© 2013 Miro Roman

Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand plateaus (1980)

The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. Since each of us was several,
there was already quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that
came within range, what was closest as well as farthest away. We have
assigned clever pseudonyms to prevent recognition. Why have we kept our
own names? Out of habit, purely out of habit. To make ourselves unrecognizable
in turn. To render imperceptible, not ourselves, but what makes us
act, feel, and think. Also because it’s nice to talk like everybody else, to say
the sun rises, when everybody knows it’s only a manner of speaking. To
reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no
longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves.
Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.
A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed
matters, and very different dates and speeds. To attribute the book to a
subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their
relations. It is to fabricate a beneficent God to explain geological movements.
In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or
segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of
deterritorialization and destratification. Comparative rates of flow on
these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or, on
the contrary, of acceleration and rupture. All this, lines and measurable
speeds, constitutes an assemblage. A book is an assemblage of this kind,
and as such is unattributable. It is a multiplicity—but we don’t know yet
what the multiple entails when it is no longer attributed, that is, after it has
been elevated to the status of a substantive. One side of a machinic assemblage
faces the strata, which doubtless make it a kind of organism, or signifying
totality, or determination attributable to a subject; it also has a side
facing a body without organs, which is continually dismantling the organism,
causing asignifying particles or pure intensities to pass or circulate,
and attributing to itself subjects that it leaves with nothing more than a
name as the trace of an intensity. What is the body without organs of a
book? There are several, depending on the nature of the lines considered,
their particular grade or density, and the possibility of their converging on
a “plane of consistency” assuring their selection. Here, as elsewhere, the
units of measure are what is essential: quantify writing. There is no difference
between what a book talks about and how it is made. Therefore a book
also has no object. As an assemblage, a book has only itself, in connection
with other assemblages and in relation to other bodies without organs. We
will never ask what a book means, as signified or signifier; we will not look
for anything to understand in it. We will ask what it functions with, in connection
with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities, in
which other multiplicities its own are inserted and metamorphosed, and
with what bodies without organs it makes its own converge. A book exists
only through the outside and on the outside. A book itself is a little
machine; what is the relation (also measurable) of this literary machine to a
war machine, love machine, revolutionary machine, etc.—and an abstract
machine that sweeps them along? We have been criticized for overquoting
literary authors. But when one writes, the only question is which other
machine the literary machine can be plugged into, must be plugged into in
order to work. Kleist and a mad war machine, Kafka and a most extraordinary
bureaucratic machine . . . (What if one became animal or plant
through literature, which certainly does not mean literarily? Is it not first
through the voice that one becomes animal?) Literature is an assemblage.
It has nothing to do with ideology. There is no ideology and never has been.
All we talk about are multiplicities, lines, strata and segmentarities,
lines of flight and intensities, machinic assemblages and their various
types, bodies without organs and their construction and selection, the
plane of consistency, and in each case the units of measure. Stratometers,
deleometers, BwO units of density, BwO units of convergence: Not only do
these constitute a quantification of writing, but they define writing as
always the measure of something else. Writing has nothing to do with
signifying. It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to
A first type of book is the root-book. The tree is already the image of the
world, or the root the image of the world-tree. This is the classical book, as
noble, signifying, and subjective organic interiority (the strata of the book).
The book imitates the world, as art imitates nature: by procedures specific
to it that accomplish what nature cannot or can no longer do. The law of the
book is the law of reflection, the One that becomes two. How could the law
of the book reside in nature, when it is what presides over the very division
between world and book, nature and art? One becomes two: whenever we
encounter this formula, even stated strategically by Mao or understood in
the most “dialectical” way possible, what we have before us is the most classical
and well reflected, oldest, and weariest kind of thought. Nature
doesn’t work that way: in nature, roots are taproots with a more multiple,
lateral, and circular system of ramification, rather than a dichotomous
one. Thought lags behind nature. Even the book as a natural reality is a taproot,
with its pivotal spine and surrounding leaves. But the book as a spiritual
reality, the Tree or Root as an image, endlessly develops the law of the
One that becomes two, then of the two that become four. . . Binary logic is
the spiritual reality of the root-tree. Even a discipline as “advanced” as linguistics
retains the root-tree as its fundamental image, and thus remains
wedded to classical reflection (for example, Chomsky and his grammatical
trees, which begin at a point S and proceed by dichotomy). This is as much
as to say that this system of thought has never reached an understanding of
multiplicity: in order to arrive at two following a spiritual method it must
assume a strong principal unity. On the side of the object, it is no doubt possible,
following the natural method, to go directly from One to three, four,
or five, but only if there is a strong principal unity available, that of the pivotal
taproot supporting the secondary roots. That doesn’t get us very far.
The binary logic of dichotomy has simply been replaced by biunivocal relationships
between successive circles. The pivotal taproot provides no better
understanding of multiplicity than the dichotomous root. One operates
in the object, the other in the subject. Binary logic and biunivocal relationships
still dominate psychoanalysis (the tree of delusion in the Freudian
interpretation of Schreber’s case), linguistics, structuralism, and even
information science.
The radicle-system, or fascicular root, is the second figure of the book,
to which our modernity pays willing allegiance. This time, the principal
root has aborted, or its tip has been destroyed; an immediate, indefinite
multiplicity of secondary roots grafts onto it and undergoes a flourishing
development. This time, natural reality is what aborts the principal root,
but the root’s unity subsists, as past or yet to come, as possible. We must ask
if reflexive, spiritual reality does not compensate for this state of things by
demanding an even more comprehensive secret unity, or a more extensive
totality. Take William Burroughs’s cut-up method: the folding of one text
onto another, which constitutes multiple and even adventitious roots (like
a cutting), implies a supplementary dimension to that of the texts under
consideration. In this supplementary dimension of folding, unity continues
its spiritual labor. That is why the most resolutely fragmented work can
also be presented as the Total Work or Magnum Opus. Most modern methods
for making series proliferate or a multiplicity grow are perfectly valid
in one direction, for example, a linear direction, whereas a unity of
totalization asserts itself even more firmly in another, circular or cyclic,
dimension. Whenever a multiplicity is taken up in a structure, its growth is
offset by a reduction in its laws of combination. The abortionists of unity
are indeed angel makers, doctores angelici, because they affirm a properly
angelic and superior unity. Joyce’s words, accurately described as having
“multiple roots,” shatter the linear unity of the word, even of language,
only to posit a cyclic unity of the sentence, text, or knowledge. Nietzsche’s
aphorisms shatter the linear unity of knowledge, only to invoke the cyclic
unity of the eternal return, present as the nonknown in thought. This is as
much as to say that the fascicular system does not really break with dualism,
with the complementarity between a subject and an object, a natural
reality and a spiritual reality: unity is consistently thwarted and obstructed
in the object, while a new type of unity triumphs in the subject. The world
has lost its pivot; the subject can no longer even dichotomize, but accedes
to a higher unity, of ambivalence or overdetermination, in an always supplementary
dimension to that of its object. The world has become chaos,
but the book remains the image of the world: radicle-chaosmos rather than
root-cosmos. A strange mystification: a book all the more total for being
fragmented. At any rate, what a vapid idea, the book as the image of the
world. In truth, it is not enough to say, “Long live the multiple,” difficult as
it is to raise that cry. No typographical, lexical, or even syntactical cleverness
is enough to make it heard. The multiple must be made, not by always
adding a higher dimension, but rather in the simplest of ways, by dint of
sobriety, with the number of dimensions one already has available—
always n – 1 (the only way the one belongs to the multiple: always subtracted).
Subtract the unique from the multiplicity to be constituted; write
at n – 1 dimensions. A system of this kind could be called a rhizome. A rhizome
as subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radicles.
Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes. Plants with roots or radicles may be
rhizomorphic in other respects altogether: the question is whether plant
life in its specificity is not entirely rhizomatic. Even some animals are, in
their pack form. Rats are rhizomes. Burrows are too, in all of their functions
of shelter, supply, movement, evasion, and breakout. The rhizome
itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all
directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers. When rats swarm over each
other. The rhizome includes the best and the worst: potato and couchgrass,
or the weed. Animal and plant, couchgrass is crabgrass. We get the distinct
feeling that we will convince no one unless we enumerate certain approximate
characteristics of the rhizome.
1 and 2. Principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome
can be connected to anything other, and must be. This is very different
from the tree or root, which plots a point, fixes an order. The linguistic
tree on the Chomsky model still begins at a point S and proceeds by dichotomy.
On the contrary, not every trait in a rhizome is necessarily linked to a
linguistic feature: semiotic chains of every nature are connected to very
diverse modes of coding (biological, political, economic, etc.) that bring
into play not only different regimes of signs but also states of things of differing
status. 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. Even when linguistics claims to
confine itself to what is explicit and to make no presuppositions about language,
it is still in the sphere of a discourse implying particular modes of
assemblage and types of social power. Chomsky’s grammaticality, the categorical
S symbol that dominates every sentence, is more fundamentally a
marker of power than a syntactic marker: you will construct grammatically
correct sentences, you will divide each statement into a noun phrase and a
verb phrase (first dichotomy . . .). Our criticism of these linguistic models
is not that they are too abstract but, on the contrary, that they are not
abstract enough, that they do not reach the abstract machine that connects
a language to the semantic and pragmatic contents of statements, to collective
assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micropolitics of the social
field. A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic
chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences,
and social struggles. A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating
very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic,
gestural, and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic
universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized
languages. There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a
homogeneous linguistic community. Language is, in Weinreich’s words,
“an essentially heterogeneous reality.”1 There is no mother tongue, only a
power takeover by a dominant language within a political multiplicity.
Language stabilizes around a parish, a bishopric, a capital. It forms a bulb.
It evolves by subterranean stems and flows, along river valleys or train
tracks; it spreads like a patch of oil.2 It is always possible to break a language
down into internal structural elements, an undertaking not fundamentally
different from a search for roots. There is always something genealogical
about a tree. It is not a method for the people. A method of the rhizome
type, on the contrary, can analyze language only by decentering it onto
other dimensions and other registers. A language is never closed upon
itself, except as a function of impotence.
3. Principle of multiplicity: it is only when the multiple is effectively
treated as a substantive, “multiplicity,” that it ceases to have any relation to
the One as subject or object, natural or spiritual reality, image and world.
Multiplicities are rhizomatic, and expose arborescent pseudomultiplicities
for what they are. There is no unity to serve as a pivot in the object,
or to divide in the subject. There is not even the unity to abort in the object
or “return” in the subject. A multiplicity has neither subject nor object,
only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in
number without the multiplicity changing in nature (the laws of combination
therefore increase in number as the multiplicity grows). Puppet
strings, as a rhizome or multiplicity, are tied not to the supposed will of an
artist or puppeteer but to a multiplicity of nerve fibers, which form another
puppet in other dimensions connected to the first: “Call the strings or
rods that move the puppet the weave. It might be objected that its multiplicity
resides in the person of the actor, who projects it into the text.
Granted; but the actor’s nerve fibers in turn form a weave. And they fall
through the gray matter, the grid, into the undifferentiated… . The interplay
approximates the pure activity of weavers attributed in myth to the
Fates or Norns.”3 An assemblage is precisely this increase in the dimensions
of a multiplicity that necessarily changes in nature as it expands its
connections. There are no points or positions in a rhizome, such as those
found in a structure, tree, or root. There are only lines. When Glenn Gould
speeds up the performance of a piece, he is not just displaying virtuosity, he
is transforming the musical points into lines, he is making the whole piece
proliferate. The number is no longer a universal concept measuring elements
according to their emplacement in a given dimension, but has itself
become a multiplicity that varies according to the dimensions considered
(the primacy of the domain over a complex of numbers attached to that
domain). We do not have units (unites) of measure, only multiplicities or
varieties of measurement. The notion of unity (unite) appears only when
there is a power takeover in the multiplicity by the signifier or a corresponding
subjectification proceeding: This is the case for a pivot-unity
forming the basis for a set of biunivocal relationships between objective
elements or points, or for the One that divides following the law of a binary
logic of differentiation in the subject. Unity always operates in an empty
dimension supplementary to that of the system considered (overcoding).
The point is that a rhizome or multiplicity never allows itself to be
overcoded, never has available a supplementary dimension over and
above its number of lines, that is, over and above the multiplicity of numbers
attached to those lines. All multiplicities are flat, in the sense that they
fill or occupy all of their dimensions: we will therefore speak of a plane of
consistency of multiplicities, even though the dimensions of this “plane”
increase with the number of connections that are made on it. Multiplicities
are defined by the outside: by the abstract line, the line of flight or
deterritorialization according to which they change in nature and connect
with other multiplicities. The plane of consistency (grid) is the outside of
all multiplicities. The line of flight marks: the reality of a finite number of
dimensions that the multiplicity effectively fills; the impossibility of a supplementary
dimension, unless the multiplicity is transformed by the line of
flight; the possibility and necessity of flattening all of the multiplicities on
a single plane of consistency or exteriority, regardless of their number of
dimensions. The ideal for a book would be to lay everything out on a plane
of exteriority of this kind, on a single page, the same sheet: lived events, historical
determinations, concepts, individuals, groups, social formations.
Kleist invented a writing of this type, a broken chain of affects and variable
speeds, with accelerations and transformations, always in a relation with
the outside. Open rings. His texts, therefore, are opposed in every way to
the classical or romantic book constituted by the interiority of a substance
or subject. The war machine-book against the State apparatus-book. Flat
multiplicities ofn dimensions are asignifying and asubjective. They are
designated by indefinite articles, or rather by partitives (some couchgrass,
some of a rhizome . ..).
4. Principle of asignifying rupture: against the oversignifying breaks
separating structures or cutting across a single structure. A rhizome may be
broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old
lines, or on new lines. You can never get rid of ants because they form an
animal rhizome that can rebound time and again after most of it has been
destroyed. Every rhizome contains lines of segmentarity according to
which it is stratified, territorialized, organized, signified, attributed, etc.,
as well as lines of deterritorialization down which it constantly flees. There
is a rupture in the rhizome whenever segmentary lines explode into a line
of flight, but the line of flight is part of the rhizome. These lines always tie
back to one another. That is why one can never posit a dualism or a dichotomy,
even in the rudimentary form of the good and the bad. You may make
a rupture, draw a line of flight, yet there is still a danger that you will
reencounter organizations that restratify everything, formations that
restore power to a signifier, attributions that reconstitute a subject—
anything you like, from Oedipal resurgences to fascist concretions. Groups
and individuals contain microfascisms just waiting to crystallize. Yes,
couchgrass is also a rhizome. Good and bad are only the products of an
active and temporary selection, which must be renewed.
How could movements of deterritorialization and processes of reterritorialization
not be relative, always connected, caught up in one another?
The orchid deterritorializes by forming an image, a tracing of a wasp; but
the wasp reterritorializes on that image. The wasp is nevertheless
deterritorialized, becoming a piece in the orchid’s reproductive apparatus.
But it reterritorializes the orchid by transporting its pollen. Wasp and
orchid, as heterogeneous elements, form a rhizome. It could be said that
the orchid imitates the wasp, reproducing its image in a signifying fashion
(mimesis, mimicry, lure, etc.). But this is true only on the level of the
strata—a parallelism between two strata such that a plant organization on
one imitates an animal organization on the other. At the same time, something
else entirely is going on: not imitation at all but a capture of code, surplus
value of code, an increase in valence, a veritable becoming, a
becoming-wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of 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 ever
further. There is neither imitation nor resemblance, only an exploding of
two heterogeneous series on the line of flight composed by a common rhizome
that can no longer be attributed to or subjugated by anything signifying.
Remy Chauvin expresses it well: “the aparallel evolution of two beings
that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.”4 More generally, evolutionary
schemas may be forced to abandon the old model of the tree and
descent. Under certain conditions, a virus can connect to germ cells and
transmit itself as the cellular gene of a complex species; moreover, it can
take flight, move into the cells of an entirely different species, but not without
bringing with it “genetic information” from the first host (for example,
Benveniste and Todaro’s current research on a type C virus, with its double
connection to baboon DNA and the DNA of certain kinds of domestic
cats). Evolutionary schemas would no longer follow models of arborescent
descent going from the least to the most differentiated, but instead a rhizome
operating immediately in the heterogeneous and jumping from one
already differentiated line to another.5 Once again, there is aparallel evolution,
of the baboon and the cat; it is obvious that they are not models or copies
of each other (a becoming-baboon in the cat does not mean that the cat
“plays” baboon). We form a rhizome with our viruses, or rather our viruses
cause us to form a rhizome with other animals. As Francois Jacob says,
transfers of genetic material by viruses or through other procedures,
fusions of cells originating in different species, have results analogous to
those of “the abominable couplings dear to antiquity and the Middle
Ages.”6 Transversal communications between different lines scramble the
genealogical trees. Always look for the molecular, or even submolecular,
particle with which we are allied. We evolve and die more from our
polymorphous and rhizomatic flus than from hereditary diseases, or
diseases that have their own line of descent. The rhizome is an antigenealogy.

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