picture of Deleuze, Sartre and Foucault in front of a prison in the frame of the GIP (see previous article)
As I wrote in the last article, the Abécédaire has never been translated into English (at least, as far as I know). Here is my small and clumsy contribution to such a gigantic work that would be. This is the end of the “chapter” G comme Gauche (L for Left) during which Gilles Deleuze defines what he think being from the left means in two parts. The second part is an explanation with very simple word of the concept of Becoming that he created with Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus:
G comme Gauche
Claire Parnet: What is it to be “from the left” for you?
Gilles Deleuze: Well, I will tell you that there can’t be any government from the left. It doesn’t mean that there is no differences between governments. The best we can hope for is a government that would be in favor of some of the left’s requirements but a government from the left, that does not exist. So how to define what is it to be “from the left”, I would say it in two ways.
It’s firstly a problem of perception. A problem of perception that is to say what is it not be “from the left”. We can see that with the postal address. Not be from the left means starting with myself, my street, my city, my country, the other countries further and further. We start by us, and as we are privileged, we live in a rich country, we wonder how we can do to sustain in time this situation. We can feel that there are some dangers, that this situation can’t last too long. So we say “Oh but the Chinese are so far away, how can we do so that Europe can sustain itself in time etc.”
To be from the left is the opposite. It is to perceive, as it is said that Japanese people perceive. They don’t perceive like us, they primarily perceive the perimeter. They would say: The world, the Continent Europe, France, etc. etc. the rue Bizerte, Me. It is a phenomenon of perception. This way we first perceive the horizon.
Claire Parnet: Japanese people are not really from the left !
Gilles Deleuze: That’s not a reason. By this perception they are from the left. In the sense of the postal address they are from the left. You first see the horizon and you do know that it can’t sustain itself in time, that it is not possible, that those millions of people who starve from death, that can still last for a hundred years, but eventually we cannot stand this absolute injustice. That’s not a problem of moral, that’s a problem of perception. If we start by the whole, that is it to be from the left. It means that we can call and consider that those issues are the one to be solved. And that does not mean at all that we should say that we should diminish birth rate etc. because saying that is just another way to conserve Europe’s privileges. This is not it. It’s really about finding the worldwide arrangements that will solve those issues. In fact, to be from the left it is to know that the Third World’s issues are closer from us than our neighborhood’s issues. It is really a problem of perception, it’s not a problem of beautiful soul. That is mainly what is it to be from the left for me.
Secondly, to be from the left for me, that’s a problem of becoming; never stopping to become minority. In fact, the left is never a majority and for a very simple reason. Because majority supposes, even when we vote, it’s not just the biggest amount that vote for something…Majority supposes a standard.
In the Western World, the standard that every majority supposes is: male, adult, heterosexual, living in the city. Ezra Pound, Joyce said some things like that, it was perfect. That’s what the standard is. Thus, naturally what will have the majority, the one that will punctually achieve this standard. That is to say, the image of the male, adult, heterosexual, living in the city. That is to a point that I can say that majority is never anybody. That is never anybody, that’s an empty standard. Simply, several people, a maximum amount of people recognize themselves in this empty standard, but in itself the standard is empty. So then women will count and intervene in the majority or in secondary minorities according to their group relatively to this standard. But what is beside that ? There are all the becomings that are minority becomings.
What I mean is that women are not women naturally, women have a becoming woman. So if women have a becoming woman, men as well have a becoming woman. We were talking earlier about becomings animals…Children have a becoming child, they are not children naturally. All those becomings are the minority becomings.
Claire Parnet: So only men don’t have a becoming man, that’s tough !
Gilles Deleuze: They can’t, it is a majority standard. The adult male is not a becoming. Men can have a becoming woman, and this way have to engage into processes of minority becomings. Left is the ensemble of processes of minority becomings.
So I can literally say: Majority is nobody, minority is everybody. That is what it is to be from the left, that is to know that minority is everybody and that’s where occur the becomings phenomenas.
Abécédaire. Gilles Deleuze. produced and directed by Pierre-André Boutang (recorded in 1988, released in 1996)