Michael Hardt is Collaboratively Annotating Deleuze Because Internets

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The marginalia of famous scholars and writers has always provided invaluable, sometimes hilarious, insight into their thought and creative process. Now Michael Hardt has decided to take that process online, albeit less personal, by contributing public annotations to Gilles Deleuze’s “Postscript on the Societies of Control.”

Using Rap Genius, a popular platform for annotating lyric explanations to rap songs, Hardt and others have annotated sections of Deleuze’s text to add clarity. While Rap Genius invites the public to add annotations, many artists (including Hardt) have “verified accounts” that set their annotations apart from the rest. One Redditor, claiming to be a News Genius editor, says he invited Hardt to participate in the platform.

“I approached Hardt to do it. Hardt is concerned with bringing Deleuzian theory into practice, and I pitched it as a means to translate theory down from the ivory towers of academe.”

“Postscript on the Societies of Control” was written towards the end of Deleuze’s life in 1992 (he died in 1995). In it, Deleuze writers on the work of Foucault and “describes the mode of power and control in late capitalism, in which corporate capitalist governance supersedes the former governmental power of the sovereign nation-state.”

So far, Hardt has only offered two annotations. First, in response to Deleuze’s line that “These are the societies of control, which are in the process of replacing disciplinary societies,” Hardt writes:

This doesn’t mean that discipline is no longer effective, but rather that the walls that used to bound or constrain it have come down — and thus that discipline now spreads over the entire society. Prison discipline, for example, now effects all of us not just those within the prison walls; and military discipline not just those in the barracks. (Think the security regime.) Similarly, work discipline spreads outside the factory; you are subject to school discipline throughout your life (adult education, job retraining); and so forth. So a good first introduction to our current society of control, it seems to me, is to think of it in terms of generalized and overlapping forms of discipline.

Hardt also comments on a portion of the text where Deleuze invokes Felix Guattari’s ruminations on a society where ID cards can allow and disallow individuals from certain areas. Hardt notes that this idea, conceived in 1990, has since become “a realistic description of the current forms of surveillance.”

Hardt’s comments certainly do not provide any groundbreaking insight into Deleuze. But it is exciting to see a new medium for open education distinct from free lectures and online courses. This style of open, collaborative discussion on texts could greatly break down the barrier to entry for philosophical texts that are rife with jargon and subtle allusions to other debates or historical events. Whether or not other scholars will get involved with this, or similar projects, is yet to be determined.

Read the full annotated text at Rap Genius.