Notes to Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: Rhizome, Chapter 1

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A Thousand Plateaus / assemblages / BwO / Deleuze / deterritorialization / guattari / interbeing / multiplicity / Nomadology / rhizome / Schizoanalysis / tracing


D+G have reached the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I [This, of course, is preceded by similar assertions about the schizophrenic in Anti-Oedipus]. (3).
A book is an assemblage and a multiplicity:
One side of a machinic assemblage faces the state, which doubtless makes it a kind of organism, or signifying totality, or determination attributable to a subject; it also has a side facing a body without organs, which is continually dismantling the organism, causing asignifying particles or pure intensities to pass or circulate, and attributing to itself subjects that it leaves with nothing more than a name as the trace of an intensity. What is the body without organs of a book? …We will ask what it functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities, in which other multiplicities its own are inserted and metamorphosed, and with what bodies without organs it makes its own converge…Literature is an assemblage. It has nothing to do with ideology. There is no ideology and never has been (4).
This assertion resonates with what D+G write of earlier in Anti-Oedipus pg. 104—they will write there: “It is not an ideological problem…unconscious investments are made according to positions of desire and uses of synthesis, very different from the interests of the subject, individual or collective, who desires’ (104).
D+G insists upon ‘Stratometers, deleometers, BwO units of convergence. Not only do these constitute a quantification of writing, but they define writing as always the measure of something else. Writing has nothing to do with signifying. It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come (4-5).

D+G write:
Root-book as image of the world—this is the classical book—the law of the book is the law of reflection, the One that becomes two—One becomes two: whenever we encounter this formula, even stated strategically by Mao or understood in the most ‘dialectical’ way possible, what we have before us is the most classical and well reflected, oldest, and weariest kind of thought. Nature doesn’t work that way: in nature, roots and taproots with a more multiple, lateral, and circular system of ramification, rather than a dichotomous one. Thought lags behind nature (5).
D+G assert that the root-tree system of thought has never reached an understanding of multiplicity (5). The binary logic of dichotomy has simply been replaced by biunivocal relationships between successive circles (5).
Opposed to the root-book, there is the radicle-system, or fascicular root as the second figure of the book (5).
The folding of one text onto another implies a supplementary dimension—this is why the fragmented work can be considered the Magnum Opus [think Nietzsche’s Will to Power and its confused reception as his final, systematic work] (6).
Radicle-chaosmos vs. root-cosmos:
The multiple must be made, not by always adding a higher dimension, but rather in the simplest of ways, by dint of sobriety, with the number of dimensions one already has available—always n – 1 (the only way the one belongs to the multiple: always subtracted) (6).
[I find it utterly fascinating that D+G were already asserting the subtraction of the one AND arguing against a facile Maoism in 1980—8 years before Badiou would write Being and Event—no wonder that Badiou refuses to deal with D+G!]
1 and 2. D+G stress principle of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be:

Not every trait in a rhizome is necessarily linked to a linguistic feature: semiotic chains of every nature are connected to very diverse modes of coding (biological, political, economic, etc.) that bring into play not only different regimes of signs but also states of things of differing status. Collective assemblages of enunciation function directly within machinic assemblages; it is not impossible to make a radical break between regimes of signs and their objects. Even when linguistics claims to confine itself to what is explicit and to make no presuppositions about language, it is still in the sphere of a discourse implying particular modes of assemblage and types of social power. Chomsky’s grammaticality, the categorical S symbol that dominates every sentence, is more fundamentally a marker of power than a syntactic marker: you will construct grammatically correct sentences, you will divide each statement into a noun phrase and a verb phrase (first dichotomy…). Out criticism of these linguistic models is not that they are too abstract but, on the contrary, that they are not abstract enough, that they do not reach the abstract machine that connects a language to the semantic and pragmatic contents of statements, to collective assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micropolitics of the social field…There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a homogeneous linguistic community. Language is, in Weinreich’s words, ‘an essentially heterogeneous reality.’ There is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language within a political multiplicity…A method of the rhizome type, on the contrary, can analyze language only by decentering it onto other dimensioins and other registers. A language is never closed upon itself, except as a function of impotence (7-8).
[To start with, this passage reminds me of D+G’s insistence on understanding communication at the level of order-words. Habermas’s dream of an ideal language-situation (one in which rhetoric is precluded on the basis that mutual consensus cannot allow for any sort of external persuasion to prevail (counterthought—Gorgias, who promotes the view that language causes an internal persuasive relation—i.e. language composed of order-words makes others want to do what we want them to, without this being explicit in any way—in fact, this is the place where order-words take on an extremely (post-)Marxist hue in the sense that order-words operate on the level of socio-symbolic interpellation. Althusser’s concept of interpellation as the situation of a subject within a discourse and institutional network also has the second significance as a hailing of the subject. Order-words elicit our response, calling us to create collective assemblages of enunciation. On the other hand, order-words call us to respond, but what forces our enunciation into grammatically authenticated sentences? What is it that makes us respond in this way. Deleuze’s later text “He Stuttered” forces us to see elipses, haults, breaks, gaps and all sorts of abnormal speech phenomena as fundamental to the formation of new ways of speaking—here we have a clue for the formation of new subject languages that have real revolutionary potential. Considering the psychoactive effects of mushrooms, we come to see that there are fractal relations with words and phrases, flows of language that dismantle the grammatical structure that so efficiently communicates a rational thought. But rational thoughts merely filter the truly primary thresholds of intensity that create impulsive thoughts and broken speech acts that, in some way, hold more significance because of their fragmentary nature. The way in which words escape our grasp and are enunciated in the psychedelic process has everything to do with the intensive impulses-to-thought that form spirals of language-inductors that fundamentally converge with intensive concentric coruscations-of-the-body].
3. Principle of multiplicity: the multiple must be treated as a substantive in order to unlink it from the One as subject or object:
A multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number without the multiplicity in nature (the laws of combination therefore increase in number as the multiplicity grows…An assemblage is precisely this increase in the dimensions of a multiplicity that necessarily changes in nature as it expands its connections…We do not have units of measure, only multiplicities or varieties of measurement. The notion of unity appears only when there is a power takeover in the multiplicity by the signifier or a corresponding subjectification proceeding: This is the case for a pivot-unity forming the basis for a biunivocal relationships between objective elements or points, or for the One that divides following the law of a binary logic of differentiation in the subject. Unity always operates in an empty dimension supplementary to that of the system considered (overcoding) (8).
All multiplicities are flat since they fill or occupy all of their dimensions: thus D+G speak of a plane of consistency even though the dimensions of this plane increase with the number of connections that are made on it—the plane of consistency is the outside of all multiplicities:
The war machine-book against the State apparatus-book. Flat multiplicities of n dimensions are asignifying and asubjective. They are designated by indefinite articles, or rather by partitives (some couchgrass, some of a rhizome…) (9).
4. Principle of asignifying rupture—this is asserted against an oversignifying break—wasp and orchid forming a rhizome of heterogeneous elements:
At the same time, something else entirely is going on: not imitation at all but a capture of code, surplus value of code, an increase in valence, a veritable becoming, a becoming-wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of the wasp…the two becomings interlink and form relays in a circulation of intensities pushing deterritorialization ever further…the aparallel evolution of two beings that have absolutely nothing to do with each other (10).
5 and 6. Principle of cartography and decalcomania:
In linguistics as in psychoanalysis, its object is an unconscious that is itself representative, crystallized into codified complexes, laid out along a genetic axis and distributed within a syntagmatic structure. Its goal is to describe a de facto state, to maintain balance in intersubjective relations, or to explore an unconscious that is already there from the start, lurking in the dark recesses of memory and language. It consists of tracing, on the basis of an overcoding structure or supporting axis, something that comes ready-made. The tree articulates and hierarchizes tracings; tracings are like the leaves of a tree…The rhizome is altogether difference, a map and not a tracing…What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious…A map has multiple entryways, as opposed to the
tracing, which always comes back ‘to the same’ (12).
Here D+G oppose the map to the tracing—hating to repeat myself, this sounds again like Deleuze’s analysis of the circle qua circle—thinking the map in terms of differential coordinates.
However, the tracing should always be put back on the map—for the tracing does not reproduce the map, it translates it into an image and transforms the rhizome into roots and radicles:
It has organized, stabilized, neutralized the multiplicities according to the axes of significance and subjectification belonging to it. It has generated, structuralized the rhizome, and when it thinks it is reproducing something else it is in fact only reproducing itself. That is why the tracing is so dangerous. It injects redundancies and propagates them (13).
I hear Debord in these lines again—what else is the Spectacle but the tracings that reproduce themselves into a stultifying grid that forces desire into straitjackets—back to Debord later.
Melanie Klein and Freud breaking the rhizome or projecting the map back onto the family photo:
In the case of the child, gestural, mimetic, ludic, and other semiotic systems regain their freedom and extricate themselves from the ‘tracing,’ that is, from the dominant competence of the teacher’s language—a microscopic event upsets the local balance of power. Similarly, generative trees constructed according to Chomsky’s syntagmatic model can open up in all directions, and in turn form a rhizome (14-15).
Extending their thoughts on the trees and roots to the brain:
Thought is not arborescent, and the brain is not a rooted or ramified matter. What are wrongly called ‘dendrites’ do not assure the connection of neurons in a continuous fabric. The discontinuity between cells, the role of the axons, the functioning of the synapses, the existence of synaptic microfissures, the leap each message makes across these fissures, make the brain a multiplicity immersed in its plane of consistency or neuroglia, a whole uncertain, probabilistic system (‘the uncertain nervous system’) (15).
The difference between short-term and long-term memory is not merely quantitative—short term memory works under conditions of discontinuity, rupture, and multiplicity, and long-term memory tends to be arborescent and centralized (imprint, engram, tracing, or photograph) (16).
Again, to stress their point against the arborescent:
Even if the links themselves proliferate, as in the radicle system, one can never get beyond the One-Two, and fake multiplicities. Regenerations, reproductions, returns, hydras, and medusas do not get us any further. Arborescent systems are hierarchical systems with centers of significance and subjectification, central automata like organized memories…The channels of transmission are preestablished: the arborscent system preexists the individual, who is integrated into it at an allotted place (16).
Schizoanalysis treats acentered systems—transduction of intensive states replaces topology—the rhizome is the production of the unconscious, inducing new statements and different desires (17-18).
The God who sows and reaps as opposed to the God who replants and unearths (replanting of offshoots versus sowing of seeds) (18).
Henry Miller: grass as what grows between things—successive lateral offshoots in immediate connection with an outside (19).
No universal capitalism—capitalism at a crossroads of all kinds of formation—always a neocapitalism that invents an eastern and western face, reshaping them for the worst (20).
Root-tree as transcendent model and tracing—canal-rhizome as immanent process that overturns the model and outlines a map [Here the emphasis is on an overturning of the regime of the model and the copy, one of Deleuze’s lasting oppositions to Plato—or a radical reinvention of Plato—affirmation of pure simulacra as the decisive overturning of the model/copy].
Rhizome brings into play different regimes of signs and even nonsign states—it is not derived from the One, but instead is subtracted—constitutes linear multiplicities with n dimensions (21).
Rhizome is not the object of reproduction—it is an antigenealogy—rhizome as short-term memory or antimemory—rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots:
The rhizome is an acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory of central automaton, defined solely by a circulation of states What is at question in the rhizome is a relation to sexuality—but also to the animal, the vegetal, the world, politics, the book, things natural and artificial—that is totally different from the arborescent relation: all manner of ‘becomings’ (21).
A rhizome is made of plateaus—Gregory Bateson defines a plateau as: “a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids an orientation toward a culmination point or external end”—D+G will expand on the concept of a plateau:
any multiplicity connected to other multiplicities by superficial underground stems in such a way as to form or extend a rhizome…An assemblage, in its multiplicity, necessarily acts on semiotics flows, material flows, and social flows simultaneously…There is no longer a tripartite division between a field of reality (the world) and a field of representation (the book) and a field of subjectivity (the author) (22-23).
What need to be developed are a perceptual semiotics and a Nomadology (23).
Cultural book and anticultural book—mathematics as a monster slang (24).
Short-term ideas and the interbeing of the rhizome:
American literature, and already English literature, manifest this rhizomatic direction to an even greater extent; they know how to move between things, establish a logic of the AND, overthrow ontology, do away with foundations, nullify endings and beginnings. They know how to practice pragmatics (25).

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  1. “…A rhizome is made of plateaus—Gregory Bateson defines a plateau as: “a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids an orientation toward a culmination point or external end”…”

    But is not a rhizome flat, without depth and devoid of any kind of layering? Perhaps another way to ‘see’ a rhizome is to think in terms of instant-intensities of forces. No layering…no depth…flat and turbulent!

    I must also add…thanks for all the resources…especially the ones on Laruelle…particularly, I want to thank you (and your collaborators) for making the Dictionary available so freely.


  2. Pingback: Ephémère et pérenne « Sédiments

  3. Pingback: Hyperlink fractology « rhizomeworld

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