Occupy Strata: never believe that only a rhizome can save us

Thinking of OWS and other movements resisting corporate globalization, I wonder if another world is possible.  It’s an open question.  If another world is possible, and we are going to facilitate its arrival, we will need a lot more than acentered, deterritorialized, destratified, or horizontal networks.  A lot more than rhizomatic flows and smooth spaces.  We will also need centralized institutions, judgments, hierarchies, and plenty of strata.  Even Deleuze and Guattari recognize this.  The rhizome is not neatly amenable to an opposition with arborescent hierarchy.  “There are knots of arborescence in rhizomes and rhizomatic offshoots in roots” (A Thousand Plateaus [University of Minnesota, 1987], p. 20).

Of course, smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory.  But the struggle is changed or displaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries.  Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us. (p. 500)

The Earth–the Deterritorialized, the Glacial, the giant Molecule–is a body without organs.  This body without organs is permeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by free intensities or nomadic singularities, by mad or transitory particles.  That, however, was not the question at hand. For there simultaneously occurs upon the earth a very important, inevitable phenomenon that is beneficial in many respects and unfortunate in many others: stratification. (p. 40)

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2 responses to “Occupy Strata: never believe that only a rhizome can save us

  • Matthew David Segall

    Thanks for giving me some insight into Deleuze, Sam. The question of hierarchy v. horizontality in social organization reminds me of the exchang I recently had with Bryant about the role of religious transformation in political revolution: http://footnotes2plato.com/2012/08/18/immanent-law-transcendent-love-and-political-theology/
    Despite my admittedly still immature understanding of Deleuze, I had a sense that Bryant’s reading of him as a purely immanent thinker was a bit of an over-simplification.

    • sam

      For D&G, stratification and destratification (or roots and rhizomes) are both immanent processes, and they see appeals to transcendence as erecting a particular kind of hierarchical structure that is, by definition, oppressive. So, it’s not necessarily an oversimplification to call Deleuze a purely immanent thinker.

      Bryant’s essay in Speculations III addresses the ethicopolitical implications of religious structures pretty well, and he acknowledges that there’s a lot of religious diversity that he isn’t accounting for. Deleuze and Bryant are generally hostile to religion (after all, religion tends to be very oppressive, especially if you’re looking at it from a feminist perspective). However, their allergy for the word “transcendence” notwithstanding, I don’t think that either Deleuze or Bryant is closing the door on theologians who are trying to deterritorialize the refrains of their traditions. But that allergy to the word “transcendence” is strong. Feminist and queer antihistamines are required.

      The Levinasian Critchley isn’t necessarily a good companion here (Irigaray and Butler have pretty serious critiques of the phallosophy of Levinas): infinitely demanding, there’s no end to that prick. On the other hand, a feminist and postcolonial theologian (e.g., Catherine Keller) might get more traction when she tries to introduce an immanating sense of transcendence. That being said, I liked what I’ve read of Faith and the Faithless, and your post draws on it well. It’s a fun and provocative book, one that irritates the Deleuzian in me, but the Levinasian in me loves it…infinitely.

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