Taking a Step Back; Broad Issues

Taking a step back from R13, and attempting to identify the broad issues that are at stake in it and around it (a move facilitated in part by the indexing work on names, but also by fairly random reading, especially of the ‘interventions militantes’), I think it may be possible to propose the following as overarching propositions:

R13 is a collective project, the work of a group. However this group is not cohesive or coherent; the fractures, lines of dissent and conflict, the differences, styles and modes of writing are not melted into a seamless unity. There are indications within the volume of how the process of its composition was somewhat chaotic; specific sections are authored by different individuals or pairs of individuals within the group; some bits of text ended up not being included. Moreover, the group was not without its conflicts and hierarchies, with the ‘Genealogy’ group consisting of Fourquet, Murard and Vernet-Straggiotti (with Querrien and Lévy as somewhat peripheral or intermediary) having more power and authority. The point is that the ‘collective’ work of the group is characterised by a play or relation of forces, and these are foregrounded and made explicit as part of the ‘report’ itself. In other words, R13 is an example of a collective work in which the conflicts implicit in that collective are exhibited.

Second point: these conflicts extend into what elsewhere we have called the ‘libidinal and affective dimension’. But what this really means is that the work is inseparable from the ‘micropolitics’ of money, time, sex, childcare, love and hate, which affect the lives of all of the adherents. This dimension is not like some kind of background or autobiographical subtext; it is fundamentally part of the dynamics of power and the politics of the time. In the terms of R13, this dimension in that of desire, desire in its interaction with power. When we say that R13 is a case study of the ‘pragmatic genealogy of concepts’, I think what this means is that R13 exemplifies the idea of theory (concepts) being libidinal objects, objects of libidinal and affective investment, objects and vectors of desire. This in itself is a manifestation and actualisation, so to speak, of the (Guattarian) notion of transversality, and the post-May 1968 shattering of militant leftism into multiple avenues of ‘micropolitical’ struggle (as opposed to: the Althusserian primacy of theory; the dogmatism of the Party and of Maoists).

Both of these factors relate closely to a third point, which is that R13 manifests a tension between theory and… not practice, but ‘deployment’, perhaps. The R13 authors are hyper-aware of their relationship to the triumvirate of Foucault-Deleuze-Guattari (FDG), who they call the ‘grosses têtes’, of the ‘risk’ of ‘vulgarising’ the ideas of the latter. FDG’s interventions appear as separate from the work of the group as such. There are multiple references to the genealogy group’s consultation of texts and lectures by FDG, and some resentment, for example, that FDG, Guattari in particular, is not more involved in the Genealogy group. There are certain allegiances, with e.g. MTVS seeming to be known as a Deleuzian, while others are more aligned with Guattari, or Foucault. There is some discussion of the ‘ownership’ or provenance of the ideas and concepts. Fourquet is perhaps on a slightly different footing, with more authority, but even here, in the discussion with Guattari, there is the sense that the former ‘hasn’t got it’ (i.e. the concept of anti-production and axiomatic of capitalism). In the FDG interventions, especially around the question of ‘catégories logiques’, there is a kind of supervisor/student relation, wherein FDG seem to suggest something like, ‘this is not the right way of conceptualizing collective equipment’ etc. Again this is upfront, and R13 thus appears to be something like an inverted architecture (like the Pompidou Centre), with all of its workings on the outside. So even though FDG promote the idea of theory as a toolbox, and the collective deployment of concepts, when it comes to it it’s not as easily done as said. The relation between theory and ‘practice’ is thus itself determined by the play of forces, as in the Nietzschean ‘genealogical’ method.

Other overarching or broad issues:

R13 is funded by the State; what it is not is either PCF orthodoxy (Althusser), nor Gauche proletairienne militancy.

It appears in a conjuncture, post May 1968, of a dominant and authoritarian State (the ‘police conception of history’ described by Kristin Ross in May 1968 and its Afterlives) alongside tendencies toward renewal and reform (‘new society’, Vincennes, the funding of CERFI projects by the Mission de la recherche urbaine, CORDES etc). This is particularly schizophrenic (in a weak sense).

It is symptomatic of a decisive shift away from Marxist theory, especially that articulated by Althusser, instigated in the main through the reference to Nietzsche and genealogy (relations of force, the play of desire). Foucault and Deleuze are key players in this regard.

There is a trajectory across the issue, from the discussion of the ‘representations’ of collective equipment (e.g. urbanism), to the history of ‘territories’, to the analysis of the discourse of French planification as such.

Potential outputs, then, might include an article on the ‘moment of genealogy’ as evidenced in R13, and another on the ‘social life of concepts’ (to adopt the AHRC project’s title), which would specifically focus on the ‘interventions militantes’ and how they construe the way in which the concepts discussed are ‘lived’ by the women in particular, with issues of personal formation, conjugality, desire, love and hate…

Mentioned in:

There are no notes linking to this note.