Week 10: Bruno Latour: “Conclusion: From Society to Collective–Can the Social Be Reassembled?” (Kyle Kinaschuk)

Latour: “Conclusion: From Society to Collective—Can the Social Be Reassembled?” (247-262)

“The words ‘social’ and ‘nature’ used to hide two entirely different projects that cut across both of those ill-assembled assemblies: one to trace connections among unexpected entities and another to make those connections hold in a somewhat livable whole. The mistake is not in trying to do two things at once—every science is also a political project—the mistake is to interrupt the former because of the urgency of the latter. ANT is simply a way of saying that the task of assembling a common world cannot be contemplated if the other task is not pursued well beyond the narrow limits fixed by the premature closure of the social sphere” (260).

“In a time of so many crises in what it means to belong, the task of cohabitation should no longer be simplified too much. So many other entities are now knocking on the door of our collectives. It is absurd to want to retool our disciplines to become sensitive again to the noise they make and to try and find a place for them?” (262).

“One’s own actions ‘make a difference’ only in a world made of differences.” (252-253).

Mediators and Intermediaries Revisited

It seems necessary to distinguish between mediators and intermediaries, since these two terms are central to ANT. Latour writes, “An intermediary…is what transports meaning or force without transformation: defining its inputs is enough to define its outputs. For all practical purposes, an intermediary can be taken not only as a black box, but also as a black box counting for one, even if it is internally made of many parts. Mediators…cannot be counted as just one; they might count for one, for nothing, for several, or for infinity. Their input is never a good predictor of their output; their specificity has to be taken into account every time” (37). We could correlate these terms with two other terms: information (intermediary) and transformation (mediator).

The preceding distinction between mediators and intermediaries, then, is important when thinking through the utility of Actor-network theory in contrast to sociologies of the social and critical sociologies. How do critical sociologists and sociologists of the social deploy reductive frameworks through intermediaries? On the other hand, how do mediators affirm difference and multiplicity through mediators? Are these categories prescriptive or descriptive? And what are the political implications of Latour’s demarcation between mediators and intermediaries? Perhaps, this question will become clearer when we outline what the term political means for Latour and ANT. We can, of course, refer to a few points in the text wherein the foregoing questions are especially relevant. Consider when Latour writes, “For a social science to become relevant, it has to have the capacity to renew itself—a quality impossible if a society is supposed to be ‘behind’ political action. It should also possess the ability to loop back from the few to the many and from the many to the few—a process often simplified under the terms of representation of the body politic” (261). How does the notion of the mediator enable social science with capacities to renew and refresh itself?

Latour notes with regards to critical sociologists: “Critical sociologists have underestimated the difficulty of doing politics by insisting that the social consists of just a few types of participants. It did not care to notice that there was not much chance for politics to succeed if the list of bona fide members making up the social world was drastically restricted in advance” (250). It seems, for Latour, that intermediaries, which are part and parcel of the domains of sociology of the social and critical sociology, limit new connections from being made; therefore, the possibility of reassembling the social is always already disrupted by the presuppositions that intermediaries determine, that is to say, intermediaries can only conceptualize specific categories, associations, and terrains (e.g., foreclosing the possibility of thinking about “non-human” actors), so much so that events are always interpreted through the same, hackneyed tools: “For the new wine of new associations, a dusty old flask just won’t do” (260).

Between Society and the Collective

Latour describes the overarching project of the book at the outset of the chapter: “the question of the social emerges when the ties in which one is entangled begin to unravel; the social is further detected through the surprising movements from one association to the next; those movements can either be suspended or resumed; when they are prematurely suspended, the social as normally construed is bound together with already accepted participants called ‘social actors’ who are members of a ‘society’; when the movement toward collection is resumed, it traces the social as associations through many non-social entities which might become participants later; if pursued systematically, this tracking may end up in a shared definition of a common world, what I have called a collective, it may fail to be reassembled; and, lastly, sociology is best defined as the discipline where participants explicitly engage in the reassembling of the collective” (247). Simply put, there are two general movements for ANT: deployment and collection (the failure to differentiate between deployment and collection is a key problem for sociology of the social). The first procedure is by and large concerned with making the actors visible via deployment, while the second attempts to reassemble the collective by portraying a common world that is accepted by those involved. How can an association be resumed or suspended? What are the effects of resuming and suspending associations? How can resuming associations reassemble the collective?

There is another interesting moment in the text where Latour characterizes his project: “We first have to learn how to deploy controversies so as to gauge the number of new participants in any future assemblage (Part I); then we have to be able to follow how the actors themselves stabilize those uncertainties by building formats, standards, and metrologies (Part II); and finally, we want to see how the assemblages thus gathered can renew our sense of being in the same collective” (249).

It should be mentioned, however, that Latour’s call for a reassembling of the collective should be stripped of all teleological connotations, as it seems that the reconstruction of the social is one of constant process, which resonates with Deleuze and Guattari in many ways, especially the ways in which assemblages could be conceptualized as being situated in tension between the BwO and strata, that is, caught in a process of reterritorialization and deterritorialization: “In resuming the project of the social sciences and bringing it back to the source of bewilderment from which it first grew, it is important to become sensitive again to very odd types of assemblages” (248).

Latour is certainly aligned with Deleuze and Guattari in so far as their projects all demand a disruption of the existing categories of thought, that is, a certain commitment to making the world strange:  “At every corner, science, religion, politics, law, economics, organizations, etc. offer phenomena that we have to find puzzling again if we want to understand the types of entities the collectives may be composed of in the future” (248). Nevertheless, what can we make of Latour’s definition of the collective—that is to be reassembled—as a common world? How can we think of difference, multiplicity, and process while also attempting to reassemble a common world? Does Latour’s call for a reassembling of the collective—a common world—necessitate a return to the same? Can we speak about a collective, a common world, in Deleuze’s parlance? Can we correlate this common world with the plane of immanence (the plane of consistency)? Is there a possibility, for Latour, to even utter the word alterity?

An Incredibly Brief Critique of Critical Sociology

I will quote Latour here: “Whatever it claims to science and objectivity, critical sociology cannot be sociology—in the new sense that I propose—since it has no way to retool itself to follow through on the non-social elements” (249). How do critical sociologists confuse society and the collective? What happens when the possibilities of an “actor” and the “social” are already determined in advance? What does this say about the contingency of politics?

Political Epistemologies

Perhaps, one of the most striking and interesting claims that Latour makes is when he succinctly states, “if there is a society, then no politics is possible” (250). Politics, for Latour, can only be understood in thinking through specific material moments and conditions. Consider when Latour describes his first “clamp”: “even though the question seems really odd at first—not to say in bad taste—whenever anyone speaks of a ‘system,’ a ‘global feature,’ a ‘structure,’ a ‘society,’ an ‘empire,’ a ‘world economy,’ an ‘organization,’ the first ANT reflex should be to ask: ‘In which building? In which bureau’ Through which corridor is it accessible? Which colleagues has it been read to? How has it been complied?” (183). Latour’s emphasis on the material circumstances and particularities of events is redolent of De Landa in many ways as well. Consider, for instance, De Landa’s discussion of the market, which explodes the macro-micro distinction. But how can we situate this empirically driven political framework with our earlier discussion of mediators and intermediaries? Is it possible to put this conceptualization of politics into conversation with Deleuze’s so-called transcendental empiricism? Perhaps, we could ask, more broadly, what is the relation between science and politics? Deleuze and Guattari, in What is Philosophy?, claim that science is dedicated to functions, philosophy creates concepts, and art is affect (the ability to affect and be affected).

“To insist that behind all the various issues there exists the overarching presence of the same system, the same empire, the same totality, always struck me as an extreme case of masochism, a perverted way to look for a sure defeat…Is it not obvious then that only a skein of weak ties, of constructed, artificial, assignable, accountable, and surprising connections is the only way to begin contemplating any kind of fight?” (252).

Science, then, is not deterministic, for it permits contingency. Is Latour flipping an old paradigm? In other words, is it fair to say that Latour is assigning the “social constructionists” the role of the determinists, while opening a space for transformation that is in solidarity with science and this (new) materialism? “Social forces” that are above Latour’s flat ontology function to prohibit radical transformations, as they are fixed categories that cannot accommodate change, while, for ANT, if the world is composed of “weak ties,” then it follows that these ties can be transformed, altered, undermined without the burden of the hegemonic “power” of “social forces” that are mere abstractions: “I think it would be much safer to claim that action is possible only in a territory that has been opened up, flattened down, and cut down to size in a place where formats, structures, globalization, and totalities circulate inside tiny conduits, and where for each of their applications they need to rely on masses of hidden potentialities. If this is not possible, then there is no politics” (252).

Flattening Nature and Society

Latour demarcates between “matters of fact” and “matters of concern.” Matters of fact, of course, elide the multiplicities of matters of concern, as matters of fact cannot take into account flows, speeds, and processes: “Under the same ‘external reality’, the notion of nature conflates two different functions at once: on the one hand, the multiplicity of beings making up the world; on the other, the unity of those assembled in one single undisputable whole. Appealing to realism is never enough, since it means throwing together in one package multiple matters of concern as well as unified matters of fact. So, when people doubt the existence of ‘nature’ and ‘outside reality’, you never know if they are contesting the premature unification of matters of concern under the hegemony of matters of fact, or whether they deny the multiplicity if entities revealed by the sciences. The first is indispensable, the second is plain silly” (254).

“We may now see what the two collectors, nature and society, have in common: they are both premature attempts to collect in two opposite assemblies the common world” (254). To what extend does Latour destabilize and trouble the usual conceptions of “society” and “nature”? Consider the following quotation: “And yet in both cases what is to be collected, namely the former members of the old assemblages of nature and society which I have called mediators, circulating objects and beings, resembles neither matters of fact nor social actors” (255). I wonder how Latour’s flat sociology can be understood if we consider it in contrast with Nietzsche’s famous dictum “the only being is becoming.” Perhaps, we could ask the Nietzschean question: how does Latour and ANT say yes to life? The quotation below stages this question particularly well.

“At worst, it would simply put humans on par with other matters of concern in physics, biology, computer science, etc. Complexity will simply be added to complexity. Far from being ‘lowered down’, objectified humans’ will instead be elevated to the level of ants, chimps, chips, and particles! To be ‘treated like things’, as we understand it now, is not to be ‘reduced’ to mere matters of fact, but allowed to live life as multifarious as that of matters of concern…Their complex metaphysics would at least be respected, their recalcitrance recognized, their objections deployed, their multiplicity accepted. Please, treat humans as thing, offer them at least the degree of realism you are ready to grant humble matters of concern, materialize them, and, yes reify them as much as possible” (256).  

“This means the two tasks of taking into account and putting into order have to be kept separate. The test is now to detect which social sciences are good at maintaining this distinction” (257). What does it mean to “keep separate” the act of taking into account (deployment) and putting into order (collecting)? Are there particular disciplines that succeed in holding this distinction?

Latour’s interest in the ways in which discipline themselves are intricately bound to the “social” fabric, and therefore cannot be conceptualized as existing as radically detached from actors and groups; however, the organizing and rupturing movements that conducting analyses implies, which ANT provides social scientists, opens up the possibilities, for Latour, to redefine the political as a perforated category that is always under construction—assembling and reassembling: “It simply means that they are like all the other sciences, involved in the normal business of multiplying agencies and stabilizing or disciplining some of them. In this sense, the more disinterested the sciences, the more engaged and politically relevant it already is” (258).

A question to consider as we read ahead: how does “a political ecology of things” that Latour gestures towards in this chapter connect with Bennett, Deleuze, and Guattari?

Watching the Social Unravel: “A Science of Living Together”

The three quotations below speak to how ANT can be situated in relation to politics, society, nature, and assemblages.

ANT collapses (or puts out of play) nature and society, so that collectives and associations can be rendered perceptible in turn. In other words, ANT is committed to reassembling the social based on what we might call a politics of difference that is part of collective, that is, a common world; nevertheless, how can these multiplicities not be sublated or effaced from within this common world? Does this collective exceed the sum of its parts? And how does one carefully and responsibly reassemble the associations that one has traced? Is it possible to compose a common world? Latour answers some of the foregoing questions when he writes, “What ANT has tried to do is make itself sensitive again to the sheer difficulty of assembling collectives made of so many new members once nature and society have been simultaneously put aside…once you extend the range of entities, the new associations do not form a livable assemblage. This is where politics again enters the scene if we care to define it as the intuition that associations are not enough, that they should also be composed in order to design one common world” (259).

An intriguing note on description and multiplicities: “So it’s perfectly true to say that no sociology can be content with ‘just describing’ associations, and nor can it simply enjoy the spectacle of the sheer multiplicity of new connections” (259). Is this where Deleuze and Guattari diverge with Latour? Is “sheer multiplicity” not enough?

To conclude, Latour lambastes social scientists who attempt to make a totality too early, which undercuts the emergence of new connections and associations; however, we might want to ask: is a collective ever complete? And how does one know when a closure of the social has been breached? Latour writes, “The words ‘social’ and ‘nature’ used to hide two entirely different projects that cut across both of those ill-assembled assemblies: one to trace connections among unexpected identities and another to make those connections hold in a somewhat livable whole. The mistake is not in trying to do two things at once—every science is also a political project—the mistake is to interrupt the former because of the urgency of the latter. ANT is simply a way of saying that the task of assembling a common world cannot be contemplated if the other task is not pursued well beyond the narrow limits fixed by the premature closure of the social spheres” (260).

Week 8: Third Source of Uncertainty: Objects too Have Agency (Tomas Boudreau)

Bruno Latour

Reassembling the Social

Third Source of uncertainty: Objects too Have Agency

“If Sociology has been marked from the start…

By the discovery that action has been overtaken by other agencies, it has been spurred even more forceful by the ethical, political, and empirical discovery that there exists hierarchies, asymmetries, and inequalities [...] that no amount of enthusiasm, free will, or ingenuity can make those asymmetries go away; [...] that ignoring social asymmetry is as ridiculous as claiming that Newtonian gravitation does exist [...] Asymmetries exists, yes, but where do they come from and what are they made of?” (63-64)

The type of actors at work should be increased

For ANT, as we now understand, the definition of the term [social] is different: it doesn’t designate a domain of reality or some particular item, but rather  is the name of a movement, a displacement, a transformation, a translate, an enrollment [...] Thus, social, for ANT, is the name of a type of momentary association which is characterized by the way it gathers together into new shapes” (65)

“The main advantage of dissolving the notion of social force and replacing it either by short-lived interactions or by new associations is that it’s now possible to distinguish in the composite notion of society what pertains to its durability and what pertains to its substance. Yes, there may exists durable ties, but this does not count as proof that they are made of social material–quite the opposite. It’s now possible to bring into the foreground the practical means to keep ties in place, the ingenuity constantly invested in enrolling other sources of ties, and the cost to be paid for the extension of any interaction” (66)

“When power is exerted for good, it is because it is not made of social ties; when it has to rely only on social ties, it is not exerted for long. So, when social scientists appeal to social ties they should always mean something that has great trouble spreading in time and space, that has no inertia and is to be ceaselessly renegotiated. It’s precisely because it’s so difficult to maintain asymmetries, to durably entrench power relations, to enforce inequalities, that so much work is being constantly devoted to shifting the weak and fast-decaying ties to other types of links. If the social world was made of logical interactions, it will retain a sort of provisional, unstable, and chaotic aspect and never this strongly differentiated landscape that the appeals to power and domination purport to explain” (66)

Making objects participants in the course of action

“As soon as you start to have doubts about the ability of social ties to durably expand, a plausible role for objets might be on offer. As soon as you believe social aggregates can hold their own being propped up by ‘social forces’, then objects vanish from view and the magical and tautological force of society is enough to hold every thing with, literally, no thing” (70)

As Latour puts it, “bringing objects back into the normal course of action should appear innocuous enough” (70). “After all,” writes Latour, “there is hardly any doubt that kettles ‘boil’ water, knifes ‘cut’ meat, baskets ‘hold’ provisions, hammers ‘hit’ nails on the head” (71)

“The Main reason why objects had no chance to play any role before was not only due to the definition of the social used by sociologists, but also to the very definition of actors and agencies most often chosen. If action is limited a priori to what ‘intentional, ‘meaningful’ humans do, it is hard to see how a hammer, [or] a basket [...] could act.

Latour asks, does an object make a difference to an agent’s action?

“ANT is not the empty claim that objects do things ‘instead’ of human actors: it simply says that no science of the social can even begin if the question of who and what participates in the action is not first of thoroughly explored, even though it might mean letting in elements, for a lack of a better term, we would call non-human” (72)

“For sociologists of associations [...] what is new is that objects are suddenly highlighted not only as being full-blow actors, but also as what explains the contrasted landscape we started with, the over-arching powers of society, the huge asymmetries, the crushing exercise of power” (72)

“How is it that, in spite of tis massive and ubiquitous phenomenon, sociology remains ‘without object’? It is even more startling when you realize that this discipline emerged a full century after the Industrial Revolution and has been evolving in parallel with the largest and most intensive technical developments since the Neolithic” (73)

Objects help trace social connections only intermittently

“Here, the apparently reasonable division between material and social becomes just what is obfuscating any enquiry on how a collective action is possible. Provided of course that by collective we don’t mean an action carried over by homogenous social forces, but, on the contrary, an action that collects different types of forces women together because they are different. This is why, from now on, the world ‘collective’ will take the place of ‘society’. Society will be kept only for the assembly of already gather entities that sociologist of the social believe have been made in social stuff. Collective, on the other hand, will designate the project of assembling new entities not yet gathered together and which, for this reason, clearly appear as being not made of social stuff” (74-75)

“What is so difficult to comprehend at first is that an ANT study has to tackle both continuity and discontinuity among modes of action. We have to become able to follow the smooth continuity of heterogenous entities and the complete discontinuity between participants that, in the end, will always remain incommensurable. The social fluid does not offer to the analyst a continuous and substantial existence, but rather puts up only a provisional appearance much like a shower of physical particles in the brief instant it’s forced into existence” (77)

A list of situations where an object’s activity is made easily visible

“In exploring the new associations making up the social, ANT scholars have to accept two contradictory demands: on the one hand, we don’t want the sociologist to limit oneself to social ties; on the other, we don’t ask the enquirer to become a specialized technologist. One solution is to stick to the new definition of social as a fluid visible only when new associations are being made” (79)

“Objects, by the very nature of their connections with humans, quickly shift from being mediators to being intermediaries, counting for one or nothing, no matter how internally complicated they might be. This is why specific tricks  have to be invented to make them talk, that is, to offer descriptions of themselves, to produce scripts of what they are making others–human or non-humans–do” (79)

1: Study innovations and their genesis, where, we find objects living “clearly multiple and complex life through meetings, plans, sketches, regulations, and trials. Here, they appear fully mixed with other more traditional social agencies” (80)

2: “even the most routine, traditional, and silent implements stop being taken for granted when they are approached by users rendered ignorant and clumsy by distance–distance in time as in archaeology, distance in space as in ethnology, distance in skills as in learning [...] In those encounters, objects become mediators, at least for a while, before soon disappearing again though know-how, habituation, or disuse” (80)

3: Objects, relations, and the world alights when “accidents, breakdowns, and strikes” occur: “all of a sudden, completely silent intermediaries become full-blown mediators; even objects, which a minute before appeared fully automatic, autonomous, and devoid of human agents, are now made of crowds of frantically moving humans with heavy equipment. Those who watched the Columbia shuttle instantly transformed from the most complicated human instrument ever assembled to a rain of debris falling over Texas will realize how quickly objects flip-flop their mode existence. Fortunately for ANT, the recent proliferation of ‘risky’ objects has multiplied the occasions to hear, see, and feel what objects may be doing when they break other actors down (81)

4: “when objects have receded into the background for good, it is always possible–but more difficult–to bring them back to light by using archives, documents, memoirs, museum collections, etc., to artificially produce, through historians’ accounts, the state of crisis in which machine, devices, ad implements were born” (81)

5: “when everything else has failed, the resource of fiction can bring–through the use of counterfactual history, through experiments, and ‘scientificion’–the solid objects of today into the fluid states where their connections with humans may make sense” (82)

But, Foucault?

“No one was more precise in his analytical decomposition of the tiny ingredients from which power is made and no one was more critical of social explanations. And yet, as soon as Foucault was translated, he was immediately turned into the one who had ‘reveled’ power relations behind every innocuous activity: madness, natural history, sex, administration, etc.” (86)

“Social explanations run the risk of hiding that which they should reveal since they remain too often ‘without object’” (82)

“When we define the quality control of ANT accounts, we have to very scrupulous in checking whether power and domination are explained by the multiplicity of objects given a central role and transported by vehicles which should be empirically visible–and we will not be content to have power and domination themselves be the mysterious container that hold inside of it that which makes the many participants in the action move” (83)

“To follow the social links even when they weave their way though non-social objects might be difficult for a reason that has nothing to do with theory [...] Every object was thus divided in two, scientist and engineers taking the largest part–efficacy, causality, material connections–and leaving the crumbs to the specialist of ‘the social’ or ‘the human’ dimension” (83)

“Objects are never assembled together to form some other realm anyhow, and even if it were the case they would neither be strong nor weak [...] Their action is no doubt much more varied, their presence much more distributed than these narrow repertoires” (85)

“There exists, however, an even more important reason for rejecting adamantly the role given to objects in the sociology of the social: [...] By putting aside he practical means, that is the mediators, through which inertia, durability, asymmetry, extension, domination is produced and by conflating all those different means with the powerless power of social inertia, sociologist, when they are not careful in their use of social explanations, are the ones who hide the real causes of social inequalities. If there is one point where confusing cause and effect makes a huge difference, it is at this juncture when an explanation should be provided for the vertiginous effect of domination” (85)

Week 7: First Source of Uncertainty: No Group, Only Group Formation (Kyle Kinaschuk)

Bruno Latour: “First Source of Uncertainty: No Group, Only Group Formation

Introductory Remarks: There Is No Such Thing as Society!

To begin with, we must distinguish between two approaches to “sociology”: sociology of the social and sociology of associations (associology). Sociology of the social, moreover, can be understood as the ways in which sociologists like Durkheim have approached sociology; namely, that there is a societal force, i.e., the “social” that exceeds biological, political, juridical, linguistic, etc. explanation, and therefore can be explained by social scientists. Furthermore, sociologists of the social understand phenomena from within a stable framework and rely on reductive methodologies that cannot account for process, formation, association, and contingency. Sociology of associations, on the other hand (Actor-Network Theory), can be said to be concerned with tracing associations of actors, which will be defined later, and their heterogeneous relations. Further, a sociology of associations cannot differentiate between the social and the technical, but this is another matter; however, ANT is committed to a methodological approach that doesn’t privilege the human as a symbolic or ideological representation of some “social force” that can be posited generally; rather, ANT will approach “relations” with the notion that there is nothing behind particular aggregates of association, yet ANT will still foreground agency. ANT, moreover, disrupts any understanding of the social that propagates a centralized understanding of relations that can be framed within a single direction or explanation, so ANT always seeks to uncover new associations, relations, and connections, which, of course, are always already unfolding through the actions of actors and groups themselves. Simply put, ANT will not rely on a hidden or extraneous explanation of a set of associations that presupposes a stable relation; perhaps, we could state that ANT has a philosophical tenor in so far as it will not bracket metaphysical problems in favour of trying to analyze an added “social” understanding of “reality.” Further, ANT is always concerned with tracing new connections, concepts, institutions, technologies, procedures, etc. in order to reassemble and reconnect the social.

Latour distinguishes between sociology of associations and sociology of the social when he writes, “According to the second approach [sociology of associations], adherents of the first [sociology of the social] have simply confused what they should explain with the explanation. They begin with society or other social aggregates, whereas one should end with them. They believed the social to be made essentially of social ties, whereas associations are made of its ties which are themselves non-social. They imagined that sociology is limited to a specific domain, whereas sociologists should travel wherever new heterogeneous associations are made. They believed the social is not a type of thing either visible or to be postulated. It is visible only by the traces it leaves (under trials) when a new association is being produced between elements which themselves are in no way ‘social.’ They insisted that we were already held by the force of some society when our political future resides in the task of deciding what binds us all together. In brief, the second school [sociology of associations] claims to resume the work of connection and collection that was abruptly interrupted by the first [sociology of the social]” (8).

To conclude this section, we could say that ANT is primarily concerned with five questions that hinge on their uncertainty. First, the question of the nature of groups, which the following section will explore, focuses on the ways in which actors have many disparate and often conflicting identities. Second, the question of the nature of actions, which is perhaps best understood as an anti-teleological understanding of action, that is, the ways that actions have a multitude of agents that always already disrupt intended outcomes. Third, the question of the nature of objects, which is a question that examines the contingency of objects, as the possibilities and capacities to make new associations and connections are always open. Fourth, the question of the nature of facts, which is a question that is primarily concerned with the many contradictory links and tensions between many of the discontinuous explanations in the field of the social sciences. Fifth, the question of the practice of social science, viz., the uncertainty that emerges when thinking under the banner of “social science” in relation to empirical observation. Consider the uncertainty principle: “the uncertainty principle [maintains that]…it is impossible to decide whether it resides in the observer or in the phenomenon observed. As we will see, it’s never the case that the analyst knows what the actors ignore, nor is it the case that the actors know what the observer ignores. This is the reason why the social needs to be reassembled” (22 fn. 16).

We might, however, want to reflect on Latour’s understanding of assemblages, though.

First Source of Uncertainty: No Group, Only Group Formation

Sociologists of the “social” begin their analyses with a privileged category or grouping for thinking through relations in “society,” while sociologists of associations will not impose or reduce analyses to one set group formation as a departure point; rather, ANT will focus on the actors’ travels by following their traces, which are stymied if social scientists begin an analysis with a set of predetermined groups and levels of study. In other words, “there is no relevant group that can be said to make up social aggregates, no established component that can be used as an incontrovertible starting point” (29).

A note on the word group: “The word ‘group’ is so empty that it sets neither size nor content. It could be applied to a planet as well as to an individual; to Microsoft as well as my family; to plants as well as baboons” (29). Latour, of course, employs the most “banal” language in order to avoid ensnaring and overdetermining the actors’ traces in the language of “sociology,” which seems to be the only possible “methodology” for adequately thinking about actors’ unique idioms, so the technical specificity and precision that is part and parcel of the sociology of the social prohibits meaningful engagement with actors, so much so that an understanding of the “social” is problematized by the very language a theoretical framework employs; therefore, flexible terms like “group,” and “actors” leave open a range of possibilities that do not foreclose possibilities for tracing new connections and reassembling the social. ANT, then, respects the actors’ alterity by employing an infra-language that allows the actors’ to “speak” louder than the sociologists by minimizing the use of jargon . The emphasis, then, for ANT is always on eschewing models that begin with a focus on one group whether the group is on a “macro-level” or “micro-level,” because ANT foregrounds group formations and their coterminous controversies. Moreover, the major point to get here is that already existing connections, more or less, reaffirm one’s understanding of the world, while tracing group formations pushes existing frameworks. and therefore will produce interesting “data,” but is that to say that “matter” itself is being transformed and manipulated by ANT? ANT’s penchant for immanent connections, is perhaps the most Deleuzean aspect of Latour’s argument so far, since Deleuze is never going to be interested in reproducing hackneyed representations of the world, which will always limit our capacities to be otherwise, so existing categories, frameworks, and concepts must always be challenged in favour of new and creative ways of viewing the world; however, the preceding, of course, is a somewhat simplistic understanding of Deleuze’s project, but it gets us closer to thinking about the relation between Latour and Deleuze.

Another connection can be made between Latour and DeLanda, as both thinkers work against the distinction between “social” scales coordinated around the macro and the micro: “One reason for this continuing uncertainty over the departure point—individual, structures, fields, trajectories, etc.—is due to the belief that society is ranked according to sizes ranging from Small to XXL” (31 fn. 23). DeLanda, too, wants to disrupt the erroneous assumption that society can be understood as existing on either the macro or the micro levels. Assemblage theory, moreover, will put forth a much more nuanced formulation of “society” that does away with either the “Small” or the “XXL.”

Groups are always in process, disparate, and always subject to redefinition: “Groups are not silent things, but rather the provisional product of a constant uproar made by the millions of contradictory voices about what is a group and who pertains to what” (31). It should be noted, moreover, that groups are always relational and heterogeneous, that is to say, groups necessitate interactions with others in order to be identified as such: “Although groups seem to be already fully equipped, ANT sees none existing without a rather large retinue of group makers, group talkers, and group holders” (32). Groups, it could be said, need voices to invoke their status—“recruiting officers.” Furthermore, groups are to be understood negatively. In other words, a group’s identity is determined in relation to anti-groups; nevertheless, this movement between identifying a group is simultaneous with the emergence of anti-groups . Ties, then, are traced in a competitive fashion wherein other ties are deemed inferior to the established tie or group. The foregoing is important methodologically for ANT because it supports the claim that sociologists should not determine social aggregates for actors and groups, since actors will already leave a trace of their own associations, e.g., anti-groups and group delineations. Actors develop their own contexts, so actors are not, as critical sociology suggests, mere “informants.” The sociologist cannot be elevated to a transcendental status that can view the actors’ relations in their totality.

Groups are bound to definitions that seek to stabilize the identity of the groups that mark their boundaries and differences from anti-groups, which encroach and challenge their identities; however, this process of stabilization—territorialization—is dangerous because it solidifies understandings of relations and connections, so much so that traces seem imperceptible to the analyst. I wonder if these movements between groups and group formations that play out in the field of the social are commensurable with Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of territorialization and deterritorialization. Is it possible to claim that groups as employed by the sociologists of the social enforce territorializing movements, while the sociologists of associations allow for deterritorialization? Latour notes that to define the group in such a rigid way is to push the ensemble “out of the social world” (33). But we should remember that what matters for ANT is who is levying the definitions upon the group, that is to say, sociologists of the social operate under the pretense that the actors are radically separate from the sociologists, which ANT cannot conceptualize, for the social scientists are always part of the social fabric too, so the social scientist and the actors cannot be demarcated in the sense that the sociologists of the social claim they can. Group formation necessitates both parties, that is, social scientists and actors.

I’m wondering if it is possible to momentarily reflect upon a claim Latour makes in the introduction to Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory; namely, that ANT is incompatible with a certain “postmodern” skepticism towards metanarratives, yet, I think, it might be possible to ask the following question: is ANT not commensurable with Lyotard’s (we must for the moment conflate “postmodern” with Lyotard’s famous definition, even though this is by and large problematic) claim that the postmodern condition can be characterized as an incredulity towards metanarratives, since ANT is also advocating the impossibility of privileging one framework over all of the others? Latour writes, “it is already possible to learn how to trace with it [ANT] many connections, instead of being constantly bogged down in the impossible task of deciding once and for all what is the right unit of analysis sociology should chose to focus on. This is, however, a very partial advantage of ANT. On the one hand, we are freed from the impossible task that would have slowed us down. On the other, we now have to take into account many more contradictory cartographies of the social than we would have wished for—and that is going to slow us down even more.” Is the preceding not the epistemological weight of a “postmodern” approach via Lyotard, et al. interpreted from within the field of the “social”? How can we think of the aforementioned claim when juxtaposed with the following: “ANT has been confused with a postmodern emphasis on the critique of the ‘Great Narratives’ and ‘Eurocentric’ or ‘hegemonic’ standpoint. This is, however, a very misleading view. Dispersion, destruction, and deconstruction are not the goals achieved but what needs to be overcome. It’s much more important to check what are the new institutions, procedures, and concepts able to collect and to reconnect the social” (11). To what extent can we say that Latour is espousing an incredibly misinformed conceptualization of “postmodernism” and “deconstruction,” because these “modes of thinking” do not, of course, necessitate a “destruction” of thought or knowledge per se, nor do they impede new connections from being made (please keep in mind that I am rather horrifically conflating all “postmodern” thinkers for the moment). In my view, ANT shares many of the same tenants, anxieties, and commitments that many “poststructuralist” and “postmodern” thinkers do. I cannot, unfortunately, explore this in any great detail here, but this is certainly something to think about while reading ahead.

Latour notes that ANT is not caught between “certainty and confusion, between the arbitrariness of some a priori decision and the morass of endless differences. What we have lost—a fixed list of groups—we have regained because groupings have constantly to be made, or re-made, and during this creation or recreation the group-makers leave behind many traces that can be used as data by the informer” (34). The preceding quotation speaks to many of the questions raised above. In relation to Deleuze and Guattari, could be it be said, perhaps quite radically, that ANT is a smooth space that operates to capture, map, and define via the collection of data the “social” by utilizing the smooth spaces of groups that are always already deterritorializing and territorializing? That is to say, the rejection of a spiraling of “endless differences,” which is a phrase that is redolent of both Deleuze’s and Derrida’s projects in different ways, is necessary to redefine and recreate groups that are always in flux? If we do away with endless “differences,” then is it possible to say that we are still committed to the collection of “data” through a smooth space instead of the striated space as employed by sociologists of the social? I wonder if the distinction between machinic assemblages and collective assemblages of enunciation is helpful here, as it speaks to the differences between the ostensive definitions and performative definitions that Latour is establishing. It should be mentioned that I am not trying to assert that Latour’s and Deleuze’s projects are completely incompatible, as they both share many similarities; however, I want to highlight a possible discontinuity.

Latour claims that “for ANT, if you stop making and remaking groups, you stop having groups” (35). Groups, then, never experience inertia, as they are always in flux, but that does not mean, for Latour, that groups cannot be traced, since groups, as we have established above, leave associations. Sociologists of the social can only understand the field of the social through decay and reserve the flux of recreating and creating groups to aberrations, which ANT asserts are the very identity and fabric of groups. The exception, then, for ANT is stability and durability.

What are the differences between the ostensive and the performative? The ostensive, simply, is used by sociologists of the social to ensure the prolongation of groups, since it relies on already existing frameworks, associations, and connections. The performative, however, challenges the stability of the group by calling into question its basis, that is, the performative attempts to recognize the instabilities that paradoxically solidify a group’s identity rather than just assuming that stability is the norm. More precisely, the performative denotes how groups or objects cease to be the “same” groups or objects when they cease performing certain functions, while the ostensive assumes that the group or object is still a project or group regardless of its performance or function; thus, the performative can account for change and discontinuity, whereas the ostensive fetishizes the stability of the group or object regardless of its presence.

For ANTS, there is no x!

Latour makes a crucial distinction between sociologists of the social and sociologists of association: “the first enquirers claim: [sociologists of the social] ‘Surely we need to start somewhere, so why not begin by defining society as being made of (x)?’ The others exclaim with as much energy: [sociologists of associations] ‘Let the actors do the job for us. Don’t define for them what makes up the social!’ The reason for this difference in duties is that, in the eyes of the former group, the choice of a departure point is not absolutely crucial since the social world already exists. For them, if you highlight ‘classes’ instead of ‘individuals,’ ‘nations’ instead of ‘classes’…all the paths will merge in the end since they are simply somewhat arbitrary ways to delineate the same big animal…However the situation is entirely different for ANT because neither society nor the social exists in the first place. They have to be retraced by subtle changes in connection non-social resources. Thus, every choice of a departure point will lead to the drawing of a completely different animal, fully incommensurable with the others [is this not the spirals of difference?]” (35-36).

Latour’s shibboleth: are the means to produce the social intermediaries or mediators?  Latour defines the intermediary as “what transports meaning or force without transformation: defining its inputs is enough to define its outputs. For all practical purposes, an intermediary can be taken as a black box, but also as a black box counting for one, even if it is internally made of many parts” (39). Conversely, the mediator “cannot be counted as just one; they might count for one, for nothing, for several, or infinity. Their input is never a good predictor of their output; their specificity has to be taken into account every time. Mediators transform, translate, distort, and modify the meaning or the elements they are supposed to carry” (39). The source of uncertainties arrives from the question: are entities behaving as mediators or intermediaries?

Sociologists of the social assume many intermediaries in the texture of an already posited social field where mediators are the exception. ANT (sociology of associations) affirms that the multitude of forms that social aggregates might take is unpredictable; thus, ANT uses mediators to unweave and complicate the occasional intermediary.

Is sociology historically bound to the legislating process of the state apparatus?

CONCLUDING REMARKS: GOD AND THE MARKET ARE NOT THE SAME. OKAY? THEY ARE NOT EXPRESSIONS OF THE SAME SOCIAL WORLD. GOD IS NOT SUBSTITUTABLE FOR ANY OTHER ASSOCIATION. AND NEITHER IS THE MARKET. THE SOCIAL IS NOT A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE—A METALANGUAGE—THAT CAN TRANSLATE ALL OF THE TERMS THAT ARE EVOKED BY ACTORS INTO A HOMOGENIZING DISCOURSE THAT CAN EXPLAIN “EXISTING” SOCIAL FORCES. SAY GOODBYE TO A COMMON CURRENCY. ANTS DO NOT HAVE CREDIT CARDS! ANTS DO NOT WIELD MEASURING STICKS!

Week 6: Cities and Nations (Tomas Boudreau)

“Interpersonal networks and institutional organizations may be studied without reference to their location in space [...] but as we move to larger scales spatial relations become crucial” (94)

“I have argued in previous chapters that, except in the most uneventful situations, routine behavior must be complimented with deliberate decision-making in the explanation of social action. But when studying the effects of human behavior on the form of urban components the emphasis on routine activity is justified because [...] urban forms tend to change extremely slowly. A house [...] ‘wherever it may be is, an enduring thing, and it bears witness to the slow pace of civilizations, of cultures bent on preserving, maintaining, repeating” (95)

“Other components playing a material role are those determining the connectivity of the regions of a building. If locals are stations where the daily paths of individual persons converge, the regions that subdivide them must be connected to each other to allow for the circulation of human bodies and a variety of other material entities [...] Changes in connectivity , in turn, impinge in a variety of ways on the social activities performed in a given locale” (96)

“In Chinese, Indian, and Islamic civilizations, as well as among the European poor, the weight of tradition seems to have been almost overwhelmingly stabilizing when it comes to building techniques and materials [...] The birth of fashion, on the other hand, had deterritorializng effects [...] The impetus behind fashion was not just the desire to mark social-class territories through the way bodies and homes were dressed but also derived from the fact that, in Europe, aristocracies saw their distinguishing expressive markers constantly under threat by the increased social mobility of rich merchants and artisans” (98)

“Commercial and industrial neighborhoods have often been subject to the processes of congregation and segregation: similar crafts and trades have traditionally tended to congregate, while certain noxious activities like slaughtering have often been the target of institutional segregation. But residential neighborhoods too acquire relatively well-defined borders, and a uniform internal composition, through these processes” (101)

“In fact, an assemblage analysis of urban centers must take into account not only town and countryside, but also the geographical region they both occupy. This region is an important source of components playing a material role in the assemblage” (105)

“The processes that stabilize a city’s identity concern both the sharpness of its physical borders as well as the routine human practices taking place within those borders, in particular, the form taken by residential practices” (106)

“In formal models of urban dynamics, assemblages of cities of different sizes emerge from a sequence of symmetry-breaking events, as each town confronts centripetal processes, like the capture of population, investment and other resources, as well as centrifugal ones, like congestion, pollution, traffic. At the tipping-point, when on set of forces begins to dominate the other, a town may grow explosively or shrink to a small size in t shadow of a lager one. In computer simulations the actual pater that emerges is not unique–as if there existed a single optimal patter to which the urban dynamics always tended–but is, on the contrary, highly sensitive to the actual historical sequence of events. For this reason, the emergent pater of urban centers is like a memory of this symmetry-breaking sequence ‘fossilized in the spatial structure of the system’” (108)

“The historical period that sealed the fate of autonomous cities can be framed by two critical dates, 1494 and 1648, a period that witnessed warfare increasing enormously in both intensity and geographical scape. The first date marks the year when the Italian city-states were first invaded and brought to their knees by armies from beyond the Alps [...] The second date celebrates the signing of the peace treaty of Wesphalia [...] When the peace treaty was finally signed by the exhausted participants, a unified, geopolitically stabilizing Germany had been created at the centre of Europe, and the frontier that defined the identity of territorial states, we well as the balance of power between them, were consolidated. Although the crucial concept of of ‘sovereignty’ had been formalized prior to the war [...] it was during the peace conference that it was first used in practice to define the identity of territorial states as legal entities. Thus, international law may be said to have been the offspring of that war” (113)

“If the rise of kingdoms, empires and nation-states exerted territorilizing pressure on cities by reducing their autonomy, maritime networks not only resisted these pressure but were capable then, and still are today, of deterrittorializing the constitutive boundaries of territorial states. The pressure on these boundaries has intensified in recent decades as the ease with which financial resources ca flow across state boundaries, the degree of differentiation of the international division of labour, and the mobility of legal and illegal workers, have all increased” (118)

“But what is clear even at this stage of our understanding is that approaches based on reductions social ontologies do not do justice to the historical data. This is particular true of macro-reductionist approaches, such as the co-called ‘world-systems analysis’” (118)

“Explanations at the level of nation-states are viewed as illegitimate since the position of countries in world-system determine their very nature. An assemblage approach, on the other hand, is more compatible with Braudel’s original idea. Although he does not use the concept of ‘assemblage’, he views social wholes as ‘sets of sets’, giving each differently scaled entity its own relative autonomy without fusing it with the other into a seamless whole” (118)

“It is has been the purpose of this book to argue the merits of such a nonreductionist approach, an approach in which every social entity is shown to emerge from the interactions among entities operating at a smaller scale. The fact that the emergent wholes react back on their components to constrain them and enable them does not result in a seamless totality. Each level of scale retains a relative autonomy and can therefore be legitimate unity of analysis. Preserving the ontological independence of each scale not only blocks attempts at micro-reductionism (as in neoclassical economic) and macro-reductionism (as in world-systems analysis) but also allow the integration of the valuable insights that different social scientists have developed while working at specific spatiotemporal scales” (118)

Week 5: Assemblages Against Totalities, Assemblages Against Essences (Michael Giesbrecht)

“Hence, a realist approach to social ontology must assert the autonomy of social entities from the conceptions we have of them. To say that social entities have a reality that is conception-independent is simply to assert that the theories, models and classifications we use to study them may be objectively wrong, that is, that they may fail to capture the real history and internal dynamics of those entities” (1)

“By contrast, the realist social ontology to be defended in this book is all about objective processes of assembly: a wide range of social entities, from persons to nation states, will be treated as assemblages constructed through very specific historical processes, processes in which language plays an important but not a constitutive role” (3, emphasis my own)

“Readers who feel that the theory developed here is not strictly speaking Deleuze’s own are welcome to call it ‘neo-assemblage theory’, ‘assemblage theory 2.0’, or some other name” (4)

Bricolage Assemblages against Seamless Totalities

 

“Is there, for example, such a thing as society as a whole? Is the commitment to assert the existence of such an entity legitimate? And, is denying the reality of such an entity equivalent to a commitment to the existence of only individual persons and their families? The answer to all these questions is a definitive no, but several obstacles must be removed before justifying this response.” (8)

DeLanda situates the ontological position of assemblage theory against what he names the organismic metaphor or “block-universe” position, which posits ontological entities as seamless totalities of predetermined components or organs operating in necessary, harmonious conjunction with one another. Specifically, in the context of social ontology, the organismic metaphor functions through comparing a social entity to the body of an organism, following a set of naturalizing assumptions about the predisposed unity or wholeness of such a body:

“In its least sophisticated form this stumbling-block involves making a superficial analogy between society and the human body, and to postulate that just as bodily organs work together for the organism as a whole, so the function of social institutions is to work in harmony for the benefit of society” (8)

DeLanda demonstrates how the organismic metaphor of human society, specifically, is deeply rooted in the Western canon of social, political, and philosophical thought, tracing it through theorists and thinkers ranging from Hegel and Aristotle through to contemporary sociological figures. He quotes an illuminating passage from Becker and Barnes:

The theory of the resemblance between classes, groups, and institutions in society and the organs of the individual is as old as theory itself. We have already noted its presence in Hindu thought and have also called attention to the fact that Aristotle, in book IV of his Politics, sets forth this organismic analogy with precision and clarity. The same conception appears clearly in the writings of Cicero, Livy, Seneca, and Paul. In the Middle Ages elaborate anthropomorphic analogies were drawn by John of Salisbury and Nicholas of Cues. In the early modern period, Hobbes and Rousseau contrasted the organism and the state, holding that the organism was the product of nature while the state was an artificial creation. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century fanciful notions of the social and political organism appeared with such writers as Hegel, Schelling, Krause, Ahrens, Schmitthenner, and Waitz.” (8, Becker and Barnes)

This position is primarily characterized through what DeLanda names relations of interiority between component parts, which presupposes that the existence and identity of such parts is determined through the interior relations which they have with one another within an organic unity or whole, such that an entity in which its component parts are self-subsistent and able to enter into new and different relations (relations of exteriority) could no longer be conceived as an authentic, organic totality. Thus, according to this dogmatic ontological position, the identity of an entity conceived as a totality and its particular components is constituted through a “strict reciprocal determination between parts” (9)

DeLanda quotes Hegel’s near archetypal definition of the organismic metaphor of totalities to illustrate the primary assumptions of this position:

“’This is what constitutes the character of mechanism, namely, that whatever relation obtains between the things combined, this relation is extraneous to them that does not concern their nature at all, and even if it is accompanied by a semblance of unity it remains nothing more than composition, mixture, aggregation, and the like” (9, Hegel)

With regards to a social ontology, the tendency of the organismic metaphor is to posit a society as a self-contained whole or totality, in which ostensibly different or conflicting forces (such as agency and structure in the work of Anthony Giddens) are consolidated within the whole as mutually constitutive. We can locate a primary example of this theory at work in Hegel’s dialectics, in which difference is shackled and confined to the same through a consolidating movement towards totality or the absolute.

DeLanda’s alternative is located in Deleuze’s bricolage notion of Assemblage, which, as demonstrated in the following section, is characterized by several notions distinct from the organismic metaphor…

The Fundamental Characteristics of Assemblage Theory: Relations of Exteriority, Materiality and Expressivity, Territorialization and Deterritorialization


DeLanda positions his primary ontological position in Assemblage Theory, founded primarily by Deleuze and Guattari who explicated their notion of assemblages as bricolage compositions of heterogeneous and autonomous entities (themselves, upon further consideration, compositions or assemblages in their own right) which form contingently, that is, out of pragmatic or empirical conditions of possibility rather than predetermined necessity

“Today, the main theoretical alternative to organic totalities is what philosopher Gilles Deleuze calls assemblages, wholes characterized relations of exteriority. These relations imply, first of all, that a component part of an assemblage may be detached from it and plugged into a different assemblage in which its interactions are different. In other words, the exteriority of relations implies a certain autonomy for the terms they relate, or as Deleuze puts it, it implies that ‘a relation may change without the terms changing’” (10)

(Could we possibly problematize DeLanda’s assertion that component parts or terms of an assemblage are autonomous, and that an assemblage may change in its synthetic or emergent relations without its constituent terms losing their character? In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari themselves posit that “a multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number [or change in relations] without the multiplicity changing in nature…”(8))

Returning necessarily to DeLanda…

“Relations of exteriority guarantee that assemblages may be taken apart while at the same time allowing that the interactions between parts may result in a true synthesis.” (11)

Here, the implication which follows is that an assemblage is not the result of necessary or natural conditions, but rather of contingent spaces (or conditions?) of possibility

“A seamless whole is inconceivable except as a synthesis of these very parts, that is, the linkages between its components form logically necessary relations which make the whole what it is. But in an assemblage these relations may be only contingently obligatory” (11)

Following this line of thinking, the heterogeneity of an assemblage’s component parts cannot be posited as necessary, natural, or predetermined, but rather exists in relative spectrums…

“In what follows I will not take heterogeneity as a constant property of assemblages but as a variable that may take different values.” (11)

Thus, according to DeLanda, the primary structure of assemblages, their heterogeneity, is defined along two dimensions or axis: one, a spectrum between a component part’s material subsistence and its expressive capacities, and the other defining an assemblage’s tendency towards territorialization (homogeneity, discreteness, demarcation) or deterritorialization (destabilization of its component parts, increasing ambiguity of its boundaries, or drastic increase in its internal heterogeneity)…

1) “One dimension or axis defines the variable roles which an assemblage’s components may play from a purely material role at one extreme of the axis, to a purely expressive role at the other extreme.” (12)

However, expressivity and materiality cannot be positioned as purely dichotomous, as even material objects, processes or substances are always at a fundamental level always expressive in their capacity to breed particular, complex relations and produce larger, more complex assemblages. Rather, the spectrum can be illuminated further in DeLanda’s elucidation of Deleuze’s notion of critical thresholds of expressivity (chemical-genetic-linguistic). In short, we cannot understand expressivity as simply linguistic…

“Illustrating the components playing an expressive role needs some elaboration because in assemblage theory expressivity cannot be reduced to language and symbols.” (12)

This spectrum of materiality-expressivity is supplanted by another axis of processes which either stabilize the assemblage, producing clearly demarcated boundaries and maintaining the internal homogeneity of its component parts, or otherwise increasing its internal heterogeneity and destabilizing its boundaries. These are the processes of territorialization and deterritorialization

2) “The other dimension defines variable processes in which these components become involved and that either stabilize the identity of an assemblage, by increasing its degree of internal homogeneity or the degree of sharpness of its boundaries, or destabilize it. The former are referred to as processes of territorialization and the latter as processes of deterritorialization.” (12)

“The concept of territorialization must be first of all understood literally.” (13)

“Territorialization, on the other hand, also refers to non-spatial processes which increase the internal homogeneity of an assemblage, such as the sorting processes which exclude a certain category of people from membership of an organization, or the segregation processes which increase the ethnic or racial homogeneity of a neighbourhood.” (13)

As opposed to deterritorialization…

“Any process which either destabilizes spatial boundaries or increases internal heterogeneity is considered deterritorializing.” (14)

(A side note on assemblages in Deleuze and Guattari from Kyle’s notes last week…)

“An assemblage is not a set of predetermined parts…that are then put together in order to or into an already-conceived structure. Nor is an assemblage a random collection of things, since there is a sense that an assemblage is a whole of some sort that expresses some identity and claims a territory. An assemblage is a becoming that brings elements together” (91)

Does the conceptualization of an assemblage as a becoming which brings together differential elements or abstract dimensions reinforce DeLanda’s specific conceptualization of assemblage theory, or does it contradict it?

Concrete Assemblages, not Abstract Generalities

Lastly, for DeLanda, assemblages must always be concrete, not in the sense that they are restricted to material processes alone, but in the sense that they are always particular and cannot be abstracted into general trans-historical notions or ideas…

“The combination of recurrence of the same assembly processes at any one spatial scale, and the recurrence of the same kind of assembly processes (territorialization and coding) at successive scales, gives assemblage theory a unique way of approaching the problem of linking the micro-and macro-levels of social reality… One advantage of the present approach is that it allows the replacement of vaguely defined general entities (like ‘the market’ or ‘the state’) with concrete assemblages.” (17)

And some departing considerations…

In what sense can we call DeLanda’s ontology necessarily realist,  as opposed to what other stance (conceptualist, constructionist, linguistic, etc…)? Is his reconceptualization of the role of language and expressivity in social assemblages necessarily realist in nature?

Is DeLanda true to a Deleuzian ontology, or does he derive is own, unique ontology which can distinguished from Deleuze’s? Specifically, does he depart with Deleuze’s monism and Spinozism in order to theorize heterogeneity and complexity in assemblages?

– Michael

Week 4: The Smooth and the Striated (Kyle Kinaschuk)

Deleuze and Guattari: “The Smooth and the Striated” (474-500)

“Is a smooth space captured, enveloped by a striated space, or does a striated space dissolve into a smooth space, allow a smooth space to develop?” (475)

“The striated is that which intertwines fixed and variable elements, produces an order and succession of distinct forms, and organizes horizontal melodic lines and vertical harmonic planes. The smooth is the continuous variation, continuous development of form; it is the fusion of harmony and melody in favor of the production of properly rhythmic values, the pure act of drawing of a diagonal across the vertical and the horizontal” (478)

“Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us” (500).

Smooth Space (Nomadic Forces) and Striated Space (Sedentary Captures)

“Nothing is ever done with: smooth space allows itself to be striated, and striated space reimparts a smooth space, with potentially very different values, scope, and signs. Perhaps we must say that all progress is made by and in striated space, but all becoming occurs in smooth space” (486).

Possible “terms” for smooth and striated spaces: deterritorialization/(re)territorialization; rhizome/arborescent; non-metric multiplicity/metric multiplicity; nomos/polis; nomos/logos; line/point; Riemannian space/Euclidean space; free action/work; haptic/optic; close vision/long distance; sea/city; nomadic/sedentary; distance/magnitude; war machine/state apparatus; becoming/progress; heterogeneity/homogeneity; dissymmetry/dissymmetry;  patchwork/embroidery; affect/property; abstract line/concrete line; Kleist travel/Goethe travel; numbering number/numbered number; qualitative/quantitative; packs/masses, flat/numerical; molecular/molar; acentered/centered; instensive/extensive; minor science/royal science; decoding/overcoding; crochet/ knitting; go/chess; traits of expression/forms of expression; nonorganic/organic; and directionality/dimensionality.

A note on assemblages:

“An assemblage is not a set of predetermined parts…that are then put together in order to or into an already-conceived structure. Nor is an assemblage a random collection of things, since there is a sense that an assemblage is a whole of some sort that expresses some identity and claims a territory. An assemblage is a becoming that brings elements together” (91).

On the dissymmetrical movements of the smooth and the striated:

“We are always, however, brought back to a dissymmetrical necessity to cross from the smooth to the striated, and from the striated to the smooth.”

“It is possible to live striated on the deserts, steppes, or seas; it is possible to live smooth even in the cities, to be an urban nomad” (482).

How do the smooth and the striated confound dialectics and binaries? (See “the birth of the multiplicity,” 483).

1)      Smooth space succumbs to the territorialization of striated space

2)      Striated space is deterritorialized into smooth space (ad infinitum?)

Striated space ensnares “subjects” within a set of functions, while smooth space conceptualizes “subjects” as movements, affects, flows, that is, a range of capacities and lines of flight that are not realized on striated spaces. For instance, the striated space marks a radical distinction between the body as a self-contained entity that exists apart from the world. The striated space, moreover, maintains a framework that organizes the world in relation to exteriority and interiority. Smooth spaces, however, obviate the categories “interior” and “exterior,” and stress the ways in which the subject-object dichotomy is not tenable. Perhaps, here is where the assemblage comes into play, as the smooth space conceptualizes matter as a process of becoming that is unhindered by organisms, structure, and cementation. Heterogeneity not homogeneity.

The smooth and the striated can be conceptualized in separation from one another through abstraction; however, the smooth and the striated are always mixing with one another, but how can we think of the assemblage in relation to the smooth and the striated? Is it possible to position the assemblage as existing between the smooth and the striated?—between the BwO and the stratum? Can there ever be an absolute deterritorialization wherein striated space is effaced? What are the possibilities of thinking of the smooth and the striated in relation to the double articulation? To repeat: “But is structure the earth’s last word?”

The Technological Model: Fabric/Felt and Embroidery/Patchwork (475-477)

Fabric as striated space:

1)      Constituted by horizontal and vertical elements that intersect.

2)      The horizontal and the vertical have assigned functions; the horizontal as fixed, while the vertical is mobile (passing below and above the horizontal)

3)      Delimited space (horizontally) whereas the vertical space is potentially infinite

“Clothes-fabric and tapestry-fabric tend to annex the body and exterior space, respectively, to the immobile house: fabric integrates the body and the outside into a closed space” (476)

Felt (anti-fabric) as smooth space:

1)      The threads are not separated; rather, the threads are tangled.

2)      Felt is “infinite, open, and unlimited in every direction”

3)      No top or bottom

4)      There are no assigned functions, as there are only processes and continuous variations

“The weaving of the nomad indexes clothing and the house itself to the space of the outside, to the open smooth space in which the body moves” (476)

However, felt can be used as fabric, as there are countless instances of mixing and interweaving fabric and felt.

Embroidery as striated space:

1)      Theme or motif, i.e., center of organization

2)      Variables and constants

3)      Patterns and symmetries

“Crazy” Patchwork as smooth space:

1)       Varies in size, shape, colour

2)      “an amorphous collection of juxtaposed pieces that can be joined together in an infinite number of ways

“She had been working on it for fifteen years, carrying about with her a shapeless bag of dingy, threadbare brocade containing odds and ends of colored fabric in all possible shapes. She could never bring herself to trim them to any pattern; so she shifted and fitted and mused and fitted and shifted them like pieces of a puzzle-picture, trying to fit them to a pattern or create a pattern out of them without using her scissors, smoothing her colored scraps with flaccid, putty-colored fingers” (476).

“It is as though a smooth space emanated, sprang from a striated space, but not without a correlation between the two, a recapitulation of one in the other, a furtherance of one through the other. Yet the complex difference persists” (477).

The Maritime Model: The Sea and the City (479-482)

“Smooth space is occupied by intensities, wind and noise, forces, and sonorous and tactile qualities, as in the desert, steppe, or ice. The creaking of ice and the song of sands. Striated space, on the contrary, is canopied by the sky as measure and by the measurable visual qualities deriving from it” (479).

The sea is the most intelligible example of the “ostensible” demarcation between smooth and striated spaces. The sea, for Deleuze and Guattari, is the first space that necessitated striation, and therefore the sea is said to be the archetype for all striations of smooth space.

The sea as striated space:

1)    Bearings: the calculations that correlated with the sun and stars

2)    Maps: meridians, parallels, longitudes and latitudes, plotting

The sea, however, is territorialized and deterritorialized, that is, fluctuates between smooth and striated space. In the “beginning,” people navigated the sea with a system based on wind, colours, and noise (this system is nomadic). Moreover, the sea eventually was striated with bearings and maps, but then the submarine as the neonomad functioned to smooth out the striated sea; nevertheless, the submarine deterritorializes and smooths the striations of the sea in order to territorialize, striate, control, and map the sea more comprehensively.

“All this serves as a reminder that the smooth itself can be drawn and occupied by diabolical powers of organization; value judgements aside, this demonstrates above all that there exist two nonsymmetrical movements, one of which striates the smooth, and one of which reimparts  smooth space on the basis of the striated” (480).

Interlude: Smooth and Striated

1)    Smooth: the point is between two lines. Striated: the line is between two points

2)    Smooth: open intervals. Striated: closed intervals

3)    Smooth: one distributes oneself in an open space in accordance to frequencies Striated: one closes off a surface and allocates it according to determinate intervals, assigned breaks

It is the town the invents agriculture (imposition of the striated on the smooth)

The city as striated space:

“The city is the striated space par excellence; the sea is a smooth space fundamentally open to striation, and the city is the force of striation that reimports smooth space, puts it back into operation everywhere…outside but also inside itself” (481).

But this striated space becomes the condition of possibility for “sprawling, temporary, shifting shantytowns of nomads and cave dwellers, scrap metal and fabric, patchwork, to which the striations of money, work, or housing are no longer even relevant” (481). On the other hand, the city can also be smoothed out by taking an evening walk, which permits one to wander nomadically while continually varying speeds, orientations, directions, styles.

“Voyaging smoothly is becoming, and a difficult, uncertain becoming at that. It is not a question of returning to a preastronomical navigation, nor to the ancient nomads. The confrontation between the smooth and striated, the passages, alternations and superpositions, are under way today, running in the most varied directions” (482).

The maritime model, then, converts the smooth space of the sea, a heterogeneous space of intensities, affects, speeds, and movements, to a striated space of maps and bearings, a homogenous space that is reduced to measurements and zones.

The Physical Model: The War Machine and the State Apparatus; or, Free Action contra Work (488-492)

Mapping the War Machine:

“The war machine constitutes an outside to the State. While the State is characterised by interiority, the war machine is characterised by absolute exteriority. While the State is, as we have seen, a coded conceptual plane confining thought within binary structures, the war machine is sheer nomadic movement, non-striated and uncoded. It is a space characterised by pluralities, multiplicities and difference, which escapes State-coding by eschewing binary structures (Deleuze 1987: 141). The war machine is the State’s Outside – whatever escapes the State’s capture: ‘just as Hobbes saw clearly that the State was against war, so war is against the State and makes it impossible’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 359).
It is the conceptual absence of essence and central authority. Again I would argue that Deleuze, as was the case with Stirner, is not talking here about actual war, but rather a theoretical terrain characterised by conceptual openness to plurality and difference, which eschews the stable identities, essences and conceptual unities that form part of the assemblage of the State. The idea of war as a radical dislocation and constitutive emptiness may be developed in this way, as a tool of resistance against State power and authority. As we have seen, resistance is a dangerous enterprise: it can always be colonised by the power it opposes. It can no longer be seen as the overthrowing of State power by an essential revolutionary subject. Resistance may now be seen in terms of war: a field of multiple struggles, strategies, localised tactics, temporary setbacks and betrayals – ongoing antagonism without the promise of a final victory. As Deleuze says: ‘…the world and its States are no more masters of their plane than revolutionaries are condemned to a deformation of theirs. Everything is played in uncertain games…’” (Saul Newman).

The physicosocial concept of work (striated capitalism):

1)    Physics: weight-height and force-displacement

2)    Socioeconomics: labour-power or abstract labour (a homogenous abstract quantity applicable to all work)

“Impose the Work-model upon every activity, translate every act into possible or virtual work, discipline free action, or else (which amounts to the same thing) relegate it to “leisure,” which exists only by reference to work. We understand now why the Work-model, in both its physical and social aspects, is a fundamental part of the State apparatus” (490).

The war machine, moreover, was striated by the State apparatus by way of formulating abstract-labour time, which captured the free action in smooth space. Deleuze and Guattari outline two reasons for this capture or striation of the war machine and therefore the invention of the physiosocial concept of work:

1)    Labour only appears with the constitution of a surplus; labour is only ever surplus labour, that is, labour that exceeds the necessary labour for one’s well-being

2)    Labour performs a generalized operation of striation of space-time, a subjection of free action, a nullification of smooth space

“Where there is no State and no surplus labour, there is no Work-model either” (491).

What is the distinction between surplus labour and labour? Deleuze and Guattari write, “surplus labor becomes less and less distinguishable from labour “strictly speaking,” and totally impregnates it. How could one possibly distinguish between the time necessary for reproduction and “extorted time,” when they are no longer separated in time? (491).

“In these new conditions [when machines confound the categories of constant and variable capital via machines’ ability to create surplus value], it remains true that all labor involves surplus labor; but surplus labor no longer requires labor” (492).

“Smooth” capitalism operating within “striated” capitalism to strengthen itself:

1)    “Surplus labor, capitalist organization in its entirety, operates less and less by the striation of space-time corresponding to the physicosocial concept of work. Rather, it is as though human alienation through surplus labor were replaced by a generalized “machinic enslavement,” such that one may furnish surplus-value without doing any work (children, the retired, the unemployed, television viewers, etc.). Not only does the user as such tend to become an employee, but capitalism operates less on a quantity of labor than by a complex qualitative process bringing into play modes of transportation, urban models, the media, the entertainment industries, ways of perceiving and feeling—every semiotic system” (492).

It must be noted, however, that striation, for Deleuze and Guattari, is not simply replaced by smooth capital; rather, the remnants of striated capital resonate on “the state pole of capitalism.”

2)    Integrated world capitalism: “a new smooth space is produced in which capital reaches its ‘absolute’ speed, based on machinic components rather than the human component of labor. The multinationals fabricate a kind of deterritorialized smooth space in which points of occupation as well as poles of exchange become quite independent of the classical paths to striation. What is really new are always the new forms of turnover. The present-day accelerated forms of the circulation of capital are making the distinctions between constant and variable capital, increasingly relative; the essential thing is instead the distinction between striated capital and smooth capital, and the ways in which the former gives rise to the latter through complexes that cut across territories and States, and even the different types of States” (492).

If the war machine is smooth, then how can we conceptualize the complex set of relations between the smooth and the striated with regards to capitalism? In other words, if the striated space is undercut by the smooth space only to be subject to the striations of the state apparatus, then how can one ever contest the state? Is the war machine only ever to be understood in relation to the state apparatus?

Week 1: Some Disparate Notes on 10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals (Who Does the Earth Think it is?) (Kyle Kinaschuk)

Deleuze and Guattari: 10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals (Who Does the Earth Think it is?”

Stratification, BwO, Double Articulation; or, How Does the Body Become an Organism? 

“The ascetic ideal is such a means: it is exactly the opposite of what its venerators suppose—in it and through it life is wrestling with death and against death; the ascetic ideal is an artifice for the preservation of life…The ascetic priest is the incarnate wish for a different existence, an existence somewhere else…this seeming enemy of life, this negating one—precisely he belongs to the very great conserving and yes—creating forces of life…it is the wound itself that compels him to live” Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals (86-87)

“To express is always to sing the glory of God.” Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (43)

To begin with, there will be only one rule today: let us not commit the sin of interpretosis.

Preliminary questions: What is the relationship between strata and the BwO? Why do Deleuze and Guattari compare stratification (reterritorialization and overcoding; however, we will challenge this rather simplistic conception of strata in the following) with “judgments of God?” Could it be said that strata, which can be understood as a structural relation between “content (substance and form)” and “expression (content and form)” that blocks, impedes, overcodes, territorializes, captures, suspends, totalizes, and restricts intensities, flows, singularities, and becomings, are comparable to Nietzsche’s ascetic ideal? Can the Nietzschean “God” be conceptualized as strata? Maybe this question gets us closer to the relationality of machinic assemblages and collective assemblages of enunciation: “Collective assemblages of enunciation function directly within machinic assemblages; it is not impossible to make a radical break between regimes of signs and their objects” (7) The ascetic ideal, then, must be understood materially and historically, as manifested, rooted, and inhabited within bodies.

How do Deleuze and Guattari contest the (dual-machines) relations between words/things, base/superstructure, materiality/ideality, signifier/signified, substance/form, and mind/body? 

And what is the double articulation?

A mapping (not a tracing):

                            Strata (facing the stratum: interstratum)

(substratum)   Assemblage

                            Strata (body without organs: metastratum…plane of consistency thickened)

Some reductive quasi-models of double articulation:

1)      Sedimentation: Chooses/selects/deducts from unstable particle-flows, metastable molecular or quasi-molecular units (substances) upon which it imposes a statistical order of connections and successions (forms)

2)      Folding/Cementation: Establishes functional, compact, stable structures (forms), and constructs the molar compounds in which these structures are simultaneously actualized (substances)

And…

(First/Molecular) Articulation of Sediment: unstable particles and molecular units (substances) are connected (forms)

(Second/Molar) Articulation of Cement: establishes “functional structures” (forms) to molar compounds that actualize structures (substances)

And…

Granule to granule (incipient order) to cohesion and stability (totalizing structure) to rock (overcoding)

And…

“The first [articulation] carves out chemical motifs; the second [articulation] assembles them” (42)

And…

“The first [articulation] operates by a series of different reactions; the second [articulation] by              repeating the same reaction” (42)

And…

1) Matter (plane of immanence) 2) the first articulation of content, which can be understood as the ways in which substance is arranged and moved (temporarily) and ordered 3) the second articulation of expression wherein totalities, centres, and stabilizations are erected via form (organization and structure) and content (first articulation)

And…

DeLanda on the double articulation: “first, the raw materials that will make up a new entity must be selected and pre-processed; second, they must be consolidated into a whole with properties of its own. A rock like limestone or sandstone, for example, is first articulated though a process of sedimentation (the slow gathering and sorting of the pebbles that are the component parts of the rock)”

                            “BUT STRUCTURE IS NOT THE EARTH’S LAST WORD” (41)

                             “GOD IS A LOBSTER, OR A DOUBLE PINCER, A DOUBLE BIND” (40)

There are two ways of thinking about the articulatory relations: relations within articulation (binary) and relations between articulation (biunivocal), but the relations always function on different levels, that is, the morphogenetic, the cellular, and genetic.

A tracing (not a map):

[Hejelmslev’s linguistic concept taking a new geological line]

Strata

Matter: Plane of consistency and BwO (nonstratified/unorganized/flows/molecular

Content: Formed matter (first articulation) w/r/t substance (chosen) and form (order)

Expression: Functional structures (second articulation) w/r/t form (organization) and content (compounds/first articulation)

How can we think of the double articulation in relation to the virtual and the actual?

And what are the possibilities of thinking double articulation against Hegelian dialectics?

Note: there is a real (material) difference between content (first articulation) and expression (second articulation), while there is only a modal distinction between substance and form.

A couple more questions: However, can it not be said that the first articulation and second articulation are always already embedded in one another? How can we conceptualize their relationship as a multiplicity? Is it possible? If they are variable, contingent, and fluid, then how can the structure and centre (overcoding and territorialization and molarity) still function/operate? Repeat: “BUT STRUCTURE IS NOT THE EARTH’S LAST WORD” (41). Moreover, consider: “Their functional definition provides no justification for calling one, and not the other of these entities expression, or one, and not the other, content. They are defined only by their mutual solidarity, and neither of them can be identified otherwise. They are defined only oppositively and relatively, as mutually opposed functives of one and the same function” (45)

Perhaps think about this: what are the political and social implications of double articulation? And more broadly: contemplate territorialization, deterritorialization, and reterritorialization on the flows of capital, which deterritorializes, but only to reterritorialize again?

Stratum, Substance, Form

“Epistemology is not innocent.” Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (47)

2 Good questions: “What on a given stratum varies and what does not? What accounts for the unity and diversity of a stratum?” (45). And a third: How can the plane of immanence/plane of consistency lie outside of the strata?

“The substantial elements may be the same throughout the stratum without the substances being the same. The formal relations or bonds may be the same without the forms being the same” (45).

Combustion and electrification as anticipatory concepts of strata and the BwO, as combustion is a process of escape, while electrification initiates the groupings of atoms and molecules (think of Wolf-Man and the “privileging” of packs over masses).

Isomorphism: similarity of form, as in different generations of the same life cycle.

“WE’RE A LITTLE LOST, BECAUSE DISTINCTIONS HAVE PROLIFERATED IN ALL DIRECTIONS” (47)

Deleuze and Guattari mention the ways in which development has historically been understood with “speeds, rates, coefficients, and differential relations” (48) while types of forms have been conceptualized as “populations, packs or colonies, collectivities or multiplicities” (ibid.).

Darwin’s science of multiplicities: populations instead of types and degrees instead of rates.

And back to Professor Challenger on the unity and diversity of the organic stratum.

What, then, is the difference—on the strata—between levels of development/perfection and types of forms? Perhaps, this echoes the preceding section’s question, which attempts to think through the contingency and stability of the strata; nevertheless, it could be said that on the level of the strata certain relations and connections may be the “same” without necessarily beckoning the same forms; is it possible, however, to aver that “matter” evades certain modes of coding and therefore exists outside of the strata? Also, it should be noted that the constitutive elements of the strata could be the “same” without the substances being the same. In other words, the unformed, unstabilized matter that exists on the plane of consistency/immanence (the substrata) precedes the matter on the strata that has gone through double articulation; however, this does not mean that the strata cannot be deterritorialized, as the assemblage is always facing the BwO and therefore has the capacity to take a new line of flight; however, it is not as if the materiality of the substratum and the formed (content and expression) materiality of the stratum are not inferior than one another; rather, “the difference between materials [the stratum] and substantial elements [the BwO, the substratum] is one of organization; there is a change in organization, not an augmentation” (49). The preceding note seems key to understanding the nuanced relations between the stratum and substratum.

“This exterior and interior are relative; they exist only through their exchanges” Deleuze and Guattari write, “and therefore only by virtue of the stratum responsible for the relation between them” (49).

Perhaps, the most lucid way to explicate the foregoing is to think of the interior and exterior to be within the strata itself, viz., the outside and the inside are folding, unfolding, and refolding on the inside and the outside that is always within the strata itself. It might be productive to think of Spinoza here, so how can the interior and exterior as always within the strata—whether it exists alongside the plane of immanence or not—function/connect/work with Spinoza’s monist philosophy/immanent thought?  

What is an abstract machine? (a process of meaning/interpretation?)

“The diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality” (Deleuze, Foucault, 142)

“The abstract machine connects a language to the semantic and pragmatic contents, to collective assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micropolitics of the social field” (7)

A thought on power/knowledge/discourse in Foucault and deterritorialization and territorialization in Deleuze and Guattari:

Foucault’s famous dictum: “Where there is power, there is resistance” (The History of Sexuality, 95)

“How could movements of deterritorialization and processes of reterri-torialization not be relative, always connected, caught up in one another?” (10)

And on the Orchid and the Wasp: “Each of these becomings brings about the deterritorialization of one term and the reterritorialization of the other; the two becomings interlink and form relays in a circulation of intensities pushing the deterritorialization even further” (10)

Where are the connections between Foucault and Deleuze?

If power is not only limiting and repressive, but enabling and productive, then can one argue that reterritorialization/deterritorialization/territorialization is “similar” to strata: “a very important, inevitable phenomenon that is beneficial in many respects and unfortunate in many others” (40). These territorializations are only pernicious if they are cemented via the second articulation; however, if they are deterritorialized, take new lines of flight, and realize new capacities, then they are possibly “strengthened” and “enabled” by the process of coding, but never overcoding.

And back to the reading:

Think about this: “Materials furnished by the substratum constitute an exterior milieu for the elements and compounds of the stratum under consideration, but they are not exterior to the stratum”

Two new terms are introduced on page 50: the Ecumenon and Planomenon. The Ecumenon (the abstract machine) is aligned with the strata, while the Planomenon is of the plane of consistency.

But, of course, we cannot recreate another binary between the Ecumenon and Planomenon, as there are intermediary states, layers, outgrowths that flow between the plane of immanence and stratification and the interior and the exterior, which can be called epistrata. Deleuze and Guattari will also make another distinction between the epistrata and the parastrata. The parastrata and the epistrata divide the stratum; however, the epistrata (the intermediary milieu) “form new centres and peripheries,” while the parastrata “fragment” the layers and belts. Nevertheless, the parastrata and epistrata are the stratum.

[Intensities rubbing up against thresholds of identity]

And back to Darwin, multiplicities, and populations.

Remember: Darwin privileges populations over types and degrees over rates, so if we think with the preceding concepts (parastrata and epistrata), then we can make new connections with Darwin’s science, viz., the parastrata with populations (variations of form) and the epistrata with degrees/differential relations (variations of matter).

On deterritorialization:

“Deterritorialization must be thought of as a perfectly positive power that has degrees and thresholds (epistrata), is always relative, and has reterritorialization as its flipside” (54)

“Deterritorialization on a stratum always occurs in relation to a complementary reterritorialization” (54)

Important: codings are not necessarily always territorializations; decodings are not always deterritorializations

The strata are shaken on three levels: the substrata (the plane of immanence/prebiotic soup), the epistrata (forms), and the parastrata (matter)

But what about absolute deterritorialization…COMBUSTION NOT ELECTRIFCATION?

Let’s simplify:

Break with the strata. Take a line of flight. Do not say goodbye to the Ecumenon. And do not leave a trace. Slide. Cross the barrier unformed. Avoid walls. Do not bounce off them. Don’t be captured by black holes, which will place you back where you started. Do not be regulated by an abstract machine; rather, zag along all stratifications. Cut. Planomenon. Leak. Remember: you do not need to be going fast; you can move slowly. It’s okay. The strata can be the residue.