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Clausewitz and la pensée 68

Éric Alliez, Maurizio Lazzarato
Translated by Ames Hodges, Katharine Wallerstein

Abstract

In the aftermath of the Second World War, revolutionary movements remained dependent on Leninist theories and practices in their attempts to grasp the new relationship between war and capital. Yet these theories and practices failed to address the global “cold civil war” represented by the events of 1968. This article will show that in the 1970s this task was not undertaken by “professional revolutionaries” or in their Maoist discourse of “protracted war” and its “generalized Clauzewitzian strategy.” Rather, the problem was addressed by Michel Foucault, on the one hand, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, on the other. Each produced a radical break in the conception of war and of its constitutive relationship with capitalism, taking up the confrontation with Clausewitz to reverse the famous formula such that war was not to be understood as the continuation of politics (which determines its ends). Politics was, on the contrary, to be understood as an element and strategic modality of the whole constituted by war. The ambition of la pensée 68, as represented by Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari, was not to make this reversal into a simple permutation of the formula’s terms, but rather to develop a radical critique of the concepts of “war” and “politics” presupposed by Clausewitz’s formula.

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Keywords

war, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Carl von Clausewitz, 1968