Minority (philosophy)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The concept of Minority and "becoming-minor" was developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1980) and Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature (1986). In these texts, they critique the concept of "majority" as based on a form of domination that works by naturalizing a purely numerical conception. They argue therefore, that the concept of a "dominant minority" is an oxymoron, because the term "majority" always refers to those who are in a position of dominance. To be "minor" then, is to be subjected to social and political domination, or to be a member of a subordinated group, as in Arthur Rimbaud's poem, "Bad Blood", in Une Saison en Enfer. For Deleuze and Guattari, "becoming-minoritarian" is primarily an ethical action, one of the becomings one is affected by when avoiding "becoming-fascist". They argued further that the concept of a "people", when invoked by subordinate groups or those aligned with them, always refers to a minority, whatever its numerical power might be. This has inspired some political philosophers, such as Paul Patton and William Connolly, to elaborate on the concept of "becoming-minoritarian" in order to apply it to modern democratic thought.

It is important to note that for Deleuze and Guattari the "minor" and "becoming-minority" does not refer to minority groups as described in ordinary language. Minority groups are defined by identities and are thus molar configurations belonging to the majoritarian State Machine. By contrast, becoming-minor refers to becomings that depart from dominant molar identities, inventing new forms of collective life, consciousness, and affectivity. Deleuze and Guattari's central example here is Kafka. Kafka finds himself at home among neither the Prague Jews nor the dominant German and Austria-Hungarian power structure. For him a "people is missing" and his literature sets out to summon that people. Nonetheless, there is a connection between what are ordinarily referred to as "minorities" and Deleuze and Guattari's conception of the minor and becoming-minor. If becoming-minor often occurs in the context of what are ordinarily called minority groups, then this is because, Deleuze and Guattari argue, becoming-minor is catalyzed by existence in cramped social spaces. The key point not to be missed is that becoming-minor is not related to molar identities, nor is it a politics that seeks representation or recognition of such identities.

The example of patriarchy provides an illustration of how the concept of "minority" is used: while there may be more women than men numerically, in Deleuze and Guattari's terms, which are sensitive to relations of power, men still constitute the majority whereas women form a minority. Thus the concept of "becoming-minor" converges with that of "becoming-woman" (as they say, "everyone has to 'become-woman', even women..."),"becoming-animal", "becoming-molecular", "becoming-imperceptible" and ultimately, "becoming-revolutionary". Each type of affective becoming marks a new phase of a larger process that Deleuze and Guattari call deterritorialization.

See also


  • Paul Patton, "Deleuze and Democracy", Contemporary Political Theory (2000) 4:4

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