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Fr. 402

September 28, 2013

Despite the preceding considerations, this “micro-work” is not to be separated or distinguished so easily from the concept on which it works. The precise fall-out of this statement, as well as the parallels with Deleuze, requires further clarification.

Of Adorno’s conceptual micro-work, Jameson is quick to underscore its processual character, i.e. the way in which the language develops simultaneously with the content of the concept. Darstellung is not here to be understood as something that the philosopher develops later as the most fitting vessel for conveying the argumentative content that he or she will have worked out beforehand. While this is certainly the (at least ostensible) case of earlier philosophies, such cannot be maintained of Adorno’s philosophy. Jameson elaborates to this end that:

“A certain earlier or classical philosophy might also be described in much the same way, as the ostensible separation of an ‘initial thematic material’ – the philosophical idea or problem – and its ulterior development – philosophical argumentation and judgement. This separation means that the concept in question precedes the philosophical text, which then ‘thinks’ about it, criticizes and modifies it, solves or refutes the problem […] something climactic and decisive finally happens – the climax in the philosophical arguments is reached – after which a coda shuts down the process by drawing the conclusions” (pp. 61-2).

This manner of interpreting Darstellung is precisely both to be avoided in Adorno’s own work and in the works of the history of philosophy, for, according to the former, there can be no such cut and clean distinction between content and vessel, the vessel lending form as it does to that content. The concept is only ever elaborated as is its presentation in philosophical language. Hence the importance of Adorno’s own syntax for the “micro-work” that his philosophy purports to carry out.

Yet Jameson still feels the need make this point all the more explicit in adding: “the concept or problem will not be independent of the Darstellung but already at one with it; there will be no conceptual events, no ‘arguments’ of the traditional kind that lead to truth climaxes; the text will become one infinite variation in which everything is recapitulated at every moment; closure, finally, will be achieved only when all the possible variations have been exhausted” (p. 62).

Although the importance of this final statement is still to be teased out (can one truly exhaust all the possible variations within a text?; is there ever a new form that the text might take on?), it does bring this short account full circle to that point from which it set out, i.e. positing a parallel between Adorno and Deleuze. Preliminary exposition now completed, in what can this parallel between Darstellung and style be said to consist more precisely?

It has previously been stated that those same candidates for different Darstellung in the history of philosophy also reappear in Deleuze’s list of candidates for different philosophical stylesYet the full import of this similarity can be brought home in noting that, like Adorno, Deleuze thinks that new ways of thinking are to be secured through new linguistic forms, particularly at the level of syntactic innovation. Deleuze often compares this innovation to speaking a foreign language or, more precisely, opening up room for a foreign language in one’s own language. As opposed to Adorno’s dialectical sentence, Deleuze’s syntactic innovation is to be found in the reprisal and transformation of key terms both within individual works and from one work to another (e.g. the transition from Idée to concept and the myriad other forms that this notion takes on). In sum, for Deleuze and Adorno alike, the performative character of philosophical language is key to its opening up new possibilities for philosophical thought and expression.

In addition to this performative quality, both emphasize the processual character of thought and concept-forming. Just as for Adorno, concepts must evolve in time with style in response to the problems that the experiencing subject encounters and only progressively develops. For Deleuze, the problem and the various lines of questioning that it further entails are not given beforehand and can only be developed by the thinking subject with some difficulty. Indeed, the “content” of such a problem can never be known before its resolution; at best, the problem and its content are only ever “felt” by the subject. This problematological model is key for Deleuze to overturning classical philosophical presuppositions and the “postulats de la représentation”, which concern in equal parts the processes of thought and the phases of argumentation as they are typically delineated in the philosophical tradition.

Again, one sees here a key area on which Adorno and Deleuze are close, contrary to Jameson’s attempts to distance Adorno from the so-called postmodern. Although Jameson ordinarily does right by this, on this reading, there can be found a certain kinship between the two thinkers. Still, their differences are not to be downplayed.  If, for Adorno, the dialectic sentence traces the constellation of the Idea, i.e. the interrelation of concepts, which achieves some form of closure as its possible variations are exhausted, for Deleuze, the equivalent formation, i.e. the concept, is subject to endless permutation and shifting and, as such, will forever be subject to repetition and further elaboration. The Deleuzian concept can never be exhausted and remains forever an open-ended system.

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