Deleuze for the Desperate # 7 Lines of Flight

Let us approach this topic by remembering our basic study skills approach to this complicated work. What we're going to do is to use the index, and thankfully we have one in A Thousand Plateaus. There are quite a few entries relating to lines of flights in the index, and we are referred to further entries under other concepts such as lines and deterritorialization.

One way to proceed is to start to collect examples of paragraphs and longer sections if you have time, where the term line of flight is used. I'm not going to mention all of the examples, and I'm going to group them. I have left lots more examples on the transcript – I couldn’t mention all of them in a shortish video.

Some of the sections refer to the arts, for example, literature, music and painting. Other sections refer to what might be called politics in the general sense, and we find line of flights being used to discuss things as diverse as sexual identity on the one hand, and the war machine on the other. Those discussions also involve other concepts, principally 'becoming'. Already, it's possible to realize that the term line of flight actually is quite central to a number of arguments in the book. I should also mention that it's deployed in some of the other books as well, sometimes under a slightly different name, and I'll mention a couple of additional texts as well.

Let's begin with quite an early example, on page 4 of my version of ATP

The book is neither object nor subject ...To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook [the combination of things in it]. In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification (4)

They mean their own book, the one we are reading -- but they understand other books like this too, as we shall see shortly.

We can already start to see something of the characteristics of a line of flight. It is not just a poetic image but a genuine concept. You might find the first part of the quote a bit odd, especially if you see books as somehow the unified personal vision of a single author or authors, which just pours out onto the page. This particular book, A Thousand Plateaus, is deliberately written in a different way, as a series of wide-ranging essays or academic papers, ‘plateaus’ in their terms, and they have not tried to impose some unified narrative. Instead they offer combination of things. Sometimes the sections are explicitly joined together or articulated, sometimes they are left as relatively separate segments. Sometimes they are organized in layers or strata, perhaps discussing general topics and then giving specific examples. Sometimes they can be read as standing alone.

We have a kind of definition of a line of flight here as a movement of deterritorialization and destratification, something that is going to question the boundaries and the internal organization of territories and how they are held together. They mean territories in the broad sense, so one particular theme of Thousand Plateaus is to cross boundaries separating academic subjects. In this book, Deleuze and Guattari show us how to follow thoughts across the boundaries of conventional academic territories, for example joining up politics, linguistics, commentaries on music, literature and Freud, and even adding the extraordinary and long chapter on animal communication.



Let us press on and see how the line of flight helps us understand some of their favourite examples of modern literature, in particular the work of Kafka. They cite and quote many other authors, but they liked Kafka so much that they had already collaborated to write a separate book on his work (D&G ref). They don’t tell the readers of ATP that they are summarising an earlier work, but they are. Let's start with the quote mentioned in the index of ATP:

K, the K function designates the line of flight or deterritorialization that carries away all of the assemblages but also undergoes all kinds of reterritorializations and redundancies—redundancies of childhood, village life, love, bureaucracy, et cetera (98).

This quote comes from the fourth plateau on linguistics. It concerns the particular way in which Kafka uses language and in particular how this resists the social order that is implied in conventional language.

Kafka’s two major novels, The Trial and The Castle both have a character, who is just called K, struggling against massive legal and political bureaucracies, trying to defend himself against them. As we follow the adventures of K, we start to realize the massive extent of these political and legal assemblages. Let’s think of a working definition of an assemblage, as combinations of a number of seemingly separate institutions, in this case legal arguments and systems, various kinds of power relations and so on, but that all function as a whole.

As we struggle to understand these assemblages, we can start to criticize them, we realize their extent, and then we can start to deterritorialize, to undermine their unity, to break them into components, to see how they came to be joined together. As he does this, K meets all kinds of processes that try to peg back his critical insight and to get him to rejoin various other territories. This is reterritorialization. The system fights back, both oppressing him if necessary but also trying to reintegrate him into normal uncritical life. In The Castle, for example he is tempted to join in the cosy life of the local village, or to enjoy love affairs with a number of women and stop being such a dangerous outsider. In The Trial, he is urged to do the accepted thing and take his case to a seemingly independent lawyer, and of course this will incorporate him again back into the system.

The more detailed discussion, still in ATP shows how Kafka is able to develop unconventional language to describe the assemblages. Kafka develops a language that spits up two aspects that are normally combined—the actual content and also the typical ways of expressing that content. Kafka is particularly interested in working on new forms of expression, including some expressions borrowed from bits of Czech and Yiddish, added rather jarringly or stutteringly to the high German that was spoken in Prague. This gives him a bit of critical distance, some new purchase on how systems of language like legal or political systems are put together. First of all, they assemble different segments of content and expression, at its most general turning on bodies and actions and how they might be spoken about and how the bodies might be transformed. This just seems an unexceptionable normal form of language to native speakers. Secondly they attempt to embody these linguistic efforts in various territorial sites, various institutions for example. This is never entirely successful and there is always a potential for deterritorialization. Kafka is able to analyze both sets of operation, first dividing them into separate activities and then seeing how they function together.

The book on Kafka (notes here) explains how he was able to develop this critical purchase as a result of some earlier experiments with writing style, first in the form of stories written as an exchange of letters, then in a number of stories written from the point of view of particular animals. These experiments had the effect of removing him from the normal definitions of subjectivity and the conventions of writing, and helped him escape their constraints. Eventually, he developed a non-subjective machinic approach. All this is explained really well in Bogue’s book on Deleuze (notes here) and literature. Anyway, Kafka was able to discover and then follow a line of flight from conventional language and literature and from political constraint as well.

I have some additional comments on the transcript if you want them. For now, I think the main points are that lines of flight are political and philosophical, even in fictional writing, at least of the kind admired by Deleuze and Guattari. They are not just flights of fancy where a writer gets personal inspiration from somewhere and follows it into a fictional world. They are forms of philosophy so they require initial analysis, and they also require a definite technique to develop them – a thoughtful and critical writing technique in this case.

Additional comments on Kafka

(see my file for further details)

More and more oppressive structures appear, but so do lines of escape, in particular 'the answer of a becoming-animal'. Apparently, 'all children build or feel these sorts of escape, these acts of becoming - animal'. They stand for processes is of deterritorialization and reterritorialization more generally. Archetypes become spiritual versions of reterritorialization. Becomings-animal are absolute deterritorializations 'at least in principle' (13), ways to escape, crossing the threshold, reaching 'a continuum of intensities that are valuable only in themselves... A world of pure intensities where all forms come undone, as do all the significations, signifiers, and signifieds'. We're left with 'unformed matter of deterritorialized flux, of non signifying signs'. The Metamorphosis shows this best, as various bureaucratic triangles and trios attempt to dominate Gregor, but his becoming-animal permits 'an intense line of flight' to escape both family and bureaucracy and commerce. However, there is always the danger of the return of Oedipal force which is not finally vanquished by this process of amplification and perverse use. Indeed, Gregor is reterritorialized, partly because he resisted going all the way, clinging on to some of his possessions for example [and wanting to stay with his family]. This is not a matter of personal fault, rather that becoming-animal remains ambiguous and insufficient - animals are still 'too formed'. Becoming-animal always oscillates 'between schizo escape and an oedipal impasse'(15), as when people become a dog without realizing that the dog is the 'oedipal animal par excellence'. Kafka's own dissatisfaction with becoming-animal led him to move on to the notion of the machine

In Prague, it was necessary to write in German, but at the same time, the German population in Czechoslovakia was itself cut off and deterritorialized as an oppressive minority speaking an unpopular language.  Jews were both a part of the German minority yet further excluded from it.  This made Prague German a particularly deterritorialized language, 'appropriate for strange and minor uses' (17) similar 'to what blacks in America to day are able to do with the English language'…What can be said in one language need not be possible in another, providing 'ambiguous edges, changing borders' (24), and again this is implicated in social power

For example (1) the letters enable Kafka to work with a split self, a self which is the subject of enunciation and of the statement. The two are joined together in major literature. There's a more reflexive awareness of the role of enunciation in creating the subject. However, there is always a danger of unity being imposed again. (2) the becoming- animal stories can also be seen as a way out of the old constraints of subjectivity, a form of liberated writing [which explains for the first time by becoming animal was the only way out for Little Hans]. There are still problems here because animals themselves risk being grasped in terms of human or animal politics. (3) assemblage theory, the main theory of the major novels. Here the subject is enmeshed in huge social or political assemblages, with political critique as a major theme throughout. There are also warnings of dreadful machines to come. However, D and G insist that the underlying tone is humorous {perhaps in this special sense of pointing to unintended consequences?}] (27). Major languages are simpler, with a vector that goes from content and expression, and where content is usually given. Minor literature, however express themselves first and don't conceptualize until later, breaking conventional forms. Inevitably, this leads to new thinking about contents, taking over conventional contents or anticipating new ones. Kafka develops this literary machine in several ways.

Overall, the animal stories show the expression machine struggling with the real, pointing to a line of escape, but also showing the inability to follow it. The novels develop this further in the form of 'a more complex assemblage' (37), already implicit in the animal stories. The problem was that the animals were still to individuated, and too perceptible [open to conventional perceptions]. We then see a development away from becoming animal toward 'becoming molecular'[apparently depicted in terms of thousands of experiences and possibilities in the stories, often at the micro scale]. The 'molecular multiplicity' is itself managed by a 'machinic assemblage', with independent parts but a common function [strange examples given based on work I have not read, page 37. Apparently some of the animal stories end by opening up into multiplication and machinic assemblages, and this is a theme that cannot be provided for within short stories but only novels—see the 'third science' above.] Writing about the organization of animals in more detail, would not have fully depicted 'the violence of an Eros that is bureaucratic, judiciary, economic, or political' (38).

So what the writing does is to translate everything into assemblages and then dismantle them. Kafka has to work towards the notion of assemblage, and some of the earlier stories just contain elements of what will become machines and then assemblages, 'machinic indexes', like the habits of various animals (47)…Kafka is asking how the assemblage functions. In The Trial, allowing for the 'objective uncertainty about the supposed the last [two] chapter [s]'(49), we can see the movement at several levels. At first, everything is false, even the law.  However, we know that there is a 'a power in the false' nevertheless, and it is still possible to weigh justice in some other way. This leads to the second level, where justice itself is produced by 'desire and desire alone', and everyone participates in this desire, even the spectators, and the strange little girls outside the painter's studio. [in one of their dramatic examples]…The assemblage can be seen as made up of series. One is the series of characters who will all turn out to be functionaries of justice. Sometimes there are subseries as well, and these can produce 'unlimited  schizophrenic proliferation'(53) like the teams of lawyers or the identical paintings…Distributions indicate lines of escape, flights along these lines, between the contiguous segments 'police segment, lawyer segment, judge segment, ecclesiastical segment'. There is no restored hierarchy to manage the segments, so they become 'agents, connective cogs of an assemblage of justice, each cog corresponding to a position of desire'(55)…Kafka even sees himself as part of an literary machine, 'simultaneously the gears, the mechanic, the operator, and the victim'(58).

Assemblages not only have two sides but are segmental, extending over segments or dividing into segments, some of which can become assemblages themselves. The process can be rigid or supple, but sometimes even supple ones are constraining, as when offices have movable barriers between them, meaning that we can never manage them. The segments are both 'powers and territories' (86) and territorialization can involve fixing something in place, photographing it, dressing in tight clothes, giving it a mission, or 'extracting from it an image of transcendence'.  This clearly involves power and desire, and this is often seen as 'regulated by the abstraction of a transcendental law'['over coded' in the terminology of AO]. However, there are always points of deterritorialization, lines of flight ['always' because of the formal characteristics of assemblages, or always in the sense that there is always hope? And see below]. Enunciations and expressions can take flight and disarticulate, just as contents can deform or metamorphose [but why? In what circumstances?]. Assemblages can extend into 'an unlimited field of immanence' that make segments melt and that liberates desire, or at least resist concretizations and abstractions. We've seen examples, where the field of justice opposes transcendental laws, where blocks can escape segmentation, where expressions can become deterritorialized [photos turn to sounds], and when contents can be turned head over heels [a handy phrase which helps them bring in all this stuff about bent heads again—incidentally, a note suggests that this metaphor is found developed in Kafka's letters]. Singularities can be 'active and creative', assemble and form a machine [and 'assemble' is translated as s'agencement here, implying somehow undergoing a process which ends with them being an agent?]. However, this is part of collective conditions, even if minor ones, even if we have to discover ourselves as 'intimate' minorities. [Note the many assertions here, that there must be lines of flight, or that singularities must be part of collectivities, or that we must all be composed of minorities. There also seems to be a systematic uncertainty about subjectivity, which can be possessed by singularities, which magically become in dependent of all the regulatory mechanisms described above, just in time to rescue the creativity of novelists, especially Kafka].

Here, the abstract machine does not represent something transcendental, given existence by the necessity of the variety of concrete machines, but rather secures the reality of the concrete assemblages, in particular in providing them with a power to undo their segments, develop lines of flight, deterritorialize. This abstract machine is the 'unlimited social field' and 'the body of desire'. We can see this at work in Kafka's entire oeuvre, in the form of intensities, connections and polyvalences [so what's going on exactly? The machine is speaking through Kafka? Kafka is discovering the machine as a kind of active literary philosophy?]. The examples here are the different assemblages, like those of the letters, becoming-animal, becoming-female, female blocks, the large assemblages found in banks or bureaucracies, the bachelor assemblage, or 'the artistic machine of the minority'(87).

These assemblages tried to the best of their ability to do without 'the mechanism of transcendental law'. For example, familial assemblages attempt to operate without the oedipal triangle, conjugal ones without the necessary duality that involves them as subject to legal constraints as well as functioning. Each assemblage offers a different kind of segmentalization, more or less supple, more or less rapid in proliferation, both of which increase the possibility of following lines of escape and deterritorializing. [So now we have empirical conditions for lines of escape, not just formal possibilities?]. Some assemblages achieve less than a real concrete existence, and never 'rejoin the field of immanence', and thus will open themselves to recapture [interesting, implying that some assemblages exist in name only, or at the level of ideas but not practices, and that only concrete practical ones will recapture immanent possibilities? The examples are becoming-animal, especially in Metamorphosis, which never fully develops]. Apparently, becoming-female is more supple and liable to proliferation, but becoming-child even more so [for Kafka or for D and G?]. Certainly childhood blocks or childish mannerisms functioned to escape and deterritorialize in a more intense [emotionally intense? more energetic?] way.

Sometimes an assemblage can 'overflow its own segments'[accelerate? into immanence], but sometimes supple and proliferating ones can still be oppressive, not even needing to appear to be despotic, becoming 'really machinic'(88) [fully hegemonic?], resegmenting the field. Thus the 'false ending' of The Trial retriangulates [restores hierarchy and authority], but even without this, the assemblages in The Trial and The Castle might not open into a field of unlimited immanence, and move towards the abstract machine in the second and good sense [their capacity to do so is left as an open question]. Finally, there is a question over the ability of the literary machine, 'an assemblage of enunciation or expression' to become an abstract machine 'insofar as it is a field of desire', to become a minor literature. Kafka can be seen as continually attempting to achieve these goals.

End of additional comments on Kafka

Let’s take another example of lines of flight in literature:

The novella

One of my personal favorites in the whole book is Plateau 8, on the novella, although I find it isn't actually quoted or cited very often. It is a discussion of three short stories. In the first example, a novella by Henry James (The Cage) shows how one of the characters leads a rather predictable life. Her life follows 'the line of rigid segmentarity on which everything seems calculable and foreseen' [one segment ends at work and links to a segment of leisure, segments lead to an engagement and wedding and so on]. 'Our lives are made like that' D &G say: the 'great molar aggregates' like the state or institutions run like this; they treat people as members of an aggregate. These lines control our identities 'including personal identity', and can provide the basis of our relationships with each other. This is the 'molar or rigid line of segmentarity' (216).

However, the arrival of a mysterious couple and the messages they exchange with each other, never fully explained, introduces another line for the character. She gets involved with the mysterious couple, in the form of 'a strange passional complicity, a wholly intense molecular life'. This is the 'line of molecular or supple segmentation'. We will come across this idea of molecular dimensions to lines and lives a bit later, but, roughly, it means paying attention to the small often intense components of life rather than the big picture about molar issues like status, position, career, big life events and so on.

In the novella, everything returns to normal, the couple marry and life goes on, but for the character 'everything has changed'(218), and she develops 'a kind of line of flight', challenging the apparent inevitability of a sequence of segments in her life, leading to 'a kind of absolute deterritorialization'. In particular her language and thoughts change. When she was being rigidly segmented, she uttered 'many words in conversations, questions and answers'; in the passional molecular phase it was all 'silences, allusions and hasty innuendoes'. The resulting effect of the permanent disruption of her normal life means conventional references and unambiguous meanings are undermined 'it is no longer possible for anything to stand for anything else'.

Two other novellas are quoted, by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pierrette Fleutiaux-- I won't discuss them here-- and then there is a general conclusion: some lines that regulate our lives are imposed from outside, while others arise by chance or are invented, especially lines of flight. These might be the most difficult of all, and not all groups or people ever develop them, and some lose them. They can take the form of a rhizome. They cannot be grasped by a single signifier -- there is no single defining characteristic. Lines of flight do not mean running away from the world, but rather 'in causing runoffs, as when you drill a hole in a pipe'. All societies leak. Lines of flight are not just imaginary or symbolic, but require activity. A single group or an individual can display all the lines discussed here, and groups and individuals can create lines of flight for themselves. 'Lines of flight are realities; they are very dangerous for societies'(226). However, 'Lines of flight are immanent to the social field' (227) – the social field contains lines of flight as a constant potential. Supple segmentarity can reproduce on its own level 'micro formations of power, micro fascisms'. The gains for a line of flight is that it can lead towards a new acceptance, not 'renunciation or resignation', but something aimed at happiness.

However, as usual, there is a warning: The line of flight can be 'imbued with such singular despair in spite of its message of joy', that this can lead to death and demolition because it strikes at our normal perceptions of ourselves. It is common to see how novelists can break down after their artistic exertions. It is particularly dangerous when the line of flight leads to an obsession with the personal and with subjectivity. 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. It can lead into a 'black hole' of subjectivity, where everything seems to have a personal subjective meaning only, where people get obsessed with their own subjectivity to the exclusion of anything else, and depression or paranoia can result.

M Harris

Incidentally, Guattari, working as a therapist, developed a technique involving a transversal line, to reconnect the obsessional person back in to the social world, encouraging them to go sideways, so to speak, to try some different activities to break the cycles of obsessive thought and get them communicating again. See his Chaosmosis. The transversal line is also a feature of Proust’s writing technique, according to Deleuze’s book (2008) ,and again there are more comments on the transcript if you want to follow them, based on notes on that book – on the website.

End of M Harris

Additional comments on Proust

(see my file:)

Proust develops descriptions of closed groups and societies with little communication with outside people, but they can communicate, however, in the novel, by 'establishing transversals'. As a literary technique, these transversal remind us that there is no simple way of reducing diversity, and that social life as a whole can be seen as a multiplicity, as 'original unity'. Thus various possibilities and combinations of love are understood as a multiplicity, containing both hetero and homo versions, for example. These tended to be kept separate and closed off from each other in the Paris of the period. But jealousy is a transversal in love's multiplicity, shared by both worlds.

Proust's contribution is to develop the linguistic conventions of transversality, within and between sentences, and also to connect his own book to those that he liked. This transversality communicates with the public, with the other works by the same person, and with the works of other people and with works to come. Transversality establishes unity and totality, but not as a matter of totalizing objects or subjects . Proust adds this dimension to the characters and events in the book, and transversality operates in time, but 'without [reducing all the characters to] common measure' (109).

End of additional comments on Proust

I have only discussed a couple of examples, and not mentioned painting or music, but overall, there can be freedom and ' salvation through art'(207)] if it pursues 'active lines of flight or of positive deterritorialization' . Strangely, the massive work on the cinema, which came after ATP does not really use the term line of flight anywhere to describe the philosophical and political creativity of films. Deleuze’s and Guattari’s favourite examples of art in ATP include the experimental music of people like Boulez and non-representational painters like Francis Bacon. Some Anglo American novels are also admired especially if they leave behind ‘subjectivity, consciousness and memory, the couple and conjugality’ all of which are constraining and disciplining. This requires ‘all the resources of art, and art of the highest kind’ (208). This form of art can even become ‘a tool for blazing lifelines'. First, however, we have to understand the tenacity of cultural conventions -- 'it is the only way you will be able to dismantle them and draw your lines of flight'. Note that we're also warned of the dangers here—'madness is a definite danger'

Let’s take another set of examples:


A number of examples are found here, stressing the political aspects of developing lines of flight, out of constraining and rigidified territories of various kinds. These constraining structures include dominant notions of sexuality and subjectivity.

[In ATP], The girl... Is defined by relation of movement and rest, speed and slowness, by a combination of atoms, an emission of particles: haecceity. She never ceases to roam upon a body without organs. She's an abstract line, or a line of flight... [Girls] slip in everywhere, between orders, acts, ages, sexes; they produce n molecular sexes on the line of flights in relation to the dualism machines they cross right through. The only way to get outside the dualisms is to be - between, to pass between (305)

So sexual identity involves a struggle against dualisms, and there is a moment when these can be resisted. Note also there's a connection here between conventionally gendered and sexed bodies, which are subject to social political and religious judgement and constraint, and the potential body, the body without organs, that we have discussed in another of these videos. Avoiding these constraints means staying on a line of flight, slipping between conventional identities and binaries. We have to reject that process of control, and follow our thoughts and actions along a more abstract line, crossing through the dualist identities on offer. That will require thinking of ourselves differently, not as a conventional subject with either male or female identity, but as a process of becoming, something never fully contained within the large scale or 'molar’ bodies. Becoming involves us grasping lots more smaller, molecular possibilities that can break free of convention and reconfigure themselves. These molecular possibilities are not conveniently organized into the two main sexes or genders—there are many more possibilities, n possibilities. Following a line of flight as a determined project to break free of fixed dualisms is not going to be easy, as we shall see, and there is always a temptation to settle back into a fixed identity again, sometimes for very good reasons, but if we first identify a line of flight away from conventional identities and focus on constant becoming, we can maintain our status as something between, something in the middle.

We have to stay at the molecular level to do this. There is a further clue to what this means in another section, discussing the relations between the sexes, which also feature 'a multiplicity of molecular combinations' that affect the relations of people not only to each other, but to animals and plants - 'a thousand tiny sexes'.(235).

M Harris bit

Bourdieu's book Masculine Domination (2001) (notes hereis very useful here, reminding us that there are scores of routine occasions in everyday social life where you encounter objects events or thoughts that are gendered, where you see sex and gender performed, to use a feminist term. Dualisms are maintained by far more than just kids’ toys or Disney films. To take an example, describing shopping or driving a car invites sex and gender categorisation. Even fittings for water pipes are called male and female parts, depending on which bits get inserted into other bits. Even the nouns and adjectives in French are gendered, so using that language reminds you constantly of gender distinctions. These ,molecular activities do not always add up in the same way, and they can be resisted – but the dualism itself is hard to shake off.

Politically, Deleuze and Guattari remind us, these micro political or molecular encounters in what is usually called micropolitics are as important in political constraint as the big macro structures of class family or society.

End of M Harris

Note that we are also offered a connection between line of flight and becoming here as well as in the work on Kafka. Becoming is an important dynamic state described in its own Plateau, where more fixed and rigid identities or territories are seen as the result of a stopped or frozen becoming, a territorialized one. Becoming aware of transitional states and their fluidity helps us become critical of the more tangible and solid territories. Kafka's experiments with writing as an animal helped him become aware of becoming-animal, the molecular experiences he shared with animals, and that in turn helped him break away from fixed notions of the human subject. The discussion of sexuality that surrounds the quote that I began with leads to one of the most discussed concept—becoming-woman. Becoming-woman is recommended as the first stage in breaking out of dualist sexual identity on a line of flight, for both men and women as conventionally defined. You might be able to see why feminists are interested in it and why they are divided in terms of whether this helps women develop their own ways of life or not. We will leave the details for another day, but I will put some references on the transcript if you are interested

References for Becoming-woman here:

The human subject

This is a political matter for Deleuze and Guattari too. Getting human beings to think of themselves as fully formed, creative and free subjects happens to be an excellent way of controlling them, a characteristic way in modern societies. This might cause particular problems for Anglo Americans who tend to think of the subject and subjectivity as being a really precious site of creativity and freedom. The particular form subjectivity takes in practice shows its constraining characteristics:

Subjectification essentially constitutes finite linear proceedings, one of which ends before the next one begins: thus the cogito is always recommenced, a passion or grievances always recapitulated.. Subjectification imposes on the line of flight a segmentarity that is always forever repudiating that line, and upon absolute deterritorialization a point of abolition that is forever blocking that deterritorialization or diverting it. The reason for this is simple: forms of expression and regimes of signs are still strata (even considered in themselves, after abstracting forms of content); subjectification is no less a stratum than signifiance (148).

We came across subjectification and signifiance – the way conventional meanings are expressed in language – as major enemies of the body without organs in an earlier video.

A specific example of the way in which apparent freedom is really constrained is mentioned in Guattari’s The Machinic Unconscious (his version of A Thousand Plateaus): some people 'mistake deterritorialization for a process of abstraction and purity, increased creativity, liberated from the limits of everyday refrains, available to all'. But in practice this means materials that are already 'mass mediated'. (109). This should warn us off a common view about creativity – that you do nothing in particular, summon up your personal insights,wait for an inspiration then follow it. You are likely to unconsciously reproduce the terms and meanings, the cliches of the mass media if you do. You need analysis and technique.

Additional comment

I must say my personal experience confirms this. I used to run an experimental media course where we looked at some films and videos that had attempted to experiment with narratives or representations in various ways –people like Godard or Greenaway, Sally Potter, Kenneth Anger. Then students did a project. They were supposed to discuss an experimental technique and then try it for themselves, but some thought ‘experimenting’ meant just, like hanging out with a camera and recording whatever happened to occur, maybe adding some interesting visual effects later. These often turned out to look rather like music videos!

End of additional comment

Guattari notes : We desire overcoding. 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 (250).

This is no accident, since the whole molar political system encourages us to channel lines of flights into subsequent segments. Breaking absolutely with the political system to develop some completely different alternative is going to be very unusual and rare. The political system will fight back, and deal with any threats and dissidents, sometimes using various safety-valves permitting limited dissent. In a passage about general politics, Deleuze and Guattari discuss the function of the scapegoat, for example, once, literally a goat which was made responsible for all the deviance in a society, and then literally driven out on a forced line of flight into the desert. Again we might think of more metaphorical scapegoats which have the same kind of role and who are made to follow a [bad] line of flight.

There are interesting discussions on war machines as well, and how they are able to mobilize particular resources to take on states—they do this in a number of ways, not only by declaring actual military war. There are additional comments on the transcript again if you want them.

Additional comments on the war machine (notes here)

Modern states find themselves in a dilemma in that they try to impose their definitions and disciplines in a very broad way, using various state apparatuses. In the terms of Deleuze and Guattari, they practice overcoding. However this form of symbolic control can never be total, and there is always the possibility of 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.( ATP 245).

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 [?] {I always think geographical units are a better example] 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.(245)…These possibilities coexist and 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'. All these negotiations and combats go on at the same time.

[Defining the war machine]… At one pole, it takes war for its object and forms a line of destruction prolongable to the limits of the universe… The other pole seems to be the essence; it is when the war machine with infinitely lower "quantities," has as its objects not war but the drawing of a creative line of flight, the composition of the smooth space and of the movement of people in that space. At this other pole war only becomes a supplementary object, and the war machine is directed against the State and against the worldwide axiomatic expressed by states… an "ideological", scientific, or artistic movements can be a potential war machine, to the precise extent to which it draws, in relation to a phylum, a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight. [This line of flight] creates, or turns into a line of destruction; the plane of consistency that constitutes itself… or turns into a plan(e) of organization and domination (466)

[see also Delanda's excellent discussion --notes here]

End of additional comments

Let’s end with some implications, divided , for convenience into philosophical and political ones, although the two are connected in practice.

Philosophical implications

As a kind of philosophical summing up, the existence of both lines of flight and lines of segmentation, processes of de and re territorialization at work in politics and subjectivity and elsewhere, can be seen as interrelated aspects of an abstract machine. These operate at the virtual level. We saw this level of reality discussed in other videos, in the one on the body without organs for example. The BwO consists of a series of potentials rather than specific combinations of actual organs. Political organization has a similar virtual level, this time described as an abstract machine, or sometimes as a phylum. We might think of it as offering many possible specific combinations of political forces, only some of which will actually be realized as 'simultaneous states of the abstract Machine' (246)

One of these specific states of the abstract machine does overcoding and segmentation, and organizes things like sexual life into binaries. It renders these as some sort of set of principles or axioms, and the specific state apparatus tries to identify itself with this abstract machine to gain legitimacy. However, other states of the abstract machine offer mutations which deterritorialize, draw lines of flight and install systematic opposition – war machines -- on these lines 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 energies are congealed into fixed practices. All these negotiations and combats go on at the same time.

More practical implications

So, lines of flight are always there as an abstract possibility. In what circumstances do particular individuals or groups discover them? They're going to require some rather unusual perspectives and resources to do this, because the whole of social organization, at the molar and molecular level, is trying to reduce the possibilities of lines of flight, to forbid them, to channel them into a safe direction or to regain any territory as quickly as possible.

Just to start you off on this, we began by looking at how particular writers are able to develop lines of flight—and musicians and painters as well, although I have not discussed them. It might be simply that these are individual geniuses, although D&G are a bit shifty here 'It should not be said that the genius is an extraordinary person, nor that everybody has genius' (221). More likely is that they are able to deploy resources belonging to different territories – different languages, different areas of expertise. Experience of social change and instability can help, especially if conventional language struggles to keep up – there can be ‘signifying breaks’ in society, following some new invention, especially one that disrupts the State.

Writers and others can also avoid reterritorialization by pursuing whole projects that connect up their individual works. The consistent development of a project produces a plane of consistency, where writers like Kafka have been able to learn from their own earlier attempts and gradually extend their technique. Writers and others are really doing philosophy here, thinking between producing work of the abstract implications of what they are producing.

Politically, it seems important to join individual efforts together into some collective activity, if only for support. There is a bit at the end of the chapter on bodies without organs that says it is important to try to join up individual artistic or philosophical experiments, to avoid isolation and defeat.

For philosophers particularly there may be a moment where all their analyses of lines might be made consistent and all the abstract machines they have identified get linked into the whole project, just as we saw with artists. This might lie behind what is perhaps the most abstract remark about lines of flight:

The line of flight marks: the reality of a finite number of dimensions that the multiplicity effectively fills; the impossibility of the supplementary dimension, unless the multiplicity is transformed by the line of flight [which in turn leads to 'the possibility and necessity of flattening of the multiplicities on a single plane of consistency' ](10)