Toward a Theory of Transversal Politics: Deleuze and Foucault’s Block of Becoming


  • Christopher Penfield Purdue University



Foucault, Deleuze, Transversal, Capitalism, Power, Resistance


This paper charts the course of Deleuze and Foucault’s philosophical friendship or ‘block of becoming,’ showing the series of reciprocal determinations through which each philosopher’s thought develops in response to the other’s.  Specifically, I will argue that the concept of transversal resistance is fundamental for the political thought of both Foucault and Deleuze, allowing us to reconstruct the basis and trajectory of a shared political theory.  This concept emerges in Deleuze and Guattari’s schizo-politics, which advances the central aim of Foucault’s earlier History of Madness (problematizing the exclusion of a certain intensive experience of madness; activating its potentially liberatory force) while accounting for why Foucault’s particular politics of literary transgression had failed (the becoming-commodity of art).  The question then becomes one of conceiving and creating transversal forms of struggle that would respond to the problem of capitalism—a question which Deleuze poses to Foucault, and which prompts and orients the latter’s micro-political analytic of power.  In turn, Foucault’s analysis of the anti-transversal operation and economico-political function of power provides the critical groundwork for a theory of transversal politics.  Such an affirmative project takes form in Foucault’s late ethico-politics.

Author Biography

Christopher Penfield, Purdue University

Christopher Penfield is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University. He is the author of articles on Foucault in The Cambridge Foucault Lexicon (2014) and the Encyclopedia of Global Justice (2011); a book review on Deleuze and theology in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2014); and several forthcoming translations of texts by and about Foucault. He is currently writing a dissertation on Foucault, Kant, Deleuze, and the problem of political agency.




How to Cite

Penfield, C. (2014). Toward a Theory of Transversal Politics: Deleuze and Foucault’s Block of Becoming. Foucault Studies, (17), 134–172.



Special Issue on Foucault and Deleuze