I’ve brought up what Gilles Deleuze calls an image of thought in ‘Difference and Repetition’ on a couple of occasions. To be more specific, in that book he (131) zooms into a particular image of thought, should we, perhaps, even say the image of thought, considering that, for most people it is the only image of thought there is. He (131) calls it the dogmatic, orthodox or moral image. In one of his essays, ‘To Have Done with Judgment’, as included in ‘Essays Critical and Clinical’, Deleuze links to what he calls the doctrine of judgment.
I try to point out to others that I do not subscribe to this dogmatic image of thought. I oppose it. In that sense I subscribe to another image of thought. The English translation of Deleuze’s ‘Différence et Repetition’ contains an additional preface which is written almost 30 years later from the original date of publication. In it he (xv) makes note of how it was the first book in which he wrote philosophy, rather than writing about philosophy, how he selected his arrows and shot them into the distance, rather than merely studying archery (this may seem odd, but this will crop up again, soon enough). He (xv) also notes that, more or less, everything he wrote after this book was connected to it, one way or another. He (xv) summarizes what the book is about:
“[T]he majority of philosophers had subordinated difference to identity or to the Same, to the Similar, to the Opposed or to the Analogous: they had introduced difference into the identity of the concept, they had put difference in the concept itself, thereby reaching a conceptual difference, but not a concept of difference.”
As this may seem rather abstract to people, he (xv) explains it in less fancy terms that, I believe, should be fairly easy to grasp even if you aren’t familiar with the book, his other work or, well, philosophy in general. Firstly (xv):
“We tend to subordinate difference to identity in order to think it (from the point of view of the concept or the subject: for example, specific difference presupposes an identical concept in the form of a genus).”
So, for example, you have A and B, both are identities. What is between them is difference. It is measured in relation to identity. You need identity for difference to emerge. Secondly (xv):
“We also have a tendency to subordinate it to resemblance (from the point of view of perception), to opposition (from the point of view of predicates), and to analogy (from the point of view of judgement).”
This is how you do it. As I sort of stated already, the problem is that, as he (xv) puts it:
“[W]e do not think difference in itself.”
The issue is that difference is merely what follows, an afterthought. As the title of the book suggests, half of the project for Deleuze in that book, and later on as well, is to flip these two, so that identity becomes secondary to difference, so that it’s not about identity in itself (or thing-in-itself, to put it in Kantian terms) followed by difference but about difference in itself, followed by identity. The other half is about doing the same to repetition or, as he (xvi) puts it, making it so “that variation is not added to repetition in order to hide it, but is rather its condition or constitutive element, the interiority of repetition par excellence[.]” Simply put, repetition is not about the same, about the identical, say doing something over and over again (as in what we like to call repetitive when it seems to be just more of the same), but something that permits change, the non-identical.
Despite being often thought of as non-educated simpletons, in my experience athletes are the people who understand this pretty much immediately when you explain it to them. For them it’s rather obvious that they never actually repeat anything. They wouldn’t change, they wouldn’t develop, they wouldn’t get better if repetition was just about doing the same. They do still speak of repetitions or reps. Sure. But, for them, as Deleuze (xvi) puts it, repetition is rather the condition or constitutive element of variation. Who’s a simpleton now?
When these two, difference and repetition are flipped, we get at what the book is about. The problem with all this is that people do not think like this, as Deleuze is well aware. What needs to be done is to undermine, to question the traditional image of thought. He (xvi) warns us not to confuse the image of thought with method:
“By this I mean not only that we think according to a given method, but also that there is a more or less implicit, tacit or presupposed image of thought which determines our goals when we try to think.”
I find it helpful to think of it as like an operating system on a computer. It’s not about whether this and/or that piece of software, like an app, doesn’t work the way it should or can’t accomplish what we want. That would be about the method, how we get this and/or that done once we are on a certain operating system. He (xvi) further elaborates the classic image of thought:
“[W]e suppose that thought possesses a good nature, and the thinker a good will (naturally to ‘want’ the true); we take as a model the process of recognition – in other words, a common sense or employment of all the faculties on a supposed same object; we designate error, nothing but error, as the enemy to be fought; and we suppose that the true concerns solutions – in other words, propositions capable of serving as answers.”
For him (xvi), the problem with this image of thought is that:
“[A]s long as the critique has not been carried to the heart of that image it is difficult to conceive of thought as encompassing those problems which point beyond the propositional mode; or as involving encounters which escape all recognition; or as confronting its true enemies, which are quite different from thought; or as attaining that which tears thought from its natural torpor and notorious bad will, and forces us to think.”
Aye, to get what he is after, and what I’m after when I point out that my peers subscribe to an image of thought that fails to account for this and/or that, is to start from the beginning, no, not at the method, but from the premise, from thinking itself. I think the very final words are worth emphasizing. The classic, traditional, dogmatic, orthodox or moral, whatever you want to call it (hence it’s, perhaps, best calling it just the image of thought) is exactly what keeps us away from thinking. It’s about more of the same, because it’s a line of thinking or a model of thought that relies on the Same, the Identical, the Similar, the Opposed or the Analogous, as he (xv) characterizes it.
But what can we do then? His (xvi-xvii) solution is to come up with a new image of thought. To be specific, he (xvii) actually seeks to liberate thought, thinking, from the images that imprison it, that prevent the thinker from going beyond its limits. This is what he then does with Félix Guattari in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’.
At this point, before I attempt to explain anything in that book, it’s worth reiterating what Deleuze and Guattari (22) state in the introduction of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:
“[A]ll we know are assemblages. And the only assemblages are machinic assemblages of desire and collective assemblages of enunciation.”
This is something that I find helpful to keep in mind at all times when I read the book. As a side note, what they state is not exactly correct because there’s more to them, to the book, than just assemblages, for example, abstract machines (or diagrams) that put assemblages into action (as their immanent causes). It’s also worth noting how in a previous collaboration of theirs, in ‘Anti-Oedipus’, they use a different moniker for assemblages, calling them desiring machines. Brian Massumi (82), the translator of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, notes in his guide to to both books, ‘A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari’, that:
“Due to persistent subjectivist misunderstandings, in A Thousand Plateaus the word was changed to the more neutral ‘assemblage’.”
That said, be as it may, they still use the word machine in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, which can be a bit confusing at times. At least I find it a bit confusing that they opt to call it another thing, for a good reason, as pointed out above, but then sort of half-ass it. For example, I’ll be covering much, but not all of the plateau called ‘1227: Treatise on Nomadology – The War Machine’ (which, by the way, I think has to be, in part, a cheeky wink to Gottfried Leibniz’s ‘Monadology’). The war machine is the key concept on that plateau but, as it turns out, the machine is an assemblage. As they (399) clearly indicate:
“Assemblages are passional, they are compositions of desire. Desire has nothing to do with a natural or spontaneous determination; there is no desire but assembling, assembled, desire. The rationality, the efficiency, of an assemblage does not exist without the passions the assemblage brings into play, without the desires that constitute it as much as it constitutes them.”
I try to write my essays in a state of flow, as it happens, and not edit them, beyond a final look for any typos (some may still be there, as I can’t be that bothered to double or triple check), but, for this essay, I felt like going back to add this here, just so that people don’t think that the war machine is not an assemblage but something altogether different (plus, now I’m, years later, checking the typos and moving the references to the end). To be fair, their project is all over the place, intentionally so. They aren’t too fussed about it. Happens. Whatever.
Now, where was I? Right, to be clear, it is what the two write in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ that prompted me to look up again what Deleuze has to say about the image of thought in ‘Difference and Repetition’. I was reading the plateau on the war machine where the two (374) bring up the classic image of though, noting that it is a model that is tied to state apparatus, which, in turn, defines its “goals and paths, conduits, channels, organs, an entire organon.”
To clarify here, organon is Greek and, apparently has to do with instrument or a tool that, I guess, here is about how it pertains to knowledge (actually, this is some proper foreshadowing). It’s also probably a reference to Aristotle. They (374) also characterize the classic image of thought as “covering all of thought” and “like the State-form developed in thought.” For them (374-375) it is rooted in mythos and logos, the mythical foundation and the legislative proceeding, pact or contract that sanctions that foundation. They (375) also refer to the former as the imperium of truth and the latter the republic of free spirits. If you’ve read other plateaus in the book, you can clearly see how this is also about the contemporary mixed semiotic, about signification and post-signification (but that’s something that I’ve covered in the past, so I won’t tangled up on it here). Anyway, they (375) add that, taken together, these two operate together, despite being antithetical to one another (think of, empire vs. republic …), and act as “the necessary condition for the constitution of thought as principle, or as a form of interiority, as a stratum.” Again, as a side note, if you’ve read the first plateau, the one on strata, this is easier to grasp. Also, if you’ve read that plateau, their (352) earlier comment on how it is a double articulation should make much more sense to you.
What is striking about this image of thought then? Well, this, what they (375) explain, is what struck me on this plateau in particular:
“It is easy to see what thought gains from this: a gravity it would never have on its own, a center that makes everything, including the State, appear to exist by its own efficacy or on its own sanction.”
It is, it seems, that the image of thought, gains a lot from the State model. By now, because I didn’t cover this, at all, and just jumped at it, you might be wondering, what state, what State? Luckily they (375) explain it in this context:
“But the State gains just as much. Indeed, by developing in thought in this way the State-form gains something essential: a whole consensus. Only thought is capable of inventing the fiction of a State that is universal by right, of elevating the State to the level of de jure universality.”
What they are saying here, and elsewhere on this plateau, is that State (or we can just call it state here) is not something that humans developed as societies evolved from primitive societies, once people grew out of being primitive simpletons or something along those lines. They don’t buy that, at all. It is explained in this bit, as they point out that a state is an invention, a fictive product of thought. It happens in a sudden flash, “in a single stroke, in an imperial form”, and what makes the distinction and relation between the governors and the governed possible, as characterized by Deleuze and Guattari (359). To put what has been already expressed more concisely, they (375) state:
“The State gives thought a form of interiority, and thought gives that interiority a form of universality.”
In other words, the state models thought, as well as protects it, whereas, in turn, thought legitimizes the state as universal, something that must be, so, in a way, also protecting it. So, again, it’s worth returning to the earlier bit on mythos and logos, the foundation and what legitimizes that foundation, which is, pretty much, what they are on about here as well. They (375-376) put it, once more, in other words:
“[B]ut that exchange is also an analytic proposition, because realized reason is identified with the de jure State, just as the State is the becoming of reason.”
If you struggle with this, they (376) also explain this in less abstract terms:
“[I]n the so-called modern or rational State, everything revolves around the legislator and the subject.”
You may wish to think of yourself as a subject, someone who is capable of doing this and/or that, like a grammatical subject in a sentence, but this is only part of the story. Here it is worth noting that you are, in fact, also not only subject, but also subject to. Our representative democracies work this way. You vote for someone else, or yourself if you are up for the job (or someone else if it seems a bit smug to vote for yourself), to represent you, in the hopes that your chosen representative gets into the house of representatives (parliament) where they legislate, that is to say come up with laws that people must obey. This is why the two (376) add that:
“Always obey. The more you obey, the more you will be master, for you will only be obeying pure reason, in other words yourself…”
If you find this oddly familiar, from my previous essays or from the book itself, it is because it is. On the plateau on regimes of signs, ‘587 B.C. – A.D. 70: On Several Regimes of Signs’, they (129-130) address the same thing, noting how this works in a contemporary society in which there is no single imperial despot who we must obey no matter what:
“There is no longer even a need for a transcendent center of power; power is instead immanent and melds with the ‘real,’ operating through normalization. A strange invention: as if in one form the doubled subject were the cause of the statements of which, in its other form, it itself is a part. This is the paradox of the legislator-subject replacing the signifying despot: the more you obey the statements of the dominant reality, the more in command you are as subject of enunciation in mental reality, for in the end you are only obeying yourself! You are the one in command, in your capacity as a rational being. A new form of slavery is invented, namely, being slave to oneself, or to pure ‘reason,’ the Cogito. Is there anything more passional than pure reason? Is there a colder, more extreme, more self interested passion than the Cogito?”
Not that it is surprising, but, as I pointed out, very similar. Back to the plateau on the war machine, where they (376) add that even philosophy or, perhaps, philosophy, in particular, is complicit in this paradoxical slavery to oneself:
“Ever since philosophy assigned itself the role of ground it has been giving the established powers its blessing, and tracing its doctrine of faculties onto the organs of State power. Common sense, the unity of all the faculties at the center constituted by the Cogito, is the State consensus raised to the absolute. This was most notably the great operation of the Kantian ‘critique,’ renewed and developed by Hegelianism.”
After René Descartes, Immanuel Kant is the one to, in particular, to be reprimanded by the two (376) for advocating for thought to function for the state:
“Kant was constantly criticizing bad usages, the better to consecrate the function. It is not at all surprising that the philosopher has become a public professor or State functionary. It was all over the moment the State-form inspired an image of thought. With full reciprocity.”
Make note of the word that they use quite a bit in the book: reciprocity. Keep that in mind. It crops up elsewhere in the book and helps you to understand what they are after in other contexts as well. Anyway, they (376) note that as complicit as philosophers like Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel may have been in this, they no are longer the people the state turns to. In contemporary societies it is the sociologists (such as Émile Durkheim, who they mention) and the psychoanalysts who have taken this position of serving the state. I’d go as far as to argue that much of the academia operates this way, both voluntarily (albeit perhaps unwittingly) and involuntarily (you have to justify what good does this and/or that do for the society, for the state, for the well-being of people etc.). As they (374) pointed out two pages or so back, the state sets the “goals and paths, conduits, channels, organs, an entire organon.”
Now, if you made it this far, to this point in my essays, perhaps perplexed by how someone writes about five pages on thought and how one should focus on thought before anything else, you may find this laughable. Deleuze and Guattari (376) make note of this as well:
“In a sense, it could be said that all this has no importance, that thought has never had anything but laughable gravity.”
I mean, come on, fuck off (in the sense that it expresses sudden disbelief), are you kidding me, thought, why would it have any gravity, why would it be worth going on and on about? Well, because, as they (376) explain:
“But that is all it requires: for us not to take it seriously.”
That’s exactly why, but if you are not convinced, they (376) do provide a more elaborate explanation as to why we need to take thought seriously, why we shouldn’t just skip it and simply start from the subject:
“Because that makes it all the easier for it to think for us, and to be forever engendering new functionaries. Because the less people take thought seriously, the more they think in conformity with what the State wants.”
So, think of this the next time you find yourself wondering, along the lines of why is it that I feel bad about this and/or that, why is it that I’m anxious, why is it that I feel fearful of this and/or that. Would it not be that you, yourself, albeit, perhaps, by proxy, through representation, have created the norm, the standard that you, yourself, must now conform to through self-discipline? Just think of it. When you realize that all that angst, guilt, fear, etc. is your making, your rationalization, it goes away. Not that it’s easy to get to that point, but you can. Just saying, which is exactly what Deleuze and Guattari (376) address next when they make note of counterthoughts.
They (376) refer to counterthinkers as private thinkers in order to distinguished the from public thinkers, the state professors. They (376) name Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and Lev Shestov as these private thinkers, only to find the label private thinker not very apt because it emphasizes the individual, the subject, which, in turn, points to the interiority of thought when in this case it is about the exact opposite, about the exteriority of thought, what they call outside thought. At this point they (376-377) link thinking to the war machine (which may have puzzled you earlier on … because I didn’t explain it).
War machine is not exactly what you might think it is. If you think that it’s the army, the military or the military complex, you are mistaken. What’s relevant is that the war machine is what is exterior or outside the state, as Deleuze and Guattari (351) point out on the first page of this plateau. They (352) are very clear on this, that “war is not contained within this [state] apparatus.” Instead, for them (352, 355), armies or militaries are what happens when the war machine is seized, integrated or appropriated to the state, to function in its service. They (353-354) add that by being exterior or outside the state, from the standpoint of the interior or the inside, that of the state, war machine is always characterized as the negation of the state, not only acting against it (which it is, as they, 359, point out), but also in a negative form, such as “stupidity, deformity, madness, illegitimacy, usurpation, sin.” To be more exact, they (354) emphasize that the war machine is not only something merely outside the state, external to it, but, in fact, the very form of exteriority itself, whereas the state is the very form of interiority which “we habitually take as a model, or according to which we are in the habit of thinking.” As they (359) go on to clarify, the war machine is against the state-form, be it actual or virtual, an actual state to be opposed or opposing the circumstances that result in the emergence of a state. To make it absolutely clear, it’s worth reiterating that the war machine is not a military institution because, as they (355) point out:
“The State has no war machine of its own; it can only appropriate one in the form of a military institution, one that will continually cause it problems.”
What do you mean by problems? They (355) argue that they will have their problems because what the state does is to rein in the war machine, in order for it to exist for an antithetical purpose, to go against itself, or so to speak. They (355) explain what happens when it is positioned between the two poles, mythos and logos, the despot and the legislator:
“Trapped between the two poles of political sovereignty, the man of war seems outmoded, condemned, without a future, reduced to his own fury, which he turns against himself.”
Only to wonder (356):
“Is it the destiny of the war machine, when the State triumphs, to be caught in this alternative: either to be nothing more than the disciplined, military organ of the State apparatus, or to turn against itself, to become a double suicide machine for a solitary man and a solitary woman?”
They (357) also further characterize the war machine on the level of society as what not only goes against the state, that is to say when a state emerges, but also wards off the formation of the state within a society that is not a state. How to characterize it? It’s anti-static? Haha! Anyway, funny business aside, they (357, 359) note how in what people call primitive societies (not a pejorative label here) do have their organization and their rulers, their chiefs. That said, they (357) add that having a chief, a top dog, or whatever you want to call it, is not what makes a state. Instead, they (357) argue that what makes a state is “the perpetuation or conservation of organs of power.” In other words, it involves setting up a fixed position or positions, a head or heads of state, and making sure that things remain the same. Now you might object to this. You might point out that chieftainship can operate the same way, to be, for example as inherited titles. They (357) disagree with you:
“[T]he chief … has no instituted weapon other than his prestige, no other means of persuation, no other rule than his sense of the group’s desires. The chief is more like a leader or a star than a man of power and is always in danger of being disavowed, abandoned by his people.”
How to put this more simply? Perhaps, one could say that the chief, the leader, the star, has to constantly to prove to be worthy of that status as there is no appeal to a fixed position, that one is entitled to lead, to rule, to be appreciated. So, as a mode of operation, it is not that the war machine can’t involve leaders. They can and they do. It’s rather that leaders can’t expect people to follow them, just because. They (358) add that the very function of the war machine goes against one erecting oneself on a pedestal and expecting to stay on that pedestal as there are always challengers. As they (358) point out, in this mode leadership is always immanent, warding off those, even the strong ones, who seek to stabilize it (in order to fix it in their favor). In other words, sure, it’s not against strong leaders, but it is against strong leaders who seek to rig the system. This is why they (358) speak of packs and bands where they may be and are leaders but those positions are always contestable.
Oh, and yes, there’s some clever wording here, on this plateau, going from bands to bandits, you know, those people who are outside the state, outside the law, outlaws. As another interesting bit, while I’m on it, they (357) note, in passing, that it’s a common misconception to think of the state as war like. It is the exact opposite, “the State is against war, so war is against the State”, as they (358) point out. The state does not want war as it risks the state, unless it serves the interest of the state, say, when you go against another state in order to grab land from it or the like. There is also yet another little fascinating bit that is easy to miss. This one is where they (358) characterize as indiscipline, noting that:
“We certainly would not say that discipline is what defines a war machine: discipline is the characteristic required of armies after the State has appropriated them.”
Aye, discipline is what you need to keep the war machine in check, to make sure it stays bound. They (358) add to this a word of caution, not to think that the rules of the war machine as inherently better than those of the state (probably because they are not here to judge anyway):
“We are not saying that [the rules of the war machine] are better, of course, only that they animate a fundamental indiscipline of the warrior, a questioning of hierarchy, perpetual blackmail by abandonment or betrayal, and a very volatile sense of honor, all of which, once again, impedes the formation of the State.”
Discipline is highly important for the state. It is what keeps the war machine in check. It keeps people from reaching to the form of exteriority. It keeps people within set limits, within boundaries, within fields, well within the interior. They (360) make further note of states as bounded entities, adding that not only do states operate through sovereignty, that is to say delimiting area reigned over by the state, what it is able to internalize or appropriate locally, but also in relation to what lies outside their borders, which, to be specific, is not simply a bunch of other states but rather the possibility of no state (the counter-state society, the war machine). They (360) aptly characterize this when they state that “the outside of States cannot be reduced to ‘foreign policy’” as there is no negotiating with the form of exteriority.
To make this easier to comprehend (rather than discussing primitive and pastoral societies), they (360) list, among others, commercial formations, such as multinational corporations, industrial complexes and religious formations and movements, namely those that are wide spread, as contemporary war machines. The point here is that while they are located within states, they are not beholden by them, as hinted by the word multinational. They even seek to undermine them, as is the case with multinational corporations that couldn’t give a hoot about the states, except for when it comes to securing their property. This is what they (360) call the ecumenical worldwide direction or, I guess, the global direction that undermines the states.
The other direction is the local direction that they (360) characterize as marked by various local segments and mechanisms, consisting various bands of people, marginal groups, minorities that are in conflict with the states locally. In contrast to the global ecumenical machines, they (360) refer to this direction as neoprimitivism, a modern form of tribal society.
For Deleuze and Guattari (360), these two divergent directions are always there, undermining or going against the state. What is listed here, as listed by them (360), is merely a collection of contemporary formations. Different times and different places have their own formations. Anyway, to get somewhere with this, they (360) add that these directions overlap or merge partially. Their (360) examples include how, in part, “a commercial organization is also a band of pillage, or piracy” and how “it is in bands that a religious formation begins to operate.” In other words, the global can go local and the local can go global. More importantly, they indeed do so. What is common between the two, despite the difference in direction and in scale, is that both the global and the local are irreducible to the state, as they (360) aptly summarize this. They are about war, whereas the state is about peace (states do wage war but only for there to be peace).
In summary, as summarized by the two (360-361), the war machine is a form of exteriority, a non-identity, existing only in its own perpetual metamorphoses, whereas the state is a form of interiority, about identity. Anyway, after that lengthy, albeit, perhaps, necessary detour, it’s time to return to science or academics. Where was I? Right, I was about to link this to the image of thought before I went on to explain the war machine. Now that I’ve done that, what they (377) express should make a bit more sense:
“Every thought is already a tribe, the opposite of a State.”
Remember how they (376) hold that the state is the form of interiority and the professor is a state functionary, which results in an image of thought that is inspired by the state. Also, remember how they (376) point out that the state and the professor reinforce one another. In other words, this results in thought being modeled after the state and in conformity with it, which, as they (374) state, defines its “goals and paths, conduits, channels, organs, an entire organon.” In short, the dominant image of thought is that of the form of interiority. Back to the other image of thought, that of the form of exteriority, which they (377) further elaborate as:
“But the form of exteriority of thought – the force that is always external to itself, or the final force, the nth power – is not at all another image in opposition to the image inspired by the State apparatus. It is, rather, a force that destroys both the image and its copies, the model and its reproductions, every possibility of subordinating thought to a model of the True, the Just, or the Right (Cartesian truth, Kantian just, Hegelian right, etc.).”
So, going back to what Deleuze states in the preface to the English translation of ‘Différence et Repetition’, the form of exteriority of thought, to use the terms he uses alongside Guattari in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, is not, strictly speaking an image of thought because it is a force that seeks to destroy the image, as well as its copies, to uproot the arborescent model and its reproductions. I reckon this is why Deleuze (xvii) considers it to be a matter of liberating “thought from those images that imprison it” rather than merely replacing one image with another as what they, he and Guattari, advocate for instead, the rhizome, is about the continuous metamorphosis. Then again, not unlike Deleuze (xvii) who briefly refers to it as a new image of thought (before stating that it is rather about liberating thought from the images that imprison it), I find it hard to explain all this, going against the dominant image of thought, without stating that I subscribe to another, diametrically opposite image of thought. I mean, oh boy, oh boy, if I have to explain all this, now about 8 pages or so, just so that I abstain from referring to it as an image, or a model, in some peer-reviewed paper, yeah, it’s just not going to work (unless I get to spend that many pages to explain this central issue).
What about the bows and arrows bit then? I indicated that this will crop up again and this is the point in the book where archery gets mentioned. Deleuze and Guattari (377) explain the issue they take with what is called a method:
“A ‘method’ is the striated space of the cogitatio universalis and draws a path that must be followed from one point to another.”
I have yet to explain what striated space is, but I’ll get to it soon enough. Cogitatio universalis is the dogmatic image of thought, the form of interiority of thought that professors subscribe to. It takes different shapes, such as “Cartesian truth, Kantian just, Hegelian right, etc.”, to name a few, as they (377) do. In contrast, they (377) elaborate non-method:
“[T]he form of exteriority situates thought in a smooth space that it must occupy without counting, and for which there is no possible method, no conceivable reproduction, but only relays, intermezzos, resurgences. Thought is like the Vampire; it has no image, either to constitute a model of or to copy.”
Again, I have not explained smooth space, but I’ll get to that as well. Anyway, to get to the point about archery, I’ll have to let them (377) continue:
“In the smooth space of Zen, the arrow does not go from one point to another but is taken up at any point, to be sent to any other point, and tends to permute with the archer and the target.”
Finally, the point about bows and arrows, as also mentioned by Deleuze (xv) in the added preface of ‘Difference and Repetition’, is that it’s one thing to examine how examine how arrows are made, how they are shot, how far they go, how accurate they are, for what purposes they are shot, what they land on, etc. in order to master archery, to hit a target, and another thing to “trim our own arrows, or gather those which seem to us the finest in order to try to send them in other directions[.]” In ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ Deleuze and Guattari (378) make note of what happens to archery when the state is involved:
“Is it by chance that whenever a ‘thinker’ shoots an arrow, there is a man of the State, a shadow or an image of a man of the State, that counsels and admonishes him, and wants to assign him a target or ‘aim’?”
To contextualize this a bit, as it is torn off the page here by me, the bit on “a shadow or an image of a man of the State”, as opposed to “a man of the State”, has to do with this doesn’t require an official representative of the state, say a politician, a bureaucrat or a professor, as anyone who subscribes to that image of thought will do just as well. To put it in terms used elsewhere in the book, and repeatedly by me in my previous essays, everyone is a priest in this regard. It’s that pervasive.
In other words, you can learn to shoot arrows from one point to another according to an image or a model. Alternative, you can do the opposite by ignoring the image or the model in order to avoid being led by the arrow to this and/or that point. The arrow is in perpetual flight, or so to speak. You could, of course, say that the arrow is always at a certain point, but that’s beside the point here (haha!) as the arrow is always curving somewhere else. The point where it happens to be is only relevant if it is thought of as going from one point to another in a straight line.
I did a quick search on Deleuze, Zen and archery, which led me to read an article by Diana Soeiro titled ‘«Know thyself» Mind, body and ethics. Japanese archery (Kyudo) and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze’. She (200) explains what kyūdō (弓道), the Way of the bow (do as the Way, you know, also like in kendō, the Way of the sword), or the art of archery, is, by first establishing what it is not:
“Asking «what is [kyūdō]» while writing on a piece of paper is one of the less [kyūdō]-like things one can do.”
Followed by explaining what it is (200):
“[Kyūdō] is about doing and not about talking about it.”
So, as explained by Deleuze (xv) in the English preface, while there’s nothing wrong with talking about archery, that’s is to say examine the work of others, you are free to do so, but it is still not archery, that is to say it’s not creating your own work. Anyway, Soeiro (200) further elaborates kyūdō:
“The best way to understand what [kyūdō] is, is to find a place where it is taught and start practicing and observe others to practice.”
Perhaps it’s worth emphasizing that Deleuze (xv) is not against learning from others, but rather against establishing a model or a school of how to to do something. In this case it’s about archery, but he is actually talking about philosophy. So, the point is rather not to approach whatever it is that is at stake, say archery, as if it needs be learned through a manual. It’s about archery, not about measurements applied to archery. Soeiro’s (200) cites Kenneth Kushner’s ‘One Arrow, One Life – Zen, Archery, Enlightenment’:
“A «Way» in its essence is therefore best described in action. Moreover, «actions become Ways when practice is not done merely for the immediate result».”
In her (200) own words:
“This means that action, in this context, should be taken as gesture. This distinction is crucial to understand that what is at stake in the practice in any of the «Ways» is not the result but the act of doing itself.”
Very simply put, it’s just about doing archery, not about examining what archery is, what happens when the arrow is propelled by the bow, from the point where you stand, and hits something, at the point where the arrow lands. In her (200) words, it’s about performing the gesture. To be more specific, she (201) elaborates what can be learned and cannot be learned:
“One can learn the gesture but one can never learn its result – and that is why in [kyūdō] hitting the target or not is irrelevant.”
If you fail to grasp the usefulness of this, why the point is about performing the gesture, think of it as a primary concern to you. Getting the gesture right, the movement as surely as possible is what it is about. That’s you try to learn. That is what you need to focus on. Hitting the target is secondary. Once you have perfected performing the gesture, you know that the target will be hit, as she (201) explains it. As that might be hard to comprehend, she (202, 206) reiterates this by stating that release which creates a sense of oneness occurs not when the arrow strikes the intended target but when one lets go, releases the arrow, letting it fly because kyūdō is not about proving yourself and be acknowledged by others for your skill with the bow and arrow but knowing yourself, your character, at that very moment, to reach harmony with yourself. Simply put, it’s about the experience of doing it, being involved in it, not about what comes after it.
I guess I should add that explaining the purpose of learning as reaching perfection is, perhaps, a bit misleading, in the sense that the practice is never over. You don’t simply start from zero, work your way to perfection, lets say a hundred as the measure of perfection, and you are done. As I pointed out earlier on, just ask an athlete how this performing the gesture works. They’ll tell you that it involves hard work and it’s not over once they achieve a certain level. They still need to work hard in order to maintain that level, in this case perfection. As Soeiro (202) characterizes it, this is why “practice is a Way to know yourself.” Linking this to the earlier point she (200) makes, it’s worth reiterating that this is, indeed, a practice that facilitates knowing oneself, but one that only involves doing, experiencing, not talking about what you do or experience, or, to be more accurate, did or experienced. As I really want to move on, as fascinating as this is, in summary of what is stated by Soeiro in the article, archery, that is to say the art of archery or the Way of the bow, is about experiencing oneness with the bow, knowing one’s place as “the medium between this (technique) and that (release)” (203), about becoming-bow, to put in Deleuzo-Guattarian terms.
If you think this is rather nonsensical, against common sense, even pointless in the sense of going through a rigorous, as well as a clearly repetitive process, to get somewhere, you are correct. That’s exactly the point, abandoning you, yourself, the subject, as the starting point for everything else and letting who you are, at any given time, emerge, to take shape through practice, that is to say though difference and repetition, as explained by Soiero (207-208). In her (208) words, linking this to will or desire, the point is to:
“To know through one’s own character fueled by the desire, to know. To know, not what society or others assumed as important for anyone to know, but to know what one’s own character wants to find out: following its … orientation. When you do know you no longer need to will it and knowledge (character and thinking) comes to you in a clear, sharp way.”
Connecting to the previous point about letting one’s identity to take shape through practice, I think it’s worth emphasizing here the point she makes about it not being what society or others want. You need to let go of such conception of yourself, as this and/or that, what others want you to be. I’d also emphasize here that it’s not only about letting go of how others view you but about letting go of how you view yourself as well. That’s the point about the release, literally letting go in order to let the arrow be propelled from the bow, in order to experience who you are as an event, going from the interior to the exterior only to curve back to the interior, as if your intention was to hit yourself, as explained by Soiero (202, 205). I guess, in a way, the purpose of kyūdō is always to shoot at yourself in order to develop, to become something else. I mean, you do want to get better at it, right? In her final remark Soiero (209) points out that while «Do» translates as «Way», «kyu» can be translated not only as bow, but also as endurance and continuity, as well as as student or beginner, so when all these sense of «kyu» are taken into consideration, kyūdō is about difference and repetition, “using the bow repeatedly where one, also repeatedly, is a beginner each time one shoots is like starting anew” which, in turn, “demands endurance and continuity.”
After a lengthy elaboration of the war machine, going on for about a dozen pages or so (387-401), Deleuze and Guattari (400) address martial arts in general. To better understand the importance of martial arts, it’s worth noting that, for them (398), weapons are the consequences of the war machine. To make more sense of that, it’s worth reiterating the war machine is an assemblage. As they (398) point out:
“The very general primacy of the collective and machinic assemblage over the technical element applies generally … for weapons.”
To get to the point, in summary of what they (398-401) go on and on about, both the war machine and the weapons that come about as its consequence are marked by speed (which will be explained later on). The gist here is that, unlike tools that are burdened by gravity, that have very specific heavy duties associated with running the state, namely making things, creating this from this and/or that, as well as keeping them together, weapons are linked to what they (397, 401) call the free-action model, permitting absolute movement and going against anything seeks to prevent this. As they (398) point out, weapons are tied “to a speed-perpetuum mobile system” and therefore, in a way, can be understood as speed itself. This is why they (400) are fascinated by how practicing martial arts can permit one to become something else:
“[M]artial arts do not adhere to a code, as an affair of the State, but follow ways, which are so many paths of the affect … the weapon being only a provisory means. Learning to undo things, and to undo oneself, is proper to the war machine: the ‘not-doing’ of the warrior, the undoing of the subject.”
I have stop here for a moment, to point out here that, as intriguing as kyūdō might be, it also seems to be or rather seems to have ended up rather striated and thus antithetical to the war machine as characterized by Deleuze and Guattari. How so? Well, because the performance of the gesture involves a specific, apparently nowadays codified, eight step method (hassetsu) described by Soiero (203-204), which is held as the correct way of performing the gesture leading to release. It’s worth reiterating that for Deleuze and Guattari (377):
“A ‘method’ is the striated space of the cogitatio universalis and draws a path that must be followed from one point to another.”
So, oddly enough, while it may have been that kyūdō is without a method, that it was more of a gradual process that required little talking rather than doing to get there, it seems that it has ended up with one, with different schools and what not. Apparently there is an official kyūdō manual, published by All Nippon Kyudo Federation. Looks a lot like it involves drawing a path that is to be followed, going from one point to another. Very striated, if you ask me. It’s not that this surprised me though. For example, Nietzsche is very much someone whose thought qualifies as what Deleuze and Guattari call the war machine, yet he ended up being a poster boy for a certain state that was very much at the center of things in the 1930s and 1940s. Not even death can prevent that from happening. The state is out to striate.
Right, so, I reckon that for Deleuze and Guattari the process would be about picking up a bow and arrow, learning to master it, with or without others, as you see fit, as there are many ways to do this. Of course, weapons are not the only way. For example, once you figure out what Deleuze is on about with difference and repetition, another way of thinking emerges that allows you to shape yourself the way you see fit. I think Ronald Bogue (35) puts it aptly when he explains the same thing in ‘The Master Apprentice’ which is included in ‘Deleuze and Education’:
“The ‘way’ of philosophy is a way of living, a mode of existence, and like the way of Zen, one that applies to all aspects of life.”
Something tells me though that kyūdō is far from reading an official manual, going to school (in this case dojo) and going through the steps explained in the manual as instructed by a teacher, followed by enlightenment. I believe Bogue (34) manages to explain the role of the eight steps of kyūdō well:
“The postures, breathing techniques and mental exercises, however, are only means to an end.”
The point here being that for the aspiring archer, it is not only to be about archery, but about how one then applies this way to all aspects of life. It’s one way of getting there, or so to speak. For me, I do that through thinking, having read philosophy, Deleuze in particular, albeit not exclusively. As noted by Bogue (34), it is of little consequence how you get there, what path you take, be it through the way of the bow, the way of the sword or the way of the empty hand (or the way of writing or the way of tea, as listed by Soiero, 200), or the way of thinking, as done by Deleuze, as what matters is that you do.
Of course you cannot expect this to just happen to you. As pointed out by Deleuze (xv) in the added preface to ‘Difference and Repetition’ and explained by Bogue (34-35), you still need to learn, with or without others, albeit, as I’ve argued in the essays on Vološinov, all you know and all you do are always tied to others. This is what Deleuze did when he engaged in the philosophy of his predecessors, as well as his contemporaries. I guess you could say that he became-them in order to go beyond them, become someone else, someone else than them, to create something of his own. To put it very simply, for Deleuze, as he (23) explains it in ‘Difference and Repetition’, the role of the teacher is not to say “‘Do as I do’” but to say “‘do with me’” because the former only results in reproduction whereas the latter permits heterogeneous development.
To get back on to the plateau on the war machine, going back a bit to an earlier remark they make about the two directions of the war machine, they (378) warn not to turn archery into a model of archer, “into a model to be copied.” To be accurate, they (378) don’t exemplify this with archery, but by examining art, contrasting those whose thought is of the form of exteriority (war machine) to those whose thought is of the form of interiority (state). Their (378) examples include contrasting Antonin Artaud with Jacques Riviere and Heinrich von Kleist and Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I opted to skip these here because I’m not that familiar with their work (I’d just do a poor job; I’m sure you can read those bits yourself). The point is the same as it is with archery. I guess it’s just easier to explain the dangers of valorizing those whose engage in outside thought. In their (378) words, valorizing such figures may end up turning them into monuments. So, indeed, you can learn from past masters (senseis in the context of kyūdō) but not in order to copy them, but to, eventually, find your own way.
To summarize this detour on the art of archery in non-Zen terms, Deleuze and Guattari (377) rephrase their point about bows and arrows, characterizing how on the level of the society it’s about “[a]n ambulant people of relayers, rather than a model society.”
I guess I have to go back a bit at this point, to explain striated space and smooth space. I’ll get to those in a moment. Deleuze and Guattari (361) elaborate on those concepts when they focus on the two kinds of science, the major, royal or imperial science and the minor or nomad science. By this point it should be obvious which is the state science and which is the war machine science. Those who wish to delve more into this may want to look up ‘The Birth of Physics’ by Michel Serres as they largely build on their book on this.
Deleuze and Guattari (361) characterize minor science as fundamentally fluid, pertaining to flows, fluctuation and consistency, and atomist. It’s about becoming and heterogeneity, making becoming primary and being secondary. It’s marked curving or curvilinear declination, deviating from a straight line, forming spirals and vortexes, and vectors. They (362) also note that minor science is problematic, that is to say that “figures are considered only from the viewpoint of the affections that befall them”, one going “from a problem to the accidents that condition and resolve it.” It is about figures designating events, that, to them (362), involve “all kinds of deformations, transmutations, passages to the limit[.]” What results from this is that one cannot examine this and/or that independently. They (362) exemplify this by noting that “the square no longer exists independently of a quadrature, the cube of a cubature, the straight line of a rectification.” They (362) caution not to think of problems in minor science as mere obstacles that one then after some pondering seeks to overcome but overcoming the obstacle as it is or while its projected, as it happens. For me, this is among the hazier passages on this plateau but I reckon that the point here is, as they (362) sort of go on to explain, that the problems are, in fact, the war machine itself, that is to say that in this conception we do not simply encounter pre-existing problems, as if they were out there, just waiting for us, but that we are the ones that create them (hence we project them) as much as we seek to surpass them. They (367, 408) indicate that minor science is what Edmund Husserl (166) calls “essentially, rather than accidentally, inexact” in the first book of ‘Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy’, what they call “anexact yet rigorous” as it involves vague and fluent essences, such roundness. They are hardly exact, yet they are rigorous. What minor science is based on is what Deleuze and Guattari (368) call the plane of consistency or composition, also referred to as the plane of immanence elsewhere in the book.
In contrast, they (361) characterize major science as fundamentally solid (fluid is a deviation from solid), pertaining to “the stable, the eternal, the identical, the constant.” It’s about matter, being and homogeneity. Being is primary, while becoming and heterogeneity are mere secondary characteristics that we can observe as the differences between two identities, as explained early on in this essay. It is marked by the straight line, parallels, lamellarity, gridding and rastering. They (362) add that major science is theorematic, that is to say that “one … go[es] by specific differences from genus to its species, or by deduction from a stable essence to the properties deriving from it” and problems are approached as to be subordinated by the theorem. They (367) indicate that unlike minor science, major science deals with theorematic figures and seeks to be exact. They (367) exemplify this with a circle that is always ideal and fixed essence, which, nonetheless, spawn the problematic figures listed by Husserl (166), all related to both circles and roundness, such as lens-shaped, umbelliform and indented. What major science is based on is what they (368) call the plane of organization or formation.
Oddly enough, as indicated by the existence of problematic figures, the two conceptions of science meet at a point, between the exact and the inexact but rigorous. That said, Deleuze and Guattari (367) note that major science is given primacy over minor science, which, unfortunately, obscures “the relations between science and technology, science and practice, because nomad science is not a simple technology or practice, but a scientific field in which the problem of these relations is brought out and resolved in an entirely different way than from the point of view of royal science”, which, in turn makes it hard, if not impossible to appreciate minor science. Perhaps the best way of explaining the relationship between the two is conceptualizing it as the relationship between the state and the war machine. In their (367) words:
“The State is perpetually producing and reproducing ideal circles, but a war machine is necessary to make something round.”
In other words, major science wouldn’t exist without minor science. You can’t exactly draw circles without something as inexact as roundness. Therefore major science always ends up drawing from minor science. That said, as indicated by the two (368), those who subscribe to major science tend to take issue with those who subscribe to minor science because the state has no need for autonomous “intellectuals or conceptual innovators”. They (368) clarify that it’s not the state doesn’t want these intellectuals, the innovators, as they are, indeed, highly useful to the state, but that they should know their place and make it so that their intellect, their innovation, can be shared and reproduced by others, those who already know their place. They (368, 374) characterize those who know their place in the academics as having imagined autonomy as they think they are free to conduct research as they see fit, yet they are dependent on the state that sets the “goals and paths, conduits, channels, organs, an entire organon.” However, they (368) add that it’s worth noting that the state couldn’t care less about minor science but not because of its vagueness and inexactness but because of the way it operates. Simply put, they (368) argue that the types of divisions of labor in minor science just don’t mesh with the state. The state doesn’t like it when something that is done within its borders is done without its blessing, its supervision, its governance. Individuals and groups of individuals that have tacit knowledge are problematic because it makes the state dependent on them and not the other way around. The state finds it problematic when people have knowledge that doesn’t belong to them, or so to speak, because it undermines the governor-governed dynamic that is in its favor.
Deleuze and Guattari (369) offer another way of characterizing minor science and major science. Following Plato in ‘Timaeus’, they (369) classify minor science as Dispars, elaborating it as marked by material-forces, as well as irreducible adequations, inequations and differential equations, and major science as Compars, elaborating it as marked by matter-form, always in search of constants extracted from the variables or equations from the relations of the variables. In other words, they (369) define minor science as pertaining to singularities, haecceities (vague essences), events and individuations and major science with constituting general forms, objects. Moreover, they (369) characterize the two as the opposition of the nomos, open ended conventional law of particulars, and the logos, closed system of sovereign law of universals.
By further contrasting the two, we arrive to their definitions of smooth space and striated space. For them (361-362) smooth space is “vectorial, projective, or topological” and striated space is metric, gridded or rastered. They (362) add that “in the first case ‘space is occupied without being counted,’ and in the second case ‘space is counted in order to be occupied.’” It’s worth noting here that, as acknowledged in the notes (553), Deleuze and Guattari borrow this from composer Pierre Boulez, who distinguishes between smooth and striated space (surface) and time in ‘Boulez on Music Today’. To give you an example, one listed by Deleuze and Guattari (363-364), sea is a smooth space, an open space that involves vortical movement. Later on they (386-387) exemplify this with pirates, as well as fleets that patrol the seas in order to secure them against pirates and other fleets. Gothic architecture also presents smooth spaces, namely in the form of Gothic cathedrals, in the sense that, at least according to them (364), they didn’t rely on Euclidian geometry to build them. Apparently the process of building them was largely intuitive. It’s not that no mathematics was involved but rather that it happened there and then, which then, according to Deleuze and Guattari (364-365) didn’t sit too well with state and church representatives because it wasn’t done according to set templates for building. Another example of a smooth space named by the two (365) has to do with the minor science involved in bridge building way back in the day.
Deleuze and Guattari (371) offer another way of explaining striated space and smooth space, by contrasting straight line with curve, vertical descent with curvilinear motion when considering velocity. They (371) state that:
“Smooth space is precisely the space of the smallest deviation[, clinamen]: therefore it has no homogeneity, except between infinitely proximate points, and the linking of proximities is effected independently of any determined path.”
Only to add that (371):
“Smooth space is a field without conduits or channels. A field, a heterogeneous smooth space, is wedded to a very particular type of multiplicity: nonmetric, acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities that occupy space without ‘counting’ it and can ‘be explored only by legwork.’”
And, in contrast to striated space, they (371) state that:
“It is a space of contact, of small tactile or manual actions of contact, rather than a visual space like Euclid’s striated space.”
“[It] do[es] not meet the visual condition of being observable from a point in space external to [it]; an example of this is the system of sounds, or even of colors, as opposed to Euclidean space.”
They (371) go on to give more examples of how one makes more sense of smooth space and striated space, such as the matter of speediness and slowness, but I’ll leave it up to you to read it yourself. Instead, I’ll jump ahead to a passage on this plateau where Deleuze and Guattari (384-386) complicate the relation of the state, the war machine, striated space and smooth space when they state nothing prevents mixing and that while the state is out to striate any smooth space, it is not that it seeks to halt everything, rather than to police everything, to capture and channel “flows of all kinds, populations, commodities or commerce, money or capital etc.”, to restrict circulation and regulate speed, slowing it down, relativizing it to movement, going from one point to another as opposed to roaming, turning moving bodies into moved bodies. They (386) indicate that the easiest way of doing this is setting up something to prevent passage, such as a fortress, but I guess a fence, a wall, a trench or the like would do as well. The point here is to relativize the absolute movement of those who roam, to channel or guide their movement, as well as to slow them down. Moreover, they (387) add that striation is not the only thing the state is capable. I noted earlier how sea is a smooth space, one that can be striated by making it dependent on land, on ports, but, according to them (387), state is also capable of occupying a smooth space that it cannot properly striate. This is the case with sea, patrolled by naval fleets, as well as the case with air, patrolled by air forces, as they (387) point out. This is sort of a word of warning, not to think that smooth spaces as inherent positive and striated spaces as inherently negative. Deleuze (33) exemplifies this in ‘On A Thousand Plateaus’, as published in ‘Dialogues’:
“We can’t assume that … that smooth spaces are always better than segmented or striated ones: … nuclear submarines establish a smooth space devoted to war and terror.”
Indeed, little black submarines can crop out of nowhere to devastate you. They don’t even have to lurk near your coast as just the notion that they might be there will be enough to unsettle you. Anyway, I’ll now jump back to the issue of minor science and major science. By procedure, they (372) classify the former as a matter of following and the latter as a matter of reproducing. To be more specific, they (372) clarify this distinction by stating that:
“[F]ollowing is not at all the same thing as reproducing, and one never follows in order to reproduce.”
Why is that? They (372) their conception of major science:
“The ideal of reproduction, deduction, or induction is part of [major] science, at all times and in all places, and treats differences of time and place as so many variables, the constant form of which is extracted precisely by the law: for the same phenomena to recur in a … striated space it is sufficient for the same conditions to obtain, or for the same constant relation to hold between the differing conditions and the variable phenomena.”
What they add next seems, perhaps, a bit unnecessary to even state, as we all likely know it already, but I’ll indulge stating the obvious nonetheless. So, they (372) add:
“Reproducing implies the permanence of a fixed point of view that is external to what is reproduced[.]”
In other words, to summarize what they state here is that major science is all about universals, coming up with universal laws for this and/or that that will hold regardless of where and when this and/or that, what happens to be observed, occurs. That’s the point they (372) make about major science involving “reproduction, iteration and reiteration”. I think it’s also worth clarifying here that a model is therefore not just a model, but the model. To use their (18, 20, 368-369) terms, the former is the rhizomatic model to be followed, as one sees fit (making it the anti-model model, haha), whereas the latter is the arborescent model to be copied, in a reproductive way.
In contrast to major science, minor science is out for something different. It’s about following, going from one singularity to another, as they (372) explain it:
“One is obliged to follow when one is in search of the ‘singularities’ of a matter, or rather of a material, and not out to discover a form[.]”
The point they make about following being about actually following is exactly what they are saying. You are literally following something. They (372) provide an example where one starts by making one’s way to a plant, then follows the crevices made by water, examines them to figure out where the water has flown, in order to find where the seeds of the plant have been carried by the water. So, as they (372) summarize it, unlike major science which establishes universals and constants drawn from the particulars, from the variables, and establishes or reterritorializes around one fixed point of view, minor science is a “process of deterritorialization” that “constitutes and extends the territory itself.” How so? By following, for example, by all that tracking that involved in finding where the seeds have been carried by the water. As they (373) go on to point out, minor science is always on the move, never settling, never reterritorializing around what it encounters unlike major science which deterritorializes only in order to reterritorialize around what it comes across.
They (372-372) note that one might object to their examples, for example the plant example, because following looks awfully lot like going from one point to another and so on, step by step. They (372-373) acknowledge this but argue that it is only partially correct, considering that the procedures and processes of minor science “are necessarily tied to a striated space” of major science by being “always translatable, and necessarily translated” into striated space by major science. This (373) what they calls “the triumph of logos … over the nomos.” This does not, however, result in the destruction or disintegration of the smooth space of minor science. It’s always there. It’s just that major science is triumphant in translating, in converting smooth space into striated space … because it operates by placing grids or overlays on smooth space (I’m thinking of rasterizing a vector here, which may be of help to understand this if you’ve dabbled in graphic design). They (373) add that major science triumphs because minor science is dispersed, decentralized, never resulting in it “tak[ing] on an autonomous power, or even to haven an autonomous development.” They (373) argue that this is because they rely on intuition and construction, “following the flow of matter, drawing and linking up smooth space”, going from one problematic encounter to another, always ending up with more problems as the problems are solved. I guess you could say that there’s always more to it, which, oddly enough they (374) go on to state, how minor science “inhabit[s] that ‘more’ that exceeds the space of reproduction and soon runs into problems that are insurmountable from that point of view”, the point of view of major science. Once you think you are done, once you’ve managed to solve a problem according to its own non-autonomous constitution, as they (374) characterize the process in minor science, you notice that you have ended up somewhere where there are other problems that you must solve and so on, and so on. This most definitely keeps happening to me. There’s always more to it, another problem to be solved, that, actually, oddly enough, is usually linked to the problem at hand, making it very hard not to address it in the same context. This is why I find article format so constrained. If only the world was so neatly parceled that one could figure out one thing at a time, in isolation from other things.
So, in summary, in opposition to minor science, major science is centralized and operates by “isolat[ing] all operations from the conditions of intuition, making them true intrinsic concepts, or ‘categories’”, as they (373) explain it. Note here how they are not against concepts or categories, as such, but against holding them true and intrinsic. That’s why they (373-374) call its apparatus apodictic. This is the point they make about how major science operates through reterritorialization.
Now that I managed to explain smooth space and striated space, minor and major science, it’s time to get back to where I left off, to the issue revolving around thought or image of thought. I ended up going off the path, to explain those concepts, when Deleuze and Guattari (377) argue against method, it being part and parcel of major science, and advocate for minor science and thought that is of the form of exteriority, while warning against monumentalizing those who subscribe to the war machine and attempting to copy them. So, in summary, to reorient this essay, I now move back to thought from my detours into the specifics that ought to help understand what was expressed before and after those detours.
Deleuze and Guattari (379) pinpoint what the dominant image of thought and the striation of space that results from it aspire to: universality. They (379) clarify that there are, in fact, two universals that mark the dominant image of thought: the Whole and the Subject. The former they (379) define as “the final ground of being or all-encompassing horizon” and the latter as “the principle that converts being into-being-for-us.” They (379) then contrast this image of thought with another way of thinking, what has been covered so far to a certain extent, that they call nomad thought (as they do with nomad science). I guess you could also call it minor or minoritarian thought as well, but realize that nomad only makes sense, in the sense that nomads are always on the move but never fussy over going from one point to another. As they (380) later on point out, it’s not that nomads are unaware or ignorant of points, or unable to comprehend them, but rather that points are, for nomads, a consequence, not an underlying principle (for those sedentary, it’s the opposite). As (380) further clarify, for the nomad, the point is there only to be left behind, eventually, just like in a relay of a trajectory. To be accurate, to correct myself a bit, if we think of the nomads on their own terms, that is to say in smooth space, the nomads are actually never on the move as they never go anywhere, as they never leave, as they never depart, as Deleuze and Guattari (380) point out. The nomads are always where they are supposed to be, wherever they may roam. That only makes sense when you take milieu (which I’ll explain in the next paragraph) into consideration. Anyway, to make more sense of the nomad thought, they (379) elaborate it:
“It does not ally itself with a universal thinking subject but, on the contrary, with a singular race; and it does not ground itself in an all-encompassing totality but is on the contrary deployed in a horizonless milieu that is a smooth space, steppe, desert, or sea.”
So, as I pointed out, like actual nomads, who are known to roam the steppes and deserts, nomad thought also roams, never settling and thus having no fixed view point, hence, I reckon, the point they make it being horizonless. Also, make note of how having no horizon is called milieu, which is about always being in the middle, as they (21) point out in the introduction. What they (379) add here is that, in nomad thought, milieu is smooth space, which does make sense, considering what has been covered so far, that smooth space lacks distinct points unlike striated space. Singular race may come across as a bit odd, so they (379) elaborate it being what they call a tribe, only to immediately warn against the possible pitfalls of these labels, from racializing it, from orienting ourselves as members of this or that group in opposition of other groups. As this is not only a touchy topic but also rather obscure (hence their warnings), they (379) clarify their views on this:
“The race-tribe exists only at the level of an oppressed race, and in the name of the oppression it suffers: there is no race but inferior, minoritarian; there is no dominant race; a race is defined not by its purity but rather by the impurity conferred upon it by a system of domination.”
So, in other words, assuming that I get this correctly, for them, just like for me, there is no such thing as a race, nor a tribe. Instead, what we have is minor vs. major, minoritarian vs. majoritarian (standard), as they (291) define on another plateau, the one that focuses on becoming. They (291) emphasize that it crucial to not confuse the various terms:
“It is important not to confuse ‘minoritarian,’ as a becoming or process, with a ‘minority’, as an aggregate or a state. Jews, Gypsies, etc., may constitute minorities under certain conditions, but that in itself does not make them becomings. One reterritorializes, or allows oneself to be reterritorialized, on a minority as a state; but in a becoming, one is deterritorialized.”
Following this clarification presented on another plateau, it is now clearer what they mean by race and tribe on the plateau on the war machine. Race and tribe only exist in relation to majority, which, according to them (291) implies state domination. That’s why they (379) point out that race is about impurity, deviation from the standard. So, strictly speaking, there is no race, no tribe, in nomad thought, except when it becomes subordinated by the dominant image of thought. Here it’s worth adding that this is also highly contextual, as they (379) point out when they state that:
“Bastard and mixed-blood are the true names of race.”
The Métis and the Mestizo exemplify what Deleuze and Guattari mean by this. If we go back in time, to when these minorities emerged, they were exactly what Deleuze and Guattari (379) call a race: bastards, mixed-blood people. As indicated by the monikers Métis and Mestizo, they were the people of mixed origin, typically having a European born father and a Native American mother. Always an outsider to both. Impure in relation not only to one group but both groups. While not specifically related to race, they (413-415) also similarly characterize smiths or metallurgists as hybrids, as people shunned by sedentaries (state, striated space) and nomads (war machine, smooth space) alike because they are the true underground people, those who invent holey space (think of holes in the ground, caves, mines, where you get the metals needed in metallurgy). Smiths, and I guess bastards and mixed-blooded people, are, in a way, marked by vague essences, as pointed out by the two (414-415). They blur the distinction.
As this plateau is massive, some seventy-odd pages, I won’t be going through it all here. I have already skipped quite a bit and will keep doing that. I’ve also covered some parts of this plateau in previous essays (for example, the part where they discuss, metallurgy development of weapons, hylomorphism, emergent properties), so I go into those in this essay. There are, however, a couple of bits that I want to address. One of them is their (399-400) distinction between feeling and affect. For them (399), what is common with the two is that both feeling and affect are passions, effectuations of desire. What makes them distinct then is how they differ according to the assemblage, as they (399) clearly point out. The former they (399-400) link to the work regime of the state whereas the latter they link to the war machine. In their (400) words:
“Affect is the active discharge of emotion, the counterattack, whereas feeling is an always displaced, retarded, resisting emotion.”
In other words, affect is immediate, here and now, whereas … I had a bit of a giggle on this because I only agree … feeling is retarded. For a moment I pondered whether to characterize it as somewhere and then, as opposed to here and now, but I guess displaced is a good word for it, both spatially and temporally because it happens later on and isn’t tied to a specific place. Another thing here is the point they make about resistance and counterattack. The former is how the state operates, by blocking, by parrying, that is to say tempering action, slowing things down in order to protect itself, to reach “an equilibrium of forces”, as they (397) characterize it. The latter is about disrupting this equilibrium, albeit, the way I understand this, the specifics as to why they call it the counterattack rather than just attack has to do with maneuvering. Attack is about going on the offensive against an enemy, moving forward. Defense is about holding ground, halting an attack. Counterattack is about attacking the attacker, while thwarting the efforts of the attacker. Anyway, back to affects and feelings, to which they (400) offer another way of setting them apart:
“Affects are projectiles just like weapons; feelings are introceptive like tools.”
In other words, as they (395) point out elsewhere on the plateau, weapons are centrifugal, directed to exteriority, whereas tools are centripetal, directed to interiority. Anyway, I only bring up this distinction to indicate how feeling is more of an afterthought of affect, of discharges of emotion. This ties nicely to my previous essay where I point out how introspection fails to be experience itself and present it because attempting to explain experience, to yourself or to others, is always something displaced.
For me, another bit worth making note of here on this plateau is to remember that as much as they positively attribute the war machine, they (403) warn not to be nostalgic about it, to “resuscitate old myths or archaic figures.” You’d achieve little by attempting to role play a steppe nomad. As they (423) point out in the last paragraph of this plateau:
“It is not the nomad who defines this constellation of characteristics; it is this constellation that defines the nomad, and at the same time the essence of the war machine.”
So, as I pointed out, the war machine is not only about nomads. They (423) continue:
“If guerrilla warfare, minority warfare, revolutionary and popular war are in conformity with the essence, it is because they take war as an object all the more necessary for being merely ‘supplementary’: they can make war only on the condition that they simultaneously create something else[.]”
In other words, war machine involves war, rather obviously, but the purpose is not to destroy, or, rather to only destroy. This reminds me of how Deleuze and Guattari (28) state something very similar about discussion and criticism in ‘What Is Philosophy?’:
“To criticize is only to establish that a concept vanishes when it is thrust into a new milieu, losing some of its components, or acquiring others that transform it. But those who criticize without creating, those who are content to defend the vanished concept without being able to give it the forces it needs to return to life, are the plague of philosophy.”
To link this back to ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, criticism is about waging war, engaging in combat, but it is pointless if it is done only for the sake of it. To wrap this is up, to go back to the start, or so to speak, the issue that I keep encountering, especially in academics, is the dogmatic, orthodox or moral image of thought. We could also call it the thought as a form of interiority, as a principle, as a stratum. My favorite is calling it the static thought. It’s only fitting, really, because it gets its form of interiority from the state, which is interested in keeping things as they are, you know, as static. If we get hung up on having to call it science, calling it major science is only fitting. As argued by Deleuze and Guattari, the problem with this is that science, not unlike thought, is pointless, unable to invent anything if it is content and even happy to hold on to its existing images and their copies, its models and their reproductions. You just end up doing more of the same. There is no novelty to it. Perhaps it’s foolish of me to expect anything minoritarian though. Major science. State functionaries. Foolish me. Anyway, unlike the majoritarians, at least I offer an alternative, create something else, as I criticize those who subscribe to the dogmatic image of thought.
As a final note here, more as a general commentary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this plateau. It is long, so long, but good, so good. There’s a lot to it, so, I reckon it’s better to not get hung up on this and that particular, otherwise you might find yourself not finishing it. For me the most interesting stuff is about the steppe nomads and war. Then again, what I find particularly relevant are the parts on science and thought, how the state and major science go hand in hand. Of course, what I find interesting on this plateau might not be what others find interesting. This was only about twenty or so pages whereas the plateau is about seventy pages, so it’s only likely that I skipped parts that might interest others. That’s why I always recommend people to read the originals themselves, no matter how intriguing my take may be on something.
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- Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ( 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 ( 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
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