Gilles Deleuze (1925 – 1995), pronounced “duh-LUZE”, wrote his first books on Hume and Nietzsche, and then several with Felix Guattari, pronounced “ga-ta-REE”, including Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980). Between these periods of early work and later collaborations, Deleuze wrote his central work, Difference and Repetition (1968) a year before he was recommended for a professorship by Foucault. In the book, Deleuze argues that identity has always been considered in contrast to difference, much like Hegel’s opposition of self and other. Recall that Lacan, who attended Kojeve’s lectures on Hegel, said that we cling to a stable self image and develop paranoid narcissistic obsessions. Deleuze argues that there is no identity apart from or prior to difference, a point he shares very much with his friend Derrida. The self is only itself in terms of its difference from the other, as it is never entirely self-consistent. Just as there are no absolute gaps between things, there are no pure identities, each identity itself a gathering of differentiation. Identity and difference are absolute ideals that are only relatively present.
Deleuze argues that all claims to objectivity requires repetition, which gives the appearance of coherent concepts and practice. Consider the example of tribal narratives chanted in song, religious rituals and Positivists continuously using the terms ‘reason’ and ‘science’. The Dada manifesto writer Tristan Tzara wrote, “If I cry out: Ideal, ideal, ideal, Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge, Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom, I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality, and all other fine qualities that various highly intelligent men have discussed in so many books, only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boomboom, and that the writer is entitled to his boomboom”.
Following Nietzsche, also a favorite of Tzara, Deleuze says that all great thinking is a dangerous rupture of repetition and consistent coherent categories, a painful birth of the formerly impossible into the world of possibility. Philosophy is not the discovery of universal truth that Plato, Descartes and Kant sought, but the creation of new concepts. This is much like late Wittgenstein, who said that description must take the place of explanation. Reason is not entirely consistent with itself, universal or objective, and it need not be to create useful ideas. Philosophy, science and art are different cultures of the creation of concepts and meaning. Deleuze discusses the speed of light and absolute zero, useful in science but also conceived as practically unattainable ideals.
Deleuze’s works with Guattari attempt to free French thought from its obsessions with Marx and Freud, two of the loves of Levi-Strauss and Structuralism. Marx and Freud are useful, Deleuze argues, but as lenses and useful conceptions, not as an orthodox underlying system. As a Post-Marxist, Deleuze argues that capitalism is useful in that it destroyed many old hierarchies, but now everything is dominated by the market, society becoming a vast, desire manufacturing machine. Alternatives must be offered, but a final revolution is in fact undesirable.