Assembling Resistance: From Foucault's Dispositif to Deleuze and Guattari's Diagram of Escape

Deleuze and Guattari Studies 14 (3):375-401 (2020)
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Abstract

While Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus is quite rightly considered a fully fledged response to May ’68 and as one with the radical politics of the 1970s, their 1980 follow-up, A Thousand Plateaus, has tended to provoke a more perplexed reaction. In this article, I will argue that we can nonetheless extract a definite line of argumentation serving a precise political end if we relate the text back to Foucault's mid-1970s output on power/knowledge. In particular, I will emphasise Deleuze and Guattari's appropriation of the Foucaultian notion of dispositif via their concept of the assemblage, the former being understood as a concrete articulation of lines of power, knowledge and subjectivation, as well as the Foucaultian ‘diagram’, the latter being a more abstract or indeterminate stage of the dispositif whose relative indeterminacy, for Deleuze and Guattari, offers a means of escape. I will show that, making room for the assemblage's opening back onto the relative indeterminacy of its generative stages, the assemblage incorporates into itself a more immanent alternative to the dispositif that is focused on collective desire rather than power, within which resistance becomes a primary and generative dimension rather than a counter-attack. In the first section, I will outline Foucault's approach to power, knowledge and subjectivation, emphasising Deleuze's reading of Foucault though without trying to overdetermine my reading in this way. Next, I will turn to the Foucaultian diagram. In the third section, I will focus on A Thousand Plateaus, demonstrating how the notion of assemblage developed in this text responds to and builds upon Foucault's approach to power/knowledge and subjectivation in order to reconceive resistance.

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References found in this work

The Subject and Power.Michel Foucault - 1982 - Critical Inquiry 8 (4):777-795.
Nietzsche and philosophy.Gilles Deleuze & Hugh Tomlinson - 1991 - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 1:53-55.
Foucault and the Paradox of Bodily Inscriptions.Judith Butler - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (11):601-607.

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