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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).

Unity:

  • “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}

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.”



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.

Chris Higgs sent me this link to a great Deleuze online-outline several months ago and I’m just now getting around to it.   Check it  out —

Now we’re up and running — time to get to work!