I’ve written about Michel Foucault’s work, going through his best-known work, focusing on a number of concepts that are, one way or another, related to his concepts of power and power relations, including but not limited to discipline, biopower, govermentality, panopticism, as well as discourse, including but not limited to knowledge, episteme, regime of truth, the author function, parrhesia, sexuality. Then there’s also the apparatus or dispotive, which links the discursive to the non-discursive. I’m sure I’m missing something, like the stuff on subject and individuality, but that’s beside the point. That’s already quite the toolbox for anyone interested in … well … how the world works. We might even call his conceptual arsenal a tool shop, as Félix Guattari did following Foucault’s death, as mentioned by him (173) in ‘Microphysics of Power/Micropolitics of Desire’:
“[Y]ou ought not as a result be surprised in seeing me today rummaging through Foucault’s conceptual tool shop so that I might borrow some of his own instruments and, if need be, alter them to suit my own purposes.”
This leads me, quite conveniently, to the topic of this essay: what was the relationship between Foucault and Guattari. Oh, and no, I’m really interested in whether they hung out, because they probably did, not all the time, but at least occasionally. I’m more interested in who influenced who, as opposed to pondering about who was the most hospitable, buying others a round of drinks or the like. The influence of Deleuze on Foucault and vice versa is clearer, or, well, at least to me.
Guattari (169) mentions in a previous interview, better known as ‘Lacan Was an Event in My Life’, that Foucault wasn’t a big deal for him:
“[Q]uite the contrary to Deleuze, I was never influenced by Foucault’s work. It interested me, of course, but it was never of great importance.”
As that interview also took place after Foucault’s death, albeit prior to that talk he gave in Turin, subsequently dubbed as the ‘Microphysics of Power/Micropolitics of Desire’, it’s quite interesting that he says such. My take is that he wasn’t thinking through that properly. I mean, sure, he did his own thing, as did Deleuze, as did Foucault, but I’d say it’s pretty obvious that he was influenced by Foucault. How so? What do I mean? Well, just think of it. Deleuze knew Foucault well and both read each other’s works. While they may have not always been the closest of friends, they did keep tabs on each other’s work. Deleuze also worked with Guattari quite a bit, so it’d be strange if Foucault’s ideas weren’t conveyed to Guattari, regardless of how familiar Guattari was with Foucault’s work. If you are not convinced, just think of how closely Deleuze and Guattari used to work, as acknowledged by Guattari (333) in notes section of his book ‘The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis’, which was written when the two were working together on ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’:
“Although I wrote them alone, these essays are inseparable from the work that Gilles Deleuze and I have carried out together for many years. This is why, when I am brought to speak in the first person, it will be indifferently with that of the singular or plural. Let one not see there especially a business of paternity relating to the ideas which are advanced here. There as well as here it is all a question of ‘collective assemblages.’”
In other words, at that point, he really had no idea who came up with what, he, Deleuze, or someone else. That’s the point he makes about the collective assemblages of enunciation here. The world spoke through them, if you will, and they weren’t always sure of whose voice spoke through whom. Plus, as their shared book title suggests, they don’t even care about such, who the author is, who should get credited for what, as, I’d say, that’s a very, very capitalist notion for them. I reckon that ownership of ideas just seemed, so, so, very, unproductive to them.
If you ask me, it’s funny, really, how the world did just fine without patents and copyrights, while now it seems that life is all about them. Oh, and I know, I know, that’s rather ironic of me to say, considering that I hold the copyright to … I’m not even sure … but let’s ballpark it … more than a hundred thousand photos (to be accurate, I actually only own the ‘right to a photographic picture’ for 50 years from when the photo was taken, which is like a limited version of copyright in the Finnish jurisdiction).
I remember being a bit … up in arms … about my photos being used without a license, what most people would just call a permission (but hey, gotta know the jargon!), but these days, well, I think the world would be a better place without such systems. I mean, a lot of the stuff that’s protected by copyright is basically just copied from existing works that didn’t enjoy such protections back in the day. That’s the point Guattari (333) also makes in that comment about paternity.
Plus, the way the system works actually works only for those who can make it work for them, by which I mean those (companies) that have enough money to keep lawyers on their payroll to enforce those copyrights, possibly in multiple jurisdictions. An individual can only hope to get compensated for copyright infringement. You can try to press the matter, sure, but, well, what do you do if they ignore you or just say no? It’s like you and what army? Yeah, exactly, I thought as much! You can’t really do jack shit if that happens.
Now, to be clear, I’m not against people getting their fair share, me included (as I certainly have been taken advantage of in the past). It’s rather that, in the end, when push comes to shove, no one gives a fuck who came up with what. Plus, in lot of the cases, we honestly can’t say that this and/or that person came up with this and/or that idea.
Now, going beyond copyright, which pertains to the work, not what’s contained in the work, this and/or that idea, academics is particularly perverse in this regard. There’s this obsession with who said what. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with giving credit where credit is due, by which I mean pointing out what’s from where. I think that’s doing a solid to the reader as it helps the reader to find more about what’s been said. That’s great. It’s like having a hyperlink. The problem is rather that, as I just pointed out, we can’t often even be sure who came up with what as a lot of the evidence has simply been lost. When I read, I often think that a text seems oddly familiar to me, as if I had seen it before, only to realize that, well, yeah, no wonder, it’s like Plato could have written it. This is, of course, rather ironic, considering how that’s something that Alfred North Whitehead (39) states in ‘Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology:’
“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writing. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them.”
Should I have actually given Whitehead credit for that, prior to mentioning this? Should I always do that, considering it was Whitehead who expressed that, in that book? Now, see, it’s rather ironic. If we say yes, that we should always give Whitehead the credit for that, when we notice that someone else seems to be stating what Plato once stated, then, by all logic, we should also always give credit to Plato, whenever we state something that he once stated. If you don’t get the point, the problem with that logic is that all of our speeches and all of hours writings would just consist of, as Whitehead (39) puts it, “a series of footnotes to Plato”. Simply put, we’d be forever paying homage to Plato, and obsessing about it, especially if people don’t do it (how suspicious!), as opposed to getting on with our lives, hopefully making the world a better place.
Oh, and that’s exactly what Guattari did. He just stumbled upon some conceptual toolbox or, better yet, a conceptual tool shop, and borrowed whatever seemed to be handy for his purposes and, perhaps, even altered them if he wasn’t entirely happy with whatever he happened to have borrowed. Did he ask for a permission for that? No, fuck no. Don’t believe me? Well, he did say that himself. Let me explain and, forgive me for not telling you exactly where it is from, prior to explaining it to you. It’s just that the title will spoil it for you. I’ll let you know soon enough. Don’t worry.
So, there’s this interview, where his interviewer, Robert Maggiore (22), states that:
“You forge specific tools for specific fields of research.”
His interviewer (22) also asks him to clarify why he does that, why he creates all these conceptual tools, for certain purposes, as opposed to for all purposes. Guattari (22) replies to him, noting that he isn’t interested in conceptual tools that must work universally, like for sure, in all cases (as they can, of course, work in other settings and, in my experience, his tools do work in a lot of settings, way more universally than a lot of other tools out there). Instead, what matters to him (22) is that the tools work. If they don’t work, he’ll come up with some other tools, as he (22) points out. It’s that simple.
He (22) exemplifies this with being given a calculator. Either it works for you or it doesn’t, as he (22) points out. You may have no use for it, or not know how to use it, but inasmuch as you have use for it and know how to use it, it just works for you as that’s what a tool is, as pointed out by him (22). If you fail to make sense of this, it’s exactly like that with conceptual tools, as he (22) goes on to add:
“In my view, the same thing happens with theoretical expressions that should function as tools[.]”
It’s not that clear from the interview itself, unless you can piece it together yourself, but, related to this, he (22) isn’t having it that people need to be first educated before they are given a set of conceptual tools. Now, to be clear, I don’t think he (22) is against education. I don’t think he (22) is against teaching and learning, as such. It’s rather that people don’t need to be taught first and then, only later on, be given the tools, when those who, supposedly, know better think that they are ready for it. In his (22) words:
“In the nineteenth century one thought that the proletariat had to be educated first in order to reach a level of comprehension, like the ability to read certain fundamental texts, then it would translate into practice… But really, things do not work that way!”
Now, like I just pointed out, this might not open up to you, hence all that I just went on to clarify. If you fail to grasp the specific reference here, the context is the lead up to Russian Revolution in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I’m working out of memory here, but that’s basically Lenin’s view of the proletariat. He thought that people needed to be led (by him) and that they wouldn’t get where they needed to get (according to Karl Marx), if they didn’t have the right leadership (Plato, sorry, Lenin) that saw to it to educate the masses, to make sure they know how to use a calculator, abstractly, before being given a calculator.
Anyway, the interviewer (22) states to Guattari that:
“[Y]ou lift elements of your vocabulary from different, more or less heterogeneous, disciplines.”
To which Guattari (23) then replies that:
“[Jacques] Lacan accused a third of the members of his Freudian School of being falsifiers. I claim the term falsifier for myself, being an idea-thief and shuffler of second hand concepts.”
Haha! You just gotta love him! His honesty! The gall, the gall! Okay, now, you may think that he is just amusing his interviewer, being all hyperbolic, but no, he is not. He (23) goes on to make sure of that he isn’t:
“Borrowing is not a problem in itself, except on the level of the semantic foundation of a new word.”
That’s pretty damn brazen, if you ask me. Just think of it. He is saying that borrowing is only a problem for the person from whom it’s borrowed. Haha! That’s so funny, but only because that’s true. If you take something from someone, it’s only your problem if the person whom you take it from makes it your problem. That’s what he means by it being a problem at the level of foundation. If you give a word a new spin, which happens all the time, it’s not an issue, except to the word itself, to its prior usage. Still don’t believe me? Okay, he (and Deleuze) are often credited for coming up with the concept of deterritorialization (and reterritorialization), but he (and Deleuze) didn’t really do fuck all, except give an existing word a new spin (for which you can, of course, give him or them credit for), as he (23) goes on to point out:
“For example, our term ‘deterritorialization’ was based on a concept of territory borrowed from American anthropology.”
Exactly. If you want to understand what Deleuze and/or Guattari mean by de– and reterritorialization, it’s as simple as starting from territoriality (what they also, at times, call territorialization). If you thought that they, on their own, or together, came up with that, well, the joke is on you. They did not.
So, the next time you think that territoriality, de– and reterritorialization are conceptual tools invented by them, that’s not the case (at least not strictly speaking). They have simply borrowed some tools from someone else’s shed and made them their own, by which I mean that they have altered the tools to be of use for them. You can, of course, give them credit for that, fair is only fair, but, like everyone else, they’ve actually invented stuff on the basis of what already exists. I think it’s fair to say that they’d agree with me on this, that it is the world that prompted them to do come up with such conceptual tools and not their extraordinary intelligence or wisdom that resulted in that.
This is like me going to a hardware store to buy a flat head screwdriver and then use another tool, like a hammer, to remodel the head, so that it turns into a dagger. It was someone else’s design, originally, but I turned it to something else. To be clear, I have not intentionally turned a flat head screwdriver into a dagger. I’m just using it as an example, because one of my small flat head screwdrivers turned into one when I had to apply considerable force to it in order to dig into a stripped Phillips head screw (I need to correct myself, as it was actually a JIS head screw, because of Japanese bike parts). It did work, problem solved, but it did turn my screwdriver into something that would, most likely, now count as a dagger. I’ve been wondering how to fix it, to turn it back into a flat head (of a larger size though), but, so far, I haven’t figured out a way to do that properly. Maybe one day.
To make that philosophical again, if you’re familiar with the works of Baruch Spinoza and/or Friedrich Nietzsche, a lot of what may strike you as novel in the works of Deleuze and/or Guattari isn’t as novel as you may think it is. Similarly, if you’ve read your Spinoza, Louis Hjelmslev’s glossematics may seem familiar to you, there being this one substance or matter that is then understood in two ways. Yeah, that’s Spinozist alright. Does this mean that Deleuze and Guattari are just copycats? No. I don’t think they are. That also applies to the other people mentioned here, Hjelmslev, Nietzsche and Spinoza. Did they borrow a lot from others? Yeah, I’m pretty sure they did.
Anyway, to the title given to that interview is ‘I Am an Idea-Thief’, which is why I didn’t want to mention it earlier, to avoid spoiling all the fun. I can now point that out, without spoiling anything. But the fun isn’t over just yet, as he (23) still has more to say:
“This reference was quickly forgotten and the term integrated into very different disciplines, where it took on syntactic, rhetorical and even stylistic dimensions, which in turn guided us in certain ways.”
So, his point is that it’s not actually fair to give him (and/or Deleuze) the credit for such concepts, given that he (and/or Deleuze) have just borrowed some conceptual tools and used them for their own purposes, possibly altering them to make them work for those purposes.
Following this, there is this … how to put it … not an impasse … but a misunderstanding, as Guattari (23) replies to his interviewer. Right, so, his interviewer (23) asks him if he (and Deleuze) had to search high and low for it all to work without it resulting in just one take, but a number of takes. He (23) responds to this by noting that he (and Deleuze) does (do) not borrow a bit of this and a bit of that just because they deal with so many things in so many different fields. Yes, they deal with a lot of things that are, typically, the prerogative of certain fields, but that’s not it. That’s not the reason for it. Instead, it’s about traversing those fields, as he (23) points out:
“I’m not keen on an approximative interdisciplinarity. I’m interested in an ‘interdisciplinarity’ that is capable of traversing heterogeneous fields and carrying the strongest charges of ‘transversality.’”
Simply put, he is not fond of interdisciplinary or what he (133) also goes on to call transdisciplinary research in another text (I think it’s all the same to him, because the disciplines remain, no matter what the arrangement happens to be). Why? Isn’t he all about that? Well, you’d think he’d be all in for that, but, I’d say, he wants us to go beyond that. He (131) explains this better in that other text that bears the title ‘Transdisciplinary Must Become Transversality’:
“Everyone is aware that the complexity of the objects of research in the domain of the human and environmental sciences demands an interdisciplinary approach.”
Now, before I let him continue, it’s worth noting that he isn’t against bringing in knowledge from various fields or disciplines. It’s rather that he wants to question these very notions, as he (131) goes on to add:
“But the encounter between disciplines does not permit a decompartmentalization of the problematics and modes of expression brought together.”
In other words, the problem with something interdisciplinary is that it retains this idea of neatly compartmentalized disciplines. You still have experts that are one trick ponies. There is this cross-over, yes, but it’s more like a bridge, as he (131) points out. You can cross that bridge, but you are always expected to go back. For him, (132) this is a very self-serving model that only benefits the experts in these fields or disciplines, and not the wider public:
“The [UN] Charter of Human Rights ought to include an article on the right of everyone to research. All social groups, all professions, minorities . . . have a need of the research that concerns or implicates them.”
Imagine that! Just imagine that as human right! Fucking madness! Research? For everyone? Fuck off! Just fuck off already! We (Plato, is that you?) can’t have just about everyone do just about anything, now can we? I mean, we aren’t even close to letting people have open access to research, because … no one can really tell why not (okay, okay, they could, but they don’t want to, because it’s all about money and status) … so … yeah … I don’t foresee this happening (because of self-serving … goddamn Plato!).
Now, this may seem like it isn’t a thing, but that’s probably because you (the reader) aren’t in the academics, part of that world, or, alternatively, you are part of that world, but you happen to be one of those who benefit from things being the way they are, by which I mean that you don’t see that as a problem (that’s team Plato for you). But just look at social media, Twitter being, perhaps, the prime example. There’s always that someone who just can’t help it, who just has to point to that degree, to let everyone know who is educated and who is not, thus implying that they are right and that everyone else who doesn’t agree with them is wrong. That’s how you eliminate rivals, pre-emptively (again, that’s Plato for you).
Oh, and it does not stop there. If you think giving people access to research is bananas or that letting them do research, to figure out stuff that concerns them, as opposed to waiting for someone to do that for them, out of some odd sense of … charity, is even more bananas, he (132) more in store for you:
“[The] target would cease to be the Truth with a capital T but instead a localized modelling, incarnated in a social body whose destiny is in question.”
Well, shit, we can’t have that now, can we? People first need to be educated before they are allowed to use … wait … wait, wait, wait … how does this seem familiar so familiar? Well, because it is (hint: this is what Plato did, this is what Lenin did).
Does this mean that it becomes a free for all, that all standards are thus thrown out of the window? Well, no. It must all still remain rigorous, as he (132) wants to emphasize it:
“The enlarging of the horizons of research, its being taken in charge by social relays that are always more numerous, does not, however, imply a loss of rigour, but a change of attitude with regard to its interlocutors.”
The perfect example here is the autodidact. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m a fucking wizard, not because I have a fancy degree in some field or discipline (which I do have, but that’s not the point), but because I try my best to be what Guattari (134) refers to as transversal and what he and Deleuze (362-363, 365, 367-369) refer to as nomadic in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. There’s none of that telling people how things are, followed by telling how things ought to be, one study after another, repeating the same stuff, because, surely, only a man (yes, a man, to be extra offensive about that, like really, really sexist here) with the highest academic degree can tell you that. Instead, it’s all about giving them the conceptual tools to figure out things themselves, if they wish to do so, for whatever purposes they see fit. No, no! Better yet, it’s all about giving people access to the conceptual tool shop and letting them borrow stuff. That’s it! That’s even better! Thanks Guattari! I love the way you once put it!
To be clear, he isn’t saying that, all the sudden, it’s like whatever, it’s all the same. No, that’s not it. It isn’t all the same. Instead, he’s (133) against setting up these pseudo-democratic systems where, regardless of how things pan out, you have some higher ups deciding things for the masses. He’s (133) particularly unhappy about how things could change, how there’s that potential, but it keeps on being squandered because, as you might guess it already, it’s just way, way more convenient for the select few to keep doing what they are doing, year after year:
“A collective awareness of the fact that the means of changing life and of creating a new style of activity, new values, are within reach, at least in our developed societies, has not yet been gained.”
Note how he (133) reckons that the potential is there, and the means of making an actual difference are there, within reach, but, alas, no, people are prevented from using such conceptual tools themselves. Why? Well, I can’t speak for Guattari, nor for anyone else, but my guess is that doing research, one study after another, getting some results and then indicating that the study needs to be repeated to better understand what’s going on, works great for the researchers. That way the researcher retains that status, having the privilege to the conceptual tools and the resources to utilize them, so that others cannot do that. Simply put, it’s self-serving. To be fair, that kind of research might still do good, I’m not saying that, but, ultimately, the reasons for doing research are then self-serving. I think he agrees with me, albeit he (133) doesn’t put it so bluntly:
“Desire and the will to move in the direction of such transformations depend in large part on the orientation of social labour and research.”
Ah, yes, the division of labor (Marx, is that you?). I have mentioned this in the past, but he and Deleuze (368-369) bring this up in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:
“[T]he way in which a science, or a conception of science, participates in the organization of the social field, and in particular induces a division of labor, is part of that science itself.”
In other words, science, not matter what kind of science it is, cannot escape this issue that pertains to the division of labor. We are dealing with people, after all. Anyone who works around the system is viewed with suspicion, hence my earlier remark about autodidacts. In their (368) words:
“The State does not give power … to the intellectuals or conceptual innovators; on the contrary, it makes them a strictly dependent organ with an autonomy that is only imagined yet is sufficient to divest those whose job it becomes simply to reproduce or implement of all of their power[.]”
Now, to make more sense of that, as that may come across as a rather bold claim, let’s say that you can be totally impartial, like you just do whatever you do. You don’t give a damn about the politics. You just do what you are good at and go home. Sounds lovely, eh? Well, the thing is, however, the money that is needed to hire you does come from somewhere. You get to do whatever it is that you do because someone agreed that your project is worthy of the funding and, conversely, that someone else’s project isn’t. So, even if we assume that you somehow manage to be impartial, without any self-interest (which I doubt), you are part of a system that is self-interested.
All refereeing or review processes are flawed in this sense. You don’t get to do research unless you jump through those hoops. The first hoop is the funding. You need to convince others that your project is the real deal, appealing to their desires and beliefs. The second hoop is to get your project out there, published. Again, you need to convince others that your project is the real deal, appealing to their desires and beliefs. If you fail to convince those people initially, that means no money. Now, to be clear, you can still do research without proper funding, like I did for years (fuck y’all), but even then you need to make ends meet. Even that money comes from somewhere. Plus, even if you manage to get past the first set of gatekeepers of academics, you still need to deal with the second set of gatekeepers, those who review your work. If you’ve read my essays, or happen to have similar experiences, this is such a painful process, not because it takes long (even though it does) and not because system has to rigorous (it has to be), but because the people you deal with are typically self-interested, just as they are when you apply for funding.
I think it’s worth pointing that this is not something that only Deleuze and Guattari have noticed. This issue is way, way older than them. I’m going to go through some examples.
Max Weber (51) makes note of this in ‘“Objectivity”’ in Social Science and Social Policy’ when he points out that certain science, in his case sociology, only came to being with the support of the state, to benefit the state, to help it formulate policy. He (51-52) isn’t fond of this, because it subordinates science to policy. He (52) clear about the issue:
“[I]t can never be the task of an empirical science to provide binding norms and ideals from which directives for immediate practical activity can be derived.”
In short, he (60) argues that latter, being objective, is what counts as science, whereas the latter, being subjective, is, at best, about policy. He (60) is very adamant about this, albeit my take is that it has more to do with trying to curb people from using some academic journal to propagate their own political views. To be clear, he (52) isn’t saying that that there shouldn’t be any room for what he refers to as value-judgments, but rather that it’s not the job of the researcher to tell people how they should or shouldn’t live their lives. In fact, he (52) reckons that there must be some room left for them:
“Criticism is not to be suspended in the presence of value-judgments.”
Or, as he (52) puts in it in other words:
“It is certainly not that value-judgments are to be withdrawn from scientific discussion in general simply because in the last analysis they rest on certain ideals and are therefore ‘subjective’ in origin.”
To further comment that, I think he is right about that. All analysis would simply be impossible if there was a strict requirement of impartiality. So, what he (52-53) suggests instead is being aware of one’s own desires, that we are driven to do what do and think what we think, because you can’t have it all and it comes at a certain cost. In other words, everything has its pros and cons and no matter what you do, it has consequences. Even doing nothing has consequences. Even that counts as doing something, as he (53) goes on to point out.
In summary, he (53) thinks that a researcher is tasked to explain whatever it is that we are dealing with, followed by explaining how it works, because that’ll help people to understand the situation and then move on from there. This does not, however, mean that the researcher gives primacy to one course of action over another, as he (53) goes on to emphasize:
“To apply the results of [one’s] analysis in the making of a decision, however, is not a task which science can undertake; it is rather the task of the acting, willing person: [one] weighs and chooses from among the values involved according to [one’s] own conscience and [one’s] personal view of the world.”
In other words, a researcher may suggest a certain course of action, indicating how it might be beneficial in a certain sense, but, ultimately, the researcher does not get to choose it for anyone else. I’d go as far as saying as that as tempting as any recommendation might be, for whatever reasons, the researcher cannot make the choice for anyone else. It’s impossible, unless, of course, people have been foolish enough to let that researcher dictate policy that, in turn, dictates something affects people, stripping them of some choice over whatever it is that the policy pertains to. If you read some research article that recommends this and/or that course of action, there’s absolutely nothing that can make you act accordingly. The choice is yours. That’s always the prerogative of the reader, not the writer, as I pointed out in a couple of recent essays, in reference to how Marcel Proust (265-266) explains that in ‘Time Regained’.
Highly importantly, that choice is also your responsibility, as Weber (53) points out. This is what I particularly like about Weber’s take. I like the way he (52-53) emphasizes that it’s all up to you, that it’s you who gets to choose, and not someone else. That said, I also like how he (53) emphasizes that as it’s not only you who gets to choose, but you who must choose, and if you think that you can just not choose, it’s also a choice that you are responsible for.
Why do I think that his take great? Well, because it allows the researcher to hold views, those value-judgements, and to even advocate for them, to indicate why a certain course of action would be beneficial and, conversely, why some other course or courses of action would not be beneficial. It’s also great because it does not give the researcher license to speak for others, nor to make decisions for them. It’s your analysis, which may or may not be of use to its readers. I think he puts it quite well he (54) states that:
“This does not overstep the boundaries of a science which strives for an ‘analytical ordering of empirical reality[’.]”
Hallelujah! Amen, brother! Again, just to make sure you get the point, you can say all kinds of things. You can even recommend something. You can go as far as to advocate for a certain course of action. None of this, however, means that people should act or think the way you want. That’s up to them.
So, in line with what’s been discussed so far, in reference to Deleuze and/or Guattari, Weber (54) argues that the researcher is tasked to make people aware of how we come to desire something, whatever it is that drives us to do something, which will then help them to make decisions in everyday life. To be clear, no one is stripping people of their agency in the process, as he (54) goes on to emphasize:
“As to whether the person expressing these value-judgments should adhere to these ultimate standards is his personal affair: it involves will and conscience, not empirical knowledge.”
So, to be crystal clear, that’s all on you. That knowledge is there for you, inasmuch it is accessible to you, of course. It’s then a matter of whether you choose to acknowledge or not. Assuming you do have the access to it, it’s then up to you to either make use of it or not. If you ignore it, and let others speak for you, instead of getting acquainted with it and/or using your voice, well that’s totally on you. I think he is totally right when he (54) explains how this is not for the researcher to decide for you:
“An empirical science cannot tell anyone what [one] should do — but rather what [one] can do —and under certain circumstances — what one wishes to do.”
In other words, good research will tell you how things are, how it may have come to being, and how it may exist in the future, which is another way of saying that the researcher is tasked to explain how it all works, as rigorously analyzed by the researcher. This can then help people to understand how the world works, which, in turn, can help them to choose a certain course of action. There is, of course, no guarantee that the reader will understand the writer, in this case the researcher, nor that the reader will benefit from reading what’s been writer by the researcher. It’s definitely a maybe.
To give you an example, one that’s related to my own work, I’m fine with stating that landscape, as we know it, is not your friend. Far from it. You may take pleasure in a landscape, sure, but it’s not your friend. Okay, okay, I’m willing to concede that it may well be your friend, but only if you happen to match the ideals manifested in it. Then you can use it to your benefit, which, of course, means that you are fine with fucking people over. How so? Well, not everyone can match those ideals, so, again, it’s totally on you for being with that. You may not be aware of that, how that works, which is where I come in. It’s my job to explain that to you, how it all works, which involves assessing how things are, how they may have come to that and how they may be in the future. That’s the knowledge part of it. Now, as an academic, it’s up to me provide you that knowledge, so that you can then think for yourself, to weigh the pros and cons, to ponder whether landscape is your friend or not and whether you are, indeed, fine with fucking people over. I can’t make that decision for you, nor will I be advocating for that decision to be given to me, just because I happen to know how the world works in that regard. That’s not my prerogative, nor my responsibility. That’s all on you.
That may, of course, seem like I’m telling you how you should live your life, but that’s not it. What I am doing, however, is telling you how you might live your life. I am allowed to persuade you, to provide a compelling argument, but only in hopes of helping you to think for yourself. It is then up to you to think of it what you will. If you don’t agree with me, fine by me.
It may seem odd, given the sheer amount of shit that I give them, but the idea here is to be like Plato, or Lenin, i.e., really compelling to your audience (you gotta give them credit for that), but, unlike them, then leave it up to the people to choose their own path. If they take your advice, they do. If they don’t take your advice, they don’t. You can’t force people to think for themselves. This is exactly what Weber means when he (56) acknowledges the importance of disputes.
But why are disputes important then? Well, because, as he (57) goes on to point out, only dogmatic beliefs, those of religious sects, are said to be unconditionally true, among those of the sect, of course. That’s the gist of dogmatism, which I think he (57) explains quite well. To add a bit of commentary here, while I think he is correct here, I think underplays how commonplace such dogmatism is even among academics. It’s definitely not restricted to religious sects. I do, however, like what else he (57) has to say about this:
“The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must know that we cannot learn the meaning of the world from the results of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must rather be in a position to create this meaning itself.”
Indeed, it is we who give meaning to something, so that it emerges there and then. It is not something that we discover, out there, as if it was waiting for us to find it. If that doesn’t convey it to you, then what else he (57) has to say might just do the trick for you:
“[We] must recognize that general views of life and the universe can never be the products of increasing empirical knowledge, and that the highest ideals, which move us most forcefully, are always formed only in the struggle with other ideals which are just as sacred to others as ours are to us.”
So, long story short, we create meaning. We do not discover it. In addition, there’s always that dispute. Meaning is therefore always in the making. It’s what we make of things.
Disputes are, of course, rather tricky. It’s difficult to get along if people don’t agree with one another. It would seem to make sense to have consensus then, so that people would agree. That’s not, however, how he (57-58) thinks what we should strive for. While he (58) acknowledges different points of view, that is to say perspectives, he doesn’t think that we should strive for a synthesis of those views or for a compromise between them. For him (58), we just deceive ourselves if we think we can get along that way.
While he is not explicitly mentioned in ‘The Logic of the Social Sciences’, Karl Popper challenges the views held by Weber. Popper (97) reckons that it’s impossible to stay objective in one’s research. In a way he (97) is not actually disagreeing with Weber, but rather wants to point out that objectivity is also a value, among other values. In his (97) words:
“It is, therefore, not just that objectivity and freedom from involvement with values (‘value freedom’) are unattainable in practice for the individual scientist, but rather that objectivity and freedom from such attachments are themselves values.”
I take this as riffing on Weber’s take, taking it to its logical conclusion. Popper is simply pointing out that it’s pointless to hang on to objectivity. Does this matter? Well, I’d say no. So, yeah, I agree with Popper (97-98) that this is not really a problem in research, inasmuch as we let this paradox disappear by letting go of the demand for objectivity.
Anyway, back to Deleuze and Guattari (368) who explain the underlying issue better than I do, so I’ll let them further comment on this:
“In any case, if the State always finds it necessary to repress the nomad and minor sciences, if it opposes vague essences and the operative geometry of the trait, it does so not because the content of these sciences is inexact or imperfect, or because of their magic or initiatory character, but because they imply a division of labor opposed to the norms of the State.”
In other words, the academic world is not unlikely any other workplace. You get to do what you do, the way you do, which is great, I’m not disagreeing with that, but on the condition that you don’t challenge the way this arrangement works. Simply put, it’s about knowing your place in the production of knowledge.
Max Horkheimer addresses this in his essay ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’. While he (195-196) gives credit to those who take values into consideration, so that whatever you are dealing with has real life consequences, he (196) isn’t happy with how those values are ignored in research:
“[I]n reality this sense of practical purpose, this belief in the social value of his calling is a purely private conviction of the scholar.”
He (196) further elaborates this, adding that one way or another, you cannot separate the private life from the working life:
“[The scholar] may just as well believe in an independent, ‘suprasocial,’ detached knowledge as in the social importance of his expertise: such opposed interpretations do not influence [the scholar’s] real activity the slightest.”
So, it doesn’t matter what you think about the issue, whether you are objective or subjective, as this is not just about you. We need to take a step back, which is what he (196) goes on to add:
“The scholar and [the scholar’s] science are incorporated into the apparatus of society.”
So, as already mentioned, you are expected to ask permission to conduct research. While it may not involve a formal approval process, such as an ethics review, it is still reviewed a number of times, by people do not put their neck on the line in the review process. That’s an apparatus for you.
To be clear, some research never gets published because of that academic apparatus. There are just too many gatekeepers on the way and people just shift to something else, which is likely something tried and true as that then gets past the gatekeepers. Some research might also never get started because of it. The idea might be great, but because you know that it is very, very unlikely to get funded, it won’t even end up in review.
I was mad enough to defy that academic apparatus during my doctoral studies and, with perseverance, I succeeded. Was I happy with how it went? No, absolutely not. I had to do too many compromises. I had to do a bit of this and a bit of that, take this out and take that out, and then add a bit of this and a bit of that in their place. I wasn’t too happy about that. It was often just taking shit from people who didn’t even understand what I had written, probably because they had never read the stuff I build on. It’s pretty frustrating to a rejection from an expert, on the grounds that they don’t the expert knowledge required to fairly assess your work.
Okay, not all of it was bad. No. Sometimes others helped to get rid of something and suggested something that I simply wasn’t aware of and meshed well with what I had written previously. That’s great. I wish that happened more often. It’s just that usually you end up having to deal with someone who doesn’t like you and/or what you’ve written, for reasons that are then not disclosed, someone who doesn’t understand you, because they aren’t familiar with what you build on, or someone who holds an opposing view and, of course, uses that opportunity to keep you in check.
Why people do such then? Well, because there’s basically no consequences for such. If you had to put your name on the review, you’d be staking your reputation on that. It would be like in an everyday conversation with someone: if you say something that the other person doesn’t agree with, expect to be challenged for saying that. You’d get called out on that. You might still be right, but you couldn’t expect the other person to just take your word for it. You’d have to convince the other person, with evidence, and allow the other person to convince you, with evidence. Then again, that’s not how it works, which is why end up having to deal with such behavior.
Oh, and appealing is pointless. It’s a numbers game. Two or three reviewers, plus the editor, vs. one writer? What are the odds that you are right? They might actually be pretty high, but that’s not how it’ll come across. You look like a sore loser at that point.
Anyway, where was I? Right, Horkheimer (196) has more to say about this:
“[A]chievements are a factor in the conservation and continuous renewal of the existing state of affairs, no matter what fine names [one] gives to what [one] does.”
In other words, it’s very tough to create anything when you are expected to do just more of the same. Why do people end up doing more of the same? Well, that’s because those who run the system want things to remain the same. Why would they want that? Well, they want that because they retain their position and their status if things stay as they are. If someone manages to change things, let’s say that some newcomer manages to convince others that something isn’t as it was previously thought to be, or that works in a different way, that’ll undermine the works of the powers that be, which then undermines them.
Does that prevent change? No, it doesn’t, but that’s not the point here. What matters is that the system works against change, unless it, of course, benefits those who occupy central positions in the system. In his (196) words:
“Experiment has the scientific role of establishing facts in such a way that they fit into theory as currently accepted.”
That’s why all the work should flow through them, so that they can reject anything that doesn’t mesh with their work and take credit for anything new that meshes with their work. That’s division of labor for you, as he (196) also goes on to point out.
Theodor Adorno also addresses these issues in ‘On the Logic of the Social Sciences’. Importantly, he (116-117) challenges Weber’s distinction between objectivity and subjectivity. Commenting on Karl Popper’s (97-98) objection to such distinctions, Adorno (18) points out that:
“Scientific awareness of society, which sets itself up as value-free, fails to apprehend reality just as much as one which appeals to more or less preordained and arbitrarily established values.”
He (118) also makes note of the widely known distinction between what is and should be and calls it a false dichotomy. Why? Well, my take is that as handy as that might be for distinguishing what’s out there from what one would wish to be there, it fails to take into account that what we consider to be is not actually what is, but what appears to be. To be clear, thinking in terms of what is easily leads us to think that it’s all just given, whereas thinking in terms of what appears to be does to take anything for granted.
If that distinction between what is and what appears to be seems like splitting hairs, well, it sort of is. There is a point to it though. They are not the same. When I state that something is like this and/or that, I do actually mean that it appears to be so, not that it is. It’s really inconvenient to keep talking in terms of apparition, so, yeah, even I am in the habit of stating that something is, even though, strictly speaking, it most certainly isn’t. If you’ve read my published works and wondered about that, why it is indicated that they deal with apparition, it’s because of this. It may seem like a minor thing, but it’s actually pretty major thing.
Deleuze and Foucault also agree on this, as discussed by the two in ‘Intellectuals and Power’. I’ve covered that exchange of words between the two in the past, at least a handful of times, so I won’t do that here. I only bring them up because regardless of what you think of Weber’s take, Deleuze and Foucault agree with him that it’s not the job of the researcher to tell how people should live their lives. To be more specific, Deleuze (209) gives Foucault credit for making people aware of “the indignity of speaking for others.” Why? Well, explained by Foucault (207-208), the researcher is always part of a system and thus liable to serve its interests in the production of knowledge and in defining what counts as truth. This is the same point that Horkheimer (196) makes.
Anyway, back to Guattari (133-134) who brings up a very important point in ‘Transdisciplinary Must Become Transversality’: there will be no change if there’s no will to change. I also like how he (134) points out that even if we have a handful of people who want change, that’s not enough. He (133-134) talks about planetary environmental level issues, but I’d say this applies to a lot of other things as well. For example, I’m all for what he and Deleuze advocate for, what we might call an affective or a non-representational way of thinking, but as much as I’m all for it, I do have to take into account that I can change fuck all with my thinking, inasmuch as it’s just me and, perhaps, a handful of highly educated people talking about it during a coffee break. I can’t ignore the fact that people don’t think that way, the way I do, and so it’s up to me to convince them that their way of thinking is against their own interests. Will I succeed in that? Well, I probably won’t, but I’m pretty sure that I won’t if I give up that will that is needed to change things. It’s way, way easier to just do more of the same, one study after another, but that’s exactly the problem.
If you are not convinced by that, luckily Guattari addresses this issue in very simple terms in ‘The Adolescent Revolution’. In this interview, his interviewer, Christian Poslianec (131), states that he refrains from sorting people into boxes, to which he (131) replies, disagreeing with Poslianec:
“I still have to take them into account because that’s what most people do.”
Guattari (131) goes on to explain how early that begins, which is why it happens all the time. In any case, the point I want to make is that it’d be lovely to be able to skip all that, but, as he (131) points out, people think way, all the time, pigeonholing themselves and one another. It’d be naïve of me to not take that into account, especially in my own research.
I started out writing this essay with a certain goal in mind, which was to elaborate what Guattari thought of Foucault and his work, but I ended up sidetracked. I think I ended up so sidetracked that I think it’s best that I continue from where I left off at another time. I think I still managed to cover some ground, not on what I thought I would, but it was interesting nonetheless. I don’t know about you, but at least I enjoyed it.
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