Notes on: Gregoriou, Z (2004) 'Commencing the Rhizome: Towards a minor philosophy of education'.  Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36 (3): 233-51.

Dave Harris

 A follow-up by Lyotard (The Postmodern Explained) took the form of a series of letters between him and his friends: 'Marked by the pragmatic context of their enunciation, they never claim to be anything more than what they are: a series of singular explications, each one evoked in singular occasion' (233).  Readers are invited to join in at any point, and use the remarks to launch 'another singular reading'.  This is 'minoritarian writing'.  It is designed to oppose authoritative and complete readings which dominate reality, and the main opponent here is Habermas and his project to renew the Enlightenment.  By contrast, Thousand Plateaus is seen as a welcome non philosophical text, but it is unpopular, because it does not meet the demand for authoritative readings [it is also self-indulgent bullshit] .  At the same time, Lyotard wants to deny that his own work is simply irrational, and he writes instead in 'a minor style...arranged in a paratactic syntax that defies climactic moments'(234).

There are new demands for the philosophy of education to provide some master discourse again, and to split with contaminations from social sciences, but Deleuze is required as an example of how to engage with these demands without reviving the old foundationalism.  Educational philosophy needs to consider the 'devotion to sense, communicability, and the latter’s corollary for an ideal speech situation (i.e., a mutual interest between philosophers and educators about what each other has to say)', avoid trying to convert Deleuze into conventional pedagogy, and develop the 'rhizome as metaphor... searching for correspondences between that and organizations of knowledge in learning communities'.  [Deleuze does not rate metaphors though]. A number of ideas, including those from social sciences, might be connected to this project.

Postmodern writing has either been stripped down into lists of bullet points and key concepts, or dismissed in various ways, including via accusations of neo- conservatism.  Deleuze's critique of educational language as a series of 'order words' indicates the underlying appeal to domestication and connection with common sense.  Students are left to 'agonize' about whether Deleuze's terms are appropriate for education.  The process can be described as 'a discourse of intimidation in producing the pedagogical subject of education' (235), as in Deleuze and Parnet on the repressive traditions of philosophy.  At the same time, philosophy can find its place in Education Studies for bureaucrats by claiming to be some foundational subject.

Deleuze [Guattari particularly, surely?] sees power as being exercised through over coding [surely the abstract ordination of deterritorialized flows, for capitalism?], as an extension to Foucault on the regulation of the subject.  Educational philosophy needs to avoid being coopted into the effort to domesticate thought [this was apparently discussed in earlier editions of this journal].  One conclusion is that the insecurity of the philosophy of education arises from the lack of a common audience between philosophers and educators these days [with a strange argument that bits and bobs of social sciences have replaced philosophy—not in Plymouth!].  It is common to describe the position in terms of 'heteroglossia' or 'hybridity'.  Yet little is made of post- writers themselves, including Deleuze on the 'post-innocent post-Greek analysis of philosophy’s double movement as "amorous love" that unites lovers and "rivalry" that prevents the engulfment of the one by the other through either an amorous conquest or a consensus' (237).  The rivalry is with social sciences.  Such 'avant-garde' approaches have been squashed by the demand for relevance and shared interests, for 'realism and communicability'.  Deleuze's insistence on multiplicity becomes untranslatable, or packaged under existing approaches in critical education.

The need to avoid domesticating postmodernism as thought requires a postmodern pedagogy, but there are clear problems in helping students to focus their efforts and in assessing their work.  There is still a preference for the linear format, and a challenge to it can be destabilizing as well as liberating and entertaining.  It is also impossible to reproduce the kind of interdisciplinary links demonstrated by Deleuze and Guattari, and students commonly demonstrates 'a sense of loss' (238), [or vertigo].  The issue of the utility of the course is also prominent, and students need a good reason to invest in particular approaches.  Instead of via the philosophical tribunal, students judge themselves in the world of 'marketable skills': these demands overcode learning [again I thinks it is not overcoding, technically, but abstract coding converging].

Deleuze is at least one of the more positive philosophers, and his critique of standard philosophy has an affirmative tone in advocating connection and experimentation, play in Nietzsche's sense. Derrida also stresses the adventure of pursuing différance, and both like nomadism.  Deleuze's approach can be contrasted with the paranoid and 'pedagogical nightmare of positivism' which tries to track down every line of flight (239).  Nevertheless, Derrida still operates with his own 'theology that is always combating the nostalgia for presencing', through the tactic of putting conventional terms 'under erasure'.  Deleuze and Guattari simply express no interest in metaphysics, and admit the rhizome is a metaphor, 'and deflate with laughter these metaphors' didactic (representational) optics' (240).  The point is to get the rhizome functioning, but, tragically, 'the rhizome has found a hospitable niche in pedagogical discourse only for decentred and non hierarchical systems of organization'.

Both root and rhizome are supposed to help us understand levels of stratification and territorialization.  Trees dominate western thought, in the form of taxonomy and structure, whereas rhizomes are multiplicities.  However, rhizomes can be bad as well as good, as in the example of couchgrass [or fascist rhizomes in Guattari 2011].  But this continual deployment of organic metaphors does not have a deeper meaning.  The point is to prefer 'paratactic syntax to the topologies [rendered here is 'tropologies'] of surface and depth' (241).  In particular, there is no 'ideological subject of enunciation' [but there are lots of nearly subjects].  There is no structural depth, nor essence, only endlessly forming transversal alliances [in practice it is all fixed down by a fairly standard denunciation of capitalism].  However, rhizomes are difficult to separate from trees, and there are no rigid separations, both are 'just moments in becoming'.  We see this with assemblages that face towards the strata and also face towards the body without organs which continually destabilizes them.  Thus rhizome and tree are not coherent indexical signs or essences, but simply reflect ['trace'] particular intensities. Nevertheless, philosophy of education has often codified the rhizome in the name of an empowering critique of stratification and authoritarianism.  The rhizome can offer some sort of connection between an otherwise chaotic postmodern world.  The rhizome therefore becomes an organising metaphor, and one includes using the Web 'as a rhizomatic system'. 

However, Deleuze's and Guattari's work concerns an open ontology of connection and multiplicity, and 'never culminates in normative statements on resistance or pedagogy'(242).  Deleuze still says that multiplicities have to be explored, once we refuse to pin them down [attribute them].  The work only becomes a basis for emancipatory pedagogy through an analogy 'between the ontology of rhizomes and the utopia of the system without any central root' (243), by assuming some underlying emancipatory impulse, seeing the ontology as still compatible with Enlightenment liberation.  There is always the danger that this analogy will end with 'legitimizing micro fascisms'

Rhizomes and trees are always interconnected, always part of 'a multiplicity's variations', both actual and potential.  This can not be managed by dualisms or avoiding stratification and organization.  In particular, any book, even one with a linear narrative, can become part of a rhizome [through interconnectivity, intertextuality].  Root like books can mobilize desires to cross boundaries.  Rhizomes can also end in new hierarchies, reterritorialized bodies, the imposition of a single obsessive line [Harry Potter is the example!].  Translators and publishers reterritorialize.  Rhizomes are not innately subversive and have nothing to do with 'normative ethics' (244).  We can see rhizomes 'in corporate capitalism, in modulations of control in human resource management, in education's corporative  modulations in order to produce graduates with flexible markets skills'.  Rhizomes constantly turn into roots and vice versa, in a never ending process.  Paths which have escaped some controls, like lifelong training outside universities, reterritorialize around market skills: Deleuze already anticipates this in his work on the societies of control. [Buchanan argues that commerical search engines reterritorialize the Web. I think Cormier's communities which discuss stuff can also do this]  Even 'incompleteness', long seen as a sign of a welcoming ambiguity, appears in corporate training.  Being in debt is the universal form of control, as in Deleuze's critique of apprenticeships and training.

Lyotard has argued that philosophy is inherently an autodidactic activity of opening questions to thought.  For Deleuze, there is always the possibility of stuttering in one's own language, making it a minority language.  Philosophy of education can be seen as a minor philosophy and minor pedagogy.  It no longer offers transcendental answers, or pursues arboreal philosophy with material gathered from practice.  It requires new encounters of ideas, and must avoid reterritorializing itself 'as a personal genealogy, as the redeeming of "voice" or "lived experience", as a new regionalism' (245).  The work on Kafka demonstrates the nature of the minor, and Deleuze and Guattari resist making it a biography, which would avoid the interchanges between Kafka, other literatures, and other philosophies.  It does break with the constraints of mother tongue, and paternal hangups about matching with the past masters and this style.  It is experimental, and connective—literary with political, personal with social.  It should not be seen as representative but as embodying difference, the disparate.  It is nothing to do with exile or nostalgia, a quest for recognition or voice.  It awakens the bilingualism of major languages.  It is both impoverished, lacking certain 'syntactical and lexical forms', and proliferating, overloading and paraphrasing.

For rhizomes to be creative, they have to be minoritized compared to conventional pedagogical discourse, 'as a metaphor for excessive multiplicity and radical openness'(246), constructing the multiplicity by subtracting the unique.  Minor writing deterritorializes language and is politically immediate [somehow moving directly to the possibility of collective enunciation, and thus 'surpassing the necessity of an ideal speech situation'].  It is a matter of living with opposed impossibilities, to have to write in the major language while preserving a minor one. 

For philosophers of education it is a matter of remaining skeptical but also having to manage 'normative statements for regulating educational practice' (247), and these have to be seen as components of 'the new assemblage of enunciations', offering both diluted philosophy and confusing pedagogy.  This is a form of stammering, with language itself.  The dangers are clearly an invitation to parody, and a 'privatized dandyism' in politics.  However, such efforts are immediately political—'everything in a minor literature is political' [because it offers an alternative space?], and the personal becomes the political.  We should remember this if we want to criticize students for their inertia—it is 'a political question regarding the future of philosophical thinking'.  Similarly, feminist critique should not aim to produce a uniquely feminine pedagogy, but to offer philosophical critique of the main genre.  This is 'philosophy at the N-1 dimension'.

Incredulity towards grand narratives is not enough.  We should reconsider life as a creative power, as immanence.  To some extent, our individual lives can act as 'the pure event freed from the accident of inner and outer life', seen in the ways in which [Deleuze says] children develop singularities, despite all looking like.  This is what philosophy of education should do, and which social sciences cannot do—not preserve the notion of foundations, but promote 'the respect for the singular' (248), not offering to facilitate dialogue between different disciplines as a metadiscourse, but by offering a minor language, allowing new singularities to be traced to a new multiplicities, avoiding the old binary distinctions, avoiding narrative statements and the temptation to position one's self in one of the apparent constants.  This also involves not speaking as the conventional subject of enunciation, and 'allowing anonymous assemblages of voices, acts, affects and bodily habits', becoming bilingual in philosophy. In discussing Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari also emphasize 'the collective value of enunciation'.  This partly arises from the scarcity of minor language speakers, which prevents them becoming 'masters'. 

It is still necessary to avoid didactic teaching of the history of philosophy, and we should encourage 'finding instead of regulating, encountering instead of recognizing' [sounds like Philosophy With Children].  Similarly, writing should avoid 'attempting to secure an ideal speech situation and a receptive audience'(248).  Philosophers have also acted like students in their approach to philosophy, instead of exploring possibilities in different areas.  It is possible to develop a certain bilingualism, through the technique of 'pick up', explained in Dialogues: collecting things, allowing the play of chance, and then exploring [often pretty superficially, as in all those throwaways about anthropology, or maths?].

Kafka did not like metaphors as a way of synthesizing different elements into a narrative structure.  They domesticate heterogeneity and hinder future possibilities.  Conventional philosophy of education operates with these metaphors, still hoping 'to recuperate the referential language of a metadiscsourse' (249).  The proper development of a minor language '"deliberately kills all metaphor, all symbolism, all signification, no less than all designation"', quoting TP?  The way forward is not to mix or bridge the different disciplines into some overall 'comprehensible discourse', but rather the need to preserve experimentation when encountering pedagogy, creating 'a field that is non translatable against the barren rationality of representationalism'.

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