Deleuze & Guattari & Braidotti: On Nomadic vs. Classical Image of Thought

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Thought is like the Vampire, it has no image, either to constitute a model of or to copy.

– Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, War-Machines

Gilles Deleuze was always in search of a new image of thought, a creation that would displace the classical image founded by Plato and Aristotle. As they will tell us the classical image of thought, and the “striating mental space it effects, aspires to universality” (p. 48).1 Continuing to describe it they will tell us in “Nomadology: The War Machine” that it operates under the aegis of two “universals” – that of the Whole “as the final ground of being or all encompassing horizon,” and the Subject as the “principle that converts being into being-for-us” (p. 48). This image will ultimately come to its conclusion in the philosophies of Kant and Hegel’s theories of the State. As they explicate:

Imperium and Republic. Between the two, all of the varieties of the real and the true find their place as a striated mental space, from the double point of view of Being and the Subject, under the direction of a “universal method”. (p. 48)

Against this image of thought they would formulate a counter-image, a nomadic thought that no longer allies itself with a universal thinking subject (liberal Subject), but on the contrary with a “singular race” (not racialism); and it does not ground itself in an all-encompassing totality, but is on the contrary deployed in a horizonless milieu that is a smooth space, steppe, desert or sea. What they mean by race is the minoritarian notion of all oppressed peoples whether of race, gender, or sex: in the name of the oppression it suffers: there is no race but inferior, minoritarian, there is no dominant race, a race is not defined by its purity but rather by the impurity conferred upon it by a system of domination (p. 49). Ultimately for Deleuze and Guattari all thought is a “becoming, a double becoming, rather than the attribute of a Subject and the representation of a Whole” (p. 49).

As Rosi Braidotti, whose work would take much of these concepts and formulate a nomadic counter to theoretical critique tells us, the point of nomadic thought is to produce new subjectivities “to identify lines of flight, that is to say, a creative alternative space of becoming that would fall not between the mobile/immobile, the resident/the foreigner distinction, but within all these categories. The point is neither to dismiss nor to glorify the status of marginal, alien others, but to find a more accurate, complex location for a transformation of the very terms of their specification and of our political interaction”.2

Braidotti after Deleuze will conceive the conceptual persona as a theoretical navigational tool that evokes and mobilizes creative possibilities in order to change the dominant subject position. The dominate Subject is defined as coinciding with the image of thought that equates subjectivity with consciousness, rationality, and liberal individualism. Against this dominant image of thought:

Processes of becoming-minoritarian are the affirmative alternative to this phallologocentric vision of the subject, which the poststructuralists, Lacan, Derrida, Deleuze, Irigaray, have criticized. The processes of becoming-other get expressed through suitable figurations—like my nomadic subject. As such, they are no metaphors, but rather critical tools to account for the materially embedded and embodied locations and power relations. They are also creative expressions for the intensity, i.e., the rate of change, transformation or affirmation, the potentia (positive power) one inhabits. Following Deleuze’s Spinozist formula we simply must assume that we do not know what a body can do, what our embodied selves are capable of. Life as the exploration of this affirmative capacity or potentia is the core of Spinozist politics. Nomadic subjects are transformative tools that enact progressive metamorphoses of the subject away from the program set up in the phallologocentric format. (Braidotti KL 328-337)

For Braidotti this move toward a nomadic thought entails a new nomadic subject, a performative image, a political myth that allows her to weave together different levels of experience: it reflects a postmetaphysical vision of subjectivity. Last, but not least, it allows her to conjugate a feminist politics with a variety of other powerful political and theoretical concerns and locations. This figurative approach to nomadism will allow her to play on the associative quality of the nomadic state and therefore tap on its metaphorical richness. (ibid.) There are other paths that nomadic thought can take as well. One will discover in Deleuze and Guattari’s collaborative efforts many of that possibilities and lines of flight open for a new politics of non-oppression, or what they liked to term the “non-fascist” way of life. A liberatory politics of desire that seeks to release the affective relations that have been captured by the dominant machines of capital in our daily lives.

Nomadic thought allows us to find “lines of escape” out of the current malaise of official thought based as it is in State and Corporate controlled academic universities, sciences, corporate and commercial worlds. Nomadic thought is singular and mobile, it falls outside the acceptable perimeters of the elite thought police who would bind us to their oppressive regimes of figural and representative theory and praxis. It gives us heuristical devices, pragmatic machines, workable tools that through intensification of those potentials that are our desires we can liberate into the world, an opening toward a future where singularity and togetherness become our real hope of a livable co-existence with each other and the natural world that is our home and habitat.

1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Nomadology: The War Machine (Semiotext(e) 1986)
2. Braidotti, Rosi (2011-05-31). Nomadic Subjects (Kindle Locations 242-245). Perseus Academic. Kindle Edition.

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