The Necessity and Contingency of Universal History

Deleuze and Guattari contra Hegel

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Craig Lundy
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History occupies a somewhat awkward position in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Although they often criticise history as a practice and advance alternatives that are explicitly anti-historical, such as ‘nomadology’ and ‘geophilosophy’, their scholarship is nevertheless littered with historical encounters and deeply influenced by historians such as Fernand Braudel. One of Deleuze and Guattari’s more significant engagements with history occurs through their reading and theory of universal history. In this paper I will explicate and critically analyse the nature of this universal history vis-à-vis its most pertinent counterpoint: Hegel’s philosophy of world history. In contrast to Hegel’s form of historicism, which universalizes by virtue of a unitary and totalizing force, Deleuze and Guattari develop a universalizing mechanism that is strictly devoid of any privileged essence. Following, Deleuze and Guattari’s form of universal history is marked above all by contingency as opposed to necessity. In this paper I will show precisely how. I will also go on to demonstrate how Deleuze and Guattari’s universal history offers the promise of an historical ontology commensurate with the processes of creativity and becoming, provided that appropriate steps are taken to reaffirm the radical contingency at its heart.

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