(Warning: This is a long and involved post.)
In reposting Steven Shaviro’s critique of DeLanda’s A New Philosophy of Society, Levi Bryant has reminded me of one of the impetuses (impeti?) that moved me to a Whiteheadian perspective. Steven’s review is excellent, and it prefigured what eventually became his book Without Criteria, which I think of as one of the landmark texts in the post-Deleuzian return of Whitehead.
While I like DeLanda very much, I agree that there’s a schematicism in his writing that detracts from what I like most about Deleuze (his “poeticism,” as Shaviro calls it, though it’s more than just stylistics). But thinking through the scientific concepts underlying/informing Deleuze is important work, and DeLanda at least makes it manageable in a way that Deleuze’s own texts rarely do. Whatever losses in fidelity may arise in the transfer, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy is one of the clearest elaborations of a Deleuzian ontology I have seen. A New Philosophy of Society follows up on it by taking on social-science theory, but I think it suffers a little (as Shaviro and Chris Vitale both argue) from a creeping shift away from thinking of assemblages as events and processes to thinking of them as substances. As Shaviro puts it, “For Whitehead’s actual entities are themselves events; whereas, for DeLanda, as much as he wants to proclaim the importance of (contingent) event over (fixed and closed) structure, events are still things that ‘happen to’ entities, rather than entities themselves.”