Literature is an assemblage. It has nothing to do with ideology. There is no ideology. There never has been.
Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus
Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading over a chapter in one of Spivak’s books called A Critique of Postcolonial Reason. It’s the third chapter, its called “History” and it raises an interesting objection against Foucault and Deleuze (may they rest in peace).
I’m no expert in postcolonial studies, neither a philosopher nor a historian anymore than Spivak is. But I’ve cast a glance over the works of Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, and find Spivak’s critique to be both a credible and mistaken representation of their literature.
First of all, she draws a very specific text out of their works, a single interview called “Intellectuals and Power.” You’ll find it in a collection of Foucault’s works, essays and interviews, Langauge, Counter-Memory, Practice. This particular piece is a conversation between Deleuze and Foucault around 1977. This is a minor text in the library of their works and here, Spivak is playing a Derridian card (see the “Ends of Man” in Margins of Philosophy on the use of footnotes, margins, in deconstruction). She justifies the privileging of this text, “this friendly exchange between two activist philosophers of history because it undoes the opposition between authoritative theoretical production and the unguarded practice of conversation, enabling one to glimpse the track of ideology.” (Spivak ibid. 249).
Lacan once said he always wrote in a more rigorous manner than when he spoke, demanding more of the reading audience for economic reasons, the reader being able to go back over the text at his or her leisure. Let’s leave alone what seems to be a naïve contention that in the course of their conversation – “unguarded” – Spivak can catch out the interests of their ruling class. For to cover her own tracks, Spivak writes in a footnote referencing the source of the essay:
It is important to note that the greatest “influence” of Western European intellectuals upon U.S. professors and students happens through collections of essays rather than long books in translation. And, in those collections, it is understandably the more topical pieces that gain currency. Spivak ibid. 248
At issue here is the ideology – or the lack thereof in the conversation between Foucault and Deleuze – and this is where Spivak makes a resounding critique. The fast-food approach to Western European intellectuals through collections of essays rather than long books in translation does indeed, herald the end of ideology as a collective system of values and beliefs, constituting the new sovereign Subject, the hegemonic radical of neo-liberalism in an unchallenged reign over the (post-)colonisation of the Third World – pop philosophy for the Imaga Nations of Consumers: US professors and US students.
On writing/speaking for Deleuze, the “blackcoat” : “Representation no longer exists. There is only action – theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and forms networks.” (Deleuze ibid. 206-7) That dangerous supplement…
There is no ideology. There never has been.