July 04, 2005

Research Notes: Naive Deleuzianisms, the war on terror, the valorization of self–organizing systems

Follow-up to Research Notes: Fascism within networks: China and the internet from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

My reading of Germinal Life has reached the third chapter, with Keith's call for a temporary and critical 'suspension' of Deleuze and Guattari's attempted equation 'ethics = ethology'. This suspension opens them up to an awkward but necessary critique.

And at the same time, I have been thinking more in the style of Manuel De Landa, applying his method of 'non-linear' history to the analysis of extremist and terrorist bodies. I am considering their emergence from pre-individual singularities on the machinic phylum to individuated and efficient learning machines. This raises some interesting issues concerning naive readings of the schizoanalytic project.

Consider this: are the various armed groups in Iraq benefiting from the continued presence of the US in a way that a naive schizoanalysis would praise? There were clearly many disparate splinters formed from the explosion of the Sadam Hussein regime of hierarchies, each itself a pre-individual singularity. And in response to the crudely striated tactics of the US military, are these otherwise unconnected singularities finding common currency, points of convergence, catalysts for the creation of their own internal consistency? As with the Nazis, I would say this is likely.

It would seem that the ethology leads to an ethics in which al-Qaeda might be valorized. Clearly there is something wrong, something out-of-order with this. Perhaps it is the same imprecision and confusion of differences that leads to the problem described by Keith in Germinal Life:

the various 'becomings' that characterize 'evolution', and serve to make it nongenealogical and nonfiliative, cannot be treated as if they were all the same, so that, for example, we could move simply but far too quickly, from talking about the transversal movement of the 'C' virus that is connected to both baboon DNA and the DNA of certain domestic cats, so talking about the 'becoming-baboon in the cat', to talking about the becoming molecular-dog of a human being, as if they were of an equivalent order. p.188-189

De Landa's free use of 'abstract machines' made me nervous. But what principle can there be to guide us as to the required level of detail, of specificity?

The answer from Deleuze and Guattari, and which I think Keith is about to give in the next section, is that understanding each deterritorialization's relationship to its own specific Body without Organs, and its passage into the possible constitution of an abstract machine, is the way to understand the appropriateness of that abstract machine to the specific case.


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  1. This is the paradox that needs to be worked through in order to avoid either

    • using abstract machines as purely metaphorical;
    • losing oneself in an indistinguishable fantasy world of ever more ephemeral and symbolic virtualities, thus losing the power of the virtual.

    Chaos = indiscernibility, confusion, an entropy of differences, a black hole or singular singularity that consumes all singularity.

    Abstract machines would tend towards indiscernibility, towards chaos, as repetition is selected.

    But selection is always singular, otherwise nothing is selected. Hence the abstract machine is never actualized, but rather actualizes something singular, specific, historical. The abstract machine selects against itself.

    "The world of chaos is a pure abstraction." KAP 1999 p.212

    Plane of immanance: intersections of a multiplicity of incompossible abstract machines, virtualities:

    "A slice of chaos that acts as a sieve" D&G WiP

    "...it is inseperable from a 'screen' … that makes something emerge from it." KAP 1999 p.212

    "The best of all possible worlds [the selected] is not the one that reproduces the eternal [nothing is selected, nothing produced], but the one in which new creations [eternals] are produced, the one endowed with a capacity for innovation or creativity.' Deleuze, The Fold, 107–8, 79

    06 Jul 2005, 07:06

  2. Entropy of differences != striated hierarchy.

    A striated hierarchy being an arrangement of redundancies, constructed from a set of large differences at the level of populations. Each such block of difference either dissipates small internal differences (individuals) or exports those differences to another block of difference. The communication being marked and controlled by a pre-capitalist rite of passage, or in capitalism, the axiomatic currency.

    06 Jul 2005, 08:00

  3. Thus the state or the organism operate a 'relative deterritorialization' or controlled and mediated interface between individuals and the abstract machines/virtuality/chaos from which they derive their power, and which they must nurture.

    D&G propose that philosophy is capable of re-connecting individuals directly with their abstract machines in an 'absolute deterritorialization'. This does not necessariy mean plunging the individual into an undifferentiated chaos. Although it is clear that as the engines of history these forces can be powerful and disruptive. So long as they connect with a clearly specified and consistently 'diagrammed' chaos, disaster can be averted: a 'germinal life' that is revolutionary and beyong human, but at the same time lived as a life.

    06 Jul 2005, 08:08

  4. Robert O'Toole

    So the question from D&G regarding Al Qaeda would be: what kind of BwO is driving it? Where do the actualizations of the BwO lead? Entropic or creative involution? A dead Earth or a new Earth?

    Ethics does equal ethology, but via a superior empiricism.

    08 Jul 2005, 08:30

  5. Robert O'Toole

    The superior empiricism that differentiates chaos and its orders.

    08 Jul 2005, 08:31

  6. Robert O'Toole

    "The world of chaos is a pure abstraction." KAP 1999 p.212 – abstraction for D&G doesn't mean unreal, but rather an absolute deterritorializion, an ecstatic communication.

    08 Jul 2005, 15:31

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