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Reviewed by:
  • Deleuze and the Contemporary World
  • Ian James
Deleuze and the Contemporary World. Edited by Ian Buchanan and Adrian Parr. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2006. viii + 232 pp. Hb £55.99. Pb £18.99.

This volume of essays aims to bring Deleuze's thought into a critical and analytical relation with the contemporary world. Taken together, the essays offer a robust defence of Deleuzian philosophy against charges that have recently levelled against it, namely that it is overly abstract, idealistic and otherworldly (Badiou, Hallward) and that, in offering an anarchic model of desiring production, it is ultimately complicit with contemporary capitalism and the ideology of neo-liberalism (Žižek). The aim, then, is to offer a range of discussions that make use of Deleuzian concepts in order to 'describe, analyze, critique, and evaluate the tone, timbre and rhythm of the contemporary world' (p. 18) with a view to rethinking, and offering theoretical alternatives to, the political problems that manifest themselves today. The volume covers a wide range of issues from the question of political community and 'minor politics' as thought by Deleuze, through to questions concerning the structure of the modern state, European identity, the legacy of colonialism and the Holocaust, Israeli identity, the desiring flows of capitalism and the question of culture in the age of information technology and cybernetics. At their best the analyses given do succeed in offering insightful critiques of contemporary political problems and their historical underpinnings. A good example of this is Paul Patton's excellent analysis of the legacy of colonization in Australia and issues of contemporary law relating to land rights. Patton's piece draws on Deleuze and Guattari's conceptualization of the 'event' and of the state as an apparatus of capture in order to show that such concepts can both allow for a critical-philosophical thinking of the colonial event and its legacy and open up concrete possibilities for envisaging a post-colonial society. Like all the best pieces in this collection Patton's essay demonstrates that Deleuze's thought can offer unique insights into political problems which other modes of thinking cannot. The use of Deleuzian concepts appears less convincing when they seem to be grafted rather too quickly onto an assumed political consensus or an assumed givenness of the empirical realities of the contemporary world. For instance, the discussion of Deleuzian axioms, US power and the international system given in the introduction uses the issue of oil and of oil reserves as an illustrative example while relying on highly selective sources (pp. 5–6) and apparently ignoring some of the key questions in the debate about remaining global oil supplies (see, for instance, David Goodstein, Out of Gas (London, Norton, 2004)). Despite such occasional shortcomings, this volume succeeds in demonstrating very convincingly that the charge of otherworldliness levelled at [End Page 497] Deleuzian philosophy falls far short of the mark. Questions may remain about the extent to which Deleuzian analysis can foster direct interventions and create concrete possibilities for change. Nevertheless, the essays of this collection clearly show that the creation of innovative philosophical concepts that allow us to think complexity and multiplicity in new ways offers the best hope of understanding the complex political realities and challenges of the contemporary world.

Ian James
Downing College


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