ReceptionIn the 1960s, Deleuze's portrayal of Nietzsche as a metaphysician of difference rather than a reactionary mystic contributed greatly to the plausibility of "left-wing Nietzscheanism" as an intellectual stance. His books Difference and Repetition (1968) and The Logic of Sense (1969) led Michel Foucault to declare that "one day, perhaps, this century will be called Deleuzian." (Deleuze, for his part, said Foucault's comment was "a joke meant to make people who like us laugh, and make everyone else livid.") In the 1970s, the Anti-Oedipus, written in a style by turns vulgar and esoteric, offering a sweeping analysis of the family, language, capitalism, and history via eclectic borrowings from Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, and dozens of other writers, was received as a theoretical embodiment of the anarchic spirit of May 1968. In 1994 and 1995, L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, an eight-hour series of interviews between Deleuze and Claire Parnet, aired on France's Arte Channel.
In the 1980s and 1990s, almost all of Deleuze's books were translated into English. Deleuze's work is frequently cited in English-speaking academia (in 2007, e.g., he was the 11th most frequently cited author in English-speaking publications in the humanities, between Freud and Kant). Like his contemporaries Foucault, Derrida, and Lyotard, Deleuze's influence has been most strongly felt in North American humanities departments, particularly in literary theory, where Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus are oft regarded as major statements of post-structuralism and postmodernism, though neither Deleuze nor Guattari described their work in those terms. Likewise in the English-speaking academy, Deleuze's work is typically classified as continental philosophy.
Deleuze has attracted critics as well. The following list is not exhaustive, and gives only the briefest of summaries.
In Modern French Philosophy (1979), Vincent Descombes argues that Deleuze's account of a difference that is not derived from identity (in Nietzsche and Philosophy) is incoherent, and that his analysis of history in Anti-Oedipus is 'utter idealism', criticizing reality for falling short of a non-existent ideal of schizophrenic becoming.
In What Is Neostructuralism? (1984), Manfred Frank claims that Deleuze's theory of individuation as a process of bottomless differentiation fails to explain the unity of consciousness.
In "The Decline and Fall of French Nietzscheo-Structuralism" (1994), Pascal Engel presents a wholesale condemnation of Deleuze's thought. According to Engel, Deleuze's metaphilosophical approach makes it impossible to reasonably disagree with a philosophical system, and so destroys meaning, truth, and philosophy itself. Engel summarizes Deleuze's metaphilosophy thus: "When faced with a beautiful philosophical concept you should just sit back and admire it. You should not question it."
In The Mask of Enlightenment (1995), Stanley Rosen objects to Deleuze's interpretation of Nietzsche's eternal return.
In Deleuze: The Clamor of Being (1997), Alain Badiou claims that Deleuze's metaphysics only apparently embraces plurality and diversity, remaining at bottom relentlessly monist. Badiou further argues that, in practical matters, Deleuze's monism entails an ascetic, aristocratic fatalism akin to ancient Stoicism.
In Reconsidering Difference (1997), Todd May argues that Deleuze's claim that difference is ontologically primary ultimately contradicts his embrace of immanence, i.e., his monism. However, May believes that Deleuze can discard the primacy-of-difference thesis, and accept a Wittgensteinian holism without significantly altering his practical philosophy.
In Fashionable Nonsense (1997), Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont accuse Deleuze of abusing mathematical and scientific terms, particularly by sliding between accepted technical meanings and his own idiosyncratic use of those terms in his philosophical system. (But see above, Deleuze's interpretations.) Deleuze's writings on subjects such as calculus and quantum mechanics are, according to Sokal and Bricmont, vague, meaningless, or unjustified. However, by Sokal and Bricmont's own admission, they suspend judgment about Deleuze's philosophical theories and terminology.
In Organs without Bodies (2003), Slavoj Žižek claims that Deleuze's ontology oscillates between materialism and idealism, and that the Deleuze of Anti-Oedipus ("arguably Deleuze's worst book"), the "political" Deleuze under the "'bad' influence" of Guattari, ends up, despite protestations to the contrary, as "the ideologist of late capitalism". Žižek also calls Deleuze to task for allegedly reducing the subject to "just another" substance and thereby failing to grasp the nothingness that, according to Lacan and Žižek, defines subjectivity. What remains worthwhile in Deleuze's oeuvre, Žižek finds, are precisely those concepts closest to Žižek's own ideas.
In Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (2006), Peter Hallward argues that Deleuze's insistence that being is necessarily creative and always-differentiating entails that his philosophy can offer no insight into, and is supremely indifferent to, the material, actual conditions of existence. Thus Hallward claims that Deleuze's thought is literally other-worldly, aiming only at a passive contemplation of the dissolution of all identity into the theophanic self-creation of nature.