It seems like every time I meet with my entire family the conversation about my career choice always pops up. Today I used the term “intellectual” and they looked at me like I was crazy. Sometimes I wish I was born in France where intellectuals are appreciated and respected. Here in America it seems like we only care about celebrities! I ended up telling them how important the role of the intellectual is, in part to defend my position and also maybe to enlighten them a bit. Of course Foucault and Deleuze would disagree with them needing to become enlightened. These two intellectuals believe that the masses actually know that their position in society is, and they know they are oppressed. They do not need anyone telling them this.
I think the problems that intellectuals face in society is that they may give off the impression that they know it all and everyone else is oblivious. Foucault and Deleuze thought this was not true. Intellectuals were once a part of capitalism. Producing truths, knowledge, and consciousness that supported the hegemonic ideology. These two realized this position and saw intellectuals as instruments that supported ruling ideology; as a result they decide s to make it clear in their conversation that the role of the intellectual was to struggle against power. By removing themselves from power and into the sphere of the powerless and encouraging others to speak for themselves power was shifting. I find this position to be very empowering. If we just have discourse about our conditions and troubles we are already breaking down the wall that was put in place. In other words, to be an intellectual one has to get on the level of the masses because the intellectual does not theory but they do theory.
My aunt had a difficult time accepting this notion. She thought I would sit in front of my computer trying to come up with a theory that was all encompassing and then try to apply it. She thought intellectual s all sat down and made stuff up to make sense of the world. I told her this was not the case. According to Deleuze and Foucault, theory is practice; you cannot have one without the other. The intellectual thinks of theory as a “box of tools” you pick and choose theories that apply to you and then you apply them to struggle. The main point that the two men wanted to get across was that power was diffuse. It did not lie in the hands of just one group, but rather many individuals. People are increasingly becoming self-policing agents and by applying theory to practice one can seek to break down some of that power and concentrate it amongst entire groups. Foucault was able to do this for example by giving prisoners a platform for which to speak on. In this way they are actively a part of change and not just subjects for an intellectual.
Intellectuals may produce many complex ideas. Sometimes they are so complex that the average person may not understand them. I believe that this is a problem, if we want to encourage people to exercise their power we should not make it difficult for t hem to do so.
With that being said, I will attempt to clarify Deleuze’s concept of the field of immanence. This was not a fun thing to get my family to grasp but I feel like putting it in writing may help me better sort it out in my head. Here goes…
According to Deleuze, the field of immanence can be viewed as a large empty space with one level. There is nothing outside of this field it contains everything and has no opposite. In it are subject less particles that are freely roaming or flowing like energy. I know these sounds very odd but Deleuze wanted to explain society without actually using individual subjects. He believed that individuals were tainted by symbolic order and meaning. It is essentially a different way of thinking that takes society as we know it out of the subject. In this respect a dog, a continent, God and even a pencil are all on the same level, there is no hierarchy or organization. Because those things are all man made and distract us from true desire. That is why he believes that a masochist for example, can better grasp this idea because they are doing sex in a way that may not make sense but that is the point. Things do not have to be so rigid and confined. They should be like the field of immanence, fluid and boundary-less. In this way we come to produce ourselves as happy individuals. He isn’t saying that we must self-destruct, but that we experiment with ourselves to get closer to this notion. It is important for an intellectual to think outside the box because not only is he producing new ways of looking at things, but he is also awakening the masses and helping them question life as they know it. Who knows what other ways we can think about life. Not just human life but any life even matter… just some food for thought.