Zizek’s ‘Organs Without Bodies'

by Beth Metcalf

Deleuze insists that his plane of consistency has nothing to do with Hegel’s Infinite Representation.  However, those who are shackled to the Representational Image of Thought always find it impossible to believe that Deleuze can really mean this.  When Deleuze says something that is not consistent with a Hegelian plane of consistency, they blame Deleuze for being “inconsistent” -- or insist that Deleuze “misreads” Hegel.  If we are to understand Deleuze, we must find consistency in what Deleuze says.  Deleuze gives us an important clue toward understanding him.  Deleuze tells us he is not Hegelian.  Once we reach Deleuze’s plane of consistency, Hegel is unredeemable. 

Slavoj Zizek in ‘Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences’, asks why Deleuze can’t practice his “buggery” on Hegel?  Deleuze reads other philosophers with affirmation.  Why can’t he see something to affirm in Hegel?  Zizek wonders if there is some incest prohibition (OwB 48) because Deleuze may unconsciously feel too close to Hegel.  So, Zizek decides to risk a “Hegelian buggery of Deleuze”.  He decides to show how Hegel takes Deleuze from behind.  However, in doing this Zizek leaves out one thing.  He leaves out Deleuze.  Consequently, it is not buggery.  It is Hegelian auto-eroticism.        

Zizek asks why Deleuze disavows any Hegelian influence when it is so clear (to Zizek) that Deleuze is Hegelian.  Zizek can see nothing but dialectical opposition in Deleuze.  He sees an alleged opposition between the transcendental-virtual and the empirical-actual.  He sees in Deleuze the opposition of Becoming versus Being.  He sees opposition between Deleuze’s quasi-cause versus material cause.  He sees opposition between production and representation.  He sees everywhere the Hegelian dialectical oppositions that are the self-movement of an organic Whole (OwB 50).  Zizek uses a Hegelian framework to show that Deleuze sees a Unity beneath the many.  However, Deleuze tells us (see, for example, Difference & Repetition 182 or 203) that his immanence has nothing to do with the one/many oppositions of one unifying Whole.  The one/many opposition closes the whole into the infinite variability of already formed matter.  Deleuze always says that the Whole must be open to unformed forces “underneath matters and forms” (DR38).  Deleuze’s ‘Whole’ is open to a “sub-representative” domain of difference (DR178).  Deleuze’s ‘Whole’ is never a totalizable Transcendent Image of Unity.

Now, if Deleuze were a structuralist, like Lacan for instance, then of course, Deleuze could be seen as similar to Hegel.  However, if there is transitivity between Hegel and Deleuze (through structuralism) then I need some evidence (from Deleuze’s text, not Lacan’s) that Deleuze is a structuralist.  I contend that if we are to understand why Deleuze is so averse to Hegel, we must understand why Deleuze is not a structuralist.  In some of my previous articles, I have attempted to show evidence (from Deleuze’s text) that Deleuze never was a ‘structuralist’ in any classical sense of the term.    

Zizek (OwB 3) equates Deleuze’s ‘reality of the virtual’ with Lacan’s Real.  He describes Lacan’s Virtual as an attractor in mathematics where lines and points are in a sphere of attraction that only approach the form, never reaching it.  On the basis of a reading of Lacan, Zizek decides (OwB 27) that Deleuze’s “quasi-cause fills in the gap of corporeal causality”.  But where does Deleuze say that?  Lacan’s “Real” merely approaches a prior form or image of possibility.  He never reaches Deleuze’s virtual-real.  Zizek’s Lacanianism falls into the danger, against which Deleuze warns (Difference & Repetition 211), of confusing the virtual with the possible.  Lacan does not reach Deleuze’s sense of the real any more than Hegel does.

Zizek (OwB 4) explains Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism as opposition between the transcendental and the empirical.  Zizek says, “…the Deleuzian “transcendental” …. is used here in the strict philosophical sense of the a priori conditions of possibility of our experience of constituted reality.”  But where does Deleuze say that?  Deleuze tells us that his transcendental is not the a prior condition of possible experience.  It is the condition of real experience without prior conceptual possibilities traced from the empirical --- without resemblances or appearances of constituted reality.  Deleuze tells us that the condition must not be in the image of the conditioned as its form of possibility.  However, Zizek’s perspective puts both the transcendental and the empirical on the plane of already actual possibility.  Zizek never reaches Deleuze’s sub-representative plane of the virtual-real.  Zizek can only see a transcendental that is traced from empirically constituted reality.  This is exactly what Deleuze warns us he is not saying.  The transcendental must not be traced in the image of the empirical because there can be no appearances or resemblances of identity or difference that approach a prior form of possibility. 

Zizek says (OwB 12) that the key to the Deleuzian paradox (the paradox that the New can only emerge through repetition) is Deleuze’s opposition between the Virtual and the Actual.  Zizek thinks Deleuze is saying that one must betray the actual (Letter) in order to repeat the virtual (Spirit).  But where does Deleuze say that?  That would be a repetition of ‘virtual’ in the Spirit of Sameness, not Deleuze’s repetition of ‘virtual’ as difference.  Zizek’s concept of the ‘virtual’ confuses Deleuze’s sense with signification.  (LoS 122) Deleuze says, “This form of possibility may be logical, or it may be geometrical, algebraic, physical, transcendental, moral, etc.  It does not matter.  As long as we define the problem by its “resolvability” [its possibility] we confuse sense with signification, and we conceive of the condition only in the image of the conditioned.”  Whenever forces are negative (opposition or lack), they are in the image of possibility.  (DR 211) Deleuze says, “What difference can there be between the existent [actual] and the non-existent [virtual] if the non-existent is already possible, already included in the concept and having all the characteristics that the concept confers upon it as a possibility?.....Difference can no longer be anything but the negative determined by the concept: either the limitation imposed by possibles upon each other in order to be realized, or the opposition of the possible to the reality of the real….”

Zizek says, (OwB 53) “If there ever was a philosopher of unconditional immanence, it is Hegel…..difference between For-us and in-itself is itself “for us”: it is ourselves, in the immanence of our thought, who experience the distinction between the way things appear to us and the way they are in themselves.  The distinction between appearance and transcendent reality is itself a fact of our experiential appearance….”  But how can he confuse this with Deleuze’s sense of ‘immanence’?  Hegel’s is an “immanence” entangled in the oppositions of immanence/transcendence, for-us/in-itself, internal thought/external things, apparent/real.  But where does Deleuze say that his ‘immanence’ has anything to do with negative oppositions in unifying syntheses?  Hegel never escapes the principle (the Spirit) of conceptual identity.  Hegel can only produce same-ness within the infinite variability of form-matter oppositions.  He turns the concept into a function of sameness.  But, Deleuze’s ‘concept’ is not a function.  It is intensity (see ‘What is Philosophy?’).  From Deleuze’s perspective, Hegel’s infinite representation is immanence “to” something that reintroduces transcendence (WiP 43-47).  It is merely the prior possibility of a totalizing Transcendent Image. 

Zizek (OwB 29) says, “In Deleuze, Difference refers to the multiple singularities that express the One of infinite Life…”  But where does Deleuze ever say that there are multiple singularities that express the One?  Deleuze rejects the many/one opposition.  It would put singularity at the level of the individual (rather than intensive pre-individual).  It would make the One, in its opposition to the many, a conceptual totality.  This is not Deleuze’s one/all of univocity.  Zizek can merely find an “interstice” or “minimal difference” between images in a synthesis of homogeneously formed substances.  He cannot reach sub-representative heterogeneous parallelism – the intensive asymmetrical synthesis of the sensible – that is never negation, opposition, or limitation-lack (DR 203, 235, or 268-9).    

Zizek (OwB 15) tries to describe Deleuze’s singular universal.  But since his ‘virtual’ is already actual possibility, he thinks Deleuze must be describing Hegel’s Concrete Universal.  He thinks Deleuze’s singular universal must be the Hegelian opposition between particular identities and an abstract universal that is replaced by a new tension between Singular (in the sense of individual-particular) and Universal.  Zizek thinks that Deleuze, like Hegel, reaches a new tension between particulars and universals.  But Deleuze tells us that this Hegelian “singular” (at the level of the particular-individual) never reaches the intensive domain of pre-individual singularity.  It is still merely a new synthesis of particular-generality.  But what does generality have to do with Deleuze’s repetition of the singular?  Deleuze says (DR1), “Generality, as generality of the particular, thus stands opposed to repetition as universality of the singular….”  On the plane of the already actual (when cut off from the sub-representative plane) there is no escaping one universalizing generality.  It is no wonder that when Deleuze is read (as he so often is) from the plane of the already actual (leaving out his sub-representative difference) a universalizing one-ness is projected into Deleuze’s thought. 

For Zizek-Hegel, (OwB 50-51) every particular is an exception.  The universal is the structural tension between universal and particular.  The universal is the concrete particular.  That is a fair reading of Hegel.  But where does Deleuze say that?  Hegel’s “Real” is what Deleuze sees as merely the infinitely diverse variability of infinite representation.  However, it has no real singular difference in Deleuze’s sense of disparate intensity.  From Deleuze’s point of view, Hegel’s structure is still conceptual identity.  And, Lacan’s structure is still universal metaphor.  Neither Hegel nor Lacan reach the intensive pre-individual singularity of univocity.

Deleuze’s opposition to dialectics is not a dialectical opposition.  It is vice-diction.  Deleuze says (DR45-6) that Hegel begins with the essential as a genus.  The genus (the whole) is itself and the species (the parts).  The whole (one) possesses the parts (many) essentially.  Hegel’s infinite variability of formed matter is still one essential kind of individuation.  There can be no real inessential difference.  However, vice-diction is not restricted to that closed plane of essential possibilities.  Vice-diction opens the forms to the inessential difference of the sub-representative plane.  The many is no longer possessed by one equalizing essence.  Rather, vice-diction includes in each inessential-modal case what it excludes as a substantial essence.  Form is no longer restricted to one essential kind. Vice-diction (DR 278-9) reaches a prior intense field of individuation – a field of pre-individual singularity.  An intensive ‘dark precursor’ explodes like a thunderbolt between disparate intensities on the sub-representative plane.  The intensive heterogeneity (of disparately constituted singularities) may come up through the middle to be actualized (each time) in divergent and incommensurable, inessential-modal “uses” on the other plane.  With vice-diction, actualizations never close into a Universally Unifying One that keeps the species and parts, forms and matters, imprisoned in an essential form of infinite variability.  With vice-diction, the whole remains open to a field of pre-individual singularity – of real inessential difference.  

Zizek says that the later Deleuze suffered under the “bad influence” of Guattari.  He thinks this “guattarized” Deleuze came to change his mind about structuralism, and only then criticized structuralism as a universalizing castration that holds everything in Oedipal triangulation.  But Deleuze never was a structuralist.  Deleuze always saw, in classical structuralism, a universalizing essentialism that must be overcome.  He always rejected Saussure’s negative differences (DR204).  He always included (as structuralism does not) the sub-representative field of intensive singularity.  Deleuze writes (DR103-108) about Lacan’s symbolic phallus of castration.  “But what is the meaning of this idea that virtual objects refer, in the last instance, to an element which is itself symbolic?”  Deleuze’s answer shows that his univocity is not your Father’s Structuralism.  (DR106) “…so it [desire] appears neither as a power of negation nor as an element of an opposition, but rather as a questioning, problematising and searching force which operates in a different domain…”  And (DR108) “The unconscious …. involves neither limitation nor opposition; it concerns, rather, problems and question in their difference in kind from answers-solutions…” [Underlines added.]  The unconscious is not relations of elements in structures of negative opposition or limitation-lack.  Rather, it operates in a different domain (sub-representative domain).  It reaches forces of difference in kind (forces of intensity). 

Zizek (OwB 85-6) explains Lacan’s ‘castration’ as the bodily cut by which the universal symbolic order detaches itself from its corporeal roots.  It introduces us into the productive symbolic domain.  But where does Deleuze say that?  Deleuze does not see Lacan’s symbolic domain as productive at all.  It is “cut off” (DR207) from the virtual domain of real genesis.  Lacan cannot reach a productive genesis because he never reaches the intensive difference of Deleuze’s virtual-real plane.  As long as structuralism remains at the level of signified and signifier, we have merely that “symbolic castration” of the universal Signifier.  Signification, at the level of signified/signifier, is cut off from its virtual source --- signification is cut off from the univocity of Sense.  Structuralism, from Deleuze’s perspective, is a Universalizing Castration that confuses sense with signification.  In contrast, univocity is the logic of sense where there is no castrating lack.  It must not be confused with a castrating logic of signification.  (See Deleuze’s Logic of Sense.)  

In ‘Nietzsche & Philosophy’ Deleuze distinguishes his Nietzschean opposition to dialectics from Hegel’s dialectical opposition.  Hegel’s dialectic is the triumph of ‘reactive forces’.  The oppositional relation of reactive forces is not difference at all. It relates extensive elements, not intensive forces. It reduces quantity to one quality---the reactive quality. It has no heterogeneity.  These relational-oppositional “forces” (that are similar in Hegel and classical structuralism) are merely homogeneous.  They are the already formed matter (DR 275) of actual elements in the relation of an essential structure.  These reactive structural relations are not to be confused with the active forces of intensity that, since they are empty of empirical content, have no prior actuality of elements in an extensive structural relation.  The reactive extensive structural relations are ‘organs without bodies’ (OwB) that hold formed matter under the unifying protection of the categories of possible experience.  They are cut off from the active forces of intensity that are the ‘bodies without organs’ (BwO).  (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.”  OwB’s keep even an “atheist”, like Zizek, under the unifying one-ness of theism.                  

The ‘partial objects’ of structuralism are ‘organs without bodies’ (OwB).  They are actual elements that belong to a totality, original or produced (Anti-Oedipus 44).  And, (A Thousand Plateaus 171) “You can make any list of part-objects you want: hand, breast, mouth, eyes….It’s still Frankenstein.  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….”  With active-intensive partial objects (BwO) there is no longer any oppositional structure.  There is no longer any Oedipal structure of castrating lack.  (AO 73) “That is indeed what disturbs us, this recasting of history and this “lack” attributed to partial objects.”  Deleuze’s active-intensive forces are ‘partial objects’ (BwO) in a new sense and are not to be confused with the reactive-extensive ‘partial objects’ (OwB) of structuralism.

Zizek says (OwB 20), “Under the heading of the opposition between becoming and being, Deleuze thus seems to identify these two logics [productive becoming and representative being], although they are fundamentally incompatible….The proper site of production is not the virtual space as such, but, rather, the very passage from it to constituted reality, the collapse of the multitude and its oscillations into one reality – production is fundamentally a limitation of the open space of virutalities, the determination and negation of the virtual multitude…. [underlines added]”  But Deleuze does not agree that there is a “collapse” of the many and its “oscillations” into one (DR 264).  Deleuze does not agree that production is negationopposition or limitation-lack (DR 203 or 268-9). Deleuze constantly tells us that his univocity has nothing to do with universalizing unity. It has nothing to do with dualistic oppositions or limitation-lack. And this is because production cannot happen at the level of OwB (from one actual term to another). Production is actualization of the sub-representative virtual-real (the BwO in Deleuze's intensive sense).

Zizek says (OwB 77), “The relationship between form and content is here dialectical in the strict Hegelian sense: the form articulates what is repressed in the content…. [this is] the torsion by means of which the form itself is included…within content – and this, perhaps, is the minimal definition of an EVENT.”  This is ‘event’ in a Hegelian sense.  But it is not Deleuze’s Spinozism.  That Hegelian “event” is the already formed content (i.e. the homogeneously formed matter of already actual ‘substances’).  This never reaches the heterogeneous intensive, double articulation of content and expression that is open to unformed matter (Spinoza’s ‘Substance’).  Zizek’s Hegelian ‘event’ is not the singularity of Deleuze-Spinoza. 

From Zizek’s perspective, Deleuze’s thought looks like a dualism/monism opposition (OwB 71).  However, Deleuze’s monism is not a conceptual monism.  (It is the intensive difference of ontological singularity.)  Deleuze’s duality is not oppositional form-matter variability of homogeneous syntheses.  (It is nomadic distribution of intensive forces in heterogeneous parallel series – a sign-signal system.)  Deleuze’s univocity is disparate difference said in one sense, not many conceptual differences that synthesize a new unified one-ness.  Because Zizek is ensnared in the negation of OWB (opposition and limitation-lack), he cannot reach the productive forces of univocal affirmation.  Zizek sees only a moral (theological) Image of one-ness, sameness, and identity.  Zizek is still pious.  

Zizek opens the introduction to his book by noting Deleuze’s well known aversion toward debate.  Then, unintentionally, the rest of his book is just an illustration of why Deleuze had such an aversion.  Zizek’s explanations of Hegel and Lacan are used to demonstrate how Deleuze gets things wrong – how Deleuze apparently gets even his own philosophy wrong.  From Zizek’s Representational perspective, he assumes that debaters see many different perspectives of one reality.  He thinks that Hegel-Lacan and Deleuze are merely opposing perspectives on one reality – and that Deleuze’s understanding of that reality is lacking.  But when one reaches Deleuze’s univocity, the futility of debate is revealed.  Debaters see really different realities that are not totalizable into a unified conceptual image.  They merely say them in the same ontological sense.  This means debaters merely say they are referring to the same thing when they use the same terms.  For example, Zizek misreads Deleuze as apolitical, because Zizek can only use the term ‘politics’ to refer to an Image of Castrating Lack – just what Deleuze sees as STATE politics.  Zizek never reaches Deleuze’s sense of the micro-politics of univocity.  Zizek leaves out Deleuze-Spinoza’s real difference of ethics.  He never escapes the theistic moral Image of Representational Thought.  Deleuze and Zizek are not debating about the same thing!     

When Deleuze is read from a classical perspective, his ‘difference’ is left out.  Then, he seems uninteresting, unremarkable, and unimportant.  When creative philosophers, like Deleuze and Foucault, come on the scene the experts hurry in to clarify, classify, criticize, and domesticate.  Everything must be made to conform to common sense and good sense.  All real difference must be cancelled.  There must be no violent encounter.  There must be no threat to egos.  There must be no unhinging of sacred faculties.  World, Self, and God (now called ‘Real’, ‘Imaginary’, and ‘Symbolic’) must be unified in a Transcendent structure -- a piety of signification.  Soon all is safe for Representation again.

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