Deleuze: Control and Becoming

New cerebral pathways, new ways of thinking, aren’t explicable in terms of microsurgery; it’s for science, rather, to try and discover what might have happened in the brain for one to start thinking this way or that. I think subjectification, events, and brains are more or less the same thing.

– Gilles Deleuze, Control and Becoming

The new information communications technologies form the core infrastructure of what many have termed our Global Information Society and what Deleuze once termed under the more critical epithet “societies of control”.  As Harold Innis once stated in his classic work Empire and Communications: “Concentration on a medium of communication implies a bias in the cultural development of the civilization concerned either towards an emphasis on space and political organizations or towards an emphasis on time and religious organization.”1 With the spread of information culture and technologies the older forms of newspaper, radio, television, and cinema form the core nexus of propaganda machines for both government and corporate discipline and control within national systems, while – at least in the free world, information technologies remain borderless and open systems. Yet, even this being called into question in our time. With both governmental and international agency pressure the protocols for invasive control over the communications of the internet are becoming the order of the day.

In his book on Foucault, Deleuze suggests we should look in more detail at three kinds of power: sovereign power, disciplinary power and above all the control of “communication that’s on the way to becoming hegemonic’. ” We’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication.” 2

 One can of course see how each kind of society corresponds to a particular kind of machine-with simple mechanical machines corresponding to sovereign societies, thermo-dynamic machines to disciplinary societies, cybernetic machines and computers to control societies. But the machines don’t explain anything, you have to analyze the collective apparatuses of which the machines are just one component.(ibid.)

Deleuze once remarked after Peguy discussing notions of history and events: there are two ways of considering events, one being to follow the course of the event, gathering how it comes about historically, how it’s prepared and then decomposes in history, while the other way is to go back into the event, to take one’s place in it as in a becoming, to grow both young and old in it at once, going through all its components or singularities. Becoming isn’t part of history; history amounts only the set of preconditions, however recent, that one leaves behind in order to “become,” that is, to create something new.3

In this same essay Deleuze describes the three main themes of A Thousand Plateaus:  first, we think any society is defined not so much by its contradictions as by its lines of flight, it flees all over the place, and it’s very interesting to try and follow the lines of flight taking shape at some particular moment or other; second,  is another direction which amounts to considering not just lines of flight rather than con- tradictions, but minorities rather than classes; and, third, amounts to finding a characterization of ”war machines” that’s nothing to do with war but to do with a particular way of occupying, taking up, space-time, or inventing new space-times: revolutionary movements (people don’t take enough account, for instance, of how the PLO has had to invent a space-time in the Arab world), but artistic movements too, are war-machines in this sense. (ibid.) “Creating has always been something different from communicating. The key thing may be to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control.”

Our concern with the subject is non-relevant to Deleuze, as he tells us:

…we can simply talk about the brain: the brain’s precisely this boundary of a continuous twoway movement between an Inside and Outside, this membrane between them. New cerebral pathways, new ways of thinking, aren’t explicable in terms of microsurgery; it’s for science, rather, to try and discover what might have happened in the brain for one to start thinking this way or that. I think subjectification, events, and brains are more or less the same thing. What we most lack is a belief in the world, we’ve quite lost the world, it’s been taken from us. If vou believe in the world you precipitate events, however inconspicuous, that elude control, you engender new space-times, however small their surface or volume. It’s what vou call pietar. Our ability to resist control, or our submission to it, has to be assessed at the level of our every move. We need both creativity and a people.(ibid.)

1. Harold A. Innis. Empire and Communications. (Dundern Press Limited, 2007)
2. Gilles Deleuze. Foucault. (University of Minnesota, 1988)
3. Control and Becoming. Conversation with Toni Negri Futur Anterior I (Spring 1990)

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