Three Books: Book One

First is Deleuze and the Social. I will also write posts on Clare O’Farrell’s excellent Michel Foucault and William Merrin’s Baudrillard and the Media which although polemical in sections has certainly helped my understand why I find some aspects of Baudrillard’s work more useful than other sections. O’Farrell’s book has a section on Foucault’s conception of the event and Merrin’s book is organised almost completely arround Baudrillard’s notion of the non-event. But, first, Deleuze and the Social.

I am not normally a fan of these sorts of books. However, the contributors to this edited volume have long been amongst my favourite writers and scholars who use Deleuze and Guattari’s work. I have read only a few of the essays so far.

A key essay is Maurizio Lazzarato’s “The Concept of Life and the Living in the Societies of Control.” In part he is making a similar point to that I make amidst the polemics here (see comments). He makes a distinction between life as that of ‘biology’ and that of the ‘brain’:

The machines for crystallising or modulating time are dispositifs capable of intervening in the event, in the cooperation between brains, through the modulation of the forces engaged therein, thereby becoming preconditions for every process of constitution of whatever subjectivity. Consequently this process comes to resemble a harmonisation of waves, a polyphony (to borrow Bakhtin’s expression).
It is thus necessary to distinguish life as memory from life as the set of biological characteristics of the human species (death, birth, disease, etc.). In other words, we must distinguish the ‘bio’ contained in the category of biopower from the bio contained in memory. In order not to name such different things with the same word, one could define the new relations of power which take memory and its conatus (attention) as their object, lacking a better term, as noo-politics.(5) Noo-politics (the ensemble of the techniques of control) is exercised on the brain. It involves above all attention, and is aimed at the control of memory and its virtual power. The modulation of memory would thus be the most important function of noo-politics.

The Cartesianism of this is problematic. I am not sure how Lazzarato is defining the brain. Does he include all of the nervous system? Or anything that can make selections/calculations from memory? However, for the footnote (5) he writes:

5. To understand this neologism, we not only need to know that in Aristotle noos (or noos) means the highest part of the soul, the intellect, but also that it is the name of an Internet service provider.

Now I have been concerned with this exact problem of the capturing of attention. As long time readers of my blogs would know I have thought about it through the work of Beller on cinema and more fully here. Or the most successful, albeit very early, attempt here. Secondly, the work of Gomart and Hennion have a theory of the event and dispositif that I discuss exactly in the same way that Lazzarato discusses “the machines modulating time [as] dispositifs capable of intervening in the event.” They interupt/constitute the field of potential and the passage of actualisation. Third, Lazzarato’s neologism of ‘noo-politics’ is useful for making a similar distinction that I make in the biopolitics post but without the polemic directed at a focus on biology.

Next essay of note is DeLanda’s “Deleuzian Social Theory and Assemblage Theory”. He addresses what I have called the ‘problem of scale’ in Deleuze’s thought. Except DeLanda ignores the most problematic texts (The Logic of Sense and The Fold) and focuses on the relatively easy text (A Thousand Plateaus). Basically he forgets about the ‘event’ and the transversal linkages of causality between the singularities of events, and for that matter also condenses Deleuze’s three-part definition of singularity (as per The Fold). The transversal (or ‘rhizomatic’) linkages between singularities is my answer to the ‘problem of scale’. The problem of scale is not only of different levels of social reality but of the nascent ideality of The Logic of Sense through to the materiality of Whitehead’s theory of events that Deleuze uses in The Fold. A Thousand Plateaus literally passes in between both conceptually and in terms of date of publication. DeLanda probably has no use for poetics.

I’ll add to this later.