Deleuze & Guattari: Process, Virtuality, and Multiplicity

What the schizophrenic experiences, both as an individual and as a member of the human species, is not at all any one specific aspect of nature, but nature as a process of production.

– Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Deleuze and Guattari ask in response to the quote above: What do we mean here by process? “For the real truth of the matter – the glaring, sober truth that resides in delirium – is that there is no such thing as relatively independent spheres or circuits: production is immediately consumption and a recording process without any sort of mediation, and the recording process and consumption directly determine production” (4).1 This notion that recording and consumption are immanent to production itself is the first meaning of process, and to this belongs the production of the “subject” that is produced immanently by a recording that qualifies itself as the recording it consumes.

In the first volume of his History of Sexuality, Foucault outlined for us the recording of homosexuality from the 1850’s onwards and how it has come to produce not only the psychiatric category of the homosexual as presumably pathetic and pathological but also the possibilities for its modern day offshoot: the gay subject. As well, Sandy Stone has given us an image of the recording of the transsexual identity from the 1950’s onwards, a recording in which the shoddily researched notion of gender disphoria (being born in “the wrong body”) has seeped from the clinic and into the discourses of psychology, politics, and popular culture (“The Empire Strikes Back: A Post-Transsexual Manifesto”).2

The elision of the demarcation lines between man and nature provides them with the second meaning of process: “the human essence of nature and the natural essence of man become one within nature in the form of production or industry” (4). They explain it this way: “Production as process overtakes all idealistic categories and constitutes a cycle whose relationship to desire is that of an immanent principle” (5). This was the basis of their materialist psychiatry which dealt with the human as schizo marked as Homo natura.

This will lead them to the most important meaning of process: process without telos, goal, purpose as well as the disparagement that process is an infinite perpetuation of itself. This latter notion that process has no goal, and is – all accelerationist theories to the contrary, not an endless productivity bound to an infinite speedwheel revolving toward a future out of control at the heart of their practice. As they tell it putting “an end to the process or prolonging it indefinitely – which, strictly speaking, is tantamount to ending it abruptly and prematurely – is what creates the artificial schizophrenic found in mental institutions…” (5).

In his Naturphilosophie Schelling would elaborate from an Idealist core the notions of a new philosophy of nature that is not grounded in the self-positing, unconditioned self-consciousness but by positing a “non-objective”, unconditioned in nature itself which Schelling calls “productivity”. It is this productivity that emerges through the logic of polar oppositions between subject and object that is shown to lead to a higher subject-object synthesis. For Schelling such a dialectical logic is deducted as a movement of potencies. The first potency is the movement of infinite to the finite. The second potency makes the reverse movement, while the third potency alone, which is higher than the other two, unities preceding potencies. In this manner Schelling explains magnetism as the first potency, electricity as the second and chemistry as the third potency that dialectically sublates the other two. Schelling’s philosophy of nature that attempts to develop the dynamic process of Idealism from the objective side can be seen as a parallel development to the Subjective Idealism that is elaborated by Fichte.(see IEP)

Potency or potentiality go back originally to Aristotle’s positing of that which is in opposition to the actual. By definition, what is potential [dynamis δυναμις] is something that is not-yet actual, but that which over time and through the principle of development has the power to actualize [energia ενεργεια].  Potentiality is therefore a kind of power, with an inertial, directional force whose aim is to manifest itself in actuality.3

The opposition between potentiality and actuality is an opposition that runs through the history of Western philosophy and science; it is an opposition that can be traced back to at least Aristotle’s distinction between dunamis (δυναμις) and energeia (ενεργεια).  In De Anima,  Aristotle identifies an aporia in sense-phenomena:  Why can there be no sensation without an external object?  How is it that we cannot sense sensation in-itself?  Aristotle’s response to this aporia is that sensation is not actual, it is potential.  Because sensation in-itself is potential, it can only be sensed when it has an external object.  From this Aristotelian insight, Agamben specifies a mode of existence of potentiality: potentiality is the “existence of a non-Being, a presence of an absence,” that is to say, a form of privation.  Potentiality is an existence of a non-Being because to say that something has potential implies that this potentiality exists but that, at the same time, it does not exist as an actual thing.(Nedal, ibid.)

In Deleuze and Guattari the notion of potency and potentiality is subsumed under the concept of the virtual. Deleuze’s concept of the virtual has two aspects: first, we could say that the virtual is a kind of surface effect produced by the actual causal interactions which occur at the material level. When one uses a computer, an image is projected on the monitor screen which depends upon physical interactions going on at the level of hardware. The window is nowhere in actuality, but is nonetheless real and can be interacted with. This example actually leads to the other aspect of the virtual which Deleuze insists upon, which is its generative nature. The virtual is here conceived as a kind of potentiality that becomes fulfilled in the actual. It is still not material, but it is real.

In Bergsonism, Deleuze writes that “virtual” is not opposed to “real” but opposed to “actual,” whereas “real” is opposed to “possible.” This definition, which is almost indistinguishable from potential, originates in medieval Scholastics and the pseudo-Latin “virtualis”. Deleuze identifies the virtual, considered as a continuous multiplicity, with Bergson’s “duration”: “it is the virtual insofar as it is actualized, in the course of being actualized, it is inseparable from the movement of its actualization”.

As I see it the notions of process described in the three meanings is connected to this notion of the virtual as the “movement of its actualization”. Which explains the meaning of “Production as process overtakes all idealistic categories and constitutes a cycle whose relationship to desire is that of an immanent principle” (5). This relationship to desire within the movement of virtual actualization as immanent principle and as a continuous multiplicity in durée seems the logical conclusion to be drawn.


1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Penguin, 2009)
2. Fadi Abou-Rihan, Phd. Schizoanlysis. (Archive, 2008)
3. Paul Nedal. The Concept of Potentiality. 2010

Fadi Abou-Rihan, PhD

6 thoughts on “Deleuze & Guattari: Process, Virtuality, and Multiplicity

  1. I struggle to grasp these sorts of moves so pardon some basic questions, first is there literally an image projected on the screen, and what is ” The window” in your example?


    • lol – Yep, sometimes you are a little dense. 🙂

      Monitor screen…. the images, pixels, etc. that awaken the moment you turn on your computer showing you things you can interact with, etc. Window… as in screen, just another term for interface… maybe I should have just said: interface, but said window as a substitution for screen, etc.

      Just visualize… see it… Computer, Screen, Image, Window, just words trying to point to something out there you work with as you read these letters 🙂

      It was too early, so, yes, I could have provided better examples, but I was too lazy and chose what was at hand, my computer… lol


      • Immaterial? The term was never used in the above text?

        Not sure what you’re asking? Where does immaterial come in? As in thought? Powers and dispositions? Not sure if your asking about immaterial processes? In my own mind even the notion of immaterial/material as defined in the old parlance is erroneous and the distinctions we once used to separate such things is no longer viable. In Deleuze, Guattari, and even in Levi’s new work we’re dealing with processes that can no longer be defined by such narrow divisions of immaterial/material… so maybe what your asking is just that – where does the immaterial come in… it’s part of the processual package, the flows between things rather than the things themselves: I’m thinking of noise/sound… the modulations between patterns that dispose us toward certain messages and not others… causality, powers, dispositions…

        Powers can be of two sorts: powers can effect things, perform operations on them; but powers can also be disposed toward things, events, entities so that rather than effecting them it is awakened and couples with them as a machine is plugged into other machines, etc. This is where notions of “allure” come into play… to be allured toward something, to be drawn out, awakened as from sleep, broken open from our dogmatic slumber… such notions as these…

        The immaterial is that which we do not have direct access to: the noumenal, the aspect of things, events, operations etc. that do not have direct physical relations and yet they are immanent to all relations, intrinsic as dispositions. This is why I think our older metaphors stink… in the old metaphysic immaterial had supernatural connotations, as if it transcended the material rather than being implicit or immanent to the very notion of relation in materiality. This is where the battle lies between Humeaens and Anti-Humeaens concerning causal powers and dispositions…

        This is the notion that for Hume there were relations between cause and effect (extrinsic dispositions – although, this is a current term, not one Hume used), but he did not believe that causal powers or dispositions internal to a system or thing, entity, event existed in their own right (i.e, no real powers independent of their extrinsic relations; therefore, no real intrinsic dispositions…).

        I need to actually do further research into both Deleuze’s early work and his main two works, Difference and Repetition and Sense Logic… to determine where he stood… I know reading Levi R. Bryant in both Democracy of Objects and his new work he relies on Georg Molnar who did affirm dispositions and powers as real and intrinsic properties in their own right… so he falls into that anti-humeaen category of thought… for Levi this is where the “virtual proper being” and “local manifestation” concepts come into play. Virtual in the sense that a machine can possess the capacity to perform operations without exercising them, and proper as that capacity itself. As Levi says himself: “Powers are real or actual features of a machine regardless of whether or not it exercises that power.” (Onto-Cartography, 41)… If you remember in a previous post Molnar argued that there were five features of powers: directedness, independence, actuality, intrinsic and objective.

        Is there a verdict for or against either Humaens or Anti-Humaens… that’s up to your own disposition… 🙂

        Does that help?


      • was just reading “It is still not material, but it is real” as im-material but yes thanks now i see what you are gesturing towards.


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