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Concluding on Gender Trouble (1990).
It's a different day, and we've trimmed down to just Mark, Wes, and Seth to cover the latter portions of our assigned reading, especially part I, section v: "Identity, Set, and the Metaphysics of Substance," and part III, section iv: "Subversive Bodily Acts: Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions." We also added two articles written prior to Gender Trouble: "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution" (1988) and "Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex" (1986).
Start with part one or get the unbroken, ad-free Citizen Edition. Please support PEL!
End song: "I'm a Boy" by Lys Guillorn as interviewed for Nakedly Examined Music #44.
If we have any non-binary philosopher (or podcaster or other representative or commentator of some sort) listeners who might want to contribute feedback in some form to this episode, or maybe participate in a future discussion specifically on trans* philosophy, please contact Mark.
“strong” vs “weak” social theory
ps a better take on (and certainly a more empirically oriented one) performativity is emerging in the work of
post-Wittgenstein phenomenologically minded enactivists who offer a largely non-conceptual (non inner-representation) take on behavior, see examples @ http://www.ensoseminars.com/presentations/past
August B Denys says
One of the things that really caught my attention with this part, especially based on what I have been reading recently, were the attempts to compare the Social Constructivist critiques of Butler to Lacan, Hegel, and others. For, but unfortunately, it seems that Butler’s Gender Trouble came from her reading of Foucault with some familiarity with the book Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. This comes from, while I have not read Gender Trouble, using the Index of Gender Trouble to find mentions of Deleuze and Guattari. Thus I say it is unfortunate because what Butler knows of Deleuze and Guattari is only of Anti-Oedipus but not their sequel book A Thousand Plateaus.
What am I trying to say by this? Basically, what Deleuze and Guattari are able to do that Foucault (nor Derrida for that matter as people usually group these philosophers together under the mantle of poststructuralism and postmodernism) is not is establish an Ontological basis for these social criticisms. The Ontological aspect of Deleuze is what Todd May focuses on in his Introductory book on Gilles Deleuze. But to relate this to Deleuze and Guattari’s book A Thousand Plateaus, which does not appear in Butler’s work, in chapter 3, 10,000 BC The Geology of Moral, they focus on Double Articulation. Now, I am in no way an authority on the interpretation, so just saying they focus on Double articulation is taking attention from what they are able to do an write in the text; however, if I can start here, then I can connect this to the ontological aspect that escapes Foucault’s work that would have bolstered Butler’s critique. What is great about this specific chapter is that it uses Foucault’s analysis, 26 pages in, from Discipline and Punish and gives it an ontological ground through what they call Double Articulation.
This double articulation covers a lot of ground, but two standout features seem to be the 1) form of content and the 2) form of expression. For both of these, they cover form and substance, but where Deleuze and Guattari manage to earlier differentiate the two is by calling the form of content molecular and the form of expression molar. They say, “Expression is like an ‘operation of amplifying structuration carrying the active properties of the originally microphysical discontinuity to the macrophysical level.'” (pg. 57) The give, or quote, an example of this being Crystal, “the crystalis the macroscopic expression of a microscopic structure.” (pg 57)0 What I’ve found is a consistent analysis in this chapter of these two things: form of content and form of expression, for later on but still before getting to Foucault they state, “Content should be understood not simply as the hand and tools but as a technical social machine that preexists them and constitutes states of force or formations of power. Expression should be understood not simply as the face and language, or individual languages, but as a semiotic collective machine that preexists them and constitutes regimes.” (pg. 63: Deleuze and Guattari have a later chapter titled Regime of Signs, but the claim is that you can read the book in any order as long as the Intro is first and the conclusion is last, and further, my own interest in this book lies partially in Peircean Semeiotics which are not directly mentioned but the Peircean language is there). With this mentioned we can get to Deleuze and Guattari’s use of Foucault because one aspect of this double articulation, form of content and form of expression, is the criticism and denial of Structuralism, specifically Lacan and Saussure, for Deleuze and Guattari believe that Structuralism has been a reductionism of content and expression to signified and signifier, “Theories of arbitrariness, necessity, term-by-term or global correspondence, and ambivalence server the same cause: the reduction of expression to the signifier.” (pg. 66) This leads them counter to Saussurean Linguistics which was one of the paradigmatic examples of structuralism. So, instead of trying to recreate what they have written, I’ll just share what I think, at this point, really reveals what would have been great for the reading you did for Butler.
“Signifier enthusiasts take an oversimplified situation as their implicit model: word and thing. From the word they extract the signifier, and from the thing a signified in conformity with the word, and therefore subjugated to the signifier. They operate in a sphere interior to and homogenous with language. Let us follow Foucault in his exemplary analysis, which, though it seems not to be, is eminently concerned with linguistics. Take a thing like the prison: the prison is a form, the “prison-form”; it is a form of content on a stratum and is related to other forms of content (school, barracks, hospital, factory). This thing or form does not refer back to the word “prison” but to entirely different words and concepts, such as “delinquent” and “delinquency,” which express a new way of classifying, stating, translating, and even committing criminal acts. “Delinquency” is the form of expression in reciprocal presupposition with the form of content “prison.” Delinquency is in no way a signifier, even a juridical signifier, the signified of which would be prison. That would flatten the entire analysis. Moreover, the form of expression is reducible not to words but to a set of statements arising in the social field considered as a stratum (that is what a regime of signs is). The form of content is reducible not to a thing but to a complex state of things as a formation of power (architecture, regimentation, etc.). We could say that there are two constantly intersecting multiplicities, “discursive multiplicities” of expression and “nondiscursive multiplicities” of content. It is even more complex than that because the prison as a form of content has a relative expression all its own; there are kinds of statements specific to it that do not necessarily coincide with the statements of delinquency. Conversely, delinquency as a form of expression has an autonomous content all its own, since delinquency expresses not only a new way of evaluating crimes but a new way of committing them. Form of content and form of expression, prison and delinquency: each has its own history, microhistory, segments. At most, along with other contents and expressions, they imply a shared state of the abstract Machine acting not at all as a signifier but as a kind of diagram….” (pg. 66-67)
There is of course more to that paragraph, but I feel that this covers most of what would be beneficial. Because a lot of attention, especially in the third part was given to Butler’s terminology and critique, but a lot of that was in comparison with de Beauvoir, Lacan, and Hegel all of which hold a position that is attacked in the Foucauldian and Deleuzo-Guattarian Poststructuralism. Foucault, historically, was trying to get away from the historicism of Hegel and Marx, and he had his means for this, but Deleuze and Guattari, aiming to do the same, came at it from a different angle; however both, Foucault and Deleuze/Guattari aimed to overturn Hegel. Deleuze specifically is aimed at taking down Hegel and his Dialectic. This is to say that Deleuze and Foucault resonate with each other more and better than the allusions in the episode to Hegel and Lacan. There is a lot that I would need to unpack which I do not have time for (at the moment of writing this I should be heading to the grocery store to by stuff for supper, which is made worse by my cat seeking my attention), but Deleuze and Guattari give an Ontological analysis that resonates with Foucault and Butler’s work. There are many layers to this Ontology and multiple other philosophers have given analyses of this ontology: Todd May, Maneul DeLanda, Claire Colebrook etc.
But, if there is one last reason to bring up Deleuze and Guattari’s work in relation, then it has to do with your other difficulties in the episode, relating Butler’s work to modern Transgenderism. While I am not Trans, I am a trans-ally who became so because of my sister. This has made me aware of the problem that face the transcommunity especially in the justification of their own existence. While my engagement with communities is small, I find that the work of Deleuze and Guattari, especially from the ontological angle of Becoming, as Deleuze can be considered a process philosopher who place Becoming in ontological primacy to Being, working well with Trans theory. From what I have shown here, I believe that the analytical tools of form of content and form of expression work way better than the structuralists tools of signifier and signified. This may come from the fact that signifier and signifier are too linearly related while form of content and form of expression, as seen from Foucault’s prison analysis are not linearly related. It also may come from Deleuze’s ontological creation, that is where a lot of his inspiration for his ontology came from; that being said, one of Deleuze’s earliest works focuses on David Hume, specifically Hume’s association of ideas leading to a Deleuze saying that, for Hume, one needs to be a moralist and a sociologist before they can be a psychologist. But while this holds for the machinic assemblage theory side of Deleuze’s ontology, I would wonder if we might apply Hume’s critique of causality to Deleuze’s ontology and specifically in relation to Deleuze and Guattari’s Critique of Structuralism (and Marxist-Leninism as on page 68 they attack the Leninist model of Base/Superstructure). The reason to say this is, as we have seen from the prison analysis, the prison was the form of content while delinquency was the form of expression. These two form a part of a double articulation; however, unlike the structuralist signifier/signified (or the base/superstructure) there is only an ontological relation and not a causal relation. This is definitely speculation on my own part as I have not conferred this interpretation with other people, but with the relation of Gender and Sex, we have this propensity to relate them causally. Now, this may come from an earlier conceptual framework, but we still find people that believe Sex and Gender are causally linked when we might ask whether they are more simply ontologically linked. So, if you do find a trans-philosopher, I might ask if they have there theories based on the poststructuralism of Deleuze and Guattari.
I am still a self-learning student, that is to say that I have much to read and to comprehend, but I am aware of a book that is a collection of works that might relate to the subject of transgenderism. I say might because I have not read it but have access to some of the chapter titles. These include: 1) Becoming-Woman Now, 2) Becoming-Woman: Deleuze, Scheber and Molecular Identification, 3) The Woman in Process: Deleuze, Kristeva and Feminism, 4) Body, Knowledge and Becoming-Woman: Morpho-Logic in Deleuze and Irigaray, and 5) Is Sexual Difference a Problem. The book is titled Deleuze and Feminist Theory. This is a recommendation of a book that I have not personally read.
I hope this blurb has been helpful and not a waste of time.
let us know if you get a chance to read those and what you find of use in them, in the meantime this might help some, Jeffrey Bell’s talk on Making Sense of Capital: Towards a Deleuzo-Humean Political Theory:
Richard Smith says
Women giving birth need to cool it; it’s just discourse. Enjoyed the discussion.