Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizopernia

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Deleuze and Guattari's collaborative effort proposes a philosophy predicated upon multiplicity in order to develop concepts that act as models for a thought process not mired in dialectics. To wit, the philosophers state that the concept of multiplicity “was created precisely in order to escape the abstract opposition between the multiple and the one, to escape dialectics” (32), and that there is “no question...of establishing a dualist opposition between...multiplicities....There are only multiplicities of multiplicities forming a single assemblage, operating in the same assemblage” (34). If a multiplicity in its de jure state is not subsumed by the dialectical machine, then what, exactly, is it, or more precisely, how does it function? Readers find the answer to this question relatively early on in A Thousand Plateaus: “A multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number without the multiplicity changing in nature” (8). Additionally, an assemblage that multiplicities form is an “increase in the dimensions of a multiplicity that necessarily changes in nature as it expands its connections” (8). Moreover, while multiplicities occur on a particular “plane of consistency,” they are actually “defined by the outside” of that plane, in that there is a “line of flight or deterritorialization” that ruptures the plane's continuity, thus altering the dimensions of the plane (9). To this extent, a multiplicity is a transitive process defined by its operative function, or, in other words, its ability to do something. The most often evoked, and more often than not the most poorly understood, conceptual multiplicity from Deleuze and Guattrari's collection is that of the rhizome, which is a “radicle-system, or fascicular root” (5) that “assumes diverse forms” and exhibits a “surface extension in all directions” (7) via the “rupture” so as “ be overcoded” by the “tree” or “root” system (5-11). Of course, positing the rhizome in such a manner (i.e. tree versus rhizome) necessarily means that the concept becomes part of the dialectical/oppositional model. In order to function differently, Deleuze and Guattari advance several nuanced positions. One such position is that “to be rhizomorphous is to produce stems and filaments that seem to be roots, or better yet connect with them by penetrating the trunk, but put them to strange uses” (15). Deleuze and Guattari infuse the trunk with strangeness in many ways, one of which is their re-conceptualization of certain terms. For example, in Plateau six, the word “organic,” usually associated with naturally or spontaneously occurring elements, becomes “the organization of the organs” and “the system of the judgment of God,” and thus “the enemy” (158): something other than the “organic” of common parlance. In contradistinction to the strangeness fostered through assigning different concepts to previously established words, Deleuze and Guattari also assign new words to old concepts; such a nominal maneuver, then, effects a retroactive alteration of the concept. An example of this technique is the renaming of the chapter-concept, instead referring to it as a “plateau.” Traditionally, the chapter-concept striates a particular section of a book so as to “necessarily delimit” and construct a “determined...frame” within “a closed space” (475), but, by renaming the chapter-concept a plateau, Deleuze and Guattari succeed in creating “piece[s] of immanence” that are “continuous regions of intensity constituted in such a way that they do not allow themselves to be interrupted by an external termination” (158). To further explain, one can use the concept of the Body Without Organs (BwO); in plateau six (i.e. “November 28, 1947: How Do You Make Yourself a Body without Organs?”), readers confront the concept at its most intense, with the philosophers mapping it more thoroughly than anywhere else in the text as a whole. Yet, the plateau cannot contain the concept because it secretes into other plateaus, “How Do You Make…” merely harnesses BwO's intensity within a delimited plane of immanence, undertaking “an inevitable exercise or experimentation” (149) of operative-pragmatic-intensive assemblages. Other plateaus that reference BwO employ the concept’s intensity, but at a lower determination and magnitude and, perhaps, a higher rate of speed. Another nuanced position that the philosophers forward with regard to the rhizome and its relation to the tree that is often neglected is the importance, not so much of the rhizome itself, but the movement between the rhizome and the tree. In fact, Deleuze and Guattari's thought locates itself less within the rhizome and more within the process wherein opposing terms are “constantly being translated, transversed...[and] reversed” (474) in an effort to develop new “passages or combinations” (500) as yet unknown: a transitive becoming moving at variable speeds between opposing points so as to continually re-figure those points. To this extent, the “middle is by no means an average; on the contrary, it is where things pick up speed...a transversal movement that sweeps one and the other away” (25). Finally, to further complicate the rhizome-tree relation, the philosopher's mobilize the conjunction “and” to “establish a logic of the AND,” which will “overthrow ontology, do away with foundations, [and] nullify ending and beginnings” (25). “AND,” then, “places everything in variation” wherein “everything shifts” (98), not in the sense of dialectical synthesis, but in such a way that “AND” generates “an amorphous collection of pieces that are juxtaposed but not attached to each other...or rather accumulation, of a set of vicinities” (485). Other concepts within A Thousand Plateaus that have received a fair amount of attention in academic and literary discourse are the machine, (de/re)-territorialization, minorization, order-words, becoming-animal, the nomad, and micropolitics. While each of these terms offer certain resonances in relation to one another (i.e. repetition), their localized affects do specific things that the others do not (i.e. difference); in this sense, Deleuze and Guattari's intra-conceptual relationships model the transversal movements describe above.

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