Previously unpublished writing from Tarnac – ‘Against the State of Emergency’

protest 4 - Beestermoellers

This text–originally published in Hostis 2: Beyond Recognition–was translated from the French by Robert Hurley and merits a statement regarding the context from which it emerged. The original article (‘contre létat d’urgence, l’urgence de prendre la rue’) was written upon request by the French newspaper Le Monde. The newspaper had asked for a commentary from some of the Tarnac defendants ( “des mis en examen” ) regarding the 13 November 2015 attacks on Paris and the events that followed. However, despite the papers initial request the piece was accepted but never published. In the end, Le Monde provided no rationale for this and so we leave it up to our readers to determine why.

Gone are the days when they could cynically joke, in the Anti-Terrorist Sub-Directorate: “There are more people making a living from terrorism than there are dying from it.” Gone, too, the days when anti-terrorism à la française, or rather, à la Bruguière,* dripped with self-satisfaction in the pages of the magazines. Didn’t its prize formula, “criminal association in connection with a terrorist undertaking,” enable it to preventively neutralize whomever one wished and keep them in the cooler long enough to “tenderize the meat,” even though there was no incriminating evidence? And what wisdom on the part of the anti-terrorist judges and police! : their sense of the Republic was such that they never dreamed of exploiting that gap in the penal code which the formula effectively constitutes. They could have locked away just about anyone they wanted to on frivolous grounds, and they didn’t. As a reward for this surprising restraint, it was agreed that one shouldn’t focus too much on the falsifications, the doctorings and other little lies they were in the habit of inserting into the procedures and press conferences. Where anti-terrorism is concerned, it’s the intention that counts, and here the intention could only be laudable. The formula in question was an ‘weapon.’ And like every arm, it was appreciated for its ‘effectiveness.’ The police criterion of effectiveness was not very juridical, certainly, but it imposed itself like a Glock in the middle of the face: as they tirelessly repeated, there hadn’t been an attack on French soil since 1995. The blackmail was couched in these terms: “Don’t tie our hands or there will be deaths.” From laws to decrees to the paroxysm of the latest ‘law on intelligence,’ it’s an understatement to say that over the past twenty-five years the successive heads of government bravely submitted to this blackmail. In this way, little by little, the anti-terrorist services were placed above the law. Their field of action no longer knows any limit. The bulk of what they do is classified and the last channels of recourse against them have been dismantled. It must be admitted that governing figures with little purchase on developments in the world have found what they needed here: weren’t the army and the police the last levers available to them, the last forces that were supposed to obey them? And what’s more, the interest of the secret services in terms of communication – the real function of the governing authorities now – is that since the information they hold is officially secret, one can lie about it without risking to be contradicted. That the DGSI* has taken for its headquarters, at Levallois-Perret, the former offices of Euro RSCG,* is a coincidence worth thinking about. Thus, a Cazeneuve* can congratulate himself in a press statement for “the effectiveness of the services of the Ministry of the Interior in the fight against terrorism” as he did last November 10, and only events can reduce such a miserable little exercise in self-promotion to the nonsense that it is. They didn’t fail to do so.

The November 13 attacks confirm the total rout of French-style anti-terrorism, a kind of smug, cowardly, and sheeplike bureaucratic monster. The new rhetoric of ‘war’ that has supplanted the promise of ‘security’ doesn’t come out of nowhere: it was concocted over the past few months in anticipation of the inevitable assault and in order to mask the failure of a whole apparatus, the disaster of a whole policy. Beneath its manly posturing, it has trouble hiding the obvious impotence and the profound disorientation of the governing authorities. As a general rule, every foreign war that a government declares should be understood first as an act of domestic war, aimed first of all at its own population – that is, at dominating, controlling, and mobilizing the latter, and aimed against the rival power only secondarily. This is something that the geopoliticians will never understand, and which always renders their considerations on ‘the Americans,’ ‘the Russians,’ ‘the Iranians,’ etc. so pointless. It’s also what explains that the latest French air strikes, which were so urgently publicized, didn’t do any decisive damage: they are their own purpose in themselves.

It needs to be said that apart from these cinematic strikes, the recent ‘declaration of war’ essentially consists in the establishment of the state of emergency – that is, in a revocation of the last protections the population has against the abuses of the government, the exactions of the police, and the arbitrariness of the administrations. It reminds us of the extent to which contemporary war is clearly counter-insurrectionary, or as General Vincent Desportes puts it so well, it “is not conducted between societies but within societies.” “The target of the action is no longer the adversary, but the population.” Its “objective is human society, its governance, its social contract, its institutions.” “Military actions are really a ‘manner of speaking’: every major operation is now a communicative operation first of all, one whose actions, even minor ones, speak louder than words. […] Conducting war is primarily managing perceptions, those of the set of actors, near or distant, direct or indirect.” We are experiencing what is described very accurately by the Invisible Committee in To Our Friends: “from being a military doctrine, counter-insurgency has become a principle of government.” Thus for a whole day the government tested the ‘opinion’ reaction to its announcement of a possible quashing of the planned demonstrations against COP 21.* Given the general confusion and the organizers’ irresolution, the prohibition of demonstrations was decreed the next day. Already, RAID* units have been sent to dislodge squatters in Lille, absurd curfews are being tested, and this is obviously only a beginning. Evidently, with this state of emergency, we are dealing with a policing measure against all political liberties. So one understands the population’s current reluctance to pick up on the executive’s martial refrains: the population knows very well that basically it is the target of the announced offensive.

For our part, and this won’t surprise anyone, it seems to us that the real danger doesn’t come from the Middle-East but from the successive governments that have plunged us into these dark waters and are attempting at present to close their trap on us once more. By getting us to go along with their war, they’re already speculating on the benefits they’ll draw from the next time we’ll be taken as targets. The attacks and the present state of emergency realize the dream of every government: that everyone will stay home – absolute privatization. It’s obviously the opposite that should be done: take the squares, meet in the streets, occupy the universities, directly debate the situation, find the right words for grasping our common condition, restore public space to its political calling, begin to organize and cease to leave our fate in the hands of the bloody imbeciles who claim to govern us. In this way we have some chance of becoming a crowd that holds together, and no longer that collection of anomic solitudes that’s unable to defend itself when it’s attacked – by its government or by jihadists.



Note: The asterisked items above are easily searchable, but briefly:
Jean-Louis Bruguière is a former investigating magistrate in charge of counter-terrorism.
DGSI is the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure, a French intelligence agency.
Euro RSCG is a global public relations corporation.
Bernard Cazeneuve is the current Minister of the Interior.
COP 21 was the recent Paris conference on global warming/ climate change.
RAID is France’s primary counter-terrorism police.

Cinema In The Age of Control Societies


(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.

Continue reading “Cinema In The Age of Control Societies”

A Baroque Heresy: Notes on Deleuze and Leibniz on the Concept


“The other who is nobody…the a priori Other is defined in each system by its expressive value – in other words, its implicit and enveloping value […] The I and the Self, by contrast, are immediately characterised by functions of development or explication: not only do they experience qualities in general as already developed in the extensity of their system, but they tend to explicate or develop the world expressed by the other, either in order to participate in it or deny it. – Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 260

The Other, as outlined in What is Philosophy? is understood as a living social relation that is also the condition for the possibility of Thought and the genesis of Concepts. Unlike the Ancient Greek conceptual personae of the friend, it is the other that serves as Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptual personae; as the condition for their own creation of concepts.

What this means, however, is that the condition for the creation of concepts (the condition that makes philosophy a real possibility) is one where the knowing-subject, the ‘philosopher,’ is in an asymmetrical relationship to their conditions. The asymmetry of socio-economic power is the true grounds for philosophy defined as concept creation – and it is for this reason that D&G’s conservatism manifests when they claim that it is only with the Greek city (and neither Empire nor State) that philosophy is born; since it is the City which constitutes the norm of social relations as one that is agonistic and agonistic because to be a citizen of Athens means to be free and equal to others and thus free to lay claim to what potentially belongs to others (property, civic office, etc.). So, if the Other is the contemporary manifestation of the friend in Athenian democracy, it is precisely because the other-as-expression-of-possible-world orientates thinking and acting in the world towards the actualization or integration of a world that exists as asymmetrical, hostile, and fundamentally opposed to the present order of things. But, we may ask, why do Deleuze and Guattari pay homage to Leibniz in their discourse on the Other? As they write, “Obviously, every concept has a history. This concept of the other person goes back to Leibniz, to his possible worlds and to the monad as the expression of the world” (WIP, 17).

If the Other stands in an asymmetry with the I and the Self, with the present order of things, and so forth, then the genesis of concepts on the basis of the possible world expressed by the Other means the creation of a concept that pays homage to Leibniz’s God but also signals its death. Where Leibniz argues for God’s productivity as nothing but following from the order he bestowed upon the best of all possible worlds, as seen in the example in the epigraph that hints toward the calculus, D&G find an instance of praise and suspicion. Praise, insofar as Leibniz has succeeded in creating the concept that pertains to the mathematical means of dealing with probability, modality, and the distribution of chance. That is, Leibniz’s monadology attests to Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of the concept, since the concept of the monad demonstrates the real content of concepts themselves: “the concept’s components are neither constants nor variables but pure and simple variations ordered according to their neighborhood. They are processual, modular…The concept is in a state of survey in relation to its components, endlessly traversing them according to an order without distance…It does not have spatiotemporal coordinates, only intensive ordinates” (WIP, 21). Insofar as Leibniz gave clear expression to the concept understood as the conjunction of heterogenous elements that have an internal consistency with each other, the history of the concept belongs to Leibniz.

However, suspicion arises, since Leibniz only gave expression, or only generated the properly cybernetic concept: everything is ordered, logically related, no matter how different and distant. It is Leibniz’s God that acts as metaphysical guarantee for the best of all possible worlds; one ensured with order, stability, intelligibility, and transparency to the philosophical-subject. Leibniz’s God achieves universal order only because it acts as the cybernetic control/regulation of the social conditions under which the creation of concepts is possible. Given this hypothesis of a logical/conceptual filiation between cybernetic and Leibniz’s thought we should remind ourselves of Deleuze’s remark

“You wonder if we can understand this socially and politically. Certainly, and the baroque was itself linked to a political system, a new conception of politics. The move toward replacing the system of a window and a world outside with one of a computer screen in a closed room is something that’s taking place in our social life: we read the world more than we see it […] Leibniz…makes Harmony a basic concept. He makes philosophy the production of harmonies.” (‘On Leibniz‘, p.157-63).

It is this element of Leibniz’s thought that Deleuze seeks to expiate, since the cybernetic impulses of Leibniz, with its production of harmony and order, are commensurate with the cyberneticians task – “fight the general entropy threatening living beings, machines, and societies” (Cybernetic Hypothesis, p. 12). The metaphysical guarantee of the best of all possible worlds is simple the cybernetic task of capturing the lines of flight that define any social organization. Thus, if the history of the concept begins with Leibniz, the fate of this history is a future where the genesis of concepts vis-a-vis the Other is only possible insofar as philosophy combats the logic of the best of all possible worlds wherever it manifests.

At this point we would not be wrong to see a heresy at work; a heretical Leibniz that prefigures the harmony of cybernetic governance. Heresy, speaking etymologically, signifies the activity of choosing, of a choice made, and within its religious context, a choice made regarding the interpretation of a religious text. Thus, a heretic exists wherever an unorthodox interpretation is being presented. If there is something heretical about Deleuze it is the following claim: life is only possible on the basis of a heresy; the heresy of engendering a death of God within the thought of Leibniz in order to wrest the future of the concept from its history – in order to effectuate a becoming of the concept as opposed to a brute repetition of its history and application. This heresy takes place in the crypt, in the opaqueness and obscurity that it engenders for thought and as antithetical to the clarity, distinctness, and transparency of the cybernetic ordering of Leibniz’s God. The Baroque heresy is the retention of the concept understood as grasping nothing other than ‘pure and simple variations ordered according to their neighborhood’ (WIP, 20), while simultaneously understanding that the concept admits no metaphysical guarantee of pre-established harmony. 

The baroque heresy of Deleuze installs itself at the moment where the genesis of concepts no longer simply means the apprehension of the immanent and non-teleological ordering of the variations that characterize a given society; additionally, the baroque element of Deleuze means that what the cybernetic ordering of society obliges for thought and politics is the development, determination, and conditioning, of the problem of control by way of the concept of what is opaque, obscure, secretive, and hidden. It is also for this reason that Deleuze has bones to pick with the affirmationist Deleuzeans. Deleuze never wanted us to affirm the world of difference-itself for its own sake; only in order to grasp the image of thought and the dogma that threatens every attempt we make to create concepts. Deleuze never wanted to affirm joyous encounters for their own sake; only to combat historical and political conditions that maintain a people in conditions of sadness. Thus, any ‘Deleuzean’ politics, or ethics, or aesthetics, fails at the moment that it hypostatizes affirmation of difference, and of joyous affects, as the heart of Deleuze’s transcendental materialism.

The heresy of Deleuze, which obliges us to think and develop a concept of the obscure, opaque, and secretive, allows us to understand why societies are defined by what flees them and not by their contradictions; or why Deleuze’s work exhibits an unwavering commitment to the necessity of understanding and developing difference-itself understood as the asymmetrical relation between the present world and the possible world expressed by the Other. That is, the baroque heresy of Deleuze allows us to  understand that it is neither affirmation of difference or joy that is important for thought and politics. Rather, Deleuze forces us to comprehend that it is only escape, becoming, evading capture, and introducing a bit of disorder into the world, that thought, philosophy, and politics wrests back ideas of liberation and revolution to which the canon has laid claim. The heresy of Deleuze can be called abolition, a fugitive thought, or the buggery of Leibniz. In any event, it is clear that the Leibniz and the baroque of Deleuze demonstrates the necessity of destroying the world that is implied in any development/explication of the possible world expressed by the Other person.

It is clear by now that to combat this cybernetic-Leibnizianism that develops the world as transparent, clear, and distinctive we must engage in the heresy of the opaque, the obscure, and the secretive. From this, one additional implication exists for the legacy of humanism – since it is the discourse of humanism that is married to the political discourse of the best of all possible worlds at the beginning of the 1990’s and begins at least as early as the thought of Feuerbach:

“Feuerbach calls out to Humanity. He tears the veils from universal History, destroys myths and lies, uncovers the truth of man and restores it to him. The fullness of time has come. Humanity is pregnant of its own being. Let men at last become conscious of this, and they will be in reality what they are in truth: free, equal, and fraternal beings.”

Through the Other, with the explication of its possible world that requires the destruction of the world of the I and the Self (thus producing what Deleuze calls the ‘fractured I’ and ‘dissolved Self’), this vision of humanism gains in reality insofar as it immolates itself on its actualization. That is, Deleuze’s anti-humanism, just as its heretical Leibnizianism, raises the relationship between philosopher and Other to the level of political and social analysis. Thus, Humanism does not signal the reconciliation of humanity with itself but the continuation of the cybernetic integration of humanity with Leibnizian metaphysics. It is for this reason that the heresy of Deleuze obliges us to develop a Baroque Humanism – a humanism that develops the possible world signaled by the Other, which destroys ours, and thus effectuates the equation ‘I is an Other.’ This formula, which belongs to Rimbaud, is what orthodox humanism claims while it never achieves and is the formulation that Deleuze’s heresy makes a living reality for thought itself. “For it is not the other which is another I, but the I which is an other, a fractured I” (DR, 261).