Saturday, December 15, 2007

Political Ontology - living in the web

Larval has written an interesting post about the interconnection of folding and unfolding, or what I understand as metamorphosis. I will not be able to do justice to the contents of the post, which can be read here. In terms of my interest I would like to focus on this section:

But if the fly is nothing but folds or weavings of the web, a product or creation of the web in the robust sense that an origami bird is not other than the paper out of which it is made but is itself continuous with that paper as a topological variation of its substance, then how can creations of the fly be anything but creations, foldings, weavings of the web of social relations? That is, how can they be anything but ways of strengthening the web.

There is great appeal in thinking politically about the point larval is making. This is what I call 'plateau thinking', where a quest for a transcendental signified, or essence, is rejected in preference of accepting immanent existence at this point in time. In other words, we are continual within the middle of a flux (or difference) without a teleological purpose causing the flux. Questions of agency, and transformation, then require focusing on how we can (intensively) fold and unfold that which is already present. Abstraction gives ways to experimentation. An example, which DeLanda uses, is adding fertilizer to the soil in order to help grow crops. Adding a certain amount will be beneficial while passing a certain critical threshold will poison the soil and kill the crops. The relations between the soil, crop, and fertilizer will be strengthened only if the ‘correct’ amount of fertilizer is added to the assemblage. However, this is not implying that the correct amount becomes a law, or atemporal figure. Instead the correct amount is dependent on ontology, which means the soil type/mixture, crop type, ecosystem, fertilizer type/mixture…would all be (quasi)causal interconnected dynamical factors.

The difficulty, and danger, of this type of thinking, which gives preference to ontology, is experimentation offers no promises or guarantees. This is because the web is all interconnect and open to other (cosmic) forces. For example, the field (i.e. territory) containing the soil, crops, and fertilizer may be destroyed from a weather system. In this sense the field has been opened too much to the forces of detteritorialisation. Deleuze and Guattari realize this factor and throughout warn against excessive openness and practices:

There in fact botching the BwO: either on fails to produce it, or one produces it more or less, but nothing is produced on it, intensities do not pass or are blocked. This is because the BwO is always swinging between the surfaces that stratify it and the plane that sets it free. If you free it with too violent an action, if you blow apart the strata without taking precautions, then instead of drawing the plane you will be killed, plunged into a black hole, or even dragged toward catastrophe (A Thousand Plateaus, p178).

The political impetus then is to focus on how experimentation can occur within the web, which will fold and unfold the web, without risking excessive detteritorialisation, and can instead strengthen the web.


beamer said...

Hi Mark,
This is an interesting point, I'll have to look it up in DeLanda. I mention this as there was some discussion of this idea of absolute deterritorialization, the 'swinging' of the body without organs and so on at the both the music and philosophy symposium and the improvisation symposium at ncl uni this week. This is a recurring theme in arts writing that sees absolute deterritorialization or the body without organs as a site of purity to be obtained through performance, ritual, intensity in expression and so on. It's a shame there wasn't more cross over at these events. I have posted a bit of a ramble on this here:
...just in case you;re interested.

Mark202 said...

thanks for this post.
From my delanda/deleuze reading I am curious about the idea of 'about deterritorialisation' in the sense of why it is desired. Instead I would like to focus on the (material) idea of actualisation of the virtual, which argues Deleuze can be read as a philosopher of materialism. This is in contrast to Hallward's reading of Deleuze, who regards Deleuze as a de-materialist/spiritualist. This sort of reading disregards how deleuze views the creation of assemblages as important.

Larval Subjects said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the kind reference. Did we talk at the symposium? Everything is a bit of a blur.

I'm perplexed by where this talk of absolute deterritorialization is coming from within Deleuze's texts. Admittedly my focus over the years has been his earlier, independent work. I had read the works with Guattari, but it is only within the last couple of years that I've begun devoting sustained attention to them. It seems to me that if there is one central Deleuzian axiom, it is that beings only are in relation. An absolute deterritorialization would be a direct violation of this axiom. Moreover, in all the cases where I read Deleuze and Guattari speaking of absolute deterritorialization they seem to refer to it as a catastrophe or disaster to be avoided, not something to be pursued or an ideal. Here I think your remarks about materiality are right on the mark (pardon the pun). The idea is to create and invent, not depart from the world. Perhaps absolute deterritorialization is being latched on as a sort of romantic idea of escape from all constraint, where reterritorialization has been coded as "negative" or as failed becomings. Yet reterritorialization functions as a creative moment in Deleuze and Guattari as well.

Mark202 said...

hi Levi,
thanks for the response,
I unfortunately cound not make it to the symposium do to teaching commitments and seems like I missed an interesting event.

I am in agreement with your view about Deleuze's central axiom. There are also plently of warnings about (absolute) deterritorialization throughout Deleuze and Guattari's joint work.

I tend to think the 'ability' to deterritorialise (and reterritorialise) is what Deleuze and Guattari aim to emphasise, which helps to move thought away from essences to an understanding of processes of individuation. Deterritorialisation cannot therefore departure, or transcend, from material conditions, but it can transform them through individuation

Once the holiday period is over I will post my thoughts, in a more detailed manner, about absolute deterritorialisation. I’ll try to include some of Hallward’s critique, which strongly argues against Deleuze being thought of as a materialist philosopher.

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