Notes on : DeLanda, M. (1999) Deleuze and the Open-Ended Becoming of the World, Manuel DeLanda Annotated Bibliography, [online] http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/delanda/pages/becoming.htm
Classical physics developed a clockwork model of causality, with implications for the notion of time – clockwork mechanisms offer a predictable past and future. This static notion of time was a problem, and the search was on for a more dynamic notion of the future and of history, one that allowed for emergence and creativity.
One such is ‘social contructivism’, based on Kantian notions of the role of human consciousness but without the transcendental bits: culture provides the conventions and categories for analysis instead. This implies cultural relativism, with ‘incommensurable’ realities. This restores openness since the world is now a text, open to many interpretations – but there is no objectivity. It might be worth paying this price to restore openness against the old notions of realism with fixed essences [and clockwork determinism] to which we need only match our theories (correspondence theory of truth).
Deleuze offered another alternative – neo-realism, ‘ a theory of the genesis of form’ (3), breaking with the idea of essences and correspondence theories. It is best developed in Difference and Repetition. Orders of difference are what generates forms: that generation is ‘becoming’, and it is what produces the given (which is what we can know from experiences). As an example, differences in temperature intensity can generate a flow (in air or liquid) from hot to cold). And ‘many other phenomena’ ,’geological, biological and cultural’ (4) ( not all of them?) are generated like this: ‘here matter is seen as possessing its own immanent, intensive resources for the generation of form from within’ (4—5).
Although classical thermodynamics saw this, it was not flexible enough, too concerned with the external ‘final equilibrium forms’ (5). Processes were sidelined ( the extensive properties dominated the intensive ones). The modern development is better – ‘far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics’ ( 5) – with an emphasis on flows and processes continually at work.
This is not constructivism with its residual notion of fixed matter pervaded by essences (even though those essences come from culture). Deleuze insists objects in equilibrium are real, independent of consciousness, but produced by real internal processes that actualize – Delanda calls them ‘processes of self-organization’ (6).
Examples include ‘attractors’ which focus interactions at a particular point or state – the spherical shape for a bubble minimises energy, so does the cubic shape of a salt crystal. Other ‘topological forms’ may include ‘closed loops’ producing stable oscillations of actual form, and again these are found in different fields. The one topological form produces many actualizations – ‘divergent actualization’ for Deleuze – many actual events from a field of virtual potentials (6). Bergson had the same idea, apparently, with the same philosophical motive – to allow for creativity and change in matter. Thus the virtual is actualizable in many objects or events, and there is no fixed essence which joins the two levels. The final equilibrium forms of classical thermodynamics are better seen as attractors, real but virtual: ‘[Deleuze] is not only a realist regarding the actual, but also a realist towards the virtual’ (8).
The processes involved do not involve chance encounters between forces or flows – they are determined, but not in the usual sense, but are ‘intermediate forms of determinism, laying between the two extremes of a complete fatalism, based on simple and linear causal relations, and a complete indeterminism, in which causality plays no role, arise in physical interactions involving nonlinear causal relations’ (9). One example is circular causality as in feedback loops. More complex forms include ‘a flow of matter-energy moving in and out of the physical process in question). These “advanced” determinisms may be static (yet multiple and hence local, since a system can switch between alternative destinies) but also dynamic, allowing for simple stable cycles or for complex forms of quasi-periodic behavior, as in deterministic chaos’ (9).
Then there is another less deterministic form – machine assemblages which form spontaneously [no consciousness involved?]. New structures are produced but the elements are not homogenized, nor is there some hierarchy of control among them [a kind of cluster of elements then]. Heterogenous elements are ‘consolidated’ (1o) .DeLanda calls such machinic assemblages ‘meshworks’ (10) and insists they are found at all levels of reality, even in metals, which have a ‘vitalism’ of their own.
Early technologists knew that they had to bring out these qualities in metals rather than imposing forms on them: metals were ‘ pregnant with morphogenetic capabilities’, and blacksmiths were engaged in producing ‘a form in which the materials themselves have a say’ (11). Technology is not just a matter of human intervention. For example ‘a [e.g. a metallic] catalyst intervenes in reality, recognizes specific targets, triggers effects, causes encounters that would not have taken place without it, and yet it is not consumed or permanently changed in these interactions, so that it can go on triggering effects elsewhere’ ( 11). DeLanda argues life itself can be seen as the result of ‘autocatalytic processes’ (11)
evolution and change to take place, particularly productive
elements have to be combined in this way. Molecules are far more
terms of combination than elementary particles; cells are simple but
many combinations. The more heterogeneous the component the more
it can produce, and we also need processes that will lead to
D&G refer to as ‘intercallary oscillations, synthesizers with at
heads’ (Thousand Plateaus) (13) [‘Intercallary’ elements seem to be
can actually live in and join up two elements – DeLanda gives the
example of a
microorganism which lives in animal guts and help them digest food. And
enables more complex interactions between buyers and sellers].
The singularity is the important mechanism for actualizing events or objects. Singularities are real and are distributed objectively along with accidental conjunctions. These singularities can produce remarkable or valuable actualizations. Humans can only ‘carry on these evaluations’ (14) by attributing significance to some events.
Deleuze’s epistemology insists that terms like true and false only apply to problems not solutions (also a bit of Bergson in here?). Problems are objective (eg the soap bubble solves a problem for soap molecules) but they [may?] occupy a dimension that is also subjectively important to us. Humans must attempt to grasp these objective problems [not false ones as in Bergson?]. This need not be restricted to physics or maths (despite the frequent examples in Deleuze) - -any kind of learning can engage with assemblages. [We need to learn about the actual processes and events underlying actualization in other words?]
constructivism limits itself to what humans can do and know
– Deleuze permits non-human machines to have a role in creating
creation is the key, even for non-human elements [rather than seeing
negation]: ‘It is ultimately this positive difference, and its
thought, that insures the openness of the world’ (16).
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