Deleuze and Marx

Nihita Guda
4 min readApr 10, 2022

Deleuze, as a postmodernist, is generally grouped by default into that group of poststructuralists who emerged in the mid to end of the 20th century; however, there is a type convergence with structuralism in a way not directly acknowledged in much work, I think which be examined via Marx. Furthermore, it is entirely natural for a Deleuzian to call oneself a Marxist. Unlike neo-Gramscian, Post-Marxian variants edging away from production, Deleuze, saturated with Marx, follows Marx into a production concerning life — the productive plane of all processes, flows, culture, desire and so on and so on. An intensification of Marx. However, I believe in order to cognize this idea fully, to use Althusser, “one must explore Marxist positions within philosophy, but not of Marxist philosophy.”

One does not belong to communism. Communism does not designate itself by its names. That is why “classless, stateless, moneyless” coming in first, as the all dependable knee jerk definition, is so unfortunate. Marx’s communism is a historical and material movement immanent to life, configured in socio-economic relations. The proletariat is not a static identity clamoring for presence but a factor that signals a mode of engagement with economic relations which cultivates, most times violently, its dissolution through said engagement. The communist movement, then, is not a phenomenon that conjures continuity through a formal party or a sovereign tradition and is not something of which a particular group or historical current has ownership.

Deleuze tends not to specify his politics as communist, yet he sees himself as ‘on the left. Given that ‘left’ is a rather weak title for Deleuze to attach to his politics, he does the service of radically describing the meaning. He describes being on the left as a perception of the ‘horizon,’ of thinking and acting within worldwide assemblages, and presenting life in terms of minoritarian becomings. ‘Assemblage’ illustrates a process of relations of proximity in which lies a multiplicity of connection and flux across forces in relation, defining that assemblage and its functioning (forms of content and expression), in addition to mutations, a play of territorialization and deterritorialization. A ‘thing’ has as many senses as there are forces capable of taking possession of it. However, the ‘thing’ itself is not neutral and will have more or less affinity with the force in current possession (not that it is reducible to that affinity).

For Deleuze, every ‘thing’ has two aspects, the ‘actual’ and the Virtual,’ where the former is a ‘selection’ of the manifold potential of the latter. The virtual, which possesses its own reality, must be shown to be already unstipulated and vastly open beyond a fixation insofar as it divides itself into itself and permanently changes qualitatively in this non-simultaneity. While the possible, which is always already determined by the real, realizes itself as the probable, the Virtual’s process character indicates an actualization that is always already different from it. Thereby, the virtual dominates the actual, but without encompassing it, precisely because the Virtual has to realize itself in and with the actualization. Immanently determined, actual and virtual without coinciding with each other, actualizations remain potentially unpredictable. The Virtual has a reality all its own, conveying any process of actualization according to a time and space, that is, in the sense that the Virtual can play out its potential for determination only once, whereby, in turn, the actual precisely does not degenerate into an image of a universal possible. The virtual/actual interconnections coexist by oscillating; in other words, a game of differences unwinds here.

Moreover, this wherein lies the break with what might be called traditional structuralism. Deleuze has embraced Althusser’s critique of the homogeneous continuity’ and ‘contemporaneity at work in the Hegelian account of historical time. He agrees that the differential histories’ comprising a given social formation manifest their distinctive rhythms and only exist in a complex state of interdependence. However, Deleuze has enriched Althusser’s analysis by further demarcating the ‘virtual coexistence’ or ‘differentiation’ of these histories from their’ actualization’ as particular material effects — that is, their ‘differentiation which gets into a full other metaphysical understanding as it does often go deeply with Deleuze.

Deleuze does give a specific priority to ‘the economic.’ The economic is the plane of configuration that always operates through a quantitative organization. There are only social, economic problems in all rigor, even though the solutions may be juridical, political or ideological, and the problems expressed in these fields of resolvability.’ T​​hat is why Deleuze at times poses his politics in terms of ‘class struggle’ or the ‘great politics’ as he does in The Logic of Sense: “It suffices that we dissipate ourselves a little, that we are able to be at the surface, that we stretch our skin like a drum, in order that the ‘great politics’ begin responsible for those shades of structuralism is Deleuze’s work. May ’68 was this discovery itself. The people who disavow ’68, or say that it was a mistake, see it as something reductively symbolic or imaginary (I think you know whom I am getting at). However, that is precisely what it was not; it was pure reality breaking through’. It is crucial to understand that there is no primary element to Deleuze and Guattari’s monism other than an infinite process, a radically complex evolving succession: ‘What we are talking about is not the unity of substance but the infinity of the modifications that are part of one another on this unique plane of life.’