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In chapter four of ATP, D&G encourage us to think about discourse as effectual and as enabled effect. They criticize the scientism that leads linguists to draw impermeable lines between ‘constants’ and ‘variables’ – the center of a language and its apparently external, non-linguistic elements (2005 p.85). Instead, they suggest that we look at statements, which are always already at work in, and worked upon by, the social:

A type of statement can be evaluated only as a function of its pragmatic implications, in other words, in relation to the implicit presuppositions, immanent acts, or incorporeal transformations it expresses and which introduce new configurations of bodies (2005 p.83).

D&G tell us that the expression of a statement is made possible by circumstances that are conditioned by elements that might mistakenly be excluded from analyses of language – “gestures and instruments” (2005 p.98). Language should not be treated as a matter of fixed invariants that may be mutated only upon becoming unfixed. Rather, language should be treated as an “indirect discourse” that never arrives at a moment of fixity, a “collective assemblage” or a “constellation of voices, concordant or not, from which [one] draws [one’s] voice” (2005 p.84).

When one draws one’s voice from the constellation, one also projects a singularity into the collective assemblage – actively engages in “a game in which each move changes the rules” (2005 p.100). Here is pragmatics as a politics of language. Again, as in their chapter on ‘Micropolitics and Segmentarity’, we find D&G mapping the co-extensivity of lines (2005 p.223) and thereby the pervasiveness of one’s potential to flee from relations that tend towards domination. Consider this on ‘capitalism’ – the name given to set of relations that are so often taken to act on subjects as an external coercive force:

Capitalists may be the masters of surplus value and its distribution, but they do not dominate the flows from which surplus value derives. Rather, power centers function at the points where flows are converted into segments: they are exchangers, converters, oscillators (2005 p.226).

Or consider this on the instability of what appears as ‘major language’:

There is a universal figure of minoritarian consciousness as the becoming of everybody, and that becoming is creation. One does not attain it by acquiring the majority. The figure to which we are referring is continuous variation, as an amplitude that continually oversteps the representative threshold of the majoritarian standard, by excess or default (2005 p.106).


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Maybe you already saw this recent Democracy Now! interview, but I’ve been thinking specifically about Zizek’s final words in terms of “escaping the house,” ever since we had that conversation.

My contention (via my interpretation of Deleuze) was and still is: engagement is futile. The house will always win. Zizek seems to agree:

AMY GOODMAN: Last words to leave our audience with here in the United States and, well, all over in Latin America, in Europe, Africa, Eastern Europe?



SLAVOJ ZIZEK: It will be simply—OK, maybe, the point that I always like to repeat: don’t beat—don’t get caught into a fake discourse of humanitarian emergency. Remember that when somebody is telling you, “You’re doing your theory. You are dreaming. But people are starving out there and so on. Let’s do something,” this is the threat. This is the threat.

Today’s hegemonic ideology is this kind of state of emergency ideology. What we need is to withdraw—don’t be afraid to withdraw and think. You know, Marx thesis eleven: philosophers have only interpreted the world; the time is, we have now to change it. Maybe, as good Marxists, we should turn it around. Maybe we are trying to change it too much. It’s time to redraw and to interpret it again, because do we really know what is going on today?

What is going on today? There are old fashion theories, either Marxist or liberals who claim the same capitalism is going on. Then there is a whole set of fashionable terms like post-industrial society, post-whatever, information society, which I think don’t do the job. We even don’t have what my friend Fred Jameson likes to call “cognitive mapping,” you know, that you get an idea what’s going on. We need theory more than ever. Don’t be—don’t feel guilty for withdrawing from immediate engagement and for trying to understand what’s going on.

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The Deleuzinator speaks with Claire Parnet:
(en français)

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I will talk a bit more about this on Saturday if anyone is interested, but I think it opens up the text a bit more in “On the Refrain” to have some provided images of Paul Klee’s work. (I know some members in the group said they were not very familiar with his work.) His work often focuses on the materialization of language and sound through painting, or aiming to create symphonies in color. In works such as “The Vocal Fabric of Rosa Silber,” he turns the intangibility of a song and voice into visible substance. The follow quotes are areas that I believe specifically deal with this issue of sound and color in relation to Paul Klee.   

“It is now a question of elaborating a material charged with harnessing forces of a different order: the visual material must capture nonvisible forces. Render visible, Klee said; not render or reproduce the visible” (On the Refrain 342). 

“According to Klee, what is needed in order to ‘render visible’ or harness the Cosmos is a pure and simple line accompanied by the idea of an object, and nothing more: if you multiply the lines and take the whole object, you get nothing but a scramble, and visual sound effects” (344).

“There is surely no question here of declaring a given art supreme on the basis of a formal hierarchy of absolute criteria. Our problem is more modest: comparing the powers or coefficients of deterritorialization of sonorous and visual components. It seems that when sound deterritorializes, it becomes more and more refined; it becomes specialized and autonomous. Color clings more, not necessarily to the object, but to territoriality. When it deterritorializes, it tends to dissolve, to let itself be steered by other components” (347).                                   


Cosmic Composition

Cosmic Composition


Ancient Sound

Ancient Sound

New Harmony

New Harmony

The Vocal Fabric of Rosa Silber

The Vocal Fabric of Rosa Silber

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First of all, when considering a text by Alan Sokal we must remember two things:

1) It could be complete nonsense.
2) It is automatically biased against particular discourse communities.

Recall the infamous Sokal Affair. What a big hero he was to write a paper full of jargon and get it published. What a spit in the eye of academia. Boy, he really shook things up with that triumph. [Is my sarcasm transparent enough?] What I love best is his explanation for why he did it:

“I confess that I’m an unabashed Old Leftist who never quite understood how deconstruction was supposed to help the working class. And I’m a stodgy old scientist who believes, naively, that there exists an external world, that there exist objective truths about that world, and that my job is to discover some of them.”

The key phrase is: “I…never quite understood how deconstruction was supposed to help the working class.” You know, Alan, I believe you. But just because you can’t understand it doesn’t make it invalid – that’s your first mistake. Chances are, we could fill the universe with stuff you don’t understand and still have leftovers.

Furthermore, his assertion that D&G misuse scientific concepts because they have a shaky understanding is so arrogant it’s actually offensive. Seriously? After you just got through saying you don’t understand deconstruction, but felt obliged to write about it as if you did? My mother used to say, “That’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”

Sokol is one of those annoying gatekeeper-types. He wants to hold power. He wants to say who can use what kind of discourse approach and under what circumstances those approaches should be deemed acceptable. He sounds like a fascist in “old leftist” disguise.

Last time I checked, there was ONLY shaky ground in science, particularly quantum physics. To my understanding the Higgs boson has yet to be discovered, the LHC is still not operational, and the grand unified theory has yet to be figured out – thus, it would be sorta hard to “be correct” when it comes to science since “correct” literally doesn’t exist.

Think about all those fools running around thinking Newton’s theory of gravity was “correct.” Boy, did they have egg on their face when Einstein came along and proved how he was wrong. Newton thought gravity was a force! A force! Can you believe it! HAHAHAhAhaHA. How incorrect. As Einstein showed us, gravity is in fact the movement of matter along the shortest space in a curved spacetime.

My point here – if I’ve got one – is that “correct” only exists contingently. “Correct” is always becoming. It is never static. For Sokol to conceive of “correct” as a state that can be achieved, he is sorely mistaken. Only a Platonist would affirm something as silly as “absolute truth” or “correctness.” Perhaps Sokol didn’t get the memo about Deleuze overturning Plato just as Einstein overturned Newton.

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I usually love a good rousing challenge from the opposition, yet unfortunately Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont’s “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science” especially in the section on Deleuze and Guattari, comes out feeling like misplaced stabs at not only intellectual rigor, but the actual intelligence of Deleuze and Guattari.


What is most disturbing is that through the entire preface and introduction they claim how they want to save academic students and faculty from placing weight on pompous, misguided pseudo-scientific prose. Shockingly, they really believe that the work of Lacan, Kristeva, Deleuze, and others is out intellectual fashionability. It is purposefully constructed to confuse by means of obscurity or high philosophical jargon, that when read, if not understood by the reader the blame is placed on their inability to understand, and not the fault of the writer.


“We fail to see the advantage of invoking, even metaphorically, scientific concepts that one oneself understands only shakily when addressing a readership composed almost entirely of non-scientists. Might the goal be to pass off as profound a rather banal philosophical or sociological observation, by dressing it up in fancy scientific jargon?” (11). 


Perhaps the real problem can relate to the issue we discussed before on the formulation of new theories and concepts. This is particularly interesting due to the fact:

1.)    Within the book Sokal and Bricmont are most unforgiving to the work of Deleuze and Guattari.

2.)    The work that they attack most viciously is, “What is Philosophy?”  


Essentially, the scientists ask if one is to use terms from quantum mechanics, chaos theory, etc. then there must be explanation for its purpose in relation to the argument.


The authors quoted in this book clearly do not have more than the vaguest understanding of the scientific concepts they invoke and, most importantly, they fail to give any argument justifying the relevance of these scientific concepts to the subjects allegedly under study. They are engaged in name-dropping, not just faulty reasoning. Thus, while it is very important to evaluate critically the uses of mathematics in the social sciences and the philosophical or speculative assertions made by natural scientists, these projects are different from–and considerably more subtle than–our own” (15).


Ultimately, the larger question at hand can be proposed as such:


If philosophy is to use ideas and terminology from other discourses i.e. (Science, Mathematics, etc.) to what extent should philosophers, psychoanalysts, or linguists be responsible for the “correctness” required of that original field? Especially when Deleuze is fighting against grounding thought to such limitations as, A = B because it correlates to my argument in such a way, which therefore proves…


Would addressing these scientific references in a more formulaic and definitive manner negate a rhizomaic approach? Does a more explanatory clarity start to approach linearity?


According to S&B they strictly believe in citing relevance: 

     “ We would respond, first of all, that when concepts from mathematics or physics are invoked in another domain of study, some argument ought to be given to justify their relevance. In all the cases cited here, we have checked that no such argument is provided, whether next to the excerpt we quote or elsewhere in the article or book“ (9).

I will add more later, but I wanted to see if anyone has any thoughts on the issue.

Before I go, I’ll make my Zizek plug and walk away. His latest book, In Defense of Lost Causes has been called by the Village Voice, “the best intellectual high since Anti-Oedipus”. Something to consider.

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I’m intrigued by Deleuze and Guattari insisting so often that the rhizome is the anti-genealogy. If we do indeed read it as a methodology of critical inquiry (as I think is clearly one of their intentions) then we come head to head with a number of critical projects that profess the opposite as the their method. Most notably, of course, are Foucault’s genealogical studies, coming out of the Nietzschean vein (though Nietzsche is much more in line with Deleuze and his notion of constant “becoming” than Foucault is). But for some reason I’m thinking of Kevin DeLuca’s (fantastic) book, Image Politics. His methodology is drawing heavily upon a blend of Laclau & Mouffe with McGee’s ideograph. DeLuca traces (“trace” is a very much a no-no word to D & G) the term “progress” through a sequence of texts, mostly focusing on how radical environmental groups (once again, Earth First! is in the academic spotlight) are attempting to shift the meaning behind that ideograph, and how they approach it as a rhetorical challenge.

I’m intrigued if only because I seem to simultaneously agree with both methodologies. DeLuca’s approach, I think, is systematic without being dogmatic and yields excellent results for the rhetorical study of social movements. However, at the same time, I can see the impulse to force the movements into a Tree-like/Single-Root metaphorical model – precisely what D & G warn against. As the anti-genealogy, rhizomatic approach suggests, how Earth First! operates and came to be is much more messier than what’s presented in DeLuca’s text.

But a crucial point that’s easy to pass over: The dualism they set up between Rhizome/Tree & Tracing/Map is that it’s purposely false and in the end, quite compatible The rhizome can integrate the tree and maps can integrate tracings:

It is a question of method: the tracing should always be put back on the map … the tracing has already translated the map into an image; it has already transformed the rhizome into roots and radicles. It has organized, stabilized, neutralized the multiplicities according the axes of signifiance and subjectification belonging to it. It has generated, structuralized the rhizome, and when it thinks it is reproducing something else it is in fact only reproducing itself. That is why the tracing is so dangerous. It injects redundancies and propagates them (13).

And again, a bit further along:

The important point is that the root-tree and canal-rhizome are not two opposed models: the first operates as a transcendent model and tracing, even if it engenders its own escapes; the second operates as an immanent process that overturns the model and outlines a map, even if it constitutes its own hierarchies, even if it gives rise to a despotic channel (20).

So in the case of Image Politics, we must take DeLuca’s findings and put them back into the teeming mass of activist networks in order for the tracing to gain it true contextual import. Not exactly sure what this would look like as a piece of scholarship, but I’m going to mull on it and see what I come up with. Like D & G say, “Plug the tracings back into the map, connect the roots or trees back up with the rhizome” (14). Or a bit later when they’re even more explicit in their language about collectives: “[S]how at what point in the rhizome there form phenomena of massification, bureaucracy, leadership, fascization, etc., which lines nevertheless survive, if only underground, continuing to make rhizome in the shadows” (14).

Apart from being an exquisite literary sentence, I think D & G are offering something there that will ultimately be productive for explaining how activist networks function (globally perhaps?).

I’ve been stumbling around the first chapter of a book by an Australian Professor of Criminology—Deleuze and Environmental Damage. He outlines in meticulous fashion how forcing various conceptual and discursive sets into a “tree” model (which he calls a “monolith” model) and the dualistic (dialectical?) thinking it engenders can lead to disastrous results:

The problems with modernist conceptions of environmental damage are twofold. Firstly, there has been a tendency to write the ‘causes’ of environmental problems in monolithic fashion – the irresponsible consumer monolith under liberal ecology, the capitalist monolith under ecomarxism, the patriarchal monolith under ecofeminism, the hierarchical monolith under deep ecology, and the domination monolith under social ecology.

The (unintended) consequence of these monoliths has been the proliferation of precisely the kinds of configurations and dichotomies that have long underpinned the processes of environmental damage and its discursive production. Configurations such as: ecologically benign policies versus irresponsible citizens; economically powerful owners of the means and forces of production versus environmentally conscious but powerless labourers; ecologically destructive men versus environmentally mindful women; ecologically damaging humans versus ecologically benign nonhumans; humans as creatures of domination versus Nature as symbiotic entity: (35). {Hasley, Mark. Deleuze and Environmental Damage: Violence of the Text. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006

More on this later. Perhaps after a revisiting of DeLuca’s Image Politics (since it is indeed based of a binary methodology, but a post-structuralist, post-modern Derridean account).

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So I’m impressed with our wonderfully diverse crew of Deleuzians: undergraduate to PhD, with disciplines ranging from Geography to Film, Rhetoric to Comparative Studies. We began with the introductions to What is Philosophy? and A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Next up: “What is a Concept?” and Chapter 11 of Plateaus, “Of the Refrain.”  (I think.  I’m happy to read something else/other.)

Having just written elsewhere about the rhetoric surrounding “activist unity,” I found reading the rhizome chapter through that lens fascinating. Why so? Simple: Deleuze and Guattari detest the drive to make everything a unity. To plot a center-point, they suggest, is the first step towards misunderstanding something that functions rhizomatically. And if we read the current range of activist networks and groups as a web that functions and expands rhizomatically, we may not only learn more about how activism functions rhetorically, but we may be taking steps towards redefining success in activism.

So what does it mean when one says, “It’s like a rhizome”?

A few crucial quotes from A Thousand Plateaus, broken up into some categories:

Rhizome VS. Tree:

  • “Any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be. This is very different from the tree or root, which plots a point, fixes an order” (7).
  • “A rhizome may be broken, shattered at any given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines” (9).
  • “Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the rhizome is that it always has multiple entryways” (12).
  • “Thought is not arborescent … Many people have a tree growing in their heads, but the brain itself is much more a grass than a tree” (15).
  • “Arborescent systems are hierarchical systems with centers of signifiance and subjectification, central automata like organized memories. In corresponding models, an element only receives information from a higher unit, and only receives a subjective affection along preestablished paths” (16).
  • “Such is the principle of roots-trees, or their outcome: the radicle solution, the structure of Power” (17)
  • “The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb ‘to be,’ but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, ‘and … and … and …’ This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb ‘to be’” (25).

• Unlike a tree …

  • A rhizome’s “traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even nonsign states.”
  • “It is composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle.”
  • “Unlike a structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions, with binary relations between the points and biunivocal relationships between the positions, the rhizome is made only of lines.”
  • “The rhizome is not the object of reproduction: neither external reproduction as image-tree nor internal reproduction as tree-structure.”
  • “The rhizome is acentered, non-hierarchical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by a circulation of states.”

Methodologically Speaking:

  • “A method of the rhizome type, on the contrary, can analyze language only by decentering it onto other registers” (8).
  • “Transversal communications between different lines scramble the genealogical trees. Always look for the molecular, or even submolecular, particle with which we are allied … The rhizome is the anti-genealogy” (11).
  • “[E]stablish a logic of the AND, overthrow ontology, do away with foundations, nullify endings and beginnings” (24).


  • “Multiplicities are rhizomatic … There is no unity to serve as a pivot in the object, or to divide the subject … Puppet strings, as a rhizome or multiplicity, are tied not to the supposed will of an artist or puppeteer but to a multiplicity of nerve fibers” (8).
  • “Unity always operates in an empty dimension supplementary to that of the system considered (overcoding). The point is that a rhizome or multiplicity never allows itself to be overcoded” (9).

Collectives / Assemblages:

  • “An assemblage is precisely this increase in the dimensions of a multiplicity that necessarily changes in nature as it expands its connections. There are not points or positions in a rhizome, such as those found in a structure, tree, or root. There are only lines” (8).
  • “To these centered systems [are contrasted] finite networks of automata in which communication runs from any neighbor to any other, the stems or channels do not preexist, and all individuals are interchangeable, defined only by their state at a given moment—such that the local operations are coordinated and the final, global result synchronized without a central agency” (17).

Problems with forcing a tree/root metaphor on things that don’t function that way:

  • “[They] do not reach the abstract machine that connects a language to the semantic and pragmatic contents of statements, to collective assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micropolitics of the social field” (7). {Note to self: explore what “collective assemblages of enunciation” means from a rhetoric of social movements standpoint}
  • “The State’s pretension to be a world order, and to root man” (24). {Insert Bush Sr.’s quote on New World Order here}

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The continued proliferation of links…

Click here for Deleuze and Civil disobedience.

Here is a transcript of a 1972 conversation between Foucault and Deleuze, in which they discuss the links between the struggles of women, homosexuals, prisoners etc. to class struggle, and also the relationship between theory, practice and power.

Here is a link to an issue of Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy, which has a nice review essay by Robert Sinnerbrink called “Nomadology or Ideology? Zizek’s Critique of Deleuze.”

Here is a recent essay from Image & Narrative magazine, by Ils Huygens, called “Deleuze and Cinema: Moving Images and Movements of Thought.”

Here is another cinema essay, this one from Off-Screen, an essay by Donato Totaro, called “Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonian Film Project.”

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Check out the ever-growing links list on the sidebar for other lines of flight.

Here is a link to an hour long lecture by Manuel De Landa (EGS 2007) about Deleuze’s fascinating work on expressivity and morphogenesis.

And here is the motherload of Deleuze texts in pdf. downloadable form.

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