Difference and Repetition is arguably Gilles Deleuze’s most important work. It was Deleuze’s major thesis and his first statement of his own philosophical position and of the approach to issues he had explored in earlier works, including his books on Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, and Marcel Proust. Deleuze’s reputation, especially in the United States, was largely established as a result of his later collaborative works with Félix Guattari, which include the first volume of Capitalisme et schizophrénie (Capitalism and Schizophrenia), titled L’Anti-dipe (1972; Anti-Oedipus, 1977), the second volume, titled Mille Plateaux (1980; A Thousand Plateaus, 1987), and Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? (1991; What Is Philosophy?, 1994). However, he first developed many of the themes expressed in these collaborative works in Difference and Repetition.
Difference and Repetition is a critical text in that it solidly and explicitly places Deleuze’s philosophical project within the “philosophies of difference” tradition as found in the works of Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, and Julia Kristeva. In fact, Deleuze is quite straightforward in stating that his work, beginning with Difference and Repetition, is concerned with thinking about “difference in itself.” By this he meant that he was attempting to think about difference without reducing it to a difference between already identified terms and without relying on a metaphysical foundation of “identity” such as God, substance, or spirit.