Univocity and Structuralism (Part 2)

by Beth Metcalf


In ‘How Do We Recognize Structuralism?’, Deleuze describes seven criteria common to those called ‘structuralists’.  Then, after Deleuze details these criteria, he tells us that there are two accidents of structure.  The first accident occurs when the empty square is not filled-in.  Its emptiness becomes lack when it is no longer accompanied by a nomadic subject.  The second accident occurs when the emptiness of the paradoxical square is filled-in and is occupied by a plenitude which accompanies it.  Therefore, structuralism seems bound to fall into one or the other of these “accidents”.   Either the signifier disappears with only a stream of signifieds remaining.  Or, the signified disappears leaving only a chain of signifiers.  The first accident reverts to the imaginary.  The second accident is the overcoding by a Despotic Signifier.  Both of these accidents of structure cut actualizations off from their virtual source, leading to castrating Lack.  The old structuralism could never avoid these accidents.  So, Deleuze foresees a new structure that will not fall into the accidents of the old closed structure of signifier/signified. 


Deleuze sees these “accidents” as bringing us to the critique of the old structure.  His resolution focuses on the seventh criterion which says that structure goes from subject to practice.  This is “the most obscure - the criteria of the future”.  In answer to the accidents of the old structure, Deleuze foresees a new structuralism of univocity.  (HRS) “The contradiction must yet be “resolved,” that is, the empty place must be rid of the symbolic events that eclipse it or fill it, and be given over to the subject which must accompany it on new paths without occupying or deserting it.  Thus, there is a structuralist hero: neither God nor man, neither personal nor universal, it is without an identity, made of non-personal individuations and pre-individual singularities.  It assures the break-up of a structure affected by excess or deficiency….For a new structure not to pursue adventures that again are analogous to those of the old structure, not to cause fatal contradictions to be reborn, depends on the resistant and creative force of this hero….” [underlines added]


At the level of structure, the differential relations of elements are the primary Symbolic filling-in.  Then, when structure is actualized, places are filled by real beings.  Yet the paradoxical empty square must remain empty.  It must not be filled in (not even by a symbolic element) if it is to be displaced and allowed to circulate.  But how does the paradoxical square remain empty in this filling in?  Deleuze answers that the void or emptiness of the paradoxical square must no longer be the non-being of the negative (ouk on) as the old structure was.  Negative non-being does not allow the paradoxical element to circulate.  In order for there to be productive circulation, structure must reach the positive non-being of the problematic (me on).  The new structure must reach a sub-representative source beneath the representations of negation, opposition, and lack that happen at the level of signified/signifier.  We must reach a void of the problematic where the nomadic subject of impersonal and pre-individual singularity will not fill in the empty void.  (‘Logic of Sense’ p.73) “Today’s task is to make the empty square circulate and to make pre-individual and nonpersonal singularities speak – in short, to produce sense.”  The new structure of the problematic will allow the empty square to circulate in the production of sense.  The new structure unfolds a problematic space for creation of new thought. 


How is this paradox of the empty square to be resolved?  There must be a void which does not produce a lack to be filled-in.  The void must become its own symbol and lack its actual half which would occupy it.  It must be the non-being of the problematic.  It must be affirmation which no longer produces Lack.  Isn’t this the nomadic distribution of the dice throw (Aion) that must not be confused with the time of negative non-being (Chronos) to which the old structure was restricted?  At the level of Aion, the empty square is not filled-in.  There is an intensive symbolic instance which accompanies the displacements of the empty square without occupying them.  The place (empty square) and the instance (Subject) lack yet accompany each other.  The new structure does not suppress the subject, but breaks it up.  It is a nomadic subject of pre-individual and impersonal singularities.  


The old structuralism succumbs to the accidents of structure.  The empty square is not accompanied by a nomadic subject and its emptiness becomes a lack.  The Signifier is lost.  The signified has nothing to mark its displacements.  Or, the empty square becomes filled-in as it is occupied by a sedentary subject.  The signified is lost.  The two “accidents” reduce structure to a totalizing essence.  Contradictions result.  But at the level of the problematic new structure, contradiction is resolved.  There is positive affirmation of me on without lack.  Now, Ouk on is a mere shadow---a use of temporary representational surface effects.  But it remains open to the problematic where the excess in the virtual Idea explains the lack in the actualized concept.              


The old structure remains at the level of signified and signifier.  Structure consists of negative relations in extension.  It sees only possibilities of already formed matter without real distinction.  It never reaches the virtual-real of the problematic and the intensive heterogeneity of content and expression.  It never reaches the impossible real of the new structure.  The old structure sees only the non-being of the negative, and the paradoxical element is filled with “partial objects” that are still signifying elements in extension.  It does not reach the intensive, asignifying elements of ‘partial objects’ of univocity.  Deleuze and Guattari see Lacan as pointing beyond the old structuralism when he speaks of the objet petit a.  That is, they see Lacan as pointing toward an asignifying sense of the partial object.  However, Lacan could not find a way to resolve the problem beyond his auto-critique.  (See my article ‘Structuralism and Univocity, Part 1’).  The old structure remains at the level of the non-being of the negative.  It is closed into “partial objects” of extension.  It remains at the level of signifying signs.  It remains at the level of signified/signifier.  It never reaches the heterogeneous parallelism of content-expression open to unformed matter.  (See my article ‘Hjelmslev’s Univocity’.)   


Deleuze’s new structure includes the reverse side (the non-being of the problematic - me on).  (‘Anti Oedipus’ p. 309), “This reverse side is the “real inorganization” of the molecular elements….since they are not partial in the sense of extensive parts, but rather partial like the intensities under which a unit of matter always fills space in varying degrees….”  Therefore, on this reverse side, partial objects are intensive quantities.  They are the being of the sensible that can only be sensed.  Violent encounter unhinges the faculties.  These intensive partial objects are not the given.  They are that by which the given is given in a transcendental exercise of memory and thought.  However, Lacan’s structure never reaches this reverse side.  Lacan is restricted to the old structure (the non-being of the negative - ouk on).  Then, (DR236-7) “Qualitative contrariety is only the reflection of the intense, a reflection which betrays it by explicating it in extensity….always distributed within an extensity which inverts and cancels it.”  The partial objects in extension are not only sensed.  They have an extensive relation with objects which can be remembered and thought.  The faculties remain on their hinges.  There can be no transcendental exercise.  Therefore, we must not confuse the intensive ‘partial objects’ (‘bodies without organs’ of the new structure) with extensive “partial objects” (“organs without bodies” of the old structure).  (‘A Thousand Plateaus’ p. 171) “What we need to consider is not fundamentally organs without bodies, or the fragmented body; it is the body without organs, animated by various intensive movements….”  (A-O p.73), “That is indeed what disturbs us, this recasting of history and this “lack” attributed to partial objects.”         


Those who cannot see beyond the old closed structure of negation (ouk on) project inconsistencies and oppositional dualisms into their reading of Deleuze.  Lacan’s disciples project Lack into their reading of Deleuze.  These projections occur because they exclude Deleuze’s “reverse side of structure” (me on) that is included in univocity.  When the reverse side is included, actualized uses of representation always remain open to their sub-representative source.  Lack is not produced.  Deleuze’s Spinozist univocity sees actualization as numerical-modal distinction.  There is no actualization of numerically distinct substances which would close into a production of Lack.  There can be no castrating Lack in the ontological singularity of univocity---not even at the level of produced actualizations.  (DR207), “Forms of the negative do indeed appear in actual terms and real relations, but only in so far as these are cut off from the virtuality which they actualize, and from the movement of their actualization.  Then, and only then, do the finite affirmations appear limited in themselves, opposed to one another, and suffering from lack or privation….”  That is to say, when negative forms (ouk on) are cut off from their virtual source (me on), negation and lack appear.  Then, and only then, do negation and lack appear.  Therefore, when we see negation and lack, we know that the actual has been cut off from its virtual source.    


Deleuze says, (‘Difference & Repetition’ p.208) “We opposed the virtual and the real: although it could not have been more precise before now, this terminology must be corrected.”  But why did Deleuze need to correct this terminology?  He had to correct it because that common usage is the terminology of the Representational Image of Thought.  Deleuze corrected this terminology in order to distinguish his own thought---to vice-dict his own thought---from the old structure.  From Deleuze’s point of view, Lacan’s structure is ‘possible-actual’ (non-being of the negative – ouk on) because it never reaches the reverse side of structure that is the ‘virtual-real’ (non-being of the problematic - me on).  This difference in terminology creates much confusion for Lacan’s disciples.  Lacan’s disciples confuse Deleuze’s ‘virtual’ with a Lacanian notion of “virtual”.  They thereby fall into the danger of which Deleuze warns (DR211) of confusing the ‘virtual’ with the ‘possible’.  They still trace the transcendental from the empirical.


Deleuze, in his early writings, as well as his writings with Guattari, uses the term ‘real’ in a new sense.  With univocity, the ‘virtual’ is not opposed to the ‘real’.  The virtual is already real.  The ‘virtual’ is opposed to the ‘actual’.  Deleuze says (DR209), “The reality of the virtual is structure.  We must avoid giving the elements and relations which form a structure an actuality which they do not have, and withdrawing from them a reality which they do have.”  But this is exactly what the old structuralism does.  Lacan’s disciples still speak of structural relations in extension (i.e. giving structure an actuality which it does not have).  And they never reach the intensive nomadic distribution of unformed matter (withdrawing from structure the virtual-reality which it does have).


Therefore for Deleuze, symbolic structure is not the ground of possibility for objects and their relations.  This would confuse the ‘virtual’ with the ‘possible’.  It would confuse the ‘real’ with the ‘actual’.  The old structure and the new structure are not the same.  Their terminology does not share the same sense.  This is the source of much confusion for Lacan’s disciples.  Because of this confusion, Lacan’s disciples cannot understand how Deleuze can be so critical of Hegel.  They project the old structure into their understanding of Deleuze.  They do not reach Deleuze’s new structure that is included in univocity.      


With the old structure, “difference” may be infinitely diverse.  However, Deleuze says (DR222) “Difference is not diversity.  Diversity is given, but difference is that by which the given is given, that by which the given is given as diverse….”  Difference is not the diversity of the non-being of the negative.  Difference is not the diversity of structural relations filled by extensive elements.  Difference is that by which the given (diversity) is given.  Difference is the affirmation of problematic non-being (DR64).  The disparate is the singular difference of the problematic (DR205).  The virtual-real problematic is the pre-individual source of disparate individuation or actualization that may be realized in incommensurable systems of diversity.  Each disparate actualization may be realized in a new diverse system of extension--- a new spatialized time---incommensurable with any other.  New relations of extensive structure are realized each time.  However, the old structuralism remains only at the level of negative non-being.  Therefore, in spite of its best intentions to reach real difference, the old structure closes into one Representational system of totalizable diversity.  It cannot meet its intention to fulfill the seven criteria of structure.  It cannot avoid falling into one of the “accidents” of structure.  A formed substance may be infinitely variable, but variability is not difference.  ‘Variability’ is merely “a variable determination of a supposedly constant relation” (‘Difference & Repetition’ p. 173).  Variability is the constant relation of coupling between form and matter without real distinction.  A formed substance may be infinitely variable, but it is still cut off from the singular variety of intensive variation that is its transcendental source.  Diversity and variability are still the one/many that never reach the all-one of univocity.


With the old structure, the whole is closed negation of ouk on cut off from its source.  There may be a plurality of coexisting oppositions in infinitely diverse variable relations.  But the whole is closed and without real distinction.  Intensity is seen to be the degree of sensation in experience.  Substances can increase or decrease in intensity without changing in quality.  Individual objects are closed into sets.  There is opposition of the many to the One.  There is limitation of the One by the many.  The old structure closes everything into conceptual identity of an Image of Thought.  But the new structure is very different.  It is open to creation of new concepts.  The whole is now ouk on open to me on.  The consequences are profound.  Ouk on is no longer closed into one spatio-temporal system of relations traced from possibilities of the empirical, but it is open to the transcendental problematic me on.  The homogeneous relations of diversity are now open to the disparate external relations of heterogeneity.  Formed matter without real distinction is now open to the unformed matter that is ontological singularity, really distinct.  The extensive systems of variability (that can divide without changing in quality) are now open to the intensive difference of variety in variation (that cannot divide in degree of intensive quantity without changing in quality).  Individual objects are no longer closed into sets, but remain open to their pre-individual source.  The whole is no longer closed relations of one/many.  The whole is now the open intersection of two multiplicities.    


Therefore, the particular/general diversity of the old structure must not be mistaken for a singular-universal of the new structure.  With the new structure, ‘concrete universal’ takes on a new sense.  Its production no longer occurs at the level of extensive relations.  Now, the production of the concrete universal occurs at the level of the problematic.  There is actualization of disparate relations of pre-individual singularity that may be realized in newly individuated variables of diversity.  Each singular-disparate may be actualized into a different use of particular/general diversity.  A new concrete universal is actualized each time.  Each actualized empirical system of diversity remains open to its transcendental-virtual source in the problematic Idea.  Each concrete universal is a transcendental-empiricism.  There is not one concrete universal.  There are not many concrete universals.  All are real difference said in one sense. There is no production of Lack.  (DR 176) “Ideas are concrete universals….there is no abstract universal beyond the individual or beyond the particular and the general: it is singularity itself which is ‘pre-individual’.”


The old structuralism never reaches the problematic ‘sense’ of univocity.  It’s “sense” is merely signification.  There may be a sort of “arbitrary” denotation.  But signification remains the same self-identical concept throughout all the diversity of its contents.  There can be no real difference of signification at all.  Diversity of signification is not radical difference.  “Arbitrary” denotation is the reverse side of a necessity of signification (‘Anti-Oeidpus’ p.214).  It is not radical difference.  It is conceptual identity.


Deleuze is critical of Hegel’s diversity of Infinite Representation.  Deleuze (alone and with Guattari) is critical of a Lacanian notion of “virtual” which is already possible.  But how can Deleuze (and Guattari) criticize anyone if univocity is all affirmation?  Univocity is the affirmation of all planes of immamence.  Univocity affirms all actualized uses of representation that are not cut off from their sub-representative source.  Deleuze and Guattari see the truth of all relative planes of disparate singularity that is univocity.  All such planes may be actualized disparately each time as inclusive vice-diction.  There is no universal diversity.  There is no totalizable transcendent Image of Representation.  Therefore, Deleuze and Guattari criticize all Representational Images of Thought which close themselves off from the immanence of univocity.  Wherever there is exclusion and negation, opposition and limitation, there is a transcendence that is cut off from its virtual-real source.  That closed transcendence is the Representational Image of Conceptual Identity that Deleuze always criticized.


In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guatteri criticize structuralism.  But this is not due to some alleged bad influence that Guattari holds over Deleuze.  Deleuze already rejects the old structure in his early writings.  When Deleuze and Guattari (A-O p.311) say, “the unconscious….is not structural, nor is it symbolic, for its reality is that of the Real in its very production….”, they are contrasting that which Deleuze already in HRS calls the “old” and the “new” structure.  When Deleuze and Guattari mention (A-O 307) “the two poles of subjective representation” they are talking about the two “accidents” of structure to which Deleuze refers in HRS.  When Deleuze and Guattri critique the structure of Lack, in contrast to the “reverse side” of desiring production, they are criticizing that structure of closed Representation that is cut off from its sub-representative source.  Deleuze warns of this closed structure of Representational Image of Thought in Difference & Repetition (as well as all his other writings).  Deleuze’s position regarding structuralism is consistent throughout his writings.  In his early writings, as well as his writings with Guattari, Deleuze consistently rejects the negative forces of the old structuralism.  Deleuze is consistent in saying that the old structure never reaches the reverse side --- the sub-representative side --- of structure that is included in univocity.


Deleuze and Guattari see Lacan as pointing toward a “reverse side” of structure, but only by way of an auto-critique that his disciples rarely notice.  Lacan’s disciples, still shackled to the illusion of their Representational Image, think they see “radical difference” in the old structuralism.  However, Deleuze creates a new concept of structure that cannot be understood under the terms of the old structure.  From the point of view of univocity, the unconscious is not structured like a language.  (DR 267-8) “Problems-Ideas are by nature unconscious: they are extra-propositional and sub-representative and do not resemble the propositions which represent the affirmations to which they give rise.  If we attempt to reconstitute problems in the image of or as resembling conscious propositions, then the illusion takes shape, the shadow awakens and appears to acquire a life of its own: it is as though each affirmation referred to its negative, or has ‘sense’ only by virtue of its negation, while at the same time a generalized negation, an ouk on, takes the place of the problem and its me on.”  Once we understand what Deleuze means by ‘univocity’, we will recognize that Deleuze had always rejected the old structuralism.  The new structure vice-dicts all uses of representation that had been excluded by the old closed structure of the Representational Image of Thought.

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