The current social landscape (particularly in the West) is riddled with debates surrounding identity politics. Particularly since the rise of women’s rights activism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and civil rights movements in the middle of the twentieth century, the manner in which society thinks of social politics has shifted from abstract notions of “God given rights for all” to the specific claim(s) that particular human identities, as represented by a collection of multifarious minority sub-groups who stand united in solidarity through race, religion, sexual orientation, and/or physical capacity (among others), deserve equal attention, recognition, and treatment under the banner of a codified juridicality of government-sanctioned protection and flourishing. The former mode of abstract equal rights “for all” no longer proffers the concreteness that an ever-diversifying social landscape requires. Thus, it is argued, only a logic that comports itself to the appreciation of, or at the very least the tolerance of, the entirety of social collectives, as distinct identities in themselves, is sufficient for the structuring of equality. The fracturing and specificity of the logic of human rights has been successful in granting many people-groups freedoms that were heretofore barred. However, the proliferation of identity politics has also met much conflict, as the very idea of identity itself has been challenged. Along with this challenge has come the specific conflict over the identity of the human qua human.
The tension surrounding the latter draws responses from a variety of sources, each complete with its own logic to argue its point. Religious minds tend to appeal to a transcendent signifier that demarcates the identity of the human. The imago dei is the ontological signification par excellence for anthropological identification among those in religious camps who seek to preserve the big Other as that which resides over life, determining meaning therein. On the other hand, in what might be termed (albeit tersely) the secular sphere, there is a large concentration on strict biologism. The latter appeals to no transcendent authority but instead cowers at the feet of the almighty natural sciences, seeking their wisdom for all things biological.
However, beyond the limits of these two poles lies a marshland of philosophical exploration, an immanent pre-biotic soup, if you will; embodied in the writings of Gilles Deleuze and in the latter’s co-writing experiments with psychoanalyst Felix Guattari. By challenging the very notions of identity and being, Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari circumvent the tension that arises in most discussions surrounding identity politics. Through the creation of an array of concepts, Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari devised not so much a philosophy as a mode of life and an image of thought; one that would challenge common sense assumptions of identity, representation, difference, repetition, and even time itself. By uprooting “Leibniz’s Law,” Deleuze creates an image of the world that is characterized by difference, in a positive and ontologically prior sense. Thus, for Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari, there is no identity, there is only difference.
Life is therefore comprised of endless unconscious libidinal flows, moving throughout a plane of immanence, connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting with one another, creating new assemblages (or machines as they would be called in Anti-Oedipus), and disrupting patterns of static being. Therefore, philosophy, for Deleuze and Deleuze-Guttari, is not about representing ideas. It is not about deciphering meaning. Rather, philosophy is about creation. It is about palpating the surface level of common sense existence to allow for those endless flows of desire to break through and affect life.
It is this latter aspect of their thought that has been particularly embraced and utilized by social minorities seeking equality in the social sphere. Particularly, Gender Studies and Queer Theory have found contained in the writings of Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari the impetus to create new concepts of human identity, which in turn, advocates hope, might result in a liberation of sorts for the minority community in question. While Gender Studies and Queer Theory have garnered the most academic attention and have profited most from the collected works of Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari thus far, there are other areas within the paradigm of social studies that are beginning to take notice of the possibilities contained in the writings of the former figures. One such area is that of Disability Studies.
Although a relatively new academic discipline, Disability Studies is in a unique position; for this discipline has the potential to address a wider array of persons than either Gender Studies or Queer Theory. Yes, it is true that the planet is half-populated by Women. And Yes, both Gender Studies and Queer Theory are disciplines that consider the entire populous and its social cohesion. However, it is my contention that Disability Studies is a social-production that addresses the crucial idea of human functionality and capacity. Thus, while still restricted by its existence at what Deleuze and Guattari would call the “molar” level, its inherent tendency is to effect a pseudo Deleuzian-Guattarian critique of social organization.
Therefore, in what follows, I will first outline Deleuze’s and Deleuze-Guattari’s creational ontology of immancence. I will argue, contra Peter Hallward and others, that Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari are in fact thinkers of creation, revolution, and the actual. The latter study should demonstrate that Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari are not simply philosophers of the virtual. Rather, they are eminently concerned with the transformation of this world and its desire. Then our focus will tack toward Disability Studies. We will address the dominant theory in Disability Studies since the 1970s, “the Social Model of Disability,” and explain how and why this model (like hard-lined social constructionism in general) fails to account for the diversity of challenges facing those within the disabled community and fails to proffer the best pattern for social change. We will focus our attention on a new thought percolating in the periphery of Disability Studies that sees all humanity as essentially impaired, and then connect this thought-machine with Deleuze and Deleuze-Guattari’s thought-machine of creational immanence and try to offer some possible alternatives to the debate surrounding identity politics. The intended result will be to carve a path to a post-human political theory that will aid in the sustained creation of what Deleuze and Guattari referred to as “permanent revolution.”