Deleuze & Guattari: The Eternal Return of Accelerating Capital


Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale. The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself.
……………– Karl Marx, Capital

the civilized capitalist machine

“The only universal history is the history of contingency.”1

In developing their theory and the practice of decoded and deterritorialized flows Deleuze and Guattari will surmise that capitalism in its present form may be the exterior limit of all societies (p. 230). They’ll go on to tell us following Marx that  “capitalism for its part has no exterior limit, but only an interior limit that is capital itself and that it does not encounter, but reproduces by always displacing it” (p. 231). So that this continuous cycle of schiz and flow from break to barrier and return through the movement of displacement “belongs essentially to the deterritorialization of capitalism” (p.231).

In this same section they will remark that the banking systems control the investment of desire in this cycle of breaks and flows, that it was Keynes himself that contributed a reintroduction of desire into the “problem of money,” and that Marxism must revise and include a more thorough understanding of banking practices in regard to financial operations and the circulation of credit money (i.e., Marxism needs a new theory of money). (p. 230)

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The Task of Schizoanalysis: The Formation of the Post-Intentional Society


The task of schizoanalysis is that of tirelessly taking apart egos and their presuppositions; liberating the prepersonal singularities they enclose and repress; mobilizing the flows they would be capable of transmitting, receiving, or intercepting; establishing always further and more sharply the schizzes and the breaks well below conditions of identity; and assembling the desiring machines that countersect everyone and group everyone with others.

– Anti-Oedipus, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Capitalism is a system of capture that cages in the socius within the horizon of its global prison system or asylum of madness. Schizophrenia is the process of flight and escape from the limits of this repressive regime. In its decoded flows is the constitution of a desire toward the absolute limit of the capitalist horizon, a passage beyond the barriers, a break-out and break-through into a new type of socio-cultural world. Yet, capitalism is constantly countermanding this tendency toward flight and escape, exorcizing the limits by substituting internal and relative limits for it that it can reproduce on an ever expanding scale, or an axiomatic of flows that subjects the tendency to the harshest forms of despotism and repression.1 (p 362)

No one gets out alive. They only find themselves deeper in solitude and madness.

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

Friends Playing on the Beach Trinidad and Tobago

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)

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On Reading Anti-Oedipus… again…


I’ve been re-reading Anti-Oedipus again (is one ever finished reading this work? – that is to say, Shall we ever come to the end of our writing?) . A passage I came across seems to suddenly jut its ugly head up out of the pages, one in which that duplex figure of Deleuzeguattari seem to become almost utterly angry, ready to cry out to the world: Freud, you are wrong: the Oedipus triangle – Father, Mother, Son do not reside in the psyches of modern humans. Then as if coming upon a truth they’d only just now registered in the midst of their struggle with Freud’s familial romance they insert an offhand dismissal: “The family is by nature eccentric, decentered.” This bit of news sits there between two vast metonymic onrushes of the eccentricity of the family with its brothers in the military; a cousin out of work, bankrupt, or a victim of a car Crash; an anarchist grandfather; a grandmother in the last stages of senility, hospitalized; a sister that has run off with a terrorist ready to bomb the Capital. This notion of the decentered, eccentric family where such triangulations as Freud saw in his local Vienna have no place in our postmodern savagery, our barbaric hypercapitalist age of speed and zero degree semantic apocalypse. No. Instead as they suggest the “family does not engender its own ruptures. Families are filled with gaps and transected by breaks that are not familial…” This notion of gaps and breaks… have we not heard this from elsewhere, too?

History, the events of the times, the flows from elsewhere: “the Commune, the Dreyfus Affair, religion and atheism, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of fascism, Stalinism, the Vietnam War, May ’68 – all these things form complexes of the unconscious, more effective than everlasting Oedipus. And the unconscious is indeed at issue here.”1 Then the crux of their anger lifts its head up, the truth that has been waiting in the wings, ready to blurt its way out, to gather about it a space of liberation, of emancipation:

If in fact there are structures, they do not exist in the mind, in the shadow of a fantastic phallus distributing the lacunae, the passages, and the articulations. Structures exist in the immediate impossible real. (ibid., p. 97)

Is it as if Lacan had after all snuck back into their thoughts by way of an impossible lost object? An impossible objet petit a, an impossible real? A structure whose very possibility is that of its impossibility? An immediacy of the real so intensive that it reveals itself in the very impossibility of its own becoming-real – a gap or break in the very structure of the real itself?

Because of this inconsistency, because Oedipus never forms a “mental structure that is autonomous and expressive”, but is rather “extrafamilial, subfamilial with gaps and breaks” schizoanalysis enters the political and social fields rather than the mental: it “is a militant analysis … not because it would go about generalizing Oedipus in culture… it is militant because it proposes to demonstrate the existence of an unconscious libidinal investment in sociohistorical production, distinct from the conscious investments coexisting with it.” (ibid. 98) To understand how time – the temporal movement of becoming, the sociocultural tempo of the libido in the fractures of the socious show forth the immediacy of desire in all its amplitude. This, this is the militant motion of their work.

1. Gilles Deleuze / Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus ( Penguin, 1977)

Deleuze & Guattari: Abstract Machines & Chaos Theory


John Johnston in his book The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI will compare the work of nonlinear dynamics and its notion of a chaotic attractor as exhibiting the precise attributes of what Deleuze and Guattari call an abstract machine, which inhabits equally the realms of matter-energy and abstract mathematical function (1), quoting D&G in A Thousand Plateaus:

The abstract machine in itself is destratified, deterritorialized; it has no form of its own (much less substance) and makes no distinction within itself between content and expression, even though outside itself it presides over that distinction and distributes it in strata, domains, territories. An abstract machine in itself is not physical  or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic; it is diagrammatic (it knows nothing of the distinction between the artificial and the natural either). It operates by matter, not by substance; by function, not by form. Substances and forms are of expression “or” content. But functions are not yet “semiotically” formed, and matters are not yet “physically” formed. The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 141)

After a lengthy discussion on chaos theory he will make a comparison between the primordial and dynamic quality of an abstract machine, which is what D&G are trying to elucidate, showing that it cannot be conveyed in the language of a “thing” and its “representation.” If both thing and representation could change in a dynamic relationship of reciprocal determination, then perhaps the “diagrammatic” quality of the abstract machine could be conveyed. Viewed as a type of abstract machine, however, the peculiar qualities of the chaotic attractor begin to make a unique kind of sense. As both an array of forces and a mapping of their vectors, the chaotic attractor is what deterritorializes the assemblage, both pulling it into a state of chaotic unpredictability and pointing to a new mathematical coding that allows this process to be measured. Rather than view the attractor as a kind of Platonic form that exists independently of its instantiation in a particular nonlinear dynamical system which is how attractors are sometimes viewed we should say, as D&G say of the abstract machine, that it “plays a piloting role” (142): it neither preexists nor represents the real, but constructs it and holds it in place. (Johnston, p. 153)

As Johnston explicates – in using experimental data in a manner not to confirm what is already known but to measure the rate of its destruction, Shaw (the nonlinear dynamics theoretician) becomes a kind of probe head, the human part of a machinic assemblage that functions like a dynamic feedforward device, relentlessly pushing into the unknown (or at least the unpredictable future) all while insistently measuring the rate of that advance. What is affirmed and confirmed for both physics and philosophy, and against their prior and respective idealizations is that processes  of dynamic change follow the irreversible arrow of time. (Johnston, p. 154)


(As a side note I began thinking of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Do not these mathematical objects that are neither matter nor energy in the sense of the term we know in the positive matter of the phenomenal universe represent such notions as abstract machines with the properties of such strange attractors? Many scientists believe that Dark Matter and Dark Energy make up 95% of the known universe, yet they are not yet detectable by our scientific instruments and apparatuses. They are mathematical objects that explain the missing information in the system we know as the universe. This notion of the abstract machine and chaotic attractor acting as a blueprint or diagram that is neither form nor substance, yet constructs and holds the universe of phenomenal matter and energy in place seems uncannily similar. Obviously trying to analogize from such notions is not the best policy. Yet, it makes you wonder.)

 “The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. – Deleuze & Guattari”


COSMOS 3D dark matter map” by NASA/ESA/Richard Massey (California Institute of Technology)

1. John Johnston. The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (pp. 152-153). Kindle Edition.

Félix Guattari: Ecosophy and The Politics of Freedom


Ecosophy: The Politics of Freedom

Gilles Deleuze would speak of his recently deceased friend and partner telling us that the work of Guattari remains to be discovered or rediscovered: “That is one of the best ways to keep Felix alive.”1 Maybe this is what we are doing in this reading group: discovering or rediscovering the work of Felix Guattari, and in this sense keeping his central insights alive within the matrix of possibilities we term speculative anarchism.

That The Three Ecologies was published in 1989 and seems as alive today in its critiques as the day it was penned is a testament to the truth of which his friend Deleuze speaks. That it deals with both his political and ethical vision is to be expected. Guattari was always the radical revolutionary seeking ways of emancipating others both in his medical practice and in the late cultural malaise of our capitalism. As both a committed communist and a green activist Guattari toward the end felt the need to enter the fray, to expose himself within the truth of politics and ran as a candidate for one of the political formations of the French Green movement. Even though his bid was unsuccessful it remains a high mark for the man and his politico-ethical stance and a measure of his need to realize his vision in a practice as well as theory.

The Three Ecologies is one of these pragmatic interventions into the political and ethical dilemmas of our age: the intersection of the environment, society, and subjectivity. Beyond all the usual analysis lay a his vision of neoliberalism (’Integrated World Capitalism’) as a monstrous system of ‘simulation’ (p. 31). A copy of a copy, a false world of symbols and references that simulate reality but instead entrap us within the clutches of its broken fabrications. Zizek will call this false world of simulations the big Other, or the symbolic order that enfolds us in an inverse register of Plato’s true world. As Zizek will say of Lacan, that he unveiled the illusions on which capitalist reality as well as its false transgressions are based, but in the end resined himself to the plight of humans at the hands of this neoliberal order: the final result being that we are condemned to domination— the Master is the constitutive ingredient of the very symbolic order, so the attempts to overcome domination only generate new figures of the Master. Against this Zizek will tell us that the great task of those who are ready to go through Lacan is thus to articulate the space for a revolt which will not be recaptured by one or another version of the discourse of the Master.2 We should say the same of Guattari. Those who are ready to go through Guattari is thus to articulate a site within which the political and ethical dilemmas of our ecosophic vision will open toward freedom rather than the capture or recapture of its potentials by the big Other of neoliberalism.

For Guattari ecosophy is first and foremost a reframing of the problematics of the world. As he will tell us the main issue facing us is not to return to abstract reductionist scenarios that lead to new charismatic leaders, rather ecosophy concerns itself with the problematical relations in which the production of human existence itself can arise within new historical contexts. At one point he will affirm that social ecosophy will consist in developing specific practices that will modify and reinvent the ways in which we live as couples or in the family, in an urban context or at work, etc.(ibid. 34) Does Guattari see us remaining within the confines of the capitalist matrix while doing this? So that ecosophy will work at the micro level of family rather than at the larger level of class dynamics, etc.? Rather than clinging to general recommendations we should be implementing effective practices of experimentation, as much on a microsocial level as on a larger institutional scale. (ibid. 35)

Guattari will begin at the base level of a theory of the Subject, or with the components of subjectification. For him there is a difference between the individual as person and the notion of subjectivity as such. The individual is the core site, the ‘terminal’ node or end point for processes that involve human groups, socio-economic ensembles, data-processing, etc. This notion of the individual as the endpoint of a network of information and relations is obverse to that of subjectification, which for Guattari is an aesthetic ethical perspective incorporating ecosophy in its three forms of the social, enviromental, mental. One could think of this in the same ways as the Medieval Borromean rings in which each of these levels-of-abstranction (LoV’s) overlaps the other in such a way that they form a knot. Depending upon one’s point of view or level of abstraction the specific area or region delimits a set of problems rather than solutions. As one moves through the knot one shifts focus and realizes that the regions are all part of a larger nexus seen only under the guise of singular moments of organization and detail. Ultimately Guattari used this is a teaching tool, a way of organizing the domains of knowledge and problems to awaken people from their lethargy. Point blankly he tell us that we must kick the habit of sedative discourse, and be able to shift or oscillate between the differing perspectives of the ecosophic lens.(ibid. 42) Rather than a static approach this takes a more dialectical path incorporating parallax perspectives in their processual and immanent development rather than some outer objective accumulation of facts. The inner dynamics of flows and intensities, rather than the static appraisal of substance and being.

With the emergence of our artificial world of cyberspace, biogenetics, and speed (Virilio) Guattari admonishes that we must accept this as a condition of any new praxis rather than trying to escape into some mythical past of the pre-critical worlds. The very condition of our socius and technological realms must be the starting point for ecosophy. He relates this to Alan Bombard’s experiment with an octupus in which he filled two containers: one with pure unpolluted water, the other with the polluted water from the local seaport. What transpired is that the animal survived fine in the polluted water, and within just a few minutes of being transferred to the unpolluted tank suddenly curled up, sank, and died. The notion here is that we cannot situate ourselves in some false theoretical world of ideas from which to rebuild our present world, instead we must situate any pragmatic undertaking within the very vectors of subjectification that order our present actual world.

Instead of separating and reducing the world to abstract categories of culture and nature, etc., we must begin to think ‘transversally’. To think transversally is to enact the logic of intensities, of auto-referential existential assemblages engaging in irreversible durations. This is a logic of both humans as subjects constituted totalized bodies, but is also of them as – in the psychoanalytical sense, as partial objects; or, as in Winnicott, transitional objects, institutional or otherwise. To think transversally is to think through the movement and intensity of evolving processes. In this sense process as Guattari uses it should be opposed to structure or system, and seen rather as the capture of existence in the moment of its constitution, delimitation, and deterritorialization. Ultimately at the heart of all ecological praxis is a sense of “an a-signifying rupture, in which the catalysts of existential change are close at hand, but lack the expressive support from the assemblage of enunciation; they therefore remain passive and are in danger of losing their consistency…”(ibid. 44)

To understand the way in which the Global Integrated System of Capital has captured and constituted our present artificial matrix or symbolic order Guattari developed four semiotic regimes within which to define its basic operations:

(l) Economic semiotics (monetary, financial, accounting and decision-making mechanisms) ;
(2) Juridical semiotics (title deeds, legislation and regulations of all kinds);
(3) Techno-scientific semiotics (plans, diagrams, programmes, studies, research, etc.);
(4) Semiotics of subjectification, of which some coincide with those already mentioned, but to which we should add many others, such as those relating to architecture, town planning, public facilities, etc.

As one studies the matrix of signs that is present day capitalism one must not lose sight he reminds us that it has become delocalized, and permeates the whole planet rather than being localized within a particular national context. Rather than looking for a stupefying and infantilizing consensus, it will be a question in the future of cultivating a dissensus and the singularities in production of existence and subjectification. A capitalistic subjectivity is engendered through operators of all types and sizes, and is manufactured to protect existence from any intrusion of events that might disturb or disrupt public opinion. As he explains it:

“It seems to me essential to organize new micropolitical and microsocial practices, new solidarities, a new gentleness, together with new aesthetic and new analytic practices regarding the formation of t}e unconscious. It appears to me that this is the only possible way to get social and political practices back on their feet, working for humanity and not simply for a permanent reequilibration of the capitalist semiotic Universe.” (ibid. 52)

Against any false sense of reconciliation Guattari affirms our need to accept struggle and disequilibrium, to affirm it and move not toward a reconciliation of opposites but rather to keep with the tensions and bifurcations, the gaps that present the antinomic anomalies. It is in these anomalous gaps that the new artist laborer begins to make his/her initial project drift far from its previous path, however certain it had once appeared to be. There is a proverb ‘the exception proves the rule’, but the exception can just as easily deflect the rule, or even recreate it. (ibid. 53) The aim of ecosophy is the setting forth the principle antimonies between the ecosophical levels, or, if you prefer, between the three ecological visions, the three discriminating lenses. (ibid. 54)

Against any return to a psychoanalytical modeling Guattari tells us what is needed is for us to face up to the logic of desiring ambivalence wherever it emerges – in culture, everyday life, work, sport, etc. – in order to reevaluate the purpose of work and of human activities according to different criteria than those of profit and yield. (ibid. 57) As he states it:

“Rather than tirelessly implementing procedures of censorship and contention in the name of great moral principles we should learn how to promote a true ecology of the phantasm, one that works through transference, translation and redeployment of their matters of expression.” (ibid. 58)

The point here is that for the most part the great religions of the world have lost their hold on the great majority of humans, and in this secular sphere of capital violence and other asocial manifestations we are no longer bound to the education and socialization procedures of primitive agricultural systems, but rather what we are seeing in everyday life a return to a totemic and animistic vision within the lives of singular citizens based on a hyper-technological fantasia of power and control. Societies are no longer bound to the grand narratives of past ages, but are splintering into subcultural enclaves of dissipative mythologies and schizo-cultures based on hyper-mediatainment networks of music and video that like the turbulent systems of nonlinear dynamics flow into hyper-intensities of flux and instability.

Even as the religious impulse seeks self-fulfilling prophecies of catastrophe and apocalypse in the major religions, the eco-revolutionary fronts seek to control the green movements with apocalyptic myths of climate catastrophe. We fill the unknowns, the gaps and cracks of the future with terror and horrific images, creating movies of the doom that become instant best sellers. Yet, the fictional portrayal of this doomed future scenario leaves people passive, alone, and apathetic rather than disturbing their inner subjectification for change. We speak of change but moment by moment we do nothing more than repeat this truth in the echo chamber of our cultural fantasias.

Guattari saw the unconscious not as theatre but as a factory. A factory that produced machinic processes in a plural form of subjectification through singularization. This process of psychogenesis was itself the development of becomings that formed singularties. The point of Guattari’s schizoanalytical ecosophy was to break the molds of organization that trapped us in the realms of domination and control, and instead to open subjectivities to the flow and intensities of the Real. As his friend Bifo Berardi says, Guattari hoped to “reopen the channel of communication between the individual drift and the cosmic game”.

What has transpired in the neoliberal regime is the construction through education, media, etc., three forms of subjectivity: a serial subjectivity corresponding to the salaried classes, secondly, a form corresponding to the huge mass of the ‘uninsured’, and finally an elitist subjectivity corresponding to the executive sectors. (ibid. 61) Guattari seems to take a pragmatic approach and acceptance of capitalism, and defines the task of any ecosophy as encouraging capitalist societies to make the transition from the mass-media era to a post-media age, in which the media will be reappropriated by a multitude of subject-groups capable of directing its re-singularization.(ibid. 58)

What guides this transformation is the notion of systems of valorization which allow for new modes of being and singularization to arise. Even in the Third-World thousands of value-system revolutions are progressively percolating their way up through society and it is up to the new ecological components to polarize them and to affirm their importance within the political and social relations of force.(ibid. 62) As he tells us rather than remaining subject, in perpetuity, to the seductive efficiency of economic competition, we must re-appropriate Universes of value, so that processes of singularization can rediscover their consistency. We need new social and aesthetic practices, new practices of the Self in relation to the other, to the foreign, the strange… (ibid. 68) Ultimately Guattari seeks the reconquest of a degree of creative autonomy – the catalyst for a gradual reforging and renewal of humanity’s confidence in itself.

1. Franco Berardi. Felix Guattari: Thought, Friendship, and Visionary Cartography
2. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 616-620). Norton. Kindle Edition.