The world is not an aggregate of objects

So I’ve been reading Brian Massumi’s new book Semblance and Event. Here are some notes on the “Introduction: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts” followed by an edited comment of mine (after the large block quote) I left on Levi Bryant’s blog in response to a post about whether or not atractors do anything. I think Levi’s interpretation of ‘attractors’ (via Delanda) will be very useful staking out the differences between object-oriented ontologies and event-oriented ontologies. I am definitely in the EOO camp as the title of my blog suggests.

Massumi begins with a discussion of the event as ‘bare activity’. ‘Bare activity’ refers to a minimalist ontological account of activity as event (“the just-beginning-to-stir of the event coming into its newness out of the soon to be prior background activity it will have left creatively behind”).

Then explores the event in the opening section in terms of (list numbers are arbritrary):
1) self-creation of novelty (Whitehead)
2) channeling of general activity to special activity (Whitehead)
3) the emergence of a purity (James) or “pure feeling” (Whitehead)
4) the doubling of the event into co-occurent relational and qualitative dimensions.

(Note: Interesting that Massumi is offering a process philosophy reading of Deleuze’s work; compare with Badiou’s reading that emphasises the “synthesis of past and future,” in Deleuze’s definition of the event as “always that which has just happened and that which is about to happen, but never that which is happening.” It is important to note that “that which is happening” does not necessarily correlate with “activity” as such. I have always struggled to understand what Deleuze meant by this, particularly his discussion of Aion in TLoS. It makes sense that we never experience the infinitive as such, otherwise it would be an experiential variation of infinite regress. Why do we need an infinitive, then?)

Disjunctive relations (a “separative transition across a threshold of becoming”) and conjunctive relations (“how the before and after of a threshold passed mutually include each other in the same event, as ‘pulses’ of the same change”) are both always present.

(Note: From a Spinozist position it is interesting that Massumi refers to James’s description of conjunctive relations as “a “tendency” or “striving” that continues across threshold over marked by resistances and obstacles.” For Spinoza, the capacity of the connatus to strive was amplified or diminished by active and passive affections.)

(Note: So ‘conjunctive relations’ will need to be further unpacked if it is defined in terms of the way ‘the before and after of a threshold’ mutually include each other in the same event, thus address my confusion earlier in Massumi’s introduction regarding ‘bare activity’ and Deleuze’s distinction between what has just happened/about to happen with what is happening.)

The ‘onward phasing’ of the event is modulated by the ‘ingression’ of ‘bare active relation’. (Note: Use of ‘ingression’ is curious here as it was used by Whitehead to describe how eternal objects ‘ingressed’ in actual occassions. So is a ‘bare active relation’ simular in some ways to ‘eternal objects’? I’ve always understood Whitehead’s ‘eternal objects’ as similar in effect (as effect) to singularities as described by Deleuze. See discussion in The Fold, for example.)

Massumi positions ‘activist philosophy’ as distinct from object-based philosophies.

Activist philosophys emphasis on the occurrent makes it a fundamentally nonobject philosophy. Deleuze enters the fold of activist philosophy when he says that “the event of alteration” is “one with the essence or the substance of a thing” (Deleuze 1988b, 32). This is another way of saying there is no essence or substance to things other than the novelty of their occurrence. “I have, it’s true, spet a lot of time writing about this notion of event: you see, I don’t believe in things” (Deleuze 1995, 160). He believes in the world as process (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 2–5; Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 20). Whitehead is on much the same page: “a well-marked object is not an inherent necessity for an event. Wherever and whenever something is oging on, there is an event” (Whitehead 1964, 78). Nature itself, the world of process, “is a complex passing of events” (Whitehead 1964, 166). The world is not an aggregate of objects. To see it that way is to have participated in an abstraction reductive of the complexity of nature as passage (Whitehead 1964, 74-98). To “not believe in things” is to believe that objects are derivatives of process and that their emergence is the passing result of specific modes of abstractive activity. This means that objects’ reality does not exhaust the range of the real. The reality of the world exceeds that of objects, for the simple reason that where objects are, there has also been their becoming. And where becoming has been, there is already more to come. The being of an object is an abstraction from its becoming. The world is not a grab-bag of things. It’s an always-in-germ. To perceive the world in an object frame is to neglect the wider range of its germinal reality.

My comment on Levi Bryant’s blog makes a similar point in the context of Levi’s discussion of singularities:

[Levi’s interpretation of Delanda’s definition of attractor] is a major point of difference from those interpreting Deleuze, Whitehead and others in a way congruent with, for example, Massumi’s work.

Aren’t you worried about leaving out massive parts of reality, i.e. what actually happens in the world, from your ontology then? This has been my central criticism since reading Harman’s book on Latour.

An ‘attractor’ (or I prefer ‘singularity’, usually mutiple singularities) characterises a threshold within a system, such as the system of OOO that is based on naming a composition of singualrities/events as objects or actors because they pass a certain threshold of non-human coherency/consistency in their object-based eventhood. You actualise that OOO-threshold singularity differently to the way I do, for example.

There is an excess here that is not accounted for by only focusing on actors without incorporating a ‘sense’ of the acts, where an ‘act’ is only one possible dimension/slice/configuration of a singular event. (Does it even make sense to talk about act-less actors? Then there are all kinds of problems around what the ‘act’ is.)

I like Ian Bogost’s keynote diagra address from a few years ago where he breaks down a game into a ‘mess’ of constituent potentialities characterised by the object relations (code-for-hardware, etc.) for engaging with a different, but related state of affairs.

With the tea boiling example we couldn’t possibly exhaust the different dimensions of the event, but it is irrelevant as these different dimensions (different POV, ways of incorporating it into wildly divergent perceptual apparatuses ‘insect media’ etc) are still arranged by the singularities.

Wouldn’t that mean that singualrities have a radical importance for OOO in that without them you couldn’t characterise an object as an object without them, as the qualities of an object are qualities-for-a-subject, but the singularities are empirically transcendental. The singularities of a object (transductive threshold of water boiling) come to characterise an event (making tea) by modifying the behaviour of the system (Levi + kitchen + colleague’s dirty teaspoons (i.e. further series of singular points) + etc).

‘Attractor’ already involves a space-time fold of the cosmos into a subject (human or otherwise), so I’d imagine it would be rejected by OOO. Surely Delanda use of the term is drawing on a particular terminology to make a point about singularities.

On Bernard Keane and Communities of Interest

Political correspondent for Crikey, Bernard Keane, has an interesting piece published yesterday addressing ‘how the internet messes with the game of media and party politics’.

Below are some remarks on Keane’s piece. First, some context: I’ve been teaching my third-year Online News journalism students about how to address a similar set of problems. Their major assessment is to come up with a case-study length pitch for an online media enterprise that targets a niche audience. Their first task was to isolate a specific area of interest around which organises a community of interest, and then build on it from there. Targeting a specific area of interest is relatively familiar to the broader media industry; it is what most magazines do. It is relatively unfamiliar for an ‘analog’ news industry still operating with a ‘pre-Convergence’ mindset, however. I am not sure what a news-based media industry would look like when targeting specific areas of interest as there is no direct homological relation between the news-based content-audience relations and what happens in magazines, or at least there isn’t yet. Except, of course, in the financial industries…

I think some more focus on what Keane means by the ‘community-generating power of the internet’ is needed as it is not properly explained in his piece. He provides an example (Occupy Wall Street protests) and describes one of the qualities of such communities (no longer geographically anchored, or using a phrase from McKenzie Wark, they exist in a ‘virtual geography’). I want to describe two of the primary ways the internet is different from print or broadcast era media for directly contributing to the production of communities. Then I’ll look at how these apply (or not) to the news-media industry.

The first way the internet contributes to the production of communities is best explained by pulling apart what is meant by ‘interest’ in the phrase ‘community of interest’. There is a continuum of ‘interest’ from passing attention-grabbing interest that quickly dissipates to the enduring and sometimes agonistic practices of enthusiasts. This distribution of interest was described by community practioners researching local community groups in Britain in the 1980s as ‘Organising Around Enthusiasm’. Online communities form where enthusiasts search for useful information that will help them solve a problem (what I call a ‘challenge’) combined with an actual community of congruent interests. In terms of ‘community’, the now-classic ‘online forum’ is the established form.

A great deal of research into not only online groups but off-line and pre-internet groups indicates that there is a minority of participants that do the majority of work in these communities. These people may not be the most engaged ‘enthusiasts’ in the sense of the ‘best’ enthusiasts who know how to solve a large degree of problems, rather they are the most involved in communities. It makes sense to talk about communities with strong or weak ties (ala Gladwell, and the risks invovled in participation online vs off-line), but a community only makes sense if you know what challenges characterise a given enthusiasm. What mobilises enthusiasts into action?

The two major reports of the excellent mid-2000s Newspaper Next initiative (2006 and 2008) framed what I am calling ‘challenges’ in a slightly different way. Basing their program for newspaper innovation on the work of business academics Clayton Christensen and Clark Gilbert, they discussed ‘jobs to be done’, rather than challenges:

The concept is surprisingly simple. It holds that customers do not really buy products, they hire them to get jobs done. For example, Intuit’s QuickBooks software made it easy for small business owners to accomplish an important job: Make sure my business doesn’t run out of cash. Some alternatives, such as pen and paper and Excel spreadsheets, were not good enough. Professional accounting software packages were too good — confusing and filled with unnecessary features. QuickBooks did the job better than any alternative and quickly took over the category. […]
Using the jobs-to-be-done concept requires first understanding the problems a customer faces in life or business. The most promising problems are those that people do often and consider important and where current solutions leave them frustrated. (20-21)

‘Jobs-to-be-done’ certainly makes sense for someone who comes out of a ‘business administration’ background. Translate this in a social or political context. Think about the most popular online communities, ‘jobs to be done’ stemming from parenting, working on cars, cooking and foodie culture, information technologies, etc. What ‘jobs-to-be-done’ are there for the Occupy Wall Street protesters? There is the everyday work of maintaining the protest spaces across the world and there are the larger ‘political’ jobs-to-be-done that haven’t not yet been properly articulated, i.e. a list of demands. One of the main jobs-to-be-done of the protesters in say Melbourne or Sydney is to perform solidarity for those in New York. That is, by the way, why I prefer ‘challenge’, as a ‘challenge’ can be articulated or repeated in a number of different ways and still be a singular event.

Secondly, online communities produce multiple publics, but not publics imagined following ‘public sphere’ discourse. The problem with the ‘public sphere’ discourse, adapted from the work of Habermas and others, is that ‘rational deliberation’ or ‘consensus’ is not a challenge — well, it is for people who are insane… — therefore understanding ‘civic engagement’ understood as a function of producing ‘connection’ only addresses one part of community building. The capacity to articulate and then service the challenges that mobilise populations into action is absent.

The current media industry assumes that the mechanisms of liberal representative democracy function properly, therefore their only task is to produce a ‘voice’ or a ‘visibility’ (in the Foucaultian sense) for a given population to air their views in a ‘public sphere’. Rational debate allegedly then happens and a decision is taken that is derived from this debate. Politics does not function like this, if it ever did. Politics is not a mission to produce consensus; that is the challenge of politicians, not the challenge of politics. To appropriate Plato, ‘producing consensus’ is a game of projecting shadows on a wall in a situation designed to fix subjects in a seat of citizenship. Here is the shadow of ‘participation’ produced by airing your views, etc. It is the myth circulated by Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and his comments regarding #OccupyMelbourne protesters having ‘enough time’ to ‘make their point’. Their challenge was to not to express a point, but to occupy a space in solidarity.

To reiterate this point: The shadow game is the challenge of politicians, but it is not the challenge of politics. Politics is a mission to articulate a given challenge that implicates an already concerned cohort of the population so as to mobilise the population and address the challenge, hopefully solving it. The Greens get this. Labor has tried to, but is terrible at articulating the challenges it is engaging with. I have no idea about what challenges the Coalition thinks it needs to address; they seem to be politicians devoid of politics, existing purely within the shadow game. Strangely, the only politician who has done anything innovative about this recently (and I don’t agree with much of his party’s social policies) is Bob Katter. To appropriate Waleed Aly, politics is not like professional sport. I couldn’t care less about what some foolish sportsperson got up to on the weekend and how this might affect their career, but I know others find this interesting. Politicians are tools for addressing the challenges that can not be addressed by individuals, they are not celebrities trying to address ritualised forms of challenge (i.e. sport). By covering politics like sport, the challenges that politicans are meant to address instead become ritualised into ‘goals’, ‘good moves’, etc following a meta-language that an audience is familiar with. By covering politicians like they are playing a sport, the media ritualises that challenges of politics.

Beyond the commentariat no one cares, and my language can not be too strong on this point, about the personal challenges faced by politicians (who will be leader, etc.). The utter stupidity of the MSM’s lampooning of Allan Asher and the Greens for the Senate estimates debacle is a classic example. The media narrative produced in the MSM focused on some alleged indescretion by Asher and Green’s Senator Hansen-Young. Is this the ‘challenge’ that the population is interested in? Some nonsense ‘sideshow’ political stoush? Why did Asher do what he did? What ‘challenge’ was he trying to articulate that lead to him getting ‘resigned’ by the Federal Labor government? Surely this is the only question worth asking for a serious political journalist? The rest is playing the shadow game.

In summary: First, talking about community without a discussion of the challenges that mobilise this community is missing the political point. Second, the current MSM seems content to focus on the challenges faced by politicians, and do not focus on the challenges faced by communities.

We need a news-based media worthy of the challenges faced by an entire population, not worthy of the personal challenges faced by professional politicians. I’ll be very happy if the internet is messing with the shadow game of MSM and party politicians.

Enthusiasm and Paul Keating’s Kantianism

Ex-Prime Minister, Paul Keating, has had a number of news pieces recently published about his career and work in light of his new book After Words. His invocation of Kant is absolutely striking. Can you imagine any contemporary political leader drawing intellectual inspiration from Kant?

Keating is isolating the tension between modernist, rational scientific progress and the passion — what Kant called Enthusiasm — required to mobilise a population so as to achieve the challenges posed by progress. He suggests that:

The great changes in civilisation and society have been wrought by deeply held beliefs and passion rather than by a process of rational deduction.

And, furthermore:

[The] greater part of human aspiration has been informed by individual intuition and privately generated passions, more than it has through logic or scientific revelation. […]
When passion and reason vie with each other, the emerging inspiration is invariably deeper and of an altogether higher form. One is able to knit between them, bringing into existence an overarching unity – a coherence – which fidelity to the individual strands cannot provide.

Another way to frame Keating’s Kantianism is in terms of a positive view of aesthetics in politics. Benjamin and others were deeply suspicious of the aestheticisation of politics as they argued it inevitably lead to fascism. Keating’s remarks do not advocate an ‘aestheticisation of politics’, but neither does Keating follow Schiller in advocating for Spieltrieb (or the ‘play drive’ or ‘play impulse’) over industrious enterprise. Rather, if we turn to Schiller’s text from which Keating derives his opening quote “On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters” we see that Schiller is exploring a tension between the impetus of political action, as an expression of freedom, derived from ‘laws’ as compared to those derived from ‘forces’ both at the level of society and the individual:

The misfortune of his brothers, of the whole species, appeals loudly to the heart of the man of feeling; their abasement appeals still louder; enthusiasm is inflamed, and in souls endowed with energy the burning desire aspires impatiently to action and facts. But has this innovator examined himself to see if these disorders of the moral world wound his reason, or if they do not rather wound his self-love? If he does not determine this point at once, he will find it from the impulsiveness with which he pursues a prompt and definite end. A pure, moral motive has for its end the absolute; time does not exist for it, and the future becomes the present to it directly, by a necessary development, it has to issue from the present. To a reason having no limits the direction towards an end becomes confounded with the accomplishment of this end, and to enter on a course is to have finished it.

Schiller is in part talking about ‘self-interest’ (wounded self love) and the circular logic of applying reason to ‘definite ends’, that is, of an inability to think or imagine beyond the horizon of possibilities that consitute the current political juncture.

Schiller is also in part talking about Kant himself. In an earlier section of his letters, immediately before the passage quoted by Keating (in a slightly different translation of “On the Aesthetic Education of Man“), Schiller describes Kant’s reaction to the French Revolution, in part, as having a ‘noble enthusiasm for the weal of humanity’:

How tempting it would be for me to investigate such a subject in company with one who is as acute a thinker as he is a liberal citizen of the world! And to leave the decision to a heart which has dedicated itself with such noble enthusiasm to the weal of humanity. What an agreeable surprise if, despite all difference in station, and the vast distance which the circumstances of the actual world make inevitable, I were, in the realm of ideas, to find my conclusions identical with those of a mind as unprejudiced as your own! That I resist this seductive temptation, and put Beauty before Freedom, can, I believe, not only be excused on the score of personal inclination, but also justified on principle. I hope to convince you that the theme I have chosen is far less alien to the needs of our age than to its taste. More than this: if man is ever to solve that problem of politics in practice he will have to approach it through the problem of the aesthetic, because it is only through beauty that man makes his way to Freedom. But this cannot be demonstrated without my first reminding you of the principles by which Reason is in any case guided in matters of political legislation.

Beyond a politics derived from the legislation of reason, is a conception of understanding derived from the interplay of ‘nature’ and ‘reason’ within which dwells ‘aesthetics’. (Steven Shaviro has been discussing this for a number of years.) Keating expresses this in some of the closing remarks in his interview with Paul Kelly of The Australian:

This is not to say that rationalism isn’t important and good. It is. But left to itself without the guidance of higher meaning and a higher concept, rationalism can be mean and incomplete. I say if you simply live on rational policy and briefing notes you are not sufficiently informed.
You need a higher calling or some inner system of belief – here I mention Kant and the inner command that tells you what is true, what is right, what is good. The inner command must be the divining construct in what you do.

For a leader, then, the challenge is one of guidance. For a population being lead it is a question of enthusiasm — not in a quasi-fascistic manner that celebrates violence against protesters, for example — by an enthusiasm inflamed in a population so that the population mobilises to faces the challenges of a future articulated by political leaders. A compromise to maintain leadership, with no sense of what challenges need to be engaged with by a leadership or a population, is what we have at the moment. To appropriate Marx, current generations make their own progress, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under circumstances of their own choosing, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from a possible future that they are striving towards.

Occupy Wall Street, Social Media, Gladwell and Risk

Shay O’Reilly has an article on the Campus Progress online media outlet that critiques comments made by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker magazine about the role of social media in social protests and movements more generally. O’Reilly points out that the Occupy Wall Street and now Occupy Everywhere protests have disproved Gladwell’s dismissive critique of the role of social media in social protests. O’Reilly notes that Gladwell was down on social media having a productive role in protests and social movements because of two main reasons.

O’Reilly mostly focuses on the question of structure. Gladwell suggests that 1960s-era civil rights protests and the broader movement had a strong top-down organisation, while internet-based movements by their nature are mostly horizontal with no central organisational structure. Second and relatedly, that social media, like most if not all internet-based social relations are based on ‘weak ties’. There are no strong social ties between participants in a ‘social media revolution’ because online relations are normally impersonal. Drawing on the research of Doug McAdam, Gladwell notes that many of the protesters in the civil rights movement had strong social ties based on actual personal connections to those who suffered civil rights injustices:

What makes people capable of this kind of activism? The Stanford sociologist Doug McAdam compared the Freedom Summer dropouts with the participants who stayed, and discovered that the key difference wasn’t, as might be expected, ideological fervor. “All of the applicants—participants and withdrawals alike—emerge as highly committed, articulate supporters of the goals and values of the summer program,” he concluded. What mattered more was an applicant’s degree of personal connection to the civil-rights movement. All the volunteers were required to provide a list of personal contacts—the people they wanted kept apprised of their activities—and participants were far more likely than dropouts to have close friends who were also going to Mississippi. High-risk activism, McAdam concluded, is a “strong-tie” phenomenon.

What O’Reilly does not engage with is the question of risk that Gladwell raises. I want to suggest that the dichotomy between high risk protest and low risk participation that Gladwell isolates as typifying most historical social mmovement protests versus most contemporary online social movement participation is actually spot on. What is remarkable about the Occupy Wall Street protests is not that the ‘internets’ have somehow produced an effective mode of protest, but that the risks involved in the esculation of protest from low-risk online participation (‘liking’ a social movement on Facebook, for example) into actual high-risk toe-to-toe in-the-street vaulting-the-barricades mobilisation have now become risks worth taking for the majority of participants.

The protests are symptomatic of a US and broader neoliberal social structure whereby the average middle-class citizen is burdened with far greater risk than of previous generations. In the past, including the civil rights era as described by Gladwell, black populations were already at-risk in the sense of not being able to enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities as their white fellow citizens. The solidarity of white citizens was a leap of faith and a salutatory call to fighting against structural injustice. The ‘New Deal’ era of corporations and government assuming most of the social risks assumed by everyone living in a capitalist society have now largely been rolled back. The average US citizen accepts are greater degree of risk relative to the elite (the ‘1%’) in fundamental or even ‘universal’ areas of social life, including health care and employment security. It means that US society has been transformed to such a degree that the everyday risks experienced as an average citizen are now so large that after weighing up the risks of protests against the structural risks they assume because of the social structure, the protesters have decided to accept the risks of protests as the lesser risk.

The ‘social ties’ argument comes into it when those who do not share the same burden of structural risk (white youths in the civil rights movement era, or ‘successfully’ employed, health care-equipped and owner-occupier housed professionals and workers in the contemporary era) join with those who are at-risk in the name of justice and solidarity. This leap of faith was described by Immanuel Kant as ‘enthusiasm’. He ‘shared’ the enthusiasm of those participants in the French Revolution. The Revolution was a ‘sign of history’ and participants were mobilised by ‘strenuous’ affects enjoined with an idea (of the ‘French Republic’) that did not exist yet. It was a leap of faith and a leap of collective imagination. The ideals of the Republic, which are also shared to a large extent with the US, had to be created through force of will and determination. Participants in the revolution were organised in relation to this collective challenge. I would therefore argue against sociologists looking for necessary social links between protest participants and instead point to a willingness to mobilise to engage with and hopefully overcome shared (or ‘universal’) challenges as a key characteristic of social movement enthusiasm.

To conclude by way of a fantastic tangent: I don’t imagination that the protests will end until the government and those that benefit from the current unjust, unequal distribution of risk correct their ways to make it more equitable. I am not sure that will happen, however, until those living in a globalised West realise that their middle-class lifestyles are gradually being off-shored as their jobs are being out-sourced and just as they want a more equitable distribution of risk, those in developing countries are desperate for a more equitable distribution of opportunity. The workers in developing nations are being used as a weapon to leverage subservience from workers in developed countries. To correct this could take generations.

Repetition as Machinic Appetition

Matteo Pasquinelli has posted a draft article titled Machinic Capitalism and Network Surplus Value: Towards a Political Economy of the Turing Machine. It is well worth a read and raises some very interesting points regarding the production of surplus value in the contemporary socio-technological juncture. Drawing on the work of Alquati, one of Pasquinelli’s more elegant points is thus:

Valorising information is then what enters the cybernetic machine and it is transformed into a sort of machinic knowledge. Specifically it is the numerical dimension of cybernetics that is able to encode workers’ knowledge into bits and consequently transform bits into numbers for economic planning. In other words, cybernetic code transforms information into value. […]
At the beginning of the industrial age capitalism was exploiting human bodies for their mechanical energy, but soon it was realised that the series of creative acts, measurements and decisions that workers constantly have to take is the most important value they produce. Alquati defines as information precisely all the innovative micro-decisions, which workers have to take along the production process, that give form to the product but also to the machinic apparatus.

I’ve also been interested in the question of value and the machinic for a while; admittedly, however, my clumsy forays are not as sophisticated as Pasquinelli’s work, which is genuinely very exciting. He invited feedback to his draft and I hope to offer some here in whatever meagre way I can contribute. I want to offer an alternative reading of the ‘assemblage’ from A Thousand Plateaus to that of the Delanda-esque inspired reading that Pasquinelli’s emphasises in his paper. Pasquinelli rightly indicates that the machinic as ‘productive’ as been reduced or even ‘neutralised’ of this dimension through the ‘relational paradigm’ of assemblage theory as forwarded by Manuel Delanda’s work (10). Without discounting Pasquinelli’s reading of Delanda’s somewhat de-weaponised version of the assemblage, I want to emphasise Guattari’s post-Lacanian reading of Deleuze’s work in Guattari’s essay Machine and Structure as indicating an alternative reading of the ‘assemblage’ that is at least congruent with Pasquinelli’s thesis.

I am working from the version of Guattari’s 1969 essay published in English in 1984 as a rough synthesis of Guattari’s works titled Molecular Revolution. In the second footnote of the early English translation of the essay Guattari draws on Deleuze’s work (below) and in the body copy notes that “in reality, a machine is inseparable from its structural articulations and, conversely, that each contingent structure is dominated (and this is what I want to demonstrate) by a system of machines, or at the very least by one logic machine” (111):

To adopt the categories suggested by Gilles Deleuze, structure, in the sense in which I am using it here, would relate to the generality characterised by a position of exchange or substitution of particularities, whereas the machine would relate to the order of repetition ‘as behaviour and viewpoint relative to a singularity that cannot be changed or replaced’ (D&R [Fr], 7). [In the 1994 Patton translation of the section I think is being quoted here — no other passage in the Patton translation comes close to capturing the meaning of Guattari’s point — it is translated thus: “[Repetition] is by nature transgression or exception, always revealing a singularity opposed to the particulars subsumed under laws, a universal opposed to the generalities which give rise to laws” (5).] Of Deleuze’s three minimum conditions determining structure in general, I shall retain only the first two:
1) There must be at least two heterogeneous series, one of which is defined as the signifier and the other as the signified.
2) Each of these series is made up of trms that exist only through their relationship with one another.
His third condition, ‘two heterogenous series converging upon a paradoxical element that acts so as to differentiate them’, relates, on the contrary, exclusively to the order of the machine (LoS [Fr], 63).

Guattari is clearer (or at least the translation is clearer) in the recent English translation and publication of The Machinic Unconscious, probably in part because he no longer had to participate in system of enunciation or ‘territory’ of structuralism and instead is operating within a properly Guattarian assemblage, where he writes:

The difference between Thom’s logoi and abstract machines, such as I conceive them, stems from the fact that the former are simply carrying abstraction, whereas the latter in addition convey singularity points [sic] “extracted” from the cosmos and history. Rather than abstract machines, perhaps it is preferably to speak of “machinic extracts” or deterritorialized and deterritorializing machines. […]
I will start with the idea that assemblages of flows and codes are first compared in relation to differentiations of form and structure, object and subject, and that the phenomena of formal interaction consitute only a particular case, that of a borderline case, within the machinic processes that work upon the assemblages before the substance-form coupling. (14, 15)

I want to suggest that the machinic, in as much as it is productive, is the concept that Deleuze and Guattari use to describe the milieu of repetition, in the specific singular or forceful mode of ‘repetition’ that, for example, makes and unmakes the relations of substitution of particularities and generalities contracted as habit or projected as the ‘social’ or as the conjunctive and disjunctive syntheses as described in Anti-Oedipus are the gathering and breakage of flows as ‘repetition’ moves across them.

Therefore, there is a problem when discussing the relation between the machinic and machines. Compare the above to the ‘actual’ machine that Guattari describes in Machine and Structure:

Initiation into a trade and becoming accepted as a skilled worker no longer takes place by way of institutions, or at least not those envisaged in such statements as ‘the skill has precedence over the machine’. With industrial capitalism, the spasmodic evolution of machinery keeps cutting across the existing hierarchy of skills.
As compared with the work done by machines, the work of human beings is nothing. This working at ‘nothing’, in the special sense in which people do it today, which tends more and more to be merely a response to a machine — pressing a red or black button to produce an effect programmed somewhere else — human work, in other words, is only the residue that has not yet been integrated into the work of the machine. (112, 113)

In other words, humans no longer repeat, even when their labour is repetitive; rather, repetition belongs to the machine as a milieu of the ‘machinic’. Both the worker and the machine belong to the machinic. The evolutionary character of the machine is machinic in the sense that ‘new’ evolutions assemble on yet another plane of consistency and produce new territories. These territories are sub-jacent to those that exist and have the effect of being inherently dissonant. The worker in the above is not a force of repetition. Guattari is restricting his analysis to the worker on the floor, and not the synthesised ‘workers’ of Pasquinelli that combines all non-machine human agents that are in some social relation to each other (in conflict or solidarity) as mediated by an actual machine. (So designers, engineers, technicians as well as the button pushers, etc.) In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari call this force of repetition — distributed across the knowledge worker as much as the labour worker and the machinic — the “surplus value of flux”.

Whitehead’s discussion of appetition provides a way to talk about both the tendential relations of futurity and the open, cutting edge of repetition as it is distributed across the machine and the worker (in Pasquellini’s broader sense). The appetiton of ‘repetition’ is immanent or self-posited (quasi-cause); or, following Derrida, it is ‘to-come’. It is only ‘discovered’ (or to use current parlance ‘innovated’) in retrospect, even if it is a retrospective projection of the imagined future into the present (i.e. ‘futurists’, ‘forward thinkers’, mythologised ‘Steve Jobs’, etc.). This is the work of capital: to extract the surplus value of the machinic from the force of repetition (in the specific sense of extraction of singularity, the con/disjunctive syntheses of flows and the redistribution of relations of particularity and generality through de/reterritorialization). Surplus value is extracted according to the “axiomatic of the world capitalist market,” following Deleuze and Guatari in Anti-Oedipus (233-235), that ever expands the immanent limits of capital itself.

The way I have interpreted Pasquellini’s essay — in the context of ‘surplus value of flux’ describing Deleuze and Guattari’s adaptation of something akin to ‘machinic repetition’ in the context of Anti-Oedipus — the appetition of the algorithmic machine is not this self-positing appetition of repetition and the milieu of the machinic. Rather, the algorithmic belongs to specific assemblages (or strata populated by apparatuses of capture, to use Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology) that have ‘captured’ the flux of repetition as surplus value (i.e. as ‘innovation’) and which (re)distributes the particular and the general in specific (‘actual’) ways. The appetition of the algorithmic machine is fundamentally inhuman while at the same time entirely the residue of human labour. What appetites does ‘Google’ have? What character of prehension belongs to an algorithm when it is ‘run’? I don’t know. Deleuze and Guattari developed the concept of the assemblage (machinic assemblages, but also the intertwined collective assemblages of enunciation) in A Thousand Plateaus as a way of grappling with the a-human territorializations immanent to machinic repetition: “In every respect, machinic assemblages effectuate the abstract machine insofar as it is developed on a plane of consistency or enveloped in a stratum (71). So I argue that accounting for the assemblages within which the surplus value of flux can be extracted through specific apparatuses of capture is essential, rather than being discounted. Pasquinelli already indicates the work of assemblages in his brief mentions of the socio-technological assemblages of Facebook, Google, etc. in his essay. The emphasis (and dismissal) of Delanda’s interpretation of the concept and development of ‘assemblage theory’ doesn’t necessarily foreclose, if repeated in different ways, productive use of the concept. If the algorithm could self-posit it’s appetites then it would belong to the “surplus value of flux” as a pure force of repetition and the properly ontological realm of the machinic, but otherwise, I want to suggest, it belongs to an assemblage.