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Fr. 386

September 7, 2013

Although Fredric Jameson’s Late Marxism is careful to distance his study of Adorno from other comparative studies, linking the former with such figures as Foucault, Derrida, Heidegger, Deleuze, amongst others, there remain several irrefutable ways in which Adorno and Deleuze can be said to close.

One area of closeness centers around the notion of the concept, particularly as the concept is linked to identity and the faculty of recognition in individuals (a function that Deleuze explicitly assigns to the concept in his early work before giving the term new meaning in the later). In short, the concept is an abstract notion that permits the individual to group any number of concrete instances under a single label, thus imposing a identity or uniformity to any number of discrete phenomena and subordinating the particular to the universal. More importantly, both maintain that, in order for philosophy to become what it needs to be, this function of the concept must be left behind. Additionally, both posit the need to turn the concept back on itself, as it were.

Yet there remains an element of difference between the two thinkers. Particularly, Adorno thinks that the concept must be retained and repurposed such that it gestures towards its own outside, that unrepresentable that it fails to contain within itself as content but the traces of which it carries with it always. Rather than clearing the way for a new type of concept, it is necessary simultaneously to think with and against the concept through the means of totality, that unrepresentable referred to above. In the concept, there must be a conscious reintroduction, in the greatest measure possible, of that framing totality from which it issues. The goal here is not to free one from the dominating influence of identity but merely to dispel the illusion surrounding that influence and to alert us to its presence. There is a mark of the “outside of thought” left on the concept: “the function of the impure, extrinsic reference is less to interpret, then, than to rebuke interpretation as such and to include within the thought the reminder that it is itself inevitably the result of a system that escapes it and  which it perpetuates: even there where it seeks radically to grasp and confront the element in which it bathes and which infiltrates and determines its subjective processes fully as much as the objects for which it seeks to account” (pp. 30-31). The new concept is not so much a solution as a tension in the concept itself, introduced by the reference to totality and the possibility of non-identity.

While Deleuze is himself concerned with this outside of thought and that which remains outside the concept as such, in works such as Différence et répétition, he speaks rather of injecting movement into the concept and of reintroducing a certain transformability therein. That said, the two positions near one another again in his later work as Deleuze is sure to note that the outside of thought, the Idée never wholly passes into the determinate thought and language of a given discipline or field and that, through the latent traces of the Idée in the “concept” of his late work, it is always possible to go back up the chain, as it were, from concept to Idée. Thus, without overly distorting the positions in question, it is possible to see that Deleuze himself is concerned with this notion of impure references and the inscription of non-identity in the concept. Wherefore a nearness of Adorno and Deleuze that Jameson is perhaps too quick to count out.

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