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  • Deleuze, Guattari, and the "Politics of Sorcery"
  • Joshua Delpech-Ramey (bio)

There is an entire politics of becomings-animal, as well as a politics of sorcery, which is elaborated in assemblages that are neither those of the family nor of religion nor of the State. Instead, they express minoritarian groups, or groups that are oppressed, prohibited, in revolt, or always on the fringe of recognized institutions, groups all the more secret for being extrinsic, in other words, anomic. If becoming-animal takes the form of a Temptation, and of monsters aroused in the imagination by the demon, it is because it is accompanied, at its origin as in its undertaking, by a rupture with the central institutions that have established themselves or seek to become established.

(A Thousand Plateaus, 247)

The plane of consistency is the intersection of all concrete forms. Therefore all becomings are written like sorcerer's drawings on this plane of consistency, which is the ultimate Door providing a way out for them… The only question is: Does a given becoming reach that point?

(ibid., 251)

On the first page of The Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer define the project of the Enlightenment in no uncertain terms. Its goal, they write, was to liberate the world from magic. The devastating success of the Enlightenment, they argue, is the ironic "technologization" of reason: having begun by setting the liberating power of critical insight against the power of myth, the Enlightenment ends with the reduction of reason to a set of techniques for the domination of the material world--a set of reinforcing principles that mythologize industrial productivity as the consummation of human creative power.1 On this account it might seem that to liberate reason and selfhood from its imprisonment in forms of technique, it would be imperative that the objects of thought not be prima facie reducible to the Enlightenment's conception of "objectivity." If the objectivity of objects, for the Enlightenment, consists in those features of the natural world that the human mind can universally manipulate, and if in fact, as Adorno and Horkheimer argued, this notion of objectivity actually inhibits rather than liberates reason, it might seem that to renew reason philosophy would have to take account of dimensions of objects not reducible to objectivity.2 If the Enlightenment arbitrarily and disastrously reduced reason to formulas of technique, and did this in order to liberate the world from magic, might we not once again, to overcome the crisis of the Enlightenment, have to allow for the possibility of a magical rapport with the world? [End Page 8]

This is not a possibility Adorno himself entertained. In Minima Moralia's "Theses Against Occultism," Adorno derides the parlor games of mediums and spiritualists, and argues that in fact nothing better shows the utter capitulation of reason to brute material fact than the submission of the mind to commands from the phlogiston of the spirit world. As Adorno bluntly puts it, "the veiled tendency of society towards disaster lulls its victims in false revelation, with a hallucinated phenomenon. In vain they hope to look their total doom in the eye and withstand it" (239). The horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft can be read as figuring the problem Adorno perceives here. In Lovecraft's fiction, despairing scientists, weary journalists, and other exhausted savants of the technodrome find themselves seduced by mysterious chthonic forces, lured into delirium and awful death by "eldritch" feralities that fascinate, seduce, and finally destroy the mind.3 The fascination exerted by Lovecraft's "Thing" or "Entity" would be, from Adorno's perspective, nothing but a kind of obscene obverse of having one's mind pulverized by the routine and technocratic bureaucratization of reason. Instead of the banal horror of reporting daily to the boss, one must submit to an utterly alien idol imbued with uncanny, maleficent power.

For Adorno any contemporary fascination with the occult must be read as a symptom of the deadlock of the Enlightenment. Such fascination indicates, for Adorno, the failure of Enlightenment to liberate us fully from magic, and is a sign of the ongoing crisis caused by that incomplete liberation, the primary symbol of which is the ability...


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