A central claim of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition is that we only ever create something new through repetition. Here, then, we might encounter a fundamental difference between Badiou and Deleuze (or is it a proximity between the two?). For Badiou the new is created as a result of a truth-procedure that is evoked through fidelity to an event. We don’t, in fact, have to await events as people sometimes suggest of Badiou; for there are plenty of events that have already occurred throughout history. It is not the event that produces newness in Badiou’s universe, but rather fidelity to that event and the transformation of a situation or world in terms of what is uncounted by the encyclopedia of that situation. One can continue to pay fidelity to the Paris Commune or May of 68 (if the latter was an event) today, unfolding its consequences in the present.
In the case of Deleuze, by contrast, it is a repetition of the past that produces the new. In an inspired passion, Deleuze writes that,
Historians sometimes look for empirical correspondences between the present and the past, but however rich it may be, this network of historical correspondences involves repetition only by analogy or similitude. In truth, the past is in itself repetition, as is the present, but they are repetition in two different modes which repeat each other. Repetition is never a historical fact, but rather the historical condition under which something new is effectively produced. It is not the historian’s reflection which demonstrates a resemblance between Luther and Paul, between the Revolution of 1789 and the Roman Republic, etc. Rather, it is in the first place for themselves that the revolutionaries are determined to lead their lives as ‘resuscitated Romans’, before becoming capable of the act which they have begun by repeating in the mode of a proper past, therefore under conditions such that they necessarily identify with a figure from the historical past. Repetition is a condition of action before it is is a concept of reflection. We produce something new only on the condition that we repeat– once in the mode which constitutes the past, and once more in the present of metamorphosis. (DR, 90)
In seeking to live as resuscitated Romans, the revolutionaries do not simply repeat what the Romans did, nor do they imitate the Romans. Rather, they encounter a specifically Roman problem or, perhaps, a Roman dream, that they must revitalize in the present. The world is a different place in the present– populated by different peoples, technologies, modes of production, religions, and geographies –generating a new set of questions and problems in response to “repeating Rome”. Rome becomes something new in this repetition.