Politics of the War Machine

by Beth Metcalf

Understanding Deleuze’s thought depends on understanding his univocity.  But what does univocity have to do with politics?  In what sense is Deleuze’s thought political?  Often this question becomes linked with the question of how, and in what sense, Deleuze’s thought is compatible with normativity.  Paul Patton says (Deleuze and the Political page 9) that the political ontology of Deleuze and Guattari is “where the overriding norm is that of deterritorialisation.”  But in what sense is the ‘deteritorialization’ of Deleuze’s univocity ‘normative’?  Every term Deleuze uses, I contend, must take on a new sense.  In what way can Deleuze’s ‘deterritorialization’ have a normative sense?  What is the sense of univocity and its terms?  And how is the sense of univocity, and uses of its terms, different from our usual usage?  

Deleuze tells us that philosophy has traditionally been shackled by the four iron collars of Representation.  These iron collars are the history of a long error --- identity in the concept, opposition in the predicate, analogy in judgement, and resemblance in perception.  Deleuze calls this world of Representation the ‘Dogmatic Image of Thought’.  It is the Image of Conceptual Identity which can never reach real singular difference.  This Representational Image implies analogy of being. 

(Difference & Repetition 303), “Representation essentially implies an analogy of being.”….  And (D&R 38) “….analogy falls into an unresolvable difficulty: it must essentially relate being to particular existents, but at the same time it cannot say what constitutes their [singular] individuality.  For it retains in the particular only that which conforms to the general (matter and form), and seeks the principle of individuation in this or that element of the fully constituted individuals….” 

In other words, the structure of Representation-Analogy can never reach the singularity of real difference.  Real singular difference is not to be found in any general system of classification.  It is not to be found at the level of the fully constituted individual.  With Representation-Analogy, the individual retains in the particular, only the generality distributed by the categories.  But categories determine objects that, through mediation of the Dogmatic Image, are thought to be “possible”.  Nor does merely making Representation Infinite help us to reach singular difference. 

(D&R 303) “The list of categories may well be ‘opened up’ or representation may be made infinite; nevertheless, being continues to be said in several senses according to the categories, and that of which it is said is determined only by differences ‘in general’….” 

If we are to escape the Dogmatic Image that merely reproduces identity, we must somehow reach non-categorical thought.  We must reach concepts of singular intensive difference that have nothing to do with an already extensive image or structure that maintains or reproduces identity.  But this can only happen by reaching the sub-representative domain of pre-individual singularity.  This requires us to think ‘difference’ outside our usual habits of thought.  But how can we, when we are still chained by the four iron collars, get outside the possibilities of that image?  How can we avoid that Dogmatic Image that merely maintains and reproduces identity?  How can we think outside a generalizing structure of our usual Conceptual Image?      

We must somehow reach a domain of forces that is no longer shackled by the Dogmatic Image and its repetition of conceptual identity without any real difference.  We must escape that Image whose “difference” is mere variability of already extended formed-matter.  Instead, Deleuze shows us that philosophy must become an ontology of immanence.  So, Deleuze introduces his univocity as this ontological sense which reverses the world of Representation.  That world of Representation has never really been an ontology at all.  It has always been merely a Conceptual Image under the principle of Identity.

(D&R 35) “There has only ever been one ontological proposition:  Being is univocal….What is important is that we can conceive of several formally distinct senses which none the less refer to being as if to a single designated entity, ontologically one….”

We can conceive of formally and qualitatively distinct sense which refers to being as a single designated (said as same).  But this alone is not enough to escape Representation-Analogy.  Formal distinction is not necessarily a real distinction.  Alone, its deterritorializations may still be overcoded and reterritorialized according to the same image of conceptual identity.  Alone, it is not enough to ensure the ontological sense of univocity.  It must be added that being, designated as ontological singularity, is said in the same sense of all numerically distinct terms. 

(D&R 35-6) “….We must add that being, this common designated, in so far as it expresses itself, is said in turn in a single and same sense of all the numerically distinct designators and expressors.” 

This addition ensures the new ontological sense of real disparate difference (intensity).  All the numerically distinct modes, in whatever degree, say the whole of Being in one sense.  Because they are all degrees of ontologically single Substance, they distribute the open space of the whole of undistributed Being.  This ontological sense reaches positive and absolute deterritorialization where any degree of singular content may be coupled with any expression in the dice game of the eternal return.  This eternal return is the repetition of really distinct singularity, each time.  Univocity repeats the ontologically singular sense of real difference, each time.  The ontological sense of univocity opens the forms to that domain of pre-individual singular difference.  Univocity is real difference said as same.  It can say real difference as same because it reaches ontological forces of intensive disparate singularity.  All real difference, being unique rather than general, must be singular.  And singularity says, with real difference, the whole of being each time.  And, since each repetition of difference (in whatever degree of intensity) refers to the whole of being as if to an ontologically single entity, each repetition changes nature.  It is not merely a conceptual difference within the same form of identity.  Univocity reaches the singular difference that the generality of Representation-Analogy never can.  Univocity is the sub-representative violence threatening a Conceptual Image of Thought that merely maintains and reproduces identity. 

The ontological sense of univocity is ‘difference itself’.  And (D&R 222) this real difference is disparate intensity.  It is the differential coupling of heterogeneous series of real difference said as same --- each time, a new repetition of disparate difference.  It is the qualitative content of quantity.  Disparate intensity is the real singular difference that is not to be confused with one form of conceptual diversity.  Intensive difference is that by which “given” disparate forms of empirical diversity are given, each time.  Disparate intensive difference is the transcendental source of every really new empirical use of diversity.  At this sub-representative level of intensive difference there is no prior conceptual form or image.  If that sub-representative plane of heterogeneous difference is left out, then everything closes into one Representational Image of Conceptual Identity.  However, when the sub-representative plane of univocality is included, then there are two planes, two types of multiplicities, which intersect.  This intersection opens the forms.  Intensive multiplicities of singular disparate difference may intersect with multiplicities of formal extension to actualize new singular-universal uses of diversity, each time. 

Therefore, Deleuze’s ontological sense (where being is univocal) reverses the world of Representation (where being is thought to be analogical).  And, the terms of univocity have really different legitimate uses that are not like ordinary uses.

(D&R 300-1) “This [the repetition in the eternal return] is a complete reversal of the world of representation and of the sense that ‘identical’ and ‘similar’’ had in that world..….it defines the conditions of legitimate use of the words ‘identical’ and ‘similar’ by linking them exclusively to simulacra, while denouncing the ordinary usage….” 

The Dogmatic Image of Thought, and its illegitimate use of terms, merely repeats the principle of conceptual identity.  But univocity is the eternal return that is the repetition of real singular difference.  Therefore, with Univocity, ‘same’, ‘identical’, and ‘similar’ have a new ontological sense. 

(D&R 300), “…the eternal return is indeed the Similar, repetition in the eternal return is indeed the Identical – but precisely the resemblance and the identity do not pre-exist the return of that which returns….It is not the same which returns, it is not the similar which returns; rather, the Same is the returning of that which returns, -- in other words, of the Different;  the similar is the returning of that which returns, -- in other words, of the Dissimilar….This is a complete reversal of the world of representation, and of the sense that ‘identical’ and ‘similar’ had in that world.” 

With each separation of intensive degree, terms refer to ontologically single being said as same, but there is a real change in the nature of its sense.  Every numerically distinct designator and expressor is the return of a new ontologically singular sense of real difference of the whole of being, each time.  That is, every individuating mode says being as ontologically same, but changes the nature of the whole of being.  A new “legitimate use” denounces the ordinary usage that reproduces conceptual identity.  Every numerical distinction says ontological sense as same, but is the return of difference. 

(D&R 35-6) “…..In the ontological proposition, not only is that which is designated ontologically the same for qualitatively distinct senses, but also the sense is ontologically the same for individuating modes, for numerically distinct designators or expressors….”

Deleuze tells us that terms do not have the same sense that they had in the world of Representation with its principle of conceptual identity.  This new sense of the terms allows only real singular difference to return.  It allows nothing to return that would maintain or reproduce conceptual identity.  With each repetition of real singular difference, being is said as same ontological sense.  But the whole of being, designated as same, is not the same. 

(D&R 301) “…..The Same, for ever decentred, effectively turns around difference only once difference, having assumed the whole of Being, applies only to simulacra which have assumed the whole of ‘being’.” 

In the world of Representation with its history of a long error, terms repeated as ‘similar’ and ‘identical’ had only the same signification inside an Image of Conceptual Identity.  And Deleuze is often still read as if he is talking about a return that maintains or reproduces Conceptual Identity.  Many still read Deleuze only in terms of maintenance and reproduction of ‘identity’ in its ordinary usage.  But Deleuze tells us that univocity uses terms in an ontologically same sense, not merely for formally distinct senses, but also for numerically distinct individuating modes.  Deleuze’s univocity gives terms new ontological sense. 

(D&R 301) “For the Same, or the Identical, has an ontological sense….The Similar has an ontological sense: the eternal return of that which makes dissimilar….However, the eternal return itself, in turning, gives rise to a certain illusion….it produces an image of identity….It produces an image of the negative as the consequence of what it affirms, ….”

Yet many of Deleuze’s disciples still fall into the illusion that maintains and reproduces the same image according to the principle of conceptual identity.  They do not reach Deleuze’s ontological sense of terms that avoids an image of the negative.  They do not reach the ontological sense of univocity and its legitimate uses of terms.  Many still see only repetition mediated by the Representational Image.  Then, their sense of “eternal return” can only duplicate the same Image.  Rather, with the eternal return of ontological sense, terms do not have their usual Representational usage.  We must reach the ontological sense of individuating modes that change the nature of the saying of the whole of being with each repetition.  Only then do we reach the real difference of ontological sense.  

(D&R 301) “The repetition in the eternal return is the same, but the same in so far as it is said uniquely of difference and the different.  The Similar has an ontological sense: the eternal return of that which differs…”

Therefore, with univocity, the use of terms takes on a new ontological sense of real disparate singular difference that changes the nature of the saying of the whole of being, each time.  The eternal return is the new ontological sense of difference and repetition.  The ontological sense of univocity reverses the world of Conceptual Identity and its Representational significations.  So we must reach the conditions of a new ontological sense of the terms Deleuze uses.  Deleuze’s ‘ontological sense’ is the repetition of real singular difference that no longer maintains variability according to the principle of conceptual identity.  But this reversal can’t happen on a closed plane of Representation where there could only be a return of the same structure.  We must include the sub-representative plane of univocality. 

(D&R 300) “….the eternal return is indeed the Similar, repetition in the eternal return is indeed the Identical – but precisely the resemblance and the identity do not pre-exist the return of that which returns….”

Therefore, this has nothing to do with the Representational Thought where resemblance and identity do pre-exist in a Conceptual Image.  Univocity is the dice game which is the repetition of the ontological singularity of real difference without a prior concept. 

Therefore, we will not understand the political importance of the writings of Deleuze and Guattari if we still think in terms that maintain or reproduce Conceptual Identity.  How can terms of political discourse have ontological sense to open the forms of the socious?  How can political discourse find new ‘assemblages’ (in Deleuze’s ontological sense) of state apparatus?  This ontological sense of univocity is not merely of theoretical interest without any practical application.  Deleuze and Guattari tell us we must reach that sub-representative domain without oppositional relations (such as theory/practice, individual/collective, or positive fact/normative value), and without hierarchy of classes --- that is, without a totalizing standard of normativity.  Rather, we must reach a politics at a sub-representative level --- a micro-politics of multiplicities. 

Traditional liberal thought is still internal to an Image of Conceptual Identity where ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ are norms of State sanctioned Ideology.  Its ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ are still measured at the level of the fully constituted “normal” individual.  Its normativity is still internal to a classifying generality.  Its “singular” individual is still determined inside a generalizing structure.  Its “difference” is still determined by a prior conceptual image.  Its ‘diachrony’ still reproduces the variability of terms in their usual usage.  Its “deterritorialization” is still relative to subjective positions.  Its subjects and objects are fully formed variables in a constant relation of the prior State Form.  It never reaches sub-representative conditions of intensity.  Its historical framework of causal connections does not reach the singular events that create new concepts.  It never reaches the ontological sense of a war machine that challenges the generalizing normativity of the State.

Therefore when political writers ask questions about Delueze and ‘normativity’, does the use of that term escape signification mediated by a conceptual image?  Does the use of terms like ‘normative’ and ‘deterritorialization’ escape a prior principle of Conceptual Identity?  Do we reach the heterogeneity of real singular difference said as same?  I contend that Deleuze and Guatteri are telling us that ‘normative’, if we can still use the term at all, must not have its usual signification.  Once we reach univocity, the ‘normative’ must not have a generalizing, totalizing, or universalizing use.  It must not maintain or reproduce identity according to a principle of constant signification or categories of what is possible according to a prior image.  There must not be a “normativity” that would merely “deterritorialize” by opening the categories into Infinite Representation that still maintains a principle of Conceptual Identity --- that would merely reach a negative deterritorialization and reterritorialization.  We must reach the sub-representative and ontological sense of non-categorical thought that opens the forms.  We must reach a ‘minoritarian becoming’ in its ontological sense.  

Whenever there is closed State form, there is a Totalizing Concept that leaves out the sub-representative plane of the ‘war machine’ in its ontological sense.  Then State appropriates war as object for social control or military force.  But this State appropriation of the war machine is not to be confused with the pure exteriority of ‘war machine’ in its ontological sense.  The sub-representative ontology of the war machine opens the forms of power.  Then, new legitimate uses of norms extend no further than their conditions.  That is, the ontological sense of ‘deterritorialization’ and ‘reterritorialization’ are not to be confused with the overcoded norms of a Globalizing State.  From the standpoint of the State, the war machine is to be appropriated as a negative image of oppositional relations.  However, D&G tell us that the war machine is irreducible to State apparatus.  The war machine is an immeasurable multiplicity.  It is incommensurable with State apparatus.  But if we still read this from within the model of State Thought and habits of Conceptual Identity --- if we still read this as opposition of interior of State/exterior of war machine --- we will not encounter terms in their ontological sense. 

(A Thousand Plateaus 354) “It is not enough to affirm that the war machine is external to the [Sate] apparatus.  It is necessary to reach the point of conceiving the war machine as itself a pure form of exteriority, whereas the State apparatus constitutes the form of interiority we habitually take as a model, or according to which we are in the habit of thinking….In short, whenever the irruption of war power is confused with the line of State domination, everything becomes muddled; the war machine can then be understood only through the categories of the negative, since nothing is left that remains outside the State.  But returned to its milieu of exteriority, the war machine is seen to be of another species, of another nature, of another origin.” 

The war machine is against the State, but without the negative relations of State exchange that would merely maintain or reproduce norms according to categories of its prior image.  Rather, there must be intensive multiplicities of heterogeneous alliances that, with each division, change nature.  The war machine is ‘violence’ (used in its ontological sense) of encounter that changes the nature of State Image.  We must reach the ontological sense of the ‘war machine’ as a deterritorializing form of pure exteriority to actualize legitimate uses of state metamorphosis --- new assemblages without prior normative categories of State Ideology.

The sub-representative plane of ontological sense is real heterogeneous difference said as same.  It is the heterogeneous couplings of intensive series that reach the ontological sense that may actualize really new disparate uses of diverse norms, without any unifying standard of normativity.  Two heterogeneous series (molecular desiring-production and molar social-production) reach the ontological sense of real difference said as same.  There is the heterogeneity of intensive disparate coupling of molecular and molar series without biunivocal overcoding that homogenizes.  Desiring-production reaches a sub-representative domain of singular difference that changes the nature of social-production.  This is the war machine included in the process of becoming minoritarian.  Then, the war machine draws mutant lines of flight to deterritorialize segments that may be reterritorialized into creative open uses of state apparatus.  This is in contrast to Totalizing State apparatus where many groups at a molecular level are thought to be homogenized into segments of one molar unity --- where the many are thought in terms of one normative standard of unity.  (See my article, The Difference of Univocity, for further discussion of molecular and molar production.)

With univocity, there are always at least two heterogeneous series: A series of molecular flows and a series of molar segments.  At one pole, these series may be overcoded into rigid segments that homogenize both series.  At the other pole, the war machine draws lines of flight that decode and deterritorialize.  Between these poles are molecular negotiations that may deterritorialize and reterritorialize into new uses of state apparatus that extend no further than their changing molecular conditions.  Of course, there will always be risk.  But, if political discourse can enter the more open process of ‘becoming minoritarian’, uses of state apparatus could more adequately reflect changing conditions at the level of social practices.  Then, the sub-representative war machine and state apparatus are two types of multiplicities that intersect to open the forms to real difference. 

There is not one Totalizing Concept of Normativity.  Nor is there the mere variability of negative deterritorializations that reterritorialize on a Same Image of Conceptual Identity.  There are multiplicities of interpenetrating worlds whose uses of norms cannot be totalizable.  Deleuze’s micro-politics reaches the ontological sense of real minoritarian difference.  There is not one Totalizing Conceptual Image of ‘normativity’ as a liberal framework would still have it.  When Deleuze says (Negotiations 171) he and Guattari think that “any political philosophy must turn on the analysis of capitalism and the ways it has developed” he is pointing the way for us to understand his philosophy of economic and political ‘power’ that must be approached it in terms of its ontological sense.  For example, (Anti-Oedipus 250) capitalism reaches an immanent deterritorialized field.  However, it is still determined by an oppressive axiomatic that homogenizes the two series --- exchange money and credit money --- that should remain heterogeneous.  It measures both labor and finance by the same abstract unit.  However, (228) “….it is not the same money”.  So, the question is, ‘How do we reach the heterogeneity of series said as ‘same’ in the ontological sense that repeats only difference?’

Patton is right to think in terms of ‘deterritorialization’ but we must ask if we are reaching the ontological sense of the term.  Do we reach positive and absolute deterritorialization that is the ontological sense of the war machine that reterritorializes with real difference?  We must reach the sub-representative plane --- a pure sub-representative exteriority of the war machine --- where there are no oppositional relations of exchange that merely maintain and reproduce identity of the prior State Form.  We must reach heterogeneous alliances of real difference that are repeated as ontologically singular, each time.

Therefore, a micro-politics must deal with some new questions.  What is the ontological sense of the economic and political terms we use?  How can political discourse reach the singularity of real difference?  How can political and economic power reflect real singular practices?  What is the ontological sense of problems that are different in kind from their political solutions?  How do we reach new practices whose conditions are not already extended?  How can political discourse be more open to singular molecular practices that do not function to maintain or produce Globalizing State Power?  How can ‘revolutionary’ action lead to real change?  How do we reach desiring-production of the war machine that does not maintain or reproduce the State Form of desire --- the desire of one’s own repression?  How do we reach an open discourse where minorities have power to speak from their own singular conditions of pure exteriority?  How can we arrive at new uses of state apparatus where molecular desiring-production and molar social-production are not homogenized?  Can we enter a process of ‘becoming minoritarian’ that reaches the ontological sense of repetition of singular difference each time – to change the nature, each time – to actualize new uses of state norms that reflect singular minoritarian conditions?  Can it be possible to envision state apparatus without a prior image of homogenizing normativity?     

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