I’m too tired to say much of anything today (first day of class and stress or anxiety that’s apparently impeding my sleep), but I came across this quotation from Althusser in Jameson’s Political Unconscious which frames questions of immanence in a particular clear way:
The epistemological problem posed by Marx’s radical modification of Political Economy can be expressed as follows: by means of what concept is it possible to think the new type of determination which has just been identified as the determination of the phenomena of a given region by the structure of that region?… In other words, how is it possible to define the concept of structural causality?…
Very schematically, we can say that classical philosophy… had two and only two systems of concepts with which to think effectivity. The mechanistic system, Cartesian in origin, which reduced causality to a transitive and analytical effectivity, could not be made to think the effectivity of a whole on its elements, except at the cost of extraordinary distortions (such as those in Descartes’ ‘psychology’ and biology). But a second system was available, one conceived precisely in order to deal with the effectivity of a whole on its elements: the Leibnitzian concept of expression. This is the model that dominates Hegel’s thought. But it presupposes in principle that the whole in question be reducible to an inner essence, of which the elements of the whole are then no more than the phenomenal forms of expression, the inner principle of the essence being present at each point in the whole, such that at each moment it is possible to write the immediately adequate equation: such and such an element (economic, political, legal, literary, religious, etc., in Hegel) = the inner essence of the whole. Here was a model which made it possible to think the effectivity of the whole on each of its elements, but if this category– inner essence/outer phenomenon –was to be applicable everywhere and at every moment to each of the phenomena arising in the totality in question, it presupposed that the whole had a certain nature, precisely the nature of a ‘spiritual’ whole in which each element was expressive of the entire totality as a ‘pars totalis’. In other words, Leibnitz and Hegel did have a category for the effectivity of the whole on its elements or parts, but on the absolute condition that the whole was not a structure…
[The third concept of effectivity, that of structural causality,] can be entirely summed up in the concept of ‘Darstellung’, the key epistemological concept of the whole Marxist theory of value, the concept whose object is precisely to designate the mode of presence of the structure in its effects, and therefore to designate structural causality itself…. The structure is not an essence outside the economic phenomena which comes and alters their aspect, forms and relations and which is effective on them as an absent cause, absent because it is outside them. The absence of the cause in the structure’s ‘metonymic causality’ on its effects is not the fault of the exteriority of the structure with respect to the economic phenomena; on the contrary, it is the very form of the interiority of the structure, as a structure, in its effects. This implies therefore that the effects are not outside the structure, are not a pre-existing object, element or space in which the structure arrives to imprint its mark: on the contrary, it implies that the structure is immanent in its effects, a cause immanent in its effects in the Spinozist sense of the term, that the whole existence of the structure consists of its effects, in short, that the structure, which is merely a specific combination of its particular elements, is nothing outside its effects. (Jameson 23-25, Althusser, Reading Capital, 186-189)
When I set out to write Difference and Givenness I had three primary questions before me: 1) What is specific to the thought of Gilles Deleuze (as opposed to the thought of Deleuze and Guattari)? 2) What is transcendental empiricism (in contrast to empiricism, transcendental idealism, and absolute idealism)? and 3) In what way is Deleuze’s thought a critical philosophy (rather than a dogmatic metaphysics)? The first question might appear strange; however, in my experience the secondary literature tends to treat the thought of Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari as identical and interchangeable. Yet whenever Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari speak of multiplicities, they are quick to emphasize that the addition of dimensions leads the multiplicity to change in nature. Consequently, when Deleuze and Guattari encounter one another it is necessary that this new multiplicity differ in kind from their independent thought. Yet this change in kind or nature can only be determined by becoming clear as to what Deleuze is up to in his own independent work. This is not, of course, to suggest that Deleuze is somehow opposed to Deleuze and Guattari or the reverse. To suggest such a thing would be to misunderstand the logic of intensive multiplicities. Such an approach would provide a way of properly determining what is new and vital in Deleuze and Guattari’s thought, and of measuring the field of problems that motivated this prodigious body of conceptual creating (concepts never emerging ex nihilo out of the mind of a “genius creator-artist”, but always emerging as a function of a field of extra-personal problems belonging to the field of being and the social).
In the course of my work, one of the conclusions I came to was that the early Deleuze of Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense was, in part, an attempt to develop the ontology proper to structuralism. This, of course, will sound like a strange claim for we are accustomed to thinking of Deleuze as a post-structuralist philosopher hostile to structuralism. Indeed, when Deleuze encounters Guattari, they will develop a significant critique of structuralist thought– as is immediately evident in their concepts of deterritorialization and reterritorialization and “becoming-animal” where a “theft of a fragment of a code takes place”, i.e., operations that can’t be contained or governed by a “structural totality” –yet in his earlier work Deleuze was very sympathetic to structuralist thought. This is evident in his essay “How Do We Recognize Structuralism?” (cf. Desert Islands, pgs 170 – 192), written between Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense. There Deleuze discusses the theses common to structuralist giants such as Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Barthes, Foucault, and Althusser, and provides an account of structural genesis nearly identical to his account of actualization or individuation in chapters four and five of Difference and Repetition. To be sure, Deleuze’s structuralism is a dynamic or a genetic structuralism, but it is nonetheless an attempt to provide that ontology proper to structuralist thought. It might be assumed that Deleuze is here simply applying the principles of individuation he had developed in Difference and Repetition to the structuralists so as to “get these thinkers from behind and create a monsterous offspring”. However, this ignores the fact that Deleuze refers to Ideas or multiplicities as structures in Difference and Repetition, and refers to Saussure, Althusser, and Todorov as prime examples of virtual multiplicities (DR, 186, 203 – 206. Deleuze also makes constant positive references to Lacan throughout Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense). Structuralism and structuralist thinkers enjoy a similarly central role in The Logic of Sense as well.
The point here is not to defend Deleuze’s early structuralism. Deleuze and Guattari develop powerful critiques of structuralist thought in their work together; however, these critiques cannot simply be treated as “abstract negations” that simply reject structuralism tout court. A good deal is preserved in new form. Rather, the point is to think a form of relation causality, immanent causality, where causes are not outside their effects and effects are not outside their causes: a properly systemic or structural causality that would be neither mechanical causality, nor an expressivism where every actualization or individuation is simply a reflection or expression of an unchanging internal essence.