A Critical Politics of the Human: Judith Butler and Gilles Deleuze
Stark, H, A Critical Politics of the Human: Judith Butler and Gilles Deleuze, What is the Human? Australian Voices from the Humanities, Australian Scholarly Publishing, LE Semlar, B Hodge and P Kelly (ed), North Melbourne, pp. 35-46. ISBN 9781921875601 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]
Copyright 2012 L.E. Semler, Bob Hodge and Philippa Kelly
My interest in this chapter is in the legacy of Hegel in contemporary critical theory. In particular, my concern is with how the contested inheritance of Hegelian theory illuminates particular questions about the 'human' for speculative political discussions. Two philosophers who demonstrate the polarities of this debate are Judith Butler and Gilles Deleuze precisely because they offer divergent readings of Hegel. Butler's rejection of Deleuze is well documented (Subjects 205- 17; Undoing 198), and the reasons for this rejection become evident when the differences in their readings of Hegel are brought into relief. I believe Butler's work is foundationally Hegelian. Her first monograph, Subjects of Desire, is concerned with Hegel's place in twentieth-century French thought; and when re-releasing it in 1999 she
defended the Hegelian model of subjectivity which informs her enduring interest in a politics of recognition. Alternatively, Deleuze developed the central concept of his work, difference, through his critique and eventual abandonment of Hegel's dialectic. This is evident in his work on Bergson, Nietzsche and Spinoza during the 1960s and culminates in Difference and Repetition. Butler's defence of Hegel is deeply nuanced and the Hegel that she offers is different to the Hegel that Deleuze critiques. Consequently, although both use Hegel strategically, they read him so differently that their conclusions are incommensurable. I do not endeavour to create artificial communication between these interpretations bur rather to examine how they engender very different kinds of politics.