JOFF. "The Possibility of an Antihumanist EcoAnarchism" (3) Rhizomatic Naturalism

DELEUZE, GillesnatureBOOKCHIN, Murray (14 janvier 1921 – 30 juillet 2006) Philosophy. RationalityNature. Social ecologyGUATTARI, FélixJOFF

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The potential incommensurability between the naturalist ontologies of Deleuze and Bookchin will now be assessed. But firstly the organic metaphor or ‘image’ of the rhizome will receive attention.
Rhizome, dualism and supersession: We shall concern ourselves here with an alternative image of thought [1] whose alternative perspective is anarchistic (for it essentially opposes itself to an image of thought which is State-orientated). One possible objection is that the reading here is too literal. The objection is taken on board but what is significant is the tracing of potential affinities between the perception of thought as nomadic and experimental and the traditional political philosophy of anarchism. Deleuze and Guattari are principally interested in lines of flight and moments of deterritorialisation that escape the binary coding of the State apparatus. Deleuze and Guattari think becomings, multiplicities, and proliferation as a form of counter-praxis to binary oppositions. They are interested in what escapes from social cleavages. Instead of East-West they look for the ruptures and breakthroughs that are occurring elsewhere. Thinking otherwise than molarity (the molar), they seek to disclose rebellions in the North and the South. Molecularity is discerned as a potential site of creativity and refusal. Normal identities, binary-molar apparatuses (male/female, culture/nature) are contrasted with provisional identities of becoming.
The rhizome is an image of thought which attempts to account for thought’s trajectory and speed. It is contrasted to the traditional image of Occidental thought, the tree and the root. The rhizome is different from roots and radicles. [2] Rats which swarm over each other are invoked as an instance of a rhizome. Rhizome contains both lines of segmentarity (recuperation) and lines of deterritorialisation (escape). Rhizomes are compared with arborescent structures. [3] The rhizome contains elements which resist the sedentary structures of hierarchy and centralised organs. Deleuze and Guattari do not merely affirm one component of the dualism in favour of the other. This point is argued by Tomlinson: ‘All Deleuze’s ‘systems’ can be regarded as temporary strategic constructions, as the transitory fortifications of an advancing nomadic war machine’. [4] For Deleuze and Guattari, there are knots of arborescence in rhizomes and rhizomatic offshoots in roots. In summa: rhizomes are acentred, nonhierarchical and are best defined as permitting the circulation of evasive states of intensity. The model of the rhizome examines what flees and what is produced by fleeing. Couchgrass is a wonderful image Deleuze and Guattari provide in order to distinguish the growth of grass as distinct from the growth of trees. Couchgrass grows between paving stones, it springs up everywhere. Couchgrass is a weed, it is rhizomatic. The production of desire, for Deleuze and Guattari, is looked upon as a rhizomatic process. The rhizome is above all a way of grasping connection and coupling, a way of understanding extra-textual relationships (the effect of a book on the reader’s intensity ‘outside’ of a book). In the case of writing, Deleuze and Guattari maintain: ‘Writing webs a war machine and lines of flight, abandoning the strata, segmentarities, sedantarity, the State apparatus’. [5]
The question arises: to what extent are the concepts of the rhizome and horizontality useful as tools for social ecology and anarchism? Kropotkin elaborated, contra Darwin, a conception of evolution that emphasised the role of mutual aid in social evolution. The rhizome shares similar features with Kropotkin’s notion of the affinity group which is a collectivity that spontaneously emerges for specific needs or ends.
In thinking the relationship between Deleuzian PS and ecological politics, Patrick Hayden contends that Deleuze expounds a naturalistic ontology. Hayden reworks the concept of naturalism in order to account for Deleuze’s critique of the ‘verticality’ of Occidental thought. [6] Two troubling lacunas are present in Hayden’s analysis. The first is that Hayden fails to expose Deleuze’s employment of ‘machinic’ metaphors which are the bedrock of Deleuze’s rhizomatic philosophy. The second is that there is dearth of analysis concerning the impact of Nietzsche’s lebensphilosophie upon Deleuze’s philosophical trajectory. [7] On Hayden’s interpretation, Deleuze’s naturalism celebrates the interrelationships between human and nonhuman life without recourse to metaphysically static binary oppositions (essence/appearance). The pragmatics of Deleuzian naturalism asks for the ‘effects’ a way of thinking have upon us. Thus, Hayden is right to note the search for different ways of living and thinking by Deleuze and Guattari which are sensitive to and in tune with the environment. Hayden fails to note the effect of Nietzsche’s philosophy of innocent becoming and this-worldly atheism upon Deleuze’s own thinking.
In looking for a way of thinking which escapes Platonism’s positing of pure transcendent Being (the real of Ideas), Deleuze seeks to re-unite the (bio)-diversity of the natural world with the natural world’s ‘real conditions of material difference and process of becoming’. [8] Deleuze develops a pluralistic naturalism through a reading of Lucretius and Spinoza. In thinking through the concept of nature, Deleuze reads Lucretius as refusing to succumb to the temptation to totalise. In refusing to seek a final unification of the different elements of nature, what is celebrated is precisely the diversity and difference which inheres within nature.
This refusal connects up with tenet (naturalism) 4 outlined above. The realm of Ideas is jettisoned for it supports the idea that nature is an imperfect copy of transcendent Being. Individuals, species, environments are considered as non-totalisable sums. The multiple is celebrated over the One. [9] Deleuze reads nature distributively, that is to say, as an open ended interplay of the various plurality of elements which compose it. [10] Nature is a continuous process of becoming, a process of formation and deformation. Deleuze searches for a way of thinking that can align itself with the fluctuations of ‘reality’. If nature fluctuates because it is continually becoming then a rigid dichotomy (humanity and nature) is an unsuitable tool for describing such a reality. This is precisely the point that needs to be underscored. Deleuze and his collaborator, Guattari, call for a way of thinking that celebrates the different and the singular which counters the urge to totalise or unify. The plane of immanence is the concept employed to celebrate difference and singularities. [11] Their model of evolution rejects the arborescent image of thought based upon descent (genealogy) in favour of a rhizomatic conception of species development in which the ‘traversality’ of species combined with a continuous interaction with the external environment is given greater weight. [12]
The political dimension to Deleuze’s naturalism takes the form, according to Hayden, of a creativity of concepts, practices, and values which ‘best promote the collective life and interests of diverse modes of existence inhabiting the planet’. [13] Deleuze’s micropolitical analysis thus examines local, often temporary ecological situations. In doing so, ecological activism, as one struggle amongst many [14], steers clear of ‘universal abstractions’ (the ideal of equality for all) and thus concentrates on the particular and the singular. Furthermore, Guattari stresses micropolitical processes with respect to the workings of molecular revolutions.
Thus spoke Guattari:

For the last decade [1970s] battle lines widely different from those which previously characterised the traditional workers movement have not ceased to multiply (immigrant workers, skilled workers unhappy with the kind of work imposed on them, the unemployed, over exploited women, ecologists, nationalists, mental patients, homosexuals, the elderly, the young etc.).. But will their objectives become just another "demand acceptable to the system" or will vectors of molecular revolution begin to proliferate behind them. [15]

The rejection of universal abstractions does not necessarily entail the outright refusal to examine macropolitical phenomena. As Deleuze says: ‘every politics is simultaneously a macropolitics and a micropolitics’. [16] Deleuze perceives ecological problems in terms of the translation between local and global ecosystems. Deleuze analyses the construction of the planetary ecosystem beginning with the combination and intersection of local phenomena which together compose the global ecosystem. [17]
For the purposes of the central contention of this thesis, we ought to make a comparison between the rhizomatic-thinking of Deleuze and the social ecology of Bookchin. Bookchin’s social ecology argues that the domination of nature stems from a deeply entrenched historical domination of human by human. Reason and domination, on this account, are mutually exclusive. Integrated World Capitalism infects ‘reason’ with a contaminated conception of reason which desires production for the sake of production (instrumental means/end reason). The message is clear: it is only by reconfiguring a radical (uprooting) revolutionary politics that reason’s struggle will be victorious. Bookchin defends such an uprooting of thought, praxis and values by enunciating the value of decentralised communities which practice locally based democracy. Furthermore, Bookchin’s dialectical naturalism re-situates human and nonhuman life within bioregions which are sensitive to complex evolutionary phenomena. Human and nonhuman are intertwined and function according to the ecological principle of mutualism or symbiosis. [18] Other noteworthy precepts of social ecology include the implementation of environmentally friendly (alternative) technologies (solar power, wind power and so on) and the celebration of cultural (ethnic, local) and biophysical diversity. Hayden claims that there are points of intersection here between social ecology and rhizomatic thinking.Hayden, p.199. [19] However, Bookchin has attacked Deleuze regarding the explicit anti-humanism which pervades his work. PS, in general, is rejected given its decentring of ‘Man’. [20] On the other hand, Deleuze wishes to transcend what he sees as a one-dimensional Enlightenment rationality and more particularly the unchallenged march toward a rational society by Marxist theoreticians. The presuppositions underlying the idea of progress and the teleological belief in the messianic ending of history with the arrival of heaven on earth is further attacked by Deleuze who wishes to think free from systems of closure. [21] Deleuze’s philosophy seeks to leap over the ‘deterministic presuppositions of traditional essentialism and humanism’ [22] which are evident in Bookchin’s paean to Hegelian dialectics. Hayden’s point is that Bookchin examines only one surface of ecological phenomena namely its ‘inner’ dialectical development without seeing phenomena as entwined with an ‘outside’.

Hayden’s analysis is fundamentally weakened given the fact that one of Deleuze’s main influences was Nietzsche who inaugurated a ‘deconstructive’ practice that sought to chiefly expose the hidden motivations lurking in Occidental thought, namely philosophy’s hidden desire or will-to-power. The concept of becoming is centripetal to Nietzsche’s philosophy of the eternal recurrence and the Will-to-Power. Yet, a grasping of the critique of the transcendent world of essences, the beyond or Nirvana by an immanent rhizomatic naturalism is blunted without recourse to the becoming-Nietzsche of Deleuze. Nietzsche set in train one of the most hostile critiques of Christianity and of Occidental culture and Nietzsche was one of the main spurs for Deleuze’s philosophy of affirmation. To grasp the meaning of Deleuze’s plane of immanence thus requires foregrounding Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s philosophies of power and affectivity. Hayden fails to provide such an analysis. In contrast to Hayden, Gare notes the impacts of Nietzsche and Bergson upon Deleuze’s thinking and contends that Deleuze constructs a Nietzschean philosophy of nature out of philosophy, mathematics and scientific advances. [23]
More importantly, several of Deleuze’s chief concepts are omitted from Hayden’s otherwise thought-provoking essay. The machinic assemblage, the Body-without-Organs (BwO), and the mechanosphere [24] receive no mention whatsoever. Such a selective reading cannot but give the impression that Deleuze and Guattari enunciated a soft and woolly passivity. On the contrary, Guattari calls for ever greater control and manipulation of the ‘mechanosphere’ given the constant human abuse of fragile ecosystems. Furthermore, it can be argued that Deleuze and Guattari’s collaborative anti-Oedipus enterprise was directed toward a rethinking and reconstruction of ontology itself. Thus, a naturalistic ontology ought to be put into parentheses here. The traditional tools of ontology (being, object, qualities, pairs) are replaced by Deleuze and Guattari with the concepts of planes, intensities, flows, becomings, and couplings. Rigid binary oppositions (a chief example is the man/woman dualism) are avoided and in their place we find ‘a continuum of interacting embodied subjectivities’. Yet, it is legitimate to inquire as to whether a machinic ontology is necessarily gender neutral or nature oppressive. Grosz and others have been quick off the mark to note the potentially sexist metaphors employed by Deleuze and Guattari. The use of machinic metaphors may well express a phallic drive whose obvious desire is to plug into, couple up and oppressively connect up with everything it can dominate. [25]
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[1Le Doeuff is also interested in tracing images of thought found in the history of philosophy. Images of servile women (prostitute, good wife), islands, insects, and clocks are invoked in order to defend the idea that no philosophical system is without its own images.

[2Radicle n. 1) the part of a plant embryo that develops into a primary root; a rootlet. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, BCA, 1995, p.987.

[3Arborescent adj. 1) treelike in growth or general appearance; 2) arboreal adj. living in or connected with trees. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, p.55.

[4Krell and Wood (eds.), Exceedingly Nietzsche: Aspects of Contemporary Nietzsche-Interpretation, London: Routledge, 1988, p.159.

[5Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Massumi, London: The Athlone Press, 1992, p.24

[6On Lechte’s reading of Deleuze, Western thought is structured by dualism (reality/appearance) and the search for essences. The Nietzschean Deleuze defends a different ontology which celebrates becoming and a plurality of appearances. See Lechte, John, Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers, London: Routledge, 1994, p.101-104.

[7Hardt, M, Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy, London: UCL Press, 1993, p.72. The explicit link between Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s philosophies of power is explored here with reference to Deleuze’s naturalism.

[8Hayden, P, Environmental Ethics, Summer 1997, Vol. 19, No.2, ‘Gilles Deleuze and Naturalism: A Convergence with Ecological Theory and Politics’, 187-188.

[9‘One of the most profound constants of Naturalism is to denounce everything that is sadness, everything that is the cause of sadness, and everything that needs sadness to exercise its power. From Lucretius to Nietzsche, the same end is pursued and attained. Naturalism makes thought and sensibility an affirmation. It directs its attack against the prestige of the negative; it deprives the negative of all its power, it refuses to the spirit of the negative the right to speak in the name of philosophy’. Deleuze, Logic of Sense, quoted in Hayden p.189-190.

[10Hayden, p.192

[11Singularity is a one off event. A freak.

[12Hayden, p.193. Deleuze and Guattari set us to explore what escapes from the structures of hierarchy. Thus, in terms of descent and evolution, Deleuze and Guattari note the heterogeneous and wildly mutational becomings which transverse species without the register of being rendered as essences. It is above all a question of existential alliances. It is a question of the becoming-orchid of the wasp and a becoming-wasp of the orchid. See Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.10

[13Hayden, p.196

[14Virilio, P, Popular Defense and Ecological Struggles, trans. Polizzotti, Semiotext(e), 1990. Virilio thinks that ecological struggles are one struggle amongst others such as racial and women.

[15Guattari, Proliferation of Margins, Internet: Lazosubverto web page.

[16Hayden, p.197, quotes from Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.213.

[17Hayden, p.197.

[18Hayden, p.199.

[19Hayden, p.199

[20Foucault, M, The Order of Things: An Archaelogy of the Human Sciences, Tavistock Publications 1970. ‘It is no longer possbile to think in our day other than in the void left by man’s dissapearance. For this void does not create a deficiency; it does not constitute a lacuna that must be filled. It is nothing more, and nothing less, than the unfolding of a space in which it is once more possible to think,’ p.342. In accounting for the epistemic shifts away from humanism in in the human sciences Foucault is famous for claiming that ‘man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the end of the sea’.

[21‘The will to a system is a lack of integrity’ is a Nietzschean saying which Deleuze would endorse. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Maxims and Arrows 26, trans. Hollingdale, London: Penguin Books.

[22Hayden, p.200.

[23Gare, A, Postmodernism and the Environmental Crisis, London: Routledge, 1995. ’Rejecting the anti-naturalism of the other poststructuralists, Deleuze has embraced Nietzsche’s physicalism, and drawn on the ideas of the Stoics, on the philosophies of Lucretius, Spinoza and of Bergson and on various developments within science and mathematics to elaborate a Nietzschean philosophy of nature’, p.70.

[24Deleuze and Guattari, ‘There is no biosphere or noosphere, but everywhere the same Mechanosphere’. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.69.

[25Grosz, E, Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1994, p.163.