For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Spotting the Primacy of Resistance in the Virtual Encounter of Foucault and Deleuze"

by Checchi, Marco (2014)


Foucault’s intuition that resistance comes first challenges the theses of the co-originality of power and resistance or the superiority of power over resistance. In order to transform this intuition into the concept of the primacy of resistance, the article uses Deleuze’s ontology and in particular the idea of the virtual. According to Deleuze, resistance displays a privileged relation with the virtual, understood as the ontological region animated by all the potentialities that might be or might have been actualised. As such, resistance is presented as a creative and affirmative force, provoking reactions and forcing power to change. Nietzsche’s divide between active and reactive forces serves to set up a qualitative distinction between resistance and power. Power relations are therefore understood as the interplay of the creative affirmation of resistance and the subsequent reaction of power. The primacy of resistance allows us to elaborate a dynamic model of power relations whose mechanism evokes Tronti’s interpretation of Marxism structured upon the primacy of labour and workers’ struggle over capital.

Key Passage

Within a Foucauldian antagonistic framework, labour can instead be genealogically deconstructed, revealing what actually comes before it, namely a specific interplay of forces.   On the other hand, the primacy of resistance does not need to be supported by an antecedent element or dynamic.    Therefore, if following Deleuze’s suggestion, it might be argued that Foucault’s primacy of resistance can be traced back to Tronti’s primacy of labour over capital, this conceptual brotherhood cannot be extended beyond the resemblance of the mechanism at play in both the accounts.  The dynamic between labour and capital is structurally similar to that between power and resistance: although B is normally believed to be the reactive product of A, it is actually B that is the key element in the relation that sets their dynamic interrelation into motion.  Nevertheless, the primacy of labour is nothing but a particular instance in which the more fundamental dynamic between resistance and power emerges. (p.202)


Resistance, Active Forces, Power Relations, Deleuze, Labour, Tronti


On Foucault, Foucault

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