NOTES FROM: Massumi, B. (1992) A user’s guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari, London: Swerve Editions.

[This is an influential guide, although most people seem to have got no further than the Intro.  I found it a rather mixed piece, as obscure and delirious as the original at times, but with some slightly helpful clarifications. The whole thrust of it seems to be to read D&G as iconoclasts, asserting complexity against allcomers in all fields. I don't know why I like this project in the form of Adornovian negative dialectics, but find D&G a couple of  smug bores, secure in their own position, dismantling our presuppositions so they can have a laugh. I should say that I read DeLanda’s much better and clearer commentary before reading this.  What I have done is to pick a few quotes, and add a bit of commentary, organised according to themes that I find interesting. Blimey! I nearly said according to what works!].

Pleasures of Philosophy.

Schizophrenia is a positive process, a matter of invention and expansion, an example of a duality leading to a multiplicity.  Concepts are to proliferate pragmatically.  Deleuze and Guattari use the term to launch their own critique of State philosophy in France, during the recuperation of the sixties.  Deleuze has described his own relation to the canon ‘as a kind of ass-fuck .. an immaculate conception’ (2—the original quote comes from Conversations, I think).  He also rescued some neglected philosophers including Hume, Spinoza and Bergson, united by a positive stance towards joy against power.  State philosophy also assumed an identity between the subject and concepts and the external objects to which they are applied, sometimes through analogy.  Analogies are then regulated in various conventional ways, including identifying various negations, or relations of non identity.  Rational orders of reality are connected to the idea of a rational state, and the (German) university classically reinforces that link at every level of society.

Guattari is a radical psychoanalyst, originally trained by Lacan, practising group therapy in order to uncover the power relations in society which produced categories of mental illness.  There was an uneasy relationship with Laing, and various Lacanian schools, turning on the rejection or otherwise of Oedipus.  Anti Oedipus was designed to make connections between psychoanalysis and the far left.

For Massumi, the point is to analyse various syntheses which produce actual objects and society [in order to show nothing is simple etc]The usual arborescent model is attacked by nomadic thought, emphasizing difference, and connections which exceed analogy.  There is constant immersion and change.  As a result ‘A concept is a brick.  It can be used to build the courthouse of reason.  Or it can be thrown through the window.’ (5).  [This often quoted phrase is then followed by some speculations about the subject which are much less often quoted: ‘What is the subject of the brick?  The arm that throws it?  The body connected to the arm?  The brain…  The situation that brought the brain and body to such a juncture?  All and none of the above. What is its object?  The window?  Edifice?  The laws the edifice shelters?  The class and other power relations encrusted in the laws?  All and none of the above’].

This is because the concept is a vector, an act, with ‘no subject or object other than itself’ (6).  It synthesises elements, and does so positively.  Unlike the grids of State-authorised space, nomad space is smooth.  Capitalism and Schizophrenia tries to construct this smooth space for thought as a rhizomatic network.  It is explored through pragmatics and through the project of the gay science.  The filmmakers and painters and writers are also philosophical because they explore in this way.

We are supposed to read Capitalism and Schizophrenia as though it were a record, skipping tracks, replaying others.  There is no attempt to have a final word, but the hope that we will be able to use elements of it in our own everyday lives.

Every plateau is constructed by bricks ‘extracted from a variety of disciplinary edifices’ (7).  A plateau refers to a sustained piece of philosophy or writing, not one that climaxes and then rests.  Disparate elements are held together through consistency, or ‘style’ (7).  The dates refer to particularly dynamic episodes, which rose to a particular intensity [not explained, of course -- just assumed we know?].  There is no need to read all of them all to read in sequence, but to attempt to [‘apply’] the dynamism of the book.  [Then another oft quoted piece: ‘Deleuze {sic} own image for a concept not as a brick but as a “tool box”.  He calls his kind of philosophy “pragmatics” . Its goal is the invention of concepts that do not add up to a system of belief or an architecture of propositions that you either enter or you don’t, but instead pack a potential in the way a crowbar in a willing hand envelops an energy of prying’ (8)].  So we read a book in order to ‘pry open the vacant spaces the {sic} would enable you to build your life and those of the people around you into a plateau of intensity…  Deleuze and Guattari call it a revolution…  The question is not, Is it true?  But, Does it work?  What new thoughts does it make possible to think?  What new emotions does it make possible to feel?  What new sensations and perceptions does it open in the body?’ (8).

Massumi says that this is a commentary, ‘highly selective’ in discussing Deleuzian concepts, and drifting away from the originals.  This is what the authors themselves suggest we do with their work. Massumi is claiming no authority interpreting the originals [too modest -- he translated the bleedin things!!].

Here is a comment from me:

On ‘what works’

1.    What works for Deleuze in establishing  a full philosophy or in undermining existing philosophy, as opposed to what works for normal people – which is positivism (and real Deweyan pragmatism which sets out to replace ontology and epistemology) . NB what works for the USA Dept of Education in St Pierre’s own account is positivism too. Pragmatic as opposed to semiotic approaches? Meaning in action etc -- certainly look like it in Massumi's stuff on language as performance etc. Very idealist of course.

2.    What works as opposed to some systematic approach – eg pedagogy. There is no model we are told -- so this is only for detached dilletantes?

3.    Or research. Deleuze is out to deconstruct. Like Derrida there is no obvious end to this programme (except you don’t want to apply it to yourself, as Bourdieu notes of Derrida). Art, cinema, philosophy, politics all need to be tackled but where to stop and start? So we decide to do what works. This also means you can skip a lot of detail which might stop everything ‘working’ --  leading to  Badiou’s ‘monotony’

4.   Who decides what works if there is a dispute – all sorts of problems raised here in Massumi, Clearly, it cannot be the usual humanist subject since Deleuze is apparently awash with classic postructuralist stuff about transhuman ‘I’, ‘I’ as a mere placemarker etc. Nevertheless, Deleuze and Guattari themselves are classic subjects – with motives, aims, histories/biographies, likes and dislikes etc Indeed, they are classic individuals in that they alone can escape all the social forces that imprison the rest of us and make us think conventionally.

5.   Doing what works means obeying dominant forces in practice – they decide what works. (as in Marcuse’s critique of existentialism). Only high-status self-employed rich people can also do what works for them – most of us have to do what works for other people.  Given that this stuff is so popular in teacher education, it might serve as a classic ideology and an illusion of the freedom of the professional.  Doing what works disguises power relations – some sort of 60s hippy dream of dropping out is involved?  On the cards if you are a famous French professor or a well-known radical psychoanalyst.

Section one.  Meaning is Force

‘Meaning is the encounter of lines of force, each of which is actually a complex of other forces.  The processes taking place actually or potentially on all sides could be analysed indefinitely in any direction.  There is no end, and no unity in the sense of the totality that would tie it all together in a logical knot...  The meaning of an event can be rigorously analysed, but never exhaustively, because it is the effect of an infinitely long process of selection determining that these two things, of all things, meet in this way at this place and time, in this world out of all possible worlds ’ (11) [So everything is a haecceity?  Everything is a chance empirical event?  Or are these possibilities merely something in philosophy? It reminds me of professional historians always smiling wisely and saying there are no truths, and certainly no place for sociological models --except theirs, that empirical variation is the rule, we are all individuals etc.]

[For example, in order to unpack the conventional distinction between form and content?] There is a difference between content and expression, but this is only ‘relative and reversible’ depending on which perspective taken—‘The content in one situation is an expression in another’ (12).  However it is lines of force that determine the perspective, and ‘a power relation determines which’ (13).  However, power relations are also complex and take the form of a web, although they can be analysed in principle.  We do this in the form of a diagram of a vectorial field. 

There are ways to express a unity, in thought  as opposed to actuality.  Even here, form is not static and dynamic, produced by interacting vectors, so it is still a multiplicity, a process of becoming.  When thought mimics these empirical encounters, using its own vectors and points (concepts) and when thought is further translated into language, meaning is achieved, as a process of translation.  There is no causal relation between content and expression, and no correspondence or common form—‘if we try to pinpoint the encounter it slips from our grasp’ (15).  Expression ‘can only cut through the fog and affect content by ceasing to be itself.  It must become the content tool in the dominating hand of the worker’ (15).  Meaning is therefore about trying to cross ‘an unbridgeable abyss of fracturing’ (16).  So there is a double dynamism, in things themselves, and in the attempts to grasp the meaning, first in thought, then in language [with some dreadful pseudy gobbledegook].

It is ‘the infinity of forces’ that actualises things—the abstract machine (17) [again, not the human subject].  Essences are events, points of contraction, expressed as diagrams, representing both content and expression.  [Institutionalisation is discussed once or twice as a process which  terms expression into content, as in the training and conventions followed in the banal example of woodworking which runs throughout this—‘institutionalisation makes woodworking reproducible’ (18).  [So why no proper discussion of institutionalisation?].  Traditions in institutions can still be undermined, as a possibility—‘no sooner do we have a unity and it becomes a duality…  [And]…  A multiplicity’ (19) [because possibilities multiply—in thought that is?]  Each event has ‘utter uniqueness’ (19) [eternal haecceity again?].  When things actually happen, they also disappear.

Deleuze talks about cutting and dying as the essence of meaning.  When wood is cut, the cut itself is empty ‘the wood is always about to be cut, or has just been cut.  The cutting has no present, only the scintillating abyss of a future–past’ (20) [sod off you pseud].  In this sense, a cut operates between the future and past.

The whole thing leads to paradoxical formulations which are not just playful, but should be seen as compounds not contradictions, moments of a process that can be unravelled, as a plateau.  Each of the levels is real: one underlying reality ‘never ceases to divide into a multiplicity of singular elements and composite materials’ (21). 

Thinking of fractals can help.  They are endlessly describable but specific figures with a precise equation, an abstract machine.  This machine has to be actualised by an intervention in the endless dynamism, a ‘momentary suspension of becoming’ (22).  The thing operates at different levels of process and actualisation. A multiplicity is ‘the reproducibility of the fractal, the potential for generating from the same equation variety of diagrams, each of which would be different depending on when the process was stopped’ (22).  There is ‘the multiplicity inherent to every meaning encounter taken separately’ (23).  Chance controls transformations leading to the ‘random walk’ (23) [still confined only to fractals?  But then ‘Every moment in life is a step in a random walk’].  The collection of transformations produces the plane.

So some of these concepts are good at analysing meaning, while others help us speculate about possibilities.  The two are blended together, but not in a way that makes a system or model: ‘in fact, they are specifically designed to make that impossible’ (24).  This helps us think the unique—‘for there is nothing in this world but uniqueness’ (24) [or so it must look to an individualistic philosopher who has read no sociology].  They should not be reduced to a methodology, they are heuristic devices.  Deleuze uses different concepts in different books ‘everything is up for continual reinvention’ (24).  [So we can just bin Deleuze and Guattari altogether?  Whoopee!].

Let’s look at a school as an example.  The content is the students not the curriculum, and these have to be seen as both actual and potential.  Schools mould pupils.  There is a distinction between ‘”substance of content” and “matter of content”’ (25).  Substance is unformed matter, objects with determining qualities, while matter is a substance abstracted from form, isolated from any particular encounter, all the forces that could be embodied [clear as fucking mud --makes a bit more sense after trying out Hjelmslev in ATP]—actual bodies are substance, biophysical matter in this case  is matter [SIC].  Schools have architecture and administrative systems.  The essence of the school can be found if we ‘ask any politician what a school is for’ (25) [research is so easy if you are a philosopher].  It is to domesticate the young and turn them into good citizens.  There is a certain gap between content and expression, produced by different complex histories (‘causal lines') (26).  Particular qualities, such as ages, abilities and docility have been selected by a subject—no ordinary subject, of course but something ‘in the interactions between people’, including technology, and genes [philosophers can’t be bothered to analyse this properly either].  There is no determinism of course—‘The subject is a transpersonal abstract machine…  The whole world is composed of an infinity of causal lines on countless levels, all fractured by chance’ (26), even though, we can unravel this complexity ‘With the proper conceptual tools’ (26) [so there is a method after all?]

[More petty distinctions emerge, for example between types of speech, different forms of integration of content or horizontal or vertical].  Again a subject is seen as an abstract machine organising particular forms of content and expression, a machinic assemblage, or an assemblage of enunciation.  These two are doubly articulated by an overall abstract machine [maybe—27] there is no psychological unity, and no subjective interiority.  Conscious thought and intentions is ‘only one line of causality’ (28).  [Another tedious example ensues, people agreeing to marry, and having their fate determined by all sorts of factors, not just a statement that they agree.  Massumi notes that this is also a collective act, something again arranged by an abstract machine to solidify an activity.  Semantic utterances are therefore intimately connected to nondiscursive forces, maybe inextricably [the argument here refers to all the implicit presuppositions in language, and the link between speech and action]. 

Ideology is a flawed concept, though, because the level of ideas is not privileged, and nor is there any underlying rationality or groundwork—again, the consequences of the meaning are unique and contingent, depending on the context, the other forces at play.  Context is not simply internal to language.  Power may be considered as ‘a network of repetition (variation)’ (31). [So there are patterns --worth investigating? Not if you want to polemically insist on uniqueness to confound other philosophers?]

Overall, ‘language as a whole is nondiscursive’ (31). Circumstances determine what happens, as in the imperatives implicitly contained in a proposition.  This is what Deleuze and Guattari call the operation of an ‘order word’, which both commands and cognitively [only?]  orders the world (31).  Order words are sometimes embodied in rituals. The implicits are taught in school, sometimes as a hidden and ‘subsidiary-form substance of content in which the form of expression of schooling must necessarily alienate itself in order to effectively interface with the primary content of the students’ (32) [long winded bullshitty way to formulate the hidden curriculum, and ignores primary socialization].  The processes are continued with most uses of language, and most words are ‘laden with…  Implicit presupposition’ (33).  Again it is a transpersonal agency that is responsible [reification is massive here, positively Christian, and badly in need of Feuerbach].  The I emerges only at the place of enunciation [blow me!  Althusser and interpellation here], as a linguistic marker not an expressive subject—‘The first person only repeats here and now what the anonymous third person of the abstract machine has already said elsewhere in the mists of time, and will undoubtedly say again.  Free indirect discourse—reported speech not attributable to an identified speaker—is the fundamental mode of language’ (33).

So meaning is an encounter between false fields, instantaneous, localised or sometimes spread out and diffuse.  Order-words actualise.  This is the elementary unit of language, joining bodies and transferring power.  It has many varieties, but it is always implicit or anonymous, ‘immanent to a state of things: do it’ (34).

Virtuality is the key here, as a way of overcoming the duality between language and reality, diagrams as expression and essence, the particular and the abstract, the actual and potential for existence.  We have to remember that potentials are not conventional possibilities, and existence is not static.

Fractals operate at three levels: ‘the monism of its optical effect, the dualism of its mode of composition and  the void of its infinitely proliferating division’ (35).  These all belong to the thing, and can be seen as progressions.  Again, no human subject is involved in this idea.  It is a ‘becoming-plane of the fractal’ (35) which human perception grasps, unnecessarily partially.  Reality is something on the outside of thought.  Becomings depend on thresholds [critical states].  This whole process is described as virtual, which is real ‘and in reciprocal presupposition with the actual, but it does not exist even to the extent that the actual could be said to exist.  It subsists in the actual or is immanent to it’ (37).  Each stage can be diagrammed—abstractions like mathematical equations also express a ‘latent identity – in – process’ (37).  In between each stage is a multiplicity of potential fractals and this [more empirical set] is what is termed the possibilities.  [Then there is a not very helpful discussion about the difference between implication, where something is implicit, and complication where it is complicit—the latter is a physical potential].

Individual acts, such as weddings, are meaningful only in being repeatable, seen as an example of some general social function [I think this is functionalism!].  As before, presuppositions are integral to it, including divorce, singledom and so on, which together show the existence of an abstract machine of marriage.  Because this example operates in a linear way, it can be seen as a series of limited possibilities.  However, machines are ‘superlinear’ in the sense that linearity is one of their possibilities.  Massumi recognizes that he is in danger of saying that individual subjects are simply standardized social functions.  Language limits us and ‘delivers us to power’ (40).  However, there is joy because ‘discontinuity has the final word.  Every step in time is a fissure.  Every step in the world of possibility skirts the impossibility of a generative void.  Outside the limits of marriage…  [lie]…  As yet unimagined ways of bodies moving together.’ (40-41) [Again as philosophical possibilities not political ones?] ‘Outside school: hall’s without walls, a universe free for the learning…  Don’t toe the line be superlinear…  Complicate, and chortle’ (41).

Deleuze and Guattari offer a critique of semiotics.  Language is not transparent, and the conveying of information is not its primary function—‘information…  [is]…  The minimum semantic content  necessary for the transmission of an imperative’ (41).  Language is forever fragmenting rather than being structured: to insist on an underlying langue is ‘linguistic terrorism’ (42).  Any language is a dialect.  Linguistic should focus on ‘pragmatics that opens language to the vagaries of context, indexing grammar to relations of power and patterns of social change…  A continuum of variations of the acts of saying – doing immanent to grammatical forms…  The mechanisms determining which virtual variation is actualized where, and to describe the mechanisms of passage from one continuum of virtuality to the next’ (42).

Synchrony and diachrony are poor manifestations of becoming, partly because they cannot explain  the shift between synchronous systems, and offer a contradiction between closed synchrony and opened diachrony.  The diachronic dimension only leads to further complexity.  What we should do instead is ‘conceptualize the real conditions of production of particular statements’ (43).  This prioritizes movement over spaces, and replaces structure with history.  We need an explanation based on the virtual and its immanence instead of fixed structures.  Since ‘all enunciation is collective…  There is no individual subject to do the speaking-performing’, nor a stable generative structure unaffected by actual speech (43). 

Instead of relating signifiers to signified as the key to language, we need a grasp of the multi dimensional processes and complex relations producing actual statements, ‘”complicated” asymptotic causality’ (43) rather than a simple combination of horizontal and vertical axes.  Of course statements are governed by syntagmatic rules, but [the content] is not caused by them.  Similarly, we have an abstract possibility of a paradigmatic substitution, but no explanation of why they might happen in the specific way they do.  Structuralism therefore ignores ‘the statement's real conditions of social emergence’ (44).  There is no smooth progression of language, but leaps typified by ‘cut and struggle’ (44).  Substitutions are not just formal possibilities [as in metaphor] but ‘complicated existential potentials’ (44).  Language signifies, revealing ‘the potential for becoming other than it is (flat)' (44).  There is an outside force which actualizes these potentials.

Thus Baudrillard is wrong to say that language has drifted from representing the real, or that signifiers slip all on their own, unmotivated.  This is an effect ‘produced by determinable social functionings within a real network of power relations’ (45) [so it is an effect of late capitalism?].  The Lacanian unconscious does not produce language.  The ‘vertical content’ of language is not just a signified [which can change or disappear at the end of a long chain of signifiers as in hyperreality], nor has the referent become irrelevant or nonexistent [something extraneous to language in semiotics]. For Deleuze and Guattari, content is still important, although not as a signified, a referent  , or some kind of ‘romantic “meaning”’ (45).  What they offer is a real which is immanent to human being.

It follows that the binaries of structuralism are secondary characteristics, produced by nonbinary mechanisms, ‘nonsignifying processes’ (46).  The virtual is a necessary dimension, which generates statements as ‘the unsaid of the statement, the unthought of thought…  [It]... must be forgotten at least momentarily for a clear statement to be produced’ (46).  Philosophy must re-establish the connection, as when Foucault reconstructs the archive through archaeology.  Forgetting is chronic and can be condensed into a signified and then repressed—this is the ‘imaginary’,another limited version of the virtual (46).

Section 2 Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.

D&G seem ‘cold’ and inhuman because they seen human conscious as an epiphenomenom [the example is the statement ‘I do’ in a wedding ceremony, which is just an effect of a complex  reality which has brought the happy couple to the moment].  Yet they are also interested in sensation, affect which implies a unified subject [although it’s only another assemblage or synthesis that is responsible, producing an ‘objective illusion of identity’ (47)].

Objects collide together and can stick together— ‘connective synthesis’, as in the emergence of sedimentary rocks (48).  It is not open to any objects to collide together, but the combination of ‘chance and approximate necessity…  “Selection”’ (48).  This can be seen as some kind of natural ‘perception’.  It produces an individual multiplicity.  Other forces can then act on this multiplicity as in sedimentary folding or hardening,  again drawing upon particular potentials and ‘perspectives’.  Thus originally statistical molecular connection gets stabilised into a ‘well defined superindividual or “molar” formation’ (48).  Thus original connective syntheses become a matter of ‘recording’, attaining stability, open to more perceptions, including human ones in, say, quarrying.

Activities like this involved a separation of properties of the rock—‘Disjunctive synthesis’.  This can take the form of scientific categorisation which divides types of rock.  This individualises objects so that they can ‘be called (not without ulterior motives) a “person”’ (49).  Connective syntheses are passive, disjunctive ones active, but they presuppose each other.  Disjunctions can then lead to new connective syntheses, as rocks are reassembled to build walls.  Buildings then conjoin social functions to the walls in the form of an incorporeal capture.  Again it presupposes things such as respect for the function being discharged, and a willingness to cooperate with activities going on.  Sometimes thresholds are required to produce complex bifurcated effects.

‘A pattern of repeated acts is a “code”’ (51).  The original particles are recoded as a rock, with a definite interior and exterior.  This requires infolding in order to produce a fixed territory.  The rock can then be deterritorialized and decoded, then reterritorialized and recoded as building material after a higher order classification operates on it.  There can also be overcoding which provides a new nominal identity (51).  [Maybe it is because of this simple example, but I thought overcoding meant an attempt to grasp events in some over ordering political ideology, some completed hegemony.  It is this overcoding that is fragile and can lead to the complete decoding of the modern market?].  Everything ends in complexity again, with interlocking syntheses and codes: the example here is the growing cell, which begins as a statistical assemblage, then undergoes folding, crosses various thresholds, produces new syntheses, bifurcates and so on.  [Massumi has an odd aside on page 52: ‘(casual bifurcation; surplus value)’].

Quantum physics shows some of the paradoxes with things can be both particle and wave—a ‘superposition’ combining normally exclusive properties.  Perception actualizes virtual particles when scientists bring into being virtual particles [showing the isomorphism that DeLanda talks about between reality and scientific experiment].  The non humanist notion of perception is illustrated here by the ways in which the lecture [??] and magnetic fields can affect the qualities of atoms.  Quantum physics shows us that existence ‘depends on a constant infolding, or contraction, of an aleatory outside that it can only partially control’ (53).  It is a matter of controlling chance.

‘The physical and cultural worlds are an infinite regress of interlocking levels.  Each level or stratum recapitulate mechanisms from the last on a larger scale, and adds new ones of its own’ (54).  Deleuze’s concepts are not a full system, however but ‘are offered as a repertory to pick and choose from…  In the hopes that they may be found useful in understanding processes of structuration: the integration of separate elements into more or less regular stratified formations, from a basis in chance’ (54).

To clarify, molecular and molar operations do not just correspond to small and large, since there are molarities at every scale.  What matters is the mode of composition—molecular populations have only local connections, but molar ones include other kinds of relations, involving ones that ‘have become correlated at a distance’ (55) [see DeLanda on this].  Molarities are best seen as disciplined multiplicities of individuals.  The discipline has been imposed by domination, the exercise of power.  Contained populations are subjected groups.  This implies that the individual identity in such populations depends on the point of view reinforced by power [very similar to the notion of the interpellation here].  ‘A person is an incarnation of a category, the actualisation of an image of unity’ (55), although there may be ‘a residual heterogeneity’ producing deviants [a classic functionalist view].  There is always some resistance to regularisation in natural objects as well [so political resistance is only natural in form?].

Syntheses can be passive or active, but only as an analytic distinction, as ‘evaluations…  [Calculated]…  On the basis of which constituent force dominates and what the product’s intrinsic potential for action is (the pragmatic “meaning” of the synthesis)’ (56).  [I think this means that some potentials are only released by outside agency as in quarrying and building].  Syntheses can also be inclusive and exclusive [including disjunctive ones], depending on whether they are and accumulations or subtract them—only a disjunctive synthesis can do this fundamentally, by dividing the individuals who are only coexist in abstract or categorical terms, as in ‘mutually contradictory types’ (57).  Exclusive usage tends to proliferate [as analysis proliferates?].

Even supple individuals are stable only within limits, and are usually always changing, varying between limits.  ‘A structure is defined by what escapes it.  Without exception, it emerges from chants, lives with and by a margin of deviation, and ends in disorder’ (57).  Structures feature thresholds which permits selection, perception, capture and infolding.  Mostly they prevent disorder rather than construct order—through habit rather than determinacy.

 [The distinction between the molar and molecular does a lot of work later]. What intervenes between these two levels?  What is the active element?  In some cases it is ‘supple individuals’, and changes introduced by chance.  But there is also ‘immanent principle’, which can overcome deterministic constraints (58).  We find an example in classic thermodynamics—the convection cycle in warm liquids [described at some length 59f]: changes occur by combining natural laws in an emergent way, exploiting differentials, between, say, gravity and heat diffusion.  There are attractors in the system as well—a leading two notions of state space is a singularities, and vectors as becoming.

Massumi adds some new implications: the excess produced by combinations of laws can be called surplus value; the vortices are populations have only locally connected to molecules, and these in turn are correlated in the liquid as a whole which becomes ‘a supple superindividual’ (61) for such super individuals, disturbances in one area resonates to others, sometimes amplified.  The liquid is not the molarity since none of its interactions are affected by an external boundary, and its local connections are diffused throughout the global whole.  It can be seen as a super molecule ‘singular yet differentiated, multiple yet capable of concerted action, more than molecular but not molar’ (62).  Some outside forces can damp down the dynamism, others shift it to a new state—a bifurcation.  This introduces a certain indeterminacy or crisis, poised between past and future, either and or [unnecessarily pseudy].  This is a creative disjunction which heightens intensity.  Because all the states cannot be predicted immediately [in the usual linear causal way], ‘it is capable of free action…  a “subject group”’ (63) [relies on a very formal notion of free action, of course].

Such self organised individuals may be the rule, with regulated molarities the exception [allegedly based on some recent maths, but clearly expressing a preference for complexity again] even the limits of molarity, like categorisation, does not entirely prevent deviancy: ‘stability is always actually metastability, a controlled state of volatility.  No body can really be molar.  Bodies are made molar, with varying degrees of success’ (64).

Outside of this limited example, realities have ‘one monstrous fractal attractor’ (64).  Molarity therefore becomes the imposition of particular attractors on complex reality.  Again, indeterminacy can never be fully controlled.  Molarity is a special case that ‘only exists as the objective illusion of a line of adequate causality’ (64).  Cocausality is the normal state.

Fractal or strange attractors can be seen as a series of points, unlike the single point of a normal attractor.  These points are ‘” dense points”, infinitely dense points’ (64).  Each point is a possible state of equilibrium.  Correlation between them means that any region can actualise global equilibrium.  Generally however, dense points remain as virtual particles [with the potential to actualise].  Attractors tending towards equilibrium are weak, involving the resignation of only one dense point.  It is more common to find several dense points, meaning that the fractal state is likely to be stronger than particular actualizations—‘some potentials states drop out…  But they go on quietly resonating in another dimension, as pure abstract potential’ (65).  In this way, the actual and the virtual are ‘coresonating systems’—as one contracts into empirical reality, the other dilates (65).  Each are complex correlated states.  Thus ‘the universe is a double faced supermolecule, each face of which is a supermolecule in its own right.  They peacefully resonate together, or, if the tensions on one side or the other reach turbulent proportions, they clash.  In that case, the turbulence side sends shock waves of crises that amplify through the other, which is forced to infold disturbance into its local – global correlation as best it can’ (66).

‘To every actual intensity corresponds a virtual one’, although the actual is extensive and the virtual intensive and thus not measurable (66).  This means it is indeterminate, with no clear future and past.  It is hyperdifferentiated rather than undifferentiated, however—it is fractal, with a jagged line alternating between virtual and actual, ‘becoming and debecoming’ (66).  The actual world is in constant relation with the virtual, which is its plane of immanence.  Thus no system can really be a closed system, but each ones occupies a ‘phase ’ (67) [DeLanda has a clearer account].  Attractors can interact, and this is what produces chance.  Scientific/ mathematical models can never capture indeterminacy except as an ‘incomplete abstraction…  From a restricted point of view’ (68).  Thus ‘complete, predictive knowledge is a myth’, and this is very encouraging for those favouring political change because ‘it throws their [fascists] calculations off as well’ (68).

[A wearisome example of a baby and its body ensues.  The idea will be to get to the notion of the body without organs].  The baby  can be seen as a supermolecule, with vibrations connecting its parts, and this is how it learns—‘every part transmits the impulses it receives for a modulation by all the other parts’ (69).  It can be seen as with singular states, separated by thresholds as the baby develops.  It can be seen as a body with zones of intensity, and these zones can be called organs.  When the body has zero intensity, it is a body without organs, outside actualisation, potential or virtuality.  A lesser status of virtuality is discovered as a body is moved over thresholds to new determinate states.  Bifurcations between the states mean that the new state is really a disjunction synthesis, still including ‘vibrations from all the other states at different degrees of intensity, and none of the states is excluded a priori from being actualised next’ (70) [surely this might describing embryology, but normal human growth is one directional only?  Massumi admits this by saying that development means increasingly exclusive disjunctions, but still insists that development is determined by a fractal attractor, a plane of consistency].  In this way, the body follows a fractal that is part of the fractal of the entire universe [I think, 71].

Other particular actualizations become the particular focus of social regulation or socialisation, or the results of the baby learning to avoid pain.  Babies also learn how to experience joy, like all sensations, ‘a surplus value, an excess effect accruing to the global level of the correlated molecular population’ (72).  Sensations get contracted ‘into a single retrospective sensation.  ‘The whole process [the feeding, satisfaction] is summed up in a burp’ (72).  [Then a lot of ridiculous poetic stuff about vomit and learning].  ‘This is the beginnings of human subjectivity’ (73), based initially on conjunctive syntheses [of sensations].  Originally, there are multiple selves for each synthesis, and connection between inside and outside.

Particular organs can be seen as part objects, but it is the object part that can mislead, since it ignores the virtual, or in this case the ‘presubjective memory traces’ (75), and these are intensive.  Organs only index these complexes.  The outside gradually comes to be the focus of attention, an attractor, ‘a drive channelling the baby’s actualizations of its bodily potential towards a favoured satisfaction.  The suckling drive…’ (74).  Part objects other than the breast gradually become important too, and some become attractors, while others become repressed sources of energy and activity, which themselves can become tamed.

Reflection plays a part eventually in order to systematize these interactions.  Reflections are based on order-words and imperatives, and can add new kinds of self.  Anticipation becomes possible.  The me and the I emerge.  New bifurcations can be subject to will, but ‘powerful forces descend to assure that what the body wills is, on average what “society” wills for it’ (75).  [Over determination again, back to gloomy Foucault.  Creativity is achieved only in time to be smothered].

Reflection and recognition therefore permit social forces to discipline the body.  The socius, the ‘abstract machine of society’, is both limited and unlimited.  The unlimited arises from free individuals in its population, but the limits arise because ‘a set of whole attractors [either] proposed by a society for its individuals, the better to exploit their habit forming potential’ (76) this takes the form of a grid of categories, a map, a system of social stratification, A ‘proliferating series of exclusive disjunction syntheses adding up to a system of value judgment’ (76).  This leads ultimately to ‘society’s capitalist balance of power.  The whole system is an apparatus of capture of the vital potential of the many for the disproportionate and sometimes deadly satisfactions of the few’ (76).  [Quite a leap between the fractal and capitalism!]

Infants develop plural fledgling selves which only get unified after social categories had been applied.  Language is saturated with order words until a civilised person emerges.  However, some stay as deviants, and the earlier selves are not always managed completely.  Deviations are mixed with renewed categorization, although sometimes people can find a line of escape to their earlier potentials: ‘that is called “art”’ (77).  More rarely, a social crisis permits a revolution, as molarity recedes to supermolecularity.  However, the main form of social discipline is the family, and its oedipal mechanisms, hence the critique by Deleuze and Guattari.

The family imposes whole [limited actualised] attractors, in the form of conventional social categories such as family positions, and part objects can become replaced by attraction to whole persons.  Privatisation of sex occurs, and ‘a limited grid of repetitive categories’ become identified with the family apparatus (78).  Television is another mechanism which privatizes.  The infantile past is mythologized and fantasised, an ‘objective illusion’ (79).  Even breakdowns are stereotyped, and are dealt with by psychoanalysis which also ‘keeps things discreet, behind closed doors’ (79).  An alternative disciplinary mechanism is organized religion.  However, ‘the trap of molar personhood only has a limited hold after all.  There is noise in the person –to-  person communication’, and ‘glorious’ deviants are produced [again as failed socialization, inevitable noise].

Overall, personalities do not have an interior, only an enfolded exterior, so the boundary between self and other is never complete.  Normal subjectivity, ‘personal thought or feeling’ only arises from subjection, as a special case.  Otherwise, complexity and super individuality prevail, as a result of a series of syntheses.  These can be over coded, for example by Oedipus, but this produces ‘a categorical person’, not a real self.  The tendency to become are subjected groups is chronic, but instability always threatens.  [This reminds me of the endless alteration between repression and resistance in hegemonic accounts].  There is no intentional agency or free will—will is one of a series of complex causals, and choice should be better understood as a threshold state, ‘at the crossroads of chance and determinacy’ (81).  The fully free agent is an objective illusion.

Families are intimately connected to the social field, not private microcosms.  Families discipline and limit potential, by making social categories family categories—‘over coding mechanisms select the family as the target from multiple overlays’ (82).

Desire is not an eternal drive or a structure, but a collection of states of intensity found on limitative bodies without organs, shaped by whole attractors and on non limitative [virtual] bodies without organs, shaped by chance and fractal attractors.  Desire normally arises as a tension ‘between sub – and super personal tendencies’ (82).  It may take the form of a drive to persist: ‘Spinoza’s conatus’ (82).  It gets its energy from the virtual body, a and its drive towards ‘inclusive disjunction over exclusive disjunction…  Nietzsche’s will to power’ (82).  The original name for this was a desiring machine, but ‘due to persistent subjectivist misunderstandings, in A Thousand Plateaus the word was changed to the more neutral “assemblage”’ (82).

The unconscious should be rethought as ‘everything that is left behind in the contraction of selection or sensation that moves from one level of organisation to another’, a reawakening of the larval selves, ‘Production.  Becoming’ (83).

The subject is indeed split, but there are more fundamental bifurcations than the usual Freudian ones between self and other.  The self is also complex and not so unified.  The real split is between ‘the human person and its subhuman individuals’ (83).  There is a multitude of individuals, which contracts as part of the process of individuation, not a mere undifferentiated level of being [with a lot of difficult stuff about Lacan and the phallus, 84].  Similarly, the body without organs is not just the fragmented body of psychoanalysis, the preoedipal body [apparently, some Freudian critics suggest this].  The usual categories of this body are simply adult perspectives, seen as negative.  The preoedipal body really is a positive source of creative possibilities, ‘pragmatic potentials, not a protometaphysical “confusion”’ (85).  The return to the preoedipal body is not regression but reinvention, ‘the multiplication of strategic options’ (85).

There have been feminist critiques of Deleuze and Guattari too, especially over the encouragement (to men) to become woman.  This apparently denies difference and privileges men.  However sexual differences are not fundamental, but simply one of these imposed categories again, used to justify patriarchy [since they are not equal].  No real bodies actually fit either.  The categories are ‘habit forming whole attractors to which society expects its bodies to become addicted’ (87) [because gender is associated with all sorts of pleasures and privileges].  ‘The body does not have a gender: it is gendered.  Gender is done unto it by the socius’ (87).  It rests on biological differences, but it is ‘the process by which the body is socially determined to be determined by biology: social channelization cast as destiny by being pinned to anatomical difference’ (87).  The feminine category does have more paradox and freedom, and it is that that makes it a suitable place to begin thinking about breaking out of masculinity.  The idea is to become woman whatever your sex is, in order to push the category to its limits.  Stereotyped definitions can be turned into liberating ones—fickleness into a refusal to be fixed, for example.  Sexual minorities can also challenge the dominant over coding, but again simply revaluing a category does not abolish it.  ‘The ultimate goal, for Deleuze and Guattari, is…  To destroy categorical gridding altogether, to push the apparatus of identity beyond the threshold of sameness, into singularity’ (88). 

Deleuze and Guattari do single out the category of woman as having more potential than the category of heterosexual man, which is particularly resistant to becoming, despite the efforts of some members of sexual minorities.  ‘It is only when they cease to be that they will be able to become.  Given the privileges the existing social order accords them, it is unlikely that molar men will embrace this mission of self excision with immediate enthusiasm.  Their suicide may have to be assisted. Women and sexual minorities “should” not go first—but neither should they wait’ (89).

Binary oppositions only preserve 'the same'.  Saussure’s work is an indication of this, where language intervenes to classify the confusing mass of things.  It does this with a series of binaries, which are purely formal, empty categories arranged in a grid.  There is no recognition of how language positively constitutes things, including bodies.  The arbitrariness of identification is shown in the arbitrary connection between things and categories, although this is rationalized in the case of bodies by anatomical differences.  For Deleuze and Guattari, the original ‘confusion’ is really produced by other mechanisms, which simple binaries cannot grasp.  There is no undifferentiated mass before language, but rather a hyperdifferentiated one, ‘supermolecular individuality’ (91).  The whole system that compares identity to undifferentiated objects ‘is a system for the determination (reduction) of potential (value)’ (91).  This potential is indeterminate, ‘seething with fractal future – pasts’ (91).  The old categories only leave three options—acceptable equilibrium (‘slow death’), its opposite as in neurosis and breakdown, or ‘shopping- to- be’, somewhere between mental stability and instability, in ‘the frenzy of the purchasable’.  The alternative is schizophrenia, ‘a breakaway into the unstable equilibrium of continuing self invention’ (92).

Some thoughts of my own:

On complexity

The problem for celebrants of complexity, becoming, flux and rhizomatic flows is to explain social order. Order emerges as some kind of afterthought, after the delirium of complicating things in thought. Massumi seems to have several options:

1.    The fascist State imposes order through a simplified philosophy of correspondence between the subjective and the objective. This philosophy is diffused throughout all levels of society (without resistance), except for French radicals of course, via the dreaded university based on the University of Berlin, as so many Brit unis are! What an overestimation of the role of intellectuals! French philsosophers escape fascism by endlessly complexifying everything again, via  the rescue of duality (schizo stuff) and multiplicity, using the various imperatives and other implicit presupositions in language. Complexifying in thought that is, but only as  as far as they wish to ( ‘what works’)

2.   Institutionalisation and other exercise of power which may not be top down but operates in networks,  as in Foucault? This emerges as a kind of functional habit? Together, the all-powerful State and the ill-examined institutions constitute the sociological dimension of this approach. Mostly, complex realty just somehow actualizes immediately in fleeting assemblages. It is as naive as Hegel, and with the same conservative consequences ( as in Zizek on Deleuze as an apologist for capitalism).

3.     Natural order emerges as a matter of accident and contingency, as vectors bump together and objects cross each other’s path. Everything is an haecceity. There is no real present either – the past and the future show how time affects the present , which remains as only a brief concentration of temporal forces(Bergson’s inverted cone).

4.   Language calls for and produces order via order words (more borrowing from Foucault here?) . The agent is some transindividual subject – God? “Society”? The normal individual  is interpellated, a bearer, a vector.

5.    Reality cascades as in DeLanda (but not so clearly put). Further weasels await – do individuals just cascade out of something deeper? Something natural? In Deleuze too?

Badiou says that this ascending and descending structure, (the discovery of complexity then its grounding)  is what Deleuze proposes as a complete philosophy (as does DeLanda, although he lets empirical investigations persist as long as they see themselves as a handmaiden for intensive philosophy). Being manifests itself in (empirical) complexity hence the plural is the One (or something like that in A-O). Shame for those wishing to use Deleuze to dereify in order to open a space for politics though – they escape positivism through lines of flight into complexity but then get trapped in the neutrality and indifference of Being as the analysis ascends again. Come off a plateau and find the endless surfaces of Being etc.

So – ‘posts’ do not go far enough. Postmodernism  is very good at doubting political metanarratives based on major theories,  but we get left with relativism. Poststructuralism  seems to be still forced to flirt with some odd notion of the transcendental subject, the transhumant who speaks for Massumi,  or discourses to manage ’power’ in Foucault

Where do thoughts come from?

Massumi uses concrete examples to illustrate Deleuze? As evidence for Deleuze? Rhetorically, to rally radical support? Pedagogically (what Badiou suspects of all the detailed analysis in Deleuze)?

This is seen best in the ‘analysis’ of the school. Its content and forms of expression are identified from Deleuze’s formal concepts (they are ‘recognised’, it might be said), not from observations of schools. Was this a matter of deduction from some other privileged account ( the ghost of Foucault again)?

What we really have is an attempt to fill in each category prespecified by Deleuze ( content and expression etc). The bit about schools having to make people docile came from Foucault rather than being uncovered thanks to Deleuzian insight? Massumi says we can confirm this by asking any politician! (Why not just ask politicians about the nature of reality too?) This simplicity contrasts with the complexity elsewhere in the analysis as we are told that different perspectives and levels of analysis etc  are possible, based on Deleuzian sophistication about content, expression and context etc.

What do we get from the example? More insight into Deleuzian categories? A ‘monotonous’ recognition of Deleuzian categories in an example? Applying the ‘reciprocity’ test – did Massumi learn anything about Deleuzian philosophy by considering the school?


Massumi’s politics

Section 2 gets ultra leftist in its insistence that all categorisation must be ended in identity politics. Presumably all institutions have to be dismantled, including language with its implicit and persistent order words. This looks like ultra freedom but it is naive – unmoored egos would be unable to relate to each other, and regulate their own desires (Massumi should try Durkheim here) . Dismantling all social categories would leave only a merger, in effect, with virtuality – people too would actualise as the virtual does and then dissolving back into schizophrenia following a fractal attractor and subject to contingency etc. Massumi seems to think this would turn us all into artists – as usual, the real ‘person’ implied here is a freelance petit bourgeois in the culture industry.

Section 3.  Normality is the degree zero of monstrosity.

Becoming, say becoming a dog is not limitation, but more like diagramming, combining aspects of different bodies, retreating into two bodies without organs and then combining aspects of them.  The result is a monster or freak.  The process can be driven by particular perceived needs and constraints.  Becoming encounters constraints which are often not rational, but the rise from competing desires—the desire to escape bodily limitation, opposed by the desire of molarity, the desire to pursue difference as opposed to the desire for sameness, ‘a tension between modes of desire’ (94).  When becoming encounters a constraint, it can produce a supermolecular state, and a bifurcation between going on and falling back.

Again, the notion of choice and freedom should not be seen as ‘a consciously willed personal decision.  Becoming is directional rather than intentional.’ (93).  Constraints and determinations still apply, in the form of tendencies toward actualisation and molarity.  The process begins at the sub personal level, when something links into consciousness [such as hunger in this example] so personhood itself is best seen as an ‘empty equilibrium state.  The place where nothing happens’ (96) [a bit like the transient present, the moment between past and future]. 

Imitation is much more conservative [as in preserving the same?], reducing events to what they have in common, ‘they are grasped solely from the point of view of the generality.  They are subsumed by a general idea’ (96).  Imitation is a process in common sense, like habit.  The usual scientific and philosophical “good sense” operates in the same way, defining typical individuals, analyzing them into parts, recomposing them into organic wholes, comparing wholes through analogy (97).  Both aim of the development of general ideas or categories, using the notion of similarity – difference.  This mirrors oedipal logic or neurosis.

Becoming other ‘ends where analogy begins’ (97).  It ‘diagrams differences in potential associated with bodily parts…  Realms of action…  Range of affect or “latitude”’ (98).  Potentials are unfolded, differences exploited, possibilities considered rather than focusing just on what is.  New entities are to be composed.  The interior of the bodies concerned is ignored, as usual, in favour of their exterior relations, as both are projected on to a new plane of consistency (98).  It ends with unique individuals not typical ones, singular animals.  It is ‘bodily thought’ because it is about the potentials of bodies.  It breaks out of habit, denying the training to recognize appropriate responses, by seeking out other responses that might also be right.  This helps to open a break in, suspend, or pull open, habit, ‘a “zone of indeterminacy”’ (99) between the stimulus and the response.

This helps bodies becomes spontaneous or supermolecular.  Caution is required though, to avoid a crushing response from the molar.  The options do not have to be selected, although they now can be, rather than being automatic.  The zone of indeterminacy grows, and the body develops autonomously [does this insistence on the body not smuggle back in the conventional person or individual?].  The body is seen as the realm of virtual, and its affects, capacities, are increased.  A creative cycling set up between the actual and the virtual.  The molar loses its hold, although its constraints must still be dealt with pragmatically.

The process of becoming other ‘is social through and through.  It is a collective undertaking, even if only a single body mutates’ (101) [because it deals with collective understandings?  Still no notion of collective in the usual sense].  It is the categories that are ‘ collectively elaborated, socially selected, mutually accepted, and group – policed’ (101).  Supermolecularity is always opposed by molarity in the form of a struggle to reimpose categories and grids, sometimes in the form of institutionalising or capturing novelty.  As a result ‘becoming must keep on becoming, in an indefinite movement of invention, opening wider and wider zones of autonomy populated by more and more singularities’ (102).  The bifurcation has to escalate into a ‘cascade of differentiations’, affecting the whole body politic and ‘precipitating a hyper differentiations’ that exponential he multiplies the potential bodily states and possible identities’ (102).

Thus becoming as an escape is not just reactive, but constructive, producing ‘a singularity so monstrously hyperdifferentiated that it holds within its virtual geography and entire population other kind unknown in the actual world…  Becoming – other is the counter actualisation of necessity’ (102).  Mostly, becoming-other is collective in the usual sense, shared among a particular population who have joined to oppose molarity.  This makes it ‘thoroughly political’ (103): the example is new social movements, minorities which have more of a chance than standard men.

Such becoming is opposed to morality, but not directed, so it cannot be exhaustively described or predicted.  Clearly defined future utopias are really functions of molarity.  Instead, we need to develop various strategies, ‘less theories about becoming than pragmatic guidelines serving as landmarks to future movement’ (103).  They include:

  • Stopping the world, breaking habit, opening zones of indeterminacy.  ‘Tactical sabotaging the existing order is a necessity of becoming, but for survival’s sake it is just as necessary to improve the existing order, to fight for integration into it on its terms’ (104).  [Usual prevarication.  Massumi tells us that both options should be kept open in a form of ‘permanent revolution’, sometimes in an extremely slow form which may therefore be less noticeable.  Trotskyite fantasies here]
  • Exploit holes in habit, cracks in order.  Derelict spaces can be zones of indeterminacy, autonomous zones, located geographically or in the social field—for example ‘the privacy of the home or a semi private club’ (104).  Deterritorialized forms include daydreaming,  religion, or political ideology.  Such zones need to genuinely face the outside, the potential: ‘time out of joint, in an immanent outside’ (105).
  • Camouflage and mask, ensure survival, pass, simulate the molar.  Beware becoming entrapped or recuperated.
  • ‘Sidle and straddle’ (106).  Neither overconform nor overconfront.  ‘When in doubt, sidestep’ (106).  Develop a number of strategies rather than charging straight ahead.  ‘Revolutionary sidestepping is called “transversality”’ (106).  Finally come out as soon as you can, but fix upon the final goal of supermolecularity.

Together, these strategies provide resistance or friction [and they are probably the most sensible pieces of advice in the entire bleedin’ book]. 

Molarity is also constantly being constructed at a level necessary to persist.  It has to manage contradiction [unlike becoming-other, which only manages paradoxes—‘strategic indeterminacy’ (107)].  Contradictions arise with distinctions and binaries between generalities and singularities.  There is a constant threat of irresolution and catastrophe.  It has to avoid potential to normalise, and at increasing levels of energy, the opposite of becoming-other.  It has to deal with morality, restricting Spinozan ‘joy’, living more fully, by imposing abstract moral categories.  [Illustrated with a discussion of a silent film 108 F].  Molarity depends on other aspects of life acting productively, including producing disjunctive syntheses, breaking out of Oedipal identity with its limited choice between recognized and accepted identities and undifferentiated disorder.  Indeterminacy exceeds such binaries and contradictions. 

Molarity creates ‘ a “plane of transcendence”’ (111), producing some abstract transposed set of images and ideal identities.  These are then applied back to the concrete world: they can only be applied, since they cannot exist concretely.  Inevitably, this implies contradiction.  This tries ‘to reduce the complexity of pragmatic ethical choice to the black or white of Good or Bad, to reduce the complications of desire is becoming so the simplicity of mind or body, Heaven or Hell.  The world rarely obliges’ (112).  It arrests the movement of becoming bodies, and abstracts from their singularity and corporeality.  It is a mistake to see the plane of transcendence as ‘some superhuman substance responsible for the creation of all value’ (112).  It gains its explanatory power from similarities between the grids of identity it constructs—this is what turns into a dominant ideology,a ‘system of authorised symbolic relays between various planes of transcendence’ (113).  Nevertheless we must avoid describing total dominance to molarity [to preserve the other end of the banality of creativity, becoming and desire].

Molar images [of agency in this case] are only quasicauses, which must be converted into causes proper, turning into content instead of remaining just as a code.  This necessarily involves becoming contaminated with bodies and their ‘decay and impermanence’ (113).  Bodies need to be disciplined in order to make this happen, given habits, categorized, oedipalised.  Codes have to be actualized in disciplinary institutions ‘(such as the cinema or school)’ (114).  It is these that do the actual work of categorization, and they also reproduce the code.  This is ‘a special kind of virtual – actual circuit’, designed to close down contradictions (114).  [so we have a distinction here between good and bad lines of actualization?].

[Ideological] images are cocauses, operating with others, none of which are sufficient.  But [as a quasicause], it becomes elevated into ‘the ideal of agency’ (114),  misrepresenting the cycle between the virtual and the actual, and avoiding any excesses on either side which might reveal this cycle [superabstraction on the one hand, hyperdifferentiation on the other respectively].  This special process is imperialist, endlessly categorizing, incorporating or threatening, constantly trying to conquer the other, as the enemy.  Molarization is also paranoid, constantly suspecting enemies everywhere.  Discipline is always increasing, as is surveillance.

Molarity promises sameness and rest, but it can never close the gap between the plane of transcendence and actuality.  It turns into fascism, an attack in the name of the whole on particular parts.  It describes the system in an unstable state, in a crisis of the contradiction between sameness and rest.  This can only be achieved in a closed system, but systems need energy from the outside.  Instability is produced by becoming-other, but it is not allowed to develop into a new form of order.  It remains as “anarchy” [peculiar politics here—becoming-other forces a fascist reaction?  Or is the argument that fascism is one form of social order arising out of the general cycle of virtuality and actuality? ...‘becoming other is naturally the more inclusive process’] (116] .

All societies are forced to balance between the fascist attractor, aimed at becoming the same, and the becoming-other attractor, which produces disorder and differentiations.  Between these limit states actual social and political systems can be located—permanent revolution and permanent order.  The disorder/differentiation pole is more powerful because it does not generate contradictions, merely degrees of activity and a range of variation.  It welcomes chance and this produces a very open form of social formation.  There are no either/or choices, but rather both/and choices.  Fascism offers a stark choice between its terms, and cannot produce a viable social state—‘a fascist state is a suicide state’ (117).  Fascism is normal, simply an exaggerated form of the tension associated with identity and discipline—‘fascism is social Reason, and Reason is its own revenge’ (117).

[Again back to the central issue about whether fascism is or is not a normal product of virtuality] ‘anarchy – schizophrenia effectively encompasses fascism paranoia’, rather than operating as a binary (118).  They are two poles, focuses of diverging vectors.  They can be actualised in groups, non humans or sub persons.  They imply or presuppose each other: fascism in its desperate desire to discipline presupposes the autonomous [the autonomous what – subject?].  They represent a constant struggle between limitative bodies without organs and nonlimitative ones.  Fascism segregates, anarchy is expansive; fascism leads to death, anarchy to the limits of life; fascism has persons overcoded by the molar, and peddles a restrictive organic analogy which endlessly reproduces at all levels the impossible combination of sameness and rest.  This is oedipalism, ‘molarization as such’ (119).  [This leads, apparently, to the stuff about cancerous bodies politic] anarchy respects perversity, polymorphousness and open systems.  It acts like a virus, scrambling life codes.  Any society is a balance between limitative and nonlimitative bodies of this kind, and ‘the two virtual poles together constitute Desire’ (120) [so there is a desire for molarity fully recognized here]

Few societies approach either limit state [Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge are examples from left and right].  The distinction is not meant to produce a typology, though, and actual societies can be different, for example actually affected by ideology or mode of production [so the category fascist is not the same as the actual fascist country].  There is no evolutionary framework.  There is a ‘ of possible futures’ (120).  The current analysis should only be seen as a pragmatic one which ‘must be continually rethought, as happily proven wrong as right’ (120).  Anarchic societies are almost by definition short lived, but examples include ‘social breakdown such as May 1968 in France and the initial phases of most modern revolutions’ (121).  There can also be longer lived movements such as the Situationists, Italian autonomists, radical feminists, Catalonian anarchists (121). 

Most social formations and movements are in between, and many take the liberal or social democratic form.  This is defined in terms of taking a more modulated response to otherness, and a more adaptable identity grid ‘Molarity with a human face’ (121).  Different identities are often seen as deviant, and they have to conform before they are accepted, so the ‘Standard of the European White Male Heterosexual’ remains as the embodiment of common sense (122).  The strategy is to recognise and subdue.  This can take the form of corporatism, welfare capitalism, parliamentary democracies which differ very slightly in terms of their allegiance to the different poles described above.  In this way, others are represented, escapes are translated back into rivalries, agents have to be channelled into representatives.  Such a systems is ‘”democratic”.  It makes the “right” to vote “universal”—in other words, it gives everybody the “free” choice to abdicate power’ (123).  Democratic politics is representative, managing desire rather than slapping a moral code on them, bargaining for acquiescence rather than demanding conformity.  It is the form that fascism ‘fears most” (123), since it accepts particular limited forms of deviancy, and collective organization.  It is a limited kind of freedom: ‘it need not accept a particular general idea—but it must accept the idea of the general in general.  The only condition is that the body molarize’ (124).

Strictly speaking, democracy does not overcode but recode, manage rather than force molarity.  Fascist quasicauses and institutions can still persist, but the quasicause of democracy is the democratic ideal itself, the system, even though actual governments are disliked.  The state manages a plurality of minidespotisms—‘equal opportunity despotism’ (125).  Most tend to normalise rather than discipline.  However the main minidespotism ‘is its Self.  The only universally applied quasicause is the Soul or a suitable substitute’.  Molarity takes a miniature form ‘self directing subjectivity operating within the limits of good/commonsense as socially defined' (126) [so Althusser is spot on here?].  Oedipus gets installed in the family.  Statewide disciplinary apparatuses are still available, however.  Although ‘fascism proper’ is not central, 'fascism - paranoia is everywhere'(126).  [So a great deal of vacillation here about whether fascism is a normal or an abnormal state, a general term or a special one for particular form of government].

There are 'thresholds of movement' in social formations.  In liberal nations there are 'molar humanity, and the capitalist relation'.  The first one is challenged by sexual minorities undermining universal forms.  However, if they only attack the category, they run the risk of being corporatized.  They should drive towards hyperdifferentiation instead, to really test the limits of civil liberties.  This will be opposed by various minidespotisms, including the new right in America and their cultural agenda such as the defence of the family.  This is a kind of fascism, and 'alternative fascisms’ is one consequence of bifurcating choices (128).  When a threshold is crossed, the overall formation becomes fascist.  This is not yet happened with neoconservatism, which takes the postmodernist or post industrial form, focusing not on class struggle but on cultural struggles about lifestyles.

The second one reveals that 'capital is a quasicause' (128), with a simple grid with two categories—‘worker/capitalist, and commodity/consumer'(128).  These are automatically apply to anything affected by capital: they are not ideological but 'operative categories' (128).  Capitalism colonises an thoroughly transforms social life, with or without a definite ideology, with or without fascism and paranoia.  It generates concrete social relations.  It needs no specific image: 'It is a body without organs' (129) a network of virtual relations which can be actualised in different forms.  Commodities are given specific quantitative values, with a disinterest in their intrinsic qualities.  Equivalence is the only issue, and consuming comes the major form of becoming (129).  Capitalist equivalence is clearly very abstract.  Equivalence is energised by a third term which may be rarely physically present—'surplus value' (130). This surplus value is deflected into other areas where other relations and institutions play a part—the bank, the whole circuit of capital and money.

This is what gives force to the distinction between workers and capitalists, since capitalists manage surplus value.  It is acceptable even in democracies for individuals to be given monetary values.  Labour power is purchased, which these days includes attitudes such as docility.  'This is a quite basic restatement of the Marxist theory of the "formal subsumption" of labour by capital' (130)—potential ways to actualise commodity or wage relations.  In other words, capital becomes a quasicause that has the potential to transform social relations, to function immanently in the social field.  It transforms: 'It has all the characteristics of desire as earlier defined.  Capitalism is an unmediated desire, or abstract machine' (131).  It is unique enough to be considered as a third pole, or capitalist attractor.

In neo conservatism, capitalism no longer has to justify itself.  It becomes stronger than any ideologies because it embodies desire in the pure form, accumulations for itself, 'beyond good and evil' (131).  This is irrational agency at a highly abstract level.  It categorises in terms of potential to buy and sell, and potential to buy labour power, indifferent to content.  It becomes a fractal attractor of its own when fully unleashed, affecting the entire social field.  This is '"real subsumption" of society by the capitalist relation' (132), which leaves nothing untouched.  Capitalism expands extensively to saturate a whole world, and intensively, to invade domestic space.

It can still only act as a quasicause requiring mediators to actualise it in bodies—capitalist social relations, which eventually simplify to commodity, consumer, capitalist, worker.  Interlocking institutions apply these categories and supply content.  They become a machinic assemblage.  Capitalist principles themselves become axiomatic, not over coding, and not recoding, but working through 'inclusive conjunctive synthesis’ (133).

Postmodernity shows the infinite extension of capitalist axiomatic—'Everything can be bought, even life itself' (133).  Life itself can be patented.  It recombines old codes.  Its science is so powerful that it can now grasp matter itself as it emerges from the virtual.  Images as such become the commodity in an information based economy, and these code actual lives, albeit in a negotiable transactional way.  Classic molarity has ended, and life becomes 'a succession of soap operas.  Postnormality' (135).

Affect itself has become rootless and deterritorialized [decline of the old social bonds].  Images can be recombined in new ways, chance directions, free from molar codes, attached only to part objects, exactly like capital itself: 'Subjectivity is becoming isomorphic to capital' (135).  The mass media is the new collective enunciator and there is a whole machinic assemblage or a set of apparatuses to articulate human existence.  Thus lines of escape have become turned into 'commodified transformational matrices' (135).  [This seems to agree with Zizek here, but Massumi disowns any responsibility by peddling Deleuze].

The self has regressed into a new larval state, 'fundamentally a becoming - consumer' (136).  Potential is expanded, but is restricted to image consumption or the capitalist relation.  'You can go anywhere your fancy takes you and be anyone you want to be—as long as your credit is good and you show for work the next day' (136).  The expansion of potential 'goes hand in hand with the real subsumption by capital'.  Cynicism is one result, not even hypocrisy, which assumes some agreed framework.  Simulation replaces verisimilitude, so that businesses operate without any founding beliefs, and there is no need to attempt to harmonise inner self and outer activity.  (136).

We therefore have a very limited form of supermolecularity, and this has some liberating consequences, but also serious constraints.  Not all bodies are able to develop freedom, since capitalism still exploits and impoverishes.  Dissenters have been integrated as both workers and consumers, while others have fallen into a permanent underclass.  National divisions have also sharpened. 

However, the real problem is that the resources of the planet are being depleted, and this has ushered in a final contradiction between consumption and destruction: 'What the final deterministic constraint that is the capitalist relation ultimately determines is global death' (138) [classic bourgeois misconception of the end, as in Malthus].  Capitalism has overcome the normal contradictions, unlike fascism, but its success in becoming immanent must be limited.  The culture it has fostered—postmodernism—no longer can restrain it: 'The two strictly coincide' (138).  Postmodernism cannot celebrate proper hyperdifferentiation, and nor can it prevent a swing back to fascism, which is likely as a response to the threat of extinction.  All postmodernism has done is to break with the commonsense notion of the self, which continued to think of human bodies as wholes.  It is complicit with the capitalist notion that the most important thing is to buy and work, to privatize.  There is no longer any need to accept ideological justification, but there is an axiomatic that says self interest is social interest (139).  Self interest is the best expression of the capitalist conatus.

Most attempts to become other will fail in the face of capitalism, except at the individual level.  Most becomings will be limited by capitalism, since there is no available population with which to collectivise.  However, 'If there is a way out of this impasse, it will not lie in turning back' (140).  Post modernity has emerged from earlier formations as part of a broad dynamic which actualises us: 'There is no getting outside it'[so it is an aspect of the ontological mechanism itself?  Or is this just saying that post modernity has evolved from earlier states and is some sort of improvement on them?].  Nevertheless, 'We must reclaim molecularity as the limit.  The absolute limits of capitalism must be shifted from planetary death to becoming - other' (140).  [Exhortation instead of politics] becoming must go beyond self interest.  Good/common sense must be overcome.  The potential of capitalism must be pushed towards something more than private interests: 'We must embrace our collectivity.  This requires a global perception of the capitalist relation as the constraint that it is…  Shared strategies of resistance…  Worldwide resonation of desires…  Local - global correlation of becomings-other…  A collective ethics beyond good and evil.  But most of all beyond greed' (141).  We must protect the environment.

'If this sounds vague, it is.  It is one body’s desire for a future it cannot envision, for the very good reasons that in that future there would be no place for it—having finally become what it cannot be' (141).  [ends with this philosophical adventurism and pathos].


[Many of these are quite useful, offering interpretations of some the main concepts and giving some background.  Massumi admits that some concepts are missing though.  We also get some background, such as noting that Guattari was a Trotskyite briefly, and he was also charged with outrages to public decency by publishing an issue of his journal on homosexuality, and that it was the splits between all the Lacanian groups that led to his despair with the left particularly.  He also fell out with Laing over whether therapeutic communities would simply reproduce Oedipus.  Some of the many literary references are filled in as well.  The standard scholarly citations of the works of Deleuze also appear. Terms in capitals indicate that they have a separate entry]

We are told that the unfortunate references to ass fuck should be seen as an anti patriarchal comment, rejecting ‘natural’ sexual relations, and celebrating polymorphosity.

Deleuze and Guattari actually have different emphases—lines of escape from subjectivity for Deleuze, and ‘subjective redundancy’ for Guattari.  Whereas Deleuze supplied many of the philosophical concepts, Guattari offered ‘many key semiotic concepts…  [And] some of the most effectively political concepts…  territorialization-deterritorialization, transversality, group subjectivity, desiring machine, war machine, molar – molecular, micro politics’ (151).

On ideology, the argument is that language expresses power relations, but as a form, in ‘reciprocal presupposition’ with content.  There are also pre-ideological fields of force in language.  Ideological statements are produced as a function of language, ‘more a precipitate than a precipitator…  [Distinguished by]…  The regularity with which a society produces it.’ A ‘double sided abstract machine—of power and of linguistic expression’ responsible for this regularity.  (154) There is a connection with a discussion on habit.

The notion of free indirect discourse is ‘borrowed from Volosinov (Bakhtin)’ (156).

‘The PERSON as empty category is inscribed in the semantic ambivalence of the French personne (“person,” “nobody”)’ (162).

There are several forms of surplus value, including the Marxist version.  ‘On the human level, the surplus value sensation always takes the form of a “prestige”’ (162).

There are different kinds of folding.  Infolding is ‘(folding resulting in a more or less bounded space)’ (163).

Prigogine has expressed an affinity with Deleuze, and he was a major influence on Guattari (165).  [And lots of links are developed immediately afterwards—with resonance, with supermolecularity, fractal attractors, dense points for example].  Apparently, for Prigogine, the universe at the virtual level is inherently unstable ‘because it is composed of different particles that are in constant flux, but in ways that do not harmonise…  The presence of matter muffles the turbulence by giving it an outlet .. what we get in the form of “chance” and indeterminacy is overflow from the actual’s absorption of the virtual.…  [But]…  The resonance between the virtual and the actual never ends.  This amounts to a scientifically derived version of Nietzsche’s theory of the eternal return of difference that is very close to Deleuze’s philosophical version’ (168).  Bergson gets added by considering the virtual as a ‘pure past, a past inaccessible but necessary to personal experience…  It does not proceed the present but is contemporaneous with it…  The present is the “tightest,” most “contracted” level of a future–past that coexists with it the various levels of dilation’ (168-9).  Prigogine reads Bergson too and sees the levels in the cone model as representing different phase spaces.  Nevertheless there are differences, since Deleuze sees the virtual as inert or neutral rather than turbulent, and thus connected differently to the actual: ‘actualisation does not coax virtuality out of its impassivity, but instead holds it explosiveness in check [for Prigogine]’ (169).  Monism is also an issue—for Prigogine and Stenger, this can only imply ‘a holding together of disparate elements (virtual and actual)’ (169), and this is largely how Deleuze and Guattari see it in practice, as in the notion of an abstract machine which has no form or substance to confine it but persists as ‘a continually changing turbulent pool of matter–energy’ (170) rather than having some status in itself: it is a ‘pure outside’ (170).  Pure outsideness implies nonspatiality, and a kind of parallel existence where ‘every point in it is adjacent to every point in the actual world, regardless of whether these points are adjacent to each other’ (170).

FACIALITY permits an analysis of ‘the conjunction between religion, early childhood experience, class and race’.  The face is thus an abstract outline, or categorical grid, prioritising white European Males, or Jesus Christ.  Its two main categories, white screen and black hole, define the person against which actual faces are assessed—‘you don’t so much have a face as slide into one…  Given a concrete face, the machine judges whether it passes or not’ (172-3), and racism arises by judging people against this white man’s face.  The face somehow organizes other binary programmes, by setting up ‘functional correlations between distinctions made on one level and analogous distinctions on the other, suggesting a web of standardised symbolic relays between levels’ (173).[No doubt it gets force from being an early system the infant learns?]

Subjectification is explained ‘by interpreting the phallus as the operator of FACIALITY’ (173). [i.e. retranslating Freud into these terms.Also seen in the British term for a fool -- 'dickhead'. OK I made that up]]

The material on becoming animal is further developed in the commentary on Kafka [who else] .  It is an attempt to break out from ordinary uses of language which involve names and metaphors.

‘The emphasis on the “thisness” of things is not to draw attention to their solidarity or objecthood, but on the contrary to the transitoriness, the singularity of their unfolding in space–time...  It is meant as a reference to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of haecceity’ (183 –4).

IMAGE includes ‘words, thoughts, perceptions and visual “representations” (such as films, photographs, and paintings).  An image can be defined as the translation of the dynamism from one level of reality to another of different dimensionality’ (185) [sounds like a way of smuggling analogy in through the backdoor].  It can be seen as like projecting of volume on to a surface, a ‘surface of contraction’ as in Bergson.  Bodies can therefore be images themselves as Bergson argues, receiving other images and contracting them and restoring them (185).  So images do not exist in minds or bodies, since these are themselves images.  Instead, ‘image is a centre of dynamic exchange whereby movement steps up (is contracted) or steps down (is redilated) from one dimension of reality to another’ (185).  While we are here, ‘minds are always outside the bodies that have them in another dimension (the virtual as Idea)’.  Language exchanges ideas.  Ideas and images are fundamentally impersonal not affected by anything internal like a personality: it is the other way about, the personality is a habit.  ‘The PERSONAL is understood as the empty site of passage between the subpersonal (nerve firings) and the superpersonal (Ideas)’ (186).  Bodies can choose between different ideas, and that is the extent of their free choice.

Quasicausality can mean both ‘the incorporeal efficacy of all meaning’ and particular ‘despotic meaning production’ (187).  It is linked to Marx’s notion of the fetishism of capital as the mystifying power.

Deleuze and Guattari’s use of terms like machine is not a simple metaphor.  There is a distinction between machinic and mechanical.  ‘The MECHANICAL refers to a structural interrelating of discrete parts working harmoniously together to perform work; the ORGANIC is the same organisational model applied to a living body.  REPRESENTATION is a mode of expression operating in this same structural fashion’ (192).  Not all machines are mechanical in this sense.  ‘By MACHINIC they mean functioning immanently and pragmatically, by contagion rather than by comparison, unsubordinated either to the laws of resemblance or utility…  Living bodies and technological apparatuses are MACHINIC when they are in becoming, organic or mechanical when they are functioning in a state of stable equilibrium’(192).

There is a good literature on situationism on page 195.  And on the autonomist movement in Italy.

There is more discussion of Marx’s C-M-C model and how it is changed, page 200.  It rather resembles Baudrillard on the emergence of sign value [although Negri is cited as the critic of Marx]—the commodity’s ‘value is now defined more by the desire it arouses than by the amount of labour that goes into it’.  This is a new kind of surplus value attached more to exchange than to production, the ‘surplus value of flow’ (200).  Because an aspect of it is left with the consumer, Deleuze and Guattari also refer to it as ‘ghost surplus value…  More of the order of a prestige, an “aura”—style, “cool,” the glow of self worth, “personality.” (201).  So subjectivity becomes a matter of consumerism, acquiring decoded [which makes them universally suitable, thus marketable, and non-ideological hence playful] commodity images, and ‘subjectivity is the  GROSS IMMATERIAL PRODUCT of the neoconservative state; the ghost in the axiomatic machine of capital accumulation’ (201).  This subjectivity becomes an important economic activity in its own right, so that we end with two axiomatics ‘the capitalist and the subjectifying’. This doubling explains the capitalist form of schizophrenia—desire and playfulness together with social inequality and exploitation.

However, inequality does not take the form of a class system, since class is no longer an active molar identity—subjectivity can now be determined by commodities of class position ‘bodies have become radically singularized’ (202), and not just as the ruse of power.  Everybody now consumes, and social positions are located on [a ladder].  There are no essential contradictions or oppositions, only differentials, and ‘an almost infinite variety of concrete forms’ of capitalist relations (203).  Negri is quoted here is arguing that no simple divisions exist between productive and unproductive labour, production and circulation and so on—so contradictions have affectively been abolished, and no revolutionary movement based on class will succeed.

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