Faciality and facetiousness ( my comments)

I first read the 'plateau' on faciality in Thousand Plateaus (TP) I had taken the advice in the Introduction to consider each plateau as offering a self contained argument, and was immediately disappointed to find that that section started with a reference to an earlier discussion about signifiance and significance somewhere else—it was not actually referenced of course.  I then tried to make sense of the ludicrously aphoristic and gnomic sentences about white screens and black holes, 'four eyed machines', and territorialization, but it soon dawned on me that all sorts of references were being made not only to other sections of the book, but to other books that Deleuze and Guattari had read (only partially referenced).  Eventually I realized that they were also referring to their own earlier works, or even to conversations they had had among themselves on various topics.  In other words, the whole thing was really a kind of private reverie, two people putting down comments in a kind of joint diary, making sense among themselves, no doubt, but leaving any reader outside the conversation completely baffled—and pretty pissed off.

Very recently, I have read Guattari's book The Machinic Unconscious,(MU) and he has a lengthy chapter (4) on faciality.  This is long winded, really superficial in its arguments, and again not entirely well referenced, but it is an improvement on Thousand Plateaus.  Guattari says he wrote this book before working with Deleuze producing TP, and it was not published in English until 2011, but it did emerge from a series of collective discussions that he was having with Deleuze.   Chapter 4 made much more sense in the context of a general discussion about modes of subjectification and typical patterns of semiological activity in capitalism in the first three chapters.  I'm still not claiming to have understood Guattari, and privately I think much of it is overblown and paranoid,  but he argues that faciality is a crucial way of rendering the endless semiotic possibilities in an domesticated binary way. That is probably why the binary system of white screen/black holes is discussed as  amajor component of faciality.  Although it is obscure, it is much clearer than the plateau in Thousand Plateaus.  It must have been the same collective discussions that our heroes were referring to in TP., but implicitly, without telling we innocent readers  The 'four-eyed machine', for example,  is traced in MU  to the work of unnamed 'Anglo Saxon psychologists' (89) who exploit the disciplinary power of interaction between two people face-to-face.  Once you know that, you can start to interpret some of the gnomic remarks, but if you didn't know that, you would be forced to read the phrase as some kind of evocative poetry, designed to trigger your own memories, perhaps of being called 'four eyes'if you wore spectacles as a child, or thinking of being interrogated by two people at a police station, or whatever. 

I am aware that I am preferring academic meanings to poetic ones, or should I say (pre)ferring.  But that is how the work of Deleuze and Guattari is also read—as serious philosophy, and I have no doubt that reducing it all to poetry is as dubious as reducing it or to a kind of fashionable cultural Marxism.  At the very least, commentators should make up their minds: either warn students that there are only poetic meanings in the sections, or help them to find the context for some of the more obscure utterances.  What is required is a hermeneutic approach, in the classic sense, weeding out the poetry from the philosophy, just theologians had to do with God's words in the Bible.  To insist that we recognize the poetic bits as somehow integral to the philosophical bits, as some sort of anti positivist or anti fascist trope is a conceit, perfectly acceptable if you are a leisured and high powered academic, with the time and inclination to be amused by the style, but pretty well inaccessible to the non elite. And delberately so, as the final insult!

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