The Old and the New Structure

by Beth Metcalf 

Deleuze says (Difference & Repetition 209) “The reality of the virtual consists of the differential elements and relations along with the singular points which correspond to them.  The reality of the virtual is structure.”  But he continues by warning us… “We must avoid giving the elements and relations which form a structure an actuality which they do not have, and withdrawing from them a reality which they have.”  Deleuze gives us this warning after he has corrected his terminology on the previous page by saying, “We opposed the virtual and the real: although it could not have been more precise before now, this terminology must be corrected.  The virtual is opposed not to the real but to the actual.”  Why does Deleuze feel the need to make this correction?  Up to that point Deleuze had to use the terminology of classical structuralism in order to be understood.  But now, abruptly, he had to correct this old classical terminology in order to introduce his notion of a new structure --- a new sub-representative structure of univocity.  His new structure must reach a sub-representative domain of the virtual-real that is not to be confused with already actual possibilities of the old structure.  

In How Do We Recognize Structuralism? Deleuze lists seven criteria of those we recognize as ‘structuralists’.  These criteria reflect the intention of structuralists to find a deeper real condition that is not dependent upon any actual sensible form, intelligible essence, imaginary figures, prior forms of signification, or representation of parts in an already formed whole.  The structuralist’s intention is to reach a symbolic object that can circulate through series of relations and singular points.  This object must be the free circulation of unformed arbitrary relations --- without any presuppositions about what is possible.  However, after his explanation of these criteria of structure, Deleuze warns about two accidents of the old (classical) structuralism.  He notices that these “accidents” do not let the empty square circulate freely.  The old structure fills, or does not fill, the empty square.  However in either case, sense could not circulate freely.  Therefore, these “accidents” are inherent tendencies of the old structure.  Either, the empty square is not filled-in (it is not accompanied by a nomadic subject) and its emptiness becomes a lack (the signifier disappears and the signified has no element to mark it).  Or, the empty square is filled-in (the chain of the signifier can’t find a signified) there is nothing that needs to be accompanied (there is no signified).   

Deleuze says that those called “structuralists” have a point in common (Logic of Sense 71), “…sense, regarded not at all as appearance but as surface effect and position effect, and produced by the circulation of the empty square in the structural series….”  He further tells us that (73) “….Today’s task is to make the empty square circulate and to make pre-individual and nonpersonal singularities speak --- in short, to produce sense.”  This is today’s task because the old structure did not meet its own requirement of a freely circulating empty square.  It merely reproduced an already actual signification without reaching the real difference of ‘sense’.  The new structure must resolve the accidents of the old structure.   

(HRS) “The contradiction must yet be “resolved,” that is, the empty place must be rid of the symbolic events that eclipse it or fill it, and be given over to the subject which must accompany it on new paths, without occupying or deserting it.  Thus, there is a structuralist hero: neither God nor man, neither personal nor universal, it is without an identity, made of non-personal individuations and pre-individual singularities.  It assures the break-up of a structure affected by excess or deficiency….For a new structure not to pursue adventures that again are analogous to those of the old structure, not to cause fatal contradictions to be reborn, depends on the resistant and creative force of this hero, on its agility in following and safeguarding the displacements, on its power to cause relations to vary and to redistribute singularities, always casting another throw of the dice.”  [underlines added]. 

What is this dice throw of the new structure?  Deleuze provides an explanation in his Tenth Series of ‘Logic of Sense’.  The Ideal Game of Univocity is not at all like the games with which we are acquainted.  The usual games of the old structure (the Representational Image of Thought) have many numerically distinct throws in one fixed distribution.  Deleuze calls this “…. the art of causality.”  This is the game restricted to the time of Chronos.  However, the Ideal Game of Univocity has other principles.  With this dice game of the new structure, there are no pre-existing rules.  All throws endlessly ramify chance in ontologically one throw that includes all qualitatively distinct forms.  Each throw is a series which emits singular points.  The set of throws are included in an aleatory point --- an empty form that is displaced throughout all the series and ramifies them endlessly.  Instead of sedentary distribution that divides a closed space (as the usual games of Chronos do), the aleatory point (an empty place --- the empty square) nomadically distributes singularities in an open space.  It is thought as nonsense --- the unconscious of thought.  This is the nomadic distribution that circulates the empty form.  What is this empty form of time that displaces itself through all the series?  This empty place of the new structure is the time of Aion --- the past and future of incorporeal events as surface effects.  To reach this sub-representative empty form of Aion, we must reach the virtual-real of the new structure.   

The old structure was restricted to the plane of Chronos which measures movement in the action of bodies that fill it.  The empty square of the old structure could not circulate freely because the time of Chronos either filled or did not fill the empty square.  But Aion is the pure empty form of time.  It is empty form --- empty of actual material content.  With this new structure, singular points are distributed over the straight line of Aion traced by the empty place of the aleatory point.  The real distinction of events communicates across all series in the singularity of the Ontological Event.  The paradox of the event is that it fills, without filling, the line of Aion.  Since the virtual-real event of the new structure is impenetrable and incorporeal, it fills the line of Aion without filling it.  The corporeal bodies on the line of Chronos fill, or do not fill, the empty square.  The old structure of Chronos could not avoid these accidents.  But when Aion is included in the new structure, the form is empty and remains unfilled even when filled by incorporeal events.  Then, when the virtual-real comes to be actualized on the plane of Chronos, the virtual is actualized without resemblance.  With the new structure, Chronos remains open to the plane of Aion.  Aion is included in the ideal game of sub-representative univocality.  The required paradox of structuralism can be fulfilled.   

(LoS 165), “Whereas Chronos was inseparable from the bodies which filled it out entirely as causes and matter, Aion is populated by effects which haunt it without ever filling it up….Whereas Chronos was inseparable from circularity and its accidents --- such as blockages or precipitations, explosions, disconnections, and indurations --- Aion stretches out in a straight line, limitless in either direction.  Always already passed and eternally yet to come, Aion is the eternal truth of time: pure empty form of time, which has freed itself of its present corporeal content…..”   

The aleatory point is the empty square displaced endlessly as object without place in one series, and place without occupant in the other.  It is the straight line that nomadically articulates a frontier between propositions and things.  Aion’s event is empty form.  It is not a corporeal object, but incorporeal object as expressed --- never present --- already past and yet to come.  So, Deleuze’s univocity answers the paradoxical requirement of how to fill without filling the empty place.  We must reach a new incorporeal domain of sub-representative sense --- the pure empty form of time.  The empty place of Aion allows sense to circulate without blockages.  This is the new structure of multiplicity where all real distinction coexists as unformed matter.  All real distinction, of every degree of intensity, coexists as ontological singularity.     

(LoS 64) “This is the secret of the event: it exists on the line of the Aion, and yet it does not fill it.  How could an incorporeal fill up the incorporeal or the impenetrable fill up the impenetrable?  Only bodies penetrate each other, only Chronos is filled up with state of affairs and the movements of the objects that it measures.  But being an empty and unfolded form of time, the Aion subdivides ad infinitum that which haunts it without ever inhabiting it --- the Event for all events.”   

The classical old structuralism is the homogeneity of signified and signifier.  Because its paradoxical element could only be filled, or not, at the level of signified/signifier; its resulting metaphor/metonymy, paradigmatic/syntagmatic structure could not satisfy the paradoxical requirement.  But the post-classical new structuralism reaches sub-representative heterogeneity of content and expression, each with its own form and substance.  D&G see Hjelmslev as reaching the deterritorialized heterogeneity of content and expression.  Now, at this sub-representative level, any series of content can be coupled with any series of expression, because it reaches a domain of intensive sense (virtual-real) that is not restricted by the signified/signifier that still maintains the prior possibilities of an already actualized signification.  The old structure confuses signification with sense.  But sense must come from the nonsense of a freely circulating empty square.  It must not assume any prior signification.  Anything is compatible at this sub-representative level where everything is possible.  The virtual-real structure does not have to be compatible with a prior conceptual structure of signifiance/subjectification, metaphor/metonymy.  Hjelmslev’s form of content and form of expression reach the heterogeneity of the new structure. Instead of the subjectification of the old structure where the subject is split in a structural field (splitting into a subject of the statement and a subject of enunciation), the new structure is the collective assemblage of enunciation where content and expression become formalized by asignifying signs and unformed matter flowing through the machinic assemblage. The empty square now intervenes as nonsense that produces ‘sense’.  Sense is not to be confused with the possibilities of signification of the old structure.  Sense inheres in propositional expression but does not merge with it.  Sense is attributed to the expressed content but does not merge with it.  This boundary differentiates all real difference of intensive singularity. 

(LoS 22) “Sense is both the expressible or the expressed of the proposition, and the attribute of the state of affairs.  It turns one side toward things and one side toward propositions.  But it does not merge with the proposition which expresses it any more than with the state of affairs or the quality which the proposition denotes.  It is exactly the boundary between propositions and things.”     

The old structure closed into the structure of signified/signifier with metaphoric correspondences.  The old structure could not avoid the two accidents.  It merged with the proposition whenever the empty square was filled-in.  Or, it merged with the denoted thing whenever the empty square was not filled-in.  Deleuze’s resolution to the problem focuses on the seventh criterion which says that structure goes from subject to practice.  This is “the most obscure - the criteria of the future”.  Deleuze sees the two “accidents” as bringing us to the critique of the old structure.  In answer to the accidents of the old structure, Deleuze foresees a new structuralism that includes the sub-representative plane of univocity.  Univocity is his answer to the paradoxical requirements of the problem.  Structure is at least two heterogeneous series differentiated by the paradoxical empty form of Aion.  The new structure opens the forms.  Content and expression each have their own form and their own substance, reaching a new sub-representative domain of intensive sense.  To fulfill the required paradox of sense, we must reach a sub-representative domain where the empty square is filled without being filled.  That is, it must let sense circulate without producing Lack.   

Now, with the new structure, content is not a signified and expression is not a signifier.  At this sub-representative level, any content may be coupled with any expression, because it reaches a domain of intensive sense (virtual-real) that is not restricted to the (actual-possible) old structure of metaphor/metonymy, possibilities of filling/not-filling, or maintenance of prior signification.  Now, with the new structure, anything is compatible at the sub-representative level of intensive difference.  This new structure now avoids giving its elements and relations an actuality which they do not have.  It avoids withdrawing from them a reality which they have.  The process now goes from virtual-real to its actualization, and no longer from one actual term to another. 

The old structure was the homogeneous relation of cause and effect on a closed plane of Chronos that could not get past a duality of representation (signified and signifier).  But with the new structure, sense intervenes as a third term. 

Expressionism in Philosophy 335, “In short, what is expressed everywhere intervenes as a third term that transforms dualities.  Beyond real causality, beyond ideal representation, what is expressed is discovered as a third term that makes distinctions infinitely more real and identity infinitely better thought.  What is expressed is sense: deeper that the relation of causality, deeper than the relation of representation.” 

The old structuralism is bound to fall into one or the other of these “accidents”.  Either, the signifier disappears with only a stream of signifieds remaining.  Or, the signified disappears leaving only a chain of signifiers.  The old structuralism could never avoid these accidents.  Either the signified merged with denoted things whenever the empty square was not filled in, attributing a plenitude of signifieds with no subject to accompany them.  This accident of the old structure is the ‘Despotic Paranoid Regime’.  Or, the Signifier merged with the proposition whenever the empty square was filled-in.  This is the accident of the ‘Passional Regime’.  Both of these accidents of structure cut the empty square off from its virtual source.  These two regimes are the consequences of the accidents of the old structure, according to Deleuze in his writings with Guattari.  Accidents of the old structure inevitably fall into either of two regimes of madness --- the Paranoid Despotic Regime or the Passional Regime.  Psychoanalysis fortifies these regimes of the old structure.  D&G offer their schizoanalysis as their answer to the problem.   

Deleuze and Guattari say (A Thousand Plateaus 168), “The face constructs the [white] wall that the signifier needs in order to bounce off of….The face digs the [black] hole that subjectification needs in order to break through; it constitutes the black hole of subjectivity as consciousness or passion….”  The abstract machine of faciality produces the face, but does not resemble what is produced.  They say (ATP 171) that human beings need to dismantle the face and its facializations to become imperceptible --- to get past the two accidents of the old structure of white wall and black holes.


In How Do We Recognize Structuralism? Deleuze lists seven criteria of those recognized as ‘structuralists’.  In what follows I examine these criteria, why I see the old structure as not adequate to fulfill these criteria, and why I think the new structure is.

First Criterion -- The Symbolic:  The symbolic is not to be confused with ideas of the real or with an imaginary concept.  The symbolic is a structural condition.  Structure is distributed in series of relations and their singular points. Structure is not sensible form, intelligible essence, figures of the imaginary, signification, or representation of parts in a whole.  However with the old structure, the symbolic merely mediates signification.  Signified/signifier and metaphor/metonymy are not truly arbitrary.  Sense does not circulate freely.  Signification maintains a structure of imaginary identity or metaphoric similarity.  However, the symbolic object of the new structure turns one side toward propositions and one side toward things (without merging with the propositions or things).  It always articulates a new boundary between content and expression.   

Second Criterion -- Local or Positional: Elements of structure have no extrinsic designation or intrinsic signification.  Elements of structure have position in a topological structural space (a purely unextended spacium).  There are only positional relations of asignifying elements.  Sense is the effect of position.  Therefore, sites should prevail over what comes to occupy them.  However, with the old structure, sites were occupied with symbolic partial objects that were still parts of a totality, original or produced (Anti-Oedipus 44).  Sites could not prevail over the relations among actual elements that came to occupy them.  However, Deleuze’s new structure no longer confuses the real with the actual.  Intensive partial objects are not already elements of an actual totality.  They are intensities of a pure spatium.  They reach a sub-representative sense that does not presuppose a totalizing signification.  Virtual-real, pre-extensive space prevails over the actualizations that come to occupy it.   

Third Criterion -- The Differential and the Singular: Structural space is constituted as multiplicities of real relations and singular points.  Then, these relations and singular points are actualized without resemblance into species and parts.  The old structure could not fulfill this requirement when its ‘partial objects’ were related as parts of a totality (original or produced).  There were partial objects that could not avoid relations of an already actual structure of metaphor/metonymy, syntagmatic/paradigmatic.  However, Deleuze’s new structure of univocal being is a truly pre-individual singularity.   It reaches a new problematic field of intensive partial objects without metaphor.  Differential relations are incorporeal virtual-real multiplicities always ontologically singular.   

Fourth Criterion -- The Differenciator, Differenciation: Structure as virtual coexistence is differentiated, but not differenciated.  Coexistence of elements, relations, and singularities pre-exist in a virtual totality prior to beings which come to incarnate an actualization of structure.  Actualized structure is differenciated (differential relations are incarnated into species and corresponding singularities are incarnated into parts).  Genesis in time goes from virtual structure to its actualization.  But, the old structure could not reach a virtuality of real coexistence.  Differentiation merely went from one actual term to another.  Its ‘virtual’ still resembled actual possibilities or was over-coded by the Signifier.  However, Deleuze’s new structure must reach a sub-representative domain of the virtual-real that is not to be confused with already actual possibilities to which the old structure was still restricted.  The new structure reaches that which can better fulfill the criteria of those called ‘structuralists’. It reaches that incorporeal domain where all real distinction coexists as unformed matter.  It reaches multiplicities of all real distinction, ontologically one and said as same.  All real distinction, of every degree of intensity, coexists as ontological singularity.  Deleuze introduces a new structure of virtual-real multiplicity that is not restricted by metaphor.   

Fifth Criterion -- Serial: Differential relations of symbolic elements are in series.  Two series are related in structural homology of external relations (i.e. relations are external to their singular terms).  The isomorophism of the series constitutes an objective problematic field.  But there is no imaginary correspondence.  The series have isomorphism without correspondence.  There must be no imaginary identification of one term with another --- only a structural homology of two heterogeneous series.  But when one series is determined as signified and the other is determined as signifying, we have the old structure of metaphor/metonymy, syntagmatic/paradigmatic.  The old structure has isomorphism with correspondence.  This structure is not adequate to escape a totalizing homogeneity.  However, the new structure of the Ideal Game (univocal being) changes everything.  On the plane of consistency, metaphor no longer exists.  (ATP 69) “….if we consider the plane of consistency we note that the most disparate of things and signs move upon it: a semiotic fragment rubs shoulders with a chemical interaction, an electron crashes into a language, a black hole captures a genetic message, a crystalization produces a passion, the wasp and the orchid cross a letter….There is no “like” here, we are not saying “like an electron,” “like an interaction,” etc.  The plane of consistency is the abolition of all metaphor; all that consists is Real.”  Metaphor no longer exists.  (ATP 274) “If we interpret the word “like” as a metaphor, or propose a structural analogy or relations (man-iron = dog-bone), we understand nothing of becoming.  The word “like” is one of those words that change drastically in meaning and function when they are used in connection with haecceities, when they are made into expressions of becomings instead of signified states or signifying relations.”  

Sixth Criterion -- The Empty Square: What is in excess in the signifying series is an empty square (a displaced place without occupant).  What is lacking in the signified series is a displaced occupant without place.  The paradoxical element is both exoteric object and esoteric word. The symbolic empty square, or paradoxical element, circulates through the series.  The object=x is the convergent point of the divergent series.  The series traversed are relatively displaced terms and relations.  Their relative place depends on absolute place in relation to the object=x distributing difference through the series.  Structuralism is not the imaginary process of assimilation, reflection, duplication, or any process that maintains or produces identity.  But, the old structure could not reach a truly nomadic distribution.  Its elements could not escape a structure of signified/signifier.  It could not avoid the two accidents of signifiance or subjectification.  However with the new structure, the paradoxical element is incorporeal Aion that nomadically distributes singularities of intensive haecceity.  It reaches truly arbitrary structure.   

Seventh Final Criteria -- From the Subject to Practice: Structure has a primary symbolic filling-in before filling-in by any occupying beings.  But the empty square must not be filled (not even symbolically) if it is to circulate freely.  This void must not be the non-being of the negative (ouk on), but the positive non-being of the problematic (me on).  The nomadic subject must reach impersonal individuations and pre-individual singularities that distribute the subject and break its identity.  However, the old structure could not escape the non-being of the negative.  It could not escape the two accidents of signifiance or subjectification.  Only the new structure can reach the non-being of the problematic structure that breaks the identity of the subject.  The new structure reaches sub-representative univocity of sense that escapes the old structure of totalizing signification.  Its Outside is more distant than any perceptions of an exterior.  Its Inside is deeper than any interior consciousness.   

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