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Thing-Power and Virtuality

by on April 25, 2013

“Thing-power gestures toward the strange ability of ordinary, man-made items to exceed their status as objects and to manifest traces of independence or aliveness.”

I cannot claim to be a Deleuze scholar. In fact, my main points of contact with Deleuze are the Cinema books and the brief chapter on “Immanence: A Life.” This is not a disclaimer for what follows, but rather a plea to those more familiar with Deleuze to answer some o the questions that Bennett’s concept of thing-power raises.

As you can see from the title of my post, I’m interested in the potential connection between Bennett’s thing-power and the concept of virtuality, for which Deleuze may be our prime interlocutor. In Bennett’s in initial definition of thing-power, she uses the phrase, “exceed their status as objects.” This immediately raised the question of virtuality for me, in particular because I had just referenced Mark Hansen’s definition in a seminar today: “to be in excess of one’s actual state” (my emphasis).

I know Deleuze’s conception of virtuality is somewhat similar, in that the virtual is real without being actual (like DeLanda’s “capacities” and “tendencies”). But in what I’ve read in Deleuze, the virtual has seemed fairly nebulous. The actual is the physical, the material, while the virtual is otherwise.

What Bennett’s thing-power appears to do is to provide a more vital, active, and altogether less ambiguous (though perhaps not “less metaphorical”) notion of the virtual. Can we equate the two? Does one help us understand the other? Am I asking you to do some of my work for me?


From → Quadruple Object

One Comment
  1. nicholas permalink

    I definitely think the virtual is useful here to get at what Bennett means by thing-power, but more when we consider the thing as an assemblage (the second chapter of her book is on this i think): the thing as emergent order. As such, it is in excess of its components and processes, and has affective capacities beyond itself in that a thing does not have to ‘merely’ reproduce itself – it can, because of its emergent status, also be something else. Each encounter transforms it, leaves traces, and the thing does the same on other things. Things are ‘leaky’ and their status as things is always provisional (I tend to think of Darwin’s use of speciation when I think of Bennett’s use of ‘thing’). That’s how i read Bennett anyway…

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