Letting the Resentment Settle In, Research Time, 09/05/2018

So I mentioned the other day that Paul Patton established his professional reputation by shifting a lot of folks in the North American academy’s community of Continentalists.*

* These are the researchers who specialize in pretty much any philosophical writer from the European continent from Hegel onward. This is the slightly disdainful label they’re given in the North American mainstream of university philosophy. In Cultural Studies departments, they’re just called profs.

There's no need to take affront on his behalf.
Deleuze never took affront at anyone, as far as
I know. The occasional awkward moment, but
never affront. He was very consistent that way.
Patton was trying to shift the whole field’s centre of gravity – from Jacques Derrida and deconstruction to Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of becoming and production. That’s great. But there are some passages of Deleuzian Concepts that make me cringe – the tone of his writing makes his critique feel uncomfortably personal.

Not personal in the sense that it involves a particular person in Patton’s circle, about which he has biases or excess sympathy. Aside from Gilles Deleuze, of course.

See, there was one event that kind of dropped the ball on Deleuze and Félix Guattari's international public relations. It was a conference at Columbia University in 1975.

Total disaster. There was a group of radical feminist activists who were so essentialist about the nature of gender that hearing Félix Guattari give a talk about how any essentialism would send them into a frenzy.

Up next, Félix Guattari discussing how all forms of essentialism are utter failures as theories because they include no possibility for change. A man will always be phallocentric in all aspects of his existence – ridiculous, when we are all processes, changing all the time.

Really, gender is changeable as both a social and physical construct, so there can be as many genders as our ingenuity and self-discipline can successfully create.** They refused to hear it and heckled him all lecture.

** TERFs. Félix Guattari was heckled by a bunch of TERFs. You do know, right, that the philosophical basis for all TERF activism and ideology is this utterly obsolete, bumbling theory of gender essentialism? It’s a theory that has failed as knowledge because reality is utterly different from how it says the world should be.

Then a bunch of guys from the local Lyndon LaRouche society started interrupting Michel Foucault’s closer, screaming that he was paid by the CIA. Yeah, that Lyndon LaRouche.

If he's in the CIA, then the Maidan protestors were all gay fascists
working for the Americans, whose government is funded by
George Soros and the Freemasons' cabal whose Grand Wizard
is Barack Obama. Here to our newsdesk at RT to explain why
all this makes sense, aside from government orders to believe it,
is respected American economist, philosopher, and activist
Lyndon LaRouche.
Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault were all so upset at how they were insulted all though the conference, that they all decided they didn’t want to go back to America again. Foucault overcame his initial disgust more quickly.

The next time he did an appearance in New York, another dick from the LaRouche society asked him about the charges that he was CIA. At least he had the decency to wait until question period. But Foucault immediately goes on the warpath.

“Yes! Yes, I am CIA! And she’s CIA! And he’s CIA too! And everyone in this room is CIA except you. You work for the KGB!”***

*** Michel Foucault. You know how to deal with crazy fascist internet trolls when the internet was still secret military tech. We lost you too soon, old man.

But Deleuze and Guattari themselves hardly went back to America. It took that extra generation of mostly Canadian philosophy researchers who first translated and wrote on Deleuze to bring him to the prominence he has in the North American academy today. Paul Patton was part of that generation, even if he does suffer from being Australian.

It was a public relations screw-up. The conference let too many extremists in, when they needed an audience of thoughtful nerds. Like the generation of Patton, Boundas, Genosko, Massumi. But Deleuze and Guattari were too pissed off about it to bother going back to America. They presumed they’d get the same reception.

That is painful in so many ways, paths, vectors. Sports teams need
therapists to help players deal with their own-goals.
Own goal, guys.

Yet when Patton writes his remarks about the feminist and postcolonial misinterpretation of Gilles Deleuze, including the 1975 conference, a bitterness seeps into his tone. And it isn’t necessary.

He’s trying to make an important point – don’t take Deleuze’s words like ‘becoming-woman’ or ‘nomadism’ as metaphors, but as literal descriptions of thought processes in the most abstract language he and Guattari could muster.

Patton seems bitter at the misinterpretation, as if it was an affront to be misunderstood. That somehow these feminists and these post-colonial writers were foolish, inadequate thinkers for taking Deleuze to be writing metaphors, saying that disruptive thought is merely “like” a bedouin nomad.

He strings well-meaning, professional, thoughtful theorists with extremist radical TERFs. I don’t think Patton would like it if I said explicitly what I don’t like about this part of his book.

Don’t make me say it. I don’t want to say it.

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