Thinking Poststructuralism with Deleuze and Luhmann: Sense, immanence, politics

Hannah Richter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter enfolds Gilles Deleuze’s critical philosophy and Niklas Luhmann’s sociological Systems Theory to develop an innovative theoretical perspective which can respond to the theoretical and socio-political challenges contemporary post-structuralist theory faces. Grounded in a concept of sense which, it is argued, Deleuze and Luhmann share, the chapter proposes to resolve three ambiguities which mark the landscape of post-structuralist thought: firstly, the dichotomy of discursive and materialist understandings of creative genesis; secondly, the relationship between immanence and transcendence; and thirdly, the purchase of post-structuralist thought for socio-political analysis. It is argued that both Deleuze and Luhmann replace ontological and epistemological grounding with a productive relationality of sense which is synthetic, self-grounding and always already present. Epistemic and material elements are co-constitutive of the world as it emerges in sense, which subverts any attempt of, but also removes any necessity for, prioritising the creative potentiality of either. In both Deleuze and Luhmann, sense unfolds a productive relationality which is radically immanent and can therefore resist the pull of ontological speculation. It is shown how the creative event which continues sense must be thought as conditioned by its existing relations but nevertheless constitutes a genuine moment of openness which continuously allows a particular relationality of sense to transcend its self-produced order. However, if established, sense structures condition how creative change can take place, critical post-structuralist philosophy must be understood as complementary, and not opposed, to socio-political analysis. In this sense, Luhmann offers a theoretical perspective to unpack how evental complexity is deparadoxified to reproduce path-dependencies within a particular social realm.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistorical Traces and Future Pathways of Poststructuralism
Subtitle of host publicationAesthetics, Ethics, Politics
EditorsGavin Rae, Emma Ingala
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020


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