In No-one’s Time. The Dispute Surrounding the Concept of Event in Post-structuralism

Lecture by Katja Diefenbach
July 3th, 2014

»Event« is one of the major concepts that »French philosophy« of the 1960s has left us. It was brought into the debate with the aim of intervening in the political and theoretical crisis of Marxism after its historio-philosophical foundations had been shattered. But as one can see in the figures of »exception« and »intensity« in Badiou and Deleuze, nothing is more contested than the conception of the event. For Badiou, it is ontologically groundless and must be verified retroactively by the intervention of a subject. For Deleuze, however, an event is not succeeded by its subsequent solidification, like mayonnaise when it thickens, but by its spatiotemporal differentiation.

When Deleuze includes the attendant concept of difference in intensity in his theory of cinema, he retroactively lends it a visual character. In his strident criticism, not unlike Badiou’s objections, Rancière declares that Deleuze developed not a theory of film, but a cinematographic natural history in which the history of cinema simply reveals the same as the history of being, namely, a-chronological time becoming autonomous, its incessant self-foundation in the gap between an all-conserving past and a present that always passes by.

Against Rancière and Badiou, I shall propose that Deleuze’s ontology of intensity takes on an interesting special position in post-structuralism, because it does not base political thought and the aesthetics of existence on a single principle (such as dispute, decision or faithfulness to the event), but instead operates with the most rigorous among the anarchical principles – the expression of difference.

Katja Diefenbach is a theorist living in Berlin. Her research is mainly concerned with 20th-century French epistemology and philosophy, with a special focus on the relationship between Marxism and post-structuralism. She recently co-edited the book »Encountering Althusser. Politics and Materialism in Contemporary Radical Thought« (Bloomsbury 2013). In 2015 her »Politik der Potentialität. Spinoza im Postmarxismus« will be published. Katja Diefenbach has taught at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, the Berlin University of the Arts, the Humboldt University of Berlin, the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, and the Hamburger Hochschule für Bildende Künste.