Disaffection vs. Analogy

On the occasion of the recent dust-up over Milbank’s new book, I thought I’d note some theoretically explicit remarks from Deleuze and the Naming of God:

Analogy may articulate an order that is peaceable to some, but there will no doubt be those who experience this order in terms of suffering. [fn1] There will be minorities – all individuals are cracked, and so all, on some basic level, will be disaffected with the peace that order offers. 

In what sense, then, can analogy speak to the desire for a break with what is given, to the experience of suffering? The only way analogy’s order could remain peaceable, in light of such desire and experience, is to demand their stifling. In fact, the very possibility of addressing and re-expressing the presently disaffected desire is precluded by analogy’s order of peace. It is in this sense that the ethics of analogy are majoritarian. For immanence’s minoritarian ethics of the crack, on the other hand, dissatisfaction with, or intol- erance of, given accords is a kind of infant resistance, an interstitial affection, and it can set one on a path toward the production of new accords. Yet it is precisely this affection of dissatisfaction with given accords that analogy seems to excise. We can consider, for instance, Milbank’s remark that analogy, when properly developed, ‘implies . . . analogical continuity between the “sameness” of given hierarchy and the constant temporal intrusion of difference’. [fn2] What is striking, when this claim is set against an ethico-political background, is how much the emphasis is placed on protecting the ‘given hierarchy’. The concern is not to speak to, and from, the experience of suffering; it is to ensure that the ‘temporal intrusion of difference’, or contingent possibility, not be allowed to undermine the hierarchy that is already in place. We must, it seems, stay in the middle . . . some difference, some excess, sure, but not so much that it would disturb the order that is now regnant. This ‘temporal intrusion of difference’ seems less to call forth a break with the given than to indicate an excess in need of accommodation, a disturbance to be addressed but ultimately pacified. In fact, analogy’s attitude toward temporal difference is, in this respect, precisely what Deleuze attacked under the name of Chronos.

In the temporality of Chronos, we can recall, past and future are dimensions of a constant present: ‘only the present fills time, whereas past and future are two dimensions relative to the present in time’. [fn3] Against this, Deleuze poses the time of the Aion, which recommends an ‘instant without thickness and without extension, [which] subdi- vides each present into past and future, rather than vast and thick presents which comprehend both future and past in relation to one another’. [fn4] Milbank’s middle, we can now see, belongs to the tempo- rality of Chronos – for what is the middle if not the construction of a ‘vast and thick present’, one that is able to absorb every potential disturbance of difference? Milbank does, of course, speak of old and new accords of being, of the past of the given and the future of the made. Yet, as we have seen, both old and new determinations are indistinguishably middle. The middle-product may be past or future, but the place it makes is, without exception, the eternal place of the ontological middle. It is this ontological middle that determines the present. Middle-products enable variations of the present, constant bifurcations of the present into the past and future, but they also recuperate these bifurcations into the present. Each middle-product’s variation is related back to the present. The assertion, ‘all of being is analogically contained in God’, can therefore be rewritten: ‘all of being is analogically contained in the present’.

fn1: Looked at from this perspective, it seems no surprise that colonisation historically emerged out of an analogical imaginary. If peace can be brought about only through conversion, then not only does one have a motivation for the conversion of others to one’s own position, one also has a justification for ‘whatever it takes’ to bring about this conversion – it is all done in the name of ‘peace’. (In this sense, the logic of just war seems peculiarly dependent on an analogical position.) Therefore we must note not only analogy’s inability to address or speak from the minoritarian tendency of life, but also its need to conquer those who actively dissent from the established order.

fn2: Milbank, ‘Materialism and Transcendence’, p. 419.

fn3: Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 162.

fn4: Ibid., p. 164.

2 thoughts on “Disaffection vs. Analogy

  1. Yes – all these big-time talking heads full of sound and fury and signifying nothing but their own strutting self-importance.

  2. Dan is absolutely right on the analogia entis. Barth saw this flaw in the analogia entis, and placed it under the governance of the analogia fidei– ok this move has its problems, but for him it was the only way to have any kind of analogia with the crucified one as the primary analogate, thereby entailing an overturning of hierarchy.

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