“Justice is no more than the immanent process of desire.” I’m sometimes thick, but this line from Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka book, and Deleuze’s usage of the term justice generally, has always confused me. I think I have stubbornly insisted on reading justice in its standard usage, as an external, universal principle that must applied to and attained by any given situation or as equality before the law, even though that’s clearly not what D&G must have in mind.

And of course they don’t, but it took a recent experience with one of my kids to figure out what they do mean. My son just started a new school and has had a rough time adjusting. Adding to this difficulty is that he’s a bit of a dawdler and slacker — yes, yes, thank you very much, we are quite proud — and sometimes his lingering means that he has to do his schoolwork during playtime (which punishment pisses me off to no end and could eventually lead to a change of scenery for him). He really, really hates when this happens. Besides exacerbating his dawdling and demotivating him from doing the schoolwork, it makes him feel a great injustice: He repeatedly, and angrily, calls the experience unfair. It occurred to me as we talked about it the other day that his feeling of being wronged does not arise from the application of a transcendent idea to his situation, and neither is it a feeling of mistreatment because the other kids get to have playtime. He’s angry, and sad and perplexed, because he really likes to play and anything that prevents that is a blockage of his desire.

I’m tempted to say that’s a reasonable feeling for a six-year-old, but that would be another transcendent requirement. Instead I’ll say with my son and D&G that justice is the process in which desire finds an expression that doesn’t require external principle, regulation, or judgment.


4 thoughts on “Justice

  1. Not sure about Deleuze, but the way you state it, justice seems to attach to any desire.

    By the way, when your four year old throws something at your six year old and you have to step in to settle the fight, where is justice if not in the parent invoking “external principal”?

  2. I think D&G are saying that justice is desire. It’s not a matter of one attaching to the other but of desire finding a form of expression in justice, or the search for justice.

    As for the other, because I said so! It’s one of the unpleasant tasks of parenthood, which is why we let them work out their disagreements without interference as much as possible. But I think the other thing is that D&G are saying that justice is subjective, whereas my invoking an external principle has less to do with justice than with discipling. At least that’s the way I’m reading it precoffee this morning.

  3. I’m simply concerned that any valorisation of desire (as yet another absolute, and whether D&G mean this or not), remains problematic. I often evoke their image of Spinoza’s liking of battles between spiders (in WIP) as an image of ‘justice’ beyond the human register, which of course runs the similar risk of valorising a superior natural order or crude (and misunderstood) Nietzschean model of justice through force.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s