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Immaterial Production

Historically speaking, production is the act of transforming material objects into marketable commodities. Today, however, this activity has extended beyond the physical world. As Maurizio Lazzarato argues, contemporary relations of production are not so much about acting on material bodies as they are about acting on minds and subjectivities. The immaterial or virtual, in other words, closely accompanies the actual in modern industrial processes.

Power here operates less and less on material earth and more and more on perceptions, desires and attention. Modern technologies operate on minds, capturing the imaginations of viewers. The constitutive role of television, cinema and the internet, after all, is to capture belief and attention, in contrast to producing tactile things.

That the immaterial is becoming more central to production is not by accident. “Before products can be sold, or even made, attention and memory must be captured by the technologies that work on publics” (Read, p. 97).

This is especially true in the case of surplus production. Given the inherent dynamic of capitalism to increase production on a continually larger scale, thereby threatening a crisis of over-production, surplus stockpiles of goods must be absorbed in some way to keep the wheels of capitalism turning. Forestalling this crisis is none other than marketing and advertising, which are used to bolster consumer demand.

Material Consulted

Eugene Holland, Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus

Brian Massumi, A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Jason Read, “The Fetish is Always Actual, Revolution is Always Virtual” in Deleuze and Marx, ed. Dhruv Jain

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Minor politics of becoming: The affect of cramped spaces

Novelty, innovation, creativity, experimentation emerges, according to Deleuze and Guattari in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, within the minor, or more precisely, among the oppressed; in a word, minority peoples. This is so because minorities experience chocked conditions wherein they are cut off from the ready-made structures of culture that enable one to fit into the generic history, narrative, tradition or ‘lines of mobility’ that majority groups enjoy. ‘Minor politics’, in the parlance of D & G, begins with the experience of those who exist in ‘cramped spaces’. The minor, then, is fully overwhelmed by social forces that engenders a situation where creation occurs: ‘A creator who isn’t grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator’ (Negotiations, p. 133). Minorities, unable to pass easily along legitimate social routes within a culture, are forced to maneuver within each foreign or constrained situation they encounter. This sort of cramped experience, recounts Nicholas Thoburn in Deleuze, Marx and Politics, draws minority groups “back into a milieu of contestation, debate, and engagement, and forces ever new forms of experimentation” and creative social solutions (p. 19).

It should be highlighted here that minor politics is not simply the challenge of voicing a preexisting, though silenced, identity. Minor politics is not merely the process of ‘speaking out’. The minor is not a question of who one is as per a set of identities, practices, relations, or languages, as if minorities were only required to communicate a previously unheard community. It is the genesis, composition, creation of identity as such. Gone, then, is the sense, with D & G, that socio-political engagement arises from ghettoized marginals who must ‘shore up their own particularity against the world’ or ‘carve out an autonomous identity’ against the monolithic logic of the major form (Deleuze, Marx and Politics, p. 44). Rather, the minor is directed at the order and structure of molar regimes that cramp virtual minority potential. As such, the minor always occurs in the middle of the major. It works within a given set of conditions and possibilities offered and, causing them to mutate, forms new relations to create something new. Each individual, after all, is embedded, implicated, situated or positioned in or by the major in some way. One is always an ‘insider’ in this general regard. Therefore the task of cramped minorities is to intensify the major, send it racing: ‘make one’s own major language minor’ (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 105).

Since the minor is always fully traversed, composed of and cramped by molar social forces, one need only interlace a disparate conjunction of relations, objects, subjectivities, etc. to delineate or actualize the minority milieu in yet unknown vectors. The intimate affect of oppression, in other words, always concerns those enmeshed in a situation of concrete social arrangements. With one pole ‘plugged into real assemblages’ and the other nomadic, plugged into anarchism, the minor actualizes the potential difference vibrating within the unified, expressing a different sensibility and collective configuration as a result (Deleuze, Marx and Politics, p. 27). In fact, this strategy sounds strikingly similar to the handy-man or -woman bricoleur, as conceptualized by Derrida. Only D & G apply such linguistic collage work to the ontological field wholesale. Although somewhat inaccessible to the non-initiated, Nick Srnicek, following the non-philosophical movement as propelled by Francois Laurelle and Ray Brassier, outlines a parallel position of manifesting a new world (as event or Advent) in accordance with the limitations of the present (philosophical) world:

It is in this manner that the Advent presents itself, with a portion being given in solitude…and another portion relative to the world (from which it draws its material and occasional cause for its ‘unique face’). In this way it can both escape any determining constraints imposed upon the Real by the world, and use the wold as a sufficient but non-necessary source of material. In other words, while we are always already determined in accordance with the Real, we are only phenomenalized as potential political actors in the world, through the material provided by our contemporary Decisional structures. The intra-worldly subject, therefore, is merely the phenomenal face of the non-philosophical subject—the radical locus of resistance clothed in an arbitrary, yet non-determining, philosophical material. It is with this material clothing that we can function to effect transformations—not in, but of—the phenomenolgical world we inhabit. […] What still remains to be thought, however, is the manner in which the solitude of the Advent can be transformed, or perhaps simply extended, into the type of full-fledged world in which we are normally given. What is required, in other words, is some functional equivalent to Badiou’s concept of forcing, whereby the event is investigated and its findings integrated into a new situation (‘Capitalism and the Non-Philosophical Subject’ in The Speculative Turn, p. 181).

Minor politics of becoming, in short, is a productive engagement with the cramped conditions of life and the social relations therein. It does not proceed with a utopian or teleological hope, but is no less engaging for that. Rather, it is ‘packed full of disagreements, tensions, and impossibilities’, while at one and the same time inducing a certain humor and joy: involuntary laughs, after all, are are a functional element of political engagement, given that it remains a very difficult task. For as D & G put it, at some point the cramped space of the minor becomes so absurd, engendering a general feeling of impossibility, that it takes on a satirical or comic quality. This, D & G argue, is exactly where minor politics begins.

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.