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Iain Mackenzie & Robert Porter “Dramatizing the Political”

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Mackenzie, Iain; Porter, Robert 2011. Dramatizing the Political: Deleuze and Guattari. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Introduction
The dramatization of struggle would seem to be intrinsic to any struggle itself. (2)

[…] to dramatize the political, in the manner of Deleuze and Guattari, is to make a work of art. The dramatization of the political, therefore, forges a methodological link between politics and aesthetics. As we will argue, dramatization expresses the intrinsically aesthetic nature of moments of politicization – those moments when the machinations of politics are deemed insufficient to meet the demand of the political – and it does so by way of constructing an aesthetic response to those moments. The proper methodological response to a significant political event, for example, is to treat it as an art-work that demands a response appropriate to its form – that is, another work of art. (3)

[…] dramatizing the political is not simply a critical method vis-à-vis other forms of political thought but a way of doing political philosophy that explicitly links it to the need to challenge the institutions and formations of everyday politics by way of an art of critical intervention – through writing, but also cinema and other image-forms, as well as the dramatic irruptions of political movements. (4)

[…] political philosophers need to start thinking like artists or, better still, along with artists, in bringing to life concepts that provoke, resonate and allow us to meaningfully access the domain of the political. (8)

[…] philosophical-political thought, or the very formulation of political concepts, implies an aesthetic moment, a drama that necessarily and inevitably plays through conceptualization as such. (9)

Deleuze and Guattari and Political Theory
[…] the method of dramatization in Deleuze and Guattari aims to determine the nature of political concepts and how we to access, know and feel the resonance of political concepts. (20)

First, and most obviously, there is a need to develop a critical sense that the medium, form or genre in which political concepts are formulated and expressed is immanently constitutive of their meaning and significance. Second, though less obviously perhaps, the drama implied by the formulation of political ideas should fundamentally impact upon our sense as political theorists of what is involved in the process of conceptualization itself. […] Put all too simply: what we may think of as the aesthetic dimensions of political thought […] are not contingent or inessential, but necessary and constitutive. (23)

Dramatization as Critical Method
[…] a critical method is one in which we come to know the world through changing it; whether or not this change will be ‘for the better’ is a question of a different order. […] [the method of dramatization] is the acquisition of knowledge about the political world through the activity of changing it. (37)

[…] if all concepts express relations (to the extent that they group elements together under the concept and they always exist in relation to other concepts) and there is no rational necessity for the relations they express, then the determination of concepts must itself be a practical activity (rather than a merely theoretical activity aimed at unearthing the essential characteristics of the related elements). (39)

[…] Deleuze treats ideas as real problems: as outside and yet productive (rather than inside and regulative) of thought. (41)

[…] the method of dramatization is firmly established as that approach to ideas whose indeterminate experience exceeds the subject, which sets them into motion through a process of intense characterization […] (42)

[…] this is the reality of concepts we use: they are always locked into a field of dynamic interactions; otherwise concepts would have no meaning or resonance for us at all and they would simply fall dead on the ground. (43)

A concept, though, is not simply that which ‘surveys’ the conceptual field (grouping certain forms of the state together, for instance); it also ‘inaugurates’ a plane of immanence (the idea that there is a world of states that can be thought about, for example). (49)

[…] the persona is the character that brings to life the relationship between thought and the non-thought that it implies. […] In dramatizing the critic, the philosopher is able to establish a territory upon which the method becomes a critical method: a means of not merely interpreting a pregiven reality but changing that reality in the name of alternative forms of knowledge. (50)

Dramatization: The Ontological Claims
[…] philosophical texts should not be read with a view to interpreting what they mean, but performed with the aim of bringing to life the forces that animate the text. (55)

[…] we will typically think of intensity in very human terms, notably as the emotional domain that traverses human interaction and identity. (55)

For Deleuze, all the relations that we experience are the result of processes of intensification. In other words, it is not simply that things exist in a series of intense relationships; it is intensification that brings things into existing relationships. (56)

What is intensification? In the context of our discussion of method, intensification is the process constitutive of the extensive diversity implied by conceptualizations. While concepts group together elements that appear the same from the perspective of some criterion of identity, the point of creating the concept is to express the intensity of the elements that it groups together by bringing them into relations with each other. (56-57)

[…] when we think of individuals (people, performances and so on, as well as crystals) we must always remember that process has primacy over product. (58)

1)    First, Deleuze argues that all relations of quantity and quality are conditioned by intensity […];
2)    Second, he argues that intensive relations are relations of ‘pure difference’ – self-differing variations within things, so to speak, rather than the differences between things whose essence we already know. […]
3)    Third, he argues that intensive difference is always subject to a principle of indetermination. […]
4)    relations of pure difference are indeterminate (they have a role in determining individuals but cannot in themselves be determined) and, as such, they are an ideal but nonetheless real component of actual – determinable – things. (60-61)

Conceptualization always expresses an idea but it does so by taking a perspective on that idea: we always bring a persona to bear within the methods we use, and if we do not recognize this then we will tend toward idealism – the collapse of concept and idea. (63)

To know the idea behind the concept, therefore, is to change the relations within and between concepts so as to express the system of pure differential relations constitutive of the non-representational idea that conditions our determination of the concept. To put it as a slogan: make an event of thought! (65)

To dramatize concepts in order to access the ideas they express, therefore, is to ‘make a difference’ by making an event of thought. (65)

Every concept already has more than one component to it. […] Equally, each of these concepts has multiple components. That said, concepts do not have infinite component parts because every concept must leave out other concepts in order to define itself. So a concept is ‘a finite multitude’, to use Deleuze and Guattari’s phrasing from What is Philosophy? (66)

The dramatization of concepts […] is the process by which one ‘recovers’ the events that conditioned their emergence. (67)

Language and the Method of Dramatization
Humour plays a role in learning, for Deleuze, precisely because it creates an important felt sense that what often passes for supposedly informed or rational instruction […] has limited sense, that it remains problematic in some way. There is therefore wisdom to be found when one embarks on ‘this adventure of humour’ (Deleuze 1990, 136). (78)

It is a pragmatics that insists, inevitably, on the importance of performance in language, or the use of language in speech action, while simultaneously retaining the idea that language is characterized by a kind of intrinsic or immanent movement that issues from the medium itself. (82-83)

Events and the Method of Dramatization
Badiou (2009, 384): “The event is always what has just happened, what will happen but never what is happening.”

This ‘bloc of sensations’ is ‘a compound of percepts and affects’ distinct from the perceptions of the perceiver and the affections of those affected. It is a ‘bloc’ of sensations, therefore, because it is not simply some thing that some one then senses; it is a structured domain of intensity in which thing and person […] are implicated. Put like this, we see no reason why the dramatic event cannot be described as a work of art. (129)

[…] the ‘bloc of sensations’ that Deleuze and Guattari’s words here evoke is what the art-worj is said to preserve in itself. The art-work stands up on its own to the extent that it remains ‘independent’ or autonomous from its creator, from its potential audience, from its material situation, and even from the medium or form in and through which it is expressed. Something happens in the art-work, something new is created, a cut in being, the structuring of a domain of intensity. (133)

Felix Guattari “The Three Ecologies”

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Guattari, Felix 2000 [1989]. The Three Ecologies. London and New Brunswick: The Athlone Press

So, wherever we turn, there is the same nagging paradox: on the one hand, the continuous development of new techno-scientific means to potentially resolve the dominant ecological issues and reinstate socially useful activities on the surface of the planet, and, on the other hand, the inability of organized social forces and constituted subjective formations to take hold of these resources in order to make them work. (31)

It is in the context of break-up and decentralization, the multiplication of antagonisms and processes of singularization, that the new ecological problematics suddenly appear. (33)

Despite having recently initiated a partial realization of the most obvious dangers that threaten the natural environment of our societies, they are generally content to simply tackle industrial pollution and then form a purely technocratic perspective, whereas only an ethico-political articulation – which I call ecosophy – between the three ecological registers (the environment, social relations and human subjectivity) would be likely to clarify these questions. (27-28)

In the final account, the ecosophic problematic is that of the production of human existence itself in new historical contexts. (34)

Rather than speak of the ’subject’, we should perhaps speak of components of subjectification, each working more or less on its own. […] Vectors of subjectification do not necessarily pass through the individual, which in reality appears to be something like a ‘terminal’ for processes that involve human groups, socio-economic ensembles, data-processing machines, etc. Therefore, interiority establishes itself at the crossroads of multiple components, each relatively autonomous in relation to the other, and, if need be, in open conflict. (36)

Discourse, or any discursive chain, thus becomes the bearer of a non-discursivity which, like a stroboscopic trace, nullifies the play of distinctive oppositions at the level of both content and form of expression. It is only through these repetitions that incorporeal Universes of reference, whose singular events punctuate the progress of individual and collective historicity, can be generated and regenerated. (38)

It is not only species that are becoming extinct but also words, phrases, and gestures of human solidarity. A stifling cloak of silence has been thrown over the emancipatory struggles of women, and of the new proletariat: the unemployed, the ‘marginalized’, immigrants. (44)

While the logic of discursive sets endeavours to completely delimit its objects, the logic of intensities, or eco-logic, is concerned only with the movement and intensity of evolutive processes. […] This process of ‘fixing-into-being’ relates only to expressive subsets that have broken out of their totalizing frame and have begun to work on their own account, overcoming their referential sets and manifesting themselves as their own existential indices, processual lines of flight. (44)

Ecological praxes strive to scout out the potential vectors of subjectification and singularization at each partial existential locus. They generally seek something that runs counter to the ‘normal’ order of things, a counter-repetition, an intensive given which invokes other intensities to form new existential configurations. (45)

Post-industrial capitalism, which I prefer to describe as Integrated World Capitalism (IWC), tends increasingly to decentre its sites of power, moving away from structures producing goods and services towards structures producing signs, syntax and – in particular, through the control which it exercises over the media, advertising, opinion polls, etc. – subjectivity. (47)

I would propose grouping together four main semiotic regimes, the mechanisms [instruments] on which IWC is founded:

1) Economic semiotics (monetary, financial, accounting and decision-making mechanisms);

2) Juridical semiotics (title deeds, legislation and regulations of all kinds);

3) Techno-scientific semiotics (plans, diagrams, programmes, studies, research, etc.);

4) Semiotics of subjectification, of which some coincide with those already mentioned, but to which we should add many others, such as those relating to architecture, town planning, public facilities, etc. (48)

IWC forms massive subjective aggregates from the most personal – one could even say infra-personal – existential givens, which it hooks up to ideas of race, nation, the professional workforce, competitive sports, a dominating masculinity, mass-media celebrity … Capitalistic subjectivity seeks to gain power by controlling and neutralizing the maximum number of existential refrains. It is intoxicated with and anaesthetized by a collective feeling of pseudo-eternity. (50)

Ecology must stop being associated with the image of a small nature-loving minority or with qualified specialists. Ecology in my sense questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations, whose sweeping progress cannot be guaranteed to continue as it has for the past decade. (52)

The principle specific to mental ecology is that its approach to existential Territories derives from a pre-objectal and pre-personal logic of the sort that Freud has described as being a ‘primary process’. (54)

It will be less a question of taking stock of these practices in terms of their scientific veracity than according to their aesthetico-existential effectiveness. What do we find? What existential scenes establish themselves there? The crucial objective is to grasp the a-signifying points of rupture – the rupture of denotation, connotation and signification – from which a certain number of semiotic chains are put to work in the service of an existential autoreferential effect. (56)

The principle specific to social ecology concerns the development of affective and pragmatic cathexis [investissement] in human groups of different sizes. (60)

In the first instance, the Self and other are constructed through a set of stock identifications and imitations, which result in primary groups that are refolded on the father, the boss, or the mass-media celebrity – this is the psychology of the pliable masses upon which the media practices. In the second instance, identificatory systems are replaced by traits of diagrammatic efficiency. […] A diagrammatic trait, as opposed to an icon, is characterized by the degree of its deterritorialization, its capacity to escape from itself in order to constitute discursive chains directly chains directly in touch with the referent. (60)

Capitalist societies […] produce […] three types of subjectivity. Firstly, a serial subjectivity corresponding to the salaried classes, secondly, to the huge mass of the ‘uninsured’ [non-garantis] and finally an elitist subjectivity corresponding to the executive sectors. (61)

An essential programmatic point for social ecology will be to encourage capitalist societies to make the transition from the mass-media era to a post-media age, in which the media will be reappropriated by a multitude of subject-groups capable of directing its resingularization. (61)

Spontaneous social ecology works towards the constitution of existential Territories that replace, more or less, the former religious and ritualized griddings of the socius. (64)

[…] the question becomes one of how to encourage the organization of individual and collective ventures, and how to direct them towards an ecology of resingularization. (65)

There is a principle specific to environmental ecology: it states that anything is possible – the worst disasters or the most flexible evolutions. Natural equilibriums will be increasingly reliant upon human intervention, and a time will come when vast programmes will need to be set up in order to regulate the relationship between oxygen, ozone and carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. We might just as well rename environmental ecology machinic ecology, because Cosmic and human praxis has only ever been a question of machines, even, dare I say it, of war machines. (66)

[…] we will only escape from the major crises of our era through the articulation of:

–          a nascent subjectivity

–          a constantly mutating socius

–          an environment in the process of being reinvented. (68)

Their [the three ecologies] different styles are produced by what I call heterogenesis, in other words, processes of continuous resingularization. Individuals must become both more united and increasingly different. (69)