Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Chris Keep


One of the contemporary trends marking our current moment in theory is the call for the elaboration of ‘new’ materialisms. The new materialisms, however, have taken two principal articulations: a Neo-Spinozist materialism read through the work of Gilles Deleuze, represented by thinkers such as Elizabeth Grosz, Jane Bennett and William Connolly and a Neo-Hegelian materialism read through Jacques Lacan, represented by figures Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek and Adrian Johnston. Concomitant with this return of materialism has been a resurgence in the topic of habit as a topic worthy of philosophical investigation. There is, however a division in the treatment of habit between the two camps. Habit is deemed positive by the vitalist materialisms influenced by Spinoza and Deleuze – illustrating the self’s continuity and openness to the outside – but neglected by the Neo-Hegelian materialisms of Badiou, Žižek and Johnston as an instance of the political quietism of the ‘micropolitical’. Contemporary French philosopher Catherine Malabou, typically associated with the figures of the Neo-Hegelian camp, elaborates a different materialism based on the principle of plasticity developed through not Hegel and Lacan, but Hegel and Heidegger and thus sits liminally between the two dominant materialist orientations. This thesis will elaborate Malabou’s ontology of plasticity and argue how a reading of habit through Malabou’s plastic rapprochement of Hegel-Heidegger offers a different perspective on habit as a critical ethico-political modality that can helpfully negotiate some of the binaries or impasses that mark contemporary ongoing debates in the interrelated fields of ontology and political theory.