Active slaves and reactive masters? Deleuze's anti-dialectical niezsche

Robert Sinnerbrink*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)


In this paper I critically examine Deleuze's anti-dialectical interpretation of Nietzsche. My reading focuses on Deleuze's theory of active and reactive force, his account of history as the development of nihilism, and questions his proposal of a metaphysical overcoming of nihilism through the 'self-destruction' of reactive forces. Is his interpretation as anti-dialectical as it claims to be? Deleuze's account of the interplay of active and reactive force in the historical development of culture suggests otherwise; here I explore Deleuze's own philosophical 'grand narrative' of the development-or 'degeneration'-of culture from pre-history to post-history. To explain the triumph of reactive forces, Deleuze sunders the will to power, as metaphysical principle, into immanent and transcendent dimensions (nihilism versus pure affirmation). Yet this move reverts to the kind of metaphysics Deleuze and Nietzsche both reject as nihilism. The metaphysical proposal to overcome the nihilism of modernity thus proceeds by an escape from history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-160
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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