Deleuze and the IDF

One of the micro-topics I have increasingly become interested in as I study philosophy is the nature in which some philosophical positions or movements are complicit with capitalism (particularly, those that are strictly anti-capitalist themselves). I have mused on this insight elsewhere (here and here and here). Today I came across an interesting point raised by Žižek that discloses a strong parallel between Deleuze and the Israeli Defense Force. Although the extensive passage quoted at length is not capitalistic in nature per se, Žižek relates the self-revolutionizing principle inherent to capitalism here, a logic that requires resistance, the uncommon and the novel in order to perpetually defer its inherent contradiction from reaching a point of crisis.

It was recently made public that, in order to conceptualize the Israeli Defense Force’s urban warfare against thePalestinians, the IDF military academies systematically refer to Deleuze and Guattari, especially to A Thousand Plateaux, using it as ‘operational theory’ – the catchwords used are ‘Formless Rival Entities’, ‘Fractal Manoeuvre’, Velocity vs Rhythms’, ‘The Wahhabi War Machine’, “Postmodern Anarchists’, ‘Nomadic Terrorists’. One of the key distinctions they rely on is the one between ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space, which reflect the organizational concepts of the ‘war machine’ and the ‘state apparatus’. The IDF now often uses the term ‘to smooth out space’ when they want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. Palestinian areas are thought as ‘striated’ in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, road blocks, and so on:

“The attack conducted by units of the IDF on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by a means of a series of micro-tactical actions’. During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of overground tunnels carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare: ‘a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux’.”

So what follows from all this? Not, of course, the nonsensical accusation that Deleuze and Guattari were theorists of militaristic colonization – but the conclusion that the conceptual machine articulated by Deleuze and Guattari, far from being simply ‘subversive’, also fits the (military, economic and ideologico-political) operational mode of contemporary capitalism. How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing? [Slavoj Žižek Presents Mao: On Practice and Contradiction, pp. 26-27]

In what follows we are presented with a typical formulation of Žižek’s style, to raise an articulate and profound problem but only to answer it with a cliche quotidian response: in this case, in fewer words, be at peace with the conflict. The quoted remark is certainly disturbing, perhaps even more so for those enamored by Deleuze and his affirmative concept of difference. Although to the credit of Deleuze, I think he is well versed in the natural tendency of capitalism to axiomize – his word – the very forces that oppose it.


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3 responses to “Deleuze and the IDF”

  1. Boo Bear says :

    Deleuze’s words:

    “How will the revolution be betrayed?…The deterritorializing potential of the schizorevolutionary pole is always in danger of capture by the axiomatic reterritorializations of the paranoiac pole of capitalism…

    [W]here will the revolution come from . . . in the person of a Castro, an Arab, a Black Panther, or a Chinaman on the horizon? A May ’68, a homegrown Maoist planted like an anchorite in a factory smokestack? Always the addition of an axiom to seal off a breach that has been discovered; fascist colonels start reading Mao . . . . ”

    The stress in the anti-Oedipal, schizoanalytic project then, should be laid on the analytic. It does not present itself as revolutionary per se, since it has “no political program to propose” , but merely seeks to become an analytic-machine; one that, given a particular socius or group-formation, “only asks what place it reserves for desiring-production”

    • Matt Cullen-Meyer says :

      Indeed, resistance is always in danger of being betrayed. We might also include the military examples of ‘Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ itself: the sea was a form of smooth space that could be traversed by ships in contrast to the striated space of land. However, with the implementation of navigation and seafaring the sea was rendered a striated territory, to which submarines were a deterritorializing response. Again on land, tanks rendered the battlefield a smooth space, given that they could seemingly wander wherever independent of road, to which helicopters were a critical response. The point is that, as cited above, “the deterritorializing potential of the schizorevolutionary pole is always in danger of capture by the axiomatic reterritorializations”. What is novel and uncommon today is appropriated and reduced to what is commonsensical and habitual the next.

  2. drew says :

    So both Left and Right as well as decentralized Schizo-Anarchists and Israel Defense Force love to read Deleuze/Guattari – get over it.

    I guess the man just thunk some cool stuff…

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