Saturday, August 29, 2009

Michael Hardt, Day 2 (2/2)

Hardt taught a class entitled "POLITICAL ACTIVISM: MULTIPLICITY & EMPIRE" where we read through three texts: Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus (both written by Deleuze & Guattari), and Empire (written by Hardt and Antonio Negri).

A great way to supplement my notes is to use the notes he has posted on his site at Duke University.

This was a particularly informative class and so I've had to divide the notes into two postings; I do this only because I want to post notes once a day until I've posted all the notes and day 2 took me a long time to type.

Part 1 of Day 2 can be found here.

Antimimesis (Becomings)
"One of the main problems of natural history was to conceptualize the relationships between animals." In this section D&G discuss their beef with analogy. As we may have noticed earlier in these notes, D&G are against representation and in this section we get an expanded argument from them outlining their call against representation.

If I understand correctly, their problem with representation is that representation requires an original, something that has a fixed identity; to accept the notion of an original that can be re-presented is to accept also that what first appeared has not changed. Once we begin accepting representation as a mode of understanding the world it seems a short step then accept fascist representation?
So here we have a rejection of relations among animals as their function in a structure:
(ATP, 233-4) [Natural history] is very different in this respect from later evolutionism, which defined itself in terms of genealogy....[a]s we know, evolutionism would arrive at the idea an evolution that does not necessarily operate by filiation. But it was unavoidable that it begin with the genealogical motif. ...[B]ecause natural history is concerned primarily with the sum and value of differences, it can conceive of progressions and regressions, continuities and major breaks, but not an evolution in the strict sense, in other words, the possibility of a descent the degrees of modification of which depend on external conditions. Natural history can only think in terms of relationships (between A and B), not in terms of production (from A to x).
The ability for change to occur within a subject is not possible within the natural history paradigm because relationships understood in this way are based upon an externalized, transcendental Ideal-type such that A resembles B, B resembles C, etc. D&G call these comparisons series: "In the case of a series, I say a resembles b, b resembles c, etc.; all these terms conform in varying degrees to a single, eminent term, perfection, or quality as the principle behind the series." (ATP, 234)

D&G then point out the two forms of analogy that are employed, between popular analogy, "gills are to breathing under water as lungs are to breathing air;" and royal analogy, "...the heart is to gills as the absence of a heart is to tracheas [in insects]..." (ATP, 234)
  • The first example requires imagination, they say, "one has to take branchings in the series into account, fill in the apparent ruptures, ward off false resemblances and graduate true ones...." (ATP, 234)
  • "The second form of analogy is considered royal because it requires instead all the resources of understanding (entendement), in order to define equivalent relations by discovering, on the one hand, the independent variables that can be combined to form a structure and, on the other hand, the correlates that entail one another within each structure." (ATP, 234)
  • With both cases Nature is conceived as mimesis. If I understand correctly, it's not that mimicry as such is always a negative, rather, D&G are arguing against the objectivity of this mimetic quality that has transcended from the medieval theological notions of the Great Chain of Being to Jung and Levi-Strauss' arguments for a structural understanding of the symbol (they point to Levi-Strauss' work on totems, pg. 236)
If not mimesis, then?
  • the painted bird (it is not like something) doesn't represent a bird, it is a bird in the same way that a bird is a bird-becoming, just as this painting is a line-becoming-a-bird.
  • So, this is a leveling-out where there is not a hierarchy between original and copy
The question becomes: to what extent will this attack on representation in art also apply to an attack on political representation (such that representation keeps us from democratic functioning)?

All this talk about becomings has me thinking about Whitehead's Process Philosophy; Hardt tells us that Deleuze is a big fan of Whitehead.

The challenge of constitution or composition distinguishes ATP form AO

Chapters 12 and 13 were originally published as a treatise on nomadology.

What do Deleuze and Guattari mean by the State and War Machine?
"War is politics by another means," Clausewitz
D&G (as well as Foucault) invert the above statement, "Politics is war by another means."
  • Each state is a redundancy among the stratification
  • The overcoding of the despot is the resonance among the segmentations
    (NOTE: we were given three handouts which somewhat help to situate this talk about overcoding the despot; it also facilitates understanding the three syntheses. I will try to find a copy online as I vaguely recall seeing this a year ago)

War Machine
  • The primary figure of the war machine is the nomad; it is characterized by smooth space, whereas despotic machines are characterized by striated space.
  • What do we mean by smooth? They reference the desert and the steppe:
    (ATP, 384) Smooth or nomad space lies between two striated spaces: that of the forest, with its gravitational verticals, and that of agriculture, with its grids and generalized parallels, its now independent arborescence, its art of extracting the tree and wood from the forest. But being "between" also means that smooth space is controlled by these two flanks, which limit it, oppose its development, and assign it as much as possible a communicational role; or, on the contrary, it means that it turns against them, gnawing away at the forest on one side, on the other side gaining ground on the cultivated lands, affirming a noncommunicating role force or a force of divergence like a "wedge" digging in. The nomads turn first against the forest and the mountain dwellers, then descend upon the farmers.

  • War is not the object of the war machine, it is the result of the encounter between nomad and State:
    (ATP, 416-7) [A]sking if war is the object of the war machine. ...[W]e have seen that the war machine was the invention of the nomad, because it is in its essence the constitutive element of smooth space, the occupation of this space, displacement within this space, and corresponding composition of people: this is its sole and veritable positive objects (nomos). Make the desert, the steppe, grow; do not depopulate it, quite the contrary. If war necessarily results, it is because the war machine collides with States and cities, as forces (of striation) opposing its positive object: from then on, the war machine has as its enemy the State, the city, the state and urban phenomenon, and adopts as its objective their annihilation. It is at this point that the war machine becomes war: annihilate the forces of the State, destroy the State-form.

  • The State must always seek to stop the nomad:
    (ATP, 385-6) One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns, or to utilize smooth spaces as a means of communication in the service of striated space. It is a vital concern of every State not only to vanquish nomadism but to control migrations and, more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire "exterior," over all of the flows traversing the ecumenon. If it can help it, the State does not dissociate itself from the nomads.

  • State is not against migration, they are all about regulating it.
The first half of chapter 12 insists on the differences between State and war machine
The second half of chapter 12 distinguishes the relationship between State and nomad

Proposition XIV
Here we have the means by which the war machine is appropriated by the State.
  • States today are organized by a world order,
  • There is no global State that rules the war machine
  • Rather, there is a smooth global empire:
    (ATP, 461) It is an absurdity to postulate a world supergovernment that makes the final decisions. No one is even capable of predicting the growth in the money supply. Similarly, the States are affected by all kinds of coefficients of uncertainty and unpredictability. ...But that is just one more reason to make a connection between politics and axiomatics. For in science an axiomatic is not at all transcendent, autonomous, and decision-making power opposed to experimentation and intuition.

  • The enemy is not another State, but the Whichever Enemy (l'enemie quelle qu'ont)
This is an anticipatory text which sees that borders are lessening, there is a smoothing of the world order:
globalization = smoothing | states = striation
  • Previously the State deployed the war machine but now the war machine deploys the State: a violence that is coded as peace
  • The war machine needs an enemy but there is no fixity of the enemy, thus: Osama, Saddam, Noriega, etc. They are simply place holders.


  1. Paul, something I´m not understanding, do you know what, for them, is the difference between war and the "war machine"?

    also, do you know if their division of space into smooth and striated is a general division of all space or just war-related space?


  2. It's a good question. I think that war machine "is" war. Their ontology of machininc assemblage suggests to me that Paul Boshears is currently a typing-machine, or a responding-machine, and a notes-sharing-machine, a dog walking-machine, (&... &... &...) so the actions of war are the actions of the war machine. The war machine is the natural result of the interactions between the State and the nomad. The State, characterized by striated spaces, will encounter the nomad (characterized by smooth space), and the war machine is the result.

    So, "politics is war by another means," (as D&G stated) might help us to understand what is happening with the advance of global capital (which is defined by smooth space). It's not an either/or but can be a statement of &... &... &...

  3. thanks. de Certeau makes a similar division in space but it´s more about the everyday spatial web of control and resistance: strategy space (of authority, circumscribed, fixed, cathedrals, palaces...) and tactical space (of the little guys, elusive, transitory, like the path one takes when one is wandering, not on the map....). this is one of the few theories i understand, so if in the future you have any questions or thoughts about de Certeau, let me know!