This post is for my students who wanted some notes on how to read A Thousand Plateaus. I am pitching it as a how to a how to guide. How to read A Thousand Plateaus as a “how to” guide for cultivating and caring for multiplicity.

First, some resources:

1) Michael Hardt’s page at Duke has his reading notes for Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (Plus it has his PhD dissertation which after reading the intro looks interesting.) Remember ATP is the second volume of a two volume set. Some of the ideas translate across the two volumes. For example, and something that Hardt doesn’t really discuss, it is pretty well accepted now that ‘desiring-machines’ in the terminology of AO becomes ‘assemblage’ in ATP (Alliez essay in Deleuze and the Social, p. 161). One of the important things to realise about ‘assemblages’ is that as ‘desiring machines’ they are continually breaking down; they only work when they break down (AO 8 ). This is the only addendum needed to Slack and Wise’s brilliant introductory remarks on the Assemblage in their book _Technology and Culture: A Primer_ (they don’t talk about this ‘breaking down’ quality which is important but on a different level for any technological culture). Lastly, the Kafka book is a bridge between AO and ATP and to a certain degree much easier to read than AO or ATP. However, it only really makes sense if you understand the terminology, which is explained in ATP and AO… Hardt is particularly good on faciality which he relates to Debord’s notion of the spectacle. Faciality is an inductive virtual architecture.

2) Next is Hardt’s infamous collaborator on various projects, Antonio Negri, who wrote an essay on ATP in 1992 to mark the event of Guattari’s death. (Negri and Guattari were friends, Guattari used to collect Negri’s mail for him when he was in France, and they wrote a little book together call _Communists Like Us_ which is also worth reading alonside an essay Guattari wrote with Alliez on ‘Integrated World Capitalism’ that foregrounds much of work on ‘globalisation’ and Negri and Hardt’s arguments in _Empire_). Negri has four main points to his essay, and the earlier section is a brief genealogy of Foucault’s project (!!). The four main points all relate to a different way of engaging with mulitiplicity. The ‘theory of expression and arrayments’ is about expression and the aesthetics of assemblage. One of the minimum qualities of an assemblage is as an arrangement of heterogeneous elements (mulitiplicity) that has a consistency. Next is the rhizome which is a direct example of a multiplicity. Nomadology is way of thinking (a ‘way’ like in martial arts) that wages a war against any arborescent form of thought. Minority and majority do not relate to numbers of people. A tending to mulitiplicity requires a becoming-minor of a majoritarian arrangement. Negri’s essay can be read in light of his later work: “Labor is the rhizome which produces the real, which is the passage from the molecular order to the molar order, in the course of development, which irresistibly passes through war and which in war defines liberation.” This is a nascent definition of the ‘multitude’ as it later appears.

3) Charles Stivale’s translation and summary of “L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze” is a great resource. Perhaps read it only when you need to look something up.

There is plenty of other stuff around. The archives to the D&G spoon’s email list is also very good on some things. There are also Deleuze’s lectures online.

OK, so ‘caring for mulitiplicity’ means cultivating particular dispositifs that allow and indeed encourage a certain kind of open relation. The overcoding signifiers of the State-assemblages attempt to capture and incorporate multiplicity. In AO it was called Oedipalisation. An example, the n-sexes were reduced to some variant of the male::female binary. To allow and encourage an open relation to multiplicity means carrying out very careful experimentations. This is outlined in the “How to Make Yourself a Body Without Organs?” chapter of ATP. It is called the ‘art of caution’ or ‘the art of dosages’ (160-161). An assemblage is formed on/as/through a plane of immanence, so that on one side of the assemblage is strata — the State, the familial unit, etc. — and on the other side is the plane of immanence. See the section of ABC on Desire where Deleuze talks about young people reading Anti-Oedipus. So when reading ATP look for the multiplicities, or diagrammatic traces of them, such as the war machine, the ‘pack’ (of a becoming animal), the BwO, and of course the rhizome.

Here is a list of five general areas that I think are useful to think about when reading ATP:

1) How to read a mixed semiotics
2) Why can’t war machines be fluffy? (care of Sandy)
3) Micro to the molecular to the minor.
4) How to ward off ‘Deleuze and Guattari’ as a Despotic Signifier?
5) Sobriety and an ethics of becoming.

The below is a little rushed, sorry.

1) Deleuze and Guattari offer a mixed semiotics. A semiotics of force across and between arrays of bodies; see Chapter 3, but Guattari is the one who develops this the best in his solo work.

2) Don’t think of war machines or any other sort of multiplicity as necessarily hyper-masculine Terminator-type assemblages, you’ll end up sharing the deleusions of the Israeli army. War machines can be fluffy. A classic example from the world of pop-culture is the ‘Min Mei’ weapon in Robotech (nee Super Macross).

3) Micropolitics is normally associated with Foucault. In the preface to AO Foucault calls the book an Introduction to the Non-Facist Life. Many commentators have discounted Foucault’s comments, and for AO they may be right, however ATP is a different book and the ethics of becoming that requires care for multiplicity is one of its goals. More needs to be said here. I don’t have time.

4) Don’t treat Deleuze and Guattari as priests of the truth. I like their work cause it is an outrageous attempt to think the world. We have computers to do other kinds of thinking, humans are just trained to do it because they are cheaper.

5) No green thumbs, only schizo-thumbs. Tend to your multiplicities. Allow them to grow, give them sunshine, and take them to the park to play with other multiplicities.

2 replies on “schizo-thumbs”

  1. You know, I’m very envious that you have the kind of students who are actually considering reading ATP.

    In fact, I’m very envious that you have the kind of students who are actually considering reading.

  2. yeah! I was pretty stoked. But, you know, they are third years and I don’t treat them like children. Some students just want to pass or do reasonably well, which is cool, and I respect that, because not everyone needs to know this stuff. Plus the course has been munted, and I am the third lecturer they had, so I try to take that into account.

    There are two students who are really into it and they are writing a joint final essay. So I spent about 40 minutes going over their abstract and essay outline with them. I enjoyed it! It is a weird inversion where the car stuff is now my work so this crazy theory stuff becomes my popular culture.

    In fact, they told me they always thought of cultural studies as some kind of joke, being too easy, and always talking about shit that was obvious and so on. This stuff is some of the hardest humanities-type work you could possibly learn as an undergrad and I think they recognise and accept the challenge. It is like learning complex math to carry out ‘modelling’; not everyone needs it in the world, but for those that understand it and can use it, then it becomes an awesome tool.

Comments are closed.