Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Learning to Speak/Write D&G

I just read, quite fast actually, the last two "chapters" of Thousand Plateaus, which are short and almost summarizing. By going backwards, we will encounter terms that will mean little until they are repeated (becoming a 'refrain') in the previous sections. All of the "buzzwords" are there: Abstract machine, plane of consistency, (de)territorialization, smooth and striated space, assemblage, war machine, nomad, line of flight, etc. And some "new" ones that I feel may be essential to D&G's point, particularly their distinction between form/substance (which they claim are not really different) and content and expression. These are the two terms that I want to focus on, not necessarily in this post, but in subsequent posts: how are these distinctions an attempt to get away from the traditional philosophical distinction between form/substance? 

In this first post, I can but note a general feeling or mood, a kind of "orientation" that the text gives me. In the "Smooth and Striated," D&G offer multiple "models," distinguished by their topic: Smooth and striated spaces cut across many different areas of study: physics, mathematics, music, "maritime," etc. D&G, perhaps the thinkers of "mulitiplicites" write and mark multiple distinctions that, they claim, are necessary to "define" in order to then think about their intertwining, their connection to one another. So, "smooth" space is compared to the space of felt rather than weaving (a distinction that is interesting given my own focus on texts, texere -- to weave). They are careful to point out, however, that "smooth" does not imply homogeneous, on the contrary: "it is an amorphous, non formal space" (477). Smooth space is the space of intensities, of affect, of haptic perception rather than optic. Smooth space is a space of becoming, a space of deterritorialization. 

It is clear that smooth space is D&G's name for a kind of space of potential; although they purport that they are not making value judgments and that, indeed, the "minor science" they associated with smooth space must be "translated" into major and that "major science" yields new insights for the minor. Indeed, for every moment of becoming or deterritorialization, there is a risk of re-territorialization. Smooth space, for instance, can be associated, its seems, with a certain de-localized capitalism, but the potential that capitalism may open up is always swallowed up in further re-territorializations. Thinking in terms of the metaphor of the "machine" the "war machine" does not necessarily have as its object "war," -- that is, war machines contain an ambiguous potential for becoming, but when it is adopted by the "State apparatus," it becomes used for war. 

"Of course, smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory. But the struggle is changed or deplaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries. Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us" (500). 



One of the most potent metaphorical formulations I found in these last chapters has to do with a characterization of nomad existence in terms of voyage: "Voyage in place: that is the name of all intensities, even if they also develop in extension. To think is to voyage [. . .] Voyaging smoothly is a becoming, and a difficult, uncertain becoming at that" (482). 

What can it mean to voyage in place? Furthermore, why characterize nomad existence as a voyaging in place -- is not an empirical fact that nomadic implies wandering, moving from place-to-place?

To voyage in place is like a line of flight as a line of force, a pushing a drawing out towards. It is, to use Heideggerian language, an "on the way" to thinking. But D&G seem to distance themselves from this Heideggerian language of destination and sending because, indeed, that does imply movement. But intensity is not a movement as a journey -- it is a voyage in place. Is it a holding together of heterogeneous elements on a plane of consistency? 

1 comment:

  1. It will be interesting to hear more of your thoughts on the form/substance and content and expression. As you already know, I’m confused how content and expression are distinct, and I agree that D&G are attempting to reconfigure Western philosophical terms; hence why I think this text has been used so often in cultural studies. This also reminds me of something that I didn’t mention on my blog in my reply to your comment: in order for D&G to reorient Western terms and knowledge, they have to operate within Western discourse. Similarly, in terms of reterritorializing, smooth spaces and deterritorializing has to function within the system that desires and tries to reterritorialize such strata. Yes, capitalism will definitely attempt to consume any de-localized capitalist spaces as the system will constantly revolutionize itself. Capitalism’s biggest enemy is capitalism itself, thus the reason why it always implodes. But I think the difficulty that smooth spaces have is how to function and resist a reterritorialzation because of the susceptibility to repeat or reinforce the system.

    Although I hadn’t blogged about it, I had also enjoyed the writings on “voyage/voyaging.” I hadn’t considered how the “voyage in place” works to create and sustain heterogeneity on the plane of consistency. I also wonder how does this happen, because D&G explicitly say that “the two kinds of voyages is neither a measurable quantity of movement, nor something that would be only in the mind, but the mode of spatialization, the manner of being in space, of being for space” (482). I keep thinking that the voyages are paradigm shifts, but D&G suggest that the voyage is something more. They give some brief examples ― Henry Miller, the beatniks ― that illuminate such voyages. With Miller, he “blurred” the distinction between real life and fiction, so I imagine voyaging is navigating in the between of spaces. Not here and not there, yet both/and. In doing so, homogeneity cannot assert itself. I wonder if voyaging also refers to something that is not the subject; rather, a text that a subject produces (although the texts subjects produce ultimately produce the subject). Thus, one needn’t be physically moving to voyage; rather, the text that one produced voyages or is the voyage. As a multiplicity of subjects and/or texts circulate, a heterogeneous plane forms . . . and this is what capitalism does not want (yet also wants because the plane offers potential for exploitation?).