Gilles Deleuze

Kai Eriksson

Posted on May 31 2018

One of the most influential French philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century



1925 Born 18 January in Paris, France
1953 His first monograph, Empiricism and Subjectivity, is published
1956 Marries Denise Paul Grandjouan
1957 Takes up a position at the University of Paris
1962 Publishes his influential book Nietzsche and Philosophy. During this time, he befriends Michel Foucault
1964 Accepts a teaching position at the University of Lyon
1968 His magnum opus and primary thesis for the doctorat d’EtatDifference and Repetition, is published. Deleuze meets Félix Guattari, a radical psychoanalyst and political militant, with whom he began a long collaboration
1969 With Foucault’s assistance, secures a position as a philosophy professor at the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes. Gives compelling lectures, chain-smoking straight through the classes
1972 L'Anti-Œdipe is published. Lacan freaks out and bans his students from discussing it. During this time, Badiou declares Deleuze an “enemy of the people” and occasionally turns up at Deleuze’s seminar to interrupt him
1987 Retires from teaching
1995 Depressed by chronic pulmonary illness, he commits suicide by throwing himself from the window of his apartment



Deleuze criticised the bias for unity over multiplicity and for sameness over difference. 


In order to do justice to multiplicity, a completely new set of philosophical concepts is required. In fact, Deleuze considered the creation of concepts to be the essential task of philosophy.


Deleuze created a number of different concepts, including assemblage, deterritorialization, line of flight, plane of immanence, rhizome, schizoanalysis, and virtual.


Here, we are investigating the concept of assemblage and Deleuze's view on history.






Deleuze, working with Félix Guattari, regarded becomings  as more important than history. According to him, we tend to think too much in terms of history.


For Deleuze it was desire—an event at the microlevel—that conditioned power, not the other way around (Foucault hated Deleuze’s notion of desire).


Both Foucault and Deleuze shared a similar kind of perspective, inspired by Nietzsche, concerning the nature and aim of philosophical work.


They used the notion of assemblage. Its aim was 


‘‘not a matter of bringing all sorts of things together under one concept but rather of relating each concept to variables that explain its mutations,’’ (Deleuze).


Foucault called it dispositif, whereas Deleuze preferred the term agencement.


Through this concept, it became possible to transgress the rigid subject-object axis still dominant in theoretical discourse.


As with Foucault, it constituted a mixture of bodies, institutions and discourses in which all the components were on the same ontological level:


‘‘An assemblage of enunciation does not speak ‘of ’ things; it speaks on the same level as [à même les choses] states of things and states of content.’’


‘‘We set ourselves the task,’’ notes Deleuze, ‘‘of analyzing mixed forms, arrangements—. We set out to follow and disentangle lines rather than work back to points: a cartography, involving microanalysis.’’


One can note how the approach here differs from that of Bruno Latour, for instance,  who insists that the referential relationship with the empirical have to remain unbroken.


The concepts used by Foucault and Deleuze are not, however, identical in their meaning, as Deleuze considered the dispositifs of power to be a component of agencements.


Deleuze hinted that in Foucault’s program, assemblages ‘‘referred to a diagram, a kind of abstract machine immanent to the entire social field,’’ whereas in his own work they ‘‘consisted of a diffuse and heterogeneous multiplicity, ‘micro-dispositifs’.’’


Deleuze’s conception of philosophy is characterized by this aspiration to think through flows, movements, and folds rather than essences, structures, or institutions.





  • differential calculus
  • thermodynamics
  • geology
  • molecular biology
  • population genetics
  • ethology
  • embryology
  • anthropology
  • psychoanalysis
  • economics
  • linguistics
  • esoteric thought






Deleuze pursued his own philosophical work through the differentiation and creation of concepts, which he considered to be the task of philosophy. He has a simple reason for this: the subject of philosophy is at heart ahistorical.


What is interesting in an event, such as a revolution, for instance, is not its existence within a specific social field but rather its ability to produce a ‘‘concept’’ that can be extracted from the historical state of affairs.


‘‘What History grasps of the event,’’ says Deleuze, ‘‘is its effectuation in states of affairs or in lived experience, but the event in its becoming, in its specific consistency, in its self-positing as concept, escapes History.’’


Deleuze considered the arrangements he studied to ‘‘enter into history only indirectly.’’


By claiming that history provides merely the condition that makes possible the experimentation of something that escapes history, Deleuze refuses a historical determination of philosophy.


It is on this point that Deleuze differs most from Foucault, who bases his work on relationships and processes that only come into view historically. For, according to Foucault, philosophy cannot be disentangled from these: on the contrary, they are inherently related.


For Deleuze, actual spatio-temporal things are merely actualizations of variations that persist outside of historical time.


In contrast, Foucault thinks that the technology of Panopticon, for instance, was not merely the actualization of ahistorical variations, but rather that it created a whole new power network with its idea of control.


Deleuze seems to think that, if history is nothing but the capturing of the unsuppressed and principal process of life in transient and subordinate structures, these structures cannot appear as philosophically significant.


In this regard, Foucault appears as more sensitive to the fact that history is not only an effect but also a process that constantly generates its own conditions.


Yet, whereas Foucault was a thinker of cultural institutions, Deleuze was originally a philosopher of irreducible multiplicity, preoccupied more with the lines of flight than with areas of stability.







Alice Jardine: the concept of becoming-woman is a threat to feminist struggle that allowed women to claim a subjectivity in the first place


Luce Irigaray: the same concept amounts to a masculinist and desexualizing appropriation of feminist struggle


Alain Badiou: Deleuze is not so much a philosopher of the multiple as of the One


Manfred Frank: Deleuze's theory of individuation fails to explain the unity of consciousness


Vincent Descombes: Deleuze's account of a difference that is not derived from identity is incoherent. Criticizes also his analysis of history in Anti-Oedipus to be 'utter idealism'






  • architecture
  • urban studies
  • geography
  • film studies
  • musicology
  • anthropology
  • gender studies
  • literary studies





Primary Literature


  • Nietzsche et la philosophie (1962); Nietzsche and Philosophy (1983)
  • Différence et répétition (1968); Difference and Repetition (1994)
  • Logique du sens (1969); The Logic of Sense (1990)
  • Dialogues (1977); Dialogues (1987)
  • Mille plateaux (1980); A Thousand Plateaus (1987)
  • Pourparlers (1990); Negotiations (1995)



Secondary Literature

  • Alain Badiou, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, 2000
  • Ronald Bogue, Deleuze and Guattari, 1989
  • François Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, 2010
  • James Williams, Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: A Critical Introduction and Guide, 2004







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