler?  In neither of their accounts do we find a ‘sleight of hand’, since it is openly acknowledged that the real is explained by way of the possible, which in turn begs the question by explaining the possible through the real.  To see how this critique applies to Lacan, and a fortiori to Butler, we must keep in mind that the possible/real distinction is not only an attempt to show how one derives from the other, but more importantly, seeks to account for the difference between them.  Deleuze shows that the distinction fails on precisely this point: because the possible is simply a derivation or particular configuration of the real, there is no actual difference between them, and the distinction is a false one.  In the psychoanalytic account, the possible becomes real by limitation or foreclosure.  However, if there is no difference between the terms, then we have never left the real.  As we have seen, the real is simply what limits itself, dividing and expelling a portion of itself to create the illusion of an outside actually included within itself, even if this ‘in-itself’ becomes impossible to re-articulate once made.

    The initial significance of Deleuze’s displacement of the possible/real distinction is that in the virtual/actual, the outside, far from being a function of an inside, is the agent of the oscillation between the two terms.  The outside, as immanent variability, subsists as a potential difference within the inside, such that the inside is always threatened from within.  This can happen because unlike the possible/real, both terms of the actual and virtual are equally real, with the virtual as that part of the real which is not actual, while retaining the real potential—rather than the possibility—of becoming actual.30   The further significance of this distinction is that, as Deleuze puts it, “the actual…does not resemble the virtuality that it embodies.  It is difference that is primary in the process of actualization—the difference between the virtual from which we begin and the actuals at which we arrive.”31   Although the passage from virtual to actual takes place within the real, and thus retains a certain unity, the passage from virtual to actual is, as Deleuze might say, the unity of the different.  We should be clear that even though this looks like another mode of describing an impossible totality, there is never a corresponding relation between the virtual and actual which would even in principle result in a one, a unity, or a totality.  Since every move from virtual to actual results in a proliferation of non-resembling differences, only a further proliferation of such differences, independently of their origins, can be generated.  As Deleuze and Guattari claim of the rhizome, the passage from virtual to actual does not conform to a pre-defined structure of movement, and we can never identify all the elements involved since they do not resemble one another.  The rhizome is a multiplicity, neither one nor many; it is “defined by the outside: by the abstract line, the line of flight or deterritorialization according to which they change in nature [my emphasis] and connect with other multiplicities.”32   The prioritization of the outside describes an open system where neither the form nor the content of movement is defined in advance.

    From the perspective of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic multiplicities and virtual potentials, Butler’s Lacanian scheme would be effectively reversed.  The unconscious is not retroactively constructed by symbolic norms, nor is divergence, whether of identities, bodies, or sexualities, the result of traumatic foreclosure.  Instead, foreclosure would always attempt to prevent the proliferation of a prior productive variability from asserting itself in its radical otherness.  Deleuze and Guattari claim that because of such immanent variability, oppressive power should be analyzed in terms of what escapes it, its zones of impotence, rather than focusing on its control or mastery over difference.33   Power centres are caught in the hopeless game of readjusting themselves to a ‘quantum flow’ of variability where something always escapes.

    Accordingly, in Deleuze’s reading of Foucault, the topology of the inside is understood as a temporal folding of an absolute and indeterminate outside.  Deleuze argues that for Foucault’s ontology of bodies, “every inside-space is topologically in contact with the outside-space, independent of distance and on the limits of a ‘living’; and this carnal or vital topology, far from showing up in space, frees a sense of time that fits the past into the inside.”34   Even subjectivity, as the later Foucault tries to show, is not sealed off from the outside, but enfolds the outside.  Deleuze shows, in keeping with his discussion in Bergsonism, that such a folding is also temporal.  When Western subjects think, a Christian, a Jew, and a Greek thinks within them.35   But far from simply repeating, or forming a homologous resemblance with the past, such thought is a recombination (and hence a proliferation) of the multiplicities enduring as potentials within the past.  Because the past here must be understood as Bergsonian duration, it must be thought of as a virtual or absolute past.36   Consequently, Deleuze claims that in Foucault resistance precedes power: “a social field offers more resistance than strategies [of power], and the thought of the outside is a thought of resistance.”37   Resistance is that element where the past acts against itself in the present toward the future, as an act against the closing of the future by the ‘other past’ of the present: the agency of the outside against its inside.

    Here we can return to Foucault’s “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.”  Foucault describes the materialization of the body in this text as the product of a series of variable and converging forces that are ‘historical’ yet always exceed history, including such phenomena as diet, geography, climate, cultural disposition, and morality.  He claims that the task of genealogy will be to show how the body is ‘totally imprinted’ by history as a generalized destruction of the body.38   >From Deleuze’s perspective, this ‘destruction of the body’ can be read as the outside’s inevitable subversion of the inside.  According to Foucault, history is never a consolidation or a heritage: “we should not be deceived into thinking that this heritage is an acquisition, a possession that grows and solidifies; rather, it is an unstable assemblage of faults, fissures, and heterogeneous layers that threaten the fragile inheritor from within or underneath.”39   This is exactly the sense of Foucault’s claim in Discipline and Punish that the soul of cultural forms is a prison for the body, one which must be itself destroyed by the destruction of the body we have ‘inherited’ through actualized history.40

    Contrary to Butler’s reading, if there are Foucauldian ‘wild forces’, these are not a return of a repressed nature, an in-itself which comes back to exact a revenge.  Such a thesis is in any event far too Freudian for Foucault to accept; rather, these ‘wild forces must be seen as the terms of a complex, proliferating variability which refuses enclosure within the inside.  The eruption of such new forces, which Foucault, following Nietzsche, calls an ‘emergence’, takes place in “a ‘non-place’, a pure distance, which indicates that the adversaries [forces] do not belong to a common space.”41   Such forces turn the existing order against itself by insinuating themselves into the existing order, thereby changing its modes of organization by producing a sudden and unpredictable reversal or dislocation qualitatively different from the order preceding it.

    Contrary to many readings of Foucault, then, Deleuze suggests that the subject’s experimentation on him- or herself is by no means a merely ‘personal’ or psychological endeavor.  The by now clichéd notion that the ‘personal is political’, on this reading, does not reduce the political to the personal, but explodes the very notion of the personal, mapping it onto an entire social order which puts the personal directly into contact with new and alien forms, ones certainly not limited to the personal in any traditional sense.  The figure of the outside presents us with a certain irreducible creativity, at least potentially able to alter existing social relations and structures.  On this Deleuzian reading of the outside, we move toward a certain emergent moment which acts as a virtual pivot or hinge between two different structural or linear orders.  What precedes and follows this transition is never the same; it passes through an ‘absolute outside’ which under normal conditions is perceptible only rarely.  The normal and the supralinear, however, do not form a true totality, since they are of two irreconcilably different orders or natures; thus their ‘interaction’ is always an irruption of the non-place between them.

    Through this discussion, the political importance of the concept of true and false totalities becomes clearer.  According to Deleuze, the aim of politics for Foucault is always and inevitably the creation of the new and different by proliferation and excess, rather than by exclusion and synthesis.  Hence, despite what some anti-postructuralists might claim, there definitely is an immanent and permanently revolutionary aspect in both genealogy and rhizomatics.  That this aspect is often unrecognized, I would suggest, is due to its articulation in a vocabulary which is utterly ‘cynical’ in the sense of refusing the notion of any final reconciliation, even as an avowedly impossible totality.  At least for Deleuze and Foucault, philosophy is a practice of articulating the conditions under which the revolutionarily different can emerge, rather than how such difference is to be reconciled with familiarity and sameness.   In contrast, Butler’s political strategy is very much based on a continuous mediation between a false totality and its true but impossible double, where difference in the form of an abjected outside must perpetually return to the inside and plead its case as a worthy but unacknowledged progeny.42

    Under the conditions of contemporary capitalism, Butler’s strategy looks increasingly ineffectual politically.  Capital no longer believes its own ideological claims to resolve and reconcile social problems through its own development.  Nevertheless, Capital’s repudiation of its own eschatology does not prevent it from behaving as if it did still believe.  With boundless cynicism capitalism is willing to acknowledge with equal indifference all of its progeny, proceeding to quite literally capitalize on difference in the endless pursuit of profit.  Having dispensed with any promise of justice, capitalism can still present itself as the end or finality of history.  This is precisely why the post-structuralism of Foucault and Deleuze is not cynical.  It does not hope for a final reconciliation, nor does it behave as if it did, and this is precisely why it appears more fully in tune with the times than those forms of politics (certain versions of Marxism especially, but also various forms of liberal reformism), which continue to espouse a true totality beyond history, even if it is qualified as never fully attainable.

    The interesting thing about Foucault’s and Deleuze’s political project of affirming the proliferation of difference beyond totality is that it becomes part of a ‘strange dialectic’ that pushes the limits of our cultural understandings toward the creation of the irreconcilable.  Unless one believes that capitalism was an historical inevitability, the death of capitalism will be as equally unforeseeable as its beginning; chance and the fortuitous will be as much a part of its demise and what comes after it as any conscious human programme, which of course is not outside chance either.  In other words, what is the belief in totality, even if one qualifies it with its impossibility, but a way of excluding chance, the unforeseeable, the difference of reality as such? And parenthetically, is this desire to domesticate and ‘capitalize’ on the incalculability of chance not precisely why capitalism continues to act as though it did believe in a true totality?  In this sense, the passage from capitalism to some other society (socialist or communist) must, if it is to be genuinely different, move through the infinitely unforeseeable—an outside without measure or guarantee—and beyond totalities which conspire to know the future in advance.43


    * Unless otherwise noted, all italics in citations are those of the respective authors.

    1.  Ernesto Laclau, “Why Do Empty Signifiers Matter to Politics?,” in Emancipation(s). (London: Verso, 1996), 36-46, 37-38. back to text

    2.  Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital. trans. by Ben Brewster. (London: Verso, 1997), 27.  back to text

    3.  Throughout this paper the term ‘eschatology’ will be used to designate a basic structure of modern thought where the empirical moment gives rise to a promised finality, as well as the impossibility of such a finality ever being achieved as a true totality.  Although this is a main theme of Derrida’s work, the explicit inspiration here is Foucault’s discussion in The Order of Things. (New York: Random House, 1970), 318-322, of the necessary oscillation between an empirical reduction which is also a transcendental promise.  As Foucault writes, “a discourse attempting to be both empirical and critical cannot but be both positivist and eschatological.” 320.  back to text

    4.  For Lacan the subject is the product of the fragmentation of an originary totality, one which is radically inaccessible and that haunts the subject because it cannot be reassembled, but which fixates the subject in just such an attempt.  It is evident that the structure of the Lacanian subject can be understood as an anagram for the cynical working of capitalism itself, as that which disavows what it continually strives toward.  See in particular Jacques Lacan, “The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious,” in Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection. Jacques-Allain Miller, ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977), 292-325, 303.  back to text

    5.  This structure is only possible, of course, in the radical absence of any viable alternative, understood as anything falling beyond or outside the true—but alas unattainable—totality of Capital as such.  Also included here is the renewed vigour with which Capital embraces its otherness, the frenzied pace within which the new and different becomes immediately old and worn (and vice versa); what is inevitably outside is always already to be found on the inside, allowing everything to be located in advance within the world-weary capitalist status quo.  back to text

    6.  Slavoj Zizek, “How Did Marx Invent the Symptom?,” in Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology. (London: Verso, 1989), 18.  back to text

    7.  Zizek, “How Did Marx Invent the Symptom?,” 34.  back to text

    8.  Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish. trans. by Alan Sheridan. (New York: Random House, 1977), 3-31.  back to text

    9.  Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 30.  back to text

    10.  Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus - Capitalism and Schizophrenia Vol. II. trans. by Brian Massumi. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 84.  back to text

    11.  Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 84.  back to text

    12.  Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. (New York: Routledge, 1993), 30.  back to text

    13.  Butler, Bodies that Matter, 30.  back to text

    14.  Butler, Bodies that Matter, 31.  back to text

    15.  Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1997), 87-89, 90, 92.   back to text

    16.  Butler, The Psychic Life of Power, 91.  back to text

    17.  Butler, The Psychic Life of Power, 87.  back to text

    18.  Butler, Bodies that Matter, 12.  back to text

    19.  Butler, The Psychic Life of Power, 89.  back to text

    20.  Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. trans. by Donald Bouchard. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 148; Butler, Psychic Life of Power, 94.  back to text

    21.  Butler, Psychic Life of Power, 95.  back to text

    22.  Butler, Psychic Life of Power, 99.  back to text

    23.  Butler, Psychic Life of Power, 99.  back to text

    24.  Butler, Bodies that Matter, 15-16.  back to text

    25.  Butler, Psychic Life of Power, 92.  back to text

    26.  Butler, Bodies that Matter, 98, 106-111.  back to text

    27.  The ‘real’ of the philosophical distinction real/possible should not to be confused with the Lacanian concept of‘the Real’.  back to text

    28.  Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism. trans. by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. (New York: Zone Books, 1988), 97-98.  back to text

    29.  Deleuze, Bergsonism, 98.  back to text

    30.  Deleuze, Bergsonism, 96.  back to text

    31.  Deleuze, Bergsonism, 97.  back to text

    32.  Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 9.  back to text

    33.  Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 217.  back to text

    34.  Gilles Deleuze, Foucault. trans. by Sean Hand. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 119.  back to text

    35.  Deleuze, Foucault, 119.  back to text

    36.  See in particular Chapter Three of Bergsonism, “Memory as Virtual Coexistence,” where Deleuze discuses the idea that the historical past is a non-resembling aspect of an absolute past (Bergsonian 'duration'), which is latent within history but retains at the same time a radical difference comprising a (non)relation to actual history.  back to text

    37.  Deleuze, Foucault, 90.  back to text

    38.  Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 148.  back to text

    39.  Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 146.  back to text

    40.  Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 30.  back to text

    41.  Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 150.  back to text

    42.  Butler discusses this strategy of affirming the abject as both a way of challenging the normativity of heterosexual identity (and such a strategy could easily be extended to any oppressed groups in a similar way i.e. by constitutive exclusion), while at the same time attacking the notion that those demarcated as aberrant could ever really form an identity, or that there could ever come to be a true or final reconciliation between either the ‘aberrant’ identities or the ‘deviant’ and the normal.  The reason she gives for this is essentially that the totality in which all forms of identity could be equivalent is infinitely deferred and impossible, since each identity is itself constituted only by exclusion.  See Butler, Bodies that Matter, 111-119.  back to text

    43.  This is in no way to suggest that justice in any conventional sense—the liberation of human labour from conditions of capitalist exploitation—is to be simply abandoned.  Certainly for both Foucault and Deleuze materially urgent political projects must be advanced, as long as they are attempted beyond an eschatology which would formulate what the final realization of such projects would look like.  This is because, I believe, Foucault and Deleuze subscribe to a kind of ‘pessimistic realism’ (but in the sense of a Nietzschean pessimism of strength) which holds that justice as such is unrealizable, necessitating a permanent open region in which injustice can be fought.  That this puts any exhaustive definition of justice at risk is not necessarily to argue against this position.  In many ways this is consistent with Foucault’s early thought which sees human being as finite, yet unlimited, and is another way of positing the openness of time as irreducible for contemporary thought.  back to text


    Althusser, Louis and Balibar, Etienne. Reading Capital. trans. by Ben Brewster. London: Verso, 1997.

    Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York: Routledge, 1993.

    Butler, Judith. The Psychic Life of Power - Theories in Subjection. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1997.

    Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus - Capitalism and Schizophrenia Vol. II. trans. by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

    Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism. trans. by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books, 1988.

    Deleuze, Gilles. Foucault. trans. by Sean Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.

    Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. trans. by Alan Sheridan. New York: Random House, 1977.

    Foucault, Michel. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice - Selected Essays and Interviews. trans. by Donald Bouchard. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977.

    Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Random House. 1970. (translator not identified)

    Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: A Selection. Jacques-Allain Miller, ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977.

    Laclau, Ernesto. Emancipation(s). London: Verso, 1996.

    Zizek, Slavoj. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso, 1989.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z


*editorial *table of contents *the j_spot collective *call for submissions *
*contributors *manifesto *guestbook issue cover* home

j_spot online edition ISSN 1481 8 5842  

[ Social and Political Thought main page ]