Monday, October 3, 2011

Mimic the strata: deterritorializing the self

I wonder why we still follow the rules. So many criticisms later, I've come to understand many of the institutions, organizations and practices that have always been a part of our society; every "good" seems to belie its malevolent origin. The flow of capital co-opts every effort at revolution - every reform seems to perpetuate inequality. Despite China's "cultural revolutions" they ended up with perhaps the most closely perfected iteration of capitalism yet.
D&G compel us to "mimic the strata":

You have to keep enough of the organism for it to reform each dawn; and you have to keep small supplies of significance and subjectification, if only to turn them against their own systems when the circumstances demand it, when things, persons, even situations force you to; and you have to keep small rations of subjectivity in sufficient quantity to enable you to respond to the dominant reality. Mimic the strata. You don't reach the BwO, and its plane of consistency, by wildly destratifying. […] Connect, conjugate, continue: a whole "diagram," as opposed to still signifying and subjective programs. We are in a social formation; first see how it is stratified for us and in us and at the place where we are; then descend from the strata to the deeper assemblage within which we are held; gently tip the assemblage, making it pass over to the side of the plane of consistency. It is only there that the BwO reveals itself for what it is: connection of desires, conjunction of flows, continuum of intensities. You have constructed your own little machine, ready when needed to be plugged into other collective machines. (160-161)

I think this passage (and the omitted content in between) best captures why Capitalism and Schizophrenia is generally understood as a "game changing" work. Both Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus are, themselves, the body without organs: pure potentiality. This potentiality manifests itself in their deterritorialization - the ideas do not resist appropriation, rather, they can help create "lines of flight" - new possibilities and planes of potentiality on which we can do something. I'm not sure what that something is, but perhaps that's the point.

This quote is illustrative of two things for me: (1) the importance of resisting the tendency to automatically defer to "poles", to binaries, dichotomies, antagonism and war; and (2) the importance of resisting being generically avant-garde: the nihilism of so many "revolutions" today has ceded the political to those who can wield it against people. Sure, it might be fun to go to Disneyland ironically and silently mock Cinderella's castle - but you still bought a ticket.
The BwO reminds me of Schrodinger's Cat in the sense that observation affects the object. The BwO is not striated space - it possesses no end - and thus, cannot be observed, for when one sees the BwO it has already taken flight in a new direction. And that's the epiphany: that ends are fascist, that privilegings of knowledge spur inquisitions and holocausts, and that our compartmentalizations are really confinements.

A quote from Anti-Oedipus I think is appropriate here:

All writing is so much pig shit - that is to say, any literature that takes itself as an end or sets ends for itself, instead of being a process that "ploughs the crap of being and its language," transports the weak, the aphasiacs, the illiterate. At least spare us sublimation. Every writer is a sellout. The only literature is that which places an explosive device in its package, fabricating a counterfeit currency, causing the superego and its form of expression to explode, as well as the market value of its form of content.

The fact that Ryan had us read ATP in the order he did is not only to assist the learning process but to demonstrate just another way that D&G have deterritorialized their text. The territory of the text - to be read cover to cover - can itself be challenged; flows are not left to right.

Foucault's introduction to Anti-Oedipus sums up my thoughts perfectly:

Last but not least, the major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism (whereas Anti- Oedipus' opposition to the others is more of a tactical engagement). And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini - which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively - but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us. I would say that Anti-Oedipus (may its authors forgive me) is a book of ethics, the first book of ethics to be written in France in quite a long time (perhaps that explains why its success was not limited to a particular "readership" : being anti-oedipal has become a life style, a way of thinking and living). How does one keep from being fascist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant? How do we rid our speech and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in our behavior? The Christian moralists sought out the traces of the flesh lodged deep within the soul. Deleuze and Guattari, for their part, pursue the slightest traces of fascism in the body.

Paying a modest tribute to Saint Francis de Sales, * {*A seventeenth-century priest and Bishop of Geneva, known for his Introduction to the Devout Life} one might say that Anti-Oedipus is an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life.

This art of living counter to all forms of fascism, whether already present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential principles which I would summarize as follows if I were to make this great book into a manual or guide to everyday life:

Free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia.

Develop action, thought, and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization.

Withdraw allegiance from the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.

Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force. Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action. Do not demand of politics that it restore the "rights" of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to "de-individualize" by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization. Do not become enamored of power.

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