Academic journal article New Formations

Politics as the Orientation of Every Assemblage

Academic journal article New Formations

Politics as the Orientation of Every Assemblage

Article excerpt

Translated by Jeremy Gilbert

Translators note: In the title, and at several points in the text, I have translated the French 'posture', in a rather unorthodox manner as 'orientation'. Much more usual translations of this word into English would include 'posture' (in either the political or ergonomic sense), 'position', 'positioning', 'stance' (again, in the political or anatomical sense) or 'bearing'. None of these usages in English quite captures the French usage in this text, which would perhaps be most accurately rendered as 'positioning' (although with some of the suggestively anatomical undertones of 'posture' or 'stance'). 'Orientation' has been chosen partly because it carries a similar set of nuances, partly because it sits nicely with the cartographic vocation which Bergen / Deleuze attributes to politics, and partly because it reads less awkwardly in context than any of the more orthodox alternatives, without doing violence to the ideas being communicated.

We will begin with a topological question: where is Deleuzian politics located? Where do its lines run? Through which points do they pass? We can take it as read that politics is not, for Deleuze, a separate field--a space limited by questions of representation, of state, of legitimacy--but an orientation operating at the heart of every assemblage; its lines meeting everywhere where an assemblage--individual or collective, of thought or of desire--operates. Politics characterises a priori every assemblage, to the extent that the latter is in itself just a fold in life. If every ideal or desiring assemblage reveals itself to be political in its action as in its effects, if an intrinsic interlinking connects these two terms in a co-definition, then it is to the extent that it bears witness to a mode of existence which consorts with or divorces itself from life. Vitalism, which understands life in terms of flux, in terms of forces and not of forms, carries within itself a politics which it dictates at the same time as fecundating: a politics affiliated to the ethical and ethological question of affirming that which augments the powers of life.

Deleuze's work evolves from an analysis of politics in terms of desires animated by the question 'how does desire come to desire its own repression?' and by the horizon of revolution--to an understanding of politics in terms of lines, which asks after the cartography of an assemblage, understood not only as desiring but also as ideal, perceptual, sensible. In brief, it bifurcates from schizoanalysis into micropolitics. Backed by an ontology configured in terms of a Spinozist pantheism, (1) the Deleuzian system grasps the entirety of the real in terms of forces, of fluxes and not of forms or substances / subjects; in terms of relations and not of invariant forces. On the plane of immanence of life, every body, every assemblage, is defined only by a diagram constituted along two axes: the longitudinal axis of movements of speed and slowness which traverse the body, and the latitudinal axis of the body's powers of affecting and of being affected. Prey to those becomings which arise from the line of the Outside, subjected to those connections and interactions which compose or decompose its relationships, augmenting or diminishing its power to act, every assemblage is to be understood in terms of a map drawn from a condition of permanent dynamism. And it is precisely this cartography of individual and collective assemblages, this tracking of a geography and of a physiology cut off from any hermeneutics, which fulfils the Deleuzian definition of the political.

We will begin by explaining the operators which Deleuze deploys in his apprehension of the political. In Dialogues and A Thousand Plateaus, politics is grasped by way of a double conceptual armoury: on the one hand, the typology of lines (drawn from the literary field, essentially from Fitzgerald in The Crack-Up), on the other hand the schema of the molar and the molecular (deriving primarily from Tarde, but grafted onto Ruyer and Leibniz). …

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