Spinoza, Deleuze, Guattari, Negri, Marx... Pt.1
Source Ken Hanly
Date 01/06/15/20:29

This is long, a bit garbled in places, but gives some idea of the
relationship of Spinoza to Marx and others..I eliminated some
introductory stuff on Spinoza.

Cheers, Ken Hanly

Draft by Jan Sjunnesson, Dept of philosophy, Uppsala Univ, Sweden,
May 1998

"If two men unite and join forces, the together they have more
power, and consequently more right against other things in nature,
than either alone; and the more there be that unite in this way,
the more right will they collectively posses", Baruch Spinoza
"There is only desire and the social. Nothing else ", Gilles
Deleuze and Felix Guattari Introduction In these preliminary notes,
I want to incite a discussion on the 17th century philosopher,
Baruch Spinoza, along with the contemporary French authors Gilles
Deleuze's and Felix Guattari's joint works, that brings forth a
reflection on ontology as political, constituted by powers and
desires rather than a reductionist apolitical naturalism. In some
sense, every philosophy of being (i.e. ontology, or the wider
concpet metaphysics), has to make a place for man and his well-
being in the whole of reality. That place is a political question
which I do not fully answer here, neither give full account to
Spinoza or Deleuze/Guattari, but only hope to open up for further
theoretical reflections. Being as the assemblage of "composable"
relationships (of powers, of desires, of essences,
multiplicities...) is the leitmotif in this paper. The essential
element for ontological constitution is Spinoza's focus on the
productivity of being. For the Spinoza - scholar and historian of
philosophy Gilles Deleuze this means ability to express being .
Expression - the movement from power (essence) to act (existence)
is the concept Spinoza used to develop an immanent ontology, as
shown in Deleuze thesis on Spinoza's "expressionism" - written in
1968 as a habilitations - schrift. Four years later, and with the
May '68 experience behind, Deleuze transformed the Spinozist
expressions to political desires togheter with the left- wing
activist and psychoanalyst Felix Guattari in vol 1 of Capitalism
and schizophrenia. Ten years later, the marxist Antonio Negri wrote
(while imprisoned in Rome 1979- 81) a treatise on Spinoza's
politics and metaphysics that is strongly influenced by Deleuze,
opening up an urgent and innovative perspective on the spinozist
"anomaly" that still is not surpassed but totally updated to our
age of real subsumption under capital, of late modernity, late
capitalism. It is these connections between power, desire,
knowledge and being, that I hope to introduce here.

In his last unfinshed posthumous work in 1677, Political Treatise
(PT), Spinoza states that "... the power by which things in nature
exist, and by which they in consequence, they act can be none other
than the eternal power of God/... /But men are led more by blind
desire than by reason; and so their natural power, or natural
right, must not be defined in terms of reason, but must be held to
cover every possible appetite" (Ch. II). God as understood by
Spinoza is not the transcendent Father, but rather what is real,
existing as virtual essence or as actual realised essence in
existence The power to act is not in need of a divine support. It
is nothing else but the power of a certain mode itself as far it
expresses an essence. For Spinoza there is no teleology, pre- give
plan, either for men or nature or states. Rather, there is freedom
to develop from a cause within (causa sui), an endless interaction
of the powers of singular things, according to the laws of nature.
There is no other order, divine or made by humans (such as in
states) but the endless interaction of the powers (potentiae) of
singular things according to the laws of nature. Things are
different degrees of powers, but there are no pre- established
order of relations, rather he dynamizes that order . And if the
"acting powers of the indiduals are the only resources on the human
societies can draw, and if no one definetely renounces with his
/her own acting power, than government if nothing but the
disposition (potestas) of those who govern about the acting power
(potentia) of the governed" (Walther, p 52, 55) . "Spinoza's true
politics is his metaphysics" Negri says (1992). The political
implications of his metaphysics are his definition of things by
their capacity of act (potentia agendi). This capacity is enhanced
or diminished according to the affects or passions that encounter
modes, how they are being affected, affect others or let others, by
their passions, rule them. If there exists nothing else but the
acting powers of human individuals, it follows that the power of
the state and its government is nothing but the disposition of all
the citizens' powers together, i.e. democracy in a sense before it
got its liberal interpretation. And since powers give right, people
have as much right as they have power, contra Hobbes who saw men as
giving up their powers in a fictious contract. Spinoza states that
men always retain their powers, and never actually leave them. But
do people know this ? What is the political function of 1st order
of knowledge, imaginatio, besides 2nd ratio and 3rd, beatitudo
(salvation)in Spinoza's epistemological scheme? Can imagination
develop to some extent into reason, 2nd order of knowledge ? What
is the (political) place of desire in the transformation of the
people's imagination and reason ? What role does antagonism play in
the political strife of different desires, between men and
men/state? These questions remain to be solved in depth in further
research, and have been to a large extent by French contemporary
Spinoza scholars since the 1960's. Here we now consider passions in
Spinoza's theory. Passions Power has two equal sides, the power to
exist and to be affected . Above all we seek in all ways to become
active, yes even joyful ! Production of affects (chosen actions
from self-preservation, conatus) and sensibility to be affected.
Their sum is constant (either you decide, or someone else). This
sensibility may be chosen, actively, internally caused, or passive,
externally caused. Most of our lives are filled with passive
affections, since we do not understand the real causes behind
things and events. When my body encounters another and agree, we
form a new body, with a new power to exist Spinoza says. Our bodies
meet other bodies and change accordingly to relations of power and
affects. An encounter between two bodies, that are not fixed units
according to Spinoza but may form a new "body", a relationship of
bodies/thoughts/modes, will be interpreted to their composability
or incomposability. A body of any kind is defined by the possible
relation into which it may enter. This is its power of acting. If
the bodies agree " in nature" it is a joyful passive affection that
increases the bodies' power to act. If not, sadness occur and
either body or both may be decompose the relationship, the new
"body". The question arises immediately: How can we get as many
active affections and as little passive ones as possible ? How do
we experience as much (self-caused) joy as possible ? Most
encounters are sad since men are often subject to passions.
Spinoza's pessimism may be saddening but realistic and interpreted
both in a conservative and radical fashin, enlightments notions
that do not really apply to Spinoza (nor his hero Machiavelli whom
also has both kinds of adherers). In a commonwealth, we (hope to)
organize (good) encounters, which is why we form it. But Spinoza
did not mean a mediation from above, but a building of power from
below, from the modes, which are the what constituts our (immanent)
world, what we can perceive of substance/nature/God. The term
"contract" in his Tracatus Theologico Politicus (1671, TTP) is
replaced in PT with "common consent", to which individuals renounce
their rights (but not all, more on contracts and rights later). The
reason they do this is that the extends their power to constitute
the state, if that is their goal. In order to build a community of
mutual consent, free communication must be possible between
citizens, who always have the right to think and speak, but not act
unlawful while they adhere to the state, that is Spinoza says.
Passions like fear are important to understand for the wise in
order to survive. The fear of the masses in both ways, i.e. what it
fears and the fear it induces in rulers, is very present in Spinoza
(see Balibar 1994). The ruler posses right only insofar as his real
force is greater than the masses and as the masses accept to be

Natural rights If we start explain Spinoza's doctrine of the state
with natural right, we find that political views contemporary or
precedent to him, relied of traditional concepts of natural right;
Spinoza's solution is far more naturalistic and realistic, as
immanent as his ontology. For him, all political theory must start
with two basic conditions: 1) Human emotions are not contingent
vices, which just can be thought away. Rather, they are necessary,
in harmony with the rest of nature, 2) Therefore they must be
understood, not criticised or loathed. Spinoza had no use for
theories of people written by thinkers "as they would like them to
be". A political theory must start from the predicament of common
men, not saints. "I have therefore regarded human passions like
love, hate, anger, envy, pride, pity, and other feelings that
agitate the mind, not as vices of human nature, but as properties
which belong to it in the same way as heat, cold, storm, thunder
and the like belong to the nature of the atmosphere." PT, ch. I,)
If we grant men their necessary passions, we may build up a secure
state. Politicians who relies on good faith are not long-lived and
would prepare his own destruction, a Machiavellian theme, the
difference is that Machiavelli recognised a civic virtue in all men
that possibly could ground a stable state, whereas Spinoza kept the
virtuous way open only to the wise. The multitude (people,) neither
could nor wanted to walk the narrow road to higher political or
theoretical interests. Machiavelli resigned himself to the people's
passions ("They should know better!"), but Spinoza noted that they
probably neither should nor could ("No, they're only natural !").
Right as power Spinoza starts his theory of right from a state of
nature, as in Hobbes, but this right is equal to the power of the
right - holder. The contract is not an abstract entity which keeps
a society stable. Rather all rules must depend on power, i.e.
Machiavellian force or Spinozist (divine) power in all beings: "It
follows that the power by which things in nature exist, and by
which, in consequence, they act, can be none other than the eternal
power of God. / .../Now from the fact that the power of things in
nature to exist and act is really the power of God, we can easily
see what the right of nature is. For since God has the right to do
everything, and God's right is simply God's power conceived as
completely free, it follows that each thing in nature has as much
right from nature as it has power to exist and act.; since the
power by which it exists and acts is nothing but the completely
free power of God " (PT, ch. II, Spinoza's italics). Passions lead
the multitude to use its power by natural right. If people are in
bondage by their passions it follows that they may use it in a
wrong or good way. To strive to exist, conatus, is the base
whatever means one chooses. The multitude use passions, the wise
reason. Both ways have the same natural right to do it. Non-
utopian politics may just use the first way, the passions of the
multitude. "The natural right of the passions, and therewith the
rule, founded in natural right, of conflict, hatred, anger and so
on is against reason in respect to our [the wise] nature, but not
against reason in respect of the laws of nature as a whole
"(Strauss, p. 232). Rights as external norms are not to be taken
seriously, when judging acts according to Spinoza's theory of
causality. Less if they are "freely chosen", as Spinoza does not
believe in a simple form of human freedom of choice . Power gives
rights as in "To be able to exist is power " (Ethics, part I, prop
11, 3rd proof). Power is the essence of substance, as the concept
of conatus showed. We should not confuse Spinoza's concept of right
as power with cynicisms as "might as right", "the right of the
stronger" etc in an elitist fashion. "He is not only the first
modern thinker to defend democracy as such, but to do so on the
principle that might makes right" (Smith, p. 376). Weak men have as
much power as the strong in absolute terms, but is somehow
separated from what his powers, his essence, can attain. To attain
as much as we can, we must increase our actions and increase our
active affections, joys and lessen what makes us sad and powerless.
"When considering right as a natural ability, including the ability
of reasoning, Spinoza never leaves to any degree the 'naturalistic'
level. Whatever one does is 'right' in his concept of right,
because one can do it and must do it", historian Geismann notes (p.
44). Spinoza bases his doctrine of natural right not on humanity
but on God or the one substance where all participate as part of
nature. Each being in its essence is a result or an element in God,
so all beings are comparable in that they express God in different
degrees, i.e. that they are to different degrees. " Man is only a
particle of nature. But this particle of nature which is man must,
in an eminent sense, be nature, be power" Strauss, p. 239). The
right to exist is greater in beings that "exists" in a higher
degree. The power of the multitude has greater power and therefore
right than the wise men, if they not quantitatively change that
balance (with technical and ideological means for example, as shown
below). If we conceive power as the power of a body, we get closer
to Spinoza's concept of power. We do not know what a body can do,
he says, but we know that it will exercise its natural powers, its
rights, if not blocked as in "anti- production (see last Part III
in this paper). "Pushing to the utmost what one can do is the
properly ethical task. It is here that the Ethics take the body as
a model; for every body extends its power as fast as it can. In a
sense every being, each moment, pushes to the utmost what it can do
" (Deleuze 1990, p. 269). This model applies to states too, and
people's ability to conceive new states, or abolish states
altogether as the radical interpretation by Hardt: "Spinoza's
conception of natural right, then, poses freedom from order, the
freedom of multiplicity, the freedom of society in anarchy" (1993,
p. 109) .x The contract theory as in Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau does
not have the same value in Spinoza, although he mentions "pactum"
in TTP for men in order to live in security beyond the reach of
fear. Men must obey their rulers, not subvert or overtake the
state. Unreasonable laws shall be exposed in public but all
citizens must submit to their power, although they do not agree.
But this contract does not mean that men give up all their power to
a sovereign whether monarch, noble or democratic council). "Nobody
can so completely transfer to another all his right, and
consequently all his power, as to cease to be a human being... It
must therefore be granted that the individual reserves to himself
a considerable part of his right, which therefore depends on
nobody's decision but his own" (TTP, ch.17). The "void" left by the
absence of contracts, and State authority, is filled by the
practices and powers of the masses, in Negri's (1992, 1994a) and
Hardt's (1996) radical democratic interpretations which we turn to
at the end of this part. TTP states fully that right (ius) must
rely on and is the same as power (potentia) (Montag 1995 and
Balibar in Montag ed. 1997). If right as a subjective right is
identical to the power to act, it follows that the laws as rules of
politics own their force, in the last instance, to the acceptance
of the governed themselves, i.e. their collective power to agree.
If Hobbesian individuals would gain all natural and contractual
rights without full power, they would be in a powerless and
contradictory position visavi the state. Now, individual powers are
less isolated than taken together, which is what rulers know. From
what the ruler fears, the mass (multitudo) can know. "If it is true
that we can know the people only from he view of the prince [ as
Machiavelli stated], it is equally true that we can know the people
only from the point of view of the Prince" (Montag 1995, p 101).
Peace and stability are the aims of the state for Hobbes, as they
are for Spinoza. But peace is not to best at all costs for Spinoza.
Peace must be endurable, otherwise opposed, even with arms.
Democracy Spinoza envisioned that men only can live as reasonable
and free in a state or a city. Experience teaches man that living
together in states or other commonwealths is the best way to attain
security and develop free thoughts . The formation of society is
necessary and useful, although not " natural" in the sense of being
self-evident to all citizens at all times. If men lived according
to reason, and were not prey to superstition, a state based on
reason would be possible. "There is no singular thing in Nature
which is more useful to man than a man who lives according to the
guidance of reason (Ethics, part IV, prop 35, cor. 1). / ...
/Still, it rarely happens that men live according to the guidance
of reason. Instead, their lives are so constituted that they are
usually envious and burdensome to one another "(ibid, schol.) . The
urge to exist, conatus, teaches man that life in common is better
than solitary life in a state of naure. Better in the sense of
useful to oneself, to one's advantage. Spinoza lets the "satirists"
laugh at human affairs, the "theologicians" curse them, and
"melancholiacs" praise lower animals and disdain mankind - all are
mislead by not taking man's own desire for his advantage, his
conatus,, as his real cause for building society (ibid). Democracy
is to be preferred, being the most natural government of men. A
democracy is better since there is less danger of a government
behaving unreasonably, for it is practically impossible for the
majority of a single assembly, to agree on the same piece of folly.
But Spinoza views democracy also as an effective means to rule.
Tyranny might arise, but they do not last long . Spinoza notes (as
Seneca) that despotic regimes never lasts long,whereas moderate
ones do. The state is usually superior to the individual by its
united strength of many citizens, that power is the state's "
right". Spinoza asserts that " ... Since the right of the
commonwealth is determined by the collective power of a people, the
greater the number of the subjects given cause by a commonwealth to
join in conspiracy against it, the more must its power and right be
diminished... The right of the state is nothing more than a natural
right, limited not by the power of the individual, but by that of
the multitude, which is guided by one mind" (PT, ch.3). The balance
of powers are important: "The reason of the state lies not in the
governing nor in the governed, but in the capacity of the ruler to
rule, and in the capacity of the ruled to be ruled " (Strauss, p.
240). A state ruled by force is weaker than ruled by a free
multitude. Therefore the state must secure that the citizens get
freedom and security, out of adhering to the state . "The state
proves its own reason against the irrationality of men not by an
appeal to reason of its citizens, but by the realization of self -
preservation [conatus] according to the principles expounded in the
ontology. This is realized by a power that force the masses. ",
Bartuschat says in Deugd, ed. p. 35. Contracts, ideology and
religion The state must rely on a balancing of collective powers,
rather than individual rights, obligations and contracts. Since it
is not individuals who counters the state's Power, but the united
mind of the multitude, the conclusion is that this mind of its own
has a certain existence, essence and power. History becomes a
history of mass struggle, not of relationships between individuals
and states (Balibar 1994 and Negri 1992). Spinoza rejected in PT
the juridical and transcendental apparatus of contracts, obligation
and rights since he saw where the real power was, in the multitude.
Individual power were never as strong as collective material
forces. Hobbes started from pure individuality in the origins of
the state, where Spinoza could speak of a "body" being composed of
several individuals, with one nature as we've seen. The multitude
is not reducible to anything but itself, a new body of (former)
individuals. It has then attained a state when its passions have
been transformed to actions. The multitude is hard to govern, since
"whoever has experienced the inconstant temperament of the
multitude will be brought to despair by it. For it is governed not
by reason but by the affects alone" (TTP, ch 17). The state must
combine affective means (piety, patriotism, superstition) with

utility, private wealth). The "affections of reason" are outside
the scope of the free community's mutual consent, since they are
useful, at least in the long run, to the community. "Men should
really be governed in such a way that they do not regard themselves
as being governed, but as following their own bent and their own
free choice / . . / they are restrained only by love of freedom"
(PT, ch. x) Religion can degenerate to superstition Spinoza showed.
But other ideological means are just as efficient and lead to
obedience and destructive stupidity. A central question if men
strive for self- preservation is why do men fight for their own
repression, in wars, in fights for fascism, despots? The answer is
that inadequate but useful ideas for a short brutal life, hold us
down with power from material strength. The reasons why the mass
obeys its rulers are not just pure power, but foremost ideology in
a Marxist sense. Spinoza's analysis of 17th century ideology, i.e.
religion, degenerated to superstition and dominating theories, have
Norris 1991 and all of and on Althusser). And free communcation of
individuals, humans, states, modes of all kinds, are to be a
political (and ontological) question, as Etienne Balibar concludes:
"If we admit with Spinoza /... / that communication is structured
by relations of ignorance and of knowledge, of superstition, of
ideological antagonism, in which are invested human desire and
which expresses an activity of bodies, we must also admit with him
that knowledge is a practice, and that the struggle for knowledge
(philosophy) is a political practice. In the absence of this
practice, the tendentially democratic processes of decision
described by the PT would remain unintelligible. We understand
thereby why the essential aspect of Spinozist democracy is from the
outset liberty of communication. We understand also how the theory
of the 'body politic' is neither a simple physics of power, nor a
psychology of the submission of the masses, nor the means of
formalising a juridical order, but the search for a strategy of
collective liberation, for which the password is: to be the
greatest number possible to think the most possible (thoughts)"(p.
118 in Balibar 1985, my transl).

Spinoza the proto- marxist Negri goes much further than Balibar in
his summary: "Spinoza's innovation [of the genealogy of the power
of the multitude] is in fact a philosophy of communism; Spinozian
ontology is nothing but a genealogy of communism"(Negri 1994a, p.
139). His interpretation of Spinoza is very decisive to any
reflection on Spinoza's political philosophy, Marx and Deleuze/
Guattari, although I can only turn to it briefly here (see Surin
for in depth analysis). Negri views Spinoza as an "anomalous
thinker", situated between the crisis of the renaisance humanist
utopia and the change from mercantile to industrial capitalism. The
bourgeois utopia of the market underpinned his aspiration towards
a fuller and richer humanity. Just as Spinoza came after an era of
hope and meditated (although only as a metaphysician) on its
crisis, the contemporary crisis of the revolutions of 1917 and 1968
has a similar experience, a lapse in time, in post - modernity just
as Spinoza was pre - modern (or "L'anti- modernit'e de Spinoza" as
in Negri's essay in 1994, ch. 6). The crisis of Keynesianism and
the brutal transition to its susseccor, Integrated World Capitalism
(Guattari & Negri), is what motivates Negri to read Spinoza through
Marx' eyes, as Surin notes so well: "First he [Negri] has seen the
need to shift his own focus as a reader of Marx from Capital (with
its negative emphasis on the irresolvably constradictory nature of
capitalist production) to the Grundrisse (with its positive stress
on the constitute capacity of the proletariat to appropiate social
wealth; and second, he has turned to Spinoza in his quest for an
ontological foundation for the new revolutionary subjectivity that
has emegerged since 1968" (Surin, p. 13). Negri takes Marx' notions
of formal and real subsumption (see Hardt 1995 for the marxist
notions) to deal with what has happend in 20 th century capitalism.
In formal subsumption, there exist still pre- or noncapitalist
modes of production, of pre - bourgeois values etc, but in real
subsumption, all of society is dominated by the command of capital
(and what is left of non - capitalism is fully integrated. This
move spreads the antagonism between capital and labour (and its
allies) to all of the planet and all beings in its entirety. The
sites of struggle become fluid, generalized and diffused, just as
the student rebellions, the sudden presence of marginalized groups,
were in the 60's and early 70's, especially in southern Europe.
There is no way to establish the old corporate order in such a flow
of desires and productions, but rule through postmodern
fragmentatization by a postfordist capitalist ideology and command
by political measures (fiscal crisis e.g.), which creates new
protests and so on.

Negri's other reason for using Spinoza now, is his position against
the concept in political philosophy from Hobbes, Rousseau to Hegel,
especially in the contractarian tradition, to pose a dialectic
between powerless individual men and a powerful state. In the
state, individuals subsume their power (which they give over in
Hobbes' as well as in Rousseau, and get aufgehoben in Hegel), to
the potestas of government. In the age of real subsumption, it is
impossible to rule as before (e noted above), it possesses no power
of it own, but is a site for capitalist command and labour
struggles. "In this society -state complex there cannot be a
'vertical' resolution of the manifold contradictory individual
wills (as maintained in the Hobbes - Rousseau - Hegel tradition
[the" democratic soup" Negri calls them], because in an integrated
world - capitalism which is essentially 'paranational' in form,
there is no state. No 'new state' into which the contradictions of
civil society can be sublimated by negative power", (Surin, p 14,
referring to Hardt 1995 on civil society). In Spinoza's time there
was no possibility for his "physics of the power of the multitude"
to develop, but now, in late 2nd millenium, late capitalism, late
modernity, we finally have a politics that needs this kind of open
surfaces that immanence provides. " . . Spinoza needs new real
conditions to be given: Only teh revolution poses these conditions.
The completion of the Political Treatise [see Negri 1997], the
development of the chapter on democracy [which never got started as
Spinoza died 1677], or better, on the absolute, intellectual and
corporeal form of the government of the masses, bcomes a real
problem only within and after the revolution. Within this actuality
of the revolution, the power of Spinoza's thought gains a universal
significance " (Negri 1992, p. 210.) The only comparable work to
Spinoza's are Deleuze/ Guattari's, Negri maintains (in Negri 1995),
to which we now turn.

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