Connection, Disconnection, Misdelivery

Table of Contents

There was a boom in philosophy books in Japan during 2017. The participants in this roundtable, Koichiro Kokubun, Masaya Chiba, and Hiroki Azuma were some of the central figures in this development.
Kokubun and Chiba are Deleuze scholars of the same generation, and are also good friends. According to Azuma, the difference in their approaches to Deleuze lies in Kokubun’s focus on connections to the Other, while Chiba focuses on disconnections from the Other. Both acknowledge that this difference is related to the fact that they differ in their respective understandings of subjectivity. Kokubun attempts to dissolve the fixed subjectivity of modernity by blurring the contours of its separation from the Other. Chiba, on the other hand, is trying to carve out a tentative subjectivity from the postmodern condition where everything has dissolved into one another. Yet, both agree that they are aiming at a subjectivity that lies in a “middle strata” that is neither fixed nor an indeterminate dissolution between Self and Other.
However, there is a problem with the idea of a “middle strata” subjectivity itself: it cannot be applied to politics because it renounces modern communication. According to Azuma, a market in which exchange and gifting become as one holds promise as the site for a new “politics,” but the concept of “politics” must be redefined.
The participants also explore Deleuzian “desire” as a lens for understanding the rise of populism, which is a new “politics” directly related to the “desire” of people. For Chiba, an issue is the attempt to tentatively fix the “domain” of subjectivity under the anxieties of the global economy. For Kokubun, an important theme is that of everyday “extravagance,” in which each person comes to discover and treasure their own “essence.” Here, too, it is clear that Chiba and Kokubun are using different sets of words in approaching similar issues.
Still, there is a decisive difference in the philosophical approaches of Kokubun and Chiba. Kokubun attempts to build an orthodox approach to Deleuzian philosophy, while Chiba uses a deconstructive method that focuses on details. This is not only manifested in their different routes towards accessing the “middle strata,” but also in their difference in character, including their respective approaches to physical exercise. By complementing one another like an image in a mirror, they show us the way toward a contemporary “philosophy of the middle strata.”