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What do filmgoers want? A girl and a gun.
– Jean-Luc Godard

What follows is the completed version of a series of earlier posts on Deleuze and cinema ]

The aim of this essay is to interrogate the relationship between Deleuze’s concepts of Idea, creativity, and control societies, alongside its interpretation by Paul Patton and Godard’s efficacy at giving these concepts their proper audio-visual form in cinema. By means of Godard’s Alphaville, we will demonstrate how Deleuze’s understanding of the relation between Ideas, creativity, and control differs in important ways from the interpretation offered by Patton. Using Alphaville as the means to distinguish between Patton’s and Deleuze’s own thought on cinema will be useful for two main reasons. First and foremost it is with Alphaville that Godard would achieve in cinema what Deleuze only put to paper late in his life: the presentation and analysis of a society of control with its specific power dynamics and affective determination of the mass individual. Second, highlighting this point of convergence between artist and philosopher will serve as the grounds for our engagement with the widely accepted ‘affirmationist’ interpretation of Deleuze’s thought; an interpretation that treats the ‘intensification of differences’ as ontologically correct and the proper socio-political guideposts for any kind of intentional resistance to the advances made by capital.

This interpretation is clearest seen in Paul Patton’s, ‘Godard/Deleuze: Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie).’ For Patton, the pessimism Godard expresses regarding gender roles in Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie) is merely a pretext for a redemptive reading of a becoming-woman, which prescribes an ethico-aesthetics of an “affective optimism and affirmation of life. (additionally – it is because Patton applies Deleuzian concepts to Sauve Qui Peut, that I term this an ‘affirmationist’ interpretation). For Patton, what is essential for Deleuze’s thinking regarding cinema is succinctly stated as follows: Deleuze and Guattari accord an ethical and ontological priority to those modes of existence which allow the maximum degree of movement, for example, forms of nomadism or rhizomes. In this sense, their philosophy embodies a vital ethic which affirms the creative power of life, even if this is something a non-organic life tracing the kind of abstract line we find in art or music.[1] As we will see in what follows, Patton’s interpretation of Godard, and use of Deleuze, simply reintroduces Platonism back into the heart of Deleuze’s thoroughly anti-Platonist commitments – whether considered within the domain of philosophy, art, science, or politics. By grounding Deleuze’s vitalism on the principle of life’s inherent creativity, Patton proposes a “Deleuzian” ethics and politics whose fundamental aim is the application of these metaphysical, social, and aesthetic principles (becoming-x, lines of flight, and so on) within the domains of art and politics. As is well known, it is precisely this idea of taking what is metaphysically True as the means for executing what is aesthetically and politically Good that is the trademark of Platonism.

In order to understand the discrepancy between the Platonism of Patton and anti-Platonism of Deleuze, Godard’s Alphaville will serve as a link between the two. Alphaville serves as the aesthetico-political test to which we must subject Deleuze’s and Patton’s thoughts regarding cinema since it not only represents a society of (cybernetic) control, thereby posing the problem of how one escapes, evades, or subverts such social conditions. Additionally, by viewing Godard, Patton, and Deleuze through the lens of the aesthetico-political determination of the ideas of control, creativity, resistance, we will get a better sense of how our interpretation of Deleuze draws the portrait of a thinker better suited for analyzing societies of control and constructing various means of true resistance, while Patton’s interpretation reads into the works of Deleuze a kind of willful collapse of metaphysics into politics, where by the truths of the former become the ends to be realized in the latter.

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The Police = The Enemy

We are persuaded by the Situationist belief that all good critiques can be boiled down to a slogan. Those for our issue? “All Cops Are Bastards.” “Fuck The Police.” “Off the Pigs.” “Fire to the Prisons.” The job of the police is to put everything and everyone in its proper place. On its face, such a description sounds rather clinical, reminiscent of the boring work of an accountant preparing tax filings. But is this not how policing describes itself? Judges, lawmakers, and good citizens say it the same way – good policing happens with a smiling face, whistling a tune, and chatting with neighborhood kids. Like a game of cops and robbers, they attribute any resulting violence to ‘the bad guys.’ Always childishly pointing their fingers at someone else, as if to tattle on ‘the ones who started it.’ If slogans like ‘ACAB’ or ‘FTP’ belong to a larger political horizon, it is one that has also been articulated in slogan form: une autre fin du monde est possible [Another End of the World is Possible]. The aim is to usher in an end to this world other than the looming catastrophe of capital by reiterating that the police act as the guarantors of a perpetual present. It is within this context that this issue of Hostis seeks to embolden slogans that single out the police as a true enemy. If the police are an enemy, then it is because enemies are not to be fought simply through negation but to be abolished completely. The lesson we draw from this: the enemy is the one whose existence must be abolished without qualification.

But where did it all start? Slavery. Food riots. Urban revolt. The police have always been civil society’s response to the existence of what we today call masses, publics, or even the most sacred of democratic ideas: the People. That is to say, the police have always been conjured to control masses and crowds whereas the old canard of criminality materializes only after the police have been summoned. Despite this already being old wisdom, it bears repeating: the police do not carry peace as an olive branch to seal a cessation of hostilities. Rather, the peace offered by the police are the terms of a surrender through which they legalize their dominion over us. Their peace institutionalizes a racial order, sanctions the proper means of economic exploitation, and criminalizes anyone who fights back.

In the face of this all, we are continuously confronted with a well rehearsed justification for the necessity of the police that repeats the sick notion that it takes violence to deal with the most dangerous elements of society. As the argument goes, police officers put themselves in ‘harm’s way,’ and since the police are the only thing standing between unfettered chaos on the one hand, they exist as a necessary evil for the upholding of civil society. This old story of police work being dangerous, however, is only half correct. It is true that police arrive on the scene like the grim reaper, stinking of death. Yet cops rarely encounter danger. In the US in 2016, it is more dangerous for police to enter their cars than to put on their badges, according to a recent FBI report that noted auto fatalities as the leading cause of police on-the-job death. Statistics point to truckers, garbage collectors, taxi drivers, and landscapers having more hazardous jobs than a pig on patrol. Moreover, our task is not to provide the tools, manpower, and legitimacy to make their job easier. On the contrary, we wish to make policing so impossible that it stops making any sense at all.

We would like many of our friends to reconsider how they oppose the police. Social anarchists do not wish to abolish policing, just certain types of police. In fact, they seem most worried about restoring the foundational political legitimacy laid bare by police violence. This is why social anarchists talk about empty concepts like democracy, the people, or other ‘legitimate authorities.’ “Strong communities don’t need police,” they say, followed up by an assortment of police reforms or alternatives: community review boards, citizen policing, restorative justice. Self-policing then appears as the alternative to state policing. We think it absurd to imagine any of those social forms as even possible in our age of fragmentation, that is, except for those erected to protect a privileged few. And who would want to live in a ‘strong community,’ anyway? We are even more frightened by the violence done by neighbors who police each other than a stranger with a badge and a gun.

This issue of Hostis is interested in contributions that elaborate on our critiques-slogans, “All Cops Are Bastards,” “Fuck The Police,” “Off the Pigs,” and “Fire to the Prisons.” We look forward to submissions on:

  • Anti-Cop Cultural Production (Slogans, Poems, Art)
  • The History of the Police (Racial History, Food Riots, The Carceral State)
  • The Impossibility of Police Reform (Civilian Review Boards, Body Cameras, Demilitarization)
  • Critiques of Alternative Policing (Community Policing, Restorative Justice, Anti-Violence Programs)
  • Comparative, historical, materialist, and/or structural analyses of how policing is carried out in the US and abroad, and its implications for ongoing anti-police struggles worldwide (e.g. Police killings in the U.S. and the Philippines)
  • Strategies for Confronting the Police (Riots, Rebellion, Anti-Social Acts)

Hostis is looking for submissions from those who are tired of compromising themselves, who are repulsed by the police, who want to fight the cops, and who are working to abolish the police. In addition to scholarly essays, we are looking for any original work suited to the printed page: ‘rap sheets’ of police officers, police departments and/or precincts, strategic diagrams, logistical maps, printed code, how-to instructions, photo-essays, illustrations, or mixed-media art. To remain consistent with the journal’s point of view, we seek material whose tone is abrasive, mood is cataclysmic, style is gritty, and voice is impersonal.

Submissions will be selected by an editorial collective. Contributors should expect to receive critical feedback in the first stage of review requesting revisions to improve their submission and make it consistent with the other contributions selected for inclusion. While we are not soliciting proposals, we are happy to comment on possible submissions before official review. The deadline for submission is January 15, 2017. All submissions should be sent to hostis.journal@gmail.com or hostis@lbcbooks.com (PGP encrypted message accepted) as MS Word, rtf, pdf, jpg, or png files. Include a title, author name, content, and any formatting requests. Expect to complete requested revisions between March-April 2017.

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[What follows is a summary of, and some comments on, Ray Brassier’s talk regarding the final chapter of A Thousand Plateaus. Delivered in London, 2015, at the A Thousand Plateaus and Philosophy Workshop]

At the very least one can confidently say that the reputation of A Thousand Plateaus precedes itself. At times, its reputation even precedes a reader’s first encounter with the text itself. And in light of ATP‘s repute, one of the features of this text that is known by all is that its authors have written the book in such a way that a reader can skip ahead or begin from the middle of whatever plateau grabs their interest. We are told that ATP is a book written to liberate its audience and to affect us so that we feel free to pick and choose where the story begins and ends. As Massumi himself notes in his translator’s forward, reading ATP is best done in the same way one listens to a record:

“When you buy a record there are always cuts that leave you cold. You skip them. You don’t approach a record as a closed book that you have to take or leave. Other cuts you may listen to over and over again. They follow you. You find yourself humming them under your breath as you go about your daily business. A Thousand Plateaus is conceived as an open system…The author’s hope…is that elements of it will stay with a certain number of its readers and will weave into the melody of their everyday lives” (ATP, xiv).

Despite the kernel of truth in Massumi’s record metaphor (the element of truth being that it is the case that throughout the chapters of ATP Deleuze and Guattari remain consistent in their use of specific terms and concepts and thus develop a unifying thread throughout all the plateaus that renders a one’s decision of abrupt beginnings and endings of little consequence), to overemphasize this staggered and haphazard approach to ATP is to elide one of it’s most fundamental features; a feature that Brassier will seek to highlight in his reading of the final chapter, ‘Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines.’

For Brassier, there is in fact a fundamental or privileged plateau: namely, the chapter on the Geology of Morals. Why? Because when Deleuze and Guattari conclude their text with a set of concrete rules for effectuating specific abstract machines, they base this final chapter on the very logic of double articulation develop in the Geology of Morals plateau. For Brassier, what’s striking when one reads ATP is the consistency with which Deleuze and Guattari use their vocabulary. Thus, despite the appearance of a proliferation of concepts tied to particular sets of practices (art, science, philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis, etc.), the concepts developed throughout ATP in fact constitute a unified logical system. Thus, says Brassier, it is the logical and conceptual relationship between double articulation and the final chapter that gives the lie to the kinds of readings of this text that fall in line with Massumi’s prescribed approach. However, before directly engaging with the relationship between double articulation and the final chapter of ATP, Brassier spends some time clarifying Deleuze and Guattari’s text in relation to other philosophical positions, and specifically in relation to those philosophies that lay claim to the title of materialism.

I). What is it that makes rules ‘concrete’ and machines ‘abstract’?

For Brassier, Deleuze and Guattari’s materialism is neither a contemplative representation of a pre-existing material reality, nor a series of practical imperatives that presupposes and yet disavows a theoretical representation of the world. For all its idiosyncrasy, ATP is a very classical work – where ontology is at one with ethics. This is not to say that it is a conservative work. Rather, it is a contemporary reactivation of the classical task of philosophizing: a fusion of understanding what there is and how to live (what we should do). The title of the last chapter, ‘Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines,’ gives Brassier a hint at how Deleuze and Guattari reconceive of this classical aim of philosophizing. Namely, by developing what Brassier terms an ‘abstract materialism’ (unformed matter) in tandem with a ‘concrete ethics’ (practical prescriptions for action selected independently of universal law). Thus, the question Brassier aims to clarify and explain is this: how can concrete practices engage formless matter? This is another way of asking about the relation between the ABSTRACT (machine) and the CONCRETE (actions); or, in Deleuze and Guattari’s language, between the UNFORMED (i.e., matters/flows that characterizes the plane of consistency) and the EFFECTUATED (i.e., how concrete rules develop the abstract machine enveloped in the strata/stratification).

The kinds of rules or the practical injunctions that Deleuze and Guattari are interested in are not simply rules understood as a set of prescriptions to be carried out upon pre-existing matter. As Brassier notes, Deleuze and Guattari aim to develop a set of rules for both thinking and acting in the world the essence of which are not simply the genesis of true as opposed to false representations of reality. Thus, action cannot merely rely on a true representation of reality just as thinking cannot simply rely on actualized praxis. For D&G, thinking is not to be confused with the function of representation but rather is the activity of diagramming a plane of consistency from within stratified existence. For Brassier, thought does not give us the world as it is but constructs a map of singular and ordinary points that define our specific strata. Likewise, action doesn’t simply carry out an idea or program but aims at freeing elements from its strata, since it aims at all the terms found in ATP that begin with the prefix de– (-territorialization, -stratification, -coding). It is for this reason that Brassier goes on to say that the kinds of rules we get from the final chapter of ATP “are concrete to the extent that they effectuate the abstract”; to the extent that they destratify, deterritorialize, and decode, what is stratified, territorialized, and overcoded/captured. In Brassier’s own terms, what is at stake in understanding the relation between the abstract and the concrete are the freeing up  of what is implicit in stratification toward the aim of putting what is fixed, coded, and rigid, into continuous variation (deterritorialization) and in order to repurpose it for an altogether different functioning on an altogether different plane (of consistency). In a key passage from the Geology of Morals plateau Deleuze and Guattari write, “The plane of consistency is always immanent to the strata; the two states of the abstract machine always coexist as two different states of intensities” (ATP, 57). Thus, if the task of this “diagrammatics” of thought and practice is to liberate formless matter and non-formal functions from stratification, and if this freeing up of unformed matter and non-formal functions take place by means of an absolute deterritorialization, then the subsequent question is one of determining, in concrete terms, the actuality of formless matter and non-formal functions. In other words, what is retained from the strata in the process of deterritorialization?

It is at this point that Brassier offers the following hypothesis: What would be retained from stratified function on the plane of consistency is the torsion of destratified intensities, particles, signs and flows. That is, what one is left with regarding a destratified intensity are the traits or components of the plane of consistency. However, says Brassier, the point of torsion is indiscernible from the vantage point of anyone invested in the distinction between self and non-self, personal and impersonal, and hence this approach to composing the plane of consistency requires caution. “Caution is required for the composition of the plane of consistency.”

II). Absolute and Relative Deterritorialization & The Principle of Immanence

It is at this point where concrete rules become relevant since we have to understand how the composition of consistency requires deformalizing stratified functions and subjecting them to the torsion of absolute movement. For Brassier, a concrete rule is concrete and practical insofar as it affects a stratum with this “torsion of absolute movement.” What is important in Brassier’s formulation here (and is crucial for his whole interpretation of this final chapter), is the following: the mechanism by which stratified functions and formed matter are transformed into destratified functions and unformed matter is this “torsion of absolute movement.” For Brassier, just as important as the role played by absolute deterritorialization in the formula is the idea of torsion as a form of measurement. Torsion = measure of absolute movement. What effects the liberation of particles, signs, and flows from their strata is this process of torsion, or, absolute movement. Absolute movement, in other words, is identical to the process-of-torsion, while torsion-as-category-of-diagramming the world is that which allows us to discriminate between possible points in striated space whereby absolute and relative movements can be catalyzed.

 We can simplify all of this and say that destratification exists whenever absolute movement serves as the determining element in a stratified relation. When absolute movement determines, affects, conditions, and guides the relative movements of stratification and striated space what is effected is precisely the ‘freeing up’ effect Brassier mentioned earlier regarding the relation between the abstract and the concrete. When absolute movement determines the relative functioning of striation/stratification, what is produced are a set of decoded flows, lines of flight; or what amounts to the same, the liberation of previously formed-matter and bodies with assigned functions. At this point Brassier quotes from section D in the ‘Concrete Rules’ plateau:

“A movement is absolute when, whatever its quantity and speed, it relates “a” body considered as multiple to a smooth space that it occupies in the manner of a vortex. A movement is relative, whatever its quantity and speed, when it relates a body considered as One to a striated space through which it moves, and which it measures with straight lines, if only virtual…D is absolute when it…brings about the creation of a new earth, in other words, when it connects lines of flight, raises them to the power of an abstract vital line, or draws a plane of consistency. Now what complicates everything is that this absolute D necessarily proceeds by way of relative D, precisely because it is not transcendent” (ATP, 509-10).

Of interest here is not simply the relation of the absolute to the relative (a relation of determining factor and determined element), but the necessity that pertains to the absolute. Absolute deterritorialization by necessity proceeds by means of relative deterritorialization. And this necessity of absolute movement to proceed by means of relative movement is grounded in the principle of immanence. It is this link between Absolute Deterritorialization, Relative Deterritorialization, and the criteria of immanence that guides Brassier’s critique and analysis of ATP’s final chapter.

While Brassier does not go into the details of how these three terms relate to one another despite the crucial role these terms play in his critique, we can roughly sketch out the argument he has in mind based on the passage previously cited. In the passage above, a specific set of propositions are offered to the reader regarding the relationship between the absolute, the relative, and their immanence:

i). The absolute is not relative to anything but itself, thus maintaining its status as truly absolute – (“…what is primary is an absolute deterritorialization an absolute line of flight, however complex or multiple…This absolute deter becomes relative only after stratification occurs on that plane or body: It is the strata that are always the residue, not the opposite” (ATP, 56)).

ii). The relative is relative to what is absolute, thus maintaining its status as truly relative to something other than itself – (“A movement is relative, whatever its quantity and speed, when it relates a body considered as One to a striated space through which it moves…” (ATP, 509)).

iii). Despite the Absolute being independent from anything other than itself, Absolute Deterritorialization remains tied to the relative territorializations, stratifications, and striations of the relative movement of deterritorialization – (“Now what complicates everything is that this absolute D necessarily proceeds by way of relative D, precisely because it is not transcendent” (ATP, 510)).

iv). D&G argue for this relation of the Absolute as existing by way of Relative movements in order to ensure that their version of the Absolute is also one in which what is Absolute is also immanent to the reality of things – (“There is a perpetual immanence of absolute deterritorialization within relative deterritorialization; and the machinic assemblages between strata that regulate the differential relations and relative movements also have cutting edges of deterritorialization oriented toward the absolute. The plane of consistency is always immanent to the strata…” (ATP, 56-7)).

v). However, as Brassier will point out, rendering the Absolute as immanent to the world is tantamount to making the Absolute depend upon, and thus relative to, its relative movements of deterritorialization for its reality.

vi). Thus, it would seem that what was initially said to be Absolute (since, in the last instance, this process exists in such a way as to be independent from everything other than itself) is revealed to be, in actual fact, dependent upon something other than itself (Relative Deterritorialization) for its reality. In other words, what makes the Absolute “real” is the fact that it exists as, or inheres within, relative movement as such.

One main consequence Brassier will draw out from these propositions on the nature of absolute movement is that D&G‘s position appears to subscribe to the view that if one wants to judge whether a process is of an absolute or relative nature, this judgment remains wholly depend upon the strata within which one resides. If this is the case, then it would be possible for there to be a situation where certain traits or functions can appear to be destratifying and absolute (absolute movement) from one perspective while appearing to be destratifying but relative (relative movement) from another. As Brassier formulates it: “The more you enforce on the immanence of the criteria of evaluation … the more it becomes difficult to say whose going to tell you whether or not something is deterritorializing, intensificatory.”

It is for these reasons that Brassier asks at the end of his lecture whether or not we have simply relativized the absolute? In other words, does machinic pragmatism lapse back into liberal pragmatism? The question for D&G, as Brassier points out, is the following: how can I act in such a way as to facilitate the construction of the plane of consistency? How can I recognize those traits that are decoding but in a way that facilitates the consolidation of consistency? Brassier’s problem, then, is that the concrete rules developed by D&G seem to ultimately reside within a perspectivalist framework. Certain traits or function, while being destratifying from one perspective, may turn out to be stratifying, constraining, and deadening from an other perspective. This, then, is the suspicion that what D&G have done is simply relativize the absolute, where the absolute would be the seat of justifiable appraisal of becomings, by locating the grounds for the appraisal of becoming within each and every perspective one may take on becoming itself.

III). ‘It’s not clear what a pure abstract machine could be’ – Brassier

If one agrees with Brassier’s position, that D&G effectively relativize the absolute; that D&G consequently divest themselves of the means to discriminate between relative and absolute movement since the measure of absolute deterritorialization is perspectival; a few consequences follow regarding the relationship between the rules for effectuating the abstract machines that are ostensibly buried within strata themselves. Given that one of the principle tasks D&G set for ATP as a whole is that of constructing various diagrams in order to liberate the elements of various strata in the world (formed matters and bodies with assigned functions), and in light of Brassier’s comments, a few problems arise for the relationship between concrete rules and abstract machines as conceived by D&G.

To briefly recapitulate what has been said: concrete rules are fabricated in order to “develop the abstract machines enveloped in the strata.” If these concrete rules are successful in constructing their plane of consistency, they then effectuate the abstract machine which ,”cuts across all stratifications, develops alone and in its own right on the plane of consistency whose diagram it constitutes … piloting flows of absolute deterritorialization (in no sense, of course, is unformed matter chaos of any kind)” (ATP, 56). This general movement of developing the abstract machines enveloped in the strata, then, is how one goes from the relative to the absolute. As D&G remark, one does not achieve this passage

“simply by acceleration […] What qualifies a deterritorialization is not its speed…but its nature, whether it constitutes epistrata and parastrata and proceeds by articulate segments…or, on the contrary, jumps from one singularity to another following a nondecomposable, nonsegmentary line drawing a metastratum of the plane of consistency” (ATP, 56).

However, in order to fabricate concrete rules one requires some degree of knowledge regarding what is relative and what is absolute in any given strata. In order to fabricate concrete rules that are effective one needs to know how to measure degrees of deterritorialization (as Brassier notes, caution is required in the construction of the plane of consistency and is watchword of ATP as a whole). How does one measure degrees of deterritorialization? The answer given by D&G and emphasized by Brassier is the following: “Schizoanalysis is not only a qualitative analysis of abstract machines in relation to the assemblages, but also a quantitative analysis of the assemblages in relation to a presumably pure abstract machine“(ATP, 513).

It is this ‘presumably pure abstract machine’ that is supposed to serve as the measure of degrees of deterritorialization from the vantage point of stratified existence. In other words and despite the fact that we always find ourselves caught in the middle; that we always must begin in the middle of things; this ‘presumably pure abstract machine’ is the means by which we can create concrete rules that will effectuate a deterritorialization and destratification; those practical rules that will effectively usher in a qualitative transformation of strata themselves. Brassier concludes on two points of tension with this final chapter of ATP.

First, a pure abstract machine would be an abstract machine that is entirely developed. An abstract machine that was in reality ‘pure’ would be one that is no longer tethered to the relative movements of stratification and would no longer be “compromised by envelopment by a strata.” The idea of a entirely developed abstract machine in all its purity would seem to go against D&G’s various claims throughout ATP that what we must always be privy to is the coexistence of intensities as opposed to searching for their sequential, causal, or evolutionary, linkages. This is most clearly seen in their treatment of how best to account for the historical emergence of the State relative to non-State societies. As they write, “everything coexists, in perpetual interaction […] The nomad exists only in becoming, and in interaction; the same goes for the primitive. All history does is to translate a coexistence of becomings into a succession” (ATP, 430, my emphasis). At the very least there appears to be, on Brassier’s reading, an unresolved tension between this pure abstract machine which is no longer compromised by envelopment (i.e., it is entirely developed and free to relative movement) and D&G’s commitment to privileging the coexistence of intensities over and against orders of succession and evolution.

Second, and as we have already seen, Brassier ends by explicitly dealing with his claim that D&G have relativized the Absolute as opposed to their claim to have absolutized relativity. Brassier’s problem regarding the relationship between Absolute deterritorialization, relative deterritorialization, and the principle of their mutual immanence,  is that concrete rules themselves are wholly dependent on the strata within which they reside. Without a means of measuring degrees of deterritorialization in spite of one’s strata (while still acknowledging one’s stratified preconditions) we end up in a situation whereby what appears as absolute movement within one strata can appear as a relative or regressive movement from another. Hence the claim that D&G have simply relativized the absolute – where the absolute would be the seat of justifiable appraisal of becomings – by locating the grounds for the appraisal of becoming within each and every perspective one may take on becoming itself.

the great mosque of samarra

The question of the status of the plane of immanence has often been interpreted in a positive light. Namely, it is evident to the reader that ‘reaching the plane of immanence’ is portrayed as a virtue of the philosopher insofar as philosophy, understood as the creation of concepts, necessarily relies upon the plane on which philosophy’s concepts are brought into relation. As if to corroborate this interpretation, Deleuze and Guattari themselves write

“…Spinoza is the Christ of philosophers, and the greatest philosophers are hardly more than apostles who distance themselves from or draw near to this mystery. Spinoza, the infinite becoming-philosopher: he showed, drew up, and thought the “best” plane of immanence–that is, the purest, the one that does not hand itself over to the transcendent or restore any transcendent, the one that inspires the fewest illusions, bad feelings, and erroneous perceptions” (What is Philosophy? 60).

Thus the virtue of a thought adequate to its plane of immanence appears as self-evident, as something axiomatic; the inherent virtue of the plane of immanence seems to function as an analytic truth that is simply reiterated across the work of Deleuze, and his joint works with Guattari.

However, and against this view of the plane of immanence as both epistemic and ethico-political virtue, it is important to remind ourselves that while constructing the plane of immanence is a necessary condition for the creation of concepts (as philosophy’s presupposed non-conceptual, or pre-philosophical, correlate), this task carried out by thought cannot be the site of both epistemic virtue and ethico-political praxis. Why? For the very reason that, for Deleuze and Guattari, the importance of constructing a plane of immanence is not justified in terms of the ethical or political potential opened up by immanence as such. Rather, we must construct a plane of immanence since it is only in relation to the plane of immanence that concepts themselves take on significance and value for the thinker: “All concepts are connected to problems without which they would have no meaning and which can themselves only be isolated or understood as their solution emerges” (WP, 16).

The plane of immanence orients Thought in a way that allows the thinker to distinguish between true and false problems and thereby allows the thinker to formulate true as opposed to false problems. Unlike the portrait of Spinoza as the apex of the philosopher par excellence, Deleuze and Guattari’s contention is that while we all must strive toward the plane’s construction in our own thought, the plane of immanence itself appears as something wholly devoid of virtue and is not a model to guide collective praxis but a necessary condition for the creation of concepts. It is for this reason that Deleuze and Guattari do not hesitate to praise Spinoza’s fidelity to immanence while simultaneously laboring against the plane of immanence established by capitalism despite its necessary construction by someone such as Marx. Capital, as our specifically contemporary plane of immanence takes up certain tendencies from previous social forms in order to effect a world wide expansion. It is for this reason that we require a new construction of a place of immanence, since it is Capital that serves as the historical condition and futural horizon that determines the totality of planetary social life:

“A world market extends to the ends of the earth before passing into the galaxy: even the skies become horizontal. This is not a result of the Greek endeavor but a resumption, in another form and with other means, on a scale hitherto unknown, which nonetheless relaunches the combination for which the Greeks took the initiative–democratic imperialism, colonizing democracy. The European can, therefore, regard himself, as the Greek did, as not one psychosocial type among others but Man par excellence, and with much more expansive force and missionary zeal than the Greek” (WP, 97).

If the plane of immanence was simply the fusion of an epistemic requirement and political goal, there would be no way to understand their following assertion: “Concepts and plane are strictly correlative, but nevertheless the two should not be confused. The plane of immanence is neither a concept nor the concept of all concepts” (WP, 35-6). The plane is the nexus of problems that give significance and meaning to the concepts that come to populate it. In other words, and as Deleuze already noted as early as Difference and Repetition, the plane of immanence is the dialectic between Idea-Problems, on the one hand, and their possible solutions as incarnated by concepts, on the other. Once we understand that Deleuze and Guattari emphasize the need to discriminate the plane of immanence from its concepts, that we can no longer satisfy ourselves with the conflation between immanence and concept, problems and their solutions, the task of the philosopher and the task of politics:

“The famous phrase of the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ‘mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve’, does not mean that the problems are only apparent or that they are already solved, but, on the contrary, that the economic conditions of a problem determine or give rise to the manner in which it finds a solution within the framework of the real relations of the society. Not that the observer can draw the least optimism from this, for these ‘solutions’ may involve stupidity or cruelty, the horror of war or ‘the solution of the Jewish problem’. More precisely, the solution is always that which a society deserves or gives rise to as a consequence of the manner in which, given its real relations, it is able to pose the problems set within it and to it by the differential relations it incarnates” (DR, 186).

Thus, against the idea that a philosopher’s innocence or moral virtue is proportionate to the adequacy of their concepts and their construction of a plane of immanence, Deleuze and Guattari write,

“The plane of immanence is not a concept that is or can be thought but rather the image of thought, the image thought gives itself of what it means to think, to make use of thought, to find one’s bearings in thought…The image of thought implies a strict division between fact and right: what pertains to thought as such must be distinguished from contingent features of the brain or historical opinions….The image of thought retains only what thought can claim by right” (WP, 37).

The task, then, is to construct the image of thought adequate to our historical present since it is the plane itself that determines what Thought (and philosophy) can rightfully call it’s own, or properly understand its broader socio-political function in the present. However, if the plane of immanence is the Image of Thought, it is clear that a plane is only constructed in order to be overcome. It is for this reason that while Deleuze and Guattari emphasize the necessity of the plane of immanence, they ultimately assert that it is in light of the concepts philosophy can create (or the percepts and affects of art, or the functions of science) that we can overturn the image of thought itself. As Deleuze already understood, the “… ‘solvability’ [of a Problem] must depend upon an internal characteristic: it must be determined by the conditions of the problem, engendered in and by the problem along with the real solutions” (DR, 162).

Planes of immanence may be necessary, and we can acknowledge someone like Spinoza’s fidelity in his thoroughgoing construction as seen in his Ethics, while also acknowledging that it is only in the solutions within the plane that a philosophical/political praxis can emerge; whereby the emergence of a solution spells the overcoming of the plane/image of thought itself. In this way we should hear Marx in background of Deleuze; as Marx himself already understood “communism is not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself…but the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence” (German Ideology). Our fidelity to the construction a plane of immanence (taken as epistemic virtue), only gains in political utility insofar as the plane is constructed to its logical conclusion and the concepts created by the thinker within this plane is a solution that abolishes the present state of things…whose conditions (i.e. nexus of problems, plane of immanence established by capital) are already now in existence.

For what else did Deleuze mean when he praised the free reign of simulacra as the crowned anarchy at the end of his overturning of Platonism? The idea that the solutions to a problem; the instantiations of an Idea; neither resemble nor share in the essence of the problem-Idea to which they are indexed? Any position to the contrary and which posits solutions as sharing in the essence and remaining fundamentally identical to an Idea-problem, implicitly or explicitly commits one to a fatalism in the face of capital’s plane of immanence: There is no longer any available alternative solution to the problem posed by capital’s plane of immanence (neoliberalism). There is no longer such a thing as society (Thatcher). We have reached the end of history (Fukuyama), and the cause célèbre is this best of all possible worlds with the correct and justifiable amount of global suffering (Habermas).

12891112_10156832908875085_2706529096530411341_ophoto cred: Patrice Maniglier, 2016

(Draft of the concluding section for my forthcoming article in Carte Semiotiche Annali 4, IMAGES OF CONTROL. Visibility and the Government of Bodies. Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here)

An other end of the world is possible. This statement ties together our critique of Patton, the emphasis Deleuze places (in cinema and politics) on the struggle for alternate and possible worlds in light of its seeming impossibility from the perspective of control societies, and the political category of creativity and resistance. For as we have seen, it is at the end of the second World War that two important transformations took place: the shift in cinema from the ‘movement-image’ to the ‘time-image’ and the marriage between cybernetics, information theory, and modes of governmentality; this latter case being undertaken in order to prevent the global devolution of the global capitalist order and its form of civil society. Thus, in our present circumstance it’s worth reiterating the point made by Guattari in his reflection on the progress made by capitalism after the events of ‘68:

“Capitalism can always arrange things and smooth them over locally, but for the most part and essentially, everything has become increasingly worse […] The response to many actions has been predicted organized and calculated by the machines of state power. I am convinced that all of the possible variants of another May 1968 have already been programmed on an IBM” (‘We Are All Groupuscules’). 

This IBM which has predicted every possible future May ‘68 is to Alpha 60 as Deleuze’s concept of control societies is to our present. That is to say, and more to the point, present day control societies, with its cybernetic form of governance, is a form of social organization that takes as one of its axioms the pre-emptive powers derived from the control and permanent exchange of information in our present. In the situation where Alpha 60’s algorithmic powers of prediction equally determine the upstanding and problematic citizen; where cybernetic capitalism can create predictive models that run through every possible situation where an insurrection could take place; we find ourselves squarely in the contemporary manifestation of Clausewitz’s formula now with its contemporary twist: control is war by other means; these ‘other means’ being the politics of pre-emptive strategy supported by cybernetic technologies:

“Even if the origins of the Internet device are today well known, it is not uncalled for to highlight once again their political meaning. The Internet is a war machine invented to be like the highway system, which was also designed by the American Army as a decentralized internal mobilization tool. The American military wanted a device which would preserve the command structure in case of a nuclear attack…With such a device, military authority could be maintained in the case of the worse catastrophes. The Internet is thus the result of a nomadic transformation of military strategy. With that kind of plan at its roots, one might doubt the supposedly anti-authoritarian characteristics of this device. As is the Internet, which derives from it, cybernetics is an art of war, the objective of which is to save the head of the social body in case of catastrophe. What stands out historically and politically during the period between the great wars…was the metaphysical problem of creating order out of disorder” (Tiqqun, ‘The Cybernetic Hypothesis’).

Thus it merits an emphasis on the way in which our geopolitical context still maintains the cybernetic criteria of governance in ways that cannot simply be reduced to the technological or algorithmic properties of capitalist technology. In a 2014 Wall Street Journal article entitled ‘On The Assembly of a New World Order,’ Henry Kissinger asserts that the defining condition regarding Western powers today is the following: ‘the very concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is currently in crisis.’ According to Kissinger (and after the economic crisis of 2008 in a post 9/11 era) it is the recovery of global order based on the interests of American capitalism that is projected as the necessary task for Western powers today. If he is anything, Kissinger must be said to be the present day embodiment of those concerns that characterized both postwar cyberneticians (Abraham Moles, Wiener, et. al.) as well as Alphaville‘s central governing body, Alpha 60. In light of Kissinger’s perceived urgency regarding the re-establishment of order in the light of this concepts present crisis, the context of global warfare originally outlined by Clausewitz and cyberneticians alike is continued through the constitution of Western government’s pre-emptive measures; which seeks to perpetually defer war in favor of what are now called ‘security measures’ justified by the ‘war on terror.’

So… this proposed ‘end of the world’ as conceived by the cybernetic paradigm of governance is a decidedly different apocalypse as the one viewed from the perspective of a radical political orientation. This alternative apocalyptic scenario is intended in the same way as someone like Marx who characterized communism as a certain kind of global abolition. Communism, as iterated in the oft cited formula, is not “a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself,” but the “real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence” (German Ideology). Therefore, the type of abolition involved in this fin du monde is not the same type of abolition that is hinted at in the fears of Kissinger and cyberneticians regarding a generalized disorder since, for Marx as well as Deleuze, the revolutionary subject that abolishes itself and capital in the process of revolution brings about the end of the world as determined by capitalist social relations and ushers in a new world determined by the needs and interests of labor considered as a whole.

From this perspective, the end of the world feared by cybernetic control appears desirable insofar as it means the end of this world; the end of the world governed on the basis of capitalist control and surveillance. So bringing about the ‘end of this world’ requires, on our part, a vision of alternative worlds that would come to take its place. It is this dimension of Deleuze’s aesthetic and political commitments that Patton fails to understand and thereby commits himself to the valorization of anything that can be understood as metaphysically productive and creative (which is to say, Patton’s position ultimately consists of the affirmation of everything in-itself). The autre fin du monde that we call for must replace Patton’s vitalist aesthetico-politics since it is clear that, for Deleuze, there is a real content to the prescription of being against one’s time in the hopes for a time to-come. The content being the elimination of every form of complicity , the eradication of a global situation whereby one person’s freedom is only won at the expense of another individual or group. It is for this reason that Deleuze’s engagements with art and philosophy bring him to the realm of politics:

“Nor is it only in the extreme situations described by Primo Levi that we experience the shame of being human. We also experience it in insignificant conditions, before the meanness and vulgarity of existence that haunts democracies, before the propagation of these modes of existence and of thought-for-the-market, and before the values, ideals, and opinions of our time. The ignominy of the possibilities of life that we are offered appears from within. We do not feel ourselves outside of our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it. This feeling of shame is one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them […] For the race summoned forth by art and philosophy is not the one that claims to be pure but rather an oppressed, bastard, lower, anarchical, nomadic and irremediably minor race–the very ones that Kant excluded from the path of the new Critique. Artaud said: to write for the illiterate–to speak for the aphasic, to think for the acephalous. But what does “for” mean? It is not “for their benefit,” or yet “in their place.” It is “before.” It is a question of becoming. The thinker is not acephalic, aphasic, or illiterate, but becomes so. He becomes Indian, and never stops becoming so…” (What is Philosophy? pp. 107-09).

Thus (and to put forward the beginnings of an argument that will be reserved for another article) the least we can say regarding Deleuze’s aesthetic and philosophical commitments is that they lead him, and therefore us interpreters of Deleuze, to assert the following prescription: find the means and conditions to effect the total abolition of anyone’s/everyone’s complicity in the violence (political, social, economic, environmental, etc.) against others; a complicity made actual by the individual freedoms granted by liberal-capitalism on the basis of the further devastation of the Third World and the First World’s own internal (and gentrifying) colonies.  So the political correlate to Deleuze’s emphasis on the need to ‘believe in the world’ vís-a-vís cinema is the following: we need to learn how to bring an end to this world in order to wrest back what has been determined as impossible from the perspective of cybernetic-capital. Une autre fin du monde est possible, one that does not entail the infinite accumulation of surplus-value up to the point of environmental/societal collapse but the complete abolition of all forms of contemporary complicity in the violence against ourselves and others. 

 

machinesoflovinggrace

(Incredibly rough draft of part II of an article for Carte Semiotiche Annali 4, IMAGES OF CONTROL. Visibility and the Government of Bodies. Part I can be found here).

Given our critique of the affirmationist interpretation, and while Godard’s Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie) is Patton’s exemplar of something that approximates a Deleuzean ethico-political program, we should turn our attention to Godard’s 1965 sci-fi noir film Alphaville as the measure (and critique) of this affirmationist reading. Turning to Alphaville is crucial since it is the film where Godard achieves in cinema what Deleuze himself would only put down to paper towards the end of his life: the problem of how one makes revolution from within the contemporary paradigm of control societies. Not only were societies of control emerging as the latest form of capitalism’s ongoing globalization in Deleuze’s own life time; specific for our purposes here, what Deleuze understands as the technical and material conditions of control societies is precisely what Godard explores through the figure of an artificially intelligent computer (Alpha 60) that regulates the city of Alphaville as a whole with the aim of ensuring ‘civic order’ and dependable (i.e., predictable) citizenry. It is Alpha 60 who surveils, polices, and determines the guilt or innocence of the citizenry; that is, this AI form of governance is the perfect instance of those cybernetic machines at work in capitalist-control societies. Additionally, this emerging problem of control was a consequence of the shift from the ‘movement-image’ to the ‘time-image,’ as Deleuze notes. It is a shift to the paradigm  that “registers the collapse of sensory-motor schemes: characters no longer “know” how to react to situations that are beyond them, too awful, or too beautiful, or insoluble…So a new type of character appears” (Negotiations, 59).

However, what Deleuze leaves implicit and under theorized in his concept of the ‘time-image,’ is the following: after the second world war, where we see a shift from the ‘movement-image’ to the ‘time-image,’ there was a simultaneous shift in how nation-states began to conceive of the role of global strategies of governance. During and after the war, information theorists, scientists, and academics were employed by the American government to develop the technological means for establishing a certain degree of civic order in a world that has proven itself capable of succumbing to the ever looming threat of global war. It was this emerging group of scientists and academics that would construct the very means for actualizing societies of control (Deleuze) and were the real world correlates for the social function of Alpha 60 (Godard):

the very persons who made substantial contributions to the new means of communication and of data processing after the Second World War also laid the basis of that “science” that Wiener called “cybernetics.” A term that Ampère…had had the good idea of defining as the “science of government.” So we’re talking about an art of governing whose formative moments are almost forgotten but whose concepts branched their way underground, feeding into information technology as much as biology, artificial intelligence, management, or the cognitive sciences, at the same time as the cables were strung one after the other over the whole surface of the globe […] As Norbert Wiener saw it, “We are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet. Yet even in a shipwreck, human decencies and human values do not necessarily vanish, and we must make the most of them. We shall go down, but let it be in a manner to which we make look forward as worthy of our dignity.” Cybernetic government is inherently apocalyptic. Its purpose is to locally impede the spontaneously entropic, chaotic movement of the world and to ensure “enclaves of order,” of stability, and–who knows?–the perpetual self-regulation of systems, through the unrestrained, transparent, and controllable circulation of information” (The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends, p.107-9).

In the last instance, whether we speak of the paradigm of control in contemporary modes of governmentality or Alpha 60 in Alphaville, both Deleuze and Godard are concerned with the possibilities for the radical transformation of social life from within this context of cybernetic governance. Thus, it is against the background of societies of control that Patton’s affirmationist interpretation, and the politics that logically follows, will be measured and tested; if only to underscore how the affirmationist’s Platonism demonstrates that the application of metaphysical and epistemic truths into the domain of politics culminates in a praxis that is impotent at best and reactionary at worst.

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