Dynamic systems theory: Deleuze and Guattari

Employing the neologisms of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, I will argue that identifiable unities and entities are no more and no less than dynamic systems themselves. This is another way of saying that existent objects are simultaneously stable and unstable, structured and unstructured, closed and open, complete and incomplete. Or again, as Deleuze and Guattari tend to call them, they are abstract machines, composed of unformed deterritorialized flows or the Body without Organs (BwO) that are drawn onto a surface or plane of consistency in which recognizable identities emerge. Determinate identities are inseparable from the lifeblood or intensive flow that creates and sustains them, but it is at the same time the very condition that contributes to their adaptation or collapse. In this sense dynamic systems are best thought of as strata at the “edge of chaos”, what Jeffrey Bell will describe as a fundamental both/and chaos-mos, simultaneously ordered and chaotic.

Difference or the BwO is presupposed as a requisite condition for dynamic systems to function at all. According to Deleuze and Guattari, every existent individuation or determination presupposes a dark precursor or an indeterminate substance as its necessary condition of possibility, an indeterminate reality of the virtual that can in turn be actualized through differing modes of itself. For this reason, concrete objects must maintain both stable strata as well as unstable deterritorializing flows in order to exist.

Although the creative chaos or BwO enables the plane of consistency to be actualized in a recognizable form, the success of the constitution of perceivable objects is not guaranteed, it can go one of three ways. The most obvious outcome is, of course, properly functioning dynamic systems. However, the abstract machine is also vulnerable to failure at actualizing such systems and “instead collapses into either the cancerous body of uncontrolled proliferation and chaos or the fascist body of smothering identity” (Bell, Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos, p. 5). That is, pure chaos or inert orderliness.

The essential point in the last resort is the connection between the two facets of the double bind, the process whereby the nomadic distributions come-into-being or become determinable and known. In effect, production can actualize dynamic or chaosmic systems by filtering and containing the purely unformed substance of the BwO, but it also runs the risk of producing destructive forces or lifeless objects when the two aspects of self-contained identities, chaos and order, are not properly balanced.

The double articulation through which the given is given, to be more precise, is much more nuanced as Deleuze presents it than expressed above. In the first articulation the body without organs becomes determinable as such. That is, the chaos is rendered into something that can be connected, linked and assembled. The second articulation, on the other hand, enables the given substance of the first articulation “to be actualized into identifiable, functioning states and systems” (Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos, p. 7). In other words, pre-given discrepant quasi-objects can then be unified and classified into meaningful systems or statements. In this precise sense the philosophy of Deleuze occasions a significant improvement on previous philosophies of difference which seem to lack an account of the production or genesis of difference in itself.

In the remainder of this section I will give scrupulous attention to the precise character of dynamic systems at the edge of chaos or, as Deleuze and Guattari call them, abstract machines. It will be argued that said identities are both self-contained and excessive, containing the intensive depth or fullness of difference that simultaneously preserves and transgresses itself. Ontology, for Guattari and Deleuze in particular, is an odd accord of nomadic singularities and, as such, the condition for the possibility of identifiable entities or systems to come into being. This is said to take place by an act of restraining and funneling the non-integrable forces or vectors of chaos into consistent and unified objects or partial-objects. Furthermore, given the univocity of being, we also know that the existent individuations of being are distributed points of difference itself, that is, mere nodes of intensive force that have been slowed down to a degree that is identifiable to recognition. All of this suggests that the filter of selection from which familiar unities emerge can never fully master the infinite speeds or non-integrable vectors of chaos. In short, we can never wholly totalize, identify or complete the integration of singular individuals. There always remains an excess of chaos that goes unfiltered, which implies the surmountable undermining of those very identities.

Given that being is restless and that actual determinations in the world are inseparable from this being, identifiable dynamic systems are equally anxious. As a result, identities are never assured of their permanence. Rather they are always already in jeopardy of becoming otherwise than they currently are. As already seen, stable strata are merely precarious equilibriums of cosmos and chaos.

Moreover, neither chaos nor cosmos are apprehended to the omission of the other. Given their reciprocal determination, both are necessary for the realization of either one. Indeed, dynamical systems operate best at this dangersome and delicate harmony: “A functioning system would collapse under either of the two possibilities – pure chaos would destroy just as readily as pure cosmos, for to function a system needs order and predictability (cosmos), but to be able to adapt to novel, unforeseen situations a system needs to experiment with untried, uncommon methods (chaos)” (Philosophy at the Edge of Chaos, p. 36). It suffices to show that the uncommon is immanent to the common or that chaos is in the cosmos. Therefore, no system is completely protected from transformation, variability or collapse. All identifiable meanings are subject to uncommon change and subversion.


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