Tag Archive: Deleuze


I’ve enjoyed the DeLanda reading group for A New Philosophy of Society (ANPS) and it is my turn to write about chapter 4: Organisations and Governments. So far there have been excellent contributions from Levi on chapter 1, Alex on Chapter 2 and Michael on Chapter 3. My post on the fourth chapter of ANPS will be in three  parts First, I will summarise DeLanda’s analysis of organisations, I discuss DeLanda’s analysis of relations between organisations and governments, and finally offer some critical comments. I hope the critical comments can continue the productive discussion the book symposium has already stimulated.  I will post part one here and the two other parts over the weekend.

1)      Summary of Chapter 4 (Part 1 Organisations)

In chapter 4 DeLanda continues his journey and moves up the ontological scale of assemblages to consider organisations and governments. DeLanda makes it clear that the organisations he is going to examine will primarily focus on the last two or three centuries, especially organisations that use commands to coordinate collective activity (p68). In addition, DeLanda furthers narrows his analysis from selecting to focus on what different command organisation share in common: an authority structure (p68). According to DeLanda, the expressive axis of organisations within an authority structures express the legitimacy, and the material axis is involved with the enforcement of authority. In other words, organisations have legitmacy dimension and an enforcement authority.

One of the most important decisions that DeLanda makes is to incorporate Max Weber’s typology of authority structure. According to Weber there are three  types of authority-structures: rational-legal, traditional, and charismatic. To accommodate Weber’s three authority-structures, DeLanda regards them as extreme forms (or ideal types) that are in a continuum. The result is that organisations and populations will usually have a composition of all the authority types. It is now worth outlining the characteristics of each extreme form.

 

Rational-Legal – Is an organisation where there is complete separation of the position and the person occupying the position. The role of the positions within the organisation will be clearly outlined and there is a clear hierarchical structure with relations of surbordination between positions (not persons) made legitimate in some form of legal constitution.

Traditional – Some organisations have authority structures where ‘positions of authority are justified exclusively in terms of traditional rules and ceremonies inherited from the past and assumed to be sacred’ (p69). Examples of this type of authority structure are evident in religious organisations or monarchical governments.

Charismatic – The final authority structure is when an organisation is led and mobilised from a strong and charismatic leader. According to DeLanda, ‘historically, the kinds of individuals that have played this role have ranged “prophets, to people with a reputation for therapeutic or legal wisdom, to leaders in the hunt, and heroes of war”’ (p69).

 

 

In terms of the rationa-legal authority structure, DeLanda makes the observation that this type has become popular in the contemporary world, and the last 200years has seen the propagation of the rational-legal form. In addition, we also see the significance of the idea of redundant causality for examining and understanding rational-legal organisations. The idea of redundant causality is that a person can be removed from a position in a rational-legal organisation and replaced with another without altering the identity of that assemblage. In other words, I could be removed from my position as a teaching assistant at Newcastle University and replaced with another person without altering the authority structure where people have well defined roles. The result is that organisational analysis of rational-legal authority structures, which follows assemblage theory, ought to be concerned with different positions of the organisation, rather than the specifics of the persons that fill these roles.

In his analysis of rational-legal authority structures, DeLanda argues that the daily following of commands is an expression of legitimacy (p71). He also suggests that forms of disobediance are a direct challenge to the authority structure of the organisation. I would suggest that there is an influence of David Hume in this section, which follows on from DeLanda’s Humean subjectivit y outlined in the previous chapter. In the third chapter, DeLanda suggests habits are one possible method for analysing and understanding a person. The same could also be suggested for examining organisations with an authority structure. We could imagine that organisations are a bunble of non-essential habits and the habits are related to the command structure of the organisations. For example, if my position requires I turn up at the office at 9am everyday this becomes a repetitive habit that also expresses the legitimacy of the organisation. If i decide to break the habit and refuse to turn up at 9am I am directly expressing disobedience and challenging the habits of the  authority structure.

In addition to Weber, Michel Foucault is an important influence in DeLanda’s analysis of organisations that have an authority structure. Unsurprisingly, DeLanda finds Foucault’s Discipline and Punish a helpful resource and notes how contemporary rational-legal organisations has two different historical sources:

“Speaking of the rational-legal form of authority, Michel Foucault discusses how the legitmacy of this form evolved as lawyers and legal scholars elaborated justifications for the contractual relations at the basis of voluntary submission, but also how these legitimating discourses had to be complemented by a nondiscursive, disciplinary component, which had quite different origins, not in judicial or legislative organisations but in miltary ones” (p72)

From Foucault, DeLanda observes two important developments in organisations. First, the spatial and temporal partitional of human bodies. The model for organising space was from the military, where paths, barracks, entrances, etc where organised to manage the subordinates and assign then a definite place, and a model of time was incorporated so that ‘working rates were established, occupations imposed, cycles and repetitions regulated (p72). Second, a new threshold of description (i.e. the minimum of significance which a piece of information must have been worthy of archiving emerged where the actions of ‘normal’ individuals were recorded.  No longer do we only record the achievements and movements of heroes, but all types of individuals are regarded as being significant and worthy of recording in contemporary rational-legal organisations. Although not explicitly expressed from DeLanda, assemblage theory would have to consider the material elements that make possible the recording of individuals. For example, contemporary supermarkets use loyality cards to eletronically record the purchases of consumers and help with their market research.

The last main point that DeLanda makes about organisation is about the jurisdication of organisations. According to DeLanda, the stability o f an organisation’s jurisdication is dependent on their legitimacy and the continuous enforcement. Processes that call into question the stability of an organisation as sources of deterritorialization. DeLanda lists the examples of organisations clashing over territory and a crises of succession, where a leader’s death could destabile an organisation and its jurisdication.

*[Update, Levi has written a recent post that is relevant for this post, discussing how objects act and the actual and virtual dimensions of objects, read here]

I have recently been thinking about what political praxis object-oriented philosophy (herein after OOP) can offer political analysis. In conjunction, I have been thinking about the differences between how an object is defined from reading Levi Byrant, Graham Harman, and Steven Shaviro. In the following post I want to focus on Shaviro’s reading of Whitehead’s “eternal objects’ in his book Without Criteria and his post (here). The aim is to defend an OOP that argues objects are both actual and virtual.

One of the main debates within OOP is between actualists (Harman) and virtualists (Byrant & Shaviro). My reading of the debate concerns if an object-oriented ontology requires a virtual dimension. Criticism of OOP arguing for a virtual dimension seems to put forward the argument that virtualists limit an object to what is possible. However, it seems that this confuses the difference between possible and potential. For an object-oriented philosopher of the virtual, the virtual is a crucial (and real) ontological dimension that enables one to contemplate how an object is not reducible or exhausted by its actual existence. In other words, any ontology that includes a virtual dimension attempts to account for potentiality.

Following Deleuze, Shaviro asserts that we should not differentiate between the virtual and the real, ‘the virtual…is altogether real in its own right…it is just that this reality is not actual. The virtual is like a field of energies that have not yet been expended, or a reservoir of potentialities that have not yet been tapped’ (Without Criteria, p35). As a reservoir of potentials, there are processes of actualisation, when certain potentials of the virtual are actualised. However, actualisations of the virtual do not exhaust the potential of the virtual. Shaviro is aware that Whitehead never uses the word virtual, but does argue that Whitehead’s distinction between the actual and the potential resembles the Deleuzian distinction between the actual and the virtual (Without Criteria, p37). Therefore, for Whitehead the potential is a real (virtual) ontological dimension of the world that needs to be acknowledged. We cannot only focus on actual identities (although actualists will contend this point).

We may then ask what Whitehead claim composes the virtual/potential aspect of his ontology. One answer is that the virtual is a composition of eternal objects. As Shaviro notes, ‘alongside events or actual entities, Whitehead also posits what he calls “eternal objects.” These are “Pure Potentials.” Shaviro defines Whitehead’s eternal objects in the following:

“’any entity whose conceptual recognition does not involve a necessary reference to any definite actual entities of the temporal world is a called an ‘eternal object’ (Whitehead, Process and Reality). This means that eternal objects include sensory qualities, like colors (blueness or greenness) and tactile sensations (softness or roughness), conceptual abstractions like shapes (a helix, or a dodecahedron)…eternal objects are ideal abstractions that nevertheless (in contrast to Platonic forms) can only be encountered within experience, when they are ‘selected’ and ‘felt’ by particular actual occasions” (Without Criteria, p39)

At least two things are noteworthy about eternal objects. First eternal objects are virtual, but nevertheless real. Second, eternal objects are actualised in particular occasions, but are not reducible to these particular local actualisations. To understand why eternal objects are virtual and not reducible to their local manifestations in particular point in time, it is necessary to regard eternal objects as neutral and indifferent:

“’Eternal objects ‘involve in their own natures indecision’ and ‘indetermination’ (Whitehead, Process and Reality); they always imply alternatives, contingencies, situations that could have been otherwise. This patch of wall is yellow, but it might have been blue. This means that their role is essentially passive…You might say that yellowness  ‘in itself’, understood as a pure potentiality, is utterly indifferent to the actual yellow color on this particular patch of wall…Eternal objects, like Deleuze’s quasi-causes, are neutral, sterile, and inefficacious, as powerless as they are indifferent” (Without Criteria, p41)

There seems an important argument that eternal objects need to be thought of as neutral. At one level, the neutrality ought to mean that the virtuality of eternal objects is not reduced to local or particular manifestations. In other words, we need to be careful about equating the virtual with the actual. In terms of thinking ‘yellowness’ as both an eternal object with particular manifestations it seems unproblematic. Therefore, the book that sits in front of me with a yellow cover does not exhaust the potentiality of ‘yellowness’ as an eternal object. However, it is perhaps worth considering if the neutrality of eternal objects has any significance for an OOP political analysis. We can maybe draw the political significance of eternal objects from a (re)reading of Foucault’s analysis of the Panopticon in Discipline and Punish. [I have also selected this example to provocatively suggest Foucault has the potential to be read as a type of object-oriented philosopher].

It might seem odd to (re)read Foucault’s analysis of the Panopticon as an example of discussing an ‘eternal object.’ At one level, Foucault is examining the physical attributes and design of a particular building. Foucault’s fascination with Bentham’s Panopticon is that the design of the building allows an observer a fixed central position that makes it possible to gaze upon those people confined within the Panopticon. The result is that Foucault is able to consider how the Panopticon functions as a form of disciplinary power that produces the subjectivity of those confined. One of Foucault’s main findings is that as a form of imprisonment, the Panopticon differs from a dungeon as ‘full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is the trap’ (Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p200). However, Foucault is aware that merely focusing on the Panopticon as a means of imprisoning delinquents is in itself a limitation. We could suggest that this type of analysis of analysis is too empirical and remains at the level of actual objects. In other words, it fails to conceive of the Panopticon as a (Deleuzian) virtual idea or (Whiteheadian) eternal object. Indeed, Foucault is aware that the potentiality of the Panopticon is more than particular local manifestations of a Panopticon. Foucault writes that the Panopticon ‘is polyvalent in its applications; it serves to reform prisoners, but also to treat patients, to instruct schoolchildren, to confine the insane, to supervise workers, to put beggars into to work (Discipline and Punish, p205). In other words, the Panopticon as an eternal object is not reducible to those experiences that actualise a manifestation of panopticism, and Foucault warns that the Panopticon ‘is in fact a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use’ (Discipline and Punish, p205). In order to detach the Panopticon from any specific manifestation there requires the need to conceptualise as an ‘eternal object’ or what Deleuze and Guattari would refer to as an abstract machine. The effect is that a Panopticon is both virtual and actual.

One other issue needs addressed. Whitehead and Shaviro both understand eternal objects as ‘neutral’ and ‘indifferent’ to their manifestations in particular occasions, and it seems strange to claim that Panopticon – as an eternal object – is ‘neutral’ and ‘indifferent’. Indeed the Panopticon seems overtly political and not neutral. Yet such a criticism I would suggest would be too concerned with the particular and actual uses of panopticism in our actual experience. As an eternal object the Panopticon is indeed ‘neutral’ and ‘indifferent’, we need only think that particular manifestations of the Panopticon could be used from different and antagonistic political ideologies (Fascism, Liberalism, Socialism). Therefore, as an eternal object, panopticism is indifferent to particular manifestations and is not exhausted from these previous manifestations.

Arguable,  constructivism or construction is a loaded term in academia. Whenever one uses constructivism or construction it usually means they are social constructivists. However, like Deleuze and Latour I find value in using the term and would like to see it detached from social constructivism. Maybe we could propose there are social constructivists (e.g. Berger & Luckmann) and (radical) constructivists (e.g. DeLanda, Latour, Deleuze). I would claim the difference between the two are the following:

Social Constructivism  is concerned with the social construction of reality

(Radical) Constructivism is concerned with the construction of reality

The two ‘schools of thought’ appear similar, but their differences are significant and leads to two different positions. Social constructivists argue that reality is always social mediated and mind-dependent and Radical contructivists argue that mind-independent entities exist and they are knowable.  It is along these dividing lines that the battle of constructivists are drawn. The former is anti-realist and the later is realist.

Hallward on Haiti

In relation to my PhD I have recently been doing some research about US-Haiti relations in an attempt to examine the simulation of Haitian identities in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I will post more about the topic in the next coming weeks . However, I can strongly recommend you watch these videos from Peter Hallward. While I do not agree about his assessment of Deleuze, his account of Haiti is convincing. I have yet to read his book, Damming the Flood, but look forward to it.

I have recently had the pleasure of reviewing Levi R. Byrant’s (Larval Subjects) book “Difference and Givenness: Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence” for Global Discourse.

At present the review is at the copy editor for the journal. However, here is a copy of the review. In the review i attempt to consider how the non-philosopher can approach and use Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism.

The review can be read here… review-of-difference-and-givenness1. (word document)

I apologise for the grammar and spelling.

Books of 2008

Hi there,

firstly, sorry about the lack of activity on the weblog recently, university work and other projects have taken up my time.

It is a little late, but i would like to know people’s three  book’s of 2008. The books are not required to have been published in 2008, but you have had to read them in 2008. Here, in no particular order, are my three ‘top’ books that I read in 2008.

Levi, R. Byrant “Differece and Givenness: Delezue’s Transcendental Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence

Paul Virilio “Open Sky

Noam Klein “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

“Why is this idea, apparently so simple, difficult to understand to the point where the ‘death of man’ has caused so much misinterpretation? Either the objection was raised that it was not a question  of real men but only a concept of man; or else it was felt that Foucault and Nietzsche saw a real man transcending himself and, they hoped, becoming a superman. In both cases, we have a total misinterpretation of Foucault as well as Nietzsche (we shall leave aside question of the malevolence and stupidity to be found sometimes in commentaries on Foucault, as the case with Nietzsche

In fact the question is not that of the human compound, whether conceptual or real, perceptible or articulable. The question concerns the forces that make up man: with what other forces do they combine and, what is the compound that emerges? In the classical age all the forces of man are referred back to a force of ‘representation’ that claims to isolate the positive elements, those that can be raised to infinity, such that the set of forces makes up God and not man, while man can emerge only between categories of infinity. This why Merleau-Ponty defined classical thought by the innocent way in which it conceived of infinity: not only did infinity predate finity, but the qualities of man, once raised to infinity, served to make up the unfathomable unity of God. In order for man to appear as a specific compound, the forces that create him enter into a relation with new forces which evade representation, even to the point of deposing it. These new forces are those of life, work and language, in so far as life discovers an ‘organization’, work a ‘production’, and language a ‘filiation’, qualities which put them outside representation. These dark forces of finitude are not initially human but enter into a relation with the forces of man in order to bring him down to his own finitude, and communication to him a history which he then proceeds to make his own.” (Deleuze, Foucault, p73) 

Thanks to Fractal Ontology for bringing this to my attention.

there is a Deleuze and Guattari Wiki Page that is concentrated on providing reading notes and discussion on A Thousand Plateaus. It is worth a look, here.

 

Media as Discourse – Lacau and Mouffe’s social constructivism ‘message without a medium’

In a follow up to a previous post on Deleuze and Guattari’s third major group of strata – alloplastic strata – I will now critique LacLau and Mouffe’s social constructivism. In general, while I see the merits of discourse analysis, I cannot but help feel it is a limited approach to understanding how the world is literally constructed, which is a limitation found in other forms of social constructivism.  The aim of considering Deleuze and Guattari’s model, or diagram, of stratification is it offers one a way out of language-dependent understanding of how the world is constructed and a more comprehensive idea of articulation. Hopefully, Deleuze and Guattari can help to demonstrate the limitations of Laclau and Mouffe specifically and social constructivism in general. 

 

            Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis is an example postmodern theorising that insists on what Derrida terms as the structural undecidability of the social. Laclau and Mouffe do no deny that there is meaning and grounds in ‘social life.’ Instead, their point is the social lacks a foundational centre, or transcendental signifier. This lack within the social allows for an infinite play of meaning and different forms of articulation to co-exist and compete with one another. This is what Laclau and Mouffe, in Derridean terminology, refer to as the structural undecidability of the social.  To demonstrate the structural undecidability of the social Laclau and Mouffe embrace deconstruction as a methodology and adopt the view that everything can be regarded as a text (in the Derridian sense of text). In a deconstructionist reading a double reading of a text is preformed. It is at this point the text is thought to contain a discourse. The first reading of the text is faithful and attempts to follow the dominant interpretation. The second reading is unfaithful; attempting to find what is excluded, neglected, and repressed within the text. It is the second reading that is crucial for undercutting the first reading, demonstrating how the dominant interpretation depends on what it excludes. Ultimately, LacLau and Mouffe’s deconstruction is a textual analysis, and argues that any object can be discursively constructed. How then do Laclau and Mouffe define a discourses?

            Overall, a discourse is defined as a ‘differential ensemble of signifying sequences in which meaning is constantly renegotiated.’ Discourses, in Deleuzian terminology, are regimes of statements that attempt to signify and give meaning to the world. For example, there are neo-liberal discourses that are composed of statements (regimes of signs) that contain views about trade, freedom, human rights, states, and so on. These (multiple) neo-liberal discourses function to give meaning to social life and compete with other discourses to achieve dominance in a discursive field. It is this attempt, and tendency, of discourses to dominant discursive fields that allows Laclau and Mouffe to discuss the practice of articulation.

            On the whole, articulation (and especially hegemonic articulation) seeks to define meaning within a discursive field. Articulation acts to both modify and fixed identities. A Caribbean example can help explain the process of articulation. Imagine a newspaper reporter was asked to compose a summary of the Jamaican sprinters performance in the Beijing Olympics. What is being asked of the reporter is for a regime of statements to be produced that articulate how the sprinters’ performed. LacLau and Mouffe’s structural undecidability and infinite play is evident from there being no ‘correct’ way to articulate the sprinters’ performance. Theoretically, a multitude (even infinite) ways of articulation are available for the reporter. What could emerge is a dominant/hegemonic discourse in the discursive field. For example, the reporter, and other media, might predominantly articulate the success of the Jamaican sprinters through focusing on Usian Bolt. The effect of this dominant discourse would restrict, repress, and neglect other forms of articulation that become marginal discourses. The Jamaican women sprinters, for example, could become marginalised as the dominant articulation of the Jamaican sprinters is a discourse constructed on the ‘nodal point’ of Usain Bolt.

            The aim of Laclau and Mouffe deconstructionist discourse analysis is to reveal the dominate discourse in a discursive field (first reading) and identify what is excluded in the articulations of these dominant discourses (second reading). In terms of media analysis LacLau and Mouffe offer a textual/deconstructionist method that concentrates on the ‘messages’ (articulation) within the media. The major problem Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis is it fails to move beyond a language-centred approach and remains in what Frederic Jameson refers to as the ‘prison-house of language.‘ Despite defenders claiming that Laclau and Mouffe are not reductionists, their approach has little to say about the content (i.e. first articulation) in the stratification process. It is for this reason that LacLau and Mouffe are idealists.

            It would be error to agree with Norman Gera’s claim that LacLau and Mouffe are invoking a shamefaced idealism. However, it would also be an error to claim that LacLau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis is a path towards a non-idealist constructivism. Instead it would be more appropriate to label LacLau and Mouffe as idealist because their discourse analysis concentrates on how interpretations and meanings are given to the world from humans. This is their ‘constructivist idealism’ and is based upon the argument that objects (or the world) do not reveal their meaning to us in a direct and automatic fashion; their meaning has to be given and articulated. Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis is therefore interested on how meaning is socially articulated and given to the world. Unlike Deleuze and Guattari, Laclau and Mouffe are more concerned with discourse than they are about geology (inorganic), biology (organic), and technology (alloplastic). It is for this reason that Laclau and Mouffe are not radical constructivists and remain social constructivists. Their discourse analysis can only explain the construction of the world when there is discourses and articulation of meaning. Deleuze and Guattari radical constructivism moves beyond this limitation, evident in their abstract diagram of stratification, and account for how construction of the world occurs geologically, biologically and socially. A radical constructivist approach, therefore, does not ask what discourses are constructing the social and analyses what processes of stratification are constructing the world.

            An additional problem of Laclau and Mouffe is there structural undecidability and claims of an open (non-totalising) world are constructed on the impossibility of a discourse achieving complete dominance and closure. The objection is not against there position of structural undecidability, or there claim of an open world. Instead, the problem is Laclau and Mouffe cannot explain their positions outside the realms of discourse analysis. It is language, and the impossibility of meaning, that provides Laclau and Mouffe with evidence that the (social) world is structurally undecidable and open. In contrast, Deleuzian complexity theory, as a process ontology, offers a more complete, and convincing, account of structurally undecidability and openness of the world (and not only the social world), which is achieved from the incorporation of non-linear dynamics in DeLanda’s assemblage theory. Arguable, where Laclau and Mouffe only achieve openness and structural undecidability in language, Deleuzian complexity theory achieves a material openness and undecidability. [I explain is this material openness in another section, which will focus on Deleuze and complexity theory]

            Why is this problem? In terms of political transformation Laclau and Mouffe only provide a project that is interested in the politics of meaning. For Laclau and Mouffe the structural undecidability of the social provides the opportunity to transform and challenge dominant discourses. Politics is therefore about a fight over meaning and interpretation. However, LacLau and Mouffe’s (radical) political project is limited from concentrating the significance of meaning. DeLanda provides a critique of such social constructivist projects:

           

The reason such a change is important for members of a given movement is not because categories directly shape our perception (as social constructivists would have it) but because of unequal legal rights and obligations which are attached by government organisations to a given classification, as well as practices of exclusion, segregation and hoarding of opportunities which sort people out into ranked groups. Thus, activists trying to change a given category are not negotiating over meanings, as if changing the semantic content of a word automatically meant a real change in the opportunities and risks faced by a given social group, but over access to resources (income, education, health, services) and relief from constraints

 

The point of DeLanda’s critique is that political struggles are largely aimed as transforming the machinic intermingling of bodies and not only caught in a dispute about semantic meaning. Political struggle is not only the construction of new meanings, but, and more importantly, about the construction of new realities achieved from deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation. Struggles about racism, for example, were not only about the meaning of a categorical definition (black/white), but were about constructing new machinic assemblages of bodies where access to resources and relief from constraints was not hierarchically ranked in terms of ones race. It is because Deleuze and Guattari’s account for the intermingly of bodies in alloplastic strata that they offer a way out of LacLau and Mouffe’s politics of meanings, which is a language-oriented approach to politics. Deleuze and Guattari do not deny there are discourses in alloplastic strata (i.e. regime of signs), it is just that Deleuze and Guattari identify that the ‘social’ is more complex than is present in Laclau and Mouffe discourse analysis.

            Following DeLanda critique of social contrustivism I can also identify the constraints of LacLau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis when it comes to analysing technology. In McLuhanian terminology Laclau and Mouffe only provide a means to understand the message (i.e. expression) and not the medium (i.e. content). If the dissertation were to adopt Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis it would fail to move beyond classifying technology as a text. This is a fundamental problem for any research that is attempting to examine technology. Technology, and specifically, media technology, is not merely mediums that disseminate meanings and discourses. It is important to recognize that new media technologies actualize a new reality (e.g. the simulation of virtual reality). Deleuze, in his book on foucault, refers to this as the construction of new visibilities. 

            Overall, Laclau and Mouffe provide an effective framework for achieving a discourse analysis of media. In terms of alloplastic strata, to a certain extent, Laclau and Mouffe can help for analysing the expressive components of alloplastic strata, providing the second articulation is a discourse. However, as the Google chapter illustrates, the second articulation is not always in the form of a discourse. It is at this point that Laclau and Mouffe ideas of articulation become ineffective and limited in comparison to Deleuze and Guattari’s defining articulation as (at least) a double articulation process. In conjunction, Laclau and Mouffe are unhelpful for understanding the content (first articulation) of alloplastic strata. Their language-centred discourse analysis fails to provide a method for analysing (media) technology and how it literally constructs the world from focusing on the messages and not the (material) mediums (e.g. the symbiotic relationships/assemblages formed with technology).  


See Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (London: Verso, 1985), Ernesto LacLau, New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time (London: Verso, 1990), Jacob Torfing, New Theories of Discourse: LacLau, Mouffe, and Zizek (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), and Martin, J. 2002. “The Political Logic of Discourse: A Neo-Gramscian View”. History of European Ideas. 28, 21-31

Jacob Torfing, New Theories of Discourse: Laclau, Mouffe, and Zizek (Oxford: Blackwell) p62

Jacob Torfing, New Theories of Discourse: Laclau, Mouffe and Zizek p65

Jacob Torfing, New Theories of Discourse: Laclau, Mouffe and Zizek p85

Cited in Mark Bonta & John Protevi, Deleuze and Geophilosophy: A Guide and Glossary p8

Norman Geras, “Post-Marxism?” New Left Review 163: 1987 40-82, p65

Jacob Torfing, New Theories of Discourse: LacLau, Mouffe, and Zizek p45

Manuel DeLanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity p62


According to Deleuze and Guattari there is three major groups of Strata. These are inorganic (geology), organic (biological), and alloplastic (social). In the following post I will attempt to concentrate on the latter of these three and hope to outline its main features. I will also attempt to consider its significance for approaching technology. My belief is that Deleuze and Guattari’s third grouping of strata allows a way out of postmodern theorizing that regards everything as a text. [My next post is a critique of this type of postmodern theorizing in Ernesto LacLau and Chantal Mouffe, who i regard as social constructivists and not radical constructivists, despite their project of radical democracy]. 

 

         In accordance with Deleuze and Guattari’s model of stratification alloplastic strata contains (at least) two articulations of content and expression. What is specific about alloplastic strata is a new distribution of content and expression in comparison to inorganic and biological strata. Deleuze and Guattari define the content and expression of the alloplastic grouping as the following:

 

There is a third major grouping of strata, defined less by a human essence than, once again, by a new distribution of content and expression. Form of content becomes “alloplastic” rather than “homoplastic”; in other words, it brings about modification in the external world. Form of expression becomes linguistic rather than genetic; in other words, it operates with symbols that are comprehensible, transmittable, and modifiable from outside

 

Overall, the alloplastic grouping of strata is the combination of machinic assemblages of bodies (content) and collective assemblages of enunciation (expression). The machinic assemblages of bodies are the various and temporal assemblages formed between tools and hand (e.g. hammering) that modify the external world. The fact that machinic assemblages of bodies modify the external world means they are regarded as productive. These machinic assemblages of bodies have both substance and form. The bodies in the alloplastic strata are regarded as the substance, which have been captured or/and attracted into the strata. The form of the machinc assemblage of bodies is the actions and passions of these bodies once they are interialised into the alloplastic strata. In the second articulation, the collective assemblages of enunciation (expression), there is an operation of symbols that gives alloplastic strata a ‘linguistic’ dimension that is not an expressive component of inorganic and organic strata. The form of expression is alloplastic strata is a regime of signs and the substance is the emergent ‘social institution.’ Importantly, Deleuze and Guattari warn against reducing expression to words in the alloplastic strata, and argue it is reducible ‘to a set of statements arising in the social field considered as a stratum (that is what a regime of signs is).’ Overall, words, for Deleuze and Guattari need to be attributed to a regime of signs, or what Foucault would refer to as a discursive formation. At this point I will now describe an actual example of alloplastic strata from Deleuze’s book Foucault, which will help to illustrate how content and expression is emergences in alloplastic strata from a process of stratification.

            The example that Deleuze uses to illustrate the realness of content and expression is Foucault’s analysis of the panoptic prison in Discipline and Punish. Deleuze ‘maps’ the content and expression in the following:

 

The content has both form and substance: for example, the form is prison and the substance is those who are locked up, the prisoners (who? why? how?).  The expression also has a form and a substance: for example the form is penal law and the substance is ‘delinquency’ in so far as it is the object of statements. Just as penal law as a form of expression defines a field of sayability (the statements of delinquency), so prison as a form of content defines a place of visibility (‘panopticism’, that is to say a place where at any moment one can see everything without being seen)

 

It is from this example that Deleuze and Guattari’s process of stratification can be traced in the alloplastic strata. In the first articulation (content) there are the prisoners, as substance, being (literally) captured into the prison (form of content), which causes a modification in the external world. In conjunction the alloplastic strata also demonstrates expressivity. In this example the regime of signs is the penal law, acting as a form of statements to qualify what constitutes crimes and their punishments and the substance is the institution that transforms a person into a delinquent. Deleuze and Guattari refer to this process as the incorporeal transformation of a body that performed using order-words. The above example of the incorporeal transformation is when the judge, or jury, disseminates the order-word ‘guilty,’ which transforms the body from a suspect into a delinquent.

            How then do Deleuze and Guattari approach the phenomenon of technology in the alloplastic strata? Unsurprisingly, Deleuze and Guattari are interested in what assemblage is produced when technology connects and plugs into other bodies. It is this approach to technology that allows Deleuzian and Guattari to avoid an object oriented approach. The problem with an object, medium, oriented approach is that is would resemble technological determinism. Deleuze and Guuattari outline their approach to technology in the follow:

 

We think the material or machinic  aspect of an assemblage relates not to the production of goods but rather to a precise state of intermingling of bodies in society, including all the attractions and repulsions, sympathies and antipathies, alternations, amalgamations, penetrations, and expansions that affect bodies of all kinds in their relations to one another…Even technology makes the mistake of considering tools in isolation: tools exist only in relation to the interminglings they make possible or that make them possible. The stirrup entails a new man-horse symbiosis that at the same time entails new weapons and instruments. Tools are inseparable from symbioses or amalgamations defining Nature-Society machinic assemblages

Two important points emerge from this quotation. Firstly, the connections and assemblages produced between tool (technology) and (hu)man are literally regarded as a form of symbiosis. According to Deleuze and Guattari the machinic assemblages of bodies in the alloplastic strata ought to be seen as a similar to the symbiotic assemblage, for example, between the wasp and the orchid. Importantly, it is helpful to remember that wasp and orchid assemblage is not an essential relationship and a historical constituted phenomenon, where there is a becoming wasp of the orchid and a becoming orchid of the wasp. Similarly, the symbiosis of man and tool is also historically constituted that is both non-essential and non-totalising. In other words, the (present) connections made with (particular) tools are not the limit because there is always room for more alloplastic assemblages to emerge. Secondly, approaching tools from their relations to other bodies allows Deleuze and Guattari a ‘flexibility’ that avoids them either being technological determinist or social determinist. Tools, for Deleuze and Guattari, at the same time make possible the intermingling of bodies in the alloplastic strata and are only possible because there is an intermingling of bodies in the alloplastic strata. Tools (technology) therefore construct alloplastic strata and are constructed from alloplastic strata, which avoids the either/or argument between social determinism and technological determinism. Deleuze and Guattari would therefore take the view that technology is social and the social is technological. It is here that Deleuze and Guattari’s radical constructivist materialism becomes evident. The emergence of new symbiotic relationships in the alloplastic strata is a process that literal constructs the world. It is here that Deleuze and Guattari encourage analysis to focus on morphogenetic processes (human and inhuman) that give rise to a new products and a new reality. In other words, it is the intense immanent flows of matter in and through assemblages/strata that provides the ‘foundation’ for Deleuze and Guattari’s constructivism. 


Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p68

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p74

Gilles Deleuze, Foucault trans Sean Hand p41

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus p99-100

This approach of radical constructivism differs from social constructivism. The crucial difference is that social constructivism aims to understand how humans give meaning to the world, while radical constructivism aims to understand how the world is literally constructed/stratifed