Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed. Claire Colebrook.
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Gilles Deleuze is undoubtedly one of the seminal figures in modern Continental thought. The challenge of improvisation, in such circumstances, is to maximize the degrees of difference in repetition, to maximize the absolute de-territorialization of a song, while nevertheless maintaining its consistency as a piece of music.
While they acknowledge the advantages of habit and the importance of institutions, both of which constrain the degree of difference in repetition, their ideal is to maximize difference and to experiment with variation, to leave the comfort-zone of home on the thread of a tune, as they put it, , in order to improvise with the world, as we will see.
In the world Kafka depicts, every room is connected to innumerable other rooms, by means of doors and passageways, some of them hidden or subterranean. Any room, it seems, can connect with any other, depending on circumstances. Particularly in the novels, the arrangement of space in Kafka is like a cross between a bureaucratic organizational chart showing lines of power or desire and a blueprint or roadmap showing the actual fictional locations of buildings and offices within them; more an organizational chart, though, the connecting lines can change at any time, for unknown reasons, as relations of power and desire themselves change.
A Thousand Plateaus, too, should be understood as a spatial multiplicity, with innumerable passageways connecting various concepts examples beneath the unavoidably linear arrangement of words forming sentences, sentences forming paragraphs, and so forth. In this respect, the book could re-submerge and then reappear elsewhere.
A musical score, however, bears too great a resemblance to a piece of fabric to serve as an adequate image of thought for this book: like fabric, a musical score, too, is bounded on the top and bottom edges, so to speak, by the number of instruments in the orchestra, and it unfolds in only one direction from left to right. So I prefer to think of the book along the lines of a chord chart, of the kind jazz musicians use to improvise by. Any single reading of the entire book, however—provided that the whole book does indeed get read, as is the intention here—will arguably produce something of a linear reading, in much the same way that improvising from a chord chart will on any single occasion produce one linear performance of it among many possible performances.
But then the question becomes: is this true only of our experience of the past? In other words, how do you get from phenomenology or how things appear to ontology and how things actually are? To be sure, past events co-exist in memory—we can scan the past and access this event or jump to that event, without having to replay the entire succession of moments between them. Therefore— and this is crucial—the determination of every actual being by the virtual past in its entirety remains contingent for Deleuze: it only has determinacy when read retroactively; it could always have happened otherwise.
That is why a process like evolution can only be studied retroactively, and why repeating evolution one hundred times could produce up to one hundred different results.
On the basis of this understanding of the past as the virtual repository of multiple potentials and the present as one actualization of such potentials among many, the third synthesis of time, the future, appears as the unforeseeable selection, from among the inexhaustible set of virtual conditions, of one sub-set of conditions that will become relevant through subsequent actualization.
Not only is the present only one actualization among many, but its relation to the past is not exhausted or determined in its actualization alone: its relation to the past will have been determined by future actualizations, each of which successively alters the relations between that present and its relevant pasts. This synthesis can be considered a pragmatics of the future because, to invoke a key term from Anti-Oedipus, desire is a force that scans the past from the perspective of the present in search of possible combinations to actualize.
And philosophy, as I have said, is an explicit mode of such a pragmatics: it scans the virtual realm from within a problematic actual state of affairs in order to map its potential to become otherwise, in order to re-submerge inert islands of apparent being in the oceanic flux of becomings with a view to actualizing something else, something different, something better. In this way, a new, non-linear conception of time ends up suggesting a quite novel role for philosophy, compared with older, more conventional views of linear time.
The idea that order could increase rather than decrease over time may seem to contradict the second law of thermodynamics — the law of entropy — but this law presupposes that the universe forms a closed system; it does not apply in an open system with positive net inputs of energy. As a first approximation—but only an approximation—we can think of these mega-strata as corresponding to matter, Life, and culture respectively.
And as I have already suggested, many of what may appear to be distinctly human Solutions to the Intra-Species Social Organization Problem have approximate equivalents in other life forms. But there is another distinctive feature of the way humans address the Problem of survival compared to the ways other animals and plants do: humans actively produce their means of life in ways that few other animals do, in a historical variety of what Marxists call modes of production.
Significantly, these Solutions all revolve around the management of debt; whereas Marx considered production to be primary, Deleuze 8c Guattari draw here on Nietzsche more than Marx, and instead consider debt to be the primary organizing element in any social formation.
So how does society manage the Problems posed by economics?
By organizing systems of debt relations that drive production and exchange: a patchwork of finite and temporary debts in the case savagery; an infinite and one-way debt owed to the despot, head priest or king in barbarism; an equally infinite debt owed to capital in capitalism.
The point here is to develop an image of thought best suited to mapping being in terms of becoming, and the actual in terms of the virtual.
How can we understand being in terms of becoming, in terms of difference rather than identity, as a function of the dynamics of open systems? And most importantly, what is the payoff of understanding the world this way?
How does it improve our prospects for social change? It is the Geology of Morals plateau along with the Refrain plateau that address this Problem most directly and comprehensively—the first mostly for the inorganic stratum, and the second mostly for the alloplastic stratum. Along with the plateau on Nomadology, the Micropolitics and Segmentarity plateau addresses this Problem most directly, although many other plateaus do so in less obvious ways.
Every philosophy has a specific orientation that distinguishes it from other philosophies, by selecting the Problem s it will address, constructing its manner of addressing them, and determining what kind s of Solution s to propose, if any.
And that image of thought will select what tendency or tendencies its concepts extract from the outside under consideration. But tendency- selection nonetheless remains more of an art than a science—one have a nose for it, as Nietzsche might say. In order to pursue double-becomings with the world, or to think with it, as I have said, a rhizome-book must be cartographic rather than photographic—and this is a fifth feature of the rhizome: mapping is distinct from—and preferable to—tracing.
Tracing merely reproduces its object fixed in representation; mapping indicates its tendencies and potential for change. And they are expressly critical of genetic and structural models of tracing, which predominate in psychoanalysis and linguistics.