Preface to the translation of Architectural Deleuzism in Praznine 8, 2015
‘Deleuzism’ is not a term that the architects discussed in my essay ever used themselves. It was originally coined by Deleuze scholar Ian Buchanan, who intended to do for Deleuze what Deleuze had done for Bergson. Buchanan’s ‘Deleuzism’, that is, follows Deleuze’s ‘Bergsonism’ in seeking to affirm the creative appropriation of a body of thought for purposes unimagined by its original author. In his essay ‘Desire and Ethics’, Buchanan writes that Deleuze:
…spoke of Bergsonism, for example, because his reading of Bergson was intended to create an application of Bergson’s thought, or better an apparatus that could be deployed to give thought to problems and circumstances Bergson himself did not and perhaps could not have considered himself. Bergsonism is in this sense simultaneously faithful to Bergson and a departure from him, without being a negation.
Buchanan undertakes to clarify here what is, and is not, to be understood by ‘Deleuzism’ since he finds my own employment of the term inappropriately negative. ‘I titled my first book on Deleuze Deleuzism – it was intended as an exploration of the problematic of how to ‘follow’ an author who instructs his own readers to go their own way and create their own questions. I make this point because in a recent article Douglas Spencer has used the term ‘Deleuzism’ as a kind of catch-all pejorative for what he sees as banal uses of Deleuze’s work.’
In response to Buchanan’s somewhat proprietorial policing of his ‘Deleuzism’, I should clarify that I hadn’t failed to understand its original intent, but conscioulsy tried to redeploy the term as means of negation. The pejorative connotations of ‘Architectural Deleuzism’ are calculated to challenge the affirmation of the ‘creative application’ of Deleuze – as exemplified in architecture – in and of itself, and outside of any specific historical conditions. Buchanan, characterising Deleuze’s project as one ‘of (liberating) creativity’, wishes to ‘extract from Deleuze’s project an apparatus of social critique built on a utopian impulse.’ Accordingly, he defines Deleuzism as an approach that is both ‘critical and creative’. However, in the case of Deleuzism in architecture, at least, it is not possible to account for this as equally weighted toward the critical and the creative. The affirmation of creativity – particularly in terms of the production of ‘the new’ and an accommodation to the ‘progressive realities’ of neoliberalism – has in fact been one of the chief means through which this architectural tendency has opposed itself to criticality.
I focus on Buchanan’s response to this essay since it is itself symptomatic of the ways in which the figure of Deleuze is typically employed to mobilize what might be described, following Benjamin Noys, as an all-pervasive condition of ‘affirmationism’ – a term itself coined as a means of critical negation. As Noys describes Deleuze, he is ‘the affirmative philosopher par excellence’. The larger problem for architectural theory, however, is not with Deleuze as such, as with affirmationism, with the more generalised disavowal of critique and the taboo on negation. The result of this is that much of what now passes for architectural theory has nothing to do with theorising architecture. It is instead a practice in which theories are appropriated in the service of architecture, and fashioned into instruments through which the discipline’s creativity, newness, and difference – all highly marketable attributes within practice and academia – can be claimed. Theory – whatever theory – is instrumentalised as always, and affirmatively, ‘for’ architecture, and ‘for’ the education of architects, as exemplified in the Routledge published ‘Thinkers for Architects’ series – Foucault for Architects, Irigaray for Architects, Deleuze and Guattari for Architects … Rather than accept its instrumentalisation for architecture, theory’s current status ought to be contested through the exercise of its critical capacities against an architecture itself now instrumentalised for and within neoliberalism. This is the intent of ‘Architectural Deleuzism’.
Aylesbury, July 2015