Notes on:
Deleuze, G and Guattari, F. ( 2004) A Thousand Plateaus.London: Continuum. Chapter nine. 1933: Micropolitics and Segmentarity.

Dave Harris

[Nearly sociological, but veers off back to stuff about coding and over coding]

Segments are very common and all the strata are segmented - houses, work, streets and so on. Segments usually take a binary form as in the two oppose classes, but also men and women, adults and kids. There are also circular segments, ever larger circles ranging from families through neighbourhoods to countries. Segmentation takes a linear form, with each episode or proceeding lined up in sequence - we leave families to go to schools and then get a job and so on. Segments might belong to particular individuals, or individuals can have several segments. The 'figures of segmentarity' are connected, as we see with studies of '"savage" people's (230) [lots of examples on 231]. Levi Strauss shows that dualist organisations are actually circular and linear [I used to have notes on this]. Segmentarity was particularly useful for ethnologists trying to describe societies without any central state apparatus or specialist political sector. There was an overarching code, however, and the notion of 'itinerant territoriality'.

Modern state societies are also segmentary: the state imposes its own kind. Sociologist make a mistake when they want to contrast modern and premodern. In modern societies there are constellations of subsystems, all kinds of compartmentalisation that interconnect. The modern division of labour is segmentary, so is bureaucracy: these are horizontal lines as well as hierarchical ones. The real distinction is between two types of segmentarity. Binary oppositions are strong in primitive societies but are produced by machines and assemblages that are not binary in themselves - specific relations between the sexes depend on a whole kinship system; there are no dualist organisations. Assemblages produce 'duality machines' (232) which emit binaries and 'biunivocal relationships'. The face is one such example.

When we want to analyse binary divisions, such as those between men and women, we need to trace them back to particular type of organisation. Circular segmentarity may or may not have a single centre, an eye or a black hole. There may be an ultimate single centre, and we can see some shamanistic accounts as helping to develop them, by tying together all sorts of signs of the spirit, but this still depends on the power of shamanism as a particular segment. In modern societies or states, there is a centre which produces a definite set of concentric and 'arborified'circles [reminds me of Gramsci on the modern state with its concentric fortifications]. Here we see the faces of fathers or bosses producing linguistic redundancy, radiating from 'the centre of signifiance'(233). Lesser centres still exist, but they resonate with the main one. Linear segments are also 'homogenised' in modern societies, so they can be translated or made equivalent, become overcoded [the example is modern attempts to survey and lay out city spaces, the difference between primitive geometry and State geometry]. Unpredictable junctions between lines [buds] are lost [I think the argument is that this is not the case in primitive societies, where lines are still driven by various kinds of affect and thus offer becoming - if so, this is still a rather linear becoming --replaced by 'progress' below?]. Fixed theorems suggesting fixed essences are applied to morphologies, properties replace affects, predetermination for [what is now called progress rather than becoming].

Private property also emerges as an overcoded special kind of space. Segments of lines are made to correspond - monetary segments, production segments and consumable good segments. We have rigid segmentarity, acting apparently independently, 'governed by great machines of direct binarization' (234) [in premodern societies, it is claimed, 'binaries results from "multiplicities of n dimensions"'. Circular segmentarity becomes organised and concentric, with everything focused on a single centre that 'is part of a machine of resonance', and that moves but at the same time 'remains invariant'. Linear segmentarity 'feeds into' and over coding machine that produces, for example geometric and homogenised space,, all lines of determination. This is why the tree becomes the dominant model of expression, and we can contrast it with 'rhizomatic segmentarity'[is this being equated with premodern societies?].

Resonance is less possible in premodern societies because codes do not align with territories. In modern societies, there is a new 'univocal overcoding', and 'a specific reterritorialization' based on geometry. The two kinds are not fundamentally opposed or distinct but overlap and are entangled. In particular, supple segmentarity is still 'a perfectly contemporary function'(235), but operate at a more molecular level. This introduces the idea that 'every politics is simultaneously a macro politics and a micro politics'. We can see this with 'aggregates of the perception or feeling type', which are both are organised at the molar level, with rigid segmentarity, yet which also occupy a 'an entire world of unconscious micropercepts, unconscious affects, fine segmentations'. The same goes for the relations between the sexes, which also feature 'a multiplicity of molecular combinations' that affect the relations of the people not only to each other, but to animals and plants - 'a thousand tiny sexes'[silly philosophical way of saying that sexual distinctions are found dispersed throughout every day life, as Bourdieu argues]. Social classes imply masses that interact in a number of ways [do not act just as classes], hence [a witty philosophical point coming up] 'the notion of mass is a molecular notion'. Classes attempt to crystallise masses, yet masses constantly flow out from those crystallizations [this is going to end in a celebration of Tarde against Durkheim, below].  Bureaucratic segmentation similarly does not exclude 'a suppleness of and communication between offices', even creativity. Kafka describes how the molecular also appears in bureaucracies, alongside the totalization of the regime.

Fascism has its own molecular regime - it is not the same as a totalitarian State, but features 'a proliferation of molecular focuses in interaction' which finally come to resonate in the State -'rural fascism… youth fascism… fascism of the left'(236). Each of these has its own micro black hole that communicates with the others and finally resonates in the overall central one. Each of the micro black holes has its own 'war machine' which continue to operate after Hitler took power, and which helped fascism influence every sector - 'a molecular and supple segmentarity'. Stalinist totalitarianism was lesser supple, and came to be seen therefore as more manageable by the capitalist countries in alliance [a real conspiracy theory!]. The micro political power exercised by fascism made it a mass movement and 'a cancerous body', not just a totalitarian organism. American film shows is the same picture of crime penetrating every molecular focal point. This power of fascism also explains why people desire their own repression [a big issue for Anti Oedipus]. It is not just ideology, but a matter of desire at the molecular level, itself an effect of complex assemblages with ties to the molecular, 'a highly developed, engineered set up rich in interactions'. It is only too easy to be fascist, 'not even see the fascist inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish with molecules both personal and collective' (237).

We need to avoid four errors.  The first thinks that a little suppleness is better than nothing - but microfascism and fine segmentations remain and are just as harmful.  The second assumes that the molecular is just in the realm of the imagination and operates only with individuals - but this ignores the 'social - Real' present on all the lines.  Third, it is not just a matter of size, since the molecular operates on the whole social field as much as does the molar.  Fourthly, although there is a qualitative difference between molar and molecular, they often boost or cut into each other, producing  'a proportional relation' (237).

To pursue the first case, a strong molar organization itself induces a molecular organization of elements and relations.  When machines become cosmic, assemblages can miniaturize [I'm not sure why.  Because the miniature is the only 'free' area?The example is how capitalism dominates everything except the molecular individual, 'the "mass" individual'].  Wherever we find a molar organisation, we also find micro management, especially one that induces insecurity.  Developing the second case, it is important to realise that molecular movements breakthrough even at the worldwide level [the example here is the stability between east and west being accompanied by instability between north and south, or other regional instabilities].  Lines of flight can leak between the two molar aggregates of east and west, and this is often what happens with the 'profound movements stirring in a society'.  This is something other than the classic Marxist contradiction, which operates on a larger scale.  Generally, there is always something that flows and escapes binaries, resonances and over coding.  May 1968 was an example of something molecular, misunderstood by the old macro politics.  The main movements were never appropriate for the conditions, according to the old political groups.  Actually, 'a molecular flow was escaping'.  But at the same time [!], micro movements also need to feed back to molecular organisations.  Tarde understood this too, with his examples about micro movements among peasants causing instabilities

What is at stake is a system of reference.  It might be the case that line and segment are terms reserved for molar organizations, requiring a new term for molecular, maybe 'a quantum flow' (239), and the transactions between the two levels can be seen as conversions between line and flow.  If we look at monetary flows with segments, we can define the segments from several points of view [different terms used by economists, like profit or interest], but there is also 'the flow of financing - money' which is not segmented, but which features 'poles, singularities and quanta'[defined as the creation or destruction of money, nominal liquid assets, and inflation or deflation respectively -- something intensive, not measurable metrically?].  Creative and circulatory flows might be 'tied to desire', operating beneath solid lines and segments determining interest rates, for example [reference to a French economist].  In particular, movements of capital are not easily segmented, but tend to break down into more localised flows depending on things such as 'their nature, duration, and the personality of the creditor or debtor'.  The two are related, and segments and lines can take over where a flow had run dry, and can also create a new point of departure.  With banking, it is a matter of relative power to regulate as much as possible of both parts of the circuit of money - and here, the molecular refers to the nature of the mass as opposed to the line.  Regulating the connection between line and quantum flow is never perfect - 'something always escapes' (240) [De Certeau discusses this rather well].

Other examples include the power of the church to administer sin using strong segmentarity including quantification, yet having to deal with a molecular flow of sinfulness, operating again only with poles, and quanta which in this case refer to the consciousness of sin.  Criminality is another example, contrasting the molar line of the legal code [with actual criminal conduct].  Military power develops along segmented lines, like types of war, but the war machine itself deals with 'a flow of absolute war', with opposing poles, and quanta which are in this case 'psychic and material forces'(240).  Flows are abstract yet still real.  While they can only be understood in terms of 'indexes on the segmented line', the line only exists because there is a flow energising them [the intensive produces the metric].

Back to Tarde.  Durkheim ended his influence by preferring 'the great collective representations'.  Tarde argued that these needed explaining themselves, and how they arose from minuscule imitations or oppositions, or innovations.  Despite Durkheim, this was not simply based on the psychology of individuals, but worked with the notion of flow or wave, and how these were propagated, connected to other flows, eventually organized into binaries.  The flows arose from belief or desire, and this was the basis of all social life.  Statistics could demonstrate the aspect of flows as long as they were seen as measuring a dynamic.  The main differences were not between social formations and individuals, but between molar representations and molecular beliefs and desires.  Representations define things that have already been aggregated. [Latour also likes Tarde]

We can see flows at work if there is something tending to allude or escape codes, quanta as degrees of deterritorialization.  Rigid lines are overcoded, managing more 'faltering codes', which are managed as segments on a line.  We can see original sin as the start of a flow coding creation, and deterritorializing the garden of Eden, but it did not get very far before it was overcoded by binary organisations and resonances, and reterritorialized.  Flows therefore elude lines, or lines arrest flows, but 'they are strictly complementary and coexistent, because one exists only as a function of the other' (242). [what is it that must turn flows into line? In thermodynamics, intensive differences become metric only at certain states of the system -- what makes social and political flows 'cool down'? Some crypto functionalism here?]

There are all sorts of movements of decoding and deterritorialization at work in masses and social fields, not as contradictions, but as escapes.  The key term here is the mass, which destabilizes, just as masses of invaders destabilized Rome, or peasant masses destabilized the feudal system.  A modern example would be 'women's masses detaching themselves from the old passional and conjugal code', or monetary masses flowing into commercial circuits. The Crusades  can be seen as the connection of flows subsequently overcoded by the Pope and focused on territory [!].

Flows can be both connected and conjugated, with a connection indicating a boost or acceleration, while conjugation 'indicates their relative stoppage' (243), reterritorialization, the dominance of a single flow which overcodes.  Again, the former determines the latter [or at least comes first historically].  Historians are interested in periods when the two movements coexist, where we can distinguish the molecular and molar aspect, where flows of masses turn into classes or segments, for example, and where one class manages to establish 'resonance, conjunction or accumulation', or overcoding.  We can assume different kinds of history depending on our system of reference [that is, whether we prioritize flow or line].  Flows still continue beneath lines, however.  In particular, we must not confuse mass and class: the proletariat can be both; masses relate to other masses in different ways from class relations; political struggles can prioritize one or the other.  Class always crystalizes on top of masses.  It follows that politics can never remain at the molar level alone, but must deal with the flows and their effects [one example is the flow of immigration into medieval France weakening the church].  Indeed, what goes on at the molecular level often makes or breaks molar politics.

We now have different sorts of lines.  The ones found in primitive segmentarity feature interlaced codes and territorialities and are fairly supple.  There is a rigid line which produces dualist organization, concentric circles and overcoding based on a state apparatus.  Overcoding here is an explicit, specific procedure, for example where geometrical spaces are used to politically dominate territories.  The third case has several lines of flight, some of which operate as flows, and which decode and deterritorialize, indicating the existence of a 'war machine' or something like it.

We still must beware of suggesting that primitive societies somehow came first.  We can find all three lines coexisting.  We can also find cases where lines of flight are primary, or where close segmentation is primary, with 'supple segmentation' taking either form [French example discussing barbarians invading Rome, 245: some were pushed into invasion by pressure from behind, and were opposed by the rigid segmentarity of Rome, while the increasing flows of nomads had produced a stateless war machine, which infused the invaders, or sometimes settled with the Romans].  Sometimes these different lines are found within a single group or a single individual.  These possibilities could all be seen as 'simultaneous states of the abstract Machine' (246).

An abstract machine of overcoding produces and reproduces segments, and sets them out into binaries.  It is linked to the state apparatus, but is not the same as the state apparatus, since it appears as some sort of axiomatic or geometry.  The state is an assemblage which makes it effective.  The state apparatus does identify with this abstract machine, and can therefore become totalitarian, in effect expanding the abstract machine to increasingly colonize, and also appear as autonomous.  At the other pole there is 'an abstract machine of mutation'[must be?  Happens to be?  has been discovered as the result of empirical analysis? Exists functionally to explain order?]  which deterritorializes, draws lines of flight and installs war machines on these lines.  It is in constant combat with the blockages of flow and flight.  Between the machines there is 'the whole realm of properly molecular negotiation, translation, and transduction', where molar lines are undermined, lines of flight are drawn towards black holes, connections of flow are replaced by more regular connections, and 'quanta emissions are already converted into centre points'[sci fi stuff].  All these negotiations and combats go on at the same time.

What exactly is a centre or focal point of power?  Each molar segment has a centre, or more than one; it is presupposed if segments are to combine or oppose or resonate.  Sometimes the centre can actually affect segments by resonance, operating on the horizon, and this explains the State.  Sometimes, a totalitarian state can close off a system and force resonances; in other States, it is a matter of relative resonance and relative dominance.  In this sense, 'hierarchy is always segmentary'.  Power centres also operate at the molecular level, with fine segmentation, working in detail, and examples here might include Foucault on the disciplines or the micropowers.  Resistance and instability are also found [necessarily] .  The system includes relatively junior operatives, non commissioned officers, who have both a molar and a molecular side.  Kafka notes that these middlemen are often the centres of power, that power has a 'micro texture' (248), that all sorts of people collude in the exercise of power.

This texture constantly swings between molar and molecular, between segment and flow, occasionally allowing flows to escape.  Power centres can not always translate effectively flows into segments, and so power and impotence go together [getting close to Habermas on crisis theory].  Occasionally, a particularly great statesman can connect with flows, and can combat the black holes [=charisma?].  Such men 'encounter each other only on lines of flight', and can perish on these lines of flight as well.  Nevertheless, flow cannot be regulated, by any kind of master or State, and the more this is attempted, the more it ends in a 'fictitious and ridiculous representation' (249).  Even capitalists do not dominate flows, not even the ones that provide surplus value.  Power operates only when flows are converted into segments, and even the segments are difficult to regulate, especially those that form in unintended ways [when masses become classes, when particular currencies dominate markets].  Segments are also produced by an abstract machine, although power attempts to make this machine effective after performing a suitable assemblage, one that can adapt, often with 'much perverse invention'.

Thus to explain the power of the banking system, we should focus on how flows of 'finance money' or 'credit money' are converted into suitably regulated 'payment money' or 'state money' [once much discussed by English monetarists] .  This sort of operation characterizes every central power, which operates with: a zone of power affecting particular segments of the solid line; a 'zone of indiscernibility', relating to the diffusion of power through the molecular level; a zone of impotence where flows and quanta cannot be controlled or defined.  It is in the third zone that we find 'extreme maliciousness and vanity'[not sure why].  When we look at what goes on in the third zone, we find the operations of 'the abstract machine of mutation, flows, and quanta' (250).

Each line has good and bad points, and we must study them pragmatically, or with schizoanalysis, not attempting to 'represent, interpret or symbolize', but only to draw a map, noting their mixtures and distinctions.  Nietzsche and Castenada agree on the dangers - fear, clarity, power, and the 'great Disgust, the longing to kill and die, the passion for abolition'(250).  We are always afraid of losing and becoming insecure, and this is why we cling to molar organizations, trees and binaries.  We desire overcoding, we are 'in flight from flight'[citing Blanchot].  We reterritorialize, we notice segmentarity only at the molar level.  The whole of every day life, our perceptions, actions and lifestyles are involved in this: 'the more rigid the segmentarity, the more reassuring it is for us'[so what exactly is the basis for flows of desire?].

Clarity is also pursued at every level.  Castenada shows how drugs can reawaken different sorts of molecular perception.  Excessive clarity produces similar effects, 'the distinctions that appear in what used to be seen as full, the holes in what used to be compact; and conversely, where just before we saw end points of clear cut segments, now there are indistinct fringes, encroachments, overlappings...' (251).  [excessive philosophizing does this!] We think we've understood, but suppleness and clarity are a danger.  Supple segments can reproduce the qualities of the rigid, especially its affectations.  Thus 'the family is replaced by a community, conjugality by a regime of exchange and migration'.  We reproduce microfascism, for example 'the mother feels obliged to titillate to a child, the father becomes a mommy'[so suppleness means we reverse roles, but also preserve their hierarchies?].  This can be seen as 'indirect compensation' for the loss of rigidity.  The molecular compensates for the increasing molarity of aggregates - 'molecular man for molar humanity'.  We deterritorialize and massify as a way of not taking part in mass movements or movements of deterritorialization; we preserve 'marginal reterritorialization even worse than the others'[we retreat into little sub cultures and communes?].  Microfascism can appear on supple lines.  A multitude of black holes can act 'as viruses adapting to the most varied situations', and produce all sorts of 'little monomanias, self evident truths and clarities' (252), and this can cause us to be self appointed judges or policeman.

Power is a danger because we find it on both lines, both rigid segment and fine segmentations.  Power involves jumping from one line to the other, 'alternating between a petty and a lofty style'.  The impotence that this demonstrates [or maybe that we encounter]  makes power dangerous, and leads to wanting to stop lines of flight, to recapture mutations for overcoding.  This can only be done by projecting overcoding into local assemblages, making the state assemblage effective at the local level.  This is especially likely with totalitarian closed systems.

The fourth danger concerns lines of flight themselves.  They have been presented so far as a mutation or a creation, found both in imagination and in social reality, but they are not just threatened by recapture and reterritorialization.  'They themselves emanate a strange despair, like an odour of death and immolation, a state of war from which one returns broken'.  This is what Fitzgerald means by the crack up.  The line of flight can turn away from connections with the other lines  and turn instead 'to destruction, abolition pure and simple, the passion of abolition', to suicide.  This doesn't mean to say there is a death drive.  There are no drives found in desire, 'only assemblages' which produce the form of desire.  Assemblages draw lines of flight 'of the war machine type'.  Mutations come from this machine, which aims at deterritorialization and the creation of mutant flows.  The war machine is not the same as the state apparatus, but is directed against it: the state constantly tries to appropriate it and turn it into a stable military institution.  But war machines can develop so that they have 'no other object but war' (253), not mutation but destruction.  This can arise if war machines lose their power to change, say if they have been appropriated by the state, or have helped construct a state aimed at destruction.

Again this helps us see where fascism differs from totalitarianism.  Totalitarianism refers to the state and the way it overcodes  local assemblages.  It is 'quintessentially conservative' (254).  Fascism is a war machine out of control, a war machine that is taken over the state, that makes the state suicidal, 'a realized nihilism', a line of flight that transforms into destruction and abolition - hence the death cult among the Nazis.  The novel Mephisto is a source describing the intoxication of ordinary people into an heroic march to death, suicide as a crowning glory.  This was more than ideology - it was a death cult, operating even at the economic level with mass rearmament, pursuing total war as a kind of suicide, wishing the nation itself to perish, dispersing horror and crime and chaos.  This is the danger when war machines have only war as their object, 'All the dangers of the other lines pale by comparison' (255).

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