§ the order of generality and the order of repetition: a difference in kind; introduction to the value-form (pg.1)
Deleuze begins by distinguishing generality and repetition as two orders that are different in kind.
(‘Repetition is not generality. Repetition and generality must be distinguished in several ways. Every formula which implies their confusion is regrettable…Repetition and resemblance are different in kind –extremely so.’)
He defines the order of generality.
(‘Generality present two major orders: the qualitative order of resemblances and the quantitative order of equivalences…[G]enerality expresses a point of view according to which one term may be exchanged or substituted for another. The exchange or substitution of particulars defines our conduct in relation to generality.’)
He then contrasts the order of generality with the order of repetition.
(‘By contrast, we can see that repetition is a necessary and justified conduct only in relation to that which cannot be replaced. Repetition as a conduct and as a point of view concerns non-exchangeable and non-substitutable singularities. Reflections, echoes, doubles, and souls do not belong to the domain of resemblance or equivalence.’)
We have said that Deleuze’s inaugural distinction between these two orders is made to alert the reader that s/he will be encountering an ontological disquisition on political economics –a political economic revaluation of value by way of an ontological analysis of synthetic finance. On the one hand, Deleuze associates the order of generality with the phenomena of resemblance (qualitative) and equivalence (quantitative). On the other hand, he associates the order of repetition with the phenomena of nonresemblance (qualitatively) and nonequivalence (quantitatively) –or as he says, ‘of non-exchangeable and non-substitutable singularities’; and to this latter ‘order’ or ‘domain’ belong ‘reflections, echoes, doubles, and souls’ –Deleuze might have added ‘synthetic financial assets’ and ‘synthetic securitization’ to this list as well, for the domain of action of synthetic financial markets comprise an order of nonresemblance and nonequivalence. We will see that and why the objects populating these markets are images of objects without likeness.
Deleuze makes this inaugural distinction as a way of alluding to Marx’s profound analysis of the ontological properties of an economical object (viz. the commodity) in the Part I (Commodities and Money) of Book I (The Process of the Production of Capital) of Volume I of Capital. In Book I, which comprises the first 100 pages or so of Capital, Marx distinguishes value from the value-form, and then imputes to the latter the quality of generality. To truly appreciate Deleuze’s opening rumination on the ontological distinction between generality and repetition, our reader is encouraged to revisit the first 100 pages or so of Capital.
For Marx, classical exchange is an equivalence class of flat space; flat space is a domain of generality; and the value-form is the great generalizer. The value-form is that which performs the ‘magical’ or ‘metaphysical’ feat of translating all qualitative differences in and of value into the property of ‘the same’ –i.e. the same ‘form’ of value, or, ‘the value-form’. The value-form renders qualitatively singular objects of value identical; in the value form all disparate values suddenly resemble one another; two or more objects of value are opposed to one another in the act of exchange; in the act of exchange all objects are analogous (note: our reader will come to know that identity-resemblance-opposition-analogy are what Deleuze labels ‘the four shackles of representation’, which we later discuss). The value-form, then, is that which renders all dissimilar quantities of qualitatively distinct objects commensurable, such that that they are exchangeable: asymmetrical objects of value become symmetrical images of value in the value-form. Marx depicts the value-form as a kind of warped reflection, a deceitful echo, an imagistic double, a bad copy of the true soul of value. This is why, for Marx, the domain of classical exchange is the domain of resemblance and equivalence. In such resemblance and equivalence, objects will achieve their perceived commensurability so as to be rendered exchangeable for one another. But then again, for Marx, this is precisely what is so fetishistically horrifying about the value-form: he proceeds to illustrate that value can only ever express itself, i.e. can only ever be represented to us in this derived form; and so looked at from this perspective, the conversion of an object’s “true” value into the value-form, its transubstantiation into a derivative image or bad copy of value, is the price paid by the object qua natural object for its transformation into an object qua economical object, such that it now becomes exchangeable for other objects.
“So let’s just strip-out this derivative of value?”, we think. “Let us cut from exchange this mediated and imagistic step, and we will resolve ourselves to access the model (value) of the copy (the value-form) directly? Indeed, shall we not simply purge the image of value (value-form) from exchange, and go straightaway to the essence (value)? Let us agree to a system of exchange whereby we exchange objects of value as value in-itself?” No, Marx quickly points out, we cannot. For the problem is, without this mediating step, i.e. without the conversion of an object of value into the image of its value-form, there is no representation of value, no commensurability between objects will even be arrived at, and therefore no exchange will occur. This is why, for Marx, already in the first instance of classical exchange something has gone horribly wrong. Already the object as value is a mere image of value in the value-form. Already the economical object is perverted, synthetic, derived, a bad copy of “true” value. Moreover, it is rather difficult to see how the world of exchange could be otherwise, since such mediation, such representation of value in the value-form, is the very condition of its alienation –a kind of image set free of its object, but which then returns to dominate the object from which it has been emancipated.
This is the political economic backdrop to DR. Deleuze’s opening distinction here between the orders of generality and repetition convokes this aforementioned Marxian ontological lineage: resemblance and equivalence are of the order of generality, and classical exchange is a matter of resemblance and equivalence. This is why Deleuze contrasts generality and repetition as a difference in kind that is most clearly witnessed in the modality of economics.
(‘Generality, as generality of the particular, thus stands opposed to repetition as a universality of the singular…If exchange is the criterion of generality, theft and gift are those of repetition. There is, therefore, an economic difference between the two.’)