- The Becoming of the “Event”: A Deleuzian Approach to Understanding the Production of Social and Political “Events”1
In this paper I seek to explore further some of the issues raised by Paul Patton in his article “The World Seen From Within: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Events”, published in the first issue of this journal in 1997.2 In this article Patton discusses Deleuze and Guattari’s idea about philosophy becoming “worthy of the event” by examining “Deleuze’s concept of the event” and “how this might apply to present social and political events”.3 In a similar way to Patton I draw upon Deleuze’s idea of the event as having a “pure” or virtual dimension as well as being actualized in “particular states of affairs”. This is what Deleuze refers to as the “double structure” of the event. I use this idea in combination with Deleuze and Guattari’s approach to the role of language in A Thousand Plateaus. In doing this I try to take Patton’s discussion of Deleuze’s concept of the event further by focusing on the question of how it can be used in order to understand the production of social and political “events”. I argue that this production can be understood in terms of a continuous and ongoing process of becoming, which lacks a final point of completion as well as an absolute presence or being.
When developing this understanding of the production of social and political “events” my aim is to move away from the idea of “representing” the meaning of “events” through the use of language and concepts. According to this idea, the “event”, or the name that is given to an “event”, functions as a sign or a symbol that refers to what has happened in a particular moment in time. This sign or symbol provides a common denominator to which various aspects of what has happened can be linked. As such, the name of the “event” is assumed to represent a kind of unity of what has happened that locates various dimensions and aspects of what has happened within some conceived whole. For Deleuze, however, the idea of representation is merely a form of “illusion”, which is based on the transcendent notions of “an identical thinking subject” and the “identity for concepts”.4 As an effect of this illusion ideas about for example the One, the Whole, and the Subject tend to be taken for granted, providing a natural starting point for understanding reality. In contrast to such a view, Deleuze’s “transcendental empiricism” provides an entirely different starting point. At one point Deleuze says that the aim of this form of empiricism “is not to rediscover the eternal or the universal, but to find the conditions under which something new is produced (creativeness)”.5 And to do this we should never begin with ideas about some abstract unity, such as the One, the Whole, the Subject, which then is given the task of explaining. Instead of letting the abstract explain, Deleuze argues, the abstract “must itself be explained”.6
One way of doing so is to begin with examining the processes through which the abstract is produced. And it is the very nature of these processes, as something that is constantly moving rather than static that needs to be analysed. By examining these processes it might then be possible to understand how different kinds of ideas emerge, and how notions of the One, the Whole, and the Subject are produced. So, rather than taking these notions for granted, Deleuze’s transcendental form of empiricism can be said to provoke an examination of how they are produced and made possible in the first place. For this reason it can also be seen as an interesting alternative to a representational mode of thinking about social and political “events”. As abstract wholes, the problem is not how to represent them but to understand how they are produced and how they are made possible in the first place. In this paper I develop one possible way of thinking about this problem, drawing upon Deleuze’s concept of a “double structure” of the event as well as Deleuze...