SUMMARIZING HIS DEEPLY IDIOSYNCRATIC WORK, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze describes writing about others as “a sort of buggery” or “immaculate conception” that is the result of “taking an author from behind and giving him a child” (N, 6). Deleuze is still quick to distinguish his project from outright falsification. He strictly limits himself to what an author actually says; he attends to a thinker’s “shifting, slipping, dislocations, and hidden emissions” to give him “a child that would be his own offspring, yet monstrous” (N, 6). More than thirty years after making these remarks, Deleuze now has plenty of little monsters of his own—rootless rhi-zombies, dizzying metaphysicians, skittish geonaturalists, enchanted transcendentalists, passionate affectivists. My aim is to give him another child that shares his last name: “Dark Deleuze.”

Deleuze once told a friend that a “worthwhile book” performs at least three functions: polemics, recovery, and creativity. In writing the book, the author must reveal that (1) other scholarship commits an error; (2) an essential insight has been missed; and (3) a new concept can be created. You will find all three is this book. First, I argue against the “canon of joy” that celebrates Deleuze as a naively affirmative thinker of connectivity. Second, I rehabilitate the destructive force of negativity by cultivating a “hatred for this world.” Third, I propose a conspiracy of contrary terms that diverge from the joyous task of creation.

Picking out a particular strain of thought: scholars of “new materialism” turn to realist ontology by way of Deleuze’s metaphysics of positivity. The basis for the realist side of Deleuze is perhaps best evinced by his biography. Those who knew Deleuze consistently note his firm commitment to joyful affirmation and his distaste for the ressentiment of negativity. Beatifying this sentiment, Deleuze has been used to establishing a whole canon of joy. In the canon of joy, the cosmos is a complex collection of assemblages produced through the ongoing processes of differentiation. The effect of the Joyous Deleuze’s image of thought is a sense of wonder, accompanied by the enjoyment of creating concepts that express how the world really exists.

A different Deleuze, a darker one, has slowly cast its shadow. Yet this figure only appears when we escape the chapel choir of joy for the dark seclusion of the crypt. Emerging from scholars concerned with the condition of the present, the darkness refashions a revolutionary Deleuze: revolutionary negativity in a world characterized by compulsory happiness, decentralized control, and overexposure. This refashioned Deleuze forms a countercanon out of the perfused negativity of his concepts and affects. On the level of concept, it recognizes that negativity impregnates Deleuze’s many prefixes of difference, becoming, movement, and transformation, such as de-, a-, in-, and non-. On the level of affect, it draws on Deleuze’s talk of indiscernibility, concealment, the shame of being human, and the monstrous power of the scream. The ultimate task of this approach is not the creation of concepts, and to the extent that it does, Dark Deleuze creates concepts only to write apocalyptic science fiction (DR, xx–xxii).

Timely Connections

Michel Foucault half-jokingly suggested in 1970 that “perhaps one day, this century will be known as Deleuzian” (“Theatrum Philosophicum,” 885). It is easy to see how boosters have used this phrase to raise the profile of Deleuze, who was far less popular than Foucault or Derrida during the initial reception of poststructuralism in America. But what if it is a subtle jab? Foucault makes the remark in the same breath as a reference to Pierre Klossowski, a crucial member of the secret society Acéphale, which helped revive Nietzsche in France when others too easily dismissed the thinker as fascist. “Historically fitting” would be an insult to Nietzsche, who proudly proclaims the untimeliness of thought “acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come” at the beginning of his essay on the uses and abuses of history for life (Untimely Meditations, 60). As a major French interlocutor of Nietzsche, Deleuze uses this exact same phrase on untimeliness in the opening pages of Difference and Repetition—the very book that Foucault was reviewing when he made the comment. Bearing out the implication by mincing another Nietzschean phrase, then perhaps Foucault was accusing him of being “timely, all too timely.”

What would make Deleuze’s thought especially timely? Critics such as Slavoj Žižek accuse him of being a poster child for the cultural excesses of postmodern capitalism (“Ongoing ‘Soft Revolution’”). A recent round of denunciations underwritten by a mix of wonderment and red-baiting exclaim, “The founder of BuzzFeed wrote his senior thesis on the Marxism of Deleuze and Guattari!,” adding to a long list of guilty associations—“the Israeli Defense Force reads A Thousand Plateaus!,” “Deleuze spouts the fashionable nonsense of pseudoscience!” Deleuze’s defenders are correct to dismiss such criticisms as either incomplete or outright spurious. Yet there is a kernel of truth that goes back to an old joke—a communist is someone who reads Das Kapital; a capitalist is someone who reads Das Kapital and understands it. Saying the same about Deleuze: there is something absolutely essential about his work, but it would not be best to take it at face value. The necessity of “taking another step” beyond Deleuze avant la lettre is especially true when both capitalists and their opponents simultaneously cite him as a major influence. The exact rapport between Deleuze’s thought and our time thus remains a puzzle for us to solve. Does the problem arise because certain readers act like doctors who participate in death penalty executions, who follow protocol to make a perfectly clinical diagnosis, only to help administer a set of drugs condemned by their field? Or is there something about his prescription that only exacerbates our current condition?

Ours is the age of angels, says French philosopher Michel Serres (Angels, a Modern Myth). Armies of invisible messengers now crisscross the skies, tasked with communication, connection, transmission, and translation. As inspiring as they may seem, they also compel us to embody their messages in word and act. Click, poke, like. We feel the nervous prick of incoming missives that set us in a feverish state until we address the incoming text message, reply to the overdue e-mail, or respond to the pending friend request. These everyday behaviors show that the seemingly modern world of commodities has not stolen our sense of wonder—we are as divinely moved by media as we once were by angels. Marx, who, in Artaud’s phrase, has “done away with the judgment of God,” shows that this mystical character of the commodity is capitalism and also its most popular trick. Let us then follow Marx’s old mole in the search of history, moving from the heavens to the underground. Refusing to sing the hymns of the age, Deleuze and Guattari made a crucial declaration in 1991 as the Iron Curtain crumbled and the first commercial Internet service providers came online: “We do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. . . . We lack resistance to the present” (WP, 108).

Dark Deleuze’s immediate target is connectivity, the name given to the growing integration of people and things through digital technology. Acolyte of connection and Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently declared at the World Economic Forum that soon “the internet will disappear” as it becomes inseparable from our very being (“it will be part of your presence all the time”) (Business Insider). This should raise suspicion. No one should ever take futurologists at their word—technology progresses with the same combined and uneven gait as all other types development. Yet the numbers behind Schmidt’s claim are hardly a matter of dispute. Five billion new people are slated to join the Internet in the next decade, and the “Internet of things” has motivated individual users to integrate a vast array of online-enabled devices into their everyday lives. Even if they do not fully realize his dreams, they still make up the substance of Google’s government of things and the living.

Many traditional concerns have been raised about connectivity. Almost all use the conservative voice of moral caution. A band of “Net Critics” warn that technology is developing more quickly than our understanding of its effects. Popular media, the great screen of the collective unconscious, materialize fears about runaway technology. There is a whole string of Asian horror films that depict cursed media objects ruining our lives (Ringu, Pulse, Phone, One Missed Call, White: The Melody of the Curse). The usual cottage industry of romanticizing life without technology now suggests that “cell phones make us lazy,” while circulating ideas on how to “get on a social media diet.” Some philosophers, such as Bernard Stiegler, even say that technology is stealing our precious insides. Behind these suggestions lurks a drive to get back to our roots.

The “mad scientist” criticism of technology misses the mark. The trouble is not that myopic technicians have relentlessly pursued technical breakthroughs without considering the consequences (“forgive them, for they know not what they do”; Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, 28). The antidote for such ignorance would just be a small dose of ideology critique. Alternatively, technology has not exceeded humanity’s capacity to manage it—if anything, Foucault’s insights (the analytic of finitude, biopower) suggest that humanity influences its own future more than ever before (DI, 90–93). The problem is, they know perfectly well what they are doing, but they continue doing it anyway!

Philosophically, connectivity is about world-building. The goal of connectivity is to make everyone and everything part of a single world. The cases made for such a world are virtuous enough—Kantian cosmopolitanism wants perpetual peace, Marxist universalism demands the unity of theory and practice, and Habermas would have us all be part of one great conversation. Yet connectivity today is determined far more by people like Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, who demonstrates the significance of Deleuze’s argument that “technology is social before it is technical” (F, 17). Trained as a counterterrorism expert, Google poached Cohen from a position at the Department of State, where he convinced Condoleezza Rice to integrate social media into the Bush administration’s “diplomatic tool kit” (Rice, No Higher Honor, 305). In a geopolitical manifesto cowritten with then Google CEO Eric Schmidt, The New Digital Age, Cohen reveals Google’s deep aspiration to extend U.S. government interests at home and abroad. Their central tool? Connectivity.

When connectivity is taken as a mantra, you can see its effects everywhere. Jobseekers are told to hop on to the web (“While your resume can help you get the interview for a new job, a fully optimized LinkedIn profile can bring you more business, more connections, and can increase your professional reputation!”). Flat hierarchies are touted as good for business management (“Power is vertical; potential is horizontal!”). And the deluge of digital content is treated as the world’s greatest resource, held back only by unequal access (“Information wants to be free!”). As perverse as it sounds, many Deleuzians still promote concepts that equally motivate these slogans: transversal lines, rhizomatic connections, compositionist networks, complex assemblages, affective experiences, and enchanted objects. No wonder Deleuze has been derided as the lava lamp saint of “California Buddhism”—so many have reduced his rigorous philosophy to the mutual appreciation of difference, openness to encounters in an entangled world, or increased capacity through synergy.

Instead of drawing out the romance, Dark Deleuze demands that we kill our idols. The first task is negative, as in Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis, a “complete currettage”—overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place (AO, 311). Put more modestly, the first step is to acknowledge that the unbridled optimism for connection has failed. Temporary autonomous zones have become special economic zones. The material consequences of connectivism are clear: the terror of exposure, the diffusion of power, and the oversaturation of information. A tempting next move would be to criticize Deleuzian connectivists as falling behind the times, having not recognized their own moment of recuperation. Yet such an accusation would only prepare the ground for a more timely intervention. Dark Deleuze does not take up the mantle of prophetic guruism or punctual agitprop. As a project, it instead follows Deleuze’s advice to create untimely “vacuoles of non-communication” that break circuits rather than extend them (D, 175). The point is not to get out of this place but to cannibalize it—we may be of this world, but we are certainly not for it. Such out-of-jointedness is a distance. And distance is what begins the dark plunge into the many worlds eclipsed by the old.

Hatred for This World

“We need reasons to believe in this world,” Deleuze demands (C2, 172). We are so distracted by the cynicism of ideological critique that we too easily dismiss the real world as an illusion. The problem is exaggerated even more now that we mistake knowledge for belief, a confusion fed by growing databases of readily available information. He asks us to relink with the world as a matter of faith, to believe in something even as transient as the fleeting sensations of cinema (C2, 169–173). Although his suggestion is not wrong, it is incomplete. In his haste, Deleuze forgets to pose the problem with the ambivalence found in all his other accounts of power—how affects are ruled by tyrants, molecular revolutions made fascist, and nomad war machines enrolled to fight for the state. Without it, he becomes Nietzsche’s braying ass, which says yes only because it is incapable of saying no (NP, 178–86). We must then make up for Deleuze’s error and seek the dark underside of belief. The key to identifying what lies beneath begins with the path of belief, but only to pursue a different orientation. So start with a similar becoming-active that links up with the forces that autoproduce the real. But instead of simply appreciating the forces that produce the World, Dark Deleuze intervenes in them to destroy it. At one time, such an intervention would have been called the Death of God, or more recently, the Death of Man. What is called for today is the Death of this World, and to do so requires cultivating a hatred for it.

Deleuze refutes the image of Nietzsche as a dour pessimist. Flipping that image on its head, Deleuze argues that Nietzsche is an unparalleled thinker of affirmation. But in doing so, even Deleuze’s masterful pen cannot erase the many moments of negativity that impregnate Nietzsche’s work. Deleuze thus turns his eye to Nietzsche’s moments of creation, as exemplified in a passage from the fifty-eighth aphorism of The Gay Science:

How foolish it would be to suppose that one only needs to point out the origin and this misty shroud of delusion in order to destroy the world that counts as real, so-called “reality.” We can destroy only as creators.—But let us not forget: it is enough to create new names and estimations and probabilities in order to create in the long run new “things.”

Dissatisfied with Nietzsche’s implied goal of destruction, Deleuze inverts the phrase into “destroy in order to create” (DI, 130). This formulation appears over and again in his work. To name a few places: in Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari say that capitalism destroys what came before to create its own earthly existence, a process of three tasks whereby the first is negative (destroy!) and the second two are positive (create! create!). Deleuze later argues that the painter must first destroy prior clichés before creating a new image (FB, 71–90). And in their final collaboration, Deleuze and Guattari scold “those who criticize without creating” as “the plague of philosophy” (WP, 28).

There is something disarming about the sincerity of Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of philosophy as the art of constructing concepts (WP, 2). Yet it feels odd in an era full of trite invitations to being constructive: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” “if constructive thoughts are planted, positive outcomes will be the result,” or, simply, “be constructive, not destructive.” The simple if–then structure of these self-help maxims is more than logical; it discloses a transitive theory of justice. Just as the meek will inherit the earth, it promises the just deserts of construction. Good things come to those who are constructive! How far this is from Marx’s “ruthless criticism of all that exists” (“Letter to Arnold Ruge”). Now that advertisers claim to be the most creative of all creatures on earth, it is time to replace creativity as the central mechanism of liberation.

Deleuze would have hated today’s images of creativity—there is a great violence in comparing the fabrication of concepts to any happy means of construction; concepts are friends only to thought, as they break consensus (WP, 4–6, 99). Concepts are not discovered but the result of a catastrophe, Deleuze and Guattari say, from turning away, tiredness, distress, and distrust (6–7). True thought is rare, painful, and usually forced on us by the brutality of an event so terrible that it cannot be resolved without the difficulty of thought. As such, we must quit treating concepts as some “wonderful dowry from some wonderland” to understand the hard, rigorous work that goes into their creation (5).

Productivism is Dark Deleuze’s second object of criticism (connectivism being the first). It may be possible to distinguish concept creation from productivism, for the latter is “commercial professional training” that aspires for thought only beneficial “from the viewpoint of universal capitalism” (WP, 14). Maintaining such a distinction is difficult—in an age of compulsory happiness, it is easy for construction to be conflated with capitalist value, the empty promises of democracy, or just plain helpfulness (106–8). To that end, productivism distinguishes itself with two formal principles: accumulation and reproduction. First, productivism manages political conflicts through a logic of accumulation, as seen in the “full mobilizations” of World War II as well as in Stalin’s and Mao’s dreary attempts to outproduce the capitalist world system. Second, productivism limits production to reproduction, as capitalism attempts to do, by initiating only those circuits of production that operate on an expanding basis (what Lenin called “imperialism”). The significance of the critique of productivism is that it expands the grammar of power beyond what is beholden to accumulation or reproduction.

Dark Deleuze does not philosophically quibble with creation. But it is easy to get drowned out by those who praise Deleuze for his “joy.” The difficulty with joy is that it lies in the slippage between metaphysics and normativity. Michel Serres, for instance, remains steadfast that Deleuze’s death must have been an accident because he felt that suicide was not in Deleuze’s character or philosophy (Flint, “Michel Serres’ Angels”). Such liberties may be authorized by the term itself, as it comes from Spinoza’s Ethics, in which the line between the two is blurred. Joy surfaces as the feeling of pleasure that comes when a body encounters something that expands its capacities, which are affects said to “agree with my nature,” to be “good” or simply “useful” (S, 239). To end the story here (though some do) would reproduce a naive hedonism based on inquiries into subjects and their self-reported affective states. Spinoza’s theory of affects is not an affirmation of a subject’s feelings but a proof of the inadequacy of critique. Affects are by-products emitted during the encounter that hint at a replacement for recognition or understanding as the feedback loop to indicate if knowledge was sufficient. But there are innumerable forms of knowledge, many of which invite stupidity or illusion. What characterizes Spinoza’s “adequate knowledge” is its ability to create something new—it is that knowledge then becomes “identical to the construction of reality” (138). This is why Spinoza says that God = nature; knowledge-as-God is defined as that thought which increases the capacity to make actions flourish in the natural world (“I think, therefore I am active”) (WP, 31). The implication is that critique is not effective in its own right, no matter how loudly it proclaims its truth. The only adequate knowledge is activity.

Deleuze corrupts the holism of an already heretical Spinoza through an old atomist proposition: the relation between two terms produces an independent third term. (“Sometimes the relations of two bodies may agree so well that they form a third relation within which the two bodies are preserved and prosper”; S, 239; H, 101). This is how Deleuze builds his metaphysics of positivity—all elements stand alone without recourse to (Hegelian) opposition, contradiction, or identity. Deleuze and Guattari’s “line of flight” conceptually embodies the Nietzschean notion that things are not wholly dependent on their context of production. For them, anything that has gained its own internal consistency is free to travel outside its place of origin. They even define art this way—as impressions that have congealed enough to become their own mobile army of sensations (WP, 163–64). Deleuze and Guattari’s contemporaries share this insight, most notably Foucault’s strategic reversibility of power relations (History of Sexuality, 92–102) and Althusser’s aleatory materialism (Philosophy of the Encounter). For Foucault, the reversibility of power is illustrated in homosexuality, which is first created as a medical category of sexual perversion but grows into a whole way of life that “spoke on its own behalf.” For Althusser, the “underground current” of capitalism is made up of various noncontemporaneous elements always in a process of “becoming-necessary” that “gels at certain felicitous moments,” while the singular importance of each haunting contingency simultaneously reveals the system’s unstable horizon. Atomism thus shows how the world supplies the materials for its destruction.

The powers of the outside, a component of Deleuze’s thought largely driven underground, offer an additional escape. First, there is this book’s key pivot point: Deleuze and Guattari establish in Anti-Oedipus the autoproduction of the Real, which is a passive process that occurs largely beyond human understanding. Confusing metaphysics for politics, many Deleuzians parrot this production as a positive end unto itself. Yet a return to a politics worthy of the name “communism” demands the opposite, as the greatest system of autoproduction is capitalism, which throws billions into abject poverty, wages horrific wars of devastation, and subjects humanity to a growing matrix of social oppression. Appeals to the frailty of life only obscure the issue even more. To say something rather controversial, though well established by ecologists decades ago: life will survive us. All human concern for the world is ultimately selfish anthropocentrism, for it was never life that was at risk (“the combined detonation of all the world’s nuclear weapons would be like a warm summer breeze to Gaia,” I once heard), just the world’s capacity to sustain humans (Luke, Ecocritique; Stengers, In Catastrophic Times). Second, the way forward is to invite death, not to avoid it. Deleuze and Guattari suggest this in their reworking of the death drive. Similar sentiments are echoed in the punk ethos of “no future,” which paradoxically realizes that the only future we have comes when we stop reproducing the conditions of the present (Edelman, No Future). So let us stop romanticizing life and wish a happy death on calcified political forms, no-good solutions, and bad ways of thinking.

We must correct Deleuze’s error: failing to cultivate a hatred for this world. It begins with the “ambivalent joy of hatred”—“What my soul loves, I love. What my soul hates, I hate” (F, 23; ECC, 135). Or to echo Proust, “we must be harsh, cruel, and deceptive to what we love” (P, 92). It is not even that Deleuze never mentioned hatred in a positive light; in fact, he often praises Nietzsche’s “sense of cruelty” and “taste for destruction” (DR, 53). Deleuze was too often overtaken by a naive affirmation of joy, and as such, he was unable to give hatred its necessary form. His image for the future resembles too much of the present, and those who repeat it have come to sound like a parody: “rhizomatic gardens,” “cooperative self-production,” and “affirming the affirmative of life.” Against those maxims, the Dark Deleuze is reborn as a barbarian depicted in Rimbaud’s season in hell: “I’m of a distant race: my forefathers were Scandinavian; they slashed their sides and drank their own blood. I will make cuts all over; I’ll tattoo myself, I long to be as a hideous Mongol: you’ll see, I’ll scream in the streets. I want to be mad with rage. . . . I dreamt of crusades, of unrecorded voyages of discovery, of republics without history, wars of suppressed religion, moral revolutions, movements of races and continents” (A Season in Hell). Barbarian hatred is not to be indiscriminate, but it does not follow from a science of judgment. In fact, it is what is left after having done away with judgment (of God, of Man, and even of the World). Hatred is the ambivalent complement to love and, as such, can easily evade a decline into ressentiment. For ressentiment is just as much a depreciated image of love, as demonstrated by the Christian God who loved this world so much that he introduced the moral judgment of the ascetic ideal. In the end, hatred will prove to be just as important for the Death of this World as it was for the Death of God and the Death of Man.

From the Chapel to the Crypt

There are those who have hitherto only enlightened the world in various ways; the point is to darken it. Some speculate that humans first pondered the ways of the world under the brilliant light of the heavens. On that vast celestial stage, the gods played out great dramas of arts and culture. This cosmos also inspired the earliest sciences of mathematics and astronomy, which wove the many constellations into a single tapestry. As the light of the stars became cycles and then detailed calendars, so came the dawn of time.

A more modern story begins in 1609, when, upon hearing news of the Dutch invention of the telescope, Galileo created his own. Almost immediately, Galileo was peering into the dark quadrants of the moon and illustrating its angle of illumination. These discoveries would lead him to loudly endorse heliocentrism—replacing God with a new light at the center of the universe. Galileo curiously flaunts the rules of astronomy in his lunar record, as he does not date each ink wash according to its time of observation, nor does he make a photorealistic reproduction of the moon’s landscape (Gingrich and van Helden, “From Occhiale to Printed Page,” 258–62). Centuries of critics have tried to determine the source of Galileo’s inaccuracy. Johannis Hevelii, the father of stenography, wondered if Galileo’s instruments were too crude (Selenographia sive Lunae Descriptio, 205). Others suggest that he may have been too overtaken by the excitement of discovery (Kopal, The Moon, 225). But what if Galileo chose not to view the moon mathematically but philosophically? He was less concerned about its angles of illumination as an astronomical object than about what his telescopic perspicillum revealed about it as a cosmological concept. His styling of the moon reveals a way of seeing far more appropriate to baroque visual argument than to geographic measure. Galileo’s ink washes demonstrate the baroque’s beautiful convergences. Referring “not to an essence but rather to an operative function,” Galileo’s moon unfurls in the collision of multiple points of view as darkness and landscape meet in its leaping shadows (L, 3). More importantly, he marks a transition driven by “the force of divergences, impossibilities, discords, dissonances” (81). In a world no longer illuminated by the light of God, Galileo paints “many possible borders between worlds” in a chromatic scale so as to be irresolvable from the lens of any one camera set to a single angle (81). How, then, does one continue Galileo’s journey to the far side of the moon? By refusing divine harmony and instead conspiring with divergent underground worlds.

The most immediate instance of lightness, connectivism, is the realization of the techno-affirmationist dream of complete transparency. The fate of such transparency is depicted in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. In it, the drive for complete communicability elevates transparency in the false transcendence of a New Tower of Babel. Deep in the shadows of the Lower City labors the working class, enslaved to the machines that automation promised to eliminate. Only in the catacombs does the secret rebellion commence. But instead of ending in Lang’s grand Hegelian mediation, it would be better to listen to the Whore of Babylon in Metropolis, who says, “Let’s watch the world go to hell.” Such an untimely descent into darkness begins with a protest: lightness has far too long been the dominant model of thought. The road there descends from the chapel to the crypt.

Crypts are by their very nature places of seclusion. Early Christians facing public persecution fled to the underground catacombs below Rome, where they could worship in secret (“Essay upon Crypts,” 73–77). Early basilicas contain crypts as a “second church” under their choirs, featuring a vaulted ceiling, many columns, several aisles, and an altar (Lübke, Ecclesiastical Art, 24–25). Some great churches even included a second crypt dedicated to a particular saint (26). At times, when sacred objects are of special interest, crypts of especially renowned saints have inspired mass pilgrimages (Spence-Jones, Early Christianity and Paganism, 269). Deleuze notes that these spaces fold in on themselves, simultaneously expressing the “autonomy of the inside” and the “independence of the façade” as an inside without an outside or an outside without an inside, depending on how you approach it (L, 28). Looking at El Greco’s great baroque mannerist painting The Burial of Count Orgaz, we are given the choice. Above the great horizontal line, a gathering of saints ascends to the height of Jesus, whose own ascension grants the heavens eternal lightness. Below, a communion of cloaked, pale men crowd together to lay the count to rest under a dark background illuminated only by torchlight. The painting reveals the baroque truth of knowledge: “for ages there have been places where what is seen is inside: a cell, a sacristy, a crypt, a church, a theater, a study, or a print room” (L, 27–28). So beyond the association of crypts with rot and death, it is a projection of subterranean architectural power.

From the crypt, Dark Deleuze launches a conspiracy. It is fueled by negativity, but not one of antimonies. Following Freud, negation is not a necessary by-product of consciousness. The lesson to be drawn from him is that negation is finding a way to say “no” to those who tell us to take the world as it is. To this end, the path forward is Deleuze’s nondialectical negation, the “contrary,” which operates as the distance between two exclusive paths (LS, 172–80). Klossowski identifies the goal of the conspiracy as breaking the collusion between institutionalized morality, capitalism, and the state (“Circulus Vitiosus”). He then shows how Nietzsche’s laughter can be used as an experimental instrument to dissolve all identities into phantasms. A number of commentators have tried to rehabilitate the conspiracy on the basis of an esoteric/exoteric distinction, whereby exoteric discourses are the mere public face to a deeper paranoia whose desire is concealed in an esoteric code. To the extent that it is true, in his book Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, Klossowski warns that the esoteric tradition must be avoided because it “demystifies only in order to mystify better” (131). The point is not to replace angelic messages with arcane ones. This raises an important question: what is an appropriately cryptic language? Deleuze and Guattari note that “the man of war brings the secret: he thinks, eats, loves, judges, arrives in secret, while the man of the state proceeds publicly” (TP, 543–44). Fortunately, in our conspiratorial world of phantasms, one does not hold a secret but instead becomes a secret. Even if she ends up spilling everything, it turns out to be nothing. Why? The secret first hides within dominant forms to limit exposure, yet what it smuggles inside is not any specific thing that needs to evade discovery. Rather, it is a perception of the secret that spreads under the shroud of secrecy: perception + secret = the secret as secretion. Conspiracies do not remain limited to a few furtive missives; their creeping insinuations are part of a universal project to permeate all of society (TP, 286–89). The best conspiracy is when it has nothing left to hide.

There is an affective dimension to our conspiracy. Pessimism becomes a necessity when writing in an era of generalized precarity, extreme class stratification, and summary executions of people of color. The trouble with the metaphysics of difference is that it does not immediately suggest a positive conception of alienation, exploitation, or social death. To the extent that those who affirm difference and its intensifications do make such violence thinkable, it appears as the consequence of deprivation. As a result, they cannot explain the simultaneous connection–separation of a body alienated from their own powers. Such joyousness makes no place for Marx’s theory of exploitation in which one class systematically extracts profit by expanding the capacities of another. The conspiracy offers a way out. On the affective level, it takes the ambivalence of hatred to grasp how one’s own capacities are the yoke of his oppression. On the level of strategy, it takes deep, labyrinthine paths to develop a cryptography. To do so myself, I reenact Winston’s trips to the shallow alcove of his apartment in 1984 to keep our own illicit diary of slogans. This is how I learned to find my own way to say “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” and “If there is hope, it lies with the proles” (181). This is because the ultimate task of Dark Deleuze is but a modest one: to keep the dream of revolution alive in counterrevolutionary times.

The conspiracy Dark Deleuze is a series of contraries. Contraries are not poles, which are dialectical opposites that ultimately complement each other. To distill a central argument from Deleuze’s magnum opus Difference and Repetition, philosophy has (to its detriment) taken the nature of thinking to be the establishment of equivalence or logical identity between two terms (59). As such, contrasts must avoid relating terms on the basis of “a conceived identity, a judged analogy, an imagined opposition, or a perceived similitude” (138). Deleuze summarizes this argument in an interview: “It was Lévi-Strauss, I think, who showed you had to distinguish the following two propositions: that only similar things can differ [dialectics—presupposing a primordial identity behind differences], and only different things can be similar [contraries—difference primary to identity]” (N 156). There is a second reason for avoiding opposites: opposites imply a “golden mean” whereby the optimal place is found somewhere in between each extreme. Such middling compromise is the greatest tragedy of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhetorical presentation of what appear to be dualisms (smooth/striated, molar/molecular, arborescent/rhizomatic) in A Thousand Plateaus. The unfortunate effect is a legion of noncommittal commentators who preach the moderation of the middle. In response, we must contaminate every last one of those conceptual pairs with a third term that arrives from the outside. Deleuze and Guattari set the example in how they reimagine Dumézil’s tripartite state as two opposing poles besieged by a third term that arrives from the outside. Such a reformulation would more closely follow Deleuze’s atomism of two terms relating through the production of an independent third term. To make the stakes clear: we are told in A Thousand Plateaus that the state is made of two opposing poles, one liberal and one authoritarian, that in fact work in a “complementarity” not dissimilar from the dialectical logic of determinate negation—this is the model of relation that must be avoided at all costs (for more, see the section “Difference: Exclusive Disjunction, Not Inclusive Disjunction”) (Dumézil, Mitra-Varuna). This is why Dark Deleuze contrasts dark to joyous and not dark to light or joyous to sad. Each contrary is a forking path, an alternate route for every instance one is tempted by affirmation.

Listed in what follows are the contrasting terms. In the column on the left, I list a series of tasks. Across each column I have placed two contrary approaches, one joyous and one dark. The association each term has to its contrary is purely incidental. Each term’s contrariness is not given, as if one implied the other—I propose dark terms simply on their ability to unexpectedly usurp the operations of their contraries. Contrary approaches should be taken as mutually exclusive, as they are independent processes each meant to fulfill the given task without recourse to the other. What makes them dark is the position of exteriority from which the irregular forces of darkness attack the joy of state thought. The foreignness of relation is why each pair of contrasting terms is notably imbalanced.

My ultimate purpose is to convince readers to completely abandon all the joyous paths for their dark alternatives. The best scenario would be that these contraries fade into irrelevance after Dark Deleuze achieves its ostensible goal: the end of this world, the final defeat of the state, and full communism. It is far more likely that various aspects of darkness will be captured along the way. Like any other war machine, a dark term is defeated when it isomorphically takes on relations or forms of its joyous counterpart. So it is worth uttering a cautionary note from A Thousand Plateaus: even when contrary, never believe that darkness will suffice to save us.


The Task

Create Conceptions

Destroy Worlds











Inclusive Disjunction

Exclusive Disjunction








Processural Democracy

Conspiratorial Communism












Political Anthropology






The Outside





The Forces of Bodies

The Powers of the False

The Sensible