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(2015) Deleuze and the non/human, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Human and nonhuman agency in Deleuze

Sean Bowden

pp. 60-80

The concept of agency in Deleuze's work has received no small amount of attention in the secondary literature. It is fair to say, however, that the treatment of Deleuzian agency has taken a variety of different and sometimes incompatible forms. A useful way of framing these differences in approach is to view them as turning on the question of the relation between human and nonhuman agencies, where "nonhuman agency" sometimes means "the agency of that which subtends the human", and sometimes "the agency of entities other than human beings". I would suggest that we can distinguish the ways in which scholars have understood Deleuze's conception of agency by dividing them into two broad camps. On the one hand, there are those who see Deleuze as denying agency to human beings because real agency is essentially nonhuman, in the first sense of this phrase. In other words, for a number of readers of Deleuze, agency must be ontologically identified with something like the "virtual" ground of all actual things and the events attributable to them. On the other hand, there are those who understand Deleuze as granting agency to human beings. Within this second camp, however, we must further distinguish between those who take Deleuze to treat human and nonhuman agency in a symmetrical way (with "nonhuman" in this case meaning animals, but also non-organic things); and those who see in Deleuze's work a connection between human agency and some form of nonhuman agency (in the first and/or second sense of this phrase), but who nevertheless also affirm a distinct kind of human intentional agency.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9781137453693_5

Full citation:

Bowden, S. (2015)., Human and nonhuman agency in Deleuze, in J. Roffe & H. Stark (eds.), Deleuze and the non/human, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 60-80.

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