Ravings of a rambler

Last time I wrote on what Friedrich Nietzsche thinks of much of western philosophy, with a lengthy, yet long overdue tangent on priests. I was going to write a separate essay on them and I believe I had something in the works, an unfinished essay where that was going to be brought up, in detail, but, oddly enough, his short commentary on the issue in ‘The Will to Power’ is so to the point that I probably won’t ever finish that essay. Okay, maybe, but I think I’d rather use my time on something else.

Right, I can’t remember what it was that I was working, but I certainly didn’t keep at it. Instead, while at it, I came across Gary Wickham’s and Gavin Kendall’s ‘Critical Discourse Analysis, Description, Explanation, Causes: Foucault’s Inspiration Versus Weber’s Perspiration’ and then I somehow ended up reading their take on ‘The Foucaultian framework’ as well, as included in ‘Qualitative Research Practice’.

They comment on Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), which is these days also known as Critical Discourse Studies (CDS). I’ll comment on that first and then move on to discuss what I had planned for this essay, before I got tangled up in that other topic. I think it makes sense to explain things in this order. You’ll see.

Right, the gist of their article, ‘Critical Discourse Analysis, Description, Explanation, Causes: Foucault’s Inspiration Versus Weber’s Perspiration’, is that much of what’s great about Michel Foucault’s work and what we can learn from it goes to waste in CDA/CDS. Why? Well, according to them, and as I’ve pointed out in the past, the way Foucault does discourse analysis is already critical. What do I mean by this? I mean that he takes a closer look at whatever it is and goes to great lengths in understanding it and, more importantly, how it might have come to being. I was tempted to write that it’s about figuring out how it has come to being, but then I’d lock myself into thinking that it must have come to being in a certain way and, perhaps, not some other way. In other words, while it’s only likely that something has come to being the way we think it has come to being, fair enough, this is about leaving it open, entertaining the possibility that we might just be wrong, that we might just think that we are right. Maybe later on we come across something else and then that changes our view on that, so I’d say it’s better to hedge on that. Oh, and it’s not to be understood as a sign of weakness in one’s argument, that you aren’t sure, that you don’t know what you’re talking about, thus conceding that one is wrong about it. It’s rather about having a certain humility to it. It’s like yeah, I’d say so, but, at the same time, being open to the possibility that something has actually come to be that way in some other way or, at least, could have come to be that way in some other way had it not been the way you think it came to being. In short, it’s about being open to various trajectories.

Anyway, so Wickham and Kendall (143) mention the pros of Foucault’s work and what we can learn from it. In a nutshell, Foucault’s conception of power, omnipresent and relational, is way better than a Marxist take on it, which reduces it to a game of haves and have nots (or have yachts, as they say). He’s like Nietzsche 2.0 in that regard.

That’s, however, not what interests Wickham and Kendall (143). Without getting tangled up in all the details, they (143) agree with me on that Foucauldian (they actually say Foucaultian, but this is like the same with whether it’s Bourdieusian or Bourdieusard, so like comparing limes and lemons) discourse analysis is, already, critical and it’s not to be mixed up with what’s critical about CDA or CDS (now that’s more like apples and oranges). If you ask me, or them (143), the deal with Foucault is that he is all about analysis and that’s it. Sure, the man may have been an activist and held various views, which you may even disagree with, fair play to you, but you won’t find him telling you to trust him on how you should live your life. You may find him giving you tips on how you might live your life and, I’d say, he has good tips, well worth following, but that’s not the same as how you should live your life. It’s like take it or leave it. Do what you will with his work. You choose your own path.

To put this another way, Wickham and Kendall (143) don’t like how people mix Foucault’s work with something that just doesn’t mesh with his work. The (143) key word they use is teleology. To explain that fancy term, without getting tangled up on the explanation, telos is about a goal or a purpose. Each thing, whatever it is, is seen as serving a purpose, having an end, as opposed to having come to being for whatever reason that might be. This means that if there’s teleology, we think that it’s all teleological, serving a purpose, having an end or a goal.

Now, that’s just me, so let’s have a look at what a dictionary has to say about telos (OED, s.v. “telos”, n.):

“End, purpose, ultimate object or aim.”

So, if you ever come across that term, it’s just a fancy Greek way of saying that something is considered as having an end, serving a purpose or having an aim, a goal or an object. Let’s take a look at teleology then (OED, s.v. “teleology”, n.):

“The branch of knowledge or study dealing with ends or final causes; the study of phenomena which may be explained in terms of intention, design, or purposiveness rather than by prior causes.”

This makes sense, considering it’s a combination of telos and -logy, which is the common ending for the way of speaking about something (OED, s.v. “-logy”, comb. form), and -ology, which, in turn, is more specifically about the (scientific) study of something. So, if we think about teleology, it’s about studying how something has a telos, which, as I just pointed out, about serving a purpose or having an end.

Then there’s teleological (OED, s.v. “teleological”, n.):

“Relating to a goal, end, or final cause; dealing with or invoking the concepts of purpose or design, esp. in relation to the natural or physical world; of, relating to, characterized by, or involving teleology.”

So, simply put, if something is considered to be teleological, it’s about it having that telos, that goal, that end, serving a certain purpose. If you think that’s awfully religious, it’s because it is. It couldn’t be more religious (OED, s.v. “teleology”, n.):

“The theory or belief that divine purpose or design is discernible in the natural or physical world[.]”

So, Wickham and Kendall (143) don’t see the point involving Foucault in CDA/CDS because, like, why would you, if it is, at the same time, undermined by what it opposes, teleology. Now, you might be like hold on, hold on, what do I mean by that? Well, skipping some pages here, to where things get interesting, they (147) note that the thing with criticism or critique, to be more accurate, is that it involves morality.

But what’s the problem with that? Well, the problem with that is that you are thus criticizing someone or some institution for not adhering to what you think they should be adhering to. As they (147) point out, one might thus criticize some state institution, let’s say the school system, for its failures. What failures? Exactly! That’s the thing! So, no, not failures, but who it is that the system fails. This is where the teleology creeps in, as they (147) go on to point out:

“Practitioners of this form of critique … have successfully de-historicised their very own persona—the critic. They see themselves, and are widely seen, as the true representatives of universal and timeless ‘humanity’.”

In other words, what’s critical here is the attitude towards the system. That’s fine. I’m not against being critical of the system that we live in. In fact, I’m all for questioning the system and the powers that be, but that’s not what Wickham and Kendall (147) are saying here. The problem with this kind of view is that it supposes that the critic knows know what’s what, you know, like Plato, or, at least, can know what’s what, as I’ve pointed out a number of times in my previous essays and really emphasized in the previous essay, which then results in the critic being given the license to speak on behalf of others or, rather, of everyone.

I know I’m riffing here, quite a bit, and Wickham and Kendall might not agree with me on this, but what I like about their take here is how they (147) indicate that while, in the past, the critic considered the state as an ally, protecting the critic from persecution, in the sense that one has freedom of speech or expression, the right to voice one’s concerns, now the critic views the state as the enemy, as curtailing the critic’s right to express oneself. So, what’s interesting about this is the state used to tell people how to live their lives and that was considered to be fine, but as that’s now gone, it is now up to the critic to point out the failings of the state, how it fails and keeps on failing its citizens.

It’s an odd situation alright. I guess it’s partly correct. Then again, it seems all too convenient. I mean, I don’t think the state ever was for or against anyone. Its laws have always been arbitrary. Something tells me that a lawyer would be the first person to tell you that, how it doesn’t matter what’s right (good) and what’s wrong (evil), as what matters is that we have these laws and that’s that. I don’t think they’d be foolish enough to argue that the law is what it is because it has to be the way it is. Laws aren’t given. They are made up by people.

The problem with the critic is that the critic ignores what the lawyer already knows. The lawyer would argue that one is right or wrong, inasmuch as one is considered to be right or wrong, as that’s how laws work, but the critic would view the laws as failing people. To be fair, it is possible, if not likely that laws fail people, but that’s because they’ve been made up by people, people who are no different from the critic. The thing is, however, that the critic is never willing to admit that, which is the point Wickham and Kendall (147) make here. The thing with the critic is that, for the critic, the critic is always right. So, yeah, it’s exactly like it is with Plato, as I point out in the previous essay.

To be fair, they (147) acknowledge that Foucault is far from perfect in this regard. So, yeah, you could wag your finger at him. I think that’s fair. I don’t think he would challenge that and I don’t think he was apolitical. Then again, I don’t think you have to be apolitical and by that I mean that you can have your views and advocate for them, inasmuch as you acknowledge that you might be wrong.

At the same time, I think they are right when they (147-148) point out that Foucault was never interested in whether things should be like this, or like that, but rather in making us think, to think otherwise, to think by ourselves, for ourselves, instead of taking things for granted, instead of letting others dictate what and how we should be thinking in the first place. As they (148) acknowledge in reference to what Foucault himself had expressed, there’s no truth, only a politics of truth or, what he, at times, also referred to as the regimes of truth, according to which something is considered to be true or false, right or wrong, etc. That’s exactly what I meant when I pointed out that you can still have your views, inasmuch as you acknowledge that you can’t take it for granted that you right.

So, they (143) go on to boldly state that:

“[W]e are thereby suggesting that discourse analysis per se is a superior form of analysis to critical discourse analysis.”

To be clear, here discourse analysis is to be understood as what Foucault did, so, Foucauldian discourse analysis, which is then juxtaposed with critical discourse analysis. Anyway, why is the former superior to the latter then? Well, in short, it’s a superior form of analysis because it is, in itself, already critical, of the very things that one investigates, as I’ve pointed out in the past. It’s critical in the sense that instead of taking something for granted, we question it and look into how it came to being or, rather how it may have come to being, to leave things open for other avenues that could also have led to it coming to being, to avoid that teleology where this must have led to that, where it must have had a certain goal or an end, which is what is in front of us, or so to speak.

I think Alistair Pennycook (132) explains this so nicely and so concisely in his article ‘Incommensurable Discourses’ that I need to mention it again: (most, but not all) people doing CDA/CDS deal with serious issues, whereas those who opt for a Foucauldian approach look at issues seriously. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that issues typically dealt in CDA/CDS aren’t worth taking seriously, because I believe that they are worth taking seriously, but rather that one should not take it for granted that they and only they should be taken seriously and not something else, whatever that could be. It’s about having a critical mindset, to just about everything, rather than taking it for granted that there are things that are, in themselves, critical to attend to. The serious issues that CDA/CDS typically deals with are also what Foucault focused on, but that’s beside the point, which is to extend that critical view to just about everything.

To put that another way, as hinted by Wickham and Kendall (148), if you go the Foucaldian route, you are thinking big, way bigger than what you tend to find in CDA/CDS. To be clear, it’s not that you are against CDA/CDS practitioners, as such, or their research, but rather that you seek to understand what the situation is, only to shift your attention to how we might got to that situation, to better understand how we might do things differently, as they (148) imply, in reference to what Foucault states in ‘What is Enlightenment?’, when he (50) states that:

“The critical ontology of ourselves has to be considered not, certainly, as a theory, a doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulating; it has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.”

Exactly! The task is to understand what’s what, here and now, by taking a good look at how we might have got here, because that allows us to then think where we might go from here. That’s what I mean by thinking big. It’s not limited to research. It’s a matter of education, albeit not in the sense that you tell people how they should live their lives, but rather in the sense that you help them to understand that they could live their lives differently. It is then up them to do that, to see what their options are.

What Wickham and Kendall (149-150) don’t like is when CDA/CDS practitioners take it up to themselves to give themselves the license to do the exact opposite, when it’s about “forcing description and explanation into the back seat and letting critique take the wheel.”

The way I’ve explained this issue in the past, why I’m not too fond of much of CDA/CDS and, in fact, have never been too fond of it, despite having written my MA thesis on language and politics, is that you can’t fit Foucault into Marx, but you can fit Marx into Foucault. By that I mean that if you go with Marx and then attempt to reconcile Foucault with that, yeah, it’s not going to work. But, if go you with Foucault, you can fit in this and/or that from Marx, because Foucault’s work is just way more expansive than Marx’s work. You lose much of what Foucault has to offer if you attempt to reconcile his work with a Marxist view. It just doesn’t work.

Why? Why doesn’t it work? Well, it’s that teleology, that Wickham and Kendall (143) bring up. To avoid all the jargon that’s typically associated with him, Foucault is all about looking at the history of whatever it is that you dealing with in order to understand how it might have come to being. We are in the habit of thinking that whatever we are dealing with has always existed, until we put in the hours to realize that it’s not the case. So, if something emerges, like that, like out of the blue, how on earth can it have some end, goal or purpose? That’s the point. It can’t. Just as something can appear like that, it can also disappear like that. To put that another way, it’s we who give it purpose, there and then, until we don’t, until we no longer need it, until we no longer uphold it, so that it fades into obscurity. Oh, and a lot of things are or, rather, have been like that, so that we are no longer even aware of them ever having existed. It’s weird, really, just to think of it, there having been something that we are no longer even aware of, like being aware of a non-existence of something that may or may not have existed, because, well, we can’t know if it did or didn’t exist, because have no understanding of what it is or, rather, was.

Anyway, I dubbed that MA thesis as a descriptive study, already in the title, in the sense that Wickham and Kendall (142) refer to it in their article, as only involving “description, explanation and the possible identification of causes”, as suggested to me by my then thesis supervisor, because it certainly wasn’t done the way it would be by CDA/CDS practitioners would do it, as a matter of what Wickham and Kendall refer to as critique in their article, because that would have involved taking sides, going beyond that, all that description, explanation and trying to work out how we might ended up with such and such, and thus telling the readers how it is, followed by telling how it should be. Plus, I simply wouldn’t have been honest about it, had I pointed out that saying this and/or that, in this and/or that way, for this and/or that reason, is, in itself, the cause of how things ended up. At best, I could say is maybe, but I wasn’t willing to say even that. I think it was a smart move to limit myself that way, to not get carried away by the importance of the topic, how it is a serious issue, to use Pennycook’s (132) wording of it. It just made way more sense to understand how it all functions, because that allows me and others, my readers (not that anyone has ever read that thesis, really), to understand how things get done in politics, by saying this and/or that, in this and/or that way, rather than attempting to explain how things must have happened, with recourse to my findings, and then suggest how they would be in the future, not to mention to ponder whether it is a good or a bad thing.

It is, of course, debatable whether that thesis is truly descriptive, in the sense that I generally understand language as always performative, as about doing things with words, and never as constative, as about describing something as this and/or that, as true or false, as J. L. Austin explains it in his book ‘How to Do Things with Words’. In that sense, I’ve changed my views quite considerably in the last ten years or so. Then again, I get what Wickham and Kendall mean by that when they refer to Foucault’s approach as descriptive. It’s about abstaining from telling people how to live their lives. I think I’d call that being analytical, as opposed to being descriptive, but the label isn’t that important. I get what they are after and that’s what’s important for me.

Wickham and Kendall (149) summarize their beef through Ruth Wodak’s book chapter ‘Critical discourse analysis’, as also included in ‘Qualitative Research Practice’. Now, me being me, and thus not willing to simply take their word for it, I’m going to take a look at the original. What does Wodak actually state in her book chapter then? Well, as acknowledge by her (186), the thing with CDA/CDS is that it’s not just one thing, one theory or one method, as I keep telling my students who are keen to do CDA/CDS, thinking that it’s a thing, with a theory and a method. No. It’s not that simple. She (186) prefers to think of it as a program or as a school. If you ask me, that doesn’t tell you much. I guess that’s the point, to avoid making it what it is not, as just mentioned. Then again, I’m not too fond of labeling something as a program or a school either. It makes it seem a bit orthodox. It’s supported by her (187) statements on how that program or that school is indebted to Critical Theory, aka the Frankfurt School, which is another way of saying that it has strong Marxist roots.

It is, of course, one thing to say that some research has its origins somewhere and another thing to say that it means that one has to pay homage to these origins, but that’s what Wodak goes on to add when she (187) states that:

“Critical theories, and thus also CDA, are afforded special standing as guides for human action. They are aimed at producing ‘enlightenment and emancipation’.”

This is exactly what irks Wickham and Kendall (149), because, as Wodak (187) goes on to add:

“Such theories seek not only to describe and explain, but also to root out a particular kind of delusion.”

By this she (187) means that CDA/CDS is a matter of awareness. Now, to be fair, I kind of agree with this. I think the point of research is to make people more aware of how the world works, but I disagree with that how CDA/CDS or what it largely builds on, Critical Theory, can enlighten us, so that we find our way out of this and/or that situation. The problem with such statements is the underlying teleology of it. There is this presupposition that the world is supposed to move in a certain direction, which what irks Wickham and Kendall.

If you take the Foucauldian route or, well, I guess it’s actually the Nietzschean route, it is up to you to figure out what to do with your life. There’s no must or must not, no should or should not. Instead there’s just could or could not, just might and might not.

While I agree with much of what Wodak (187) has to say about CDA/CDS when it comes to language and power, there’s this staunch belief in that the researchers somehow know better and it’s up to them to be the ones who show people the way. It’s vanguardism. It’s something what Plato would say. So, yeah, I agree with Wickham and Kendall (149) in this regard.

To her defense, Wodak (187) does mention, for example, that most, and thus not necessarily all, CDA/CDS practitioners would agree with her statements. Then again, while she (187) does acknowledge that, it’s still pretty much CDA/CDS is like this and seeks to do that. If you ask me, that leaves very little room for disagreement. Either you are for enlightenment and emancipation, or you are not. Either you are one of us or you are not. I don’t know about you but calling CDA/CDS “heterogeneous school”, as she (186) does, is just … what to even think of that. A school of thought that’s heterogeneous? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Michael Billig makes note of this in his book chapter ‘Critical Discourse Analysis and the Rhetoric of Critique’, as included in ‘Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity’. He gives credit to CDA/CDS, and I agree with him on that, but the problem for him (42) is that it may have ended up as what it sought to oppose. I think he is bang on when he (43) states that:

“As a critical paradigm establishes itself so it takes on many of the characteristics of an established discipline.”

He (43) lists all the typical features that you’ll find, courses, textbooks and study programs that are established for the students and the journals where the researchers compete for recognition. What really seems to bother him (43-44) with this is, however, that the students who are taught all this and the grad students who subsequently compete for recognition are unlike their teachers. What does he (43-44) mean by that? Well, for him (44) the problem with that is that their teachers started out as the heretics, if you will, only to become their own thing, among other things, like a new denomination, if you will. Their students are then just paying homage to their teachers, as he (44) goes on to point out:

“The young critical academics, by contrast, will find themselves working within a paradigm and its career structure. In short, success will bring a ‘critical orthodoxy’, which will have its own institutional and economic bases.”

Now, if you are wondering what in the world is a ‘critical orthodoxy’, you’ve understood the problem. It’s an oxymoron. You are supposed to be like: wait what? Again, this is also what Wickham and Kendall (149) point out. I think Billig is also correct when he (44) notes that:

“Thus, the movement of success may be from a position that was interdisciplinary, even radically anti-disciplinary, to one that is itself disciplinary.”

To be fair, this is not something that affects only CDA/CDS, as noted by him (44):

“This occurs because academic disciplines are social and institutional practices rather than inherent qualities of academic texts.”

This has happened before, with other fields and disciplines, and appears to have happened with CDA/CDS as well. Well, okay, I’d say so anyway. I’d also say that this has happened to linguistic landscape research, which is at times abbreviated as LL or LLS. It’s now a thing, not unlike CDA/CDS with courses, textbooks and probably even study programs. Sure, some advocate for heterogeneity and I’m all for that, regardless of my own preferences, but I’ve struggled to fit in with that crowd, largely for the same reasons I never really found myself agreeing with CDA/CDS.

It’s for this reason that I’ve come to prefer landscape research, in general, because it is certainly heterogeneous. It’s not a field, nor a discipline. It touches on geography, architecture, art history, semiotics, and I’m sure many other established fields or disciplines, but it’s not, strictly speaking it’s own thing and none of the existing fields or disciplines have dibs on it. The great thing about it is that you can pretty much choose the way you do it. You might get some pushback, yes, and there are some gatekeepers, yes, but that’s people for you. There’s certainly no canon way of doing it, nor no pantheon of people that you should be looking up to and citing for their approval, and for the approval of others. There are some big names, yes, but they are often irrelevant if your way of doing landscape research is completely different. I tend to mention Denis Cosgrove’s and Richard Schein’s work, as well as the work of the Duncan’s, sure, but someone who approaches landscape through, let’s say, phenomenology might not find them that important. Conversely, someone like Tim Ingold, Christopher Tilley, Yi-Fu Tuan, or John Wylie might be of interest to you if you approach landscape through phenomenology. I’m pretty sure that there are ways of doing it that I’m not even aware of, so all of these names might be just useless to you and if that’s the case then, well, great, no need to pay homage to them, because it’s that heterogeneous.

Feel free to disagree with my views, on CDA/CDS, on LL/LLS, on landscape research, or on whatever, but, be that as it may, I couldn’t agree more with Billig (44) on that:

“Young academics should not seek to identify themselves with a defined way of doing academic research, but should see themselves as engaged in the critical analysis of discourse.”

Now, I’d go as far as stating that this is actually applicable to all academics, not just young ones, but I get what he is after with this. It’s difficult to change the old guard, because, well, they done what they’ve done, for decades, and it does look bad if you turn your back on what you’ve started. I’m all for that, if that’s how it is, but, yeah, I get it, it does invalidate your CV in the eyes of others, so I don’t see that happening, at least not on any scale that matters, regardless of the field or discipline.

I’d say that’s exactly Billig is after here, how it doesn’t take much for something that starts out as revolutionary to become conservative. To be clear, I’m not writing this, nor anything else, for that matter, to say that there’s some conspiracy among the CDA/CDS practitioners or among LL/LLS practitioners, for example, but rather that it is difficult to stay true to your cause, or so to speak, because there is little incentive in that, whereas there’s a ton of incentive to make what you do into a thing, if not a product, and then market the … out of it. Universities love that. They all want you to come up with something new, something that they can claim as their own, something that they can put their brand on, and then market it as where it all started, where the brightest minds in that come together, and where you, yes, you, the future student, can also learn about it and, if you are like them, a bright mind, you too can become like them, if not one of them.

If you want my advice, I wouldn’t want to do just more of the same (well, more of virtually the same, to be accurate, as something being actually the same is an impossibility). I think it’s the worst thing you can do. Sure, focus on something, for a while, but then just move on. That’s my tip. That’s what I do anyway. When people asked if I’ll continue doing what I did for my doctoral thesis, I was like, no, no, nay no, never, hell no. Why? Well, for two reasons.

Firstly, I don’t think I had a lot of success with it. I felt like whatever I did, wherever I pitched my work, it was so out of bounds that it didn’t conform to anything that’s established. The responses often felt parochial. The education crowd were polite, gotta give them that, as I believe I’ve mentioned, but it just wasn’t up their alley. The sociologists were, perhaps, the most supportive crowd, but, well, I don’t think it was exactly their cup of tea either. Geographers were also helpful, but I guess it was just too wacky for them. While supportive, I think they didn’t want to get involved, because it might have come across to others in other fields or disciplines as stepping on their toes. The language people concerned with LL/LLS were probably the most likely candidate, but I struggled with that crowd. I think I just didn’t fit in with my views that were largely shaped by existing landscape research and my own Deleuzo-Guattarian views. So, yeah, no matter who I dealt with, it felt like whatever I tried, no matter how I tried to explain it, why I do what I do, the way I do it, it just didn’t get across.

To be fair, part of that’s on me. I do like to do what I do the way I do it and I don’t like to be told that I have to do things some other way just because that’s what others do. I am well aware of how that may and probably does come across as, let’s say, abrasive, and that there’s a price to pay for that, but the thing is that such way of thinking makes zero sense to me and I just won’t have that. It’s simple as that. When I set out do something, I’ll do that and it’s up to me to decide how I do it. You will not have any say in that. You can suggest something, yes, and I may even thank you for that, but I reserve the right to think of it what I will. If it works for me, then it does. If it doesn’t work for me, then it doesn’t. If you’d like to see something done, in a way that you’d like to see it done, why don’t you do it yourself? Don’t tell me that I should have done it, the way you would have done it, when I have done what I have done, the way I have done it. It accomplishes nothing. I mean, if I’ve already done it, it’s not like I’m going to do it again, just because you would have done it differently or because it’s not how things are typically done in some field or discipline. If you so badly want it done, the way you want to do it, or the way it’s typically done in some field or discipline, why haven’t you done it already?

To be productive, I’d say that it was more like talking past one another. I would have welcomed more dialogue, more back and forth, but that’s not how the academic world works. Making progress is tied to review processes, which, in my experience, can hardly be said to be about dialogue. With publications it’s all about being judged, according to some criteria, which are set by the judges. The feedback can be useful, but it rarely is. Most of it is just someone telling you that instead of doing what you did, the way you did it, you should have done something else, in some other way. The good thing is that you at least get feedback (assuming that your work goes to review, which is, of course, not a given). That’s often not the case when you apply for grant money or for a salaried position. You either get that grant or that position or you don’t, without any feedback, not even whether your application was ever read by anyone. Based on my own experiences, I imagine the review process as me pressing the submit button, like yes, good work, followed by someone, somewhere, checking who’s this muppet who sent this, and then pressing either button A) for print, so that it gets read, or B) for print, so that it gets printed, only to automatically go to straight to a paper shredder. In my case, I’m pretty sure it’s always option B), unless the person accidentally presses the wrong button, going for option A).

On top of that, it’s worth noting that I didn’t have the luxury of doing that in the first place. Why? Well, because I didn’t have any funding beyond an initial grant to get things started. That’s why. It’s a vicious cycle. You need to have funding to make progress and you need to make progress to get funding. Alternatively, you need to get a teaching position to make it work, but, guess what, you need have made enough progress, to have that prestigious doctorate, to get a teaching position. So, imagine me, trying my best, only have my work rejected three months down the road or, even worse, half a year or year down the road, just because someone doesn’t understand it, doesn’t like it or didn’t even read it properly.

These days it’s not that bad, because I now have the required credentials, having made it, just by persisting, really. I still have to endure that to some extent though as now you got to get your work out there, published, to get funding or to get hired again. But now that I get paid to do what I do, just the way I did back then, but without getting paid for it, it’s like playing the same game but on easy mode. It’s still frustrating, that’s for sure, and sometimes also infuriating, that’s still there as well, because you still have to play that game, but now there’s just way less pressure to deal with. Now it’s more like a pleasure to write an article, because I get to write, as opposed to how it was when it felt like I had to make it, because, well, I had to. I wouldn’t be writing this if that hadn’t been the case, if I hadn’t made it.

Now, you might be wondering how is that I got hired then? I have no clue, to be honest. I’ve wondered that myself. I don’t think I have a great track record. I’m pretty much a nobody and I wouldn’t blame you if you think that I have the personality of a sheet of sandpaper. My guess is that I was, no, not the right guy, but the only guy available at the time and later on they realized that, damn, this guy can actually do all this, doesn’t complain about it, and, somehow, the students actually like him. Okay, I’m pretty sure not all students like me, but, overall, I get the feeling that they do like me. Oh, and I don’t think they like me because I’m like a bottle of fine wine. No, no. I think they like me, inasmuch as they do, because I’m more like can of strong lager.

When it comes to these essay, I write these essays … because I just do. It’s a pleasure and I get way more out of this than I do from a finalized article. Why? Because I can write just about anything, combined with just about anything, the way I do, without having to think what someone else thinks about it. I’m constantly out of bounds and that’s the charm of it. I don’t have to worry about word limits. I can just go on and on, and on, and on, if I feel like it, or stop abruptly and never return to that, whatever it is that I was dealing with. Plus, I can happily ignore any standards of writing, by which I mean that I can be as formal or informal as I want, when and where I want. Oh, and if I feel like fixing or changing things, I can do that. I can fix any typo, error, wonky sentence structure, wrong word, or the like, on my own, just like that. Also, I may not end up writing on what I thought I’d be writing on for the next essay, possibly because I got carried away by something else and just forgot about it. I can do that, on my own, because, you know what, these are my essays, not someone else’s essays. I don’t plan to go from one topic to another, just like that, but if it happens, it happens. I can also just delete anything, like that, gone, because that’s how it works and that’s part of the charm of it. There also essays that I’ve worked on but never finished, as I pointed at the beginning of this essay. I may or may not finish them in the future. I might or I might return to them. I might write the whole thing again, unaware of that I’ve already written about it. That can happen. Oh, and it has happened. It’s a bit … how to put it … not only absent minded, but unproductive. Then again, maybe unproductive is not the best word for that. I mean it is as I do try to be productive, no matter what I deal with, as opposed to not contributing anything and, like, just nay-saying, or the like. Then again, it isn’t, because it may come across as me implying that I think that I and, by extension, others must be efficient. Now, don’t me wrong, I do like efficiency. Like I do prefer that, let’s say, a light bulb uses less electricity, as opposed to one that uses more electricity for the same purpose. At the same time I don’t like the idea that everything must be efficient. Like this writing sure isn’t about efficiency. It’s certainly not optimized. I mean I’m currently basically just rambling. The end results, this, what you get to see, in one shape or another, as I do reserve the right to make changes, as I see fit, if I see fit and whenever I see fit, and you just have to live with it, are pretty messy. I can write in other ways, keep it tidy, but this is not it. With this it’s all about creativity. It’s like just doing what I do, without thinking too much about it, because it makes it possible for me to end up where I didn’t think I would end up and to encounter all kinds of things on the way. So, while you may see these essays as an end product, as work, for me it’s about the production, about working on it. Without thinking too much about it, I just write and that’s it, because it’s a pleasure to just write. That way I can work on myself.

So, if you ask me to tell you what the secret sauce to this, to this blog, to these essays is, the only answer is that there is no recipe to it. I just do what I do. I just write what I write. I don’t do what I’m expected to do. I don’t even know what that is. I’m off the rails.

Okay, okay, I acknowledge that others have written about what I write about, yes, and that I agree with them, to this and/or that extent, but I don’t write what I write, the way I write, because I think it will get me somewhere, to be in the good graces of some important people. I’m pretty sure that train already left the station when it comes to me. That’s the price you pay for that. Oh, and I’m pretty sure these essays aren’t doing me any favors in this regard either.

To be clear, I do give credit where credit is due, assuming that I’m aware of others and what they’ve stated before, but that’s about it. I write a lot about the works of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, as well as those of Michel Foucault, to the point I’d say my own thought is Deleuzo-Guattarian and Foucauldian, but I do it my own way. I didn’t ask anyone’s permission to read their works. I just did. Why? I honestly can’t give you a definite answer. I’d say out curiosity, to entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe there’s something to them. That’s the best answer I can give you.

I will not be asking for someone’s acceptance to read their works the way I do either. To be honest, sometimes I have no idea what they are saying. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, really. Oh, and sometimes I get it later on. It just suddenly hits me and I’m like, oh, oh, ooooooh! Now I get it!

But do I really get it? Can I prove it to you that I get it? Well, that’s tricky. Yes and no. I believe that I can often explain it, what’s the deal, the sense of it, and I assume that you get it, but it is really up to you to get it. I can do my best, but I can’t guarantee it. It either comes through or it doesn’t. Maybe it comes through later on, so don’t sweat it. Just take it the way you do. That’s probably a letdown for anyone who wants to know what’s what, for sure, but that’s the thing. It’s not about what something means, but whether it makes sense to you.

I don’t know if this will help, but don’t take it too seriously. Don’t be like oh, I need to consult the panel of experts on Deleuze and Guattari, or Foucault, or whoever it is that whose work you happen to appreciate, in order to be sure that you don’t misunderstand what you’ve read. I prefer to do things on my own. There’s no need for some tribunal that sets the record straight, to make sure this and/or that is interpreted correctly. So, as much as I appreciate books, book chapters and articles on the authors whose work I appreciate, I don’t know what to think of publications dedicated solely to this and/or that author. I understand that if you work with something fairly bizarre, something outside mainstream, it’s very difficult to get published because you are, indeed, not part of the mainstream. At the same time, a part of me thinks that it’s counter-productive to do that, to focus (almost) solely on this and/or that author. Doesn’t it result in an echo chamber? I get it that it lacks the usual hostility, that’s great, but isn’t it a bit like retreating? Isn’t it like being the heretic, having all these objections to the powers that be, only to end up doing what it is that you used to object to? Isn’t heresy only heresy inasmuch it remains a heresy, in opposition to what’s generally accepted as the true belief? If it becomes its own thing, replacing what it opposes, doesn’t it become what it opposed? So, as I like to think, if you are to be true to yourself, as a heretic, mustn’t you remain one, never settling for this and/or that, staying constantly on the move, to prevent yourself from settling down? That’s why I prefer to say that things are the way they are, for now.

That’s also the issue I take with textbooks. To be clear, I’m not against textbooks, as such. A lot of them are good and contain good insights. I think it’s just better to read them as takes on someone else’s takes. They are not the definitive account of something. Far from such. Keep an open mind and you’re good. Don’t feel intimidated by big names, like the ones I keep referring to. They can be difficult to understand, at least initially, yes, there’s that, but don’t feel like you need read someone’s else take of their work to understand them. They can be of use to you, no doubt, but just do your thing. Oh, don’t let others bully you to conform to their views or whatever views happen to be considered correct in some field or discipline. Agree to disagree. See for yourself. Let it happen. Let it work on you. Then build your own take on what you’ve read.

To be clear, I do find it helpful to read what others have to say about others, but I prefer to read the originals without recourse to what someone else thinks about them. I think it would the worst disservice to them, to their works, to their legacy, to turn them into some idols to worship. If you ask me, what matters is what you get out of them and how you make that work for you. For example, I’m indebted to Deleuze and Guattari’s take on landscape, that’s for sure, but it’s far from certain that what I say that they say is what they said, because they aren’t at clear about it all. I’ve had to work my way through a lot of what they’ve written about the topic and then present it to others in some form that I’m, no longer, certain is their take on it, as opposed to my take on their take. Plus, my take on their take is likely influence by reading of a lot of landscape researchers, who, in turn, have their own sources of … inspiration. That’s it! I’m not simply following Deleuze and Guattari, nor Foucault, but rather inspired by them! I think that’s way more fruitful than to argue with people whether you should or shouldn’t explain something like landscape this and/or that way. I also think others will benefit from doing the same. I mean, if you read my Deleuzo-Guattarian take on landscape, feel free to cite it, to be true to it, but, at the same time, if you disagree or feel like you want to modify it, don’t ask my permission to do that.

Anyway, I didn’t want to experience more of what I experienced while working on my doctorate. I’m not saying that it was a pointless endeavor though. It wasn’t all bad. That kind of treatment was just so frustrating and, at times, infuriating that I opted to do something else, to take what I found valuable in that and do something else with it, instead of continue doing what I did. While I’m a bit unhinged, as are most cool people, if you ask me, and willing to do a lot of things others might not be willing to do, not to mention endure, yeah, I’m not a masochist.

Secondly, and, I’d say, way more importantly, I learned a lot during those years as I started dabbling with all kinds of stuff, doing all kinds of trials. At that point, I was pitching my work to journals, just basically waiting to get my work published so that I could get on with my life. Most of the work for my thesis was done in a couple of months with the initial half a year grant money. Putting in all those hours at the start made it all possible. So, if I am to give credit where credit is due, it’s the people who worked at School of Languages and Translation Studies, who, unlike just about everyone else who’ve ever read my research plans, gave me money to get things done, there and then. They must be kicking themselves for that decision, considering how I only made the School like what, eighty to ninety thousand euro, depending on how you calculate it all, taking into account that initial money and the money that I got to brush things up at the end. What a foolish investment! Anyway, I can’t remember how much time I spent on the data, initially, flipping through it all, doing all that annotation, again, and again, to make sure I wasn’t inconsistent, but, what I remember, going through it took me, let’s say, a month, give or take. It was grueling, bordering Augean, with more than eight hours per day spent on that, that’s for sure, but that’s work for you. That was a looooooooot of mouse clicks. That’s for sure. I had all the data already then, in 2015, and all it needed was to be out there. That proved to be the toughest part, which is pretty silly, because it’s not like you want to read, right now, something that was investigated years ago. And I know, it is what it is, but if I could choose, I’d rather not have it be that way. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, what matters now is that the rest of the time, all those years after that initial stage, was just me just reading, one article after another, one book after another, while waiting to get things done. So, yeah, this means that I now know a lot of stuff, which is way out of my field. It’s so out of my field that I don’t think I even have a field anymore. That’s nomadism or transversality for you. Oh, and it’s way above my paygrade and something tells me that a lot of people don’t appreciate that, because I haven’t asked their permission to do so. I don’t mind that though, because, as they say, haters gonna hate.

Oh, and don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I’ve had it tough in life. I haven’t, which is why I’m not fond of complaining. It lacks humility. For example, it is certainly frustrating when you have to rely on others, only for them to mess things up. It makes me feel like I need to do everything because people can’t be trusted to do even the simplest of things. Then again, I know that they have their own issues to deal with and it’s only likely that my issues are very small compared to their issues. I know it won’t do any good for me to blame them, even though it is they who messed up and not me. I’m well aware of how I’m in a pretty privileged position to spend my days wondering about something that doesn’t even matter, really, like whether it’s better to express something like this or like that. In reality, no one cares about such. I don’t want to make a fuss about what others do, even though it may greatly frustrate me, because that could mean that they could lose their jobs or the like, only to replaced by someone who might have also messed things up just like the other person.

To put that in another way, to connect this point to the earlier remark, that haters gonna hate, don’t hate the player, hate the game. It would be tempting to hate the hater, to get rid of that hater, but that doesn’t change anything because hate is part of the game and haters thus hate because the game creates the expectation to hate. This means that you need to turn your attention to the game, which is another way of saying that you need to focus on the system, to what makes people hate in the first place, as opposed to focusing on the haters who may not even have any other option than to play the game. It would also be tempting to congratulate oneself for getting rid of a hater, by, for example, exposing their hatred, let’s say for abusing one’s position, but it’s only likely that the triumph won’t last long as that hater will probably be replaced by another hater, because that’s how the game works. That hater might not be as bad a hater as the previous hater, okay, fair enough, but that new hater is a hater, nonetheless.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I or you should let things slide. I’d say I’m an ardent critic, of just about anything, especially of any powers that be, but you have to think of the big picture. For example, if people mess things up, it is worth considering why that might be the case. Do they fail at something because they can’t be bothered to do it properly or because they are incompetent? Or do they fail at it because they don’t have enough time to spend on it? It is, of course, possible that people don’t care or that they don’t know what they are doing, but I reckon that you still need to take into consideration that they might, for example, get paid so little for what they do that if they dedicate themselves to it any more than they already did, they won’t get more done, which means that they won’t get paid enough to make a living. That’s probably how the game works, so it’s worth taking into consideration.

To give you some concrete examples, think of anything that’s produced in the developing countries. If you buy a cheap product made in China, don’t expect it to have all the bells and whistles, nor to last for years, if not decades. Similarly, if you hire some Indian company to do the software that you need, just because the company is willing to do it super cheap, don’t expect to be super good. Or, if you opt to outsource your customer service to people who get paid very little and are, possibly, even incentivized not to provide any reimbursements, you can’t expect high customer satisfaction. To be clear, I’m not saying that people in China or India, for example, can’t do a good job. No, no. I’m sure they can and I’m sure many do. It’s rather that people, especially in western countries, aren’t willing to pay for quality and then have the nerve to complain that the cheapest thing isn’t up to their standards. It’s like what did you expect, cheap and good? If you are, in essence, trying to rip off someone else and then feel like you’ve been ripped off when it’s no good in your opinion, you’re a hypocrite. It is as they say: play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Okay, high cost does not mean that you’ll get a better product or better service. You might simply be paying for something isn’t that good. A store might be asking for, let’s say, ten euro for something that costs them cents or, a couple of euro. But that’s not what I’m after here. There’s always the possibility that you are duped to pay a lot of money for something cheap. I’d say that’s especially the case with parts that you need to repair things. Why? Well, because it’s in their interest to make people pay them for the work, to repair what’s not working, or have people buy something new instead. So, yeah, something expensive doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t sold something that’s poor quality. But, again, that’s part of the game. Hating the players won’t do you much good, if you keep ignoring the game.

What I’m saying is that you need to think for a moment before you object to something. Is it warranted? What good does it do? To be clear, I think it’s fine to object to something if it is warranted. In fact, I think it’s highly important to voice your concerns, especially when you are objecting to the powers that be, when people appear to be abusing their position, and especially if they are doing their best to prevent you from objecting to it. This is why I think transparency is very important. It’s all about responsibility. If you are in charge, you are the one who should take the fall, instead of the people who simply do your bidding. That’s, of course, rarely the case. It’s typically the grunts who get the blame and who get sacked, for just following orders. But this is exactly why I think it is in your interest to oppose such arrangements.

Oh, and this does not mean that you should be a douche about any of it. Just blaming people for their shortcomings won’t do much good. I think it’s way more productive to think of how whatever isn’t working or was done incorrectly could be fixed, ideally as soon as possible, and then have it fixed. If there’s a problem, why not fix it, right here, right now? That’s what I do when I notice a typo, a missing word or the like with these essays. Boom. Done. Easy.

So, anyway, where was I? Right, I just wanted to do something different. Oh, and I’m already looking forward to doing something else. I’m not already done with current project, no, but that’ll come to an end eventually. I’ve stated this before, on a number of occasions, but I believe in explaining how things work, while also exemplifying how they work, instead of doing same kind of studies one after another. That’s what I mean when I emphasize the importance of education, as opposed to research. If I do that and you understand how I do it, then you can do it too and then I don’t have to do it after that. So, as I’ve pointed out in the past, I think my job is to make myself redundant. That gives me the opportunity to focus on something else, until I make myself redundant again and so on and so forth.

Have I succeeded in making myself redundant? No, I don’t think I have. What I do is difficult, certainly out of the ordinary, which makes it difficult for others to do what I do, the way I do it. Is it impossible? No. It is not. Anyone can do it. Even people without fancy degrees can do it. Getting to understand it is hard work. You have to put in the hours to understand what I understand. There are no shortcuts with that. Then again, I don’t want to do something over and over again, because it is redundant for me. It’s like I’ve already explained this, so why would I want to do it again and again? I’d rather focus on something else, which I haven’t deal with previously. Sure, there’s always some overlap, but that’s not the point here.

For example, I shifted my work from landscape, in general, to nightscape, because it allows me to challenge landscape. I still have some work to do with that, but it won’t be that long until I move on to something, which I already know, but I just won’t tell you. It’s related to landscape, but it’s something that hasn’t been done a million times already. I might do something in between these two, between my current project and what I’ve planned for the future, but we’ll see.

Right, moving on to the other text by the two, now with Kendall being listed first and Wickham being listed following Kendall. So, what I find interesting and relevant here in their book chapter, ‘The Foucaultian framework’, is their own account of their career progression. In summary, they (133-134) comment on how they did the unthinkable and adopted or, rather, adapted a Foucauldian framework at a time when it certainly wasn’t fashionable. They (134-135) mention how they initially struggled with the Marxist orthodoxy, but then gradually had their way, so they could do their own thing. What I find particularly interesting about their (135) account is how having to teach forced them to rethink their own views:

“When we started teaching, of course, we found ourselves, as it were, seemingly drawn into the role of missionaries among the ‘savages of orthodoxy’, trying to attract the students away from the orthodoxy of their texts and, it must be added, most of our colleagues.”

In other words, they were the heretics back then, at least in the eyes of the Marxist orthodoxy, and ended up attempting to convert their students to this heresy. However, it didn’t take long for them to realize that by doing so they were no better than the people they opposed, as they (135) go on to add:

“We were quick to see that a missionary zeal would feed into many of the assumptions of the very orthodoxy to which we were opposed.”

In other words, they were falling into the trap that Billig mentions in his book chapter. They (135) note that they simply thought that the students had to be saved from the academic orthodoxy of their time, without realizing that the students weren’t really part of that game, probably because they were oblivious to it all:

“More than this, we were quick to see that the missionary zeal was misplaced: the assumption that the students were somehow automatically of the orthodox faith, in need of ‘conversion’, was wrong. The students were not wedded to anything at all and were just as happy to learn a Foucaultian approach as they were any other.”

While their experiences are from the 1980s and 1990s and from Australia and the UK, so I can’t comment on how things were here in Finland back then, but based on my own teaching experiences from the late 2010s and early 2020s, I totally agree with them. You gotta let the students decide for themselves. If they like what you do and the way you do it, cool, cool, but if they don’t, well, that’s too bad, that’s too bad for you. Like I couldn’t give a damn about most of linguistics, but if someone, for some reason, that I cannot fathom, like why on earth you’d want to do that, wants to spend their days learning about the intricacies of grammar, it’s their prerogative to do so. While I’ve changed my mind about literature, it’s still not my thing to study it. That said if someone else wants spend their time analyzing some novels, hey, be my guest. I’m in no position to tell my students that if they write papers in my writing class or in my seminar, that they have to do discourse analysis, pragmatics or sociolinguistics, not to mention cite my favorites, let’s say Mikhail Bakhtin and Valentin Vološinov (to stay on linguistics, and because they are pretty darn good, gotta give them that). If they want to do such and to learn about such, they are in luck because I happen to know a lot about such and, conversely, if they want to know more about, let’s say, grammar or literature, I’m most definitely not the best person to consult. I try my best to help them, regardless of what the situation is, and I do try to read stuff that doesn’t necessarily concern me, nor my immediate interests, but might be of interest to my students. I mean, isn’t that my job? Plus, the way I see it, because that’s what’s expected of me, I actually get to learn from them.

If you ask me, as much as I like some of my students, for, you know, being bright, I do not want them to be like me, do what I do, the way I do, in hopes of getting into my good graces. If they want to be like me and do what I do, the way I do, that’s fine. Again, it’s their prerogative. That said, I must leave it up to them. They must find their own way.

Firstly, it would be self-serving to make my students act and think like I do. I think it would be a waste of their potential. The world doesn’t need another me, someone who does what I do, the way I do it, because I already do that. Okay, I don’t mind similarity, but I’d have them do their own thing. To put that in another way, if I were to collaborate with someone, on something, I’d prefer if they know something I don’t know and/or if they can do something I can’t do, at least not in that moment anyway.

Secondly, I’d be no better than the people I oppose if I imposed my will on my students. There’s no shortage of people who do that, so it doesn’t do any good to act like they do. As Friedrich Nietzsche (69) puts it in ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, the thing to remember when fighting monsters is that one easily becomes a monster oneself when fighting against monsters. This is the difficulty that comes with heresy. It is so tempting to simply start doing what it is that the people you opposed did. Why? Because letting go of that heresy, turning it to orthodoxy, puts you in a privileged position, as its heresiarch, and those close to you get to share on that privilege. In other words, it’s difficult to avoid becoming a monster because being that monster is a pretty sweet gig. That’s the lesson here, students (I’m kidding, I’m kidding, do as you will).

That’s it, for now. I don’t have anything else to add here. What’s next then? Well, I don’t know. I’ve been reading and making notes, but nothing concrete. I might finish one of those unfinished essays, but we’ll see. I can’t say for sure.


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  • Foucault, M. (1984). What is Enlightenment? In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault Reader (pp. 3251). New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
  • Kendall, G., and G. Wickham ([2004] 2007). The Foucaultian framework. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium and D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative Research Practice: Concise Paperback Edition (pp. 129138). London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1901] 1968). The Will to Power (W. Kauffman and R. J. Hollingdale, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1886] 2002). Beyond Good and Evil (R-P. Horstmann and J. Norman, Eds., J. Norman, Trans.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
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  • Pennycook, A. (1994). Incommensurable Discourses. Applied Linguistics, 15(2), 115–138.
  • Wickham, G., and G. Kendall (2008). Critical Discourse Analysis, Description, Explanation, Causes: Foucault’s Inspiration Versus Weber’s Perspiration. Historical Social Research, 33 (1), 142161.
  • Wodak, R. ([2004] 2007). Critical discourse analysis. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium and D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative Research Practice: Concise Paperback Edition (pp. 185201). London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications.

I am the law, or so he keeps saying

Friedrich Nietzsche summarizes the development of Western philosophy, that is to say according to how we think, in ‘How the “True World” Finally Became a Fiction: History of an Error’, as contained in ‘Twilight of the Idols: Or, How to Philosophize with the Hammer’. This is a fascinating … what to call it … a summary, in which you first need to realize that what’s dubbed as the ‘true world’ is not the true world. What’s referred to here as the ‘true world’ is this, supposed, other world that is, somehow, the ‘true world’ and the world that you are dealing with, right here, right now, the ‘apparent world’, as he (25) goes on to refer to it, is thus ‘false world’, a poor copy or an illusion of the ‘true world’.

I think there are two things that are worth making note of, before reading his … summary … of the development of western philosophy. Firstly, the subtitle refers to an error. What error? Well, in short, that error is Plato. Secondly, he is the starting point of that error and no matter what you do, you can’t fix it, because you’ve started from that error. So, spoiler alert, this is not going to end well.

So, in summary, of this … summary, there are six stages to this, of which, I believe, we are largely stuck in the first and the second stages. I mean, come on, no one reads this type of stuff. They probably didn’t back in the day, when Nietzsche was around (nor before, for that matter), and they for sure don’t read this type of stuff now. Okay, okay, there are a lot of academics who do read such, as well as all kinds of enthusiasts who also read such. But, by and large, I’m willing to bet a lot of monopoly money on that most people are stuck on stages one and two, more like on two, personally, but acknowledging one.

What do I mean? Well, so, he (23-24) lists these six stages. Firstly, there’s the ancient Greek stage, marked by Platonism. I think I’ve worn the kid gloves with Plato, so far, despite railing on him, like, in almost every essay I’ve written, considering what Nietzsche (23) has to say about him:

“Oldest form of the idea, relatively clever, simple, convincing. Paraphrase of the assertion, ‘I Plato, am the truth.’”

Yeah, that’s Plato for you, alright. I don’t if it is even possible to express that in a better way. It is so to the point. I mean, that’s like every priest there is. He (23) doesn’t mention the priest here, even though that’s his concept, but I’d say this is the best definition for it. He (23) also mentions that:

“The true world, attainable for the wise, the devout, the virtuous—they live in it, they are it.”

That’s the priest, alright. I mean, they don’t really know the truth, but it is clever of them to claim that they do. When you think of it, for a moment, what is wise, what is devout, what is virtuous, and, most importantly, according to whom? Who is the judge of that? Well, the priest is. Duh! Obviously! Ultimately, the priest is the truth, you dummy! That’s why the priest knows what’s what and there’s, obviously, no need to question that.

He (89) further comments this in ‘The Will to Power’, noting that not knowing the truth, but claiming to know it, i.e., lying, is just a means to an end for the priest. To be clear, Plato is not the only priest for him (89), but being widely influential, he is a notable priest:

“[P]hilosophers too, as soon as, with priestly ulterior motives, they form the intention of taking in hand the direction of mankind, at once also arrogate to themselves the right to tell lies: Plato before all.”

Ouch! If there’s one thing that’s for sure, he did not have a lot of love for Plato. I guess he could respect Plato, in certain respects, for what he achieved, but, yeah, he didn’t have any love for Plato. It’s the same with me, if you haven’t read my essays. I can recognize his influence on western thinking and be like wow, but, yeah I’m not a fan. I don’t approve.

What’s the deal with priests then? Well, without getting into too much detail, as Nietzsche has a lot to say about them, much more than I want to cover in this, he (87-88) defines them as “the actors of something superhuman which they have to make easily perceptible” and as people who present themselves as role models. He (88) adds to this that they present themselves as irreplaceable. By this he (88) means unlike the sovereign who is occasionally replaced by another sovereign, when, for example, the sovereign falls from a balcony or down the stairs, the priests remain. In my view, they make themselves irreplaceable by limiting the number of people who can be priests, who can then be of use to the sovereign. When the sovereign is replaced by another sovereign, the priests let the new sovereign know that their services are indispensable.

He (88) further comments on what they have, their means, and that that results in, what the consequences are. Firstly, they present themselves as the only people possess knowledge. Secondly, they alone are virtuous, by which he means that they know how to use that knowledge, because they have that connection with a high power, whereas others don’t have that connection. Thirdly, it’s that connection that allows them, and only them, to know the truth. Fourthly, the truth is also what’s good for people. In summary, combining all this, if you want to know what’s what and if you want to live a good life, you must consult the priest.

Who can then be a priest? Well, to be clear, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous essays, anyone can be a priest, in the sense they act in that way, claiming the exclusive right to the truth and acting as if they are irreplaceable. You can have priests who are priests, but that’s beside the point.

I’ve mentioned this before, but academics are also often priests. There’s certainly no shortage of people who taken it upon themselves to explain how people should live, according to science, of course, which is really just them telling others how others should live like they do. They also like to point out how they have an academic title, how they are professor this or doctor that, just to remind you that while anyone can become like they are, if they make their way through the academic system, living like they do, they know the truth. Oh, and don’t you dare challenge them, their authority, because that is just a heathen talking or, worse, a heretic talking from within the academia. Now, of course, not all academics are priests. What I’m saying is that you’d be surprised how many of them are priests and how many of them strive to be come priests.

Not all philosophers are priests, but, as he (89) points out, they can be priests. He (89) notes that they are ” further development of the priestly type” and that they have “the heritage of the priest in [their] blood”. He (89) adds that they share the same playing field, rivaling one another and use the same means, the ones I just covered, in order to do gain “supreme authority”, which has those consequences, as I already mentioned.

Now, you might be wondering how on earth they manage to pull this off? Well, as he (89) points out, they certainly lack physical power, so they can’t just make people do their bidding with brute force, you know, like a sovereign could. But, as he (89) goes on to add, they have an ace up the sleeve. They have recourse to a higher power, a higher authority, that they, supposedly, only have access to. A sovereign’s authority is based on physical power. The sovereign can, of course, attribute that to a higher power, but it is the priest who has that connection with the higher power and therefore the priest act as indispensable mediator, serving both the higher power and everyone else, as he (89) points out. In contemporary terms, they are the middlemen (sexism intended, because something tells me that they are, typically, men): good for nothing, on their own, but supposedly indispensable when it comes to connecting this to that, whatever that may be. What’s particularly clever about this (as if what’s been covered so far isn’t pretty clever, you gotta give them that) is that they double up reality, creating this higher authority, to which everything else must believe in and submit to, followed by mainting that they, and only they, have exclusive access to it, as he (89) points out. He (89) doesn’t explain this in this way, but, if you ask me, if you challenge this arrangement, the system they’ve created for themselves, to have that supreme authority, you are branded either as a heathen, an unbeliever, someone who threatens the system from the outside (not that great a concern), or, worse, as a heretic, someone who appears to believe, but in a wrong or unorthodox way, someone who threatens the system from the system from the inside (is a major concern, which is clear from how heresies are typically deal with very heavy handedly).

What about the second stage? Well, I’d say it’s more of the same, but with a twist. We could say that if Plato was a priest, he was, at best, an amateur. Why? Well, the twist here is to not claim that you are the truth, the embodiment of it, or the like, just because, as that’s a bit … questionable, but rather that it is something that can be attainable by not only the priests, but anyone. That may seem like democratizing it, but, well, I don’t think it is. It has this sense of duty attached to it that Plato didn’t have. Plato doesn’t really hide it, how highly he thinks of himself. In Nietzsche’s (23) words in ‘How the “True World” Finally Became a Fiction: History of an Error’:

“The progress of the idea: it becomes more refined, more devious, more mystifying—it becomes woman, it becomes Christian…”

To be clear, I have no idea what he means by it becoming a woman. If that’s some sort of sexism, don’t look at me. What interests me, here, is how Christianity piggybacks on Plato. If Plato was clever, or, “relatively clever”, it is simplicity, which then makes it convincing. This is Plato 2.0. Plato might not approve, as I think he’d think it’s silly that just about anyone could be like him, that is to say to be the truth, but it’s not like he gets a say here. Nietzsche (23) further elaborates this:

“The true world, unattainable for now, but promised to the wise, the devout, the virtuous (‘to the sinner who does penance’).”

This promise that is mentioned here makes me think of Aristotle. To be more specific, I think it’s Christianity that takes cues from him (and other Platonists). What I mean is that it’s no longer Plato, the one who knows the truth just by being Plato, the wise guy, but rather the promise of being a wise guy, like Plato. It’s now what you could be, inasmuch as you strive to be wise, devout and virtuous. Conversely, if you fail at that, if it remains unattainable, it’s because you haven’t embodied the life of a devout Christian. That’s on you. The upside is, of course, that you could do that. It’s never too late, or so it is claimed. All you got to do is to accept the judgment, to do your penance. Oh, and keep doing that, until you’re dead!

He (90) further comments on this in ‘The Will to Power’, noting that it’s all these promises that makes this second stage like that first stage but on steroids. If you think Plato was clever, you are in for a treat, as he (90) points out:

“”[S]ince they are clever and thoughtful people[,] they are able to promise a host of effects, conditioned, of course, by prayers or the strict observance of their laws.”

So, as I already pointed out, the priests cling to their indispensable role as the intermediaries, but, at the same time, they fool people into thinking that they could also be like them. Also, as he (88, 90) points, it’s exactly like that, you need to be like them and definitely not have any own ideas that you’ve come up with through “experience or empiricism”.

What’s the point then? Well, in summary, the priest comes up with something, whatever that may be, and claims that it’s what’s good, by simply being that way, and everything else, whatever that may be, is evil, as indicated by him (90). That means that anything that’s considered “‘useful’, ‘harmful,’ ‘life-promoting,’ ‘life-retarding'” is set aside as unimportant, as clarified by (90). In other words, instead of thinking that’s good or bad for you, or for someone else, you must submit to taking their word, to think something is always good or always bad, i.e., evil, because … it is just that way, somehow. You are then judged accordingly and you are also expected to judge yourself accordingly, to have a conscience (a moral compass) that directs you to the given good and prevents you from straying to the given bad, i.e., the evil, as he (90) goes on to add. He (90) also puts this another way, noting that when we examine something, we no longer think in terms of the consequences, what’s good and/or bad, and to whom it’s good and/or bad, but in terms of what the intention was and to what defree it conformed to what is held as the law, what’s simply taken as the good and the evil.

You may now wonder how that works. Well, that’s the bizarre thing: it’s all topsy-turvy, upside-down. As he (90-91) goes on to explain this, the priest is the one who claims to have that connection to a higher power that judges you and punishes you accordigly if you don’t live the way the priest tells you. He (90-91) is more elaborate about this, but the gist is that the priest comes up with the laws according to which you should live, dupes you into believing it, promises that you’ll be rewarded, later on, but, the point being, not now, of course (as that’d be too convenient, and costly really, as it’s not like they want to share the privileges that they still get to have, now, not later on), and guilt trips you to live according to those laws. So, if you’ve ever wondered why I keep objecting to priests, there you go. He (91) nails it:

“[It is about a] dependence upon a priestly guardianship, upon pedantic formalities which claim to express a divine will; the implanting of a ‘conscience’ which sets a false knowing in place of testing and experiment; as if what should be done and what left undone had already been determined—a kind of castration of the seeking and forward-striving spirit[.]”

Note how he points out that there are all the strict formalities. Just think of the academic style of writing, with its pedantic formality. Sure you can write that way, but it is so, so mind numbing. It’s really just self-serving. It’s something that you need to be able to pull off, just to be accepted. Now add to that how it’s not just about style, formatily vs. informality, but also about grammar. You need to write in proper standard English (or whatever language it is), because, well, that’s the law, that’s what the priests say that some higher power expects of us. Anyway, he (91) continues:

[I]in summa; the worst mutilation of [hu]man that can be imagined presented as the ‘good [hu]man.'”

So, in other words, anything that’s lively or vital, is reduced to an adherence to whatever the priests came up with: a standard, a norm or a law. Any kind of inadherence to it is then viewed as non-standard, abnormal or against the law. Simply put, the priest seeks to control you in a way that makes you do all the work, as he (91) points out:

“[C]onformity with the law itself counts as an end, as the highest end, life no longer has any problems[.]”

Remember that the priest doesn’t have any physical power to back up its authority, so it must dupe you with this higher power. Now, of course, that higher power is just the priest all along. It’s a ruse in which everything is turned upside down, as he (91) goes on to add:

“[T]he whole conception of the world is polluted by the idea of punishment; with the object of representing the priestly life as the non plus ultra of perfection, life itself is transformed into a defamation and pollution of life[.]”

It probably simplifies life, yes, no need to think for yourself, but you are thus living according to what someone else, some priest, thinks is good for you, without any consideration whether that is good for you or not, because, well, the priest really only cares about retaining its status. As I’ve pointed out numerous times already, they do what they do and say what they say because it’s a sweet gig. I think he (91) nails it with this one:

“[T]he concept ‘God’ [that higher power] represents a turning away from life, a critique of life, even a contempt for it; truth is transformed into the priestly lie, the
striving for truth into study of the scriptures, into a means of becoming a theologian[.]”

Amen! Truth was never truth in the first place. Truth was always what the priest said it was, which is why it’s a lie. Now, I think it really needs to be emphasized that this is not really just about religion, at least not in the sense that we think of religion. It’s really about claiming to know the truth, like Plato, and then weaseling your way to make people buy into it, so that you can keep your sweet gig, from which you cannot be removed as you cannot be replaced, because you say so. It’s as simple as telling yourself that you are the law and followed by making others believe in that it is just the way it is, that you aren’t the law, even though you are, that the law is some higher power that they must obey or they’ll be punished.

Right, this ties nicely with ‘How the “True World” Finally Became a Fiction: History of an Error’ as what’s particularly clever about the second stage is that it’s no longer about being the truth, like it is with Plato, but about the promise of it. What I mean is that failing at it can then be used against you. The priests no longer have the problem of having explain how it is that they, instead of some other people, are in that position, how only they can know the truth. They can now state that anyone could attain the truth, if only they act accordingly, living the wise, devout and virtuous life. This gives them license to judge others. So, yeah, it’s pretty clever, alright, because it has this false promise that allows them to control others.

The third stage that Nietzsche (23) lists doesn’t really change things. I’d say that it’s more of a development that in which the priests, once challenged, bobble and weave to retain the privileged position in the society. This second twist is attributable to Immanuel Kant, according to whom there is the ‘true world’, the world of noumena, of the things-in-themselves, but we are stuck in the apparent one, in the world of phenomena. While you’d think that this would make people think, to question whether there is or ever was a ‘true world’, to consider that maybe, just maybe, Plato just claimed there was because it served his interests, the exact opposite happens. You could say that now it’s properly religious, properly devout, because it’s no longer something that is attainable, to be known, but something that is unattainable or unprovable, as he (23) points out. Now it’s clearly a matter of belief.

Now, I’d say that the fourth stage is more of a byproduct of the third stage. How so? Well, Kant is trying to have his cake and eat it too by claiming that there is this ‘true world’, but we just can’t get to it. It’s like, we can’t ever get to it, but we must believe in it, because we know it’s there. The problem with this is that this is not very helpful, because it’s hard to imagine something that we can’t know to be something that would obligate us to believe in it, which is exactly what Nietzsche (23) picks up. It is at this point that people finally start thinking for themselves, as he (23) points out.

Have we managed to get rid of the ‘true world’? Well, yes, but also no. Yes, in the sense that Kant plants the seeds of undoing it, but also no, in the sense that people still tend to think in these terms, clinging to something as either ‘true’ or ‘false’ or judging it to ‘true’ or ‘false’ to this or that extent, which results in this doubling, in which the idea of something is posited as ‘true’ and what we are dealing with is then judged as conforming to that idea to this or that extent. In other words, there is not ‘true world’, but most people still evaluate something in terms of how well it represents something else. In other words, if I take a typical landscape photo and mess with the colors, for example, to provoke them, they are likely to respond to it by stating that it’s a poor photo because it’s not realistic, because it’s not ‘true’ to what they consider to be the ‘true world’. I don’t think people willingly think in such transcendent terms, but it’s still there. We just call it representation. Only the label has changed.

I think it’s actually quite bizarre how that is, how people rely on representational thinking, considering that Kant basically undoes that. What I mean is that if we can’t know how something really is, how the world really is, why would you think that you can examine this or that, whatever it may be, as representing this or that, and judge it accordingly? I mean, that just doesn’t make a lot of sense, which is what I think Nietzsche (23) points out here. Now, if you ask me, that doesn’t mean that just because there is, no longer, an imperative that a landscape photo should represent the landscape, doesn’t mean the opposite either, that it shouldn’t represent it, that it shouldn’t look similar to it, if we, for example, hold the photo in front of us and then compare it to what is depicted in the photo. I’m not against representation in that sense. A lot of the photos I’ve taken are, arguably, very, very realistic, very similar to the real deal, and I wouldn’t argue against that, and I honestly don’t mind that. I am against representation in the sense that it is the be all and end all when it comes to it, by which I mean that whatever I’m dealing with, let’s say those photos, does not have to represent the real deal. I do mind when people act that way, when they, for example, say that some photo has a filter, by which they mean that it is then not ‘true’, even though there are no photos that could be considered filterless, as I pointed out in an essay not long ago. There is no other reason for that being the case, that it has to represent something, except that old habits die hard, that people are still largely stuck in stages one and two.

I try my best not to even use the word, represent, and its derivatives, representation, representational, representative, and the like, not because they aren’t useful, not because they don’t serve a purpose, here and there, as they most certainly do, as I can most certainly make sense of things by taking the context into account, but because they are tied to that way of thinking where something is then, somehow, judged and treated according to what it is not. In other words, I don’t like those words, and I try to avoid using them, as much as I can, because they lend themselves to normativity and people may end up thinking that I’m for that, even though I’m not. Simply put, I don’t like how it’s this be all and end all thing, that it is essential that we judge something according to some fixed idea, form, or essence, because then we are stuck in stages one and two of this great error discussed by Nietzsche (23).

I’d say that I’m anti-Platonist and thus anti-representationalist, but I’ve also come to like Hayden Lorimer’s take on that, calling such stance more-than-representational. Well, he might not agree with me on this one, considering he (84) is mere suggesting it as a more productive alternative to non-representational in his article ‘Cultural geography: the busyness of being ‘more than representational’’, but I think that term is actually quite neat. Why? Well, because it acknowledges representation, that something can indeed appear to us as similar to something else, as a matter of apparition, as a lot of things actually do appear to be very similar other things, sharing a very similar appearance, but without saying that they all represent the same thing, some fixed idea, form or essence. It is this more that I like in Lorimer’s formulation, because if something is always more, as in more than this just representing something else, it can no longer simply be judged how well it represent that something else.

Gilles Deleuze helps us to understand this more, when he (1) mentions in ‘Difference and Repetition’ that you can’t “substitute real twins for one another”, not even if they are identical, as I’ve pointed out in a previous essay. We may certainly think that they are identical, because they look identical, but they are not. Just by looking at them we know that there’s this one and then there’s that one. Even if we reverse the order and call that one this one and this one that one, they are still not the same. If they were identical, they’d be the same, in the strict sense, not just kind of the same, which is what people often say, me included, when something is close enough, like more of the same, which isn’t strictly speaking the same, just very close to it, like virtually the same, but not actually the same. In any case, to keep it simple, we know that twins, especially identical twins, are typically very similar to one another in terms of their appearance, i.e., what they look like, but there’s always more to them, to each one of them. When you think of it, it’s actually quite nonsensical to think of twins in that way, one representing the other, because which one is the original and which one is copy that, supposedly, represents the original? Even if end up confusing them with one another, which certainly happens, they are not the same, no matter how close their resemblance is. There’s always that more to them.

I’m still staunchly against representation, because of the baggage that comes with it, but once you are able to think otherwise, that is to say non-representationally, perhaps by realizing that there is, indeed, this more, this excess or remainder, that cannot be explained by representational thinking, it doesn’t even matter anymore. As I pointed out, it doesn’t matter if something looks alike, if, let’s say, a landscape photo appears to us as similar as a landscape photo, because that’s only one way of going about things, saying that this one appears to us as similar to that one or the other way around. At that point it doesn’t matter because, strictly speaking, there are no copies of originals because everything is original, in its own right, even if they are remarkably similar to what else is there.

For Nietzsche (23), this lands us at the fifth stage. How so? Well, because once we allows ourselves to abandon the idea of the original, that ‘true world’, we also abandon the idea of the copies, those representations. So, in practical terms, it’s like appreciating things for what they are, or, rather, for what they appear to be, on their own terms. I think the twin example is great because while we may confuse one with the other, because of that similarity, it’s not like we treat them as if they were the same person.

Now, if you can pull this off, to make your way from the first or the second stage all the way to fifth stage, you are among a handful of people in the world, me included, who’ve managed to change their way of thinking. Feels pretty great, doesn’t it. I bet it does. I know it does. The problem is, however, how to get the vast majority to think that way too. I’m not able to change much anything, on my own, and neither are you, neither is anyone of us who managed to change their way of thinking, be at this fifth stage Nietzsche (23) mentions. I can’t do that, you can’t do that, nor can anyone else. Even if we teamed up, we still couldn’t make others think the way we do. Why? Because the whole point of getting to this stage is that you have can’t force people think in a certain way. If you try that, we are back to stage one and two, acting like any other priest.

But what about the sixth stage? Well, that’s a tricky one, alright. For Nietzsche (24), this is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s all good. We no longer have this duality. Hooray! There is no ‘true’ vs. ‘false’, no split between the ‘true world’ and then ‘apparent world’. There’s just the ‘apparent world’, which we might as well just call the ‘world’. On the other hand, dealing with that can be difficult, because, well, by doing away with the ‘true world’, one also does away with the ‘apparent world’, as I just did there, erasing the ‘apparent’, turning it just to ‘world’. Why is it difficult then? Well, I this is just my take, but I reckon it has to do with having to deal with it all, now, on your own, without having recourse to how things supposedly are, to that ‘true world’, to explain how things should be, in the ‘apparent world’. That’s a lot of responsibility. It’s all on you now.

So, to combine the two, the fifth and the sixth stage, as it’s difficult to untangle them, just as it is difficult to untangle the third and the fourth stage and the first and the second stage, as one gives rise to the next one, the one following it, if you’ve reached stage five, like I have, you have to also deal with stage six. The problem with stage six is that you need to come to terms with what’s introduced in stage five or, I’d say, you’ll lapse back into stages one and two, thus reintroducing transcendence, the division to the ‘true world’ and the ‘apparent world’. Now, as I pointed out earlier, this is not about religion, as such, although it could be about and although it largely was about it back in the day. It’s about that way of thinking where you set up a higher plane, something that thus transcends us, in order to explain a lower plane, our existence. It helps you to make sense of the world, to control it, if you will, which is why it’s so appealing. It’s like a shortcut. No need to think beyond that. The thing is, however, that it also allows you to control others, inasmuch as the others believe in your higher plane that functions to explain the lower plane.

The difficulty that one encounters in the sixth stage, moving from stage five, is to keep at it, without lapsing into the first two stages. It can be pretty daunting; I’ll give you that. It’s now all up to you. No conform in that. Plus, if you understand how this error works, you may be tempted to be like Plato, and the priests that took cues from him, in order to make other serve your own interests.

I don’t know why you’d really want that, to find yourself back in stages one and two, inasmuch as you’ve really understood what Nietzsche (23) says about the fifth stage. If you get it, you get it and you’ll enjoy it, which is the point he (23) makes. If you don’t really get it, you just need to let yourself get it. Don’t stress it too much. Let it happen.

By the end, he (24) mentions Zarathustra, which is indicated in the notes as being in reference to two of his books ‘The Gay Science’ and ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’. In the former, he (274-275) mentions Zarathustra who leaves society to be a hermit, to be left at his own devices, only to return a decade later, all gay (this is gay science, after all!), full of joy, bursting with life. In the added preface to the second edition, he (32) further comments this, his gay science, noting that it’s this, how to put it, dare I say it, art of letting go and enjoying life, as opposed to your regular science, which is then, by all logic, about seeking to know it all and holding on to it, to whatever certainties that you think you have. In his (32):

“[It’s] a bit of merry-making after long privation and powerlessness, the rejoicing of strength that is returning. of a reawakened faith in a tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. of a sudden sense and anticipation of a future, of impending adventures, of seas that are open again, of goals that are permitted again, believed again.”

To put this in other words, he wants people to experiment, to see what happens, instead of trying to uncover the truth and know it all, you know, like Plato did. He (33) also further comments on Zarathustra’s retreat from society, pointing out that it was a mistake. I think he (32-33) trying to say that even though you’ll encounter a lot unsavory characters, people to whom he refers to as having turned into “pathologically clairvoyant”, by which I believe he means priests, you shouldn’t “retreat into solitude”. Why? Well, if you aren’t willing to deal with it, you’ll have to remain in that solitude forever. In more contemporary parlance, you gotta live a little! Don’t let others tell you how you should live. Just do your thing. If they give you tips on how you might live, take them into consideration and then do as you see fit.

As a side note, I quite like the dated language, how gay is synonymous with merriment here. I love how the point he (32-33) is making makes sense even if you take it to mean homosexuality. I mean come on, how fitting it is that he (32-33) advices his reader to be a bit gay and ignore the priests of your time. Hallelujah! Haha! I think he’d be quite amused by that development of in what sense that word is commonly understood, considering how apt it is here and how he was a philologist. That’s just perfect!

Oh, and Nietzsche being Nietzsche, I love how he exemplifies what he (33) means by this when approves of “a poet [who] makes fun of all poets in a way that may be hard to forgive.” If you ask me, the way he explain his (32-33) gay science, it’s all about taking the piss, mocking people who take pride in themselves, including oneself. I think that makes sense. It’s only fair that you laugh at yourself, your own blunders, and your own stupidity, if you laugh at others, their blunders and stupidity. I don’t know about you, but the number of times I’ve messed up something is pretty high and, as highly as I like to think of myself, I sometimes marvel at my own stupidity. Then again, that’s part of life, the fun of it. Experiments may fail. Nothing may come out of them. But if you are afraid of that, laughing at yourself or being laughed at by others, for example by some malicious peer reviewers, you might as well do what Zarathustra did and go live isolation. This is not to say that isolation can’t be good, but rather that you probably shouldn’t retreat to it. It’s easy to be a nay-sayer, to simply criticize others without acknowledging that you might be wrong or providing anything of use to those who you criticize. There’s no shortage of this kind of people, as I’m sure anyone who has ever submitted a manuscript, a funding application or a job application for review can vouch for. You gotta stay positive. Deal with the constructive criticism, take cues from people who suggest what you might want to consider, and ignore the nay-sayers, people who just want to drag you down.

To be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve judged people in the past. That means that I’ve acted like a priest, even though, to my defense, I’ve never really held a position where I’d be a priest. I’ve never liked that kind of role. I’ve always been too gay, too whatever, do as you like, kind of person. I might have objected to something and still may object to something, but, ultimately, I realize that what’s not up to me is not up to me. It’s none of my business and I must let them do things their way. It’s their life that they are living, so, yeah, whatever.

As an academic, I never really have had the luxury to turn in to a priest. I never had priests as my supervisors, so that kind of thinking never rubbed on to me. This may appall a lot of academics, but, yeah, I was kind of left on to my own devices. I got some inital reading advice and I went on from there, on my own. Again, this may appall a lot of academics, but I didn’t ask for permission to do this or that, nor did I ask for feedback for almost anything. I might have shown some manuscript to someone, at some point, but by the the time they had read it, I had already change it substantially, because that’s the way I work. I really don’t have the time, nor the patience, to wait for others, if I can do it myself. So, yeah, you can credit my former supervisors for not turning me into a priest by not interfering with my work, by letting me do what I did, the way I saw fit. Plus, I never got any proper funding. That never worked out for me, so I didn’t feel like I had to live up to someone else’s expectations. I just kept doing what I did, the way I saw fit. The mad thing is that it worked! And it’s still working. Heresy!

Also, I think it’s worth noting here that his (33) mockery, the parody and sarcasm that he mentions, don’t seem to be directed to this and/or that person. I think it’s rather that when you do that, when you mock others, it’s about the kind of person that you are dealing with, not that specific person you are dealing with. So, for example, when I’ve taken issue with anonymous reviewers, be it for articles, funding or salaried positions, when I’ve even mocked them, I’ve made sure not to mock the person in question (not that I could, because it’s all anonymous). Why? Well, because it’s not about that person, but rather what that person is all about: a priest. If we were to ask Nietzsche, he’d point out that they are the kind of people who are at stage one and two. I think they could easily understand Kant’s criticism, thus make their way through stages three and four, all the way to stage five, which is where things get tough, where’s make it or break it, but the thing is that if you are a priest, there’s very little incentive to do that. If the system works for you, you don’t the system to change. You don’t want people like me (or perhaps you?) to rock the boat. Heresy mustn’t spread!

You find Nietzsche covering this also in the latter book, ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’, but I think I’ve done enough (of damage!) in this essay. This was something, a little fun, if you will, that came out of browsing Nietzsche’s books. I laughed out loud when I read what he thinks of Plato, in one sentence, so I knew I had to write on this. What a treat! What a ride! What a pleasure!


  • Deleuze, G. ([1968] 1994). Difference and Repetition (P. Patton, Trans.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Lorimer, H. (2005). Cultural geography: the busyness of being ‘more-than-representational’. Progress in Human Geography, 29 (1), 83–94.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1901] 1968). The Will to Power (W. Kauffman and R. J. Hollingdale, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1887] 1974). The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs (W. Kaufmann, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1889] 1997). Twilight of the Idols: Or, How to Philosophize with the Hammer (R. Polt, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1883–1885] 2006). Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (A. Del Caro and R. B. Pippin, Eds., A. Del Caro, Trans.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

You are not what you think you are

I’ve explained how Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari deal with identity and subjectivity, but I think a bit of repetition won’t hurt. I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible, like I did in the previous essay, trying to avoid their jargon as much as possible, even though that’s quite tricky, considering how complex this issue is. Anyway, there’s an interview in which Jean-Charles Jambon and Nathalie Magnan ask Guattari to explain what’s the deal with identity and subjectivity. It has been published in English as ‘Toward a New Perspective on Identity’.

So, the interviewers (215) prod Guattari to tell them why subjectivity is so important to him. He (215) answers them that it’s important because it’s largely taken for granted, as “already given, fitted and packed”, but it’s actually something that’s produced. What he (215) wants people to do is to realize that and to pay attention to how it is produced. The problem for him (215) is that the production largely results in a passive or tranquilized subjectivity. I think Michel Foucault would call this type of subjectivity a docile body, as discussed by him (135) in ‘Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison’.

I like the way Guattari (215) explains this here, in this interview, calling the subjectivity that we are used to dominant subjectivity, and what he promotes in its stead chaosmic subjectivity. Simply put, the former is this fixed entity, autonomous, free and capable, supposedly, whereas the latter is chaotic and cosmic, by which I believe he means that it’s creative, always undergoing transformations. I think he (215) manages to put it particularly well when he summarizes his own intentions:

“This is just the opposite of turning toward a being already there, already formed, because being is above all becoming, event, production.”

This challenges the dominant subjectivity, because if things change, all the time, to this and/or that degree, you can’t hold on to a fixed sense of self. It’s that simple. If you get that, if you are like yeah, that’s how it is, that you are just what you are and not what you think you are, or, more broadly speaking, that everything is just the way it is and not the way you think it all is, then the rest of this essay shouldn’t be too hard to understand.

Anyway, the interviewers (215) ask him to elaborate on how this is connected to homosexuality, probably because he (215) mentions homosexuality as a good example of that, of being as becoming. For him (215), homosexuality is not some anomality, some fixation to wrong genitals, because such conception relies on the dualisms of masculine and femininity. In other words, he (215) isn’t buying that men have a penis and fear of no longer having one and that women don’t have one, but would like to have one, hence their attraction to men, and then, I guess, somehow, men not wanting other men because they already have a penis. In this view, because men don’t want men, homosexuality is then, by all logic, explainable as a stage from which one can progress, once one realizes that one is fixated on the wrong thing. It’s, as if, homosexuals, men and women, are just waiting to get it, to accept their fate, to have and to not have and to desire to have, as he (215) points out.

Okay, okay, that’s a crude way to put it, to explain the castration complex that he (215) refers to in this context, but that’s the gist of it. He (215) doesn’t like that because, rather obviously, that penis is taken for granted, as the yardstick, according to which everything is then arranged, even though there’s no reason why it would be that way. Why would one start from the penis and not the pussy? I mean, come on, that’s pretty dumb. We might as well pick any feature and give it that status. It could the color of your eyes or your hair, anything, really.

Now, this also means that what’s been covered so far, hetero- and homosexuality are, in fact, illusory. Why? Well, because that baseline is arbitrary. In his (216) words:

“[E]ven if we come to be homosexual, before being homosexual we have to become homosexual, to make ourselves homosexual.”

Even this is too much for him. How so? Well, there is still this distinction between being and becoming. He (216) clearly doesn’t buy it:

“Here we have the idea of an existential praxis of homosexuality[.]”

That’s great, because he (216) is all for this practice or praxis, which is linked to an “emergence of becoming”. But, the problem with his initial take is that it still relies on that dominant subjectivity, which, in turn, relies on a transcendent subject, as he (215-216) points out and as he (216) goes on to add:

“[But] it refers ultimately to the most banal homosexual conjugality, one which rejoins the world of dominant significations.”

To put that in other words, what he objects to is not homosexuality, as a becoming, but homosexuality as a being. The problem for him is that homosexuality is viewed as this transcendent object, as this fixed idea, of men on men and women on women, just like men on women or women on men, you know, configured as a couple. To be fair, as he (216) isn’t trying to be dismissive, to mock anyone’s sexuality, not to mention to be homophobic, he (216) acknowledges how people cling on to such fixed notions:

“We can hardly dispense with the constitution of micro-territories into which we retreat in order to experience being, to feel recognised.”

Ah, yes, it is indeed about recognition, or, rather, about the desire to be recognized. But that’s not what he is advocating for, as he (216) goes on to add:

“It is a matter of a perspective on identity which has no meaning unless identities explode.”

So, in other words, he wants to reconstitute identity and being as dependent on constant becoming. One may, of course, be still recognized as such and such, but that’s there and then. It doesn’t matter what you were or what you’ll be in the future. It is what it is. You are what you are. No need for labels. If you ask me, that’s the best way to put it.

Now, to be clear, he isn’t judging anyone for their sexuality. He isn’t questioning any of that. He (216) does express siding with minority groups, such as homosexuals, but in terms of micro-politics and not of macro-politics. I don’t think he had any problems with men bumming men or women going down on women, or the like, feel free to use your imagination, and he would have opposed all kinds of homophobic behavior. For example, I reckon he would have found expressions like ‘no homo’ very interesting, because, on one hand, it does appear to express prejudice against homosexuals and homosexuality, but, on the other hand, there’s this defensiveness to it, this distancing of oneself from it, which stems from its origins in rap and hip hop. To clarify the second part, Joshua Brown explains this particularly well in his article ‘No homo’ (I know, I know, I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s such a good example, so I’ll go with it again), when he (302, 308) points out that it was originally something that African-American men would say to one another, to make sure that the other men wouldn’t think of them as homosexuals, because while homosexuality might have been (and probably still is) considered as something negative, it was considered as something much more negative among African Americans. In other words, that expression came to be, not because someone was, necessarily, homophobic, but because it was expressed to shield oneself from being viewed negatively, among a group that was already (and still is) viewed negatively, to prevent oneself from carrying a double burden, as he (308) points out. So, simply put, it’s more telling of the struggles of the African Americans than anything else. The members of the community feel so oppressed that it makes sense to them to avoid being oppressed even more.

C. J. Pascoe and Sarah Diefendorf (123) summarize this neatly in their article ‘No Homo: Gendered Dimensions of Homophobic Epithets Online’ by stating that this all about “a form of gendered norm enforcement”, which “reflect[s] current cultural expectations of masculinity.” I think they hit the nail on the head on this when they (123) state that this is about “a gendered practice that works to define parameters of normative masculinity.” So, to be clear, what’s important here is not homosexuality, as such, but rather the constitution of masculinity as exclusively heterosexual. It is an odd one though, as they (124) go on to add, considering that the phrase is expressed following some, generally speaking, positive remark or a compliment. As they (124) point out, it’s like a way to express one’s approval of someone, while also distancing oneself from that person, just because homosexuality was viewed and is still to viewed negatively. In other words, if it wasn’t viewed so negatively, as a transgression of the norm, there wouldn’t a need for it, as they (124) go on to indicate.

So, in short, it’s basically about insecurity, typically among men. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I think Lonely Island’s song ‘No homo’ manages to explain that particularly well, how it’s about insecurity, considering that it’s all about just telling how you feel, which is, supposedly, the most unmasculine, i.e., feminine, thing to do, to tell how you feel; “To tell a dude just how you feel, no homo”.

Pascoe and Diendorf (129-130) actually go on to point this out, how in their study of online behavior, it is much more common for people to use the phrase positively, accompanying compliments given to others and expressing friendship, than to use it negatively. While the results of their study should not be generalized, it being based on a fairly small sample, as they (134) also point out, it does suggest that it has more to do with masculinity vs. femininity than it has to do with homosexuality.

What’s interesting about this is how puzzling it is, as Pascoe and Diendorf (132) point out. So, whenever you say ‘no homo’, following a compliment, what you really are saying is ‘homo’, but in a way that it is not then taken as a transgression of norms, even though, it can be argued that it’s exactly what you are doing then. Pascoe and Diendorf (132) reckon that it functions to immunize the person expressing it, preventing others from using it against that person. So, oddly enough, while it can be used in a negative manner, to judge other people, it is often used in a negating manner, as they (132) go on to add. I agree, but I think it also be thought as a valve, because it’s also about letting out your emotions, in a controlled manner, so that others don’t think of your behavior as a sign of deviant masculinity, by what they would then think of as feminine. So, yeah, oddly enough, I’d say that distancing yourself from gayness is, arguably, the gayest thing you can do, because you are, in fact, only saying it because you want to say it. That’s desire for you and I think that’s also the gist of the Lonely Island song lyrics (as I’ve also mentioned in the past, because it’s such a good example, much better than anything that I could come up with some wordplay).

To put this another way, that phrase is particularly interesting because it assumes that homosexuality is all about intercourse, because, in fact, it assumes that all sexuality is about intercourse. It’s, how to put it, an attempt to reframe sexuality, to make it all about intercourse, so that what’s actually said is then not sexual and thus acceptable. To explain this the way Guattari (216) does in the interview, the problem here is that all sexuality, including homosexuality, ends up being reduced to conjugality, by which I take him to mean that it’s then all about procreation and thus serious business. Now, while with homosexuality it’s clearly not about having offspring, it’s still the same logic, just without the offspring. It’s all very … proper. Anyway, while Pascoe and Diendorf (132) don’t put it this way, it is indeed about “[d]rawing [b]oundaries”. I totally agree with their (132) take on this:

“The deployment of ‘no homo’ reifies particular meanings of masculinity (as unemotional, unattached, rational, for instance) while simultaneously creating space for the expression of these sentiments.”

They (133) refer to this as hybrid masculinity, which is, well, like having your cake and eating it. It builds on this premise that, as a man, you are supposed to be this stoic figure, unshaken, no matter what, someone who knows what’s what and doesn’t get carried away with emotions, you know, like a woman, while, at the same time, secretly being all emotional, you know, like a woman. Now, I don’t believe that premise holds, it’s laughable, really, but the thing is that people think it does.

Related to this, Brown (309) also mentions something that Guattari (216) would agree on, how minority groups are also capable of being oppressive once the adopt to dominant logic. Brown (309-310) exemplifies this with how some homosexual men don’t mind calling other homosexual men “fags” as an insult to question their masculinity. So, as I’ve tried to explain, the issue people take with homosexuality is that it challenges heterosexuality. It is the practice that deeply troubles them, as Guattari (216) points out. Once it’s turned into a fixed identity, alongside the heterosexual identity, basically giving it the heterosexual conjugal form, people can be controlled through it by judging their behavior, assessing whether it conforms to the norm of homosexuality. So, if you are a homosexual, you are now expected to act accordingly, whatever that means, and if you don’t act accordingly, you are, once more, a sexual deviant, perhaps one of the “fags”, to use Brown’s (309-310) example.

It’s also worth emphasizing how Guattari (216) opposes micro– and macropolitics. It’s not too clear what he means by this, if you aren’t familiar with the terms, but you can find them defined in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. He and Deleuze (213) mention them in the context of politics:

“[E]verything is political, but every politics is simultaneously macropolitics and micropolitics.”

The former pertains to rigid segments, for example social categories, such as men and women, whereas the latter pertains to supple segments, which then challenge these notions, as they (213) go on to clarify. To put that in terms that shouldn’t be too hard to understand, we may think that men and women are these fixed categories, i.e., transcendent objects which we then just happen to represent, or, at least, as these discursively constructed categories, i.e., social constructs, but, in any case, there are these clear-cut categories. We may also take a closer look at them, to examine what counts as masculine or feminine. When we do this, we are bound to notice that it’s not at all that simple, that you are either masculine or feminine, nor that you have some masculine features and some feminine features. It is the micropolitics that challenge these macropolitical notions. In their (213) words:

“[T]he two sexes imply a multiplicity of molecular combinations bringing into play not only the man in the woman the woman in the man, but the relation of each to the animal, the plant, etc.: a thousand tiny sexes.”

Now, it’s tempting to think from this that micropolitics is what we should strive for, instead of macropolitics. That’s right. I’d say so, yes, but at the same time, one needs to keep in mind that micropolitics can turn ugly or, as they (214-215) put it, cancerous. The point here is that macropolitics is pretty old school, or classical, as they (214-215) point out. It’s rigid, yes, but it’s also easy to deal with, whereas micropolitics is supple, bordering fluid, and thus difficult to deal with when things turn ugly. This is exemplified by the two with the paradox of anti-fascism:

“Leftist organizations will not be the last to secrete microfascisms. It’s too easy to be antifascist on the molar level, and not even see the fascist in inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish with molecules both personal and collective.”

To explain the terms, they refer to the macro as the molar and the micro as the molecular. So, what they (215) want to get across is that the latter is not, in itself, any better than the former. Like I pointed out, making things more supple or fluid is, overall, the way to go, but you got to let go of the segmentation as otherwise you are only making finer distinctions. In their (215) words:

“[F]ine segmentations are as harmful as the most rigid segments.”

Why? Well, because they are still segments. They are smaller, i.e., more molecular, than the rigid, i.e., the more molar, segments, yes, but they are still segments. Then there’s the related issue of scale. As they (215) point out, we are tempted to think of the small as pertaining to individuals and small groups of individuals and the large pertaining to the whole society, but this is wrongheaded. The small can permeate the whole of society, you know, like a virus, and the large can be found manifested in an individual, which is the case when someone is highly rigid in one’s own thinking.

On top of that, neither negates the other. Instead, they work in tandem, as they (215) point out. In fact, the more something is organized in either way, the more it is open to turning into the other, as they (215) go on to add. So, the more rigid something is, the more susceptible it becomes to being challenged. They (215-216) exemplify this with two examples that I think are still valid contemporary. Firstly, there’s globalization, which means that work is now a planetary phenomenon. You can hardly escape it. So, it’s molar, yet, it is very, very molecular as it’s all about the individuals. Secondly, security is a state matter, all about macropolitics, but it’s fueled by micropolitics, by all those fears that people have. They (216) mention separatists, but that’s almost quaint by now. We’d call them terrorists these days. Then there are the immigrants, who, supposedly, are there to take your jobs, despite not knowing the language, nor having the skills needed to do the job. They don’t mention immigrants, but Guattari (170-171) does mention them in ‘Everybody Wants to be a Fascist’ and foresees the flow of immigrants to Europe from Africa and the Middle-East, as well as to the US from Central and South America.

Now, none of this is to say that, in molar or macro-political terms, that minority groups, in this case homosexuals, should just keep to themselves, let things slide, just because there is this danger, of becoming the oppressor, despite having being oppressed. To be clear, this applies to everyone, not just to homosexuals or any minorities that you can think of. In fact, I believe that you should put up a fight, to challenge the system, but, at the same time, you have to keep in mind why you are doing it and not compromise it, to make a difference, because there is no shortage of cases where people have sought to challenge the powers that be, only to end up the powers that be, no better than the people who they opposed. To give you an example, what did protestants do? Well, they protested. That’s where the name comes. Why? Because they thought the system was pretty corrupt and served the people who run the show. Was it that way? Ahm, yes. I’d say that they were totally right about that. But what did they end up doing? Well, they eventually ended up with their own system that while, perhaps, better than the old system, is not unlike the old system. This is what Friedrich Nietzsche points out in ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ when he (69) states that:

“Whoever fights with monsters should see to it that he does not become one himself. And when you stare for a long time into an abyss, the abyss stares back into you.”

Anyway, it is at this point that Guattari’s interviewers (216) ask him to define identity. Now, he (216) does not give you the typical definition of identity, that of being, that you are this and/or that, as that would invoke a transcendent object. Instead, he (216) wants to define it as an existential territory. What is it? Well, if you’ve read either of the volumes of ‘Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and/or ‘Anti-Oedipus’, you won’t have encountered it. Guattari mentions it at times, here and there, but the most thorough take on it can be found in his ‘Schizoanalytic Cartographies’. In that book, he (26-27) refers to it as a dynamic domain that lacks a fixed identity and as something that is very real, yet virtual. If you want the long answer, read my essay on that book or, even better, just read the book yourself. To give you a short answer, it’s all about how the given is given. It’s about what’ve become, at any given moment. It’s the given, but not from the perspective of the given, taking it as just the given, but from the perspective of the giving of the given.

“It is a matter not only of tolerating another group, another ethnicity, another sex, but also of a desire for dissensus, otherness, difference.”

So, in other words, we must abandon such notions of identities altogether and think in terms of difference. To put it another way, it’s the giving of the given that we must build on and not on the given. Difference is therefore not something that’s what’s been this and/or that identity, something subsidiary to identity, but something that is primary to identity, something that is constitutive of identity, as Deleuze (xv) points out in ‘Difference and Repetition’. Anyway, Guattari (216) continues:

“Accepting otherness is a question not so much of right as of desire. This acceptance is possible precisely on the condition of assuming the multiplicity with oneself.”

Note here that it’s about multiplicity and not of multiple. Why? Well, because the former could be anything, even something that we don’t even know yet, whereas the latter is limited to this and/or that. Again, to explain this the way Deleuze (xv) wants us to think, think of identity as that what is given to us by difference and not as something that is simply different from something else, as this given that is given because it is simply different from another given.

While I may have strayed a bit and didn’t manage to avoid some of the jargon, I like this two page short interview, because it keeps things relatively simple. You should be able to get the point he wants to make about identity and subjectivity, even if you are not familiar with his and/or Deleuze’s works. It’s certainly central to their works, as well as to the works of Foucault, but it’s presented in a fairly accessible form. Oh, and I totally agree with what he says in this interview. My own work also deals with these with identity and subjectivity and while I recognize their importance, I find them problematic, just like Deleuze, Guattari and Foucault do. I get it that people want to cling to their identities, what we may thus also call dominant subjectivities, because going against that logic is tough, because it challenges the way you think, while also providing you a sense of self. Giving it up is asking a lot, but that’s exactly what’s needed. It’s also difficult, because your sense of self, as this and/or that, has been ingrained in your, likely for decades, so giving it up must feel like someone is tearing you apart. Oh, and that’s not a joke. Find a copy of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and read the plateau ‘How do you make yourself a body without organs?’. If you feel like you are being torn apart, like you’ve been lied to your entire life, yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. The feeling is like you are bordering insanity. That’s how I’d put it. It’s your way of thinking that wants you to keep you from thinking in any other way. Do stop reading at that point though and only return to it a good night sleep or so, when you feel like you can handle the challenge. It may take a while, sure, but once you can handle that, it’s pretty sweet. You are no longer occupied by thoughts about yourself, who you think you are. You just are. That’s what’s so revolutionary about. You’ve become revolutionary, not by moving from this to that, but by becoming-revolutionary, as Deleuze and Guattari (292) put it in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“Becoming-revolutionary remains indifferent to the questions of a future and a past of the revolution; it passes between the two.”

So, once you manage it, once it’s about becoming-revolutionary, you no longer think of yourself as this and/or that, in the present (which is actually in the past already), in the past, nor in the future. You just are what you are, here and now. It’s as simple as that.


  • Brown, J. (2011). No Homo. Journal of Homosexuality, 58 (3), 299–314.
  • Deleuze, G. ([1968] 1994). Difference and Repetition (P. Patton, Trans.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1972] 1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Foucault, M. ([1975] 1995). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  • Guattari, F. ([1992] 1996). Toward a New Perspective on Identity (J-A. Fernández, Trans.). In F. Guattari, The Guattari Reader (G. Genosko, Ed.) (pp. 215–217). Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Guattari, F. ([1974] 2009). Everybody Wants to be a Fascist (S. Fletcher and C. Benamou, Trans.). In F. Guattari, Chaosophy: Text and Interviews 1972–1977 (S. Lotringer, Ed., D. L. Sweet, J. Becker and T. Adkins, Trans.) (pp. 154–175). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Guattari, F. ([1989] 2013). Schizoanalytic Cartographies (A. Goffey, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury.
  • Lonely Island (2011). No Homo (A. Samberg, A. Schaffer, J. Taccone, B. Long and B. Byrd, Wr., B-Sides, Pr.). New York, NY: Universal Republic Records.
  • Nietzsche, F. ([1886] 2002). Beyond Good and Evil (R-P. Horstmann and J. Norman, Eds., J. Norman, Trans.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pascoe, C. J., and S. Diefendorf (2019). No Homo: Gendered Dimensions of Homophobic Epithets Online. Sex Roles, 80, 123–136.


I had planned to return to actually address what Félix Guattari thought of Michel Foucault’s work, but … surprise, surprise … I’m not going to do that here. That’ll have to wait a bit more. I actually got quite far with it, but then I got sidetracked with a lot of other stuff. It’s exam season right now, so that takes priority. It might not take priority with others, but, well, I think that it’s my job to get the exams done and graded, ASAP, and not whenever I feel like it. I mean, that’s what I get paid to do, so it’s what I do. I don’t mess about at work. You probably won’t find me gossiping by the water coolor, or the like.

To be clear, I mainly teach pretty basic stuff, well basic studies, so introductions to introductions, really, so it’s not that demanding on me. The thing is, however, that I like to keep things fresh, so I’ll try to come up with new stuff. Oh, and I do like to cater to my students. I try to get feedback during the course, not after it. I mean, after it is alright, but that doesn’t do anything for those students. Plus, what might or might now work for them might or might not work some other group of students. It doesn’t change the course content, what it is, but how it’s done. I also get to learn that way, to see what works and what doesn’t work. Those lessons are also for me.

And yeah, I know, I know, I get paid for it, so, no, it’s not the same in terms of learning. They basically have to work part-time, unless they have parents or relatives who do that for them. I’m well aware of this and I do try to remember it when discussing scheduling with the students. If you have to be at work, well, then you have to be at work. It’s not great, for you, but that’s the point. It’s not great for you. Your absence is already a punishment, for you. I do keep tabs on who’s there and who’s not, that’s not it. It’s rather that I’ve read enough Foucault, so it’s actually hard for me to be a disciplinarian. I’d say I have distaste for that these days. I find it also to be pretty counterproductive. You won’t anything creative done by yelling at people and demanding them to respect your authority.

This is also why I probably come across as pretty hippy-dippy, if you ever run into me. I just want things to work out and I’m not too fussed about how that happens, as long as it happens. I’m like are we gonna do this or what? Are we gonna mope around or are we gonna get this done? That’s my attitude. I’m pretty serious out page numbers though and, apparently, have a reputation for that now.

That also means that I may come across as pretty intense, like I’m always on. Well, truth be told, I’m like that, always on. I don’t really have anxiety over anything. I might still be annoyed, even to the point that I’m fuming, but that’s more about me wanting to get things done, sooner than later, and less about me worrying over something. I might still get sad about something. For example, when I happen to think about my former students, exchange students from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, yeah, what can I say? I don’t think I can say anything that’s of use in the moment. It’s like a mixture of sadness, hoping none of them end up dead, because of someone’s delusions of imperial grandeur, and anger, being pissed off by the whole thing.

Why am I always on? Well, having read what I’ve read, and written what I’ve written, I guess (because writing helps me to process what I’ve read), it’s made me realize that you are your worst enemy. Sure, others play a role, it’s not like you were born that way, but you still do most of the work, at the moment, working against yourself. Once you manage to do that, it is great! I’m telling you, it is. You’ll no longer even think that there’s anything odd about always being on.

That’s probably also my charm, that intensity, assuming you like intensity. Sure, it may come across a bit or more than a bit unhinged, as I’ve mentioned in the past, but it is what it is. Take it or leave it. I don’t really know why you’d want it any other way. What makes people charming, or captivating, is that intensity, which is often something that’s considered at least slightly weird. I guess it is weird, but I’m using weirdness in a positive sense here, like ‘this is weird alright, but, hey, I like it!’ It’s like if you happen to like a saison. It has that funky taste to it. It’s … odd, but … yeah … gotta love it.

Getting there is, of course, very, very difficult. You can’t just wish things were different or force yourself to be different. The trick is to come to terms with that you already are, what you are. But how to do that? Well, as Guattari points out with Gilles Deleuze (160) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, you have to be careful about it. That’s the nice and non-jargony way of explaining that, but, as that may, of course, come across as a bit or more than just a bit condescending, as if you couldn’t handle it (I’m sure you can, but with caution, at least initially), I’m going to let them explaing that.

So, how to get there? How to be like me (emphasis on like, because you won’t be me, which is the whole point, like same, yet different, or should I say differentiated)? Well, let’s go. They (159) state that we need to deal with need to address three things: organism (biological/physiological organization), signifiance (signification, play of signifiers) and subjectification (how one’s subjectivity is formed). To elaborate the first thing, they (159) point out that your body is organized in a certain way. On one hand, It can do certain things and, on the other hand, it is expected to do certain things, let’s put it that way. The thing is that your body can do many things, some, if not many that you are unaware of, but even your own body expects you to function in a certain way (albeit this is tricky, is it your body that does that or is you thinking it’s your body does that?). To elaborate the second thing, they (159) add that to be part of a society, you gotta play the game (of signifiers), that you are this and/or that, otherwise “you’re a deviant” (oh, and do I love to be one!). To exemplify that, briefly (and to connect it to my note/question), it’s not just that you are, let’s say biologically male or female, capable of certain things in terms of reproduction (which you are or aren’t, depending of the organization of your body, in relation to other bodies that organized in a certain way; and no judgment here, it’s a fascinating topic, if you ask me, like how certain organisms get by that way, making it more difficult for parasites to take advantage of them, unlike, let’s say, most bananas, because they are clones), but also that you are thus, somehow, defined as such (what such?), capable of whatever it is that your signifiers (for whatever reason) define you as, such and such (what such?). To simplify that, it’s not that you are just male or female (I know, that’s not all there is, but let me get to the point), in terms of reproduction, but that you are expected to behave, no, to be, to act out your masculine or feminine essence. If you don’t, you are a deviant (basically a pervert!). To elaborate the third thing, they (159) point out that, it’s really about you, you and you, you on you, you working on you, so that you think that it’s all about you, from the point of view of you. The apt word here for this is recoil (the subject recoils to itself, doubling itself, hence all that you and you, on you, by you, back there), as they (129, 131, 137, 159, 187) mention it elsewhere in the book (every time you see it, it’s about this, coiling, recoiling, how you work on yourself, largely in ways that are against your own interests, mind you). As a side note, I just love the way they use coil and recoil, like, fuck-a-doodle-doo (I honestly didn’t know that was a film reference, before I checked on it, and, yes, I’ve seen it), didn’t see that coming. Why? What’s so special about it? Well, Deleuze has this, sort of, baroque theme (folding or coiling) in ‘The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque’, which hit me on those aesthetics lectures, years ago (whenever it was, not that long ago), when the lecturer pointed out that baroque art is filled with everything that coils or recoils, like locky hair on people (I was like, whoa!), after looking examples of that.

But how to do that, how to get past those three things? Well, they (160) point out that it’s all about experimenting, opening yourself up to all kinds of connections. So, in short, it’s all about letting go of yourself, or, rather, of that idea of yourself. Is it easy? Well, no, absolutely not. I remember reading this part of the book, the plateau ‘How do you make yourself a body without organs?’ and having trouble with it, having to take break from it, because it was, like they (160) point out, like tearing, “[t]earing the conscious away from the subject in order to make it a means of exploration, tearing the unconscious away from signifiance and interpretation in order to make it a veritable production”, which is, “assuredly no more or less difficult than tearing the body away from the organism[.]” It’s like that, like someone (you, really) tearing yourself apart, as you are reading it, which can be … I don’t know how to explain it … a lot, because it is, after all, you, as if, tearing yourself apart, in hopes of reconstituting yourself. It is difficult at that stage. Will you let yourself be torn apart, by you? Or, will you reject this as nonsense.

Plus, it’s not just that. Rejecting it is not as bad as you might think as that still means that you still have a chance of coming back to it, to reject it later on. Going too far, too quick is the real problem. That’s why they (160) liken the process to “the art dosages”, where you do not want to overdo it, because that’s pretty the same as overdosing. So, if you wanna get there, proceed with caution. Yes, to get there, you need to get there, but you do need to rest, here and there. That grip of what you are used to is really that strong that when you read this chapter, you’ll doubt your sanity, as if someone was tearing you apart, as if the reality, as you know it, as you’ve been taught, was being torn apart. The good thing is that the reality is going nowhere. It’s all you, wrestling with yourself. The bad thing is that you are your worst enemy. So, yeah, do not rush it. As they (160) point out, “overdose is a danger.”

If it were up to me (it’s not), I, of course, want you to make it, but I don’t want you to lose your way in the attempt. In their (160) words:

“Caution is the art common to all three; if in dismantling the organism there are times one courts death, in slipping away from signifiance and subjection one courts falsehood, illusion and hallucination and psychic death.”

So, what’s the trick, really? Well, I can’t give you any definite advice, as it depends on you, but, if you want me to explain that, to give you the gist of it, it’s about letting go of yourself (it’s really an art, you know a fellow traveler who has let go one of oneself when you meet one) and, more broadly speaking, this idea of truth and falsehood.

To exemplify that with a personal example (which is like pulling an example from my arse, I know), as a photographer, I am puzzled by the recent (or is it really recent?) discussion, if not upheaval about how people use filters on their photos, especially when they are photos of themselves. Why? Well, firstly, let’s stay digital here. I am flabbergasted by how people think there is a photo that is filterless (?), by which I mean that it is, somehow, unadulterated. That’s not how it works. Without getting bogged down on the details, you have something analog, what it is that you want to photograph, aka reality, which is converted into something digital in the process, which, by no means, is a 1:1 conversion. That’s always a take on it. And that’s just if we think in terms of the sensor. Now, to use all of that digital data that you got out from that conversion, you need to turn it into something recognizable, which is, then, a take on that take. Get where I’m going with this? So, to keep things simple, there’s processing (or is it pre-processing) and then there’s post-processing (or is it just processing?). We are in the habit of thinking that the first step involves the camera providing us a faithful take of reality and that the second step is where falsity is introduced, even though, by all logic, we should be troubled by the first step, as that’s the moment when something is turned into something else.

You might disagree with that. Fine. If you will. Be my guest. But, if we just take a digital camera, like the ones I have, DSLRs, they have all kinds profiles. There is often a profile that’s, supposedly, a neutral. Neutral? Neutral, according to what? According to who? See! You can change the profiles and customize them, the way you like, so that you are happy with the results. That’s how it works. If you import that all that date, without doing the second step on the came, you do that on a computer (which is, really, another computer as that the camera is also a computer).

Now, imagine the horror when someone says that it’s all fake, how people post photos of themselves with filter. Oh, no! Well, again, fuck-a-doodle-doo, there is no filterless photo. To be crystal clear, there is no photo that isn’t, already, post-processed. Even if we ignore the initial analog to digital conversion, we always need that so called post-processing (processing) for there to be an image.

Which settings give you the real deal? Well, none of them. They are all takes of the real deal. Now, to be clear, this is how it is, without taking into consideration the optics involved, how not all lenses are the same. Even if we limit ourselves to a certain focal lenght (really arbitrarily), the materials used to construct that lens, those lens elements, all that glass and/or resin, and the coatings that have been applied to them, are not all the same.

So, long story, short, imagine my amusement when someone blames someone for using a filter to distort reality. Haha! How naive! It’s all the same. None of it is true, which is why it is best to abandon it, that insistence of there being truth and falsehood.

Now, if you really still wonder what’s what, what’s the deal here, let me put this way: the photos I’ve taken, for editorial purposes, which is a fancy way of saying that they are considered truthful for the purposes of illustrating news, that is to say truthful, are not true. None of them are. None of them have ever been. They’ve always had certain settings applied to them, following the initial analog to digital conversion. What I’m saying is that I’ve already made a choice, which affects what I present to you, while you think I’m presenting you the real deal.

To really make sure that you get it, it’s not just me, but the engineers and the software developers involved. We all play a part. I choose to render the digital output of analog input in a certain way, which is, by no means, neutral (haha, the absurdity of that), which, in itself, is based on that conversion process that depends on the sensor and how it is then processed by the camera. On top of that, we need to think of the optics. I think you get the point already.

If you didn’t get the point, let’s go back a bit. Think of the film era. Did film (whatever that means, without getting into the details) render reality faithfully (ignoring the lens etc., while at it)? Well, no. Certain films were preferred for certain purposes. For example, you’d do landscape photography with Fuji Velvia (and, yes, I know there are different versions of it, just keepings things simple here) because it has lovely colors for that, but you probably wouldn’t use it for portaits because it makes everything look a bit red, so that the skintones just don’t look that good. It just makes people look a bit purpleish. Now, we may like to think that there’s something wrong with the film then. We can correct that and, to my understanding, that’s what they’ve done (with subsequent versions). That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. The problem is that you lose what makes Velvia Velvia, that oomph, those lovely colors in landscape photos. There’s that intensity. There’s that character to it. Is it slightly off? In a sense, yes, but that’s what makes it what it is. It’s the supposed flaw that makes it lovable. Of course, strictly speaking, it’s not off, flawed, because we’d have to come up with some 1:1 baseline according to which we judge something as off or flawed.

Now, if you argue that I know it, that’s flawed, you are forgetting that human eyes adapt to different circumstances. I believe I’ve pointed this out before, but, the thing is that if we put you in a room that simply red, it won’t take long for your eyes to tell you that it’s orange. Is it red? Is it orange? Haha! See! The gist of this is that you need to stop thinking in terms of what something is and start thinking in terms of how appears to you, and what that does, to you. So, instead of asking whether this is red or orange, ask yourself how does that affect you.

Anyway, what else did I manage to do this month? Well I did manage to do some notes on book chapters, which is always great. I’ve also read and made notes for another article that I’m working on. It’s that one that got rejected and I ended up making it way longer. Yeah, I’m still on it. There’s just a lot going on with the teaching and the exams, but it’s progressing. I’m cutting on other things to make room for it. If you don’t see me that much, out there, offline or online, wherever I might roam, it’s because I’m trying to get more done. If days only had more hours, I would get so much more done or, at least, sleep more. I bet my students think at times that he musn’t get too much sleep. Well, I don’t, at least not when I’m working. But I manage. It’s alright. I don’t, really. Plus there are days when I get to sleep in and then there’s always next semester.

In actually interesting news, also managed to get my hands on a Finnish translation of ‘Capitalisme et schizophrénie: L’anti-Œdipe’. I remember seeing it, it actually existing also in Finnish, but I never managed to get a copy until now. It’s been interesting to read the same book, but in a different language. Plus, to be honest, I’m always puzzled what to call something, whatever it is, in Finnish. I’m so used to doing nearly all my work in English that I usually don’t even know what some pretty basic concept is in Finnish.

What’s in store for next month? Well, I hope to get on with this, to finish that previous essay, but we’ll see.


  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1972). Capitalisme et schizophrénie: L’anti-Œdipe. Paris, France: Les Éditions de Minuit.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1972] 2007). Anti-Oidipus: Kapitalismi ja skitsofrenia (T. Kilpeläinen, Trans.). Helsinki, Finland: Tutkijaliitto.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

The Grill

I’ve written about Michel Foucault’s work, going through his best-known work, focusing on a number of concepts that are, one way or another, related to his concepts of power and power relations, including but not limited to discipline, biopower, govermentality, panopticism, as well as discourse, including but not limited to knowledge, episteme, regime of truth, the author function, parrhesia, sexuality. Then there’s also the apparatus or dispotive, which links the discursive to the non-discursive. I’m sure I’m missing something, like the stuff on subject and individuality, but that’s beside the point. That’s already quite the toolbox for anyone interested in … well … how the world works. We might even call his conceptual arsenal a tool shop, as Félix Guattari did following Foucault’s death, as mentioned by him (173) in ‘Microphysics of Power/Micropolitics of Desire’:

“[Y]ou ought not as a result be surprised in seeing me today rummaging through Foucault’s conceptual tool shop so that I might borrow some of his own instruments and, if need be, alter them to suit my own purposes.”

This leads me, quite conveniently, to the topic of this essay: what was the relationship between Foucault and Guattari. Oh, and no, I’m really interested in whether they hung out, because they probably did, not all the time, but at least occasionally. I’m more interested in who influenced who, as opposed to pondering about who was the most hospitable, buying others a round of drinks or the like. The influence of Deleuze on Foucault and vice versa is clearer, or, well, at least to me.

Guattari (169) mentions in a previous interview, better known as ‘Lacan Was an Event in My Life’, that Foucault wasn’t a big deal for him:

“[Q]uite the contrary to Deleuze, I was never influenced by Foucault’s work. It interested me, of course, but it was never of great importance.”

As that interview also took place after Foucault’s death, albeit prior to that talk he gave in Turin, subsequently dubbed as the ‘Microphysics of Power/Micropolitics of Desire’, it’s quite interesting that he says such. My take is that he wasn’t thinking through that properly. I mean, sure, he did his own thing, as did Deleuze, as did Foucault, but I’d say it’s pretty obvious that he was influenced by Foucault. How so? What do I mean? Well, just think of it. Deleuze knew Foucault well and both read each other’s works. While they may have not always been the closest of friends, they did keep tabs on each other’s work. Deleuze also worked with Guattari quite a bit, so it’d be strange if Foucault’s ideas weren’t conveyed to Guattari, regardless of how familiar Guattari was with Foucault’s work. If you are not convinced, just think of how closely Deleuze and Guattari used to work, as acknowledged by Guattari (333) in notes section of his book ‘The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis’, which was written when the two were working together on ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’:

“Although I wrote them alone, these essays are inseparable from the work that Gilles Deleuze and I have carried out together for many years. This is why, when I am brought to speak in the first person, it will be indifferently with that of the singular or plural. Let one not see there especially a business of paternity relating to the ideas which are advanced here. There as well as here it is all a question of ‘collective assemblages.’”

In other words, at that point, he really had no idea who came up with what, he, Deleuze, or someone else. That’s the point he makes about the collective assemblages of enunciation here. The world spoke through them, if you will, and they weren’t always sure of whose voice spoke through whom. Plus, as their shared book title suggests, they don’t even care about such, who the author is, who should get credited for what, as, I’d say, that’s a very, very capitalist notion for them. I reckon that ownership of ideas just seemed, so, so, very, unproductive to them.

If you ask me, it’s funny, really, how the world did just fine without patents and copyrights, while now it seems that life is all about them. Oh, and I know, I know, that’s rather ironic of me to say, considering that I hold the copyright to … I’m not even sure … but let’s ballpark it … more than a hundred thousand photos (to be accurate, I actually only own the ‘right to a photographic picture’ for 50 years from when the photo was taken, which is like a limited version of copyright in the Finnish jurisdiction).

I remember being a bit … up in arms … about my photos being used without a license, what most people would just call a permission (but hey, gotta know the jargon!), but these days, well, I think the world would be a better place without such systems. I mean, a lot of the stuff that’s protected by copyright is basically just copied from existing works that didn’t enjoy such protections back in the day. That’s the point Guattari (333) also makes in that comment about paternity.

Plus, the way the system works actually works only for those who can make it work for them, by which I mean those (companies) that have enough money to keep lawyers on their payroll to enforce those copyrights, possibly in multiple jurisdictions. An individual can only hope to get compensated for copyright infringement. You can try to press the matter, sure, but, well, what do you do if they ignore you or just say no? It’s like you and what army? Yeah, exactly, I thought as much! You can’t really do jack shit if that happens.

Now, to be clear, I’m not against people getting their fair share, me included (as I certainly have been taken advantage of in the past). It’s rather that, in the end, when push comes to shove, no one gives a fuck who came up with what. Plus, in lot of the cases, we honestly can’t say that this and/or that person came up with this and/or that idea.

Now, going beyond copyright, which pertains to the work, not what’s contained in the work, this and/or that idea, academics is particularly perverse in this regard. There’s this obsession with who said what. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with giving credit where credit is due, by which I mean pointing out what’s from where. I think that’s doing a solid to the reader as it helps the reader to find more about what’s been said. That’s great. It’s like having a hyperlink. The problem is rather that, as I just pointed out, we can’t often even be sure who came up with what as a lot of the evidence has simply been lost. When I read, I often think that a text seems oddly familiar to me, as if I had seen it before, only to realize that, well, yeah, no wonder, it’s like Plato could have written it. This is, of course, rather ironic, considering how that’s something that Alfred North Whitehead (39) states in ‘Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology:’

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writing. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them.”

Should I have actually given Whitehead credit for that, prior to mentioning this? Should I always do that, considering it was Whitehead who expressed that, in that book? Now, see, it’s rather ironic. If we say yes, that we should always give Whitehead the credit for that, when we notice that someone else seems to be stating what Plato once stated, then, by all logic, we should also always give credit to Plato, whenever we state something that he once stated. If you don’t get the point, the problem with that logic is that all of our speeches and all of hours writings would just consist of, as Whitehead (39) puts it, “a series of footnotes to Plato”. Simply put, we’d be forever paying homage to Plato, and obsessing about it, especially if people don’t do it (how suspicious!), as opposed to getting on with our lives, hopefully making the world a better place.

Oh, and that’s exactly what Guattari did. He just stumbled upon some conceptual toolbox or, better yet, a conceptual tool shop, and borrowed whatever seemed to be handy for his purposes and, perhaps, even altered them if he wasn’t entirely happy with whatever he happened to have borrowed. Did he ask for a permission for that? No, fuck no. Don’t believe me? Well, he did say that himself. Let me explain and, forgive me for not telling you exactly where it is from, prior to explaining it to you. It’s just that the title will spoil it for you. I’ll let you know soon enough. Don’t worry.

So, there’s this interview, where his interviewer, Robert Maggiore (22), states that:

You forge specific tools for specific fields of research.”

His interviewer (22) also asks him to clarify why he does that, why he creates all these conceptual tools, for certain purposes, as opposed to for all purposes. Guattari (22) replies to him, noting that he isn’t interested in conceptual tools that must work universally, like for sure, in all cases (as they can, of course, work in other settings and, in my experience, his tools do work in a lot of settings, way more universally than a lot of other tools out there). Instead, what matters to him (22) is that the tools work. If they don’t work, he’ll come up with some other tools, as he (22) points out. It’s that simple.

He (22) exemplifies this with being given a calculator. Either it works for you or it doesn’t, as he (22) points out. You may have no use for it, or not know how to use it, but inasmuch as you have use for it and know how to use it, it just works for you as that’s what a tool is, as pointed out by him (22). If you fail to make sense of this, it’s exactly like that with conceptual tools, as he (22) goes on to add:

“In my view, the same thing happens with theoretical expressions that should function as tools[.]”

It’s not that clear from the interview itself, unless you can piece it together yourself, but, related to this, he (22) isn’t having it that people need to be first educated before they are given a set of conceptual tools. Now, to be clear, I don’t think he (22) is against education. I don’t think he (22) is against teaching and learning, as such. It’s rather that people don’t need to be taught first and then, only later on, be given the tools, when those who, supposedly, know better think that they are ready for it. In his (22) words:

“In the nineteenth century one thought that the proletariat had to be educated first in order to reach a level of comprehension, like the ability to read certain fundamental texts, then it would translate into practice… But really, things do not work that way!”

Now, like I just pointed out, this might not open up to you, hence all that I just went on to clarify. If you fail to grasp the specific reference here, the context is the lead up to Russian Revolution in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I’m working out of memory here, but that’s basically Lenin’s view of the proletariat. He thought that people needed to be led (by him) and that they wouldn’t get where they needed to get (according to Karl Marx), if they didn’t have the right leadership (Plato, sorry, Lenin) that saw to it to educate the masses, to make sure they know how to use a calculator, abstractly, before being given a calculator.

Anyway, the interviewer (22) states to Guattari that:

[Y]ou lift elements of your vocabulary from different, more or less heterogeneous, disciplines.”

To which Guattari (23) then replies that:

“[Jacques] Lacan accused a third of the members of his Freudian School of being falsifiers. I claim the term falsifier for myself, being an idea-thief and shuffler of second hand concepts.”

Haha! You just gotta love him! His honesty! The gall, the gall! Okay, now, you may think that he is just amusing his interviewer, being all hyperbolic, but no, he is not. He (23) goes on to make sure of that he isn’t:

“Borrowing is not a problem in itself, except on the level of the semantic foundation of a new word.”

That’s pretty damn brazen, if you ask me. Just think of it. He is saying that borrowing is only a problem for the person from whom it’s borrowed. Haha! That’s so funny, but only because that’s true. If you take something from someone, it’s only your problem if the person whom you take it from makes it your problem. That’s what he means by it being a problem at the level of foundation. If you give a word a new spin, which happens all the time, it’s not an issue, except to the word itself, to its prior usage. Still don’t believe me? Okay, he (and Deleuze) are often credited for coming up with the concept of deterritorialization (and reterritorialization), but he (and Deleuze) didn’t really do fuck all, except give an existing word a new spin (for which you can, of course, give him or them credit for), as he (23) goes on to point out:

“For example, our term ‘deterritorialization’ was based on a concept of territory borrowed from American anthropology.”

Exactly. If you want to understand what Deleuze and/or Guattari mean by de– and reterritorialization, it’s as simple as starting from territoriality (what they also, at times, call territorialization). If you thought that they, on their own, or together, came up with that, well, the joke is on you. They did not.

So, the next time you think that territoriality, de– and reterritorialization are conceptual tools invented by them, that’s not the case (at least not strictly speaking). They have simply borrowed some tools from someone else’s shed and made them their own, by which I mean that they have altered the tools to be of use for them. You can, of course, give them credit for that, fair is only fair, but, like everyone else, they’ve actually invented stuff on the basis of what already exists. I think it’s fair to say that they’d agree with me on this, that it is the world that prompted them to do come up with such conceptual tools and not their extraordinary intelligence or wisdom that resulted in that.

This is like me going to a hardware store to buy a flat head screwdriver and then use another tool, like a hammer, to remodel the head, so that it turns into a dagger. It was someone else’s design, originally, but I turned it to something else. To be clear, I have not intentionally turned a flat head screwdriver into a dagger. I’m just using it as an example, because one of my small flat head screwdrivers turned into one when I had to apply considerable force to it in order to dig into a stripped Phillips head screw (I need to correct myself, as it was actually a JIS head screw, because of Japanese bike parts). It did work, problem solved, but it did turn my screwdriver into something that would, most likely, now count as a dagger. I’ve been wondering how to fix it, to turn it back into a flat head (of a larger size though), but, so far, I haven’t figured out a way to do that properly. Maybe one day.

To make that philosophical again, if you’re familiar with the works of Baruch Spinoza and/or Friedrich Nietzsche, a lot of what may strike you as novel in the works of Deleuze and/or Guattari isn’t as novel as you may think it is. Similarly, if you’ve read your Spinoza, Louis Hjelmslev’s glossematics may seem familiar to you, there being this one substance or matter that is then understood in two ways. Yeah, that’s Spinozist alright. Does this mean that Deleuze and Guattari are just copycats? No. I don’t think they are. That also applies to the other people mentioned here, Hjelmslev, Nietzsche and Spinoza. Did they borrow a lot from others? Yeah, I’m pretty sure they did.

Anyway, to the title given to that interview is ‘I Am an Idea-Thief’, which is why I didn’t want to mention it earlier, to avoid spoiling all the fun. I can now point that out, without spoiling anything. But the fun isn’t over just yet, as he (23) still has more to say:

“This reference was quickly forgotten and the term integrated into very different disciplines, where it took on syntactic, rhetorical and even stylistic dimensions, which in turn guided us in certain ways.”

So, his point is that it’s not actually fair to give him (and/or Deleuze) the credit for such concepts, given that he (and/or Deleuze) have just borrowed some conceptual tools and used them for their own purposes, possibly altering them to make them work for those purposes.

Following this, there is this … how to put it … not an impasse … but a misunderstanding, as Guattari (23) replies to his interviewer. Right, so, his interviewer (23) asks him if he (and Deleuze) had to search high and low for it all to work without it resulting in just one take, but a number of takes. He (23) responds to this by noting that he (and Deleuze) does (do) not borrow a bit of this and a bit of that just because they deal with so many things in so many different fields. Yes, they deal with a lot of things that are, typically, the prerogative of certain fields, but that’s not it. That’s not the reason for it. Instead, it’s about traversing those fields, as he (23) points out:

“I’m not keen on an approximative interdisciplinarity. I’m interested in an ‘interdisciplinarity’ that is capable of traversing heterogeneous fields and carrying the strongest charges of ‘transversality.’”

Simply put, he is not fond of interdisciplinary or what he (133) also goes on to call transdisciplinary research in another text (I think it’s all the same to him, because the disciplines remain, no matter what the arrangement happens to be). Why? Isn’t he all about that? Well, you’d think he’d be all in for that, but, I’d say, he wants us to go beyond that. He (131) explains this better in that other text that bears the title ‘Transdisciplinary Must Become Transversality’:

“Everyone is aware that the complexity of the objects of research in the domain of the human and environmental sciences demands an interdisciplinary approach.”

Now, before I let him continue, it’s worth noting that he isn’t against bringing in knowledge from various fields or disciplines. It’s rather that he wants to question these very notions, as he (131) goes on to add:

“But the encounter between disciplines does not permit a decompartmentalization of the problematics and modes of expression brought together.”

In other words, the problem with something interdisciplinary is that it retains this idea of neatly compartmentalized disciplines. You still have experts that are one trick ponies. There is this cross-over, yes, but it’s more like a bridge, as he (131) points out. You can cross that bridge, but you are always expected to go back. For him, (132) this is a very self-serving model that only benefits the experts in these fields or disciplines, and not the wider public:

“The [UN] Charter of Human Rights ought to include an article on the right of everyone to research. All social groups, all professions, minorities . . . have a need of the research that concerns or implicates them.”

Imagine that! Just imagine that as human right! Fucking madness! Research? For everyone? Fuck off! Just fuck off already! We (Plato, is that you?) can’t have just about everyone do just about anything, now can we? I mean, we aren’t even close to letting people have open access to research, because … no one can really tell why not (okay, okay, they could, but they don’t want to, because it’s all about money and status) … so … yeah … I don’t foresee this happening (because of self-serving … goddamn Plato!).

Now, this may seem like it isn’t a thing, but that’s probably because you (the reader) aren’t in the academics, part of that world, or, alternatively, you are part of that world, but you happen to be one of those who benefit from things being the way they are, by which I mean that you don’t see that as a problem (that’s team Plato for you). But just look at social media, Twitter being, perhaps, the prime example. There’s always that someone who just can’t help it, who just has to point to that degree, to let everyone know who is educated and who is not, thus implying that they are right and that everyone else who doesn’t agree with them is wrong. That’s how you eliminate rivals, pre-emptively (again, that’s Plato for you).

Oh, and it does not stop there. If you think giving people access to research is bananas or that letting them do research, to figure out stuff that concerns them, as opposed to waiting for someone to do that for them, out of some odd sense of … charity, is even more bananas, he (132) more in store for you:

“[The] target would cease to be the Truth with a capital T but instead a localized modelling, incarnated in a social body whose destiny is in question.”

Well, shit, we can’t have that now, can we? People first need to be educated before they are allowed to use … wait … wait, wait, wait … how does this seem familiar so familiar? Well, because it is (hint: this is what Plato did, this is what Lenin did).

Does this mean that it becomes a free for all, that all standards are thus thrown out of the window? Well, no. It must all still remain rigorous, as he (132) wants to emphasize it:

“The enlarging of the horizons of research, its being taken in charge by social relays that are always more numerous, does not, however, imply a loss of rigour, but a change of attitude with regard to its interlocutors.”

The perfect example here is the autodidact. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m a fucking wizard, not because I have a fancy degree in some field or discipline (which I do have, but that’s not the point), but because I try my best to be what Guattari (134) refers to as transversal and what he and Deleuze (362-363, 365, 367-369) refer to as nomadic in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. There’s none of that telling people how things are, followed by telling how things ought to be, one study after another, repeating the same stuff, because, surely, only a man (yes, a man, to be extra offensive about that, like really, really sexist here) with the highest academic degree can tell you that. Instead, it’s all about giving them the conceptual tools to figure out things themselves, if they wish to do so, for whatever purposes they see fit. No, no! Better yet, it’s all about giving people access to the conceptual tool shop and letting them borrow stuff. That’s it! That’s even better! Thanks Guattari! I love the way you once put it!

To be clear, he isn’t saying that, all the sudden, it’s like whatever, it’s all the same. No, that’s not it. It isn’t all the same. Instead, he’s (133) against setting up these pseudo-democratic systems where, regardless of how things pan out, you have some higher ups deciding things for the masses. He’s (133) particularly unhappy about how things could change, how there’s that potential, but it keeps on being squandered because, as you might guess it already, it’s just way, way more convenient for the select few to keep doing what they are doing, year after year:

“A collective awareness of the fact that the means of changing life and of creating a new style of activity, new values, are within reach, at least in our developed societies, has not yet been gained.”

Note how he (133) reckons that the potential is there, and the means of making an actual difference are there, within reach, but, alas, no, people are prevented from using such conceptual tools themselves. Why? Well, I can’t speak for Guattari, nor for anyone else, but my guess is that doing research, one study after another, getting some results and then indicating that the study needs to be repeated to better understand what’s going on, works great for the researchers. That way the researcher retains that status, having the privilege to the conceptual tools and the resources to utilize them, so that others cannot do that. Simply put, it’s self-serving. To be fair, that kind of research might still do good, I’m not saying that, but, ultimately, the reasons for doing research are then self-serving. I think he agrees with me, albeit he (133) doesn’t put it so bluntly:

“Desire and the will to move in the direction of such transformations depend in large part on the orientation of social labour and research.”

Ah, yes, the division of labor (Marx, is that you?). I have mentioned this in the past, but he and Deleuze (368-369) bring this up in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“[T]he way in which a science, or a conception of science, participates in the organization of the social field, and in particular induces a division of labor, is part of that science itself.”

In other words, science, not matter what kind of science it is, cannot escape this issue that pertains to the division of labor. We are dealing with people, after all. Anyone who works around the system is viewed with suspicion, hence my earlier remark about autodidacts. In their (368) words:

“The State does not give power … to the intellectuals or conceptual innovators; on the contrary, it makes them a strictly dependent organ with an autonomy that is only imagined yet is sufficient to divest those whose job it becomes simply to reproduce or implement of all of their power[.]”

Now, to make more sense of that, as that may come across as a rather bold claim, let’s say that you can be totally impartial, like you just do whatever you do. You don’t give a damn about the politics. You just do what you are good at and go home. Sounds lovely, eh? Well, the thing is, however, the money that is needed to hire you does come from somewhere. You get to do whatever it is that you do because someone agreed that your project is worthy of the funding and, conversely, that someone else’s project isn’t. So, even if we assume that you somehow manage to be impartial, without any self-interest (which I doubt), you are part of a system that is self-interested.

All refereeing or review processes are flawed in this sense. You don’t get to do research unless you jump through those hoops. The first hoop is the funding. You need to convince others that your project is the real deal, appealing to their desires and beliefs. The second hoop is to get your project out there, published. Again, you need to convince others that your project is the real deal, appealing to their desires and beliefs. If you fail to convince those people initially, that means no money. Now, to be clear, you can still do research without proper funding, like I did for years (fuck y’all), but even then you need to make ends meet. Even that money comes from somewhere. Plus, even if you manage to get past the first set of gatekeepers of academics, you still need to deal with the second set of gatekeepers, those who review your work. If you’ve read my essays, or happen to have similar experiences, this is such a painful process, not because it takes long (even though it does) and not because system has to rigorous (it has to be), but because the people you deal with are typically self-interested, just as they are when you apply for funding.

I think it’s worth pointing that this is not something that only Deleuze and Guattari have noticed. This issue is way, way older than them. I’m going to go through some examples.

Max Weber (51) makes note of this in ‘“Objectivity”’ in Social Science and Social Policy’ when he points out that certain science, in his case sociology, only came to being with the support of the state, to benefit the state, to help it formulate policy. He (51-52) isn’t fond of this, because it subordinates science to policy. He (52) clear about the issue:

“[I]t can never be the task of an empirical science to provide binding norms and ideals from which directives for immediate practical activity can be derived.”

In short, he (60) argues that latter, being objective, is what counts as science, whereas the latter, being subjective, is, at best, about policy. He (60) is very adamant about this, albeit my take is that it has more to do with trying to curb people from using some academic journal to propagate their own political views. To be clear, he (52) isn’t saying that that there shouldn’t be any room for what he refers to as value-judgments, but rather that it’s not the job of the researcher to tell people how they should or shouldn’t live their lives. In fact, he (52) reckons that there must be some room left for them:

“Criticism is not to be suspended in the presence of value-judgments.”

Or, as he (52) puts in it in other words:

“It is certainly not that value-judgments are to be withdrawn from scientific discussion in general simply because in the last analysis they rest on certain ideals and are therefore ‘subjective’ in origin.”

To further comment that, I think he is right about that. All analysis would simply be impossible if there was a strict requirement of impartiality. So, what he (52-53) suggests instead is being aware of one’s own desires, that we are driven to do what do and think what we think, because you can’t have it all and it comes at a certain cost. In other words, everything has its pros and cons and no matter what you do, it has consequences. Even doing nothing has consequences. Even that counts as doing something, as he (53) goes on to point out.

In summary, he (53) thinks that a researcher is tasked to explain whatever it is that we are dealing with, followed by explaining how it works, because that’ll help people to understand the situation and then move on from there. This does not, however, mean that the researcher gives primacy to one course of action over another, as he (53) goes on to emphasize:

“To apply the results of [one’s] analysis in the making of a decision, however, is not a task which science can undertake; it is rather the task of the acting, willing person: [one] weighs and chooses from among the values involved according to [one’s] own conscience and [one’s] personal view of the world.”

In other words, a researcher may suggest a certain course of action, indicating how it might be beneficial in a certain sense, but, ultimately, the researcher does not get to choose it for anyone else. I’d go as far as saying as that as tempting as any recommendation might be, for whatever reasons, the researcher cannot make the choice for anyone else. It’s impossible, unless, of course, people have been foolish enough to let that researcher dictate policy that, in turn, dictates something affects people, stripping them of some choice over whatever it is that the policy pertains to. If you read some research article that recommends this and/or that course of action, there’s absolutely nothing that can make you act accordingly. The choice is yours. That’s always the prerogative of the reader, not the writer, as I pointed out in a couple of recent essays, in reference to how Marcel Proust (265-266) explains that in ‘Time Regained’.

Highly importantly, that choice is also your responsibility, as Weber (53) points out. This is what I particularly like about Weber’s take. I like the way he (52-53) emphasizes that it’s all up to you, that it’s you who gets to choose, and not someone else. That said, I also like how he (53) emphasizes that as it’s not only you who gets to choose, but you who must choose, and if you think that you can just not choose, it’s also a choice that you are responsible for.

Why do I think that his take great? Well, because it allows the researcher to hold views, those value-judgements, and to even advocate for them, to indicate why a certain course of action would be beneficial and, conversely, why some other course or courses of action would not be beneficial. It’s also great because it does not give the researcher license to speak for others, nor to make decisions for them. It’s your analysis, which may or may not be of use to its readers. I think he puts it quite well he (54) states that:

“This does not overstep the boundaries of a science which strives for an ‘analytical ordering of empirical reality[’.]”

Hallelujah! Amen, brother! Again, just to make sure you get the point, you can say all kinds of things. You can even recommend something. You can go as far as to advocate for a certain course of action. None of this, however, means that people should act or think the way you want. That’s up to them.

So, in line with what’s been discussed so far, in reference to Deleuze and/or Guattari, Weber (54) argues that the researcher is tasked to make people aware of how we come to desire something, whatever it is that drives us to do something, which will then help them to make decisions in everyday life. To be clear, no one is stripping people of their agency in the process, as he (54) goes on to emphasize:

“As to whether the person expressing these value-judgments should adhere to these ultimate standards is his personal affair: it involves will and conscience, not empirical knowledge.”

So, to be crystal clear, that’s all on you. That knowledge is there for you, inasmuch it is accessible to you, of course. It’s then a matter of whether you choose to acknowledge or not. Assuming you do have the access to it, it’s then up to you to either make use of it or not. If you ignore it, and let others speak for you, instead of getting acquainted with it and/or using your voice, well that’s totally on you. I think he is totally right when he (54) explains how this is not for the researcher to decide for you:

“An empirical science cannot tell anyone what [one] should do — but rather what [one] can do —and under certain circumstances — what one wishes to do.”

In other words, good research will tell you how things are, how it may have come to being, and how it may exist in the future, which is another way of saying that the researcher is tasked to explain how it all works, as rigorously analyzed by the researcher. This can then help people to understand how the world works, which, in turn, can help them to choose a certain course of action. There is, of course, no guarantee that the reader will understand the writer, in this case the researcher, nor that the reader will benefit from reading what’s been writer by the researcher. It’s definitely a maybe.

To give you an example, one that’s related to my own work, I’m fine with stating that landscape, as we know it, is not your friend. Far from it. You may take pleasure in a landscape, sure, but it’s not your friend. Okay, okay, I’m willing to concede that it may well be your friend, but only if you happen to match the ideals manifested in it. Then you can use it to your benefit, which, of course, means that you are fine with fucking people over. How so? Well, not everyone can match those ideals, so, again, it’s totally on you for being with that. You may not be aware of that, how that works, which is where I come in. It’s my job to explain that to you, how it all works, which involves assessing how things are, how they may have come to that and how they may be in the future. That’s the knowledge part of it. Now, as an academic, it’s up to me provide you that knowledge, so that you can then think for yourself, to weigh the pros and cons, to ponder whether landscape is your friend or not and whether you are, indeed, fine with fucking people over. I can’t make that decision for you, nor will I be advocating for that decision to be given to me, just because I happen to know how the world works in that regard. That’s not my prerogative, nor my responsibility. That’s all on you.

That may, of course, seem like I’m telling you how you should live your life, but that’s not it. What I am doing, however, is telling you how you might live your life. I am allowed to persuade you, to provide a compelling argument, but only in hopes of helping you to think for yourself. It is then up to you to think of it what you will. If you don’t agree with me, fine by me.

It may seem odd, given the sheer amount of shit that I give them, but the idea here is to be like Plato, or Lenin, i.e., really compelling to your audience (you gotta give them credit for that), but, unlike them, then leave it up to the people to choose their own path. If they take your advice, they do. If they don’t take your advice, they don’t. You can’t force people to think for themselves. This is exactly what Weber means when he (56) acknowledges the importance of disputes.

But why are disputes important then? Well, because, as he (57) goes on to point out, only dogmatic beliefs, those of religious sects, are said to be unconditionally true, among those of the sect, of course. That’s the gist of dogmatism, which I think he (57) explains quite well. To add a bit of commentary here, while I think he is correct here, I think underplays how commonplace such dogmatism is even among academics. It’s definitely not restricted to religious sects. I do, however, like what else he (57) has to say about this:

“The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must know that we cannot learn the meaning of the world from the results of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must rather be in a position to create this meaning itself.”

Indeed, it is we who give meaning to something, so that it emerges there and then. It is not something that we discover, out there, as if it was waiting for us to find it. If that doesn’t convey it to you, then what else he (57) has to say might just do the trick for you:

“[We] must recognize that general views of life and the universe can never be the products of increasing empirical knowledge, and that the highest ideals, which move us most forcefully, are always formed only in the struggle with other ideals which are just as sacred to others as ours are to us.”

So, long story short, we create meaning. We do not discover it. In addition, there’s always that dispute. Meaning is therefore always in the making. It’s what we make of things.

Disputes are, of course, rather tricky. It’s difficult to get along if people don’t agree with one another. It would seem to make sense to have consensus then, so that people would agree. That’s not, however, how he (57-58) thinks what we should strive for. While he (58) acknowledges different points of view, that is to say perspectives, he doesn’t think that we should strive for a synthesis of those views or for a compromise between them. For him (58), we just deceive ourselves if we think we can get along that way.

While he is not explicitly mentioned in ‘The Logic of the Social Sciences’, Karl Popper challenges the views held by Weber. Popper (97) reckons that it’s impossible to stay objective in one’s research. In a way he (97) is not actually disagreeing with Weber, but rather wants to point out that objectivity is also a value, among other values. In his (97) words:

“It is, therefore, not just that objectivity and freedom from involvement with values (‘value freedom’) are unattainable in practice for the individual scientist, but rather that objectivity and freedom from such attachments are themselves values.”

I take this as riffing on Weber’s take, taking it to its logical conclusion. Popper is simply pointing out that it’s pointless to hang on to objectivity. Does this matter? Well, I’d say no. So, yeah, I agree with Popper (97-98) that this is not really a problem in research, inasmuch as we let this paradox disappear by letting go of the demand for objectivity.

Anyway, back to Deleuze and Guattari (368) who explain the underlying issue better than I do, so I’ll let them further comment on this:

“In any case, if the State always finds it necessary to repress the nomad and minor sciences, if it opposes vague essences and the operative geometry of the trait, it does so not because the content of these sciences is inexact or imperfect, or because of their magic or initiatory character, but because they imply a division of labor opposed to the norms of the State.”

In other words, the academic world is not unlikely any other workplace. You get to do what you do, the way you do, which is great, I’m not disagreeing with that, but on the condition that you don’t challenge the way this arrangement works. Simply put, it’s about knowing your place in the production of knowledge.

Max Horkheimer addresses this in his essay ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’. While he (195-196) gives credit to those who take values into consideration, so that whatever you are dealing with has real life consequences, he (196) isn’t happy with how those values are ignored in research:

“[I]n reality this sense of practical purpose, this belief in the social value of his calling is a purely private conviction of the scholar.”

He (196) further elaborates this, adding that one way or another, you cannot separate the private life from the working life:

“[The scholar] may just as well believe in an independent, ‘suprasocial,’ detached knowledge as in the social importance of his expertise: such opposed interpretations do not influence [the scholar’s] real activity the slightest.”

So, it doesn’t matter what you think about the issue, whether you are objective or subjective, as this is not just about you. We need to take a step back, which is what he (196) goes on to add:

“The scholar and [the scholar’s] science are incorporated into the apparatus of society.”

So, as already mentioned, you are expected to ask permission to conduct research. While it may not involve a formal approval process, such as an ethics review, it is still reviewed a number of times, by people do not put their neck on the line in the review process. That’s an apparatus for you.

To be clear, some research never gets published because of that academic apparatus. There are just too many gatekeepers on the way and people just shift to something else, which is likely something tried and true as that then gets past the gatekeepers. Some research might also never get started because of it. The idea might be great, but because you know that it is very, very unlikely to get funded, it won’t even end up in review.

I was mad enough to defy that academic apparatus during my doctoral studies and, with perseverance, I succeeded. Was I happy with how it went? No, absolutely not. I had to do too many compromises. I had to do a bit of this and a bit of that, take this out and take that out, and then add a bit of this and a bit of that in their place. I wasn’t too happy about that. It was often just taking shit from people who didn’t even understand what I had written, probably because they had never read the stuff I build on. It’s pretty frustrating to a rejection from an expert, on the grounds that they don’t the expert knowledge required to fairly assess your work.

Okay, not all of it was bad. No. Sometimes others helped to get rid of something and suggested something that I simply wasn’t aware of and meshed well with what I had written previously. That’s great. I wish that happened more often. It’s just that usually you end up having to deal with someone who doesn’t like you and/or what you’ve written, for reasons that are then not disclosed, someone who doesn’t understand you, because they aren’t familiar with what you build on, or someone who holds an opposing view and, of course, uses that opportunity to keep you in check.

Why people do such then? Well, because there’s basically no consequences for such. If you had to put your name on the review, you’d be staking your reputation on that. It would be like in an everyday conversation with someone: if you say something that the other person doesn’t agree with, expect to be challenged for saying that. You’d get called out on that. You might still be right, but you couldn’t expect the other person to just take your word for it. You’d have to convince the other person, with evidence, and allow the other person to convince you, with evidence. Then again, that’s not how it works, which is why end up having to deal with such behavior.

Oh, and appealing is pointless. It’s a numbers game. Two or three reviewers, plus the editor, vs. one writer? What are the odds that you are right? They might actually be pretty high, but that’s not how it’ll come across. You look like a sore loser at that point.

Anyway, where was I? Right, Horkheimer (196) has more to say about this:

“[A]chievements are a factor in the conservation and continuous renewal of the existing state of affairs, no matter what fine names [one] gives to what [one] does.”

In other words, it’s very tough to create anything when you are expected to do just more of the same. Why do people end up doing more of the same? Well, that’s because those who run the system want things to remain the same. Why would they want that? Well, they want that because they retain their position and their status if things stay as they are. If someone manages to change things, let’s say that some newcomer manages to convince others that something isn’t as it was previously thought to be, or that works in a different way, that’ll undermine the works of the powers that be, which then undermines them.

Does that prevent change? No, it doesn’t, but that’s not the point here. What matters is that the system works against change, unless it, of course, benefits those who occupy central positions in the system. In his (196) words:

“Experiment has the scientific role of establishing facts in such a way that they fit into theory as currently accepted.”

That’s why all the work should flow through them, so that they can reject anything that doesn’t mesh with their work and take credit for anything new that meshes with their work. That’s division of labor for you, as he (196) also goes on to point out.

Theodor Adorno also addresses these issues in ‘On the Logic of the Social Sciences’. Importantly, he (116-117) challenges Weber’s distinction between objectivity and subjectivity. Commenting on Karl Popper’s (97-98) objection to such distinctions, Adorno (18) points out that:

“Scientific awareness of society, which sets itself up as value-free, fails to apprehend reality just as much as one which appeals to more or less preordained and arbitrarily established values.”

He (118) also makes note of the widely known distinction between what is and should be and calls it a false dichotomy. Why? Well, my take is that as handy as that might be for distinguishing what’s out there from what one would wish to be there, it fails to take into account that what we consider to be is not actually what is, but what appears to be. To be clear, thinking in terms of what is easily leads us to think that it’s all just given, whereas thinking in terms of what appears to be does to take anything for granted.

If that distinction between what is and what appears to be seems like splitting hairs, well, it sort of is. There is a point to it though. They are not the same. When I state that something is like this and/or that, I do actually mean that it appears to be so, not that it is. It’s really inconvenient to keep talking in terms of apparition, so, yeah, even I am in the habit of stating that something is, even though, strictly speaking, it most certainly isn’t. If you’ve read my published works and wondered about that, why it is indicated that they deal with apparition, it’s because of this. It may seem like a minor thing, but it’s actually pretty major thing.

Deleuze and Foucault also agree on this, as discussed by the two in ‘Intellectuals and Power’. I’ve covered that exchange of words between the two in the past, at least a handful of times, so I won’t do that here. I only bring them up because regardless of what you think of Weber’s take, Deleuze and Foucault agree with him that it’s not the job of the researcher to tell how people should live their lives. To be more specific, Deleuze (209) gives Foucault credit for making people aware of “the indignity of speaking for others.” Why? Well, explained by Foucault (207-208), the researcher is always part of a system and thus liable to serve its interests in the production of knowledge and in defining what counts as truth. This is the same point that Horkheimer (196) makes.

Anyway, back to Guattari (133-134) who brings up a very important point in ‘Transdisciplinary Must Become Transversality’: there will be no change if there’s no will to change. I also like how he (134) points out that even if we have a handful of people who want change, that’s not enough. He (133-134) talks about planetary environmental level issues, but I’d say this applies to a lot of other things as well. For example, I’m all for what he and Deleuze advocate for, what we might call an affective or a non-representational way of thinking, but as much as I’m all for it, I do have to take into account that I can change fuck all with my thinking, inasmuch as it’s just me and, perhaps, a handful of highly educated people talking about it during a coffee break. I can’t ignore the fact that people don’t think that way, the way I do, and so it’s up to me to convince them that their way of thinking is against their own interests. Will I succeed in that? Well, I probably won’t, but I’m pretty sure that I won’t if I give up that will that is needed to change things. It’s way, way easier to just do more of the same, one study after another, but that’s exactly the problem.

If you are not convinced by that, luckily Guattari addresses this issue in very simple terms in ‘The Adolescent Revolution’. In this interview, his interviewer, Christian Poslianec (131), states that he refrains from sorting people into boxes, to which he (131) replies, disagreeing with Poslianec:

“I still have to take them into account because that’s what most people do.”

Guattari (131) goes on to explain how early that begins, which is why it happens all the time. In any case, the point I want to make is that it’d be lovely to be able to skip all that, but, as he (131) points out, people think way, all the time, pigeonholing themselves and one another. It’d be naïve of me to not take that into account, especially in my own research.

I started out writing this essay with a certain goal in mind, which was to elaborate what Guattari thought of Foucault and his work, but I ended up sidetracked. I think I ended up so sidetracked that I think it’s best that I continue from where I left off at another time. I think I still managed to cover some ground, not on what I thought I would, but it was interesting nonetheless. I don’t know about you, but at least I enjoyed it.


  • Adorno, T. W. ([1969] 1976). On the Logic of the Socien Sciences. In T. W. Adorno, H. Albert, R. Dahrendorf, J. Habermas, H. Pilot and K. R. Popper, The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology (G. Adey and D. Frisby, Trans.) (pp. 104–122). London, United Kingdom: Heinemann.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Foucault, M., and G. Deleuze ([1972] 1977). Intellectuals and Power. In M. Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews (D. Bouchard, Ed., D. Bouchard and S. Simon, Trans.) (pp. 205–217). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Guattari, F. ([1985] 1996). Microphysics of Power/Micropolitics of Desire (J. Caruana, Trans.). In F. Guattari, The Guattari Reader (G. Genosko, Ed.) (pp. 172181). Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Guattari, F. ([1980] 2009). I Am an Idea-Thief. In F. Guattari, Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977–1985 (S. Lotringer, Ed., C. Wiener and E. Wittman, Trans.) (pp. 2132). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Guattari, F. ([1979] 2009). The Adolescent Revolution (C. Wiener, Trans.). In F. Guattari, Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977–1985 (S. Lotringer, Ed., C. Wiener and E. Wittman, Trans.) (pp. 131–140). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Guattari ([1985] 2009). Lacan Was an Event in My Life. In F. Guattari, Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977–1985 (S. Lotringer, Ed., C. Wiener and E. Wittman, Trans.) (pp. 165–169). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Guattari, F. ([1979] 2011). The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis (T. Adkins, Trans.). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Guattari, F. (2015). Transdisciplinary Must Become Transversality (A. Goffey, Trans.). Theory, Culture & Society, 32 (5–6), 131–137.
  • Horkheimer, M. ([1968] 1972). Traditional and Critical Theory (M. J. O’Connell, Trans.). In M. Horkheimer, Critical Theory: Selected Essays (M. J. O’Connell and others, Trans.) (pp. 188243). New York, NY: Seabury Press.
  • Popper, K. R. ([1969] 1976). The Logic of the Social Sciences. In T. W. Adorno, H. Albert, R. Dahrendorf, J. Habermas, H. Pilot and K. R. Popper, The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology (G. Adey and D. Frisby, Trans.) (pp. 87104). London, United Kingdom: Heinemann.
  • Proust ([1927] 1931). Time Regained (S. Hudson, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: Chatto & Windus.
  • Weber, M. ([1904] 1949). “Objectivity” in Social Science and Social Policy. In M. Weber, On the Methodology of the Social Sciences (E. A. Shils and H. A. Finch, Trans.) (pp. 49112). Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.
  • Whitehead, A. N. ([1929] 1979). Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (D. R. Griffin and D. W. Sherburne, Eds.). New York, NY: The Free Press.

Xs and Ys: This is not the essay you were looking for

So, yeah, this is not the essay you were looking for (unless it is the essay you were looking for) because in the last essay I stated that I’d most likely be finishing what I started last month. If that’s what you were looking for, then this is not it. This is what I came up with, while working on another essay, which was not the essay you may have been looking for (this might, of course be just what you were looking for, like, if you already read this and just wanted to return to this).

Anyway, now that you know that this is not what you were looking for, unless it is, of course, this time I’ll be taking a closer look at what Félix Guattari has to say about desire and sexuality, in an interview with George Stambolian, titled as ‘A Liberation of Desire’ in ‘The Guattari Reader’. The interview can also be found under the same heading in ‘Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977–1985’. It was originally published in ‘Homosexualities and French Literature: Cultural Contexts/Critical Texts’, bearing the same title, but I’ve gone with ‘The Guattari Reader’ here as the original book is hard to come by.

I realize that I have commented on this before, on how these are presented in ‘Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, in Guattari’s first collaboration with Gilles Deleuze, but something made me want to return to this topic. So, I did.

The gist of this, of desire and sexuality, is to desexualize sexuality or, to be more accurate, to deindividualize or depersonify it, which is then about desexualizing desire, as I pointed out in that previous essay (which could also be what you are looking for, instead of this essay). In simpler terms, the idea is to focus on desire and sexuality, on their own terms. As I realize that this may come across as odd, to say the least, but I think it should start making sense once its exemplified. So, just bear with me.

Anyway, to get things going, Guattari (204) comments on how sexuality is generally thought of in a society. In his (204) view, it’s typically a taboo topic, so that it’s largely censored. It’s very much hush hush then and if someone doesn’t keep their mouth shut, that person will be silenced. That’s very clear cut. But there’s also alternative to that. It may seem better than the wholesale rejection of the topic as inappropriate, but he (204) isn’t convinced by that. Tolerance might not be as good a thing as we tend to think it is. As he (204) points out, people are still not at ease with the topic. It’s like it is allowed to exist, but only on the condition that it’s presented in a certain, normative way.

He (204) elaborates on this tolerance and unease with the topic by noting how, firstly, it is fine to talk about heterosexuality, and, secondly, even homosexuality, but a sexuality that is undefined, “going in all directions” is what troubles the powers that be. He (204) exemplifies that with how something as mundane as masturbation can be very shocking to people, especially the authorities. Why might that be? Well, doesn’t comment on that specifically, why masturbation causes such a ruckus, but I think his (205-206) commentary of one’s “relation to the body” or “semiotics of the body” as defined by authorities and upheld by people is rather revealing of this.

So, interestingly, he (205) points out that men don’t have a body in the dominant semiotics of the body, whereas women do. What he (205-206) means by this is that women’s sexuality is much broader than men’s, not because that’s inherently the case, but because women have greater surface area of the body that can give them joy and pleasure than what men have. The problem with men is that sexuality is not even about sexuality, but about domination, as he (206) goes to explain. I think he (206) manages to explain this particularly well by commenting how men often talk about sex:

“‘I possessed you’, ‘I had you’[.] Look at all the expressions like these used by men: ‘I screwed you’, ‘I made her’[.] It’s no longer the totality of the body’s surface that counts, it’s just this sign of power: ‘I dominated you’, ‘I marked you’[.]”

While this does not mean that all men act this way, that they speak of sex in these terms, as about doing something to a woman, it is pretty common. I’d say that it is generally considered acceptable for men to speak about sex in this way, in these terms as ‘I [verb] her’, like ‘I fucked her’, there being an active participant and a passive recipient, whereas it is not considered acceptable for women to speak like that, to say things like ‘I fucked him’. Why? Well, while ‘fuck’ is generally a really flexible word, to the point that you can say things like ‘abso-fucking-lutely’, in this context, when it’s specifically about sex, there is this subject-verb-object construction that is considered to apply only to men. While I can’t be sure, as perhaps I’m missing something here, it appears that it is very “phallocentric”, all about the penis, as he (205) points out.

As women don’t have a penis, as they are thus deemed to be lacking a penis, it’s the not having or the lack of penis that is deemed to define their role in sex. I remember talking about sex, asking something like, “well, did you fuck him?”, only for her, a female friend of mine, to reply to me, casually, that he didn’t fuck her at that time or that she wasn’t fucked by him. It’s so ingrained that men are the ones doing the fucking that women themselves also end up speaking in those terms. While I realize that in many situations this isn’t a major concern, as I’m sure people have can and do have lovely sex and as it’s not my job to tell people what kind of sex they should be having, it’s still telling of how sexuality is produced discursively as very male centric. I prefer expressions where it’s about having sex or fucking with someone, like “I fucked with her”, or leaving out who it is that one had sex with, like “we fucked”. I prefer such because it doesn’t reinforce any notions of domination, where it’s like something that comes with bragging rights about having had this and/or that body. Anyway, he (206) summarizes what this does to men then:

“This obsession with power is such that man ultimately denies himself all sexuality.”

Why is masturbation such a hot topic then? What is it about that troubles people and especially authorities. Well, if we are to take Guattari’s (205-206) word for it, masturbation is considered problematic by the many because by masturbating you aren’t dominating anyone, because a man isn’t fucking a woman. It’s also worth noting that he (204) refers to masturbation in general, as a matter of pleasing oneself, on one’s own terms, not as male or female masturbation.

We could, of course, object to masturbation, inasmuch as it is just about the climax, about the “rupture of ejaculation”, to use his (206) wording of dominant male sexuality, as it may be and likely often is for men. Deleuze and Guattari (154) comment on this in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ by noting that masturbation is a substitute pleasure. Then again, I don’t think the orgasm is the problem here. In my view, their (154) criticism of masturbation is not limited to masturbation. Instead, it’s about casting sexuality as a lack, that you need sex, to get that pleasure from it, so that everything is relegated to it, as they (154) point out. This then explains why masturbation, giving yourself pleasure, is deemed to be a substitute pleasure. So, what they (154) really object to is the reduction of pleasure to a certain kind of pleasure. That certain kind of pleasure, what you get from that release, is certainly pleasurable, I don’t think people doubt that. It’s rather that there are many other things that are pleasurable.

If we look at the other aspect mentioned by Guattari (206), I think it’s the lack of domination in masturbation that bothers people. So, from this perspective, the problem is about subordinating the orgasm to the domination of others, about relegating others to serving you, to giving you that orgasm. If it there’s no one else, body on body, then there’s no one to dominate. That’s just impossible. It’s just you enjoying you, the way you see fit. What’s the problem with that? Well, nothing really, as you certainly aren’t taking advantage of anyone. It is, however, typically viewed as problematic as it is not a regulated form of sexuality, as you don’t need a permission to do it and as you can do it in any way you like, as you don’t need anyone else’s consent, nor approval.

It’s also worth noting that, for him (205), there are men who have a body or, rather, a relation to the body that is markedly different from what is generally expected of them. He (205) mentions homosexuals, as well as dancers. Now, I’m going to skip the homosexuals here, no offence, and focus on the dancers. What’s so special about a dancer? Well, what I think is special about them is exactly their relation to their bodies. They can do so many things with their bodies that most people can’t or aren’t even aware of. It’s the same with figure skaters. It’s all about the body and the movement of the body, in relation to other bodies. If you’ve seen a dancer dance, or, better yet had the chance to dance with one, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the same with figure skaters. I consider myself a very good skater. Okay, I’m not an excellent skater, nor would I claim to be one, but, still, I’m a pretty good skater. I don’t even know how to explain that, what it is that makes me a good skater, how it is that I have a certain relation to my body that makes it so, nor how I became a good skater, but that’s the case. I was like that already as a child. My guess is that I just did it so much, on my own, enjoying it, that it just happened. That said, every time I see a figure skater on ice, I realize that I’m not really that great a skater. It is just impressive how good they are. How smooth it is. I think I would have made an excellent figure skater. Too bad it’s a bit late for that. Then again, I don’t think it does anyone any good to think that way, because that’s subordinating what it is that you’ve come to desire, in this case skating, to success, for example in competitions, which is to say that it is then constituted as a lack that one seeks to fulfil. You can then only get pleasure from it if you succeed. Success is then that substitute pleasure that Deleuze and Guattari (154) mention. You seek to attain it and even if you reach it, you can only enjoy it for a brief moment, before you need succeed again, and again, and again, never really able to maintain it. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty miserable way to live. So, yeah, oddly enough, that’s exactly how sexuality tends to viewed, as not enjoying the ride, but the end of the ride.

Now, I think it’s also worth adding here that one should not blindly credit women as better than men or homosexuals as better than heterosexuals, as the problem is not about identity. As explained by Guattari (204), no group is inherently better than another group and groups and even the most progressive and liberatory contain repressive elements. In other words, there are always those who are willing to betray the group for their own good. Deleuze and Guattari explain this particularly well in ‘Deleuze and Guattari Fight Back…’ when they (217) state that people are capable of revolutions, there’s no doubt about that, they can change the system, but their leaders, I’d say the ones who are the most vocal about the revolution, are the ones who subvert the revolution by remaining loyal to the ways the old system functions. There is this temptation to conform or to set up a system of conformity to replace a previous system of conformity, because conforming tends to be rewarded. It’s not necessarily the case that non-conforming is punished, but rather that the reward of conforming, what we might also call selling out, is so tempting that non-conforming comes across a punishment as life is harder then. A sweet gig is a sweet gig.

Guattari (207) exemplifies that by noting that it would appear to make sense that homosexuals write about homosexuality and sexual liberation, but it’s not as clear cut as that as one may end up turning all that into something highly repressive. In other words, assuming that what’s interesting about homosexuality is tied to homosexuals, and can thus be explained only by homosexuals, essentializes it, relegating it to a fixed identity. That means reducing sexuality to a set of classifications, as he (209) points out.

The specific example mentioned by him (207) is French writer André Gide. Even though Guattari (207) refers to Gide as a great writer, he also criticizes Gide for having “always transcribed his homosexuality and in a sense betrayed it.” I’m not familiar with Gide’s works, so I cannot comment on that. Guattari and his interviewer do not really expand on the issue, thus leaving you hanging here, but they do mention Gide’s book ‘Corydon’.

Guy Hocquenghem (62) mentions Gide’s ‘Corydon’ in his book ‘Homosexual Desire’, which helps to contextualize what the issue might be for Guattari, why he is critical of Gide, the homosexual, for betraying homosexuality. The problem with Gide’s account of homosexuality is that it is presented as biologically natural, as explained by Hocquenghem (62). What’s the problem with that then? Isn’t it natural, just like heterosexuality? Well, yes, inasmuch anything is natural, in the sense that it is possible. But that’s not really what Guattari and Hocquenghem are after. As explained by Hocquenghem (62), homosexuality was not really a thing prior to the 1800s, when it was defined as something, supposedly, unnatural, which, in turn, helped to define heterosexuality as natural. I think Michel Foucault (43) explains that point even better in the first volume of ‘History of Sexuality’:

“The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.”

The point here is not to claim that homosexuality didn’t not exist prior to 1800s, that’d be absurd, but rather that it was constituted differently, as sodomy, as supposedly deviant sexual behavior and not an identity. As Foucault (37-38) points out, they were acts that were lumped together with other acts deemed as deviant, such as “debauchery (extramarital relations), adultery, rape, … incest” and “bestiality”, and thus illicit, because they were against the licit matrimonial relations and marital obligations. Simply put, prior to the 1800s, what you did was considered to be wrong, not who you were. This then changed when sexuality was deemed to be something who you are and not as what you do, as explained by Hocquenghem (62):

“The term ‘unnatural’, used by the police in the nineteenth century to describe homosexuals, finds its true definition: it describes the person who is against nature as the guarantor both of desire and of its repression.”

The problem with Gide’s ‘Corydon’ is not that it deals with homosexuality, from the perspective of a homosexual, no, that’s not it, nothing wrong with that, but that it falls prey to its own logic which it shares with the authorities who deem it unnatural, as Hocquenghem (62) goes on to add:

“When Gide in Corydon attempts to construct a homosexuality which is biologically based, by means of a comparison with other species, he is simply walking foolishly into the trap, which consists of a need to base the form of desire on nature.”

In other words, presenting homosexuality as natural, like heterosexuality, subordinates desire to nature, which is not a given, but is treated as a given. Anything that is therefore not part of nature, that is to say natural, is therefore unnatural. It’s then deviant, something that deviates from the norm. Having recourse to nature then functions like having recourse to the Will of God. This is fine, because it’s natural, because it is the Will of God, but that is not fine, because it’s unnatural, because that’s against the Will of God. This is also an odd one, considering how people like to think that they act according to our individual wills, that is to say autonomously, and rationally, that is to say ignoring superstitions, yet, there is this regressive and theological appeal to nature, as explained by Hocquenghem (62).

So, what you have is an appeal to a third party that acts as the arbiter of truth, which is, in fact, one of the parties involved, as I’ve discussed in some of my previous essays. That’s how you rig a game and that’s exactly what the problem here is. In Hocquenghem’s (62) words:

“If the [criminal] code retreats into obscurantism here it is because, when faced with homosexuality, it requires the backing of a universal authority on heterosexual normality.”

To be clear, sexuality is not, of course, the only thing that is made to function in this way. This is what Deleuze and Guattari (177) refer to as biunivocalization in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, utilizing one to define the other, which, in turn, reinforces that as a binary configuration:

“[I]t is a man or a woman, a rich person or a poor one, an adult or a child, a leader or a subject, ‘an x or a y.’”

It doesn’t matter what the first term is, what that ‘x’ is, as the point is that it is to be juxtaposed with another term, with a ‘y’, that then reinforces the first term, that ‘x’. They (177) list other pairings:

“[A] teacher and a student, father and son, worker and boss, cop and citizen, accused and judge[.]”

We could also set up heterosexuality as the ‘x’ and juxtapose it with homosexuality as the ‘y’, so that the former is the normal one and the latter is the deviant other. This is the point Hocquenghem (62) makes and what Guattari (207) implies in the interview. What Gide then does, according to both Hocquenghem (62) and Guattari (207) is to posit heterosexuality and homosexuality as the ‘x’. This may seem like a good move, and, in a sense, it is, inasmuch it improves the lives of homosexuals. Then again, we still retain that biunivocal relation in which we have an ‘x’, a natural, normal or desirable sexuality, and a ‘y’, which is an unnatural, unnormal or undesirable sexuality. This means that people will still be discriminated against based on their sexuality and/or something else which is defined in this way, biunivocally. That’s the problem.

Foucault (40) notes in the first volume of ‘The History of Sexuality’ that back in the day, in the 1800s, “[t]here emerged a world of perversion”. There were, all the sudden, all these perverts, people who were deemed to be a bit off, if you will, as he (40) goes on to explain. These perverts, what we could also call deviants, to avoid thinking of this only in terms of sexuality, albeit that’s the topic of this essay, were deemed to their own “sub-race” of the human race, as he (40) points out.

What concerns Foucault (40-41), in particular, is how the shift from acts to identity, from doing to being, in the 1800s also shifted the way sexuality was handled by the authorities. He (40-41) considers it particularly noteworthy that while in the past illicit acts such as sodomy could result in a severe punishment, the shift to it being about the person made it a matter of discipline and control. In other words, sexuality used to be something that you did and you could be punished for what you did, inasmuch it was deemed illicit. The thing here is that what your acts did not define you. You were, perhaps, punished, but that was it and you moved on with your life. As things changed, your acts were seen not as defining you, as such, but rather defined by who you were deemed to be. Now, of course, the acts, what you did, did indeed end up defining you. Shifting things on their head was just a ruse that allowed authorities to control people. As you could be identified as a pervert, i.e., a deviant, it could then be used as grounds to discipline you. So, while it may have seemed to be a good thing that the punishments became less severe in the process and that the cases were deferred to medical professionals, it was a ruse, as Foucault (40-41) points out. Why is that bad? Well, because it makes the person source of perversion or deviance, as Foucault (43) goes on to explain:

“The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage, a past, a case history, and a childhood, in addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a morphology, with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a mysterious physiology. Nothing that went into his total composition was unaffected by his sexuality.”

So, no matter what you do, it can then be attributed as having been caused by that, because you are deemed to be born with it, as he (43) goes on to add:

“It was everywhere present in him: at the root of all his actions because it was their insidious and indefinitely active principle; written immodestly on his face and body because it was a secret that always gave itself away.”

In practice, it’s like when someone questions what you did, perhaps poorly, and thinks that it must be because this person is a homosexual. To be clear, that’s not how it is, but that’s how people often think it is. He (43) summarizes all that, further highlighting the shift from acts to identity:

“It was consubstantial with him, less as a habitual sin than as a singular nature.”

This is also the case with other kinds of supposed perverts or deviants, as he (43) goes on to list them:

“[T]here were Krafft-Ebing’s zoophiles and zooerasts, Rohleder’s auto-monosexualists; and later, mixoscopophiles, gynecomasts, presbyophiles, sexoesthetic inverts, and dyspareunist women.”

To make sense of that list of perverts or sexual deviants that he (43) refers to by their “strange baptismal names”, what I could gather is that zoofiles are animal lovers, zooerasts are animal fuckers, auto-monosexualists are masturbators, mixoscopophiles are voyeurs, aka Peeping Toms, gynecomasts are breast lovers, presbyophiles are those who like older men, sexoesthetic inverts are those who behave like the opposite sex, and dyspareunists are those to whom intercourse is painful. Now, there are, of course, countless other labels for all kinds of perverts or sexual deviants, but I think his (43) list shall suffice. Then there’s the highly controversial topic of children’s sexuality, which Foucault (41-42) brings up in the same context. It’s still that way and it’s one of those things that you don’t want to deal with, because it is a taboo, that’s for sure. Now, to be clear, Foucault (42) isn’t addressing molestation here, but rather children’s sexuality, on children’s own terms:

“Educators and doctors combatted children’s onanism like an epidemic that needed to be eradicated.”

He (42) further comments this, noting that children’s sexuality became like a thing for adults, like an obsession, if you will:

“Wherever there was the chance they might appear, devices of surveillance were installed; traps were laid for compelling admissions; inexhaustible and corrective discourses were imposed[.]”

Paranoia might be another good word for that, considering what Foucault (42) goes on to add:

“[P]arents and teachers were alerted, and left with the suspicion that all children were guilty, and with the fear of being themselves at fault if their suspicions were not sufficiently strong[.]”

So, the point here is that it mattered or matters not what children actually do. Instead it’s the suspicion that they might be up to something that’s supposedly reserved only for adults, as codified by adults, mind you, that matters. No again, this is not about molesting children, what some adults do to children, but about meddling with children’s sexuality. Also, it’s not about children acting like adults. It’s more like adults getting hung up on the issue on sexuality, there being that suspicion, which then gives them the license to discipline children, to interfere in their lives. I think Foucault (42) summarizes this well:

“The child’s ‘vice’ was not so much an enemy as a support; it may have been designated as the evil to be eliminated[.]”

He (42) further clarifies this by adding that this required enormous effort, which was simply a waste of time. It was all in the heads of the adults. It was the adults, the ‘x’, who were thinking that the children, the y’, were up to no good, whereas the children most likely didn’t have the faintest clue what this whole ordeal was. That did not, however, stop the adults from staying on it, like, I’d say, a paranoiac whose suspicions just keep getting reinforced when there really isn’t anything to come across, as he (42) points out. Simply put, children’s sexuality, whatever that means, as it’s difficult to comprehend their world from an adult standpoint, seems to have been deemed a perversion by the adults, the ‘x’, so that any supposedly deviant act, from an adult standpoint that is, from the standpoint of ‘x’, was then considered a sign of perversion or deviancy, of ‘y’, which, in turn, would then be a sign that the person might, in fact, be a pervert or a deviant, possibly even born as such, as a ‘y’. Why the suspicion then? Well, if you are an adult, an ’x’, not deemed a pervert or a sexual deviant, a ‘y’, then it concerns you that your children are also ‘x’ and not ‘y’, hence all the suspicion, spying and potential disciplining of the children by the adults. This would, by all logic, be even more problematic for the adults, the ‘x’, if their children are ‘y’, because that would serve as indication that the adults themselves, especially the parents and the educators, are not, in fact, ‘x’, but ‘y’, only claiming to be ‘x’, as either the children have become ‘y’ under their watchful eyes, possibly even learning such from them, or, worse, they were born that way, as ‘y’, which would then indicate that the perversion or deviancy is inherently from their parents, thus making the parents also ‘y’.

Anyway, the point he (43) wants to make is that there are these fancy names given to people seem rather different, let’s put it that way, as neutrally as possible, these psychiatric names given for people whose actions are deemed to be perverted or sexually deviant, as defined binunivocally as the ‘y’ categories. I like the (43) way he characterizes this labelling process:

“These fine names for heresies referred to a nature that was overlooked by the law, but not so neglectful of itself that it did not go on producing more species, even where there was no order to fit them into.”

That’s such an apt way of putting it, calling them heresies. There’s this, supposed, God given order, that ‘x’ belief, and then these ‘y’ heresies that threaten it. I think the second point is also important here, how this results in a production of more and more identities. He (43-43) then emphasizes this second point:

“The machinery of power that focused on this whole alien strain did not aim to suppress it, but rather to give it an analytical, visible, and permanent reality: it was implanted in bodies, slipped in beneath the modes of conduct, made into a principle of classification and intelligibility, established as a raison d’être [reason for existing] and a natural order of disorder.”

So, the point is to derive all these identities from certain acts and classify them accordingly as discoveries, as if there were all these identities, hiding in our midst, just waiting for the psychiatrists to find them, uncover them and elaborate them. As I already pointed out, it then comes across, subsequently, that any such perverted or deviant acts happen because the person is a pervert or a deviant. It’s a switcheroo.

Foucault (44) also wants to emphasize how this is not about social exclusion, having ‘x’ that exclude ‘y’ from the society, but rather about identifying the ‘y’ so that they can and kept tabs on. Deleuze and Guattari (178) elaborate this in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“[T]here is no exterior, there are no people on the outside. There are only people who should be like us and whose crime it is not to be. The dividing line is not between inside and outside but rather is internal to simultaneous signifying chains and successive subjective choices.”

The thing to notice here is that people are not excluded from the society. They are not kicked out. Instead, they are kept in it. The idea is to make a ‘y’ into an ‘x’. If that doesn’t work out of you, you are still marked as a ‘y’ and treated accordingly, as a deviant. Deleuze and Guattari (178) further problematize this by noting that in some cases it is impossible to do that, to conform to ‘x’, when, for example, your skin color happens to be wrong. They (178) state that racism is therefore not about exclusion but about inclusion and that tolerance is a ruse as it is about tolerating the supposedly wrong skin color under certain conditions, forcing them to be identified as such, as deviants, and judged according to their deemed degree of divergence.

Why do people do that then? Well, as already mentioned, being the ‘x’ is a sweet gig, whereas being ‘y’ is not. If there’s no ‘y’ to identify in our midst, then there’s also no ‘x’. That’s pretty much how discrimination works. Label someone else as ‘y’ in order to promote yourself as the ‘x’, which, rather conveniently, matches your characteristics. It gives you legitimacy.

The ‘x’ is, of course, made up, as is the ‘y’, but that’s exactly the point, making things up to legitimize your own position, allowing you to exercise power over others. That’s the sleight of hand in this. You state that you know how it is, what ‘x’ is, because that’s how it is, naturally, culturally, or the like, i.e., according to the Will of God, even though it really is just your will for it to be that. Once that’s set, once you’ve managed to define ‘x’, you have the license to label what it is not as ‘y’. This allows you to bend people to your will, to demand the ‘y’ to be ‘x’, and gives you the license to mistreat those who resist or cannot meet that demand. Mistreat is maybe not a strong enough an expression as it can also be more straight forward, so more like persecution, as Foucault (42) labels it.

The other part of Guattari’s interview concerns desire. The interviewer (205) asks him to define desire. If you struggle with how he presents in his works, with or without Deleuze, you are in luck as he (205) gets to the point here:

“[D]esire is everything that exists before the opposition between subject and object, before representation and production. It’s everything whereby the world and affects constitute us outside of ourselves, in spite of ourselves.”

Note here how he isn’t saying that there aren’t subjects and objects, nor representations, no, that’s not it, but rather that they shouldn’t take for granted, as simply given, as the starting point. In other words, he (205) is interested in how they are produced under certain conditions. Anyway he (205) continues:

“[W]e define it as flow [flux].”

Only to add to this that (205):

“So we speak of machines, of ‘desiring machines’, in order to indicate that there is as yet no question here of ‘structure’[.]”

It’s also worth noting here, before I let him continue, that the opposition of structure here is not against structures or forms, but rather against fixed structures or forms. I take this as a rejection of structuralism. Anyway, having defined desire, he (205) defines desiring machines:

“Machines arrange and connect flows. They do not recognize distinctions between persons, organs, material flows, and semiotic flows.”

Okay, so, as you may wonder, but what’s the link between desire and sexuality? Well, desire is something much more general than sexuality, but desire tends to be understood in terms of sexuality, even though it’s not sexuality. The problem for his with sexuality is exactly that it tends to rely on fixed systems of classification, i.e., on identities, as already noted and as he goes (211) on to elaborate:

“Sexual liberation is a mystification.”

He does go on to say more about this issue, but before I explain that, it’s worth noting that what he is against here is viewing sexuality as this and/or that, as a matter of identity, like there being heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals etc., because it relies on an idea that are all these given, pre-existing sexual identities, just waiting to be liberated, so that people can then be who they are, according to these identities. To put that another way, the problem with treating, for example, homosexuality, as a distinct identity is that ends up being just another heterosexuality, which he (213) defines as the lack of desire, when there no longer is any desire, nor sexuality. Now, he (211) is not against people who think this way, because they’ve been led to think this way, and a minor change in their lives is still a good thing for them:

“I believe in, and will fight for, the taking of power by other castes and sexual systems[.]”

So, just because thinking of sexuality in terms of identity is based on a myth and thus, ultimately, counter-productive, he acknowledges he can’t be against such, in the moment, because that’d be like saying that, for example, homosexuals should just stop complaining about being poorly treated, beaten up and the like. He (212) is also well aware that while he is “a homosexual in [his] own way”, he isn’t “a homosexual in the world of reality or of the group”, by which he means that he can’t speak for the, as “it’s up to the homosexuals” then.

He further elaborates this issue in another interview, this time with Christian Poslianec, as published as ‘The Adolescent Revolution’, when he (131) addresses what his interviewer refers to as sorting people into little boxes:

“I still have to take them into account because that’s what most people do.”

Indeed. This is something that I like to emphasize when I build on his and/or Deleuze’s works in my own texts. I reckon that it’s one thing to present an alternative, let’s say a non-representational account of something, and another thing to convince people that there’s something wrong with the representational account in the first place or, rather, that there can even be an alternative. I don’t like the little boxes, but I have to deal with them and it’s my job to explain to people what the problem with the little boxes is.

Deleuze and Guattari have this reputation of being a bit … hippy-dippy, far out, untethered from reality and what not. That said, if you’ve read their works, I’d say that they are littered with little boxes, not because Deleuze and Guattari are for little boxes, but because they are against them. I mean it’s kind of hard to tackle something unless you can explain what it is that you are tackling and why it is that you think it’s worth tackling. Anyway, Guattari (131) has more to say to Poslianec:

“The little boxes begin in nursery school when the little girl jumping rope has to arrange her body in a certain way and progressively submits to all kinds of behaviors and images.”

Or, as he (131) goes on to summarize that:

“The boxes are everywhere.”

Well, they are not everywhere, if you let yourself think otherwise, as he (131-132) goes on to add:

“But on the level of what I call the economy of desire, there are no boxes.”

In short, he and Deleuze are against a world where it’s all just boxes and for a world that has no boxes. That’s also what I think. I’m against boxes and for having no boxes. That said, like he (131-132) points out, I’m not saying that there aren’t boxes, that most people don’t think that way, in terms of boxes, nor that they aren’t subjected to that, to being sorted into various boxes. That’s why my own work is very much concerned with boxes, not because I’m for boxes, but because that’s the way I can explain why I’m against boxes. It’s those “narrow segregationist attitudes” that need to go for things to change, as Guattari (139).

This is why he (211) wants to emphasize in ‘A Liberation of Desire’ that, ultimately, the system (of boxes) needs to change, not the classifications in the system (the boxes themselves):

“[B]ut I believe that liberation will occur when sexuality becomes desire, and that desire is the freedom to be sexual, that is, to be something else at the same time.”

In other words, sexuality will keep being set up in terms of lack if you rely on it being about identity. Guattari also deals with this in ‘The Adolescent Revolution’. He (135-136) likens identity to having a certificate or a diploma of normalcy:

“Have you passed your puberty certificate? Are you sure that you’re normal?”

He (136) then comments on this, how it’s not something that just the authorities and the experts are interested and invested in, but something much more widespread:

“The jury in this kind of competition is often the merciless opinion of your closest buddies, your sweet girlfriend… It’s a dirty deal.”

To which he (136) adds that no matter what it is, thinking of sexuality in this way, in terms of having this and/or that identity, is “an idiotic mess.” Why? Well, I’ll let him exemplify that:

“[S]exuality never cease[s] to be confronted by tests like, ‘Do you come too soon? Or too late?’ ‘And your orgasm, is it too clitoral?'”

It’s the same regardless of whether you are an adult, an adolescent or an infant, as he (136) goes on to specify, first acknowledging the infants:

“‘Does my baby suckle at the right time?'”

Then he (136) comments on the adolescents:

“Does he masturbate when he should? There is something wrong, Doctor: he doesn’t masturbate yet. What do you prescribe?”

Note how he has flipped things on their head here, how he indicates that by insisting that something like masturbation is normal or natural, as opposed to something perverted or sexually deviant, the lack of masturbation then becomes a concern. So, while masturbation has been and, I’d say, still is generally considered as perverted, as sexually deviant behavior, expressing a perverted or sexually deviant identity, something that one may have even been born with, so that one is a pervert from the start, if you will, it can also end up part of what’s considered normal or natural, so that not doing it or not doing it enough may then be considered abnormal or unnatural. In short, even celibacy can therefore appear as a perversion, so that, oddly enough, you can be considered a pervert for not being a pervert.

In simpler terms, this is about sexuality being about something that you do, as opposed to something that you are. To use the terms he and Deleuze use in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, it’s about becoming, taking things as they come, on their own terms, singularly, and not about being, relying on established categories, something being identifiable as such and such. He (211) puts this rather bluntly in ‘A Liberation of Desire’:

“What these liberation movements will reveal by their failures and difficulties is that there really aren’t any castes.”

What I take him to mean by this is that sexual liberation won’t be reached until those who seek it stop relying on the very system that they seek to oppose. It’s exactly what the interviewer (211) points out, that there is this dilemma of one group merely replacing another. It’s really not just about going against the system, i.e., against people who seek to repress others, but also about going against oneself, against the way one thinks, as Guattari (211) goes on to add:

“On the day when these movements fix as their goals not only the liberation of homosexuals, women, and children, but also the struggle against themselves in their constant power relations, in their relation of alienation, of repression against their bodies, their thoughts, their ways of speaking, then indeed, we will see another kind of struggle appear, another kind of possibility.”

Indeed, that’s when we see things changing. Otherwise you are moving bits and bobs, replacing a bit of this with a bit of that. It is indeed about approaching “the question of sexuality in another way”, as his interviewer (212) points out. It’s not about sexing the body or taking it for granted that the body is sexed, but something altogether different, as stated by Guattari (213):

“The problem is how to sexualize the body, how to make bodies desire, vibrate – all aspects of the body.”

The conversation between him and his interviewer gets a bit muddled, so I’ll skip ahead to the point where I think Guattari (214) manages to explain this different way of thinking about sexuality through literature:

“Take any literary work you love very much. Well, you will see that you love it because it is for you a particular form of sexuality or desire[.]”

That’s exactly it! When you desire or, rather, end up desiring something, be it sexual or not, you just love it to the point that you just go with it and keep going with it, like you can’t help it, like you are possessed or something, until you don’t, which is probably because you’ve ended up desiring something or someone else instead. So, when Guattari (214) states that reading a book is sexual, it’s because it is, because it’s about desire:

“The first time I made love with Joyce while reading Ulysses was absolutely unforgettable! It was extraordinary! I made love with Kafka, and I think one can say that, truly.”

It’s like that. It’s like when you just can’t help it, like you just need to turn the page, page after page, because you are so captivated by it. It’s like that with people as well. Okay, it’s not like that with all people. I mean, hardly. But it’s like, you know it, when you know it. And by knowing it, I mean it’s like an intuition. If you hit it off, you hit it off. It works. There’s a connection. Often that’s not there and it makes no sense to force it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Sure, it might work in the future, there’s that, as desire is open ended, but now is now and then is then.

It’s just, I don’t know how to explain it, really, which is something that Guattari (214) and his interviewer (214) both also struggle with. It’s also not the same with different people, nor with different books, as he (214) points out. It depends.

What I like about this essay, why I ended up writing it (or I think I did, anyway, as that’s not exactly the same thing, as desire and belief are not the same, the former being unconscious and the latter being conscious or, at least, more conscious), and why I like Stambolian’s interview of or, should I rather say, conversation with Guattari (as Stambolian also chips in) is that it explains why we it might not be that useful to focus on sexuality the way we generally do, as a matter of personified desire, typically in the form of fucking. To be clear, that doesn’t mean that fucking ain’t great, I mean it is, it is fucking great, but rather that there’s more to people, more to life, than just fucking. So, what I like about all of this is that it does two things at the same time: it it expands sexuality, making it something that people generally don’t think it is, while desexualizing desire, which, in turn, helps us to understand why we are drawn to this and/or that, but not to something or someone else, without making it all about sex or, rather about fucking.


  • Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari ([1972/2002] 2004). Deleuze and Guattari Fight Back… In G. Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts: 1953–1974 (D. Lapoujade, Ed., M. Taormina, Trans.) (pp. 216–229). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1972] 1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Foucault, M. ([1976] 1978). The History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
  • Gide, A. (1925). Corydon. Paris, France: Éditions Gallimard.
  • Gide, A. ([1925] 1983). Corydon (R. Howard, Trans.). New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Guattari, F. (1979). A Liberation of Desire (G. Stambolian, Trans.). In G. Stambolian and E. Marks (Eds.), Homosexualities and French Literature: Cultural Contexts/Critical Texts (pp. 56–69). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Guattari, F. ([1979] 1996). A Liberation of Desire (G. Stambolian, Trans.). In F. Guattari, The Guattari Reader (G. Genosko, Ed.) (pp. 204–214). Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Guattari, F. ([1979] 2009). A Liberation of Desire (G. Stambolian, Trans.). In F. Guattari, Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977–1985 (S. Lotringer, Ed., C. Wiener and E. Wittman, Trans.) (pp. 141–157). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Guattari, F. ([1979] 2009). The Adolescent Revolution (C. Wiener, Trans.). In F. Guattari, Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977–1985 (S. Lotringer, Ed., C. Wiener and E. Wittman, Trans.) (pp. 131–140). Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e).
  • Hocquenghem, G. ([1972] 1978/1993). Homosexual Desire (D. Dangoor, Trans.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

The Fascist Subject

I was planning on writing something else, which I did and nearly finished that, but as I was going through some texts, Mark Seem’s introduction to Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s ‘Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ caught my attention as the first pages mentions “The Anti-Ego”. I mean I’ve seen the page before, no doubt about that, but it struck me because I explained Sigmund Freud’s id, ego and super-ego in the last essay.

Now, to be clear, as you might be aware, Deleuze and Guattari aren’t too keen on these distinctions. To summarize what I dealt with the last time, while they don’t like them, it’s not because they don’t find anything valuable in Freud’s work. I’d say rather on the contrary. It’s just that they aren’t happy with using the subject as a starting point.

But why does Seem (xv), one of their translators, mention “The Anti-Ego”. Well, again, to summarize the gist of the previous essay, id is about the unconscious, about desire, which is what we can’t access, whereas the ego and the super-ego are about the unconscious and the conscious, how we, firstly, seek to tame that desire, and, secondly, how we think of ourselves, how we come up with this ideal ego, the ideal version of ourselves, which, to be clear, is not, strictly speaking, our ideal, but the ideal that we think is our ideal but really is just other people’s ideal. So, going against the ego, be it just the ego, on its own, or with the super-ego, with or without that idealization, is about letting go of such a way of thinking.

But why would you want to let go of such a way of thinking? Well, the point Seem (xv) makes, through Henry Miller’s ‘Sexus’, is that such a way of thinking is ripe for abuse. How so? Well, to make good use of Freud’s terminology, you already are what you are, hence the title of the previous essay, id is what id is. There’s no need to think of yourself, nor to come up with an ideal self as some sort of a goal in life, what it is that you are supposed to be, because, as noted in the previous essay, even Freud was aware that our ideal selves are hardly our ideal selves but the ideal selves of others that are imposed upon us. That, on its own, should be a good enough reason not to keep thinking that way. What Seem (xv) opposes, however, as do Deleuze and Guattari, is people who take advantage of that way of thinking. He (xv) refers to psychoanalysis, in particular, as that’s what Deleuze and Guattari deal with in the book, as that’s a particularly French thing, but, to get the point across, we’d do well to state that it’s about opposing going to therapy, which seems to be like the thing in a lot of American TV-shows and films. I mean, it’s like a trope, dropping ‘my therapist says that …’ in a conversation.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think Seem, nor Deleuze and Guattari are or were against therapy as such. I mean, if you know what’s what, Guattari did actually work in La Borde, which is a psychiatric clinic in France. What Seem (xv) objects to in the introduction is this way of thinking and cashing on it. He (xvi) comments on this, noting that ‘Anti-Oedipus’ attacks such practices and the underlying way of thinking because they make people subservient to authority:

“For who would deny, Anti-Oedipus begins, that psychoanalysis was from the start, still is, and perhaps always will be a well-constituted church and a form of treatment based on a set of beliefs that only the very faithful could adhere to, i[.]e., those who believe in a security that amounts to being lost in the herd and defined in terms of common and external goals?”

If you’ve read Friedrich Nietzsche, this should be familiar to you. What Seem (xvi) is saying is that psychoanalysis and, more contemporarily, what people refer to as therapy, is a lot like going to church. You are expected to be faithful and adhere a set of beliefs. In short, you are expected to be a faithful believer. A faithful believer? Of what? Well, that’s the thing, of whatever it is that people who run the show expect you to believe in. Oh, and, yeah, to make things worse, you are expect to pay for that, for your subservience!

What’s the problem with that arrangement then? Well, it is supposed to fix you, to help you regain a sense of self again, to have a peace of mind, if you will, as Seem (xvi) goes on to point out. Now, what’s the problem with having nothing to worry about? Nothing. I’d say nothing. The thing is, however, that the peace of mind that’s been offered to you is illusory, as he (xvi) points out:

“No pain, no trouble—this is the neurotic’s dream of a tranquilized and conflict-free existence.”

To be clear, I don’t think he is all for pain and trouble. No, no. I think the point he makes is that there’ll be pain, there’ll be trouble, at least to some extent, and you might as well get used to it, because even if you aren’t looking for such, such will find you, eventually. The problem here, as he (xvi) points out, is that you allow others to tell you how you should live your life, so that you have a good life, as opposed to a bad life:

“Such a set of beliefs, Deleuze and Guattari demonstrate, such a herd instinct, is based on the desire to be led, the desire to have someone else legislate life.”

This leads Seem to ponder totalitarianism and fascism, which, if you’ve read the plateau on micropolitics and segmentarity in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ by Deleuze and Guattari, you know to different things, the former being about what you’d expect, a rigid state level entity, i.e., a dictatorship, and the latter being not what you’d expect as it is, for them (165, 205, 214-215), is a certain kind of desire, a desire to  desire one’s own repression, to set things ‘right’, to have ‘order’. In short, they (215, 230) call fascism a destructive determination of desire.

This means that, for them, fascism is not Benito Mussolini’s Italy, nor Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Those would be totalitarian states. Instead, it’s something way, way worse that can crop up anywhere, at any given time, which is why you can’t really get rid of it, as such, as they point out when they (214-215) liken it to a body that has these cells that keep spreading, you know like you have in “a cancerous body”  and contrast it with totalitarianism that is a body as an organism, as something has a certain organization, as something is supposed to work in a certain way. This is why fascism takes many forms, as they (214) put it:

“Rural fascism and city or neighborhood fascism, youth fascism and war veteran’s fascism, fascism of the Left and fascism of the Right, fascism of the couple, family, school, and office[.]”

And when they (215) note that:

“It’s too easy to be antifascist on the molar level, and not even see the fascist inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish with molecules both personal and collective.”

The antifascism quip here is about being naïve enough to think that fascism is a state level entity or an organization within a state, like a political party, when it is far, far worse, as it’s that cancerous self-righteousness that they (214-15) mention. If one wishes to maintain the terminology people are familiar with, treating fascism as a form of totalitarianism, then we could think of it as macrofascism and what they refer to as fascism as microfascism, considering that they (228) do imply this:

“As we have seen, microfascisms have a specificity of their own that can crystallize into a macro fascism[.]”

Anyway, be that as it may, I’m not too fussy about the terms, inasmuch one gets the point, which is that it is an error to think that we can simply point to fascism and then get rid of it. Oh, no, no, no, no. It’s not that easy. It’s sort of always there, ready spring into action, not as some sort of a pre-existing fascist, like some monster under your bed, but as that determination that desire can take, which manifests itself as people taking matters into their own hands, as they (215) point out and as they (228) go on to exemplify:

“[W]e are trapped in a thousand little monomanias, self-evident truths, and clarities that gush from every black hole … giving any and everybody the mission of self-appointed judge, dispenser of justice, policeman, neighborhood SS man.”

So, in other words, fascism or microfascism, if you will, is this self-centered desire, an urge to set things right, having this feeling that one is right about how things ‘should’ be and taking it upon oneself to make things ‘right’, not by coming up with a great system according to which things should be judged, like in a state, but by direct action, being the judge, the jury and the executioner at the same time, there and then, not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. It’s not even just about dishing out a punishment, about retaliation, in the heat of the moment, but rather this self-gratifying tendency that fuels itself with this fervor to rectify deemed injustices. Everything is about you and your grievances, as they (122) point out, so that it has this suicidal tendency to it, by which they (230) mean that it has this ‘my way or the highway’ thing to it, if you will. They (230) exemplify this with how it worked in Hitler’s Germany:

“[T]he Nazis … thought they would perish but that their undertaking would be resumed, all across Europe, all over the world, throughout the solar system. And the people cheered, not because they did not understand, but because they wanted that death through the death of others.”

Or, as they (231) summarize that:

“Suicide is presented not as a punishment but as the crowning glory of the death of others.”

Yeah, it has this ‘my way or the highway’ or ‘I’m willing to pay a hundred to make sure you won’t get a fifty’ thing to it. While crude, I think it’s basically this ‘fuck you and fuck everything that you stand for’ mentality. It’s when a person is so hellbent on something that they are willing to do anything to make sure someone else loses everything.

Anyway, Seem (xvi) also exemplifies this, how we are in the habit of thinking that fascism is this specific thing, about Mussolini and Hitler, something that, from an Anglo-American perspective, occurred somewhere else and thus the problem of Italians and Germans. I think he is right about that or, rather, that Deleuze and Guattari were right about that, considering what all that has happened in the US in the last decade or so. I think Seem puts it quite aptly when he (xvi) states that:

“Even revolutionary groups deal gingerly with the fascisizing elements we all carry deep within us, and yet they often possess a rarely analyzed but overriding group ‘superego’ that leads them to state, much like Nietzsche’s man of ressentiment, that the other is evil (the Fascist! the Capitalist! the Communist!), and hence that they themselves are good.”

Yeah, it’s like every time people tell you that they are the good guys, and the other guys are the bad guys. I mean, you can be almost certain that those who need to state that they are the good guys are actually the bad guys. Every time this happens in some film, I’m like, yeah, I’m pretty sure these are the bad guys. He (xvi) explains this so well:

“This conclusion is reached as an afterthought and a justification, a supremely self-righteous rationalization for a politics that can only ‘squint’ at life, through the thick clouds of foul-smelling air that permeates secret meeting places and ‘security’ councils.”

Not that there’s anything nice about this, but nicely put, nicely put. He (xvi-xvii) then explains that in reference to Friedrich Nietzsche, noting that the emphasis on oneself results in ressentiment, in which everyone else is to blame, but not oneself, as I’ve mentioned a number of times in my previous essays. In short, it’s reactive and reactionary, as Seem (xvii) points out.

I believe he (xvii) is also correct when he states that the approach of Deleuze and Guattari in ‘Anti-Oedipus’ and, I’d say, also in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ is diagnostic, in the sense that they first want to know what it is that one is dealing with, like what’s the problem, before attempting to do something, to provide a solution to that problem (note that it’s not the solution). I reckon he (xvii) is also correct about how they don’t start from something given and then measure something against that giving as that would subordinate the problem to a norm or a standard, that what’s taken as given. It’s like he (xvii) points out, their schizoanalysis is unlike psychoanalysis in the sense that they don’t think there is one way of doing things, nor one solution to a problem. Now, okay, there’s always something that’s given, at least some starting point, but, as Guattari (59-60) explains this is ‘Schizoanalytic Cartographies’, we shouldn’t just go with it, have that given, but also acknowledge that even that given is somehow given, that there is this giving to given.

I think Seem manages to summarize their project quite well when he (xviii-xix) notes that it’s indebted to Nietzsche, even though there’s a lot of Karl Marx and Freud in the mix as well. It’s not that they don’t have anything good to say about Marx, the revolutionary figure, and Freud, the analytic figure, but rather that, while working against the system, they had become too much like the system, whereas Nietzsche, the madman, was simply mad enough, out of touch, if you will, to prevent him from becoming part of the system, which allowed him to think of a way out, as explained by Seem (xviii-xiv).

I also have to give credit to Seem (xix) for pointing out that, contrary to what many might think, Deleuze and Guattari are interested in experience. It’s just that they aren’t interested in experience of the subject, as that would be egoistic, as he (xix) goes on to add. What are they interested in then? Well, I’ll let him (xix) explain that as he puts it so aptly:

“The experience, however, is no longer that of man, but of what is nonhuman in man, his desires and his forces: a politics of desire directed against all that is egoic—and heroic—in man.”

To which he (xx) later on adds that:

“They urge mankind to strip itself of all anthropomorphic and anthropological armoring, all myth and tragedy, and all existentialism, in order to perceive what is nonhuman in man, his will and his forces, his transformations and mutations.”

Again, I’d say that they acknowledge the subject, as that what’s given, but they aren’t with going with it, starting from what’s given, the subject. Instead, they want to understand how the given is given, in that giving of the given, as discussed by Guattari (59-60) in ‘Schizoanalytic Cartographies’. In simpler terms, it’s not about what you desire or, rather, what you think you desire, but about what makes you desire it. For example, if you are into beer, then you are, okay, but what’s interesting about that is that underlying desire, that non-human in human, that makes you want that beer. There might, of course, be many reasons for that, but that’s fine as they aren’t interested in uncovering what must have led to it, but in what might have led to it, as explained by Deleuze and Guattari (192) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“Everything is organized around the question, ‘What happened? Whatever could have happened?’”

Note how they first got with the simpler version, only to expand on it, noting that it’s not that something must have happened, but about something that could have happened. It’s also worth adding that they (193) also acknowledge that it might be that nothing happened, but the problem is that we can’t be sure. Something might have happened or might not have happened. Maybe. Maybe not. I particularly like their (194) formulation of this in reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work:

Whatever could have happened for things to have come to this?”

So, things are the way they are, but what’s interesting is to diagnose the situation, as noted by Seem (xvii), to understand how we might have ended up with such and such. It’s very open-ended. It acknowledges all kinds of paths, even the ones that we are not aware of. And that’s why I like their (194) formulation.

Then there’s the point Seem (xix) makes about Deleuze and Guattari, how their work is all over the place and how it is also fun. I agree. They are all over the place, which may annoy a lot of people, especially a lot academics, but that’s the fun of it. I don’t think there’s a dull moment reading their work. It’s a pick-and-mix, taking a bit of this and a bit of that, while happily leaving a lot of what else is there behind, as he (xix) points out. In his (xix) words:

“[T]his is never done in an academic fashion aimed at persuading the reader.”

I agree. They didn’t really care what you thought of their work, nor what you got out of it. If you got something out of it, great, but if you didn’t, well, too bad. I know I’ve mentioned this a number of times in the past, but it’s relevant here, so it’s worth reiterating how Deleuze explains this in ‘Letter to a Harsh Critic’. So, for Deleuze (7-8), there are two ways of reading a text. He (7) explains the first:

“[Y]ou either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it signifies[.]”

In other words, you are interested in what it means. Now, if you’ve read Deleuze and Guattari’s takes on semiotics, or, perhaps, Jacques Derrida’s takes on semiotics, you probably already know how this is a futile endeavor. As Deleuze (7) goes on to add, this will only get worse:

“[A]nd if you are even more perverse or depraved you set off after signifiers.”

So, in summary, there’s this hunt for the signified, which is just another signifier, among other signifiers, as Deleuze and Guattari (112-114, 116-117) point out in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. Then there’s the second way of reading a text, which Deleuze (8) contrasts with the first way:

“[Y]ou see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is ‘Does it work, and how does it work?’ How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book.”

Simply put, move on if you don’t like what you see. It is what it is and what you get out of it, you get out of it. That’s it. In his (8) words:

“[S]omething comes through or it doesn’t. There’s nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret. It’s like plugging in to an electric circuit.”

So, yeah, maybe, maybe not, but there’s only one way to find out. This also happens to be what Valentin Vološinov (103) states in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’:

“It is like an electric spark that occurs only when two different terminals are hooked together.”

By this he means that a speaker and a listener form that circuit, through which something comes through or it doesn’t. It’s the same with a text that you read. It’s you and the text. It’s not the text itself, nor what its author intended. It’s you and the text. That’s all. This also means that what you get out of a text is not the same as what someone else gets out of it. It might be remarkably similar, yes, but really depends on your background, on who you’ve become.

Anyway, I’ll let Seem (xix) finish his summary of their approach to writing:

“[T]hey use these names and ideas as effects that traverse their analyses, generating ever new effects, as points of reference indeed, but also as points of intensity and signs pointing a way out: points-signs that offer a multiplicity of solutions and a variety of directions for a new style of politics.”

Without getting tangled up on the terms here, what I like about this summary is that Deleuze and Guattari is the point about there being not just multiple solutions to problems, but a multiplicity of solutions, so not only solutions that we are aware of, but also solutions that aren’t even aware of it.

Then there’s the point that Seem (xx) makes about their project taking what’s material very seriously, even though it may seem to some that all they do is to go on and on about semiotics, as they do in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (more so than in ‘Anti-Oedipus’). To be clear, I’d say that they take semiotics so seriously, that it might seem like that’s all they are interested in, even though they are also interested in what’s material. You might be troubled by that as the semiotic side seems to come to dominate the material side, but, if you ask me, they go on and on about the semiotics in order to explain what the problem with the semiotic side is, how certain semiotic systems, what they also refer to as regimes of signs in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ comes to make it appear that it’s all about representation, this, whatever it may be, being defined through something else, as an image of something, as adhering or conforming to a certain form, idea or essence. In short, they are keen to address the semiotic side for a very good reason, which, I think Seem (xx) summarizes quite neatly:

“Such forms of knowledge project an image of reality, at the expense of reality itself.”

In other words, they want to get rid of projections as that’s what representations are. For them, there isn’t reality, what’s for real, and then another reality, which not for real, an image of that reality, to put it the way Seem (xx) does here. Instead, there’s just reality and ways of thinking about it. A transcendent way of thinking about it involves that projection, where you or someone else comes up with an ideal version of it, thinking that that’s what’s what, and then try to make reality conform to that projection. An immanent way of thinking does not involve such a projection. Everything is what it is, as it is, without subjecting it all to scrutiny, thinking that it’s false, in hopes of getting to the bottom of things, to understand how things truly are.

There’s not much else I want to add here, to comment on Seem’s introduction to ‘Anti-Oedipus’, except that when he (xx) states that “[t]o be anti-oedipal is to be anti-ego as well as anti-homo”, that anti-homo is not anti-gay. This is not some latent sexism or distancing oneself from supposedly deviant behavior, like some academic version of ‘no homo’. You need to know your Latin to know that it’s about being anti-human or anti-man, if you wish to use that sexist version of it, perhaps because it’s rather fitting, considering that it’s generally men who are to blame for such oedipal and egoistic views that Deleuze and Guattari criticize. I mean, try to find a woman who was allowed to say much before the late 1900s. To be clear, there have been women who’ve had much to say, but you won’t many of them prior to the 1800s and even then many of them used male pseudonyms so that their writings wouldn’t offend people, by which I mean men.

To make more sense of that connection between ego and oedipus that he (xx) mentions here, without going on a tangent, explaining it the way Deleuze and Guattari do in the book, the problem with both has to do with the subject, which acts upon the subject. To summarize what he (xx) has to say about that, there’s this imperialism of the subject, on the subject, on others and on oneself. I think (xx) think he is right about it being a belief:

“Oedipus is belief injected into the unconscious, it is what gives us faith as it robs us of power, it is what teaches us to desire our own repression.”

I believe this is also what Deleuze and Guattari (130) refer to as the doubled subject in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, which occurs when signification, that search for meaning (which never gets anywhere as a signifier only ever leads to another signifier), and subjectification come together, so that it’s all about me and what this means for me, who am I and what not. I think Seem (xx) also manages to convey what this results in:

“Everybody has been oedipalized and neuroticized at home, at school, at work. Everybody wants to be a fascist.”

This is what Deleuze and Guattari diagnose in their works, that people are like this (not that they have to be though) which is also what I keep encountering, every single day (which actually makes them very predictable in their behavior). I think Seem (xx) is, once more, correct about what their project is about:

“Deleuze and Guattari want to know how these beliefs succeed in taking hold of a body, thereby silencing the productive machines of the libido.”

Yes. Exactly! This also what interests me in my own work. It’s just often very difficult to explain because, well, there’s this dominant way of thinking in which the subject is taken for granted, treated as autonomous, having no limitations to its thoughts and actions. It might take half an article to just explain that, what the problem with that setup is, before I get to analyze anything, which doesn’t go well with the people who review manuscripts. It’s like having this handicap, while the opposing side doesn’t have that as they don’t have to explain why they start from the subject. Then there’s the upside to thinking otherwise, which I think Seem (xx) manages to convey quite well:

“They also want to know how the opposite situation is brought about[.]”

Indeed. It’s just that once you’ve successfully diagnosed the situation and then exemplified it through analysis, you rarely have any space left to explain how one might oppose the system or how one might find a way out of it. I think that’s why my work often seems rather pessimistic or gloomy, even though that’s just a part of the story. I think you first need to assess the situation, to make note of the problems, before you try to provide solutions to them. People need to realize what the deal is, why something might be bad for them, against their interests, before it makes any sense to try to provide an alternative to it. If they don’t think it’s a problem, even if it is a problem for them, they are unlike to do anything. I think I manage to do that, but I usually run out of words before I provide the reader with anything that might be understood as somehow positive.

That’s all, for now. I didn’t think I’d enjoy someone introduction to someone else’s book this much, not to mention to the extent that I’d write an essay about, but, I did. It’s good. Anyway, i think I’ll try to finish the essay I was working on before I ended up writing this, but we’ll see. I have a number of essays that haven’t been finished, plus some other ideas that I’d like to look into, but we’ll see.


  • Deleuze, G. ([1990] 1995). Letter to a Harsh Critic. In G. Deleuze, Negotiations, 1972–1990 (M. Joughin, Trans.) (pp. 4–12). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1972] 1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ([1980] 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Guattari, F. ([1989] 2013). Schizoanalytic Cartographies (A. Goffey, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury.
  • Miller, H. (1949). Sexus. Paris, France: Obelisk Press.
  • Seem, M. (1983). Introduction. In G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane, Trans.) (pp. xv–xxiv). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Vološinov, V. N. ([1930] 1973). Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (L. Matejka and I. R. Titunik, Trans.). New York, NY: Seminar Press.

Id is what id is

This time I’ll be dealing with machines as that’s all there is, as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (2) argue in ‘Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. I could explain this by using the term they use in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, that is to say assemblages, as all they (22) know are assemblages, but I think it’s worth it to explain how they explain it in ‘Anti-Oedipus’. I intended to write something else, definitely not this, but, somehow, I ended up on a tangent where this ended up relevant.

Right, they (2) sure don’t ease you in, considering that they just flat-out state that:

“Everywhere it is machines—real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections.”

The ‘it’ here is desiring-production, but let’s not get tangled up on that. What I want to emphasize here is that we have machines that are connected or coupled with other machines. In the sentence before this, they (2) state that:

“What a mistake to have ever said the [‘I’].”

Now, in the original French version what I’ve changed is ‘ça’ and in English version it is translated as ‘id’.  If I understood this correctly, the translation misses the point, because ‘ça’ is a contraction of ‘cela’, which would be ‘it’ or, alternative, ‘this’ or ‘that’ if it is used instead of ‘ceci’, as opposed to ‘id’ or, what I’ve gone with here, the ‘I’. It is, however, also ‘id’ in the psychoanalytic sense, so it is fine to translate it as the ‘id’. Then again, apparently that’s from Sigmund Freud, as translated from German ‘es’, which is ‘it’. I went with ‘I’ here to keep things simple.

For Freud the id is a primitive self or ‘I’, as explained by him in the ‘New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis’. To be more accurate, he (103) states that id:

“It is the obscure inaccessible part of our personality[.]”

To be contrasted with ego, as he (103) goes on to add:

“[It] can only be described as being all that ego is not.”

He (103-104) adds to this that id is something more basic, something instinctual, something impulsive, and driven by what he refers to as the pleasure-principle. It has the cathexes, which I take to be energy, that seeks to be discharged, as he (105) points out. That said, he (106) reckons that id is not neatly separable from ego:

“One can hardly go wrong in regarding the ego as that part of the id which has been modified by its proximity to the external world and the influence that the latter has had on it[.]”

In short, ego is the part of id that has been modified by what else is there, which, in turn, has been, in part, modified by id. Okay. He (106) continues with ego:

“[It] serves the purpose of receiving stimuli and protecting the organism from them, like the cortical layer with which a particle of a living substance surrounds itself.”

In other words, ego here is what sets the id apart from what else is there, for reasons that he (106) goes on to clarify:

“The ego has taken over the task of representing the external world for the id, and so of saving it; for the id, blindly striving to gratify its instincts in complete disregard of the superior strength of outside forces, could not otherwise annihilation.”

So, to paraphrase this, ego is what prevents id from taking the shortest route to pleasure. He (106) explains this more concisely by stating that:

“In this way [the ego] dethrones the pleasure-principle … and substitutes for it the reality-principle.”

Why? Well, because taking the shortest route to pleasure is riddled with peril, whereas taking a moment to assess the situation, to weigh one’s options, may help one to avoid those perils, as he (106) points out. So, yeah, I’d say that it’s like a filter. He (108) likens ego to a rider and id to the horse that one rides, in the sense that it is id that takes you somewhere, driving you, and that it is ego that seeks to guide you there, safe and sound, as opposed to galloping there, taking the shortest route.

What is super-ego then? Well, for him (102) super-ego, ego and id are how the individual is divided mentally. Id is, for sure, unconscious, whereas super-ego and ego are partially unconscious, as he (105) points out. Now, of course, in contrast to id, super-ego and ego are conscious, but, well, only in the sense that id is fully unconscious. As he (99) specifies this, what’s unconscious about super-ego and ego can be made conscious, with plenty of effort, but that rarely happens, due to the effort involved.

To explain what super-ego is, he (92) states that it is a structural entity. More specifically, it is what he (92-93) calls the ego-ideal, what I guess he means to be an idealized ego, what one thinks of oneself, what one ought to be according to some ideal. He (93) exemplifies with role models, how, for example, children tend to look up to their parents. For him (93), the problem with it is how it may result in a sense of inferiority, when one’s ego does not match one’s super-ego, which is a fancy way of saying that one is unable to live to the expectations that one sets for oneself. The great difficulty of dealing with such is that it’s not that one is comparing oneself to others, as imperfect in comparison to their supposed state of perfection, but to oneself, to one’s own imaginary idea of oneself, as acknowledged by him (93).

He (95) exemplifies how this mismatch between ego and super-ego is cross-generational. In summary, the super-egos of the children are not based on their parents or, I guess, in their absence, their guardians, but on their super-egos, as he (95) points out. To give you a contemporary example, think of the children whose parents want them to become famous athletes, because it is what the parents wanted to become. Now, of course, we can replace those athletes with whatever. Another example would be how prestigious occupations, such as being a doctor, end up becoming a thing in the family, so that the children end up following in the footsteps of their parents, who, in turn, followed in the footsteps of their parents, and so on and so forth.

What’s worth adding here is, perhaps, how he (99-100) defines what’s unconscious and conscious. In summary, something that’s unconscious is not accessible to us. We are not directly aware of such. We can only infer such from something else, which that we are, at best, indirectly aware of such. Consciousness is then the exact opposite of that. That’s not, however, entirely accurate.

He (100) retains his definition of what’s unconscious, but further specifies it by stating that anything that takes place unconsciously means that we simply weren’t aware of it taking place at that time. So, something happens, but we aren’t aware of it happening. It’s that simple. He (100) then further specifies what’s considered conscious. For him (100), consciousness is rather rare, in the sense that we are conscious of something, whatever it is that takes place, but only for a moment and then it’s gone, until it reappears for whatever reason. In other words, consciousness is rather fleeting.

To be clear, I don’t work with these concepts, id, ego, and super-ego. I can, however, see how these have been picked up by others and how I could use them to explain how people end up repressing themselves by thinking that they have to be like this and/or that, only to fail at that. Anyway, this tangent has been long enough. I’ll see I can further discuss this in some other essay.

Right, so, why do Deleuze and Guattari (2) object to id? My answer is that it takes the subject as a starting point, because, according to Freud (103-104), it’s id what drives a person. So, my take is that, for Deleuze and Guattari, what’s interesting is not id, what it/id drives, but what drives it/id, to invoke that wordplay again. To further comment this, though rather briefly, I think there is something like this already in Freud, like an undoing of himself, considering that he (95) does indicate that the super-ego, that ideal sense of self, is typically not one’s own, but of others.

Let’s exemplify what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as machines. Because of the situation in Ukraine, I think it’s only apt to bring a war specific example. So, lets take a closer look at an assault rifle.

An assault rifle appears to be one, but it consists of many, many parts. The number of parts depends on the design. I’m thinking of a common AK design as that’s what I have handled in the past. It’s not just the rifle and the added magazine, even though, at a glance, that’s how it works. You don’t need to know much more than that and it works, hence it’s ubiquity in armed forces. But that’s not what I’m after.

When a soldier squeezes the trigger, a hammer is released and it hits a pin that, in turn, hits a round that has been lifted to a certain position from the magazine by the soldier by pulling the cocking handle that is part of the bolt carrier. As the pin hits the primer at the back of the cartridge, igniting it, which, in turn, ignites the propellant in the cartridge casing. The bullet, that is to say the projectile in front of the casing, partially embedded in it, is propelled forward by expanding high-pressure gas. This gas forces a gas piston backwards, which, in turn, pushes the bolt carrier backwards, which, in turn, pulls the casing backwards until it reaches its limits, unable to travel backwards, which results in its ejection from a side opening. While this happens, the bolt carrier pushes the hammer back, aligning it with the trigger, locking it in place.  Once the bolt carrier reaches its limit, it moves back to its initial position. While this takes place, there is a little sear that locks the hammer in place, locking it with the trigger, so that the bolt carrier has enough room to move back to its initial position. Once the bolt carrier has travelled past the trigger and the hammer, the bolt carrier pushes the sear, which, in turn, moves just enough to allow the hammer to move back to its initial position. As it moves forward, the bolt that it is connected to hits back of the topmost round in the magazine, pushing it forward, lifting it to position and aligning it with the barrel.

Is that all? Well, no. The trigger and the hammer move about, the way they do, because they are connected to a spring. Similarly, the sear functions the way it does, in relation to the other parts, because it is connected to a spring. Similarly, the magazine has a spring, so that the rounds move up as they are fired, so that they are set in a position for the bolt to push them in place to be fired. The bolt carrier, which is this rod with a handle, really, is also depends on a spring. The bolt carrier slides backwards, wrapping around another rod that guides the movement. There’s a spring on that rod, which is why the bolt carrier is able to return to its initial position. Oh, and even the trigger has a spring. Then there’s the selector, which is manipulated by the soldier by moving a lever up and down. By setting it in one position, in the case in the upmost position, the selector prevents the trigger from releasing the hammer. By setting it in another position, in this case the lowermost position, the selector is set in place in a way that the trigger must be pulled again and again to fire more rounds. By setting the selector in yet another position, in this case in the middle position, the selector locks the trigger in place, so that rounds will be fired one after another as long as the trigger is pulled back by the soldier.

Of course, we’d still need to pull apart the different parts as many of them consist of a number of parts. But that’s beside the point here. In addition, it’s crucial to understand that even the parts that cannot be disassembled into smaller parts actually consists of parts. How so? Well, even what appears to be a solid block, like a milled receiver or a frame, is made out of something, which isn’t one homogeneous blob of something. So even though it appears to be one, it is, in fact many.

But how does that work then? Why do the parts that make a whole, whatever that may be, which, in turn, could be a part of some whole, whatever that may? In other words, why does a whole stay whole and not just fragment into its parts, which would then, as wholes, fragment into its parts, and so on and so forth?

Well, I think Baruch Spinoza explains this in his ‘Ethics’ particularly well. I’ve covered this in previous essays, but I won’t mind reiterating it here and then fleshing it out. I think it’s only apt here. So, for Spinoza (45) there’s substance and then there are the modes, which are modifications of this substance. The former exists on its own, on its own terms, like it is what it is, whereas the latter do not exist in themselves, as he (45) points out. Then there are the attributes of the substance, two which we are aware of, thought (incorporeality) and extension (corporeality), so that you have two kinds of modes, thoughts (thinking things) and bodies (extended things), as he goes on to add (45, 55-56).

Without getting too hung up on how, for him (88), substance is the primary cause to everything, the point I want to make here is that the modes exist in relation to another, immanently, which is a fancy way of saying that one mode does not cause another mode, because that would result in an infinite regress of causes. Or, well, the do affect one another, that’s for sure, but it all happens at the same time, hence the immanence. It’s like a relational way of looking at the world. As I’m focusing on material things, I’m going to limit the discussion of modes or particular things, as he (83) also refers to them, to bodies.

So, what we also need to take into consideration is how the bodies can compound, as he (95) points out. By this he (95) means that particular wholes consist of particular parts:

“When any given bodies of the same or different magnitude are compelled by other bodies to remain in contact, or if they be moved at the same or different rates of speed, so that their mutual movements should preserve among themselves a certain fixed relation, we say that such bodies are in union, and that together they compose one body or individual, which is distinguished from other bodies by this fact of union.”

In other words, a particular body can compound into another particular body or, to put that the other way, a particular body can be compounded of particular bodies, as he (95) goes on to clarify. In addition, and this is highly, highly important, a particular body can, as a whole, as a compound, or as a composite, lose some of its parts and remain the same (or, I’d say, at least virtually or effectively the same), inasmuch those parts it has lost are replaced by other parts, as explained by him (95):

If from a body or individual, compounded of several bodies, certain bodies be separated, and if, at the same time, an equal number of other bodies of the same nature take their place, the individual will preserve its nature as before, without any change in, its actuality (forma).”

To go back to that assault rifle example, if we replace any of its parts with other parts that are virtually the same, so, close enough, the whole should remain the virtually the same. It’s not actually the same as its parts have been changed, but it functions as it were the same. To give you another example, think of skin, how it appears to be the same, at all times, but, well, it isn’t. Instead, it is constantly being replaced, with the rate of replacement depending on various physiological factors that aren’t worth getting into detail here. The point here is that the body maintains a sense of being the same, inasmuch the parts of the whole are replaced by other parts that do the job. It’s not, strictly speaking the same, but it is as if were, hence being virtually the same and not actually the same. Another way of expressing that would be to indicate that it’s functionally the same.

But why does a body stay the same then? Why doesn’t it just disintegrate? I still haven’t answered those questions. Well, Spinoza (136) has this thought out as well:

Nothing can be destroyed, except by a cause external to itself.”

This makes sense as, for him (45), a body owe its existence not to itself, as that would make it substance, but to what’s outside them, so, in relation to everything else. Here he (136) explains this by noting that a body can only affirm itself as only other bodies can destroy it. So, in other words, instead of looking at this or that body, pondering why it is the way it is, we should look elsewhere for answers. In short, a body is a body because it wouldn’t be a body if it wasn’t a body.

He (136) expands on this, noting that a body, as a whole, cannot consist of other bodies as its parts that negate that body as a whole. Otherwise it’d be just absurd, as he (136) points out. In his (136) words:

Everything, in so far as it is in itself, endeavors to persist in its own being.”

And (136):

“The endeavour, wherewith everything endeavour to persist in its own being, is nothing else but the actual essence of the thing in question.”

Like I pointed out, that body wouldn’t be that body or, rather, it wouldn’t be considered to be that body if it were some other body. A thing is a thing because it is that thing and not some other thing.

This is why things don’t just fall apart on their own. Can they fall apart then? Yes, but not on their own. This is why must look what else is there, what else is at play. He (136) is very clear on this:

“[N]o thing contains in itself anything whereby it can be destroyed, or which can take away its existence[.] … [C]ontrariwise it is opposed to all that could take away its existence[.] … Therefore, in so far as it can, and in so far as it is in itself, it endeavours to persist in its own being.”

So, to get the point across, not only is it impossible for a body to destroy itself, as you need other bodies for that, but it is also seeking to persist, to make sure that other bodies won’t destroy it. In fact, a body must do that in order to be that body, as he (136-137) goes on to emphasize.

To exemplify that, think of the human body. It can fall apart. No one is questioning that. In fact, it will eventually fall apart. I don’t anyone questions that either. But when it does fall apart, it is not the body or the bodies it contains that make it fall apart. Think of something like a flu. It’s caused by an external body, an influenza virus. Your body is affected by that external body. Your body will seek to do its best to persist. Cancer is a trickier one to explain, because, by definition, it is bodies within a body that end up destroying the body. Now, I’m no expert when it comes to cancer and, apparently, no one can really pinpoint what causes it in each case, but, again, by definition, it is caused by changes in the genetic code, which results in the bodies that constitute the body ending up destroying the body, unless something is done about it. In most cases those changes to the genetic code are caused by various external factors. It is difficult to say, for example, whether a lifetime habit of smoking caused the cancer, the various air pollutants the radiation that one was exposed to or a combination of these factors. In some cases, you can, apparently, inherit mutated genes, but even then I’d say that Spinoza would maintain that the mutation that you have inherited was caused by some other body acting on some previous body, somewhere down the line.

What else should I add to this? Well, as a body seeks to persist, that is to stay functionally the same, it must act against some other bodies. A body must therefore defend itself from losing parts that it needs to function the way it does. So, if you encounter a body that could diminish your capacity to function, you must act accordingly. That sounds doable, eh? The thing is, however, that you must eat and drink as well, as acknowledged by Spinoza (215). This means that you can’t just keep running away from other bodies. Your body needs to sustenance to stay functional. Simply put, as your body depends on that, you have not other choice but to destroy other bodies. So, if you thought that Spinoza’s ethics is all peace and happiness, you were wrong. This is what, in my view, makes his ethics superior to any other ethics. You don’t get an easy answer. Instead, it is you who has to take responsibility of your actions.

I guess I wouldn’t need to bring up Deleuze here, to explain this point, as you do find it in Spinoza’s work, just put read it, but I think does a much better job at explaining the ingenuity of Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’ as ethics. Deleuze explains this, why I like Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’ so much, particularly well in a session of his Spinoza Seminars, dated January 24, 1978:

“There’s a fundamental difference between Ethics and Morality. Spinoza doesn’t make up a morality, for a very simply reason: he never asks what we must do, he always asks what we are capable of, what’s in our power, ethics is a problem of power, never a problem of duty.”

This is how I view things these days and I get really annoyed when someone like that reviewer in the last round tells me that I am, somehow, telling people what to do. No, I don’t. I’m presenting my takes of the world, as based on what I’ve read and, in some cases, experienced.

I like how Marcel Proust explains this in ‘Time Regained’, when he (265-66) likens the text to a lens that allows the reader to see the world in a certain way, which may or may not be of use to the reader, depending on the reader’s background of course. In his (266):

“[L]eave the reader the greatest liberty and say to [the reader]: ‘Try whether you see better with this, with that, or with another glass.’”

In other words, if you like it, you like it. If it works for you, it works for you. Good for you. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. If it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t work for you. No problem. I guess you need to find something else to read then.

My way of doing things has more to do with providing the reader the conceptual tools that I use to make sense of the world. It’s that “optical instrument” that Proust (266) refers to. The reader can then do what I do if the reader chooses to do so. Note that there is no necessity, no must. You are free to whatever with my text. For example, if you have printed version of my text, feel free to use it to stabilize a piece of furniture or to dry something that you’ve spilled on the floor.

Anyway, this is exactly the difference between morality, what you ought to do, and ethics, what you could do. It’s not about how you must live, for whatever reason, but how you might live. I might say this is what I’d do, but it doesn’t mean that you have to do it. I’m just offering you a glimpse of how to live in certain way, which you can, of course, reject. That’s your prerogative. But don’t tell me I’m telling you how to live. I am not.

Like in that text, the whole point of being candid about my views, being in favor of non-representationalism, against representationalism, i.e., difference and not identity, as Deleuze (xv) explains it in ‘Difference and Repetition’ and as Guattari (51-52) elaborates it in the ‘Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis’, is that it is impossible to give primacy to any views, this and/or that identity, as opposed to some other views, this and/or that identity, because my goal is to explain why representationalism is problematic, what comes with it, regardless of the views or identities involved. Both of these, non-representationalism and representationalism, are lenses. I like to show what the world looks like through the lens of representationalism and why you might not want to keep looking through that lens, as you do, unless you happen to be one of the odd people like me who tries on different lenses. I’d go with the non-representational lens, but hey, that’s just me. You are free to choose.

I’m not interested in subjectivity, this and/or that view, but in its collective production, so it’s pretty bananas to get criticized for, supposedly, telling how things are, followed by, supposedly, telling how they ought to be. In that text I clearly pointed this out, what my goal is and it is therefore, first and foremost, educational, by which I mean that I prefer providing access to my collection of lenses, as opposed to academic, in the sense that I would tell how things are, currently, and then indicate what should be done about it, according to my preferences, while keeping the lenses to myself.

Anyway, Deleuze has more to say about this:

“In this sense Spinoza is profoundly immoral. Regarding the moral problem, good and evil, he has a happy nature because he doesn’t even comprehend what this means.”

Exactly! When you think in terms of difference, there is no preferred identity as there are no identities, except what you’ve become, at any given moment. So, what you get instead of good and evil, or, as I pointed out in that text, preferred or standard identities and non-preferred or non-standard identities, is good and bad. That may seem like the same thing, but it isn’t, as Deleuze goes on to explain this in the seminar session:

“What he comprehends are good encounters, bad encounters, increases and diminutions of power. Thus he makes an ethics and not at all a morality. This is why he so struck Nietzsche.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, ring any bells? Well, even if it doesn’t, you should be able to get the point. Deleuze returns to this point a couple of years later, in his seminar session on December 9, 1980. I’ve covered this in a previous essay, but it’s relevant here, so it’s worth explaining it again in this context. He starts with a question:

“What is human essence in power within humans from that viewpoint of a morality?”

Only to answer his own question by noting that, ever since Aristotle, human essence has been rationality as that’s what, supposedly, separates humans from other animals. He then reminds those attending his seminar that, as you may have also noticed if you’ve, like, lived at all, humans are hardly rational. In his words:

“Aristotle is like everyone, and all the moralists know it well: although man can have as essence being a reasonable animal, [man] isn’t all that reasonable; he … never stops behaving in an unreasonable manner.”

Now, to be clear, I retained the sexism here, because I assume that it was intentional, noting that is, indeed, man who thinks he is being rational, not, strictly speaking, human. I think you get the point. Anyway, he then worders how that can be, only to, once more, answer his own question:

“It’s because human essence, as such, is not necessarily realized[.]”

Only to ponder this and then provide answer to why this might be:

“Because man is not pure reason, so there are accidents; humans never stop getting detoured.”

So, in summary, rationality defines humanity, yet, somehow, there’s a consistent lack of rationality when you deal with actual humans. Convenient, eh? He explains what the deal is:

“The entire classical conception of man consists in inviting him to come back to his essence because this essence is like a potentiality that is not necessarily realized, and morality is the process of realizing human essence.”

Get it? Humans are rational or, rather, they should be rational, and because they keep not being rational, they must be made to act according to their rationally. Well, ain’t that just clever!

Now, the trick of this is to presuppose what humans are by their very essence and then gently or not so gently remind them that they are expected to realize their essence. For Aristotle, that’s rationality. We could, of course, swap that with just about anything, with any identity. We could also do the same with just about anything. We could, for example, presuppose that man is strong and that woman is fragile and then make sure that they act according to their essences.

That’s morality for you, telling what you should and, conversely, what you shouldn’t be like. That’s like representationalism 101, that the real-world appearances should faithfully represent the otherworldly ideas or forms, as Plato puts it, or realize their essences, as Aristotle puts it. That’s how the system works. So, yeah, it’s bizarre to get criticized for pointing that out. I mean I concluded that it’s beside the point what position one takes as it’s not the positions that matter, as such, as the identities are all made up, really, but rather how it all works, as in how representationalism functions, how it’s all bullshit.

Of course, I get it that such a view may offend people, because all identities, as we know them, are then deprivileged or, rather, simply erased. The only identity that you are left with is what you’ve become. That’s it. No judgment. You get to come as you are, as you’ve become, without any labels. If you think otherwise, it’s that morality in you, the priest, that desire to judge people according to some supposed otherworldly criteria that you think exists because you’ve been taught that it exists.

What about ethics then? Hold on, hold on, hold on tightly. I’ll let Deleuze explain it:

“[T]here is no general idea within an ethics. There’s you, this one, that one; there are singularities.”

He does mention that we could speak of those singularities as essences, but then they’d pertain to essences that are singular, like me, you, this table, this room, whatever, hence the lack of generality. He continues to explain how this works for Spinoza:

“On one hand, that’s what ethical discourse is: between different existents, there’s a quantitative scale, there’s a quantitative distinction of more and less, and on the other hand, the same discourse is pursued by saying that there is also … a qualitative opposition between modes of existence.”

If we want to condense this, the quantitative differences between the existents, let’s say you and me, and qualitative oppositions between modes of existence, let’s say me and my uncle’s dog, it’s all about what a body can do. What matters in Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’ is not what something is or what it should be, in accordance with its essence that is tied to its kind, but what it is capable of. Deleuze exemplifies this with a number of … things:

“So, there are things that can do extraordinarily little. The table… An inanimate thing as well, what can it do? The diamond, what can it do? Gold, what can it do? That is, what feats is it capable of? What can it stand? What can i[t] stand and what can it do? Any given animal, what does it stand and what does it do? Hey, a camel, it cannot drink for a long while. Oh good, not drinking for a long while, this is a camel’s passion, it’s a camel’s power. Abstaining from drinking, fine. Being thirsty all the time, that’s something else, it’s another world of existence, good, fine.”

As those are just examples of things, Deleuze summarizes this:

“Things are defined by what they can do.”

He adds to this that, in quantitative terms, this has to do with the differences of, let’s say, me and you, in terms of power or what we might call our capacity to act. It could be less or more, as he points out. It depends. He also wants to emphasize that it’s not about our will to act that matters as it’s rather the opposite. It’s our capacity to act that defines our will, what it is that we want.

That power or capacity actually works both ways for Spinoza, albeit it does boil down to the capacity to act. What do I mean? Well, Spinoza (215) explains this in his ‘Ethics’:

Whatsoever disposes the human body, so as to render it capable of being affected in an increased number of ways, or of affecting external bodies in an increased number of ways, is useful[.]

So, capacity to act works both ways, affecting others and being affected by others. We can also think of this the other way around, as he (215) goes on to add:

“[C]ontrariwise, whatsoever renders the body less capable in this respect is hurtful[.]”

This only makes sense. So, what’s good for you is increase your capacity to act and be acted upon, so that you can do whatever, and, conversely, what diminishes your capacity to act and be acted upon is bad for you, as he (215-216) on to rephrase that. While the capacity to be acted upon might seem odd, at first, it makes sense. If you can’t eat and drink, for whatever reason, let’s say you can’t afford it, you can hardly be said to be to living your life to the fullest. Similarly, if you can’t read, because no one taught you that, your everyday life will be much more difficult to you, at least in comparison to the people who can read. Deleuze (45) provides a formulation of this in his second book on Spinoza that bears the title ‘Spinoza: Practical Philosophy’:

“[B]eings will be defined by their capacity for being affected, by the affections of which they are capable, the excitations to which they react, those by which they are unaffected, and those which exceed their capacity and make them ill or cause them to die.”

To return to those examples, for a moment, it’s also worth keeping in mind that we can think of them in terms of the capacity to act. What I mean is that having too much to eat and drink can be bad for you as it can reduce your physical fitness, which then diminishes your capacity to act.

Then there’s the qualitative side that pertains to modes of existence, as Deleuze goes on to add during the lecture. What are modes of existence then? So, what I gather from his elaboration during this seminar session, it’s not, no longer about whether this or that can do more or less in contrast to one another, but about how you something. In his words:

“When you do something, doing something or enduring something, it’s existing in a certain fashion.”

He then elaborates this, what I guess one could call a way of life, in terms of doing it over and over again. So, this time you are not comparing different existents, but rather how an existent does what it does. Anyway, the point here is, according to him, that if you are willing to do it over and over again, as if there was no end to it, that mode of existence is good and, conversely, if you aren’t willing to do it over and over again, that mode of existence is bad.

The consumption of alcohol is a good example for him. In summary, if you want to do it, you do it in a way that you’d want to drink again. I realize that someone might object to this, thinking that isn’t that the definition of alcoholism, but that’s not the case. Why is that? Well, the point he makes with this example is that for it to be good must also remain to be good, so that you’d do it an infinite number of times. It’s about drinking at your own leisure, in agreement with yourself. It’s you who sets the rhythm. That mode of existence is good.

What is an alcoholic then, if not the person who is willing to go on, albeit at one’s own leisure, as one sees fit? Firstly, he isn’t saying that you must keep on drinking, going from drink to drink, nor that you should quit, that you must have the last drink. He explains this by how alcoholics is not in agreement with themselves, by how they tell you that this is the last drink they’ll have when prompted by someone else about their drinking habits. No, no, I don’t drink, I’m just having this one drink and then that’s it, only to say the same thing with the next drink. They keep lying, not only to other people, who may or may not see through that, but to themselves. The problem of the alcoholic is that the person is out of tune with that mode of existence. The person likes to drink, but hasn’t come to terms with that, which results in a mode of existence that is bad.

What is the secret sauce to a good way of life then? He states to those attending his seminar that it’s either that you do something, like you mean it, like you mean to do it from here to eternity, if that was possible that is, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground.

I realize that you might object that drinking is bad for your health, regardless. Deleuze’s take on Spinoza, as well as Nietzsche, may seem off if you only take into account the qualitative side, the mode of existence issue, but also need to take into account the quantitative side, existent’s capacity to act. If drinking affects your health negatively, as in you drink so much that your body is unable to recover from it, hindering your capacity to act, then, of course, it’s bad for you.

Now, this applies to everything, not just drinking, as he points out. So, in summary, quantitively something is good for you inasmuch your capacity to act ends up being higher than previously and bad for you inasmuch your capacity to act ends up being lower than previously. I guess we could say that it’s about potency and impotency, to riff on his definitions a bit. At the same time, it’s good for you if feel like doing it and bad for you if you don’t feel like doing it, but still do it. Again, to riff a bit, he mentions instruments as having a tone, but, related to this qualitative side, I’d say it’s about being in tune, as in being in tune with oneself.

Deleuze (71) also explains this in ‘Spinoza: Practical Philosophy’:

“Good and bad are doubly relative, and are said in relation to one another, and both in relation to an existing mode.”

I wanted to have this bit here because it reminds that what’s good and what’s bad is not only defined in terms of capacity to act, good being about having more capacity to act and bad being about having less capacity to act, but it is always also about for someone, for some existent. In other words, nothing is good or bad, in itself, like it is with good and evil, but it is always good or bad for someone. It’s like when you say ‘well, that’s good/bad for you’. It’s good/bad for that person, not for someone else. Okay, it could also be good/bad for someone else, but that’s beside the point. It’s also when someone says something like ‘that’s good/bad’, to which you could then ask ‘good/bad? for whom?’

To further exemplify that, the good and the bad, how it depends, let’s go back a bit, to the point about having too much to eat and drink (in general, not alcohol), each body is different. A larger body will require more to sustain itself than a smaller body and therefore what’s good for a larger body, let’s say a larger meal, is not necessarily good for a smaller body. In fact, it’s very likely that the portion of food will be bad for the smaller body, because having too much to eat will be detrimental to the body’s capacity to act. Now, of course, the smaller body might be more active than the larger body, so it might actually be good for the smaller body to have that larger meal and bad for the larger body to have that larger meal, which is something that Spinoza (216) acknowledges. For him (216) the body is not just out there, in place, what he calls rest, but also in motion. One also needs to take the context into account. I mean it’s not like someone eats, in general. Having a bit of extra weight is bad if you have continuous access to food, but it might actually be good if you don’t as that fat will then function as your energy reserve.

Okay, I know, I know, those food and drink examples are very simplistic. One would also need to take into account the nutritional value. You need energy. That’s for sure, so carbs are great, but you need all kinds of fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins.

Then there are the social aspects, which Spinoza (216-217) does take into account, but that’s beside the point. What I think is still worth covering here is that what’s good, let’s say for me, is marked by the experience of pleasure, and what’s bad, again, let’s say for me, is marked by the experience of pain, as he (217) points out. Deleuze (71) agrees, noting that we know this, what’s good and what’s bad for us, in my case what’s good or bad for me, “through the feeling of joy or sadness of which we are conscious”.

But, can you overdo pleasure and pain? Well, Spinoza’s (217) answer is yes and no. Any excessive pain, what he (217) refers to as melancholy, is always bad, whereas there is no such thing as excessive pleasure, what he (217) refers to as mirth, so that’s always good. But here it’s important to understand that by this he (217) means pleasure or pain that affects the entire body. However, if the pleasure or pain is local, affecting only a part of the body, then it’s not that clear. So, there is, in fact, such a thing as excessive stimulation, by which he means that a part of our body may experience excessive pleasure, which is then bad, inasmuch it prevents the body from acting as a whole, as he (217) goes on to specify. For example, if you enjoy alcohol, excessively, it results in excessive pleasure, which, is good, locally, but it can impair parts of your body to the extent that you might end up injuring yourself, which then makes it bad. Similarly, excessive pain can be good, as odd as that may seem, inasmuch as it’s grief over the fact that you were helpless in the situation, your body being overpowered by another more powerful body, as he (217-218) goes on to add. As that’s, perhaps, more difficult to comprehend, think of it as more like learning experience. That’s how he (218) sees it, considering that the bad turns into good if it will prevent excessive stimulation in the future. To return to that alcohol example, it’s like when you have a terrible hangover or realize that you’ve manage to injure yourself, the pain that you experience, while bad, in itself, turns into something good, inasmuch it prevents you from experiencing such pain in the future. I was tempted to state that it’s like Eric Idle sings ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, but, wait, no, that’s definitely not it. I mean, how many times you get crucified in life, except, well, metaphorically (like that reviewer did to me, haha!)?

Okay, there’s even more to that, layers and layers of complexity, but it’s really about good and bad, pleasure and pain. It’s well worth the read and I should really get on with, to cover part four of Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’. I mean he’s just that fantastic. Take his (232) definition of definition of freedom as example:

A free [person] thinks of nothing less than of death; and his wisdom is a mediation not of death but of life.”

I don’t know about you, but this makes me think of Nietzsche. It’s like, okay, no need to panic, no need to fear, because we are all going to die, sooner or later. So, instead of focusing on death, which, in itself, you cannot prevent, only postpone, why not focus on life instead. As he (233) goes to point out, as soon as you start fearing it, fussing over your mortality, your desire to live takes a major hit.

So, for him (232-233), inasmuch as one is free, i.e., desires the good and doesn’t fear the bad, one has no need for morality, that is to say a conception of good and evil. In more contemporary parlance, if you can take things as they come, without judgment, like, it is what it is, both the good and the bad, going for the good and learning from the bad, you have no need for morality.

It’s in this context that Deleuze mentions Nietzsche, how his conception of will to power is very similar, albeit not the same as Spinoza’s conception of capacity to act and be acted upon, what Deleuze refers to as the power of action. In Deleuze’s words:

“Will to power … means that you will define things, beings, animals not by essence, but by the effective power of action they have.”

So, when you encounter someone or something, that is to say a body, the definition of what it is does not involve having recourse to some idea, form or essence. Why? I’ll let Deleuze explain that:

“[T]he moral question [is]: what should you do by virtue of your essence?”

Note how the body is doubled here. There’s the essence of the body, the true body, if you will, and the appearance of the body, whatever it is that you encounter or, perhaps, it’s your own body, to make things even worse. When you have that body double, the body you are dealing with, whatever that may be, it is to judged according to whether or not it realizes its essence, what it is supposed to be, as explained by Deleuze a number of times during that seminar session.

This can also be explained another way, as done by Deleuze in that seminar. I’ll quickly summarize it. So, as he points out, there’s that what Spinoza (45) calls substance. It’s “absolutely infinite and unique” as Deleuze goes on to emphasize. That’s the only thing that is. That’s the only Being. Nothing else is a being but rather a manner of being. Spinoza (45) calls them modes, which are modifications of substance. That means that their existence is tied to the existence of the substance. So, whatever happens really only ever happens to the substance, so that what we think happens to beings, like to subjects and objects, to this and/or that, is rather a further modification of the substance. I like how Deleuze explains this:

“And a mode is what? It’s not a being; it’s a manner of being, a manner of being. So, be-ings, existents are not beings; only the absolutely infinite occurs as Being.”

This also clarifies the terminology here, in case you were wondering what existents are (albeit Being and beings make me think of Martin Heidegger, but it does not appear to be in reference to that here). They are the modes, the modifications of substance. Anyway, I’ll let his finish that:

“Henceforth, those of us who are be-ings, who are existents, we will not be beings; we will be manners of being of this substance.”

Again, for Spinoza (45), your existence is a mode, a modification of substance. This means that whatever you do is not really happening to you, but to the substance as it is being modified.

What’s interesting about explaining it this way, through substance and modes, because even though it’s based on a couple of definitions provided by Spinoza (45), it already prevents us from lapsing into morality. I’ll let Deleuze explain the beauty of this:

“[M]orality always implies something above Being; what exists above Being is something that plays the role of the One, of the Good …, as the One above Being.”

In other words, when you add should or must to the equation, you create another level above the level of existence, that Being, what Spinoza (45) refers to as substance. That other level is a transcendent plane because it is above the level that we are dealing with.

To help us understand that move, let’s look at some dictionary definitions of transcendence (OED, s.v. “transcendence”, n.):

“The action or fact of transcending, surmounting, or rising above[.]

And, to clearly distinguish it from Spinoza’s take (OED, s.v. “transcendence”, n.):

 “Of the Deity: The attribute of being above and independent of the universe; distinguished from immanence[.]”

To make more sense of that, what Spinoza is after, it’s worth taking a look at the dictionary definitions of immanence (OED, s.v. “immanence”, n.):

“Esp. of God: the fact, condition, or quality of being immanent; presence or dwelling in or within a person or thing.”

To contrast these two, transcendence and immanence, the former involves two levels, whereas the latter involves only one level. The former is transcendent because one level transcends the other. It’s also worth adding that the higher plane is not only higher in the sense that it is above it the lower plane, but also because it is considered to be superior to it, as indicated by the dictionary definitions (OED, s.v. “transcendent”, adj.):

“[P]re-eminent; superior or supreme; extraordinary. Also, loosely, Eminently great or good; cf. ‘excellent’.”

This is why Deleuze notes that the higher level is considered to be good. In contrast, the latter is immanent (OED, s.v. “immanent”, adj.), because it’s all there, at that level:

“Existing or operating within; inherent; spec. (of God) permanently pervading and sustaining the universe.”

To get back to how morality works, it’s about having a higher plane, according to which the lower plane is judged. I think Deleuze explains this particularly well when he states in that seminar session that:

“In fact, morality is the enterprise of judging not only all that is, but also Being itself. And we can only judge Being in the name of an agency above Being.”

Simply put, you need that two-level configuration in order to judge. You can’t have morality if you only have one level. In case you were wondering, you can find Deleuze and Guattari mentioning this a number of times in ‘Anti-Oedipus’ and in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, whenever they mention a plane. In ‘Anti-Oedipus’, they (205) first mention planes in the context of representation:

“If we call the order of representation in a social system a plane of consistency …, it is evident that this plane has changed, that it has become a plane of subordination and no longer one of connotation.”

To cut through their jargon here, there is a plane of consistency, which, under representationalism, is turned into something a plane of subordination. So, like with Spinoza, they present a configuration that only has one level or plane, as they call it, contrasted with a configuration that has two levels or planes. In the former configuration, you have what they refer to as the plane of consistency. That’s it. In the latter configuration it is referred to as the plane of subordination, because it is the lower level or plane, being subordinate to that higher level or plane that is then its superordinate. They also (206, 309) refer to the plane of consistency as the plane of immanent connotation, in which everything operates in a network, as opposed to a hierarchy, as well as the plane of structuration.

They refer more to it in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, in which it is mainly referred to either as the plane of consistency or as the plane of immanence. In relation to these terms, they (9, 155) also specify it is as the plane of consistency of multiplicities and as the plane of consistency of desire. They (9) refer to it as the plane of exteriority, in which everything is simply there. You’ll also find them (506-507) referring to it as the plane of composition (think of how it is all composed/decomposed), juxtaposed with the plane of organization and development.

What takes plane on this plane, regardless of whatever we call it, is continuous stratification and destratification, as they (40) point out. To be clear, when something is stratified or, conversely, destratified, it’s not separate from that plane. It is still that plane.

There is a certain issue with their use of the term plane. It’s not a major thing, but it’s worth mentioning. So, when they (45, 108-109, 141) note that Louis Hjelmslev refers to two planes in his ‘Prolegomena to a Theory of Language’, to the content plane and the expression plane, it may come across as there being two planes. But that’s not the case. If we focus only on one kind of stratum, how that plane is stratified inorganically, organically or semiotically, it would make more sense to explain it as there being content, that which is the given, at any given moment (no pun intended), and the expression, the giving, which, will, at a later moment, be understood as the given, as subsequently done by Guattari (59-60) in ‘Schizoanalytic Cartographies’. Going that way would make sense, considering that, if we are to trust his notes, he (205) did find the choice of words irritating, as noted in ‘Hjelmslev and Immanence’:

“But what’s annoying, as far as I’m concerned, is that there are planes, not a plane, a pure plane of consistency[.]”

If we focus on material content, contrasted with semiotic expression, as Deleuze and Guattari frequently do in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, then it would make more sense to think of them as Spinoza’s attributes, as content pertains to extension and expression to though. Similarly, Spinoza’s understanding of there being this substance, so that everything what we consider to be this and/or that, me and you included, are its modes, its modifications, is what they think of as constant stratification and destratification of unformed matter, how it is being constantly formed and deformed.

I think some of the difficulty of that, how you maintain that there’s only one plane, has to do with how they explain things through stratification in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. It’s like there is this level, what we could also call a layer, that plane, which, in itself, consists of a number of levels or layers, what they call the strata. This is in line with Spinoza’s take on bodies consisting of bodies, so that each body is a compound or a composite. So, yeah, that’s fine, no problem, as such. It’s more that explaining it all as layered may result in thinking that there’s more than level or plane involved, as, minimally, one layer always has to be at the bottom and the other layer above it, on top of it.

It’s more like there are two states of one plane, one being the destratified or unformed one and the other being the stratified or formed one, as they (57, 63) point out. When it’s stratified or formed, it would be apt to refer to it as the plane of organization and development, as they (507) do. Then there are these processes of stratification and destratification, which results in numerous intermediate states, as they (44, 50, 53, 58) call them. I think it’s worth emphasizing the importance of those intermediate states. I mean, it’s not like matter is simply either formed or unformed, like now it’s formed and then, poof, it’s unformed. The general point here is that the plane is never fixed, as such, but rather fluctuating between these two states, never ending up unified or totalized, which is why they (507) present it as a matter of consistency or consolidation of matter, which would be Spinoza’s (45) substance.

In my view, this would fit the constant modification of substance for Spinoza. I mean, Spinoza (136) insists that bodies seek to persists, what in terms used by Deleuze and Guattari we could call maintaining its forms, persisting as formed matter. At the same time, Spinoza (45) maintains that bodies can and do change, as that’s their very definition, being modifications of substance, which in Deleuze and Guattari’s parlance would be about formed matter losing its form and thus becoming unformed matter, i.e., Spinoza’s substance, only to become some other formed matter.

For example, if you persist, that is to say that you maintain your body, the matter that your body consists of, those bodies that compound into your body, that is to say compose it, maintain their form. If you fail at that and, to be clear, you eventually will, not because you will it, but because other bodies will eventually overpower your body, your body will, quite literally, decompose, so that your body will lose its distinct form, turning into something else, existing in numerous intermediate states, and then, eventually, will take some other distinct form.

Now, I explained that, perhaps, too rigidly, as, it’s not like those intermediate states aren’t states. I just went with that, referring to distinct form and to another distinct form, to emphasize how we think of things, as either like this or like that, even though the changes they undergo are often imperceptible. For example, one’s body is, in a sense, a constant process that could be understood as a series of intermediate states.

I think it’s also worth emphasizing that Deleuze and Guattari (159-161) also warn their readers not to think of one or the other state as inherently good or bad. If we just think of the body, if you seek to change yourself, it can be dangerous. In other words, if your body loses its form, its no longer that body. This can be good, inasmuch we think of the body as shifting from one intermediate state to another. But if the body loses all its form, that’ll be the end of it. That’s certainly bad.

Their (159-161) warning has to do with the human body, firstly as an organism, then, secondly, what is attributed to it, in terms of signification, and, thirdly, in terms of subjectification, as in what kind of subjectivity you have as the product of the production of subjectivity. In summary, if you wildly experiment your body, that can be bad for the body, especially if they have irreversible effects on it. It will be bad, inasmuch as it diminishes the body’s capacity to act and be acted upon.

So, first on the list is the organism. They (150, 159-160) are blunt about that, noting that experimenting is about “the art of dosages”, so, yeah, if you are not careful, “overdose is a danger.” Taking things to the extreme is not the point. Oh, and even though that’s clearly about drugs, as mentioned by them (152), that applies to other things as well. So, if you want to spice things up, it’s not like you need go for BASE jumping. Experimenting should be more like an everyday thing, as they (160) point out. To give you another example that pertains to the organism, I can point out that I’m somewhat ambidextrous. I sure wasn’t born that way. It’s just that I’ve put in the effort to be able to use my both hands for all kinds of things. I typically handle the keys with my left hand, despite being right-handed. Not a problem.

Second on the list is signification? They (160) characterize the difficulty with it as clinging to your soul, similarly as organism clings to your body. Third on the list is subjectification, which about the production of subjectivity. They (160) characterize this as being hooked to points of subjectification, which is about being fixated on something, so that it comes to define who we are. I listed these two together as they have the effect of reinforcing one another, as they (138) point out in another context.

There are some examples that they provide when it comes to dealing with these two. Related to signification, they (151) recommend stopping any search for meaning, i.e., interpretation (which could, of course, be defined in another way) and replacing it with experimentation. To give you an everyday example, it’s about thinking outside the box, if you will. You have all these preconceptions, how things should be. I once put apples into a curry because I didn’t have onions. I had no idea if that’d work. I didn’t care to look up the definition of curry, what it means. I had no respect for such in that moment. I was just like, hmmm, what if, what if I substitute this with that. I wonder if it’ll work. It did. It was just fine. No, not the best shit ever, but yeah, it worked out just fine. That’s your everyday experimentation.

I realize that my example is hilariously trivial (albeit that’s kind of the point, to keep it real), so I’ll cover what they have to say about this (not my curry). They (154) invoke what they like to call the priest, which is, by the way, something that they take from Nietzsche without ever mentioning that it is from him (which is a sort of plagiarism, yet it isn’t, because it’s hard to say whether it’s too generic, whether it is attributable just to Nietzsche). The closest they (111) come to that is mentioning it ‘Anti-Oedipus’ as coming from him, but that’s a bit of a stretch when it comes to citations (I mean it’s in another book!). I’m sure that misguided reviewer would be furious about that, like how dare Deleuze and Guattari use that concept that is unambiguously from Nietzsche (then again, when does something become part of you, so that you cannot, no longer, not hold that view?). Even though in this case the reviewer would actually have a point, given that they don’t indicate that it is from someone else (you can, however, find Deleuze discussing it in other words, in reference to Nietzsche, which would suggest that it has become part of his or their parlance), unlike in my case where I pointed out what’s from where, page numbers and all, they probably just laugh at that, like, seriously, fuck off, stop being a priest.

I know I just explained what a priest is (wink wink, nudge nudge, my dear reviewer), but I’ll have them (154) explain it (without acknowledging that it is from Nietzsche, of course, because, just in case that reviewer happens to read this) as it is presented in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“The priest cast[s] the triple curse on desire: the negative law, the extrinsic rule, and the transcendent ideal.”

Note there how I indicated that there’s an added ‘s’ there, like you do when you alter someone else’s work, turning that from the past to present, because I know how this shit works (wink wink, nudge nudge, my dear reviewer). Anyway, they (154) go on to clarify the first part:

“Facing north, the priest sa[ys], Desire is lack (how could it not lack what it desires?).”

To connect to the earlier point about bodies and their essences, this is exactly the same point. You are this and/or that by essence, but keep failing at realizing that essence or those essences. So, what you need to do is to realize that essence, to fulfill that lack. They (154) then clarify the second part:

“Then, facing south, the priest link[s] desire to pleasure. For there are hedonistic, even orgiastic, priests. Desire will be assuaged by pleasure; and not only will the pleasure obtained silence desire for a moment but the process of obtaining it is already a way of interrupting it, of instantly discharging it and unburdening oneself of it.”

To comment on this, briefly, as I’ll return to this shortly, note how there’s first a lack that’s invoked, that essence that must be realized, and now it is stated that realizing it results in pleasure. Grand. They (154) move on to clarify the third part:

“Then, facing east, he exclaimed: Jouissance is impossible, but impossible jouissance is inscribed in desire. For that, in its very impossibility, is the Ideal, the ‘manque-a-jouir that is life.’”

To explain that without all the fancy terms, there’s that pleasure, that jouissance, Freud’s pleasure-principle, but, ha-ha, gotcha, it can’t be reached. So, as elaborated in the notes (532), you are left to enjoy the lack, as opposed to the pleasure that would fulfill it. It’s like attempting to fulfil the lack, desiring something, whatever it is, only to fulfil it with something else, thus never fulfilling the lack.

To further comment on that, first part pertains to what to the so-called castration complex, as they (154) point out. It’s an initial binary that is established between men and women. In short, men have dicks and women don’t, so women are deemed to be inferior to women, and therefore men are afraid of having the dicks being cut off. That’s also why men are such dicks, especially if they are beaten by women. Now, obviously, this is not true. It’s rather what you’ve been lead to believe, which is why men act like dicks. Anyway, to be serious again, this pertains, more broadly speaking, to the idea that men need women and women need men. You just have to get some! Pleasure! The second part pertains to that substitute pleasure, which they (154) refer to as masturbation. The point here is that you get pleasure from masturbation, but you aren’t considered to be truly fulfilling that lack. You wanker! The third part pertains to phantasy, to images of pleasure that cannot be attained, so that if even if you aren’t wanker, you are never going to be satisfied by any actual fucking, as they (154) point out.

Now, obviously, that’s all shit. You can replace the object of desire and what it takes to not reach it by just about anything. It’s not just about sex, as they (154-155) go on to point out. That’s just an example of what a priest wants you to go through, to keep you on a leash.

When it comes to subjectification, they (151) recommend forgetting, as opposed to remembering. What’s that all about? Well, if you keep tabs with everything, fuss over how things should be, you keep comparing the present with the past. If you forget about it, you can’t even do that. There’s a fitting idiom for that: letting bygones be bygones.

Now, I realize that I may have used this example in the past, but, anyway, I was a conference like four years ago or so. Me and some Danes went for a dinner. It wasn’t that eventful. Not that there was anything wrong with the company, but it was just a dinner. So, long story short, we talked about a bit of this and a bit of that. Those conversations included this very issue, like what it is to cling on to the past. I pointed out that it doesn’t do you any good. I stated that I don’t really have any things that I wouldn’t be willing to let go. The Danes seemed to be keener about their things, which is fine, I get it. It’s not like I want to get rid of my things. Nah, that’s not it. It’s just that I’d get new things, whatever it is that I need for something, if it came to that. No problem. I also pointed out that this also applies to people. Again, the Danes seemed to keener about the people they mingle with, which is fine, I get it. I mean, it’s not like I want to get rid of people. It’s not like I want to replace friends or the like. No, no. It’s more like if it came to that, life would go on. I would have to move on, and I would move on. That’s what forgetting the past is, at least for me. It’s the art of letting go.

They (156) also exemplify subjectification with courtly love. If you don’t know what that is, think of it as what we’d call courting, to use a more contemporary term. The point with that it’s like a game that goes on and on. There’s no lack of that must be fulfilled, as they (156) point out. Instead thinking of it as having to jump through all those hoops, to go through all that courting, just to get to the fucking, it’s the courting that is desirable, as noted by them (156), albeit in less crude terms. They (156) go on to note that it’s not about the one or the other, while further commenting pleasure:

“Pleasure is an affection of a person or a subject[.]”

To explain this in Spinozist terms, that affection is about that capacity to act and be acted upon. Anyway they (156) continue:

“[I]t is the only way for persons to ‘find themselves’ in the process of desire that exceeds them[.]”

In other words, it is through affection, as in acting and being acted upon, that one comes to figure out who one is. They (156) do, however, add to this that:

“But the question is precisely whether it is necessary to find oneself.”

Indeed. I’d say that it is not, at least not in the sense who you are, as in what one is, as this and/or that. The problem with ‘finding oneself’ is that it presupposes that one is not what one is until one finds out what one is. There’s some hidden essence that you are expected to find and then realize it. This is why they (156) juxtapose that kind of view with courtly love:

“Courtly love does not love the self … It is a question of making a body without organs upon which intensities pass, self and other—not in the name of a higher level of generality or a broader extension, but by virtue of singularities that can no longer be said to be personal, and intensities that can no longer be said to be extensive.”

That’s a lot to take in, but that body without organs is another word they use for the plane of consistency / immanence in certain contexts, especially when discussing the self / subject / individual. To explain intensities, very briefly, in my own terms, think of anything that can be intense, like heat or, in this context, love. Sure, we can talk of fire being extensive, like a spreading wildfire that wipes out whole forests, or someone having a lot of love, but they that’s not all there is. Something can burn really intensively, or only so and so. Similarly, love can be really intense, which is why some say there’s this heat to it, or only so and so. They (156) comment what immanence means for us, in an everyday sense:

“The field of immanence is not internal to the self, but neither does it come from an external self or a nonself.”

That has to be so, to stay to how, for Spinoza (45), there is only one substance, so that everything is a modification of that substance. Immanence is not within you, but it’s not external to you. That’s the point here. They (156) continue:

“Rather, it is like the absolute Outside that knows no Selves because interior and exterior are equally a part of the immanence in which they have fused.”

The thing here to keep in mind is that they are after a different kind of subjectivity, one in which you don’t have predetermined subjects and objects. Instead, it’s all in the making, at all times. Anyway, to return to the courtly love example, they (156) add:

“‘Joy’ in courtly love, the exchange of hearts, the test or ‘assay’: everything is allowed, as long as it is not external to desire or transcendent to its plane, or else internal to persons.”

To reiterate my earlier point, it’s the courting, that wooing, that is, in itself, desirable. You get pleasure out of that. Does this mean that love is now just this, never-ending flirting? Well, no. They (156) are not saying that it can’t involve fucking or that you can’t have a wank, for that matter. Note how they (156) point out that “everything is allowed”, inasmuch you aren’t fixated on it, inasmuch you aren’t making it something that you should or must do or achieve. Why? Well, to break that down, there is a danger of transcendence, creating a higher plane according to which you should live, which is the Plato reference here, or of essentialism, viewing humans as having an essence that they are expected to realize, which is the Aristotle reference here. So, in practical terms, anything goes, really, as they (156) go on to emphasize:

“Everything is allowed: all that counts is for pleasure to be the flow of desire itself[.]”

Oh, and what I mean by that, that anything goes, really, is that desire isn’t picky. If it were picky, then it wouldn’t be immanent. It’d be transcendent. They (156) also exemplify this:

“The slightest caress may be as strong as an orgasm; orgasm is a mere fact, a rather deplorable one, in relation to desire in pursuit of its principle.”

If only this was desirable, in this case an orgasm, but not that, in this case a caress, it would involve a presupposition that orgasms are what counts, not caresses, which would equate desire with pleasure, i.e., the production with the product. To be clear, this is not to say that there’s anything wrong with pleasure. It’s rather that what’s pleasurable is not a given. The issue they (156) take with orgasms is that reducing pleasure to it relegates everything else and that it is seen as end, something that one must reach, which then posits desire as a lack, something one must fulfill, only to never to be able to do that, once and for all, as orgasm is something that you can reach, but not maintain. To be clear, I don’t think that (156) are against orgasms, as such. It’s rather that they are a particularly good example of how desire can be presented as a lack.

To summarize this, as they (157) do, desire can be presented as a lack, sure, so that, sex, for example, is about procreation, which, in turn, is how the priests want to view it or, rather contemporary state functionaries want to view it. For priests or functionaries, whatever word you want to use, fine by me, there’s no fucking around with fucking. There’s nothing frivolous about it. It’s serious business. We simply cannot have people finding pleasure in just whatever it is that they come to desire, now can we? No, we cannot. People need to be told how to live their lives, says each and every priest.

But how should people live then? Well, as they (157) out, that’s a question we shouldn’t even be asking. Instead, what’s interesting about desire and, I guess, pleasure, at least by extension, is that how we are drawn to this and/or that, whatever it may be. In their (157) words:

“The field of immanence or plane of consistency must be constructed. This can take place in very different social formations through very different assemblages (perverse, artistic, scientific, mystical, political) with different types of bodies without organs.”

Indeed. It all depends. On what? Well, on those bodies without organs, how they are organized, this and/or that way, to this and/or that extent. They (157) continue:

“It is constructed piece by piece, and the places, conditions, and techniques are irreducible to one another. The question, rather, is whether the pieces can fit together, and at what price.”

Now, you might be confused by the last point, price. Well, let’s say that everything has its price. Things can be organized in certain ways, which means that they are not all the same. So, we come to experience the world accordingly. You can’t have it all. You can, however, mix things up, as they (157) point out:

“Inevitably, there will be monstrous crossbreeds. The plane of consistency would be the totality of all BwO’s, a pure multiplicity of immanence, one piece of which may be Chinese, another American, another medieval, another petty perverse[.]”

In fact, things get mixed up, like it or not, as they (157) point out here. This is how subjectivity is produced, as they (157) go on to acknowledge. The thing to note here as well is that they prefer referring to refer to Spinoza’s (45) substance as the plane of consistency / immanence and use the body without organs, here the BwO, when it’s relevant to the production of subjectivity. They (157) aren’t too strict on that though and you can encounter them using the terms interchangeably. Even in this context they (157-158) mention that the bodies without organs potentially make up the plane of consistency, only to add that it’s sometimes called the body without organs. They (507) also ponder this themselves:

“Does the plane of consistency constitute the body without organs, or does the body without organs compose the plane? Are the Body without Organs and the Plane the same thing?”

Their (507) to this is rather cryptic:

“In any event, composer and composed have the same power[.]”

Now, I can’t be sure about this, as this is pretty cryptic, but, as I’ve pointed out in a previous essay, my take is that the plane of consistency, or immanence, is the one that constitutes the body without organs if we think of this from the perspective of Spinoza’s (45) substance, but from the perspective of the bodies, me and you included, the body without organs is the one to compose the plane as that’s what the plane is composed of. Then again it appears to be the same. I can’t be sure.

Anyway, be that as it may, same or not the same, I think you can think of Spinoza’s (45) substance as a body that, in itself, cannot be said to be organized in a certain way. It’s rather the modes that are organized in a certain way or, rather, the substance appears to us the way it does as modified in a certain way, considering that the modes are modifications of substance for Spinoza (45).

Where was I? Right, organism, signification, and subjectification. They (159) briefly comment on this, noting that each of us is an organism, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone, but what they mean by that is that our bodies are organized in a certain, let’s say, habitual way. In addition, they (114, 159) reckon that each of us has to play the game of signifier and signified, well, only signifier really, as there’s no such thing as the signified, only signifiers playing the role of the signified. On top of that, each us has to deal with subjectification and the doubling of the subject, so that you think of yourself as the one who says something and as that which says something in what you say, as they (159) point out. If you refuse to have to behave in a certain way, i.e., to have a body that is organized in a certain way, ignore your role as an interpreter and as interpreted, and/or refuse to the doubling of the subject, you’ll be treated as someone who is “depraved”, i.e., indecent, corrupt, or immoral, “deviant”, i.e., strayed from norms or standards, and/or “tramp”, i.e., vagrant, not knowing one’s place, as they (159) go on to add.

We can, however, give that a positive spin, to look all that from a different perspective, as they (159) do. So, someone who refuses organization and signification is doing experimentation. Like I should be right-handed, yet, I’ve experimented with my left hand, so that it can do many things like the right hand. Similarly, if you opt for the pragmatics route, you no longer think what something means, but what you can do with language and what kind of sense emerges from that. When it comes to avoiding subjectification, it’s about being nomadic, a nomadic subject, so that you just are what you are, at any given time, without any labels to it. There are no essences that you should realize. Okay, you can add labels, for the sake of convenience, but that’s beside the point. Such won’t define you as you already are what you are.

When it comes to me, I don’t I experiment a lot with my body. I try to learn to do things though. With language, I’m all about the sense and dialogue. I don’t wonder what something means. It just is what it is. I get it or I don’t. It’s that simple. As a subject, I’d say I’m nomadic. I’m happily all over the place. I couldn’t care less what I should or shouldn’t be. It’s probably what makes me appear like I don’t give a fuck, which is true, but only in the sense that I don’t think I am this and/or that, nor that I should be this and/or that. I just am what I am and that’s it. Something tells me that this pissed off that reviewer as well. I think that was misguided though. It was really bizarre to get criticized for (mis)representing or (mis)constituting an identity, considering that such nomadic subjectivity is not about identity, like at all. It’s the exact opposite. The only identity or, rather, essence that you have is singular, so it can’t be put into words. It just is. A part of me thinks it was also about jealousy. I mean when you become a nomadic subject, you eliminate all of your mental problems that are linked to signification, namely those connected to paranoia, as you no longer seek the meaning of whatever it is that you encounter, and subjectification, namely those connected to passionality, as none of it is, no longer, about you. Who wouldn’t want that? I mean, it is pretty great, I have to admit, as smug as that may seem.

Deleuze and Guattari (352-353) explain this issue of identity particularly well by comparing the two board games: chess and Go. In the former, you have a number of pieces that have preset identity: pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen and king. You can only move those pieces on the board accordingly. In the latter, you have a number of pieces, also known as stones, that do not move. Instead, they are placed on the board and what they are, i.e., what their identity is, is defined situationally, in relation to the other pieces that have been placed on the board.

If you didn’t the get the point of that, how that analogy works, that’s also how things work in real life. We can certainly think that there are preset identities, aka ideas, forms or essences, and let ourselves be defined accordingly, that is to say representationally, but there’s no need for that. I mean you can go that route, fair enough, but I certainly wouldn’t. I’d go with the situational identity instead. Why? Well, because then you are not tied to some, supposedly, transcendent idea, form or essence that, supposedly, defines not only who you are but also who you should be, nor to some arbitrary equivalent that someone else or, even worse, you yourself have come up with for the same purpose. Like I pointed out and have pointed out in the past, you still have an identity. It’s just that it’s situational, as stated by them (353). ‘It’ is always an ‘it’, as they (353) point out. So, you are what you’ve become. You can assess it, synchronically, i.e., at any given moment, as acknowledged by them (353), but even then, it’s simply about what you’ve become. So, substituting the Go pieces here us, in what they (353) express, we could simply say:

“[We] are elements of a nonsubjectified machine assemblage with no intrinsic properties, only situational ones.”

How about that for a definition of identity? I don’t know about you, but I love it! Feel free to hate it though. That’s your prerogative. Then again, you know what they say: haters gonna hate.

Anyway, what that reviewer failed to understand, quite miserably, is that academic writing functions in this way, so that you present your views, whatever they may be, as having their source in someone else’s views. When you assert something, that citation, regardless of its form, functions as a support to your argument, which is then to be read as based on someone else’s arguments, as indicated by that citation. You can, of course, distance yourself from others, like you do when you state … according to …, but that is a matter of style. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it, really, as long as you indicate that you didn’t come up with it yourself, but in dialogue with someone else’s work.

I want to emphasize that you do not represent anyone. Any views are always your views that you present by making others speak for you. It’s ventriloquism. I actually thought that over and I reckon it’s actually the other way around. It’s not that you speak through the voice of others, but rather that they speak through you. How so? Well, once you engage with people or, in their absence, with their works, you engage in dialogue with them. Whatever it is that you learn from them or, better yet, with them, to add a bit of creative flair to it, is bound to crop up later on. So, when I say or write something, it is not, strictly speaking, just me who says or writes something. In my view, it’s more accurate to say that they speak through me.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider what Deleuze and Guattari have to say about this when they state that (84):

“Language in its entirety is indirect discourse. Indirect discourse in no way supposes direct discourse; rather, the latter is extracted from the former, to the extent that the operations of signifiance and proceedings of subjectification in an assemblage are distributed, attributed, and assigned, or that the variables of the assemblage enter into constant relations, however temporarily.”

To make more sense of that, there’s indirect discourse, which is the mass of statements, and direct discourse is what’s extracted from it when we state something, as they (84) go on to add:

“Direct discourse is a detached fragment of a mass and is born of the dismemberment of the collective assemblage; but the collective assemblage is always like the murmur from which I take my proper name, the constellation of voices, concordant or not, from which I draw my voice.”

There is indeed that murmur, a constellation of voices that is channeled through us. Anyway, they (84) continue:

“I always depend on a molecular assemblage of enunciation that is not given in my conscious mind, any more than it depends solely on my apparent social determinations, which combine many heterogeneous regimes of signs.”

Note how it does not happen consciously. So, oddly enough, what I say or write, what I express, does not originate in me, but in others. They speak through me. That’s why they (84) argue that we are engaged in glossolalia:

“Speaking in tongues.”

Oh, and this is no religious rapture, no, no. That’s the unconscious that we are dealing with. They (84) continue:

“To write is perhaps to bring this assemblage of the unconscious to the light of day, to select the whispering voices, to gather the tribes and secret idioms from which I extract something I call my Self[.]”

Indeed, there are all these whispers, that murmur. We hear things that we then express ourselves, while thinking that it’s all us. I think Spinoza (135) explains this particularly well in his ‘Ethics’:

“[T]hose who believe, that they speak or keep silence or act in any way from the free decision of their mind, do but dream with their eyes open.”

He (134) does also exemplify that, first by making note of children’s behavior:

“Thus an infant believes that of its own free will it desires milk, an angry child believes that it freely desires vengeance, a timid child believes that it freely desiers to run away[.]”

Followed by his (134) take on adult behavior:

“[A] drunken man believes that he utters from the free decision of his mind words which, when he is sober, he would willingly have withheld.[.]”

As a side note, I kept the sexism of this example here, because I think it’s only apt. I mean we’ve all met this guy. Anyway, he (134) continues:

“[A] delirious man, a garrulous woman, a child, and others of like complexion, believe that they speak from the free decision of their mind, when they are in reality unable to restrain their impulse to talk.”

Now, why might that be, what he (134-135) explains? Well, he (134) reckons that:

“[People] believe themselves to be free, simply because they are conscious of their actions[.]”

In other words, they err to think that they are free to do as they see fit just because they are conscious. This is why it’s important to include what else he (134) has to say, what I just excluded there:

“…and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined[.]”

Ah, yes, people do forget the second part. This is exactly why I like to emphasize and as I keep repeating in my essays, what someone says or does is not as interesting as why that someone comes to say or do whatever it is that someone ends up saying or doing. In other words, there’s the appearance, for example what something looks like, and then there’s the apparition of it, how it comes to look the way it does. It’s a little thing, that comes to, but it changes everything. To be even more specific, it’s actually about how something might come to appear to us, just so that one isn’t insisting that there is only one path to a certain appearance.

To put it bluntly, what we like to think of as free will is an illusion. In Spinoza’s (119) words:

In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.”

Now, this makes him a determinist, but it’s actually not that simple. Long story short, as his (45) substance is all that is, as is, in itself, and we, like everything else, are only modes of it, existing only in relation to everything else, as affected by what else is there, while simultaneously affecting what else is there, to the extent that we are, of course affected and affecting what else is there, it is simply impossible for us to be free in the sense we like to think we are free. Instead, we can only affect things, like say or do something, on that basis. So, yes, we are free to do as we choose, at any given moment, but only on the basis of what we’ve become. When you get that, it’s actually pretty easy to predict what people are going to say or do. If you know what might have led them to be the way they are, at that moment, it’s not that difficult.

Deleuze (20) explains this quite neatly in ‘Spinoza: Practical Philosophy’, noting that we are in the habit of thinking that something affects another thing and that’s it. He (20) calls this the triple illusion. Firstly, it involves an illusion pertaining final cause, this caused that, which in turn caused that and so on and so forth, until one reaches the final cause of that (which is, of course, impossible to get to, but we forget that). You’ll find Spinoza ranting about that in his ‘Ethics’. Secondly, there’s the illusion pertaining to first cause, this causing that, having the freedom to do so. Thirdly, there’s the ace up one’s sleeve, the illusion of attributing whatever it is that we can’t explain to the will of God. This is why he (20) states that:

“Consciousness is only a dream with one’s eyes open.”

But what then causes consciousness? Again, long story short, it is the striving to perservere, what we can also refer to as the conatus, combined with the encounter of what else is there, as what else is there is what makes us what we are, at any given moment, as explained by him (21). To be more specific, he (21) states that:

These determinative affections are necessarily the cause of the consciousness of the conatus.”

As that’s quite the tightly packed definition, it is worth opening it up a bit, like he (21) goes on to do:

“[T]he affections are not separable from a movement by which they cause us to go to a greater or lesser perfection (joy and sadness), depending on whether the thing encountered enters into composition with us, or on the contrary tends to decompose us, consciousness appears as the continual awareness of this passage from greater or lesser, or from lesser to greater, as a witness of the variations and determinations of the conatus functioning in relation to other bodies or other ideas.”

Yeah, I’d say that’s about right, if you’ve read Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’. So, simply put, consciousness is just about being aware of how our bodies compose and decompose or, rather, enter into different compositions with what else is there. That happens, all the time, regardless of our awareness of it, i.e., unconsciously. Consciousness is then about dreaming with our eyes open, just like he (20) points out.

Right, back to Deleuze and Guattari (3) who also deal with this matter of composition in the introduction of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd.”

What they mean by this is that they both were one, on their own, yet, oddly enough, many as well. They (3) add to this:

“To reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.”

If you don’t get it, as you might not if you just picked up the book and started with the introduction, what they are saying is that one is always many. A speaker is always many speakers. A writer is always many writers. You don’t really notice it, consciously, unless you pay attention to it and even then it’s difficult to notice. I don’t notice it that often. It’s tough to notice. There are, however, times where I’m like, woah, did I just say that? It’s not that I’m not in control of what I say, no, not really, but rather that it’s like I know who had said it and now I said it, as if that person spoke through me. It’s more obvious when you deal with people who have been “aided, inspired, multiplied” by people who you can clearly recognize as having “aided, inspired, multiplied” them, as they (3) put it. For me, that’s when I read or listen to someone who, like me, has read a lot of French philosophy. That style is there. You can’t hide it. It’s like those philosophers spoke through them. It’s the same with priests. They can’t hide it. Like when I think of it, that reviewer couldn’t have been more Platonist about it, with all the talk about (mis)representations and (mis)constitutions, so it’s like, wait, don’t I know this? Haven’t I run into this person before? And no, I don’t mean the person commonly known among academics as reviewer #2. No, that’s not it, even though superficially it was, because, like I pointed out in a previous essay, it didn’t seem to be in bad faith. Anyway, then I realized that, woah, is that you, Aristotle? Are you speaking through this person? So, it’s like Deleuze (127) explains it in ‘To Have Done with Judgment’:

“I want to judge, I have to judge[.]”

Note how it’s not just a job. It’s not just about being a judge, a referee, or a reviewer. Instead, it’s like he (127) puts it, so that “judgment merges with the psychology of the priest”. Yes, that’s it! It’s not about the position itself, but about a desire to judge.

To go back a bit, representationalism is necessary for this to work, which would explain why that reviewer got so upset by my text. I mean, I do admit that it is a crushing take on representationalism and I totally get it that a priest wouldn’t like that. You can’t judge without having recourse to a higher plane, as Deleuze (127) goes on to explain:

“[T]he judgment of knowledge in this sense implies a prior moral and theological form[.]”

Yes, you need those forms in order to judge whether something represents the form and how faithfully it represents the form. Similarly, if we think in terms of essences, to use Aristotle’s terms instead of the Plato’s terms, you need those essences in order to judge whether something realizes its essence and to what extent it realizes that essence.

Deleuze and Guattari (64) also comment this in ‘Anti-Oedipus’, noting that when one internalizes this, that psychology of the priest, it involves a “pseudoindividual fantasy”. By this they (64) they mean that, on one hand, one seeks to understand the other, like my reviewer did, noting that there was much to like about it, but, on the other hand, there’s always that psychology of the priest that kicks in, so that in that role of a judge, in this case of a reviewer, the person ends up condemning.

This is brough up again in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, where they (107) note that judgment, as a system, requires order-words, which, is the term they (77-79) use for speech acts, as defined by J. L. Austin in ‘How to Do Things with Words’. In their (79) words:

“The only possible definition of language is the set of all order-words, implicit presuppositions, or speech acts current in a language at a given moment.”

Now, to link this to judgment, they (107) state that:

“Order-words bring immediate death to those who receive the order, or potential death if they do not obey, or a death they must themselves inflict, take elsewhere.”

Now, obviously, these days we aren’t put to death by order-words, nor is there a threat of such, but that’s beside the point. This is about the fear of death that Spinoza (232-233) considers to prevent us from living our lives freely. In other words, order-words are judgments that seek to limit people’s freedom, i.e. their capacity to act and be acted upon. In their (107) words:

“Death, death; it is the only judgment, and it is what makes judgment a system. The verdict.”

If you ask me, this is what constitutes the psychology of the priest. There’s always that desire to put people down, in the sense that it’s about criticizing and disapproving them, as well as about doing away with them, which is why it’s sort of apt to refer to it as death, as they (107) do. They (107) summarize the centrality of death in this:

“In effect, death is everywhere, as that ideal, uncrossable boundary separating bodies, their forms, and states, and as the condition, even initiatory, even symbolic, through which a subject must pass in order to change its form or state.”

Indeed, the priest sees it as its privilege to be the authority that one must consult. It’s like that in academic reviews as well. Nothing is worse to a priest than people doing their own thing, the way they see fit. They (107) go on to summarize how this works as a system:

“[It is] a regime that involves a hieratic and immutable Master who at every moment legislates by constants, prohibiting or strictly limiting metamorphoses, giving figures clear and stable contours, setting forms in opposition two by two and requiring subjects to die in order to pass from one form to the other.”

The point here is that you are either this or that and you are to judged accordingly, as conforming or deviating from that form. It’s that simple. Don’t you dare to cross that boundary! Not on my watch! To explain how this works in practice, they (107) note that:

“It is always by means of something incorporeal that a body separates and distinguishes itself from another. The figure, insofar as it is the extremity of a body, is the noncorporeal attribute that limits and completes that body: death is the Figure.”

In other words, without getting lost in the weeds, this is how language functions. As a body, you are designated as something, as this and/or that signifier, and judged accordingly. That’s signification for you. Oh, and you are expected to toe the line, as it is considered to be the law, as they (88, 113) point out. That’s subjectification for you.

But why do people want to judge? Why does someone want to be a priest? That’s a good question. My answer is that it is a sweet gig, as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous essays. I’ll try to see if I can provide a better answer, but I’ll leave that for another essay. There is also the opposite of judgment, which they (343) call a synthesizer, but that’s also something that I want to take a closer look, later on, not now.

In conclusion, this was quite the romp, with a bit of this and a bit of that in the mix. But, well, that’s how I like it, happily all over the place.


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In the meanwhile

I didn’t get manage to find a lot of time to write the next essay, so this will be short. It’ll be more like catching up, mixed with elaborating what I might be doing next. I hope you don’t mind, although not that you have any saying on that, this being my platform, not yours.

Anyway, in summary, I got my contract renewed. To be more precise, I got another post, but my tasks are pretty much the same, so it’s like a renewal of contract, nonetheless. That’s good.

I also travelled abroad, to a friend’s wedding, which was nice. I can’t remember when it was the last time that I had a vacation. Usually my travels are somehow work related, one way or another. It was a bit strange, not doing anything work related, just eating, drinking, chatting, walking, idling and sleeping. But it was pretty packed with stuff, so after the trip I felt like I needed a vacation from the vacation.

I also watched like four films in five days early in the month. Starting from the one that didn’t really do it for me, ‘Operation Mincemeat’ was alright, well done and all, but, yeah, let’s say it wasn’t that eventful. The most exciting thing was pondering whether one of the characters had a Welsh accent. To be fair, there was nothing wrong with the film and while it had its moments, but it just it just wasn’t that interesting. Then there was ‘The Northman’, which certainly was more eventful, but knowing what it was based on, the story was like on rails. It was like watching a revenge western set in the Viking Age. That’s not by any means a bad thing, as I tend to like westerns, but, yeah, this didn’t surprise me either. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ took action to the next level, that’s for sure, but, what can I say, except that it’s one of those films that doesn’t have a script, really, and you are there just for the ride. I mean it’s basically just Tom Cruise flying some planes, driving a motorcycle and smiling at a woman. It’s fine, if that’s what you’re into. To be fair, it wasn’t just all that and then some more of it, although it was mainly just that. I think they managed to display the downside of being a maverick quite well. That jab by some other younger pilot, for being a loner, not having wife and kids, yeah, that landed. He kept a brave face, but it did seem to sting. ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ turned out to be the most eventful film and not just in terms of the action. There was plenty of action, but it was so all over the place, with a bit of this and a bit of that, without explaining it to you, like, at all, so that you had to piece together yourself. It’s demanding, yes, but that’s how I like it. No holding your hand. Figure it out. If you can’t do that, well, too bad, too bad for you. That’s your problem.

It’s not like I didn’t write anything this month. I did. It was mostly just elaborating the theory for that article that got rejected, mainly based on the feedback from the constructive reviewers, so #1 and #2. The one that had nothing to contribute, #3, won’t get the pleasure of having any effect the next version. That feedback so useless that you could summarize it as na-na na-na boo-boo. It was so misguided that it was bananas. Thanks for nothing. Anyway, I’m working on that text. I’ll probably post it online, in an extended form, so that you can actually get to read it one of these days, instead of, you know, a couple of years later, in some inferior form that has most of the good stuff cut and looking like something I wouldn’t write if I had my way. The actual articles, those proper ‘publications’, are just about the metrics anyway. If I were you, I’d read the version I prefer anyway.

I’ve also come up with some new ideas, but we’ll see if I can turn them into something later on. Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on what I have time for and what happens to attract me at the time, whether I want to do this and/or that.

Levels of difficulty

I can’t say it was like clockwork, the usual three months or so that a typical manuscript takes to go through review, because it was way longer than that, not that I minded, really, because I had other stuff to do in the meanwhile, but, anyway, a text of mine came back from review. As expected, it was a rejection.

To be fair, I think it was, overall, a fair rejection. There wasn’t a whole lot the editor could say or do, aside the usual, don’t take this too personally and use the feedback constructively, as suggestions rather than as something that must be done. That’s alright. I also liked that the feedback from the editor wasn’t some copied and pasted polite response, accompanied by harsh criticism from the reviewers, which would have sent some really mixed messages.

I have my own way of handling feedback that I’ve adopted from Jan Blommaert. I highly recommend watching his Youtube videos, especially ‘Jan Blommaert on “writing an academic paper”’, in which he points out that, sadly, there’s certainly no shortage of bad reviewers. While he acknowledges the reasons for that, namely how it’s largely just unrewarding extra work, on top of your regular work (which, I’d say, may also be rather unrewarding, but’s that’s another story), the thing is that you tend to get superficial and more or less useless feedback. I totally agree. Anyway, the point he makes in the video is that it is what it is, as I like to point out in a lot of other contexts as well, that you just have to deal with it, that you will get unfairly and unjustly treated by people who aren’t even interested in your work or somehow manage to read it in some misdirected way. This is why he recommends dismissing a lot of feedback that you get. If it’s not good, feel free to dismiss it. I think it’s worth pointing out that he really emphasizes this point, that it is your prerogative to do so. Again, I totally agree.

My own approach is to take what I consider valuable and that’s it. If I disagree with someone and can explain why that is, why they are wrong about it, it’s my prerogative to dismiss that feedback. Like Blommaert points out, while the review process makes it look like that it’s a just process, so that the judgment is thought to be an indication of the quality of your work, the problem is that a lot of the judgments are “flawed, seriously flawed”. To be clear, it’s not that you won’t run into good reviewers, that’s not it, because you will, I for sure have. It’s great to get useful feedback. Importantly, they will not only point out to this or that problem, but they may also suggest how to solve it, as Blommaert also points out. That’s what I call constructive criticism. That’s helpful. What’s not helpful is to get feedback where it is pointed out that you have a problem, at least supposedly, only to be left hanging, without being given any indication as to how one would fix the problem. If you do that, you are just being an asshole as you have nothing to contribute.

But what is the secret sauce to publishing then? Well, I’d say perseverance. Sure, read the feedback. Pay attention to the cases where someone indicates a problem and also provides a possible solution to it. Check how the problems and the possible solutions to them are presented. If they are presented as commentary and suggestions, that is to say as something that you could consider, as opposed to something that you must do, then I’d make some notes on that and see if there’s something to it. If someone says that you must do something, yeah, that’s how you know. To really condense the main thing here, “feel free to … simply reject it as irrelevant”, as explained by Blommaert.

He also recommends pulling your paper from the system, if it takes too long, like months and months, like a lot of months, because, in his view, that’s also an indication that things aren’t going well. I have never done this, but, to be honest, I was starting to think that I should, before I got this feedback. It was just too long. I’m a kind of a no-nonsense person. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t. No need to sugar coat it. And if you don’t have the time for it, or it will take you too long to deal with it because you aren’t familiar with what you need to deal with, just pass on it.

I like how Blommaert wraps up the process, how you write a paper and how you deal with publishing, by stating it is you who is in charge, not the reviewers. Like I’ve said before, and as he also says on the video, it’s your work, not theirs. To me that means that you get to do whatever you like with it. If you feel like this isn’t working for you, send your work elsewhere, as he also points out. It’s that simple, really. You get to choose and, as he points out, there’s a lot to choose from.

I used to write these boring ass papers, much to my chagrin, because I had little choice, not having the proper academic rank, if you will. That’s being disciplined for you, to weave in some Michel Foucault here. I wanted to do all kinds of things and I’m sure I got away with some of it, like being somewhat happily all over the place and what not, but there was always this expectation to conform, to do what I was expected to do, to write according to a template, which I’m sure you are familiar with if you’ve ever written an academic paper: introduction (including clear research questions), theory (including a literature review), materials and methods, analysis, discussion, conclusion. Boring!

There’s also this bit where Blommaert expresses his clear dislike of doing more of the same, just replicating what’s been done before, what I take to be according to some existing method. I agree. Boring! I’d say that this also applies to theory (which is, by the way, one of those words that I avoid using). In this context, why would I write a paper where I just replicate what has already been stated? Why would I start from, let’s say, a Marxist premise to landscape research? I mean I guess I could, but then I would have to point out how the premise is wrong, to correct it, for it to be an actual contribution, you know, for it to be interesting. So, when I start with a complex conceptual framework that I’m pretty sure most people are unfamiliar with, I’m doing what I think I’m supposed to be doing, something interesting, as opposed to just playing it safe, doing whatever it is that I’m expected to do.

I was happy to run into Blommaert’s commentary of this topic, what this essay is really about, about writing an academic paper. I love how he explains it. You just need an idea, that one thing, that nugget of gold, no less, no more, and then you work it into a paper in the form of a narrative, which is a telling of sorts that, in this case, didn’t go down too well with the Reviewer #3. I also love how he’s like … whatever you do … do not, I repeat, do not subscribe to the template, what he calls “the canonical structure”, and how he points out that if he sees that, he won’t waste a minute on it.

Blommaert makes another important point about a text. It’s not just that you have that idea and that narrative, but also that it’s like a piece of literature, that it has this aesthetic to it, what he also likens to a style or a voice. He really emphasizes this, noting that it’s so that if you were to read your own text, you’d take pleasure in it. That’s a good point. I mean if you don’t like what it is that you are doing, why are you even doing it? That’s just bananas! He also puts it in another way, noting that it’s about being captivating, drawing in your reader, which, I think, is like with literature. If it’s really good, you are sucked into it, or so to speak.

What I really love about what Blommaert has to say is the point about having no pressure to write what it is that you write about. It was exactly like that with this paper that got rejected. I was like okay, I’m gonna do this, and I did. I had something to say and I said it, like he recommends. All this propriety regarding articles, aka ‘published’ works (as if this isn’t ‘published’, because, haha, it is, as just by reading this will confirm it, unless I’m dead and you are reading a draft of this, as that’s what’s actually something that’s ‘unpublished’), is something that he finds “entirely academic”. To me, that’s another way of saying it doesn’t really matter. Instead, what matters is that it’s out there. It’s like you’ve already won. Getting it ‘published’ is just what the academic system expects you to do. Like he points out, “that’s only important for your statistics, your metrics”, which is exactly how it is. It’s like playing a game, as he puts it. You have to do it, unless, I guess, you manage to change the system. Then again, to have an impact on anyone’s life, yeah, some formal article is very unlikely going to do that. As he explains it, “you want to write to be read”, which, in my view, is like saying that a paper in a formal journal is likely going to be as unimportant to people as a paper in a drawer.

This is the normal difficulty level

If I had to summarize the issue with my work, regardless of the field or discipline that I deal with, is that it is some next level shit. The level of knowledge required to understand just the premise of it is ridiculous. Oh, and it’s not in a bad way ridiculous. That’s just the way it is, like mindboggling. It’s not like when you know the field or discipline, who’s who, what’s what, and what’s the latest thing. No. Not at all. It’s like when you start from all that and then work your way through what they’ve started from, and so on and so forth. You’ll eventually end up reading some really difficult stuff, which is only bound to make feel like you are going insane while at it. That’s philosophy for you. That’s when you start thinking of all kinds of presuppositions. That’s going to be very, very difficult and time consuming, which is why I reckon people don’t go there and why they are happy to do more of the same. I can acknowledge the work of others, the points they make and the things they express particularly well, kudos to them, even if I don’t agree with them or their presuppositions.

Now, I realize that saying that I deal with some next level shit is a bold claim to make. Yes. It is. It most certainly is, but I don’t mind saying it. The thing is, however, that I’m not content on doing more of the same. That’s awfully boring. I want to raise the bar, to go beyond, to make things interesting. That’s what I do and if you can’t handle that, I don’t know what to say, except, too bad, sucks to be you, I guess. I wouldn’t want to be you, no matter who you are, how much bank you make and how prestigious you are. That’s all just smoke and mirrors.

In this case the problem is that the people I end up having to deal with have a poor knowledge of semiotics. Come on! It’s not even that difficult! Okay, fair enough, it is pretty difficult, but what did you expect. To make sense of reality, without having to familiarize yourself with semiotics? Haha! I’m sorry, but that’s just laughable!

Now, to be fair, I may have too high expectations, probably because I do tend to push the envelope. I’m well aware that knowing what I know is not something that you typically learn by doing a degree and/or by doing research. It’s not like I run into a lot of fellow academics who have a clue of what it is that I’m doing, even if I explain it to them. Honestly, they are like … what in the world? So, yeah, maybe this just wasn’t a good match. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. I reckon Baruch Spinoza would certainly agree and that’s plenty of consolation to me. He’d be like, well, not that you wanted it to be this way, because you didn’t, but it had to be this way as otherwise it wouldn’t be this way, followed by a cheeky wink, I presume.

So, to get somewhere with this essay, there were three reviewers. I’m tempted to argue that Reviewer #3 was you know who, the infamous Reviewer #2, but, to be fair, I don’t think the criticism was in bad faith. Instead, I think it was just misguided. I’ll go through most of it.

To comment on all of them first, what’s common with all of them is that, well, how to put it nicely, they just don’t seem to get it. To be fair, I’d say that Reviewer #1 did actually get it, but just wasn’t able to connect the dots, to understand how, in the end, it’s all about the function, that abstract machine. There’s this generally commentary of it, of my Deleuze-Guattarian framework, how landscape or, rather, landscapity, is an abstract machine, but Reviewer #1 struggles to see how the example I’ve chosen exemplifies it, how it, landscapity, that abstract machine, and the landscape, the substance of expression in which a form of expression is manifested, as defined in relation to a form of content that is manifested in the substance of content, which in this case is simply the world.

Reviewer #2 also comments on this, but unlike Reviewer #1, doesn’t seem to get it. There’s this initial appreciation of it, like okay, okay, interesting, but then it seems like Reviewer #2 is left puzzled by it, like … wait what did I just read. To be fair, that’s Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari for you. I’d say that’s exactly what happens, and probably it’s by design. They try to make you think. It’s you who needs to do much of the hard work, not the writer, which in this case is me. It is you who must connect the dots. It does result in scratching your head like … what in the world … I know there’s something to this … which will then open up to you if you let it open up to you. Oh, and you need to let that happen. If your mentality is that I don’t get it, because I’m not given easy answers, then, well, what can I say, that’s on you as you aren’t, currently, capable of letting go of that.

What about Reviewer #3? Well, let’s say that Reviewer #1 gets it, but wants me to explain it all better, which is fair enough, and Reviewer #2 wants to get it, but there’s, I’d say, a general unwillingness to understand it when it comes to Reviewer #3. The commentary of Reviewer #3 is fairly similar to that of Reviewers #1 and #2 as there is this concern that the framework does not appear to be connected to the analysis. The difference between Reviewer #3 and Reviewers #1 and #2 is, however, in how the commentary is presented. Whereas Reviewers #1 and #2 acknowledge that they’ve been fairly critical in their commentary, if not at times harsh, Reviewer #3 doesn’t offer such courtesy. I don’t mind criticism, inasmuch as it is constructive, but, well, that’s the problem here with Reviewer #3. I won’t get tangled up on it here, because it is beside the point when it comes to summarizing the commonalities between the Reviewers.

The thing is that it’s all already there. If you’ve read the relevant section that explains the framework and understood it, the rest of the text makes sense to you. I’ve explained that. It’s explained in a fairly concise or summary form, yes, but it’s all there. If you get it, you get it. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. It’s certainly a watershed moment.

Ramping up the difficulty

In the paper, I start out by explaining how it all works in semiotic terms, really, really, broadly speaking, how landscape isn’t a material thing, nor a semiotic thing, but an in-between the two. That’s sense for you. I then move on to explain how Deleuze and Guattari define it, not as a representation of reality, but as a construction of it. That’s the abstract machine of landscapity for you.

The beauty of it all, if you start from Louis Hjelmslev and work your way through Deleuze and Guattari, as I do, as I’ve done, is that once you get it, you get it. It’s like wow! Wow, wow, wow! It all makes sense now! Why? Well, to give some credit to Reviewer #3, you can indeed use this framework for literally anything. That’s exactly why it may seem so disconnected. Like why this example? Well, why not? It’s that applicable! Now you’re probably like, oh, oh really, is that so? And I’m like, oh, yeah! Yes, yes and yes!

My answer, having actually read Hjelmslev, not just Deleuze and Guattari’s take on his work, because isn’t that what you are supposed to do as a scholar, not just take someone’s word for it, it’s all about the function. Once you get that, that it’s all about the function, what Deleuze and Guattari call the abstract machine, you start to make sense of the world in terms of functions. Once you get to that point, it’s easy to apply that to, well, everything. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s Carl Bache’s (2573) take on this in ‘Hjelmslev’s Glossematics: A source of inspiration to Systemic Functional Linguistics?’:

“So there is a sense in which OSG/Prolegomena provides a brief introduction to the theory about everything.”

Sydney Lamb (181) makes similar remarks about Hjelmslev’s work in Herman Parret’s ‘Discussing Language’:

“But I would also hesitate to accept the notion that Hjelmslev’s view of language was closed, because he offers just a breathtakingly broad view at the end of the Prolegomena, in which language relates to practically everything.”

That’s also my reading of Hjelmslev. Why is it so applicable then? Well, I think that Lamb (179) expresses this particularly well:

“I kept being impressed by Hjelmslev’s view that the linguistic system is nothing but a system of relationships.”

This is also what makes it so, so difficult. It is really, really abstract. Why? Well, because it has to be. It has to be really, really abstract, so that it functions in just about any context. It is also loaded with concepts, which makes it even more difficult to comprehend. To give you an idea of that, Hjelmslev’s ‘Prolegomena to a Theory of Language’ is only 82 pages, but he (83-87) works with 106 definitions. That’s more than one per page. Plus, he is in the habit of defining some concepts, only to abandon them later on in favor of other concepts. I’m well aware how that’s not very reader friendly, but that’s how he operates. I don’t think Bache is wrong when he (2568) states that a lot of people consider that “a terminological nightmare.”

I acknowledge that Hjelmslev’s work is difficult. It is. I don’t think people doubt that. That said, I don’t think difficulty of someone’s work should mean that you can just ignore it. The way I see it, obstacles are meant to be overcome, problems are to be solved and questions are to be answered. If you can’t do that, you either give up or persist. Both are fine by me. If you aren’t interested in what I’m interested in, the way I do it, that’s fine by me. But if you are interested in what I’m interested in and your job is to judge it, you do have to persist. You can’t just give up and be like, well, I don’t like this because I don’t like it, which is pretty much tends to happen to Reviewers.

Lamb hits the nail in the head in ‘Epilegomena to a Theory of Language’, which is like a forty-page review of Hjelmslev’s best known work, the ‘Prolegomena to a Theory of Language’, when he (556) states that:

Prolegomena is not designed for bedtime reading.”

This is because it is a difficult book, only 82 pages, yes, but with 106 terms. The Danish original is some 112 pages, probably because of differences in the layout, but it doesn’t provide definitions for the relevant terms, only a list of them in the end. The English translation not only includes a list, but it also provides concise definitions, which may or may not help you, and indicates what you need to also understand in order to understand that definition. That’s what I meant by presuppositions earlier on. To make matters worse, it’s not like a term presupposes just the indicated presuppositions, because to understand them, you need to also take into account their presuppositions. Oh yeah, and according to Lamb (556-557), the total number of terms is not actually 106 but 111.

If you judge someone’s work and you don’t understand it, what it is based on, it’s your job to familiarize yourself with what they build on. In this case, before you even get to Deleuze and Guattari, who, in turn, build on Hjelmslev’s work, and their take on landscape or, rather, landscapity, you need to get through the first two paragraphs. They are difficult paragraphs, that’s for sure, there being like 11 terms thrown at you. I do, however, proceed in a logical order, so that you aren’t left wondering what’s what. Moreover, I not only indicate the source or sources that each sentence builds on, like what you’d expect, really, but I also provide the page numbers. I’m well aware that I’m not even expected to provide the page numbers in academic texts unless I quote verbatim, but I generally do that for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a matter of transparency. Don’t trust me? Well, as I’m clearly indicating where it’s from, you can have a look. It’s that easy. Secondly, it not only helps the reader to the source, but it also narrows down where you can find more information on what it is that I’m dealing with it. So, yeah, to go back to Lamb’s (556) point, my Reviewers must have been expecting some light bedtime reading, which they for sure didn’t get. Now that shouldn’t have been a problem, because, well, it wasn’t, because I was kind enough to even provide page numbers.

Can’t be arsed

While the feedback from Reviewers #1 and #2 was largely constructive, it is worth noting that Reviewer #3 really didn’t have anything noteworthy to contribute. It’s like … this could be better. Thanks?

For some reason Reviewer #3 wasn’t happy with the way I presented things. I don’t know how you, Reviewer #3, can assert that I present the ideas of others as my own. What. The. Actual. Fuck? I. Do. Not. It is all clearly documented. I even provide the page numbers. Why would I go through all that effort, when I don’t even have to do that? That makes no sense. This is just bananas. Oh, and you do realize that you did accuse me of plagiarism?

There’s something really bizarre about this. Reviewer #3, you explicitly acknowledge that the Deleuzo-Guattarian framework is a synthesis. To be clear, you do realize that I can’t claim the ideas to be mine if it is clear from the get-go that I acknowledge their work, that it’s based on their work, that the framework is Deleuzo-Guattarian. That’s just illogical. A synthesis is always a synthesis of something, something that already exists.

I’m gonna let that slide, all those unfounded claims of plagiarism, because Reviewer #3 clearly doesn’t know how academic writing works. As the reference style of the journal is an endnote-based system, all you need to do is check the number and find the corresponding number in the end of the text. That’s all you need. That’s how the endnote-based reference system works. It’s also noteworthy that the other reviewers, Reviewer #2 and Reviewer #3 had nothing to say about this.

I think it’s worth emphasizing that the relevant section that you, Reviewer #3, consider to be the problem contains over 40 citations. They are clearly marked. I followed the journal reference style to the letter. If you think that the reference style that the journal uses isn’t good, that’s not my problem.

Reviewer #3, you also clearly acknowledge that you can find the relevant information in the end of the text, where it is all supposed to be according to the endnote-based reference system, yet you keep implying that this is not how you do it, that it is such a hassle to find the relevant citation in the endnotes, and indicate that the citations are imprecise, mere gestures. Firstly, how are they imprecise? Like I already pointed out, and as you could clearly see, the citations even include page numbers, which is something I’m not even expected to do, unless I quote verbatim. We clearly have different definitions when it comes to precision. Secondly, you complain about that. Why? It’s all there. If you doubt my sincerity, which you do, it is up to you, as a reviewer, to check on the cited works. It’s not my problem if you can’t be arsed to do something. That’s on you.

As my word is just my word, I’m going to be anal about this and, yes, you probably guessed it, cite someone. Let’s have a look at what John Swales has to say about this. He’s a linguist and specializes in genre analysis, so, yeah, he probably knows a thing or two about the conventions of this academic genre. In ‘Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings’, he (148) makes a basic distinction between two forms of citation, the integral citation and the non-integral citation. The former he (148) defines as the case where:

“[T]he name of the researcher occurs in the actual citing sentence as some sentence-element[.]”

The latter he (148) defines as the case where:

“[T]he researcher occurs either in parenthesis or is referred to elsewhere by a superscript number or via some other device.”

This is exactly how I was taught this as an undergrad and how it is that I teach it to undergrads. You probably didn’t expect that, that I am actually a language specialist, whose job it is to know this stuff, but that’s what you get when you have nothing to contribute and you start making things up to look like you’ve read the paper, that you’ve done your review. So, yeah, both are fine. Both get the job done as there’s a clear indication of authorship in each case. No confusion.

There is, of course, further distinction between the two. Swales and Christine Feak (77) comment in ‘Academic Writing for Graduate Students’ that using non-integral citations you focus on the content, i.e., the information, as opposed to the source of information, which is, conversely, of course, what you’ll be focusing on if you utilize integral citations.

What do other textbooks have to say about this? Well, at least Maggie Charles and Diane Pecorari agree with Swales and Feak. Charles and Pecorari (101-102) state in ‘Introducing English for Academic Purposes’ that non-integral citation stresses the importance of the findings, and that integral citation stresses the importance of the cited author. Moreover, they (102) add that non-integral citation gives the writer more flexibility than integral citation. As they (102) point out, it’s particularly handy because you can cite multiple works in each instance. It offers that compactness, as they (102) go on to add. On top of that, the frequent use of integral citations can make it look like you don’t know what you are talking about, as they (102) also point out. It’s like you are not committed to what it is that you are dealing with. That’s the upside of non-integral citations. It is you stating what it is that someone else has stated in their work, in agreement with it. As you are aligning yourself with someone else’s work, you are willing to take the flak for it. Integral citation gives you that extra leeway that allows you to distance yourself from someone else’s work. If you ask me, the dirty thing with integral citation is that you can state something, imply something with it, and if someone challenges you, you can point out that, well, it’s not, strictly speaking, me saying that, it’s the other person saying that, even though, clearly, it is you who is saying that, considering it is you who is the writer or the author, as that text would not exist otherwise.

The general thing with citations is that there isn’t a right or a wrong way of doing it, as it’s really a matter of “your own style and the flow of your work”, as Richard Pears and Graham Shields (7) state in ‘Cite Them Right: The Essential Referencing Guide’. The crucial thing, the only thing that matters, is that when you cite someone else’s work “you must ensure that you do not change the original meaning”, as Pears and Shields (15) point out. In other words, if you build on someone else’s work, not only must you cite that someone else’s work and reference it, so that it’s clear where it’s all from, but you must also be sure that whatever it is that you express can be found in that work that you cite and refer to. While Pears and Shields (15) only state this in the context of paraphrasing, I’d say that it also applies to summarizing. I mean, if you summarize someone else’s work in a way that just isn’t the case, then you are doing it wrong.

How do you know that people stay true to the works they build on? The simple answer is that you don’t, unless you know the works well or dedicate the time to checking on those things, which is possible if the author has provided you the page numbers. I’d say that this is to some extent also a matter of interpretation. If you ask me, when you dealing with paraphrasing and summarizing, there is always going to be some difficulty involved. You can basically only check if what the author states is in line with the work or works cited and that’s about it. Oh, and you are pretty much out of luck if someone cites something specific from a 500-page tome without giving you the page numbers, which you can do as typically you are only expected to indicate page numbers when quoting verbatim. I don’t like it, because it’s not transparent then, like who is going to try to find it in that 500-page tome, but, again, I don’t make the rules.

There’s a good article on this topic by David Henige: ‘Discouraging Verification: Citation Practices Across Disciplines’. In summary, Henige laments the common practice of not giving a damn about page numbers when citing others. That’s the gist of it. He (105) makes note of how people may cite articles and books, which would make sense if it is just to contextualize one’s own work in relation to their work, but, apparently, it’s more common for people to do that in the context of “addressing specific information and arguments.” He (111) also makes note of the absurdity of it, how, somehow, someone can make a specific claim, while citing four works, of which a couple are two volumes, so it’s actually six works, all of them books, some 3000 pages in total. Yeah, what do you reckon? Is someone going to check on that? They are not. I realize that in many cases you are not required to indicate the page, but I reckon that not only is it potentially dishonest, but it also hinders further research.

Which one should you utilize then? Well, that’s not for me to decide, but I’d go with both, with emphasis on the non-integral citation as that’s how you retain your voice. It’s your work, so you get to have a voice. It also helps you to keep things compact, which is always a problem with articles. It was also the case with this article. You got to make room and you have to make tough decisions. Style is often one of the things that you just have to let go off first as what really matters is that you get the point across, without claiming that the idea is yours, as indicated by the citation. The integral citation is for cases where you want to either spice things up, to make the text less monotonous or to maintain a certain distance to the work you are citing. It can work great, here and there, but it doesn’t look good if it’s there a lot of it as the distancing it provides takes away from your own voice.

So, if I am to analyze my own approach in the section that Reviewer #3 deemed to be problematic, I start out strong, expressing how I understand landscape in semiotic terms. I utilize a non-integral citation, Hjelmslev’s ‘Prolegomena to a Theory of Language’, with relevant page numbers. It is followed by a similar sentence, that connects to the first sentence, with a connector ‘therefore’. It signals to the reader that this expands on the previous sentence, which implies that these sentences should be understood together, the first one providing you a brief definition, followed by further elaboration. I provide a bit of my own commentary here, clearly marked by the use of i.e., which is Latin for ‘that is’. It indicates that it is added commentary. This second sentence is then tied to a third sentence that connects itself to the second one by the connector ‘instead’, which functions as a point of contrast. Here you get two additional non-integral citations. The following sentence, the fourth one, adds to these sentences, by linking to them with ‘moreover’. A non-integral citation is provided. The fifth sentence contains my commentary as it explains the same thing, my understanding of Hjelmslev’s views in other words. This is clearly signaled to the reader with ‘this simply means’. Sixth sentence then connects to it, explaining it ‘in other words’, providing further commentary to it, followed by a non-integral citation. The paragraph is then broken up by the diagrammatic illustration of this, the point being to help the reader to understand that. It is then further elaborated in the following long sentence that contains yet another non-integral citation.

Why did I opt for non-integral citations in this paragraph? Well, it’s on purpose. If you are familiar with Deleuze and Guattari’s work, you know that you won’t find them explaining landscape like that. They don’t package it that neatly. You have to piece it together, bit by bit. That’s what I’ve done. I can take credit for that. What I can’t take credit for is the ideas themselves, which are clearly indicated as traceable to the works of others. There’s no foul play here.

Also, to be clear, I actually have read Hjelmslev’s work. I’m familiar with it, so, yeah, I don’t need your permission to explain it. This is the same with Deleuze and Guattari. I mean, if you’ve seen these essays, I don’t think you wanna challenge me on that. Again, even if that weren’t the case, even if I didn’t know what I’m talking about, I do provide the necessary citations. I don’t claim to have invented those concepts. To be honest, like most people, I don’t think I’ve ever invented anything and it is only very likely that I never will. A synthesis is currently the best I can do and it’s not that there isn’t value to synthesis, as there most certainly is, as it’s like pulling all the strands together, making sense of it all, but no, I’m under no illusion that I’ve invented anything.

I also got flak for the same thing from Reviewer #3 when I clarified my own position, in opposition of representationalism. I give a reason for this, noting that the issue I take with representationalism is tied to how difference is subordinated to identity, followed by a non-integral citation to Deleuze’s ‘Difference and Repetition’ and to Guattari’s ‘Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis’. The idea is introduced in the former, which means that is not my idea. It’s Deleuze’s. There’s no confusion about that (except, perhaps, that it might actually be Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea). The idea is further discussed in the latter, which also supports my own stance. Again, nowhere do I claim that subordination of difference to identity is somehow my idea.

I took the liberty of looking up a couple of random referencing guides that pertain to footnotes and endnotes. For example, Murdoch University’s ‘Footnote – Referencing Guide: Citing in the Text’ indicates that “[i]t is not necessary to mention either the author(s) or the date of the reference unless it is relevant to your text” as the same thing can be done with many ways, nor to indicate the reference otherwise except in superscriptx. There’s even case where it’s indicated that it’s fine to include a sentence, such as “For example, see[x].” The UNSW Sydney, aka University of New South Wales, gets to the point in ‘The Footnote / Bibliography Referencing System’, noting that the ‘notes’ styles include a note, aka reference, which is indicated in superscriptx. Morling College’s ‘Chicago Style Rules’ indicate the same, so that it’s as simple as marking what’s from where with the superscriptx. To include something that isn’t from Australia, Purdue University ‘Footnotes and Endnotes’ guide indicate the same: use superscriptx. Now, of course, each style has it’s own quirks, but, in general, that’s all there is to say. It works the same was author-date system, but the text just isn’t as cluttered by the (author-date, p/pp) or (date, p/pp).

To be clear, I’m not a big fan of any endnote-based reference system. The advantage is that it makes the text easier to read, as the reference is not there, within text. The disadvantage is that it is not as explicit what’s from where. This is not really an issue though. The necessary information is still there. It’s just in a format that’s inconvenient if you want to find sources and look things up. That’s not my problem though. I have no idea why you, Reviewer #3, thought I’m responsible for the reference system that I haven’t chosen, but that I have to work with in order for it to be even considered for review.

Footnote-based systems are better in this regard as you get the relevant information on the relevant page and not in the end of the text. Then again, if there are a lot of citations, as there can be, it’s going to fill the page from the bottom up and defeats the purpose. It works when you have only a bit of extra commentary, here and there, but otherwise I’m not a big fan of either of these systems.

Moving from the unfounded claims of plagiarism, the thing that I notice from the comments provided by Reviewer #3 is that they consist of mere criticism. In other words, there’s nothing constructive about them. I get these useless indications that I’m missing something, but Reviewer #3 apparently just couldn’t be bothered to indicate the works in question. It’s like saying something is better explained elsewhere, only to not say where and when someone asks for clarification, you indicate that they should know it. Thanks for nothing. I mean you take issue with the way I present things, even though I actually do provide the relevant citations, to back it all up, but you can’t be arsed to do that yourself, to actually provide the relevant citations for your own arguments. Yeah, I have feeling that Reviewer #3 got so hung up on some thing and then just didn’t think my paper was worth it.

What is it about? Well, long story short, my initial remarks about my stance, which I only included for the sake of transparency. Reviewer #3 clearly struggles to understand crux of the argument when I state that my job is to explain why landscape matters by elaborating how it functions. This is the underlying machinism of it.

In my view, two things get conflated by Reviewer #3: my voice and the voice of others. So, to be clear, when I state that it is not my intention to give primacy to any views, to be discussed once I get there, to the analysis, it doesn’t mean that I can’t have a voice. It simply means that I can’t speak for others, nor make decisions for them. I analyze the situation, that is to say break it down to smaller components, which is not the same as telling how it all is, not to mention how it all should be. I don’t think I somehow uncover any hidden truth. Oh, and I totally get to say that I’m all for non-representational landscape and against representational landscape. I don’t get to speak for others, but neither do you, Reviewer #3, get to say that I can’t have my voice. If you argue that I can’t say this and/or that, to express my views, then it is you who is speaking for me, that is to say for others.

My criticism pertains to how landscape functions. That’s why I get to say that I consider it to be problematic. Notice how it is the functionality of it that I am critical of, how it pertains to the production of some identities that are deemed desirable and other identities that, in negation, are deemed undesirable, and how this creates a pressure to conform. It has nothing to do with me, the author, somehow being all-knowing and you, the reader, in this case Reviewer #3, not knowing anything.

To be candid, you are nothing to me, not because I have anything against you, Reviewer #3, despite your unfounded claims of plagiarism, but because I don’t cater to a specific audience. You conjure this imaginary standard reader, who, if you’ve read Jacques Derrida’s ‘Limited inc’ or ‘The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond’, could be well be anyone. Sure, one can always imagine an intended audience, but that’s not how texts work. As anyone can read a text, it’s pointless to try to cater to a specific audience. No matter what you do, you’ll end up either expecting too much or too little. There’s always that possibility that a text comes across as ‘patronizing’, a word used by Reviewer #3, and as ‘mansplaining’, a word also used by Reviewer #3.

Oh, and I thought that was pretty ironic. You, Reviewer 3#, use those exact words against me, claiming that I’m lecturing the reader, while you do that yourself in your review. It is fine to indicate that something is, perhaps, missing, that you might want to familiarize yourself with this and/or that. The thing is, however, that you, Reviewer #3, did that only to not indicate what it is that I should familiarize myself with. You ended up telling me what I should read and who I should cite, albeit being really unhelpful about it, not telling me what it is what you want me to read. By the end, you go as far as telling me that it is something I should have already done. It is you who is telling me how to conduct research, the way you want it to be conducted. It is you who is telling me how live my life, while telling me that I’m doing that. Oh, and what was the deal with questioning my gender in the same context?

Also, if you are wondering why I am so adamant about this issue, why I wish to emphasize that I do not claim, nor wish speak for others, only for myself, it is because there’s no shortage of people who do the exact opposite. Guattari explains this particularly well in ‘Deleuze and Guattari Fight Back…’, when he (217) argues that one should be wary of people who claim to speak for others:

“Given the right conditions, the masses express a revolutionary will. Their desires clear away all obstacles and open up new horizons. But the last to realize it are the organizations and leaders who are supposed to represent them. Clearly!”

He (217) further specifies this by adding that we shouldn’t treat theory as something that is only for the specialists, for them to know, and to then to dumb down for the masses. Why? Well, as he (217) points out, such attitude elevates the specialists or experts above other people. That then gives them license to speak for others. The problem with that is then that people who take it upon themselves to speak for others tend to be the ones to betray the people they claim to speak for, as he (216-217) points out. Why? Well, my take is that they want to cling to being that specialist or expert, that leader of the masses, because it is a sweet, sweet gig, like I’ve pointed out in my previous essays.

Now, you could be like, wow-wow-wow, but didn’t you just state you are a specialist? Yes, I did. I am a specialist. I am an expert. There’s no denying that. Yet, yet, I think it is highly important that I do not speak for others. Why? Because I don’t think there’s anything special about me, anything that somehow, supposedly, gives me exclusive access to specialist or expert knowledge. As I’ve pointed out in a previous essay, anyone can become a specialist or an expert. All it takes is effort. I’m more than happy to share my knowledge, for free, and people can then do whatever they like with it. This kind of specialist or expert is very different from what we are used to, something which really annoys the kind of specialists or experts that we are used to as it threatens their positions, their sweet gigs. If you bring this kind of stuff up, they just can’t have that because what you are saying is that anyone can be like them, a specialist, an expert, to rival them. Nay, no, they can’t have that. They can’t have the riffraff ruin a system that works well for them.

I would have loved to get some suggestions for further reading. Did I get any? I did not. Reviewer #3 had nothing to contribute in this regard. Reviewer #2 was equally unhelpful. Reviewer #1 was the only one who included some suggestions. I actually have read those, so it didn’t really do anything for me, but at least Reviewer #1 was productive in the commentary. Reviewer #3 indicated that there is existing work that’s similar to what I’ve done with Deleuze and Guattari when it comes to landscapes, but only to not indicate what those are, nor how they are similar. To my knowledge, no one beside me has ever approached landscape this way, in any field or discipline, building on the works of Deleuze and Guattari. I have searched high and low for a Deleuzo-Guattarian take on landscape, as presented in my paper, but I cannot find one. So, if you do know one, why not do me a solid and tell me where to find it? I would love to read it! Okay, Reviewer #3 does indicate that such works (that aren’t mentioned) are similar, i.e., not the same. That’s an important distinction. Fair enough. Then again, I go with Deleuze and Guattari exactly for that reason, because while others are similar, they aren’t the same. They don’t even come close to it. They don’t explain things as well as Deleuze and Guattari. Even if they come close to them in some regard, like, I’d say Richard Schein’s works does, as mentioned in the article, they don’t cut it in other regards, as they aren’t able to capture the complixity involved. Simply put, while they do have their merits and I can acknowledge that, their underlying frameworks have their limitations, which is why I don’t build on them. I feel like there’s always something missing. They are good, but I want something better. It’s that simple. That’s why I build on Deleuze and Guattari. The Deleuzo-Guattarian framework that I work with provides such flexibility and applicability that you don’t run into the same issues that other frameworks run into.

Anyway, this is exactly why I reckon that the best course of action is to just start from scratch. To me, the best way to cater to the reader, no, not to some imaginary standard reader, but to any reader is to lay it all out. Deleuze (129) explains this well in ‘Difference and Repetition’ when he addresses what he calls the image of thought, what I call the representational mode of thought in the introduction:

“[F]or beginning means eliminating all presuppositions.”

While I acknowledge how that is a ridiculously difficult task, you just have to do your best. Reviewer #3, you most certainly fail at this. You get offended by the idea that I, the author, do not presuppose that you, the reader, know whatever it is that a supposed standard geographer knows or is expected to know. This is exactly what Deleuze (129-131) objects to, when people argue their case by stating that “everybody knows ‘this’, that everybody recognizes this, or that nobody can deny it.” Who’s everybody? Knows what? Oh really?

So, to put it crudely, I try my best to not presuppose knowledge from the reader. I mean that person could be anyone. Like I point in the introduction, my approach is, first and foremost, educational. I don’t believe in this dichotomy between experts and ordinary people. I acknowledge that this is, in actuality, largely the case, that there are experts, people who know a lot, but there’s nothing inherently special about the experts. Anyone can be like them. You don’t need fancy degrees for such. Just put in the effort.

I think it’s worth it to also highlight that I do get to advocate for change, for non-representational landscape. If people want to cling to representational landscape, what I consider to be highly problematic, it is their prerogative. Knowing what I know, I wouldn’t. If people want to cling on to it, so be it. That’s on them, not on me. If they want to keep on repressing themselves, they get to do that.

The way I see it, the last sentence of the third paragraph of the introduction should explain it, what it is that I’m interested in. I am not interested in subjectivity, as such. To be clear, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t somehow entitled to their views. They are. They most certainly are. Instead, I’m interested in the collective production of subjectivity, i.e., how it is produced in a society.

That’s where landscape comes in, hence my interest in it. It is not the only thing, no, but it is what I’m focusing on. This is the point in the following paragraph. Again, I explain things very broadly, indicating how landscape pertains to the production of certain identities that are, in fact, mere images that one comes to identify with. Reviewer #3 thinks that I end up speaking for people, telling people who they and shouldn’t be, in terms of identities, because I create an expectation of criticizing certain identities. This is not supported by what’s included in the paragraphs.

The thing is that Reviewer #3 gets this all wrong, from the get-go. I clearly indicate that I do not intend to give primacy to any views. That means that no matter what the identity, it is just an identity, among other identities. The remaining two sentences of that paragraph do not hint to any actual identities. If you understand the framework discussed in the following section, you should realize that I’m not interested in the identities, whatever they may be, but in their production. I explicitly point out that any standard or norm is made up. There’s no ground for any identity, as such. When you get that, when you understand that it’s all about the functionality, it changes everything.

This is also clear in the text, once you move from the framework to the analysis. I indicate later on that this whole ordeal has many sides. I don’t side with any of the parties involved. Instead, I analyze their involvement in it, what they said they would do, as contrasted with what they did. This is classic discourse analysis, mixed with a bit of dispositive analysis. The former deals with taking a close look at statements, which I do. The latter deals with taking a close look at visibilities, in this case the relevant landscape features, while taking into account the statements.

If anything I’d say that I come across as indifferent to it all. Why? Well, that’s landscapity for you. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the standard reference unit is, i.e., what this and/or that landscape should look like, because it’s still a standard. The system stays the same. You’re only tinkering with the variables of that system. So, as odd as it may seem, while results are interesting, what’s more interesting is what you can learn from this, how it all functions. Once you get that, you get why I state that the my approach is, first and foremost, educational. There is an English proverb that explains this beautifully:

“[I]f you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.”

This is from ‘Mrs. Dymond’ by Anna Thackeray Ritchie (185), but I’m pretty sure you’ve seen or heard it before, possibly in some other, slightly modified form. Now, obviously, this doesn’t only apply to me and the point really is that it is way more useful to teach people to understand how the system works, how landscapity is a function or an abstract machine which defines how we come to make sense of the world in terms of landscapes and what comes with it, than it is to write articles after articles, telling them what the situation is, right now, or rather, sometime in the past because research always takes forever to get published, accompanied by telling them how the world could be a better place if only one did this and/or that.

Marcel Proust also explains this really well in ‘Time Regained’ when he (265-266) addresses the role of the writer, what we’ve subsequently taken the habit to call the author, and the reader. As already noted, the reader can be anyone, as also acknowledged by Proust (266). That means that we can’t know who the reader is. This also means that we can’t know what the reader knows, which results in different readings, as also acknowledged by him (266). This may anger Reviewer #3, I bet it does, but as explained by him (266):

“[A] book may be too learned, too obscure for the simple reader, and thus be only offering a him a blurred glass with which [the reader] cannot read.”

Oh, burn! Now, I reckon that there’s two ways to go about this. Either you leave it that way, so that what he (266) refers to as “the simple reader” won’t be able to get it, to understand the sense of it, what the writer or author is after, or change it for the reader, i.e., dumb it down. Now, I don’t know about others, but I would not go with the latter one. Why? Well, because if you dumb something down, you imply that the reader, who, mind you, can be anyone, really is dumb, even though we can’t even know who the reader is or is going to be. What I’m saying is that it’s a pointless endeavor to simplify things, just so that you cater to a certain audience. Sure, you can say things in different ways, approach it from multiple angles, in hopes of getting the point across better, but that’s about it. I think it’s counterproductive for the writer or the author to write in a certain way, according to the expectations of the reader, who, again, could be anyone, because of that, because the reader could be anyone. I think Proust explains this point wonderfully when he (266) states that:

“[T]he difference between two texts [is] often less attributable to the author than to the reader.”

Indeed, as also explained by Derrida in those two books, it’s all about the text, what’s been written, and the reader’s encounter with the text. The writer or the author has little control over the text, as odd as that may seem. Derrida (8) explains this machinism of texts in ‘Limited inc’, noting that:

“To write is to produce a mark that will constitute a sort of machine which is productive in turn[.]”

To be clear, he (8) is not saying that a writer does not write the text. No, no. The writer does write the text. What he (8) is saying is that the text, what the writer has written is not, strictly speaking, attributable to the writer, but to the reader. In his (8) words:

“[M]y … disappearance will not, in prin­ciple, hinder in its functioning, offering things and itself to be read and to be rewritten.”

This may seem odd, but, yeah, he (8) is right about this. He (8) goes on to specify that by disapperance he means nonpresence, which could be because he is dead, which he is, but wasn’t when he wrote that, or just because he isn’t there with you, next to you, to be consulted, when you read the text. The point he (8) makes is that a text will always work even in the absence of the writer or the author. Simply put, the writer or the author is not even important. You should always read a text just as a text. Why? Because it is, in fact, you, the reader who is projecting all kinds of things to the text. As explained by Derrida (8), the writer or the author, whatever you want to call it, is a figment of your imagination. That writer or the author could well be anyone, very much like the reader, as once you encounter a text, it is you, the reader who, for some reason, believe that it has been written by the person to whom it is attributed to, as he (8) points out. There’s nothing inherent about a text that should make you believe that. The writer or the author is by no means necessarily the same as the person whose name is attributed to it, as specified by him (8). It could well be that one person wrote the text and that it is signed by another person, in that person’s name, as he (8) points out. This is why (8) he says that:

“This essential drift … bearing on writing as an iterative structure, cut off from all absolute responsibility, from consciousness as the ultimate authority, orphaned and separated at birth from the assistance of its father, is precisely what Plato condemns in the Phaedrus.”

As side note here, notice how he (8) appears to presuppose that you, the reader, which in this case is also me, that you’ve read Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’. How can he (8) do that? Isn’t he (8) contradicting himself? Didn’t he (8) just say that the reader could be anyone? Wouldn’t that mean that you can’t simply expect such? As I pointed out earlier on in this essay, I think it’s better not to assume anything, just start from the scratch and not rely on givens, like that your reader has read Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’. This is why my texts may well appear to be condescending or patronizing, much to the ire of Reviewer #3. This is also why I am in habit of creating these really long and, if limited by scope, super dense conceptual frameworks. I really agree with Alfred North Whitehead (20) who argues in ‘Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology’ that:

“The explanatory purpose of philosophy is often misunderstood. Its business is to explain the emergence of the more abstract things from the more concrete things. It is a complete mistake to ask how [a] concrete particular fact can be built up out of universals. The answer is, ‘In no way.’ The true philosophic question is, How can [a] concrete fact exhibit entities abstract from itself and yet participated in by its own nature?”

Indeed. It is the more concrete, what we might call the empirical, that is the starting point, not the more abstract, what we might call the theoretical. He (20) summarizes this:

“[P]hilosophy is explanatory of abstraction, and not of concreteness.”

I think Deleuze (vii) puts this even better in homage to Whitehead in the added preface to his and Claire Parnet’s ‘Dialogues’:

“[T]he abstract does not explain, but it must itself be explained.”

Which is exactly why, contrary to what all the Reviewers stated, I believe that I must first explain what landscape or, to be more accurate, landscapity is, even though that is less interesting than what it does. Okay, I could have, for example, written that I only deal with it, just so that I avoid this pitfall, so that I don’t work with some abstract that is, somehow, supposedly, explanatory of what’s concrete. Sure, I’ll do that next time. That makes sense, inasmuch I’m not restricted by the limitations of scope.

Then again, he (8) also has a point here, which, I believe, is the same made by Proust (265-266). The writer or the author is not to blame here. It is you, the reader, who is to blame here. It is your job to be familiar with it, in this case Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’. You have no right to reprimand the writer or the author for your own lack of familiarity with whatever someone else is dealing with, in this case Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’. You are certainly free to write your own texts if existing texts aren’t to your liking.

Anyway, I get Derrida’s point, he (8) is right, but I think it’s still better not to expect anything of the reader, to just start from scratch and work from there, without presupposing all kinds of things from the reader. You sure don’t have to, fair enough, but I like to be reader friendly in that way, to explain each concept as best as I can, backed up by a citation, integral or non-integral, being as precise as possible, giving you even the page numbers, so that you can get more out of it. I want you to read the originals, hence the page numbers.

Now, to not leave you hanging, to give you context, because Derrida (8) sure doesn’t give it to you there, my take is that it’s, broadly speaking, about Plato’s influence in contemporary western societies, and how, for Plato, writing is connected to speech, or should be anyway, so that the writer is always actually a speaker, whereas for Derrida it’s clear that what the writer has written, writing or text, comes to act independent of the writer, unlike with speech where you need the presence of the speaker for there to be speech. You could, of course, object to that by noting that you can record speech, but I reckon that he’d counter that by pointing out that it is then like writing, a text, that operates independently of the speaker, so that the speaker is then the writer or the author.

Anyway, to return to Proust, I like the way he (265-266) defines a text as a lens through which we look at the world:

“The work of the writer is only a sort of optic instrument which [the writer] offers to the reader so that [the reader] may discern in the [work] what [the reader] would probably not have seen[.]”

He (265-266) directs this more to the inside, so that as a reader one may find out something about about oneself, but this applies to the outside as well, as Deleuze (208) points out in conversation with Foucault, in ‘Intellectuals and Power’, and as Proust (266) goes on to add:

“[T]he author must not take offence at that but must, on the contrary, leave the reader the greatest liberty and say to [the reader]: ‘Try whether you see better with this, with that, or with another glass.'”

This is exactly what I mean when I say that I get to have my voice, but not to speak for others. What I offer is a lens, as Proust (265-266) would put it, or a toolbox, as Deleuze would put it (208). I show that lens, how the world looks when you look through it. I provide you that toolbox and show you how to use tools, like in a tutorial video. I mean once you understand the framework that I provided, you don’t need me to exemplify it. You can then just use the tools, as you see fit, without asking me any permissions, for anything. The example, that tutorial, is there just to help you understand the framework, to facilitate the process and to get you to use those tools faster. As explained by Deleuze (208), no one needs tools that aren’t useful. The tutorial is therefore a showcase, to prove to you that the tools work, that they are indeed useful, not just something that exists for the sake of it, like stuff you keep in a showcase.

If you don’t like the lens, what you see, or if you don’t like my toolbox, you can leave them be and find something else, as pointed out by Deleuze (208). It’s that simple. I’m not telling you what you must do. I’m simply showing you, the reader, how the world appears to you once you approach through this framework. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, then you don’t. Both are fine by me. I’m not the text that I produce, so, in the end, loving the text or hating it makes no difference to me, really. The funny thing about that is, of course, that your reaction is to your encounter with the text, not with its writer or its author, as that’s how texts work, as the writer or the author is simply a figment of your imagination, as explained by Derrida (8).

So, while I can’t be sure, what might have happened is that, following Derrida (8) and Proust (266), the text was simply ‘too learned’ for the ‘simple reader’, in this case for Reviewer #3, which then angered the person labelled as Reviewer #3. That’s an understandable reaction. No one like to realize that they are a bit simple. But that’s the thing, it’s the person’s encounter with the text as its reader, not with me as its writer or its author, that causes this sudden realization of one’s own limits in understanding. It’s like, damn, am I an idiot? Directing the ire at me, coming up with all kinds of accusations, including plagiarism, is merely a feint, diverting the attention away from oneself, from oneself’s own limitations, to someone else, in order to feel good about yourself. As I already pointed out, you either take it or leave it. You take it as it is and put in the effort to be able to understand the text, to make sense of it, or you just quit. What happened here is that the person didn’t quit, but didn’t put in the effort to be able to understand the text either.

The hardcore mode

I acknowledge that the Deleuzo-Guattarian conceptual framework is difficult to understand, because it is. It just is. It’s even more difficult to understand because it’s been condensed to like two pages. That alone is quite the achievement, if you ask me. Good luck trying to do the same. I don’t think there’s a single mistake in it. Could it be explained better? Yes. Sure. There are always more things that I’d like to elaborate. The thing is, however, that I need more pages for that. I’d be happy to squeeze in a bit more, like just a page, to explain this and that, to make it less dense, but, well, then something has got to go. Where do you make those cuts? Asking for more is fine, no problem, but then you have to indicate where you’d make the cuts.

To be positive, Reviewer #1 was clearly the cheery one of the three and seemed to like it. The problem for this reviewer was that the text wasn’t long enough. Wow! That’s a first one! I’ll gladly take that criticism. I mean there was that previous, 10 000-word version of this, which was simply better than this, because it just had more to it. If only I had no word limits. This is, in my view, also why it seems to be doing much in its current form, but just doesn’t manage to do it all. The suggestions are good and I’ll see what I can do with them, depending on the next word limit, of course. This is actually something that Reviewer #1 didn’t take into consideration. I was already at the limit, so it’ll be interesting to see what I can fit into the next version.

The only thing I disagreed with Reviewer #1 was the suggestion or, I think it was more of a thought, sort of an implied suggestion, to frame it terms of ideology. While I acknowledge that, and the work done from the Marxist perspective, ideology just doesn’t mesh well with my Deleuzo-Guattarian framework. As Deleuze and Guattari (68) point out in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ when they state that content and expression cannot be reduced to basesuperstructure. To be more specific, as they (68) first state that:

“Form of content and form of expression involve two parallel formalizations in presupposition: it is obvious that their segments constantly intertwine, embed themselves in one another; but this is accomplished by the abstract machine from which the two forms derive, and by machinic assemblages that regulate their relations.”

Now, to make sense of that, you need to know what’s what in their terminology, i.e., having read they’ve written or what they’ve read, in this case the works of Ferdinand de Saussure and Hjelmslev. You need to be at least familiar with Hjelmslev’s net. If you are not, it’s all downhill from there, or so to speak. Anyway, to get to the point, they (68) add that:

“If this parallelism is replaced by a pyramidal image, then content (including its form) becomes an economic base of production displaying all of the characteristics of the Abstract; the assemblages become the first story of a superstructure that, as such, is necessarily situated within a State apparatus; the regimes of signs and forms of expression become the second story of the superstructure, defined by ideology.”

In other words, going the Marxist route just doesn’t work for them because content is then reduced to base, which it isn’t, assemblages are reduced to state institutions, which they aren’t, and expression is reduced to ideology, which it isn’t. They (68-69) have four objections to this. Firstly, this reduces language to being merely communicational, to a vehicle of delivering information, which it isn’t. Instead, for them (68) language is performative. Secondly, the forms of expression, what they (68) also refer to as regimes of signs, end up being reduced to ideology, which, supposedly, function as the expression of content. In other words, while you always need content for an expression, you can’t have content without an expression either, as these two presuppose one another, as they (68) point out. Thirdly, it puts power into the hands of the state and its institutions. This is not, strictly speaking wrong, as state and its institutions do exercise power over people. The problem is, however, that it is a too limited view. As they (69) point out, you find power everywhere. I think Michel Foucault would agree with that. Fourthly, content is not merely economic, like base.

To summarize their opposition of ideology, and why I don’t use it, why I, in fact, avoid it like the plague, they (68) state rather bluntly that:

“[I]deology is a most execrable concept obscuring all of the effectively operating social machine[.]”

Yeah, so, that’s why. It sure simplifies things, there’s that, but that’s exactly the problem. We aren’t getting anywhere with that.

Right, so, what I like about Reviewer #1 is that the feedback consists of comments, as well as suggestions. It’s an actual contribution.

Reviewer #2 is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s mostly good, that is to say constructive criticism. I don’t agree with all of the feedback, but even when I disagree, it’s more like a agree to disagree case. For example, Reviewer #2 jumped to the driver’s seat for a moment, to argue that, for a driver, a pedestrian crossing is a matter of road safety and not a matter of social order. Ah, but see, you do realize that road safety is, in Foucauldian parlance, a discursive formation, what we may also call a form of expression, to explain that in Hjelmslev inspired Deleuzo-Guattarian parlance, and that a pedestrian crossing is one of its manifestations, materializations or incarnations, to explain that, once more, in Hjelmslevian and Deleuzo-Guattarian terms, a non-discursive formation or a form of content, to explain that in Foucauldian and Deleuzo-Guattarian terms respectively. This is what what makes it a matter of social order.

Now, to be productive about that comment, we can, of course, take these discursive formations or forms of expression and assess them in relation to the non-discursive formations or forms of content. We can make case for road safety, which I did, only to find no data that would suggest that road safety was endangered or, rather, might have been endangered, as speficied in law as the criterion for endangering road safety. The police made that up. They had no data, whatsoever and they ended up having to admit that, on record. We can then contrast that with discursive formation pertaining to sexuality, and its manifestation, which we can, broadly speaking, refer to as the non-discursive formation or the form of content, even though, of course, processually, there and then, when we look at it, it’s a substance of expression, a manifestation of the discursive formation or the form of expression, overlaying the substance of content, which is, materially speaking, the manifestation of the form of content as the formations or forms that we speak of appear to us only as manifested in the substances, as formed matter, which always anchors us in the material world, regardless of how abstract it may seem. I did this. I also did comment how this has been handled in the US context. They also had no data on it.

I also contrasted road safety with another discursive formation, as manifested in another area of the city, which you, Reviewer #2, aptly noted to be what is known as authorized heritage discourse. It was implied, but, yeah will add that term to the text. Thanks for that. I also need to do a bit of rewording, because what I meant in that context that, visually speaking, you can’t see why things are the way they are in that context. You need to know that. You need to be aware of that discursive formation, to see it manifested there, which explains why you don’t see the road safety discursive formation manifested there. But yeah, my bad. Easy to fix though.

So, in summary, what I argued was that the discursive formation of road safety was used against discursive formation of sexuality, as manifested in the landscape, as that specific landscape feature, but not against, for example, that authorized heritage discourse. Why is that? Well, we both, me and you, Reviewer #2, know the answer to that. It’s the established social order, which defines what is acceptable and what is not. Bluntly put, bourgeoisie morality, i.e., that conservative heteronormativity that you, Reviewer #2, mentioned, is so dominant in the Finnish society that the police ends up going on the record to claim something, the potential endangement of road safety, without any data to back it up, as noted in the text, and then just ignoring the other cases, which, according to their own logic, they should pursue, because that’s their job.

Like I point out in the section that explains the framework and also in the conclusion, this is exactly how landscapes function. They are great indicators of normality and any change to them, like a bit of paint on asphalt, can trigger a major outrage. People who aren’t even affected by it come out of the woodwork to do their best to protect the reigning social order. That’s how it works, regardless of what it is that is deemed unaccetable. The case that I present in the text is a very, very good example of it.

Also, I don’t think my analysis suffers from some trivial examples. They are all well argued for. To be more specific, I didn’t like how Reviewer #2 argued that I relied on opinions. For Reviewer #2, I presented things in a certain light that was favorable to one side, but not another, due to the way how the discursive formation of road safety aligned with state authorities, as represented by the police, and the discursive formation of sexuality aligned with sexual minorities who were, somewhat paradoxically, also represented by authorities, albeit by municipal authorities. The results of the analysis indicated that the state authorities didn’t have any data to back up their claims that road safety might have been endangered. That was made up, an opinion, if you will. I’m aware how that will look. It does make those aligned with the opposing side look good. But, hey, that’s not my problem. Reviewer #2 also takes side in the commentary by presupposing the primacy of road safety over other concerns. That’s your opinion. I also did explicitly mention that road safety is a valid concern, backed up with a citation, and noted that this could have been done better, in a more salient manner, as backed up by the same citation. So, in fact, sided with your opinion in that matter. What I did not agree with, however, was with how the matter was handled, which you didn’t agree with, for some reason, despite there being no evidence to support the claims that were made and the clearly selective enforcement of all law, which, to be clear, the police should never do, unless you think that all cases shouldn’t be handled according to the same laws that apply to them, as explained, in painstaking detail in the paper by yours truly. Oh, how did you miss that I was also critical of the other side? I mean, that was basically half the story.

That said, some of the suggestions could find their way into the next version, especially the ones that overlaps with the suggestions of Reviewer #1.


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