January 13, 2010

Thought tarry with real social and political problems

from An und für sich by Anthony Paul Smith
While during my MA my interest in Nietzsche waned, it was because I became dissatisfied with his answers, but not the questions he brought to light.

This was also the time I first read Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. This book has become, in some circles, a bit domesticated either through sober academic reflection upon it or through an easy political dismissal of it as another instance of intellectual leftism (as opposed to the somehow more serious clinging to Marxist party politics and philosophy). Yet, I found the book helped me to understand my situation, helped me to understand how thought could be creative and, regardless of eventual failure, resist being captured and overcoded by the axioms of capitalism. I also found parts of it fascinating precisely because I didn’t understand them and so I spent a lot of the trip, and subsequent years, trying to get to grips with what exactly they meant by the Body without Organs and desiring-machines, with codes and overcoding, with a view of history where desire is the driving engine and how the creations themselves become captured and turned into repressive machines. I was also fascinated by their discussion of nature, the way they brought together the artificial with what is commonly thought of to be “the natural”, and this became the basis for a lot of the work I’ve done with restoration ecology.
Finally, and perhaps predictably, there was Philip Goodchild’s Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety. I have a very clear memory of buying the book at the Chicago Seminary Co-op in Hyde Park on a crisp late winter day and even now I can remember the smell it had. I had been on the look out for it after having googled “Deleuze and religion”, which in 2003 brought you first to Philip Goodchild’s faculty page. The book somehow straddles the line between academic study and something more important, more personal, to the practice of thought itself as it brings together a far ranging reading of critical theory/Continental philosophy of religion and social/political problems in capitalism under the condition of a collision between ecology and economy. Reading Goodchild’s book I felt like all my interests had been brought together and dealt with better than I ever could: the history of philosophy is creatively deployed to deal with problems, thought is put under the condition that it tarry with real social and political problems, a theory of religion is put forth that doesn’t reject or accept religion as such but subjects it to an evaluation of its potencies. I have tried to mimic the posture of the book in my work and extend the style of thought to questions that are raised but not completely dealt with in the book. One of those problems, in my view, was the incomplete notion of nature. So, in my MA thesis I engaged with Bergson and Deleuze/Guattari in an attempt to untangle problems inherent to restoration ecology, bringing together a strong historical study of the three thinkers with the goal of thinking through a real problem.

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