Adventures in Jutland

the ethics of difference/interaction in Guattari (and Deleuze)


A long time ago (maybe in the mid-1990s) I wrote something about Guattari’s concept of interaction. I was thinking about how this might come into an ethics of interaction—simply put, what makes for better or worse interactions. So this is also about the ethics of difference in D and G. It’s pretty basic and others have discussed such things at length by now. I don’t think I ever published it. However, the short section below was based on reading his early book Molecular Revolution. I thought of it again after @thedeleuzenator raised the question of Guattari’s diagrams ‘that include redundancies of ‘”resonance” & “interaction”‘. He referenced to p180 of The Machinic Unconscious. I love Guattari’s diagrams. There no sacrificing of complexity, but they still seem to have something of a sense of humour. Anna Munster once animated one of them, a ‘diagram of group formation’.

In this early book, Guattari seems to oppose interaction to redundancy, although they can combine what they do. As below, exactly how they combine, and to what degree one prevails over the other, leads to very different political or ethical situations. Later of course, this all gets more complicated, with for example, redundancies of interaction and redundancies of resonance. For that you might try this excellent post on the Fractal Ontology blog, Guattari’s books such as The Machinic Unconscious, or if you read French Cartographies Schizoanalytiques is kind of fun (actually even if you don’t the diagrams are worth looking at). Gary Genosko is always good on these things … you could try his Felix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction.

Anyway, I’m not even sure how much of this I agree with now, but it might be helpful in a small way.

Enhancing Interaction

It would be a mistake to identify ethical interaction too readily with Deleuze-Guattarian concepts such as the nomad, the rhizome, and particularly the war machine. There is always a parallel dynamic of lines of flight and capture that must be considered. Both double becomings and deterritorialisations must attain their own sustained plan(e) of consistency, escaping from the planes of organisation of Capital and the State, to be of the most use. Guattari schematises the development of this plan(e), as it relates to interaction, in Molecular Revolution, writing that interactions “’represent the reverse of redundancies”’ (151). A redundancy, a term taken largely from linguistics, and like surplus value in economics, is something ‘left over’’ that can be used; for example, it is something that remains deterritorialised after the formation of a molar assemblage (well this is one basic explanation anyway). An example Guattari gives of a “’diagrammatic”’ redundancy is that of the “’blueprint”’ (154).

It can be seen that interaction and redundancy are both processes which could occur to the same deterritorialised and reterritorialised quanta. Interaction is a matter of connection between the fluxes of redundancies which exist in a phase of disconnection.

Guattari provides a four-fold formula whereby the nature of the interaction between interaction and redundancies can be determined according to whether interactions and redundancies are moving at negative speeds (that is, an action is relatively reterritorialising or reterritorialised) or positive speeds (that is, their actions are relatively deterritorialising or deterritorialised).

Firstly, if the speeds of both interaction and redundancy are negative this gives a ‘”“‘cold”’ stratification (for example, palaeolithic society)’” (ibid.). In “palaeolithic society” there is little sustained interaction outside of basic survival.

Secondly, interaction at negative speed and redundancy at positive speed produce ‘“lines of abolition or lines of return’”, as in the dynamics of ‘“fascism”’. Here redundancies interact as fast as they are deterritorialised, but only to be reterritorialised on the Molar formation they come from.

Thirdly, the interaction of positive speeds of interaction and negative speeds of redundancy “produces ‘lines of escape’ (as in capitalism) but with little to keep them going as redundancies are reluctant to leave the molar assemblage for long.

Lastly, the ethical highlight occurs when both speeds are positive. Here the machines really open out to the creation of a new plan(e) and there is an overwhelming of ‘“the opposition between redundancy and interaction’” (ibid.).

The creation of this plan(e) sustains the potential of ethical events. These enable the production of difference. However, once again this difference must subsequently be evaluated in terms of the new relations and possibility of relation it produces.

It is because of the complications within Deleuze and Guattari’’s understanding of difference that it is not, as it sometimes seems in some other philosophies such as Derrida’’s, or as it has been championed in institutions for years now, a simple ethical value in itself. Part of the radical nature of Deleuze and Guattari’’s understanding of differences, and of the interactions between them, is the way in which difference and interaction also form parts of many assemblages which seem reactionary. For example, deterritorialization lies at the heart of the Capitalist machine. Moreover, there are  various lines of flight that can easily lead to fascism, madness or death, none of which, unsurprisingly, is thought to be a very useful ethical formation from a Deleuze-Guattarian point of view.

They are very careful to analyse such processes. Indeed, such analyses of the relation between desire and forms of expression such as fascism, lines of flight and forms of deterritorialisation-reterritorialisation such as Capitalism are, as Foucault points out in the introduction to Anti-Oedipus, a major part of their project. They are also, to take another example, deeply suspicious of drug use as a practice in itself, whilst in favour of the kind of discoveries that can be made there. It would be preferable, ethically, for them, to ‘“succeed in getting drunk, but on pure water,…in getting high, but by abstention’” (ATP:286) in order to make these discoveries. This is because by doing so one always begins in the middle, not making the mistake that drug users make, even when quitting, of  starting ‘“over again from ground zero’” (ibid.). It is in the middle that one finds interaction, not in negation. The nomadic problem and task is that of the relay, not of building a new model from scratch (377).

This can be better understood if other ethical values are added to difference. Perhaps the primary of these for Deleuze is the constancy of expression through interaction. The problem of expression forms the basis of his interest in Leibniz and Spinoza. In the philosophies of these two Deleuze writes that expression is the operating principle behind their notions of “’God, of creatures and of knowledge’”. He sees their “anti-Cartesianism”, for example, as finding its motive in their emphasis on expression (EPS:17). It is not then, just a question of difference, but of differences that can constantly and dynamically express their own generation. ‘“Expression appears as the unity of the multiple, as the complication of the multiple, and as the explication of the One”’ (176). Production is this dynamic, changing expression of difference. This is why Deleuze and Guattari can consider homogeneous space, such as that produced by a drug, not – in the end as it may appear to be in the beginning – to be smooth but to be striated (ATP:370). It is captured and antiproductive. It does not express its intensities. So also Capitalism is especially antiproductive despite its use of deterritorialization and the war machine, because it forms assemblages (such as machinic enslavement or subjectifications) which highly regulate the possibilities of expression and alternative productions. Simply put, differences are restricted to an expression of the Capitalist machine in all its glory rather than any other potentiality. It is therefore necessary to break with such full bodies as Capital, but the danger is that such breaks finally form a “’merely specific reterritoriality, a specific body on the full body of capital’” (AO:375), such as the ex-communist States. At the same time, Capitalism is always “’escaping on all sides”’ (ibid.), and it may be an enormous task to create a plan(e) of any real consistency in the face of these lines of escape.

The ethics of differences and expression are complicated in the present time by this constantly shifting relation to the Capitalist machine, as it sets free potentialities, often only to reterritorialise them. The response to this situation is perhaps a question of maintaining the continuing expression and production of difference within, as much as outside of, Capital – a pragmatic balancing act – not just the setting up of new forms from scratch which are soon emptied by, or reterritorialised, on Capital. It should be obvious by now that, in this respect as in others, Deleuze and Guattari are far from being idealists. They are, rather, practical ‘mechanics’.

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