Deleuze and Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus (Matt)
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus displays what may be characterized as a proto-hypertextual form insofar as it is organized as what the two term a rhizome, with a series of plateaus (chapters) that "can be read starting anywhere and can be related to any other plateaus" (22). This organization, along with the depth and complexity of the concepts that the two employ, renders the question of how one proceeds in reviewing the text somewhat difficult. In light of this difficulty, I will thus begin simply by identifying many of the more important concepts that the two employ throughout the text.
The authors develop a series of important binaries, though they are often careful to minimize the problematic implications of such an approach by emphasizing that such a method is an unfortunate necessity that must be passed through as one seeks to escape from such dualisms. The binaries frequently represent the virtual poles of a continuum that is actualized in mixtures, as when they note that "[t]here are knots of arborescence in rhizomes and rhizomatic offshoots in roots" (20). This arborescent/rhizomatic binary is perhaps one of the most important, with the former model, which Deleuze and Guattari claim has long dominated Western thought, being characterized by a strong principal unity, stratification, and hierarchic organization, while the rhizome is defined by its heterogeneity and its absence of hierarchy or unity. The latter is composed not of points and positions, but the dynamism of lines and trajectories and contains multiple points of entry.
Another key opposition that is developed throughout A Thousand Plateaus is that of the war machine and the State apparatus. This opposition is overlaid upon the rhizomatic/ arborescent, smooth/ striated, and nomadic/ sedentary oppositions developed elsewhere. The distinction is developed, in part, through reference to game theory; "[c]hess is a game of the State" that codes and decodes the striated space of the polis, while the war machine is more closely aligned with the game Go and its territorizlizations and deterritorializations of the smooth space of the nomos. The authors stress that the war machine does not in itself aim at war, but "necessarily adopts it as its object when it allows itself to be appropriated by the State apparatus" (513).
Issues of linguistics and semiotics play an important role throughout the text. In their prior work, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari developed a rather systematic attack on psychoanalysis, which the two came to understand as merely one, though perhaps, the prime example of a type of linguistic and semiotic modeling underlying general formations of power within the West. Deleuzoguattarian semiotics is influenced heavily by the work of Louis Hjelmslev, who proposes the expression/ content distinction, which Deleuze and Guattari utilize as an alternative to the Saussurian understanding of the sign as the signifier/signified couple. The expression/content distinction is further complemented by the concepts of matter, form, and substance (Hjelmslev's 'net'). Matter refers to the plane of consistency or the Body without Organs, the "unformed, unorganized, nonstratified, or destratified body and all its flows" (43). Content is composed of formed matters, and has two primary aspects: substance, which relates to the the selection of matters, and form, referring to the order of selection. Expression refers to the functional structures with the two aspects of form, referring to organization, and substances referring to the compounds established. "Content and expression are two variable of a function of stratification" (44).