John Proveti | Resonance With Deleuze

By John Protevi

In last night’s seminar Adam Tooze referred to Deleuze’s reading of Foucault. In this note I’d like to propose that we can see elements of Deleuze’s thought in Foucault’s lectures in the mid-to-late 1970s. I don’t want to claim anything more than “resonance” here; that is, I’m not going to claim “influence” or “dependence,” though I might be willing to accept a claim of a shared intellectual milieu between Deleuze and Foucault, a mutual suspicion of universals and identities, and a mutual desire to analyze the differential field from which those identities emerge. Further, we have seen in the 13/13 seminar so far a number of references to Deleuze or Deleuze and Guattari in Foucault’s lecture courses, and of course we should note that Foucault reviewed Deleuze’s late-1960s works Difference and Repetition and Logic of Sense as well as providing the Preface to the English translation of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus.

Deleuze’s ontology in Difference and Repetition posits individuation as the integration of a multiplicity. A multiplicity is a distributed and differential system, that is, a system in which multiple processes interact such that qualitative changes in the behavior of the system occur at singular points in the relation of the rates of change of those processes. For a meteorological example, consider how, at a singular point, the relation of the rates of change of temperature, air pressure, air circulation, water vapor concentration, condensation, evaporation and so on will be such that a hurricane forms, an emergent individual worthy of a proper name.

We will track Foucault’s use of the concept of integrating a differential field or “multiplicity” to produce an emergent individual.

In History of Sexuality, volume 1, Foucault sees “power” as a multiplicity: “It seems to me that power must be understood in the first instance as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization” (HS1, 121-22F / 92E).

War is seen as a practical option for “coding” the multiplicity of force relations, that is, an optional and precarious “strategy” for integrating them:

Should we turn the expression around, then, and say that politics is war pursued by other means? If we still wish to maintain a separation between war and politics, perhaps we should postulate that this multiplicity of force relations can be coded—in part but never totally—either in the form of ‘war,’ or in the form of ‘politics’; this would imply two different strategies (but the one always liable to switch into the other) for integrating these unbalanced, heterogeneous, unstable, and tense force relations (HS1, 123F / 93E; emphasis added)

So, looking at the social field in terms of power lets us see war as a possible strategy for integrating a multiplicity of force relations, as an active strategy of political practice, a way of effecting a regime of power.

In Security Territory Population and Birth of Biopolitics, however, the war model is left behind and the grid of intelligibility is governmentality. Nonetheless, Foucault continues with a differential method, looking at individuation as the integration of a multiplicity producing emergent effects.

In naming his differential historical methodology, Foucault insists upon the difference between a genealogy and a “genetic” analysis that proceeds by identifying a unitary source that splits into two. To establish intelligibility, he asks, “could we not … start not from unity, and not even from … duality, but from the multiplicity of extraordinarily diverse processes” (STP, 244F / 238E; emphasis added). Foucault continues that establishing the intelligibility of these processes would entail “showing [montrant] phenomena of coagulation, support, reciprocal reinforcement, cohesion and integration” (STP, 244F / 238-239E; emphasis added).

These phenomena form a set of interacting processes; in the Deleuzean manner, the integration of such a multiplicity produces an emergent effect: “in short it would involve showing the bundle [faisceau] of processes and the network [réseau] of relations that ultimately induced as a cumulative, overall effect, the great duality” (STP, 244F / 239E). Foucault’s emergentism is clear as he concludes this very important passage:

At bottom, maybe intelligibility in history does not lie in assigning a cause that is always more or less a metaphor for the source. Intelligibility in history would perhaps lie in something that we could call the constitution or composition of effects. How are overall, cumulative effects composed? How is nature constituted as an overall effect? How is the state effect constituted on the basis of a thousand diverse processes …? [Comment se composent des effets globaux, comment se composent des effets de masse? Comment s’est constitué l’effet Etat à partir de mille processus divers …? ]” (STP, 244F / 239E).

Foucault’s contribution is to provide governmentality as the grid of intelligibility that reveals this emergence of the state effect as the integration of a multiplicity of processes.

In STP, Foucault provides us with a genealogy of the modern state on the basis of the history of governmental reason. In the 19th century we see the breakup of the administrative state’s police apparatus into different institutions: economic practice; population management; law and respect for freedom; and the police (in the contemporary sense of a state apparatus that intervenes to stop disorder). These are added to the diplomatic-military apparatus (STP 362F / 354E).

But it’s crucial to see that the administrative state’s police apparatus that is here broken up was itself differential; it was not a unitary source. It arose with raison d’Etat, which is itself “something completely different [which] emerges in the seventeenth century” (STP 346F / 338E). The administrative state emerges from a “cluster [faisceau] of intelligible and analyzable relations that allow a number of fundamental elements to be linked together [lier] like the faces of a single polyhedron” (STP 346F / 338E).

Again we see the notion of the linking together of differential elements and relations.[1] Foucault here lists four elements: the art of government thought as raison d’Etat; competition of states while maintaining European equilibrium; police; and the emergence of the market town and its problems of cohabitation and circulation (themselves being, quite obviously, a differential field of multiple processes and practices).

So police is part of a larger dispositif, and is itself concerned with a multiplicity of all the factors going into providing for the being and well-being of men, that well-being which, in a fascinating phrase, Foucault qualifies as a “well-being beyond being [ce bien-être au-delà de l’être]” (STP 335F / 328E).[2] More precisely, police integrates relations between the increase of those forces and the good order of the state (321F / 313E). Police does not deal with things but with “forces” that arise from adjusting the relations among the rates of increase of multiple processes.


[1] The editor of Naissance notes the appearance of similar language defining a genealogy in terms of “singularity” and “multiple determining elements” in a roughly contemporaneous essay by Foucault (NB 50n8F / 49n8E).

[2] Is the mere “being” of men here just physical survival that forces men back onto themselves in desperate selfishness, while “well-being” allows for productive relations among men? So that free sociality is dependent on a guarantee of the necessities of life? In another context, we might attempt to draw out the classic questions of the relations of oikos and polis, of necessity and freedom, from this small phrase of Foucault’s.