The Mortal Machine: Security Regimes and the Symbolic Order

What is a body, and why should there be a line drawn (a distinction made?) between mind and body? More to the point is dualism a tendency intrinsic to the thing we are or not? We’ve seen philosophers come to the conclusion that we do not exist, that this thing we are was a combination of cultural and social praxis, a project if you will. That with the birth of every new child a process begins that as Deleuze and Guattari would describe begins with the family, moves on to the academy ( education, etc.), then is absorbed in the wider frame of culture at large. Others in our time see that these Symbolic Orders are artificial and circumscribed within certain well defined limits, and that over time a society will construct defense mechanisms to disallow new cultures from breaching the barriers of its symbolic terrain.

Each culture is bound to its symbolic framework and references and will literally go to war to protect its systems of meaning. In Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari would show the inner workings of Western culture and civilization, its tendencies and defense systems. They would demarcate the distinctions that had produced the limit concepts and symbolic codes that have tied our mental and physical duality into a knot of protective security regimes that have guided and shaped this culture and its inhabitants for millennia. They were a beginning not an end, they began a process of disturbing the internal systems that hold the symbolic core of this system together and began to dismantle (or deconstruct) its codes from within. Others would carry on this process, both friends and enemies.

We’ve seen this sordid history within the rise of post-modern and post-humanist thought in both the sciences and humanities. We’ve seen the refusal of the human, a concept that has been central to the Western project for two millennia. Along with that was the illusive quest to dismantle the concept of identity, and destroy the individuation of the Subject. A process that came to a head during the critical phase of the late Enlightenment era we now term the Romantic revolt of Idealisms from Kant to Hegel and beyond. One might term this the “Subject’s Last Stand” of which the current shaper of this tradition is the dualistic materialist Slavoj Zizek in his strain of dialectical materialism. We’ve seen this play out within the divide over transcendence and immanence along with various variants in-between based on a battle between reductionist and irreductionist thought and action. I’ve spent years reading and wandering within both camps seeking from within to understand the defining characteristics that shape both stances and their defense systems. Mortals trapped within their systems are machines caught in the nexus of their own productions never seeing anything but their own gaze returning to them in echoes of bastardized thought. One must be strong to enter the abyss Nietzsche once told us, and even he was prone to other illusions. We all are, even I.

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Notes on Anti-Oedipus: The Three Meanings of Process

There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.

—Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

I’ve been rereading Anti-Oedipus of late, taking copious notes, etc. trying to simplify for myself this labyrinthine masterwork by a philosopher and an anti-psychiatrist at a juncture in those turbulent years that would see the failure of the New Left, as well as the birth of that weird era we term postmodernism (so called). No sense in going into the personal details of biography and collaboration between the two men, this has been documented to death. Instead as I began thinking through this work that even the two men would ten years later see as a grand failure.

Deleuze speaking of Nietzsche once stated that the masters according to Nietzsche are the untimely, those who create, who destroy in order to create, not to preserve. Nietzsche says that under the huge earth-shattering events are tiny silent events, which he likens to the creation of new worlds: there once again you see the presence of the poetic under the historical.1 The failure of the 1968 event in France would leave a bitter taste in the minds of both men. In “Intersecting Lives”, the author notes that Deleuze was disappointed by his work: “Eight years after Anti-Oedipus was published, Deleuze considered it a failure. May ’68 and its dreams were long gone, leaving a bitter taste for those who had high hopes but were caught by the stale odors of conservatism.” While for Guattari it was utter devastation as these authors state it. His hyperactivity and the immense effort he had put into the book led to something of a collapse, a feeling of emptiness. Completing a work is never as satisfying as the many imagined possibilities and ongoing pleasures of a work in progress. ‘I feel like curling up into a tiny ball and being rid of all these politics of presence and prestige…The feeling is so strong that I resent Gilles for having dragged me into this mess”.

Yet, the book would take on a life of its own and would become a part of the critical mythology of that era. I came on it in the 90’s quite by accident, seeing the work on a table in friend’s apartment. She was cooking dinner so I began reading the introduction by Foucault, another author I was knowledgeable of only through hearsay rather than translations. All that would come later. Yet, I was intrigued, so asked her to lend me the book. I remember she laughed and said it would change my life. I of course nodded skeptically and we ate an excellent meal, drank wine, and the rest is silence.

I know I’ve read this work piecemeal many times, picking up threads here and there turning them over as my reading in other aspects of the postmodern turn became greater and greater. At sixty-five I’m definitely a product of my age and its strangeness. Being a U.S. citizen is to live in a lonely planet of thought, because most of the people in academia in philosophy were either into analytical or scientific-mathematical thought. So that most of the new French thought as we termed it came by way of literary critics and certain Marxian intellectuals like Fredrick Jameson. Postmodern thought in America was abstruse and jargon ridden ghostings of that era’s philosophical hero worship, Jaques Derrida. So that much of the thought came through this Heideggerean world of hyperlinguistic aestheticism. Tell the truth it turned me off completely. I read it of course but felt this whole linguistic turn and deconstruction of Western metaphysics along with the soft political punches under the guise of subtle Hegelianisms was strangely off-putting. So I turned away.

That’s why Deleuze’s Logic of Sense more than Difference and Repetition always spoke to me, and his early histories of philosophy. Yet, it was the collaborations with Guattari that intrigued me in an odd-ball way. It was an attack on most of Western conceptuality and the androcratic and familial structures that have underpinned our civilization. So that even though they admit it is not a political work explicitly, it is implicitly just that: political through and through.

So I’ve decided to take notes and share my findings. In that first chapter ‘Desiring Productions’ they’ll affirm the obliteration of the whole of the Western Enlightenment tradition of humanism, affirming Nietzsche’s nihilistic insights about the end of meaning. As I quoted in the epigraph: “There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.”

It’s this reduction of the humanist divisions of human/nature, nature/nurture, etc. all the typical binaries that have bound us to the metaphysical heritage which would dissolve into process and nihilism. But what did they mean by process? They’ll argue that there are three distinct meanings of process:

  1. Everything is production, since the recording processes are immediately consumed, immediately consummated, and these consumptions directly reproduced. This is the first meaning of process as we use the term: incorporating recording and consumption within production itself, thus making them the productions of one and the same process. (AO, p. 27)
  2. This is the second meaning of process as we use the term: man and nature are not like two opposite terms confronting each other—not even in the sense of bipolar opposites within a relationship of causation, ideation, or expression (cause and effect, subject and object, etc.); rather, they are one and the same essential reality, the producer-product. Production as process overtakes all idealistic categories and constitutes a cycle whose relationship to desire is that of an immanent principle. That is why desiring-production is the principal concern of a materialist psychiatry, which conceives of and deals with the schizo as Homo natura. (AO, pp. 27-28)
  3. That is why desiring-production is the principal concern of a materialist psychiatry, which conceives of and deals with the schizo as Homo natura. This will be the case, however, only on one condition, which in fact constitutes the third meaning of process as we use the term: it must not be viewed as a goal or an end in itself, nor must it be confused with an infinite perpetuation of itself. 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: a limp rag forced into autistic behavior, produced as an entirely separate and independent entity. (AO, p. 28)

Deleuze and Guattari will oppose the Freudian conception of the unconscious as a representational “theater”, instead favoring a productive “factory” model: desire is not an imaginary force based on lack (as in Hegel/Lacan/Zizek), but a real, productive force. They describe the mechanistic nature of desire as a kind of “desiring-machine” that functions as a circuit breaker in a larger “circuit” of various other machines to which it is connected. Meanwhile, the desiring-machine is also producing a flow of desire from itself. Deleuze and Guattari imagine a multi-functional universe composed of such machines all connected to each other: “There are no desiring-machines that exist outside the social machines that they form on a large scale; and no social machines without the desiring machines that inhabit them on a small scale.” Desiring-production is explosive, “there is no desiring-machine capable of being assembled without demolishing entire social sectors”.

We know that they turned from the machinic terms to assemblage in A Thousand Plateaus, but underneath it is still about flows and interruptions within a continuous process of production. As they’ll say “Desire constantly couples continuous flows and partial objects that are by nature fragmentary and fragmented. Desire causes the current to flow, itself flows in turn, and breaks the flows” (AO, p. 28). They will attack Idealism for making this into an object, rather than a process. One can return to Schelling’s work to discover the Idealist conceptions. For Schelling Spirit is not a static entity given, something mysterious X, but infinite becoming and infinite productivity. It is in this ceaseless production lies the organic nature of human Spirit that is moved by its immanent laws and that has its purposive-ness within itself. Schelling here introduces the notion of organism which unites in its immanence its goal and purpose, its form and matter, concept and intuition. It’s this revision within Deleuze and Guattari that will lead to a materialist perspective, saying: “Production as process overtakes all idealistic categories and constitutes a cycle whose relationship to desire is that of an immanent principle.” (AO, p. 27)

For Deleuze and Guattari the notion of Immanence, meaning “existing or remaining within” generally offers a relative opposition to transcendence, that which is beyond or outside. Deleuze rejects the idea that life and creation are opposed to death and non-creation. He instead conceives of a plane of immanence that already includes life and death. “Deleuze refuses to see deviations, redundancies, destructions, cruelties or contingency as accidents that befall or lie outside life; life and death were aspects of desire or the plane of immanence.” This plane is a pure immanence, an unqualified immersion or embeddedness, an immanence which denies transcendence as a real distinction, Cartesian or otherwise. Pure immanence is thus often referred to as a pure plane, an infinite field or smooth space without substantial or constitutive division. In his final essay entitled Immanence: A Life, Deleuze writes: “It is only when immanence is no longer immanence to anything other than itself that we can speak of a plane of immanence.”

Lastly they will attack any notion of transcendence and teleology or goal oriented production etc.: “it must not be viewed as a goal or an end in itself, nor must it be confused with an infinite perpetuation of itself.” This schizophrenizing process of desiring production is bound within a flat ontology or plane of immanence that has no goals, and in fact ends badly for the paranoiac and schizophrenics we find in actual institutions.  In fact they would go so far as to say that “Desiring-machines work only when they break down, and by continually breaking down(AO, p. 31)”. It’s here that they’ll introduce that concept of the Body-without-organs:

Above all, it is not a projection; it has nothing whatsoever to do with the body itself, or with an image of the body. It is the body without an image. This imageless, organless body, the nonproductive, exists right there where it is produced, in the third stage of the binary-linear series. It is perpetually reinserted into the process of production. … The full body without organs belongs to the realm of antiproduction; but yet another characteristic of the connective or productive synthesis is the fact that it couples production with antiproduction, with an element of antiproduction. (AO, p. 31)

I want go into detail on this concept till the next entry, since section 2 of that Chapter deals with exactly that. Only to leave you with a quote from that next section to think on:

An apparent conflict arises between desiring-machines and the body without organs. Every coupling of machines, every production of a machine, every sound of a machine running, becomes unbearable to the body without organs. Beneath its organs it senses there are larvae and loathsome worms, and a God at work messing it all up or strangling it by organizing it. (AO, p. 32)

One is almost tempted to see in this “God at work messing it all up or strangling it by organizing it” the late great gnostic demiurge or the Spinozan God of materialist process itself. A blind processual being or entity that is more of a placeholder for the process that is continuously creating and destroying throughout the universe. Desiring production as this machine in continuous process of making and unmaking worlds.


  1. Theory and Theorists. “Nietzsche’s Burst of Laughter,” Interview with Gilles Deleuze. April 17, 2014.
  2. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Penguin Classics (May 26, 2009)

 

Deleuze & Guattari: The New Earth

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Deleuze & Guattari in their early collaboration Anti-Oedipus would provide in the manner of Nietzsche both a counter-sociology and an anti-philosophy that would critique and diagnosis Modernity and provide a way out of its traps and institutions. Reading and re-reading their work over the past year I’ve slowly had to acknowledge certain errors in my own stance toward both thinkers, realizing that my reading was influenced by both the positive and negative Deleuzians and their commentaries. How does one approach the four works in which Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari collaborated? My current project is both complex and simple: to extract out of the creative energy of these works the essential message of their Utopian Vision. For in the end there lies in their experiment a path forward for our civilization on earth. That is my argument.

The kernel of their vision always did reside in what they would term the “process” of desiring production, the schizophrenizing process that would underpin their notions of flows as infrastructural platform on which the future planetary pluralistic civilization of earth resides. They would see our current civilization of aggression, war, and ruin as bound in a vicious circle (Klossowksi/Nietzsche: eternal return) of displaced limits and systems of capture. They would differentiate between schizophrenic production and the schizophrenizing process: the first leading to blockage and madness of individuals, the second a non-teleological and goalless process of desiring production in which humans participate in a world where art and the sciences collaborate to form a socious based not on power and dominion, capital and profit but rather on the continuous and revolutionary gregariousness of singularities unbound. As D & G say toward the end of Anti-Oedipus:

A conspiracy joining together art and science presupposes a rupture of all our institutions and a total upheaval of the means of production. … If some conspiracy, according to Nietzsche’s wish, were to use science and art in a plot v/hose ends were no less suspect, industrial society would seem to foil this conspiracy in advance by the kind of mise en scene it offers for it, under pain of effectively suffering what this conspiracy reserves for this society: i.e., the breakup of the institutional structures that mask the society into a plurality of experimental spheres finally revealing the true face of modernity—an ultimate phase that Nietzsche saw as the end result of the evolution of societies. In this perspective, art and science would then emerge as sovereign formations that Nietzsche said constituted the object of his countersociology—art and science establishing themselves as dominant powers, on the ruins of institutions. (AO: p. 368)

That is the pragmatic accelerationism of the schizophrenizing process unleashed, against the capture systems of capitalism and its false limits that keep a goal oriented telos and industrial and post-industrial or informational model of commodity and financial circulation and production hooked and bound by the bureaucratic institutions that regulate it. Instead D & G see the accelerating experimentalism of science and art as a pluralized vision of ‘experimental spheres’ with sovereignty no longer bound to the world of schizophrenics and madness, but to the new creative regimes of art and science as permanent revolutionary society without bounds built on the ruins of capitalism and its dead institutions.

I’ve been struggling for years to understand their vision, but only recently did many aspects of their prismatic and visionary earth:

For the new earth (“In truth, the earth will one day become a place of healing”) is not to be found in the neurotic or perverse reterritorializations that arrest the process or assign it goals; it is no more behind than ahead, it coincides with the completion of the process of desiring-production, this process that is always and already complete as it proceeds, and as long as it proceeds. It therefore remains for us to see how, effectively, simultaneously, these various tasks of schizoanalysis proceed. (AO: p. 382)

Sadly their vision of the new earth was recaptured by the academic and scholarly apparatus of the current regimes and was buried under the dark molar indifference of scholarship and philosophical bric-a-brac hollowness. My task is to revitalize this utopian vision hiding in plain site throughout their collaboration, to retrieve it and open its energetic desiring productions for a new earth based on a pluralistic vision where art and the sciences collaborate in a continuous schizophrenizing process of creativity and innovation.

None of this is will be easy. The forces against which such a world might become a real possibility will bring to bare all their might and violent power to curtail and wipe out such a conceptual and actual vision from becoming a possibility. Yet, what have we got to lose? As they’d say:

The function of the chain is no longer that of coding the flows on a full body of the earth, the despot, or capital, but on the contrary that of decoding them on the full body without organs. It is a chain of escape, and no longer a code. The signifying chain has become a chain of decoding and deterritorialization, which must be apprehended—and can only be apprehended—as the reverse of the codes and the territorialities. This molecular chain is still signifying because it is composed of signs of desire; but these signs are no longer signifying, given the fact that they are under the order of the included disjunctions where everything is possible. (AO: p. 328)

What we need is a flight plan, an escape plan, an exit plan from the codes and territories of the dominion within which we all live now… a temporal war against those who would lock reality down into a completed capture system of desire in which we all lose our minds, literally. Let’s not let that happen.

Background and Addendum:

Background and addendum:

Over and over they speak of the need to differentiate the process of desiring production itself as schizophrenizing rather than schizophrenic (i.e., as a continuous revolutionary forces without end). The schizophrenic in the institution is the one for whom the schizophrenizing process was blocked producing the disease which is the opposite of the infrastructural flows to which desiring production leads. Capitalism captures these schizophrenizing processes and gives them a goal, hitches them to Industrial production and the capture of surplus value which has produced the schizophrenic socio-cultural world of global civil war we see all around us.

As they said earlier in the book: “Why the same word, schizo, to designate both the process insofar as it goes beyond the limit, and the result of the process insofar as it runs up against the limit and pounds endlessly away there? Why the same word to designate both the eventual breakthrough and the possible breakdown, and all the transitions, the intrications of the two extremes? (139).

We no longer know if it is the process that must truly be called madness, the sickness being only disguise or caricature, or if the sickness is our only madness and the process our only cure. But in any case, the intimate nature of the relationship appears directly in inverse ratio: the more the process of production is led off course, brutally interrupted, the more the schizo-as-entity arises as a specific product. That is why, on the other hand, we were unable to establish any direct relationship between neurosis and psychosis. The relationships of neurosis, psychosis, and also perversion depend on the situation of each one with regard to the process, and on the manner in which each one represents a mode of interruption of the process, a residual bit of ground to which one still clings so as not to be carried off by the deterritorialized flows of desire. (139)

Right there in that passage above “…the intimate nature of the relationship appears directly in inverse ratio: the more the process of production is led off course, brutally interrupted, the more the schizo-as-entity arises as a specific product.” The accelerationism of D&G is to cut out that goal, that blockage that capitalism puts there as a false limit, and break through the false barrier into the free flows of art and science working in unison to endlessly revise and explore under a goalless or non-teleological regime.

Deleuze & Guattari’s Accelerationist Manifesto

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The Real Accelerationist Manifesto (Non-teleological Permanent Revolution) of Deleuze & Guattari:

“…the task of schizoanalysis is ultimately that of discovering for every case the nature of the libidinal investments of the social field, their possible internal conflicts, their relationships with the preconscious investments of the same field, their possible conflicts with these—in short, the entire interplay of the desiring-machines and the repression of desire. Completing the process and not arresting it, not making it turn about in the void, not assigning it a goal. We’ll never go too far with the deterritorialization, the decoding of flows. For the new earth (“In truth, the earth will one day become a place of healing”) is not to be found in the neurotic or perverse reterritorializations that arrest the process or assign it goals; it is no more behind than ahead, it coincides with the completion of the process of desiring-production, this process that is always and already complete as it proceeds, and as long as it proceeds. It therefore remains for us to see how, effectively, simultaneously, these various tasks of schizoanalysis proceed.” (Anti-Oedipus: p. 401) [my italics]

Of course the above echoes that other famous passage from The Capitalist Machine of Civilization chapter:

So what is the solution? Which is the revolutionary path? Psychoanalysis is of little help, entertaining as it does the most intimate of relations with money, and recording—while refusing to recognize it—an entire system of economic-monetary dependences at the heart of the desire of every subject it treats. Psychoanalysis constitutes for its part a gigantic enterprise of absorption of surplus value. But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist “economic solution”? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to “accelerate the process,” as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet. (AO, p. 239) [italics mine]