In A Thousand Plateaus Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari re-introduce the assemblage they label the war machine and establish it in opposition to the apparatus of state power. However the war machine has very little to do with war proper and is better understood as a radical type of thought that forms a central aspect of the Deleuzean politico-philosophical project. In other words it is a war of becoming over being. This article will explore the concept of the war machine and attempt to explain its relevance to contemporary political and everyday life. The war machine potentially involves everyone as it provides a radically different ontology for both the globalising tendencies of capitalist power and the various forms of resistance to that mechanism of power. This I conclude arguably clears the way for an understanding of contemporary power relations that situates the war machine as a creative and challenging form of politico-cultural resistance to the current ordering of global politics.
‘Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us’1
In an essay called “Nomad Thought”, first published in the 1970s, Gilles Deleuze identifies what he believes to be the exemplar of counter-Enlightenment culture in the figure of Friedrich Nietzsche. Deleuze sees in Nietzsche the triumph of speed, movement, and warrior nomadism over the Kantian and neo-Kantian weaknesses of the dialectic. In place of binary opposites the Nietzschean war machine replaces opposites with difference and becoming over being. As Deleuze notes, ‘difference is the object of a practical affirmation inseparable from essence and constitutive of existence. Nietzsche’s “Yes” is opposed to the dialectical “no”; affirmation to dialectical negation; difference to dialectical contradiction; joy, enjoyment, to dialectical labour; lightness, dance to dialectical responsibilities.’2
The nomad thought of Nietzsche the warrior supplants the sedentary nature of codification and recodification of the three elements of philosophical discourse Deleuze identifies as being central to societal codification; ‘law, institutions and contracts.’3
On the contrary Nietzsche’s discourse is according to Deleuze:
above all nomadic; its statements can be conceived as the products of a mobile war machine and not the utterances of a rational, administrative machinery, whose philosophers would be bureaucrats of pure reason. It is perhaps in this sense that Nietzsche announces the advent of a new politics that begins with him (which Klossowski calls a plot against his own class). 4
If nomadism was first identified in the figure of Nietzsche it reached its logical conclusion, paradoxical and still elusive in the second volume of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to ask a number of questions. Firstly, what is nomad thought and the war machine in Deleuze and Guattari? Secondly, what is the war machine’s relationship to contemporary power? And, finally, can the war machine, when not captured by the apparatus of the state form, be considered as a meaningful and ultimately positive form of politico-cultural resistance to global capital?
In contemporary societies we now see this interplay between the nomadic and the sedentary in all aspects of existence, from disembodied social networking to the global “war on terror”. It is not simply a refusal to be identified; rather it is intrinsically implicated in the instability of identities, whether that takes on an aesthetic value viewed in positive terms or even in the most venal acts by state terrorists and retail terrorists alike. For example, the suicide bomber is celebrated by many and cannot be said to be a “worse” person than the controller of a drone aeroplane who sits in an aircraft hangar in Nevada
, and neutralises others “from a distance”. Is it the quintessential modernist figure or the body that speaks? Which one of these two can be considered a warrior? The one who seeks death or the one who fights and kills without being exposed to danger? Perhaps it is both, each with a radically different and changing subjectivity. It is as, Deleuze highlights in Nietzsche, a refusal to be fixed or to be pinned down, to be always moving even if one doesn’t go anywhere; for example the soldier-warrior who sits, rather than marching. Deleuze says as follows: ‘even historically, nomads are not necessarily those who move about like migrants. On the contrary they do not move; nomads, they nevertheless stay in the same place and continually evade the codes of settled people.’5
In short it is war
: a war of becoming over being, of the sedentary over the nomadic. Becoming different, to think and act differently. This form of ambiguity of the decentred self, continuously shifting defines both the warrior who “wars” without war and the warrior who “wars” without the chance of “winning”. They both denote a shift in the calculus of modern war.
Deleuze asserts that it is with Nietzsche that creative force can be utilised for revolutionary ends while avoiding the repetition of the state-form that revolutionary struggle fights against. He argues that there is no point in overthrowing the state-form merely to re-create it. Rather he points to the originality of Nietzsche who ‘made thought into a machine of war – a battering ram – into a nomadic force.’6
Nomad thought, then, represents a fundamental shift in the thinking of the left as it breaks completely with the idea of the mass party being the motor of resistance to capital. Deleuze sees through the emptiness and ultimately the futility of such movements and posits a radical re-thinking of thought; a type of thought that is intrinsically subaltern, experimental, and uncertain but in a non-negative sense. In other words it is celebratory of the ambiguous nature of being, or more accurately for Deleuze, of becoming[s].
Deleuze sees in Nietzsche’s experimental “nomadism”, a form of non-philosophy that escapes the confines of the philosophical discourse of his time. This discourse is firmly rooted in the outside or exterior to the philosophy of state or of sovereignty. The philosophy of state is characterised by a principle of interiority and a system that is centred and hierarchical. By way of contrast, nomad thought is characterised by a principle of exteriority and a system that is decentred and rhizomatic or non-hierarchical. It implies movement, speed, and unexpected irruptions and sets itself in opposition to the tired and worn effects of dialectics;7
in other words the affirmation of chance, creation and most of all in the eternal return. The dicethrow in Nietzsche confirms ‘affirmation of the many. But all the parts, all the fragments are cast in one throw; all of chance, all at once.’8
However, although Deleuze and Guattari argue that the war machine originated with nomads
, there is nothing especially important about them. At one level of thought, many social forms can constitute war machines. They can take the form of artistic movements all the way to revolutionary movements and they draw ‘a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight, a smooth place of displacement.’9
These are war machines but of consequence only insofar as they demonstrates groups’ abilities to carve out space, rather than occupy the space created by a higher or pre-given ordering principle or process (hylomorphism). As Deleuze and Guattari argue using the example of metallurgists,10
they are assumed to be sedentary but this is not necessarily the case as ‘they had to enjoy a certain technological autonomy, and social clandestinity, so that even controlled, they did not belong to the State any more than they were themselves nomads.’11
Itinerant metallurgists occupy an ambiguous relationship with the state form similar but not coequal to the stonemasons and artisans who constructed Gothic cathedrals. Their action or “betrayals” avoid the over-coding of the state apparatus. Although it has to be noted that in this case, i. e. of itinerant metallurgists, they can constitute a war machine assemblage in their own right but also can be put in the service of the state as weapon makers. So the artisan formation has at least a dual purpose and a particular ambiguity. The first form is in the making of tools (and weapons) external to the state-form but once captured by the state-form being in its service (in part or whole). In this sense many social formations have the potential to constitute a war machine, but one of relatively little importance when it comes to the consideration of active and effective resistance to the globalising tendencies of contemporary capitalism. As Deleuze and Guattari say ‘it is not the nomad who defines this constellation of characteristics; it is the constellation that defines the nomad, and at the same time the essence of the war machine.’
What is important in Deleuze and Guattari’s identification of many types of war machine is that they are all irreducibly social in nature. It is the social base of all war machines that enables the conceptual tension of the term “war machine” itself to be appreciated. War machines are assemblages and all assemblages as well as possessing material properties possess enunciative ones as well. It is not only nomads that can form a war machine, but eventually the state itself can become something altogether different; a war machine formed by social formations that proceed to “take over” the state apparatus itself; Nazi Germany for example. 13
At this early juncture it may be useful to capture the conceptual tension inherent in the word “nomad”. It has become popularised and too easily equated with a postmodern form of freedom of the subject, but we should stop momentarily to ponder carefully on nomads and their sedentary counterparts. It may well be true that whilst we surf the net, seek out new forms of expression and style and so on that we dwell for a while on the nomads who are not free to choose – migrants, refugees, people literally creating lines of flight from conflict zones and so on. However, this is not a “line of flight” in the Deleuzean sense. Creating a line of flight does not mean to flee but to re-create or act against dominant systems of thought and social conditions. Thus Deleuze and Guattari maintain that a “line of flight” ‘never consist in running away from the world but rather in causing runoffs… There is nothing imaginary, nothing symbolic, about a line of flight.’ 14
So we should tread carefully when discussing nomads and migrants in the modern world with “nomad thought”. They are not the same phenomenon. As Noyes notes, ‘it is a miserable plight to be a postmodern nomad, to be homeless, wandering
, a refugee, following not a dream of disembodied bliss but a slim hope for survival.’ 15
What type of existence is to be found at the fringes of globalising capitalism? What type of freedom is found in homelessness and in being up-rooted? Is it merely the freedom to starve, to be marginal, unable to speak16
and to be marginal(ised)? This may be the case and cannot be equated with freedom or emancipation from oppression in all its forms. But I hope to demonstrate in the pages that follow that this tension can indeed be resolved.
So it is with caution that we should seek to apply the concept of the war machine to specific instances or events in the contemporary world. It may be tempting to try to find empirical examples to “apply” nomad thought to but in most, if not all cases, it is a fruitless task to do so. There is the temptation, seen earlier in the use of philosophers of all shades to “squeeze” their work and concepts into spaces where they do not belong. Similarly there is a tendency that should be avoided in the discipline of International Relations to appropriate the concept of the “war machine”, to celebrate “Otherness” and to valorise modern-day “nomads”. Deleuzean concepts are very specific and are conceived philosophically in the traditional sense; they do not translate well into generalised situations or events and scholars in International Relations do not do themselves any favours when they appropriate nomads and war machines and mis-use them to make them “fit” into International Relations literature. This essay hopes to serve as a warning against the received wisdom of “nomad thought” for both adherents and critics alike in the current debate on the use and mis-use of Deleuze in International Relations. “Nomadism” and the “war machine”, when applied properly (non-metaphorically) are creative, affective and affirmative concepts, although we should always be aware of the negative potential of every war machine, for it to become something other, destructive, cancerous, suicidal, fascist. 17
As Deleuze and Guattari maintain, fascism comes in at least two distinct forms. The first is the historical fascism associated with Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy (molar) and in smaller, localised settings (molecular), i. e. the fascism to be found in ‘rural fascism and city or neighbourhood fascism, youth fascism and war veteran’s fascism, fascism of the left and fascism of the right, fascism of the couple, family school and office.’ 18
Whereas for Foucault it is power that permeates all social relations, Deleuze and Guattari see fascism everywhere and although there is a conceptual tension between these two interpretations of the societal formation, Foucault in his preface to Anti-Oedipus
is generally approving of Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of social power relations.19
This molecular type of fascism may or may not eventuate in the molar or state level but they argue that molecular fascism prefigures the molar form. However, on the same page they also state that ‘there is fascism when a war machine
is installed in each hole, in every niche.’20
Although the war machine is exterior and opposed to the state it does not by definition mean that something “good” will eventuate.
They go on later to suggest that ‘the very conditions that make the State or World war machine possible
, in other words, constant capital (resources and equipment) and human variable capital, continually recreate unexpected possibilities for counterattack, unforeseen initiatives determining, revolutionary, popular, minority, mutant machines.’ 21
So we have forces of destruction and oppression and forces ofcreation and freedom entangled in a complex interplay at the same time and in the same spaces.
What is the War Machine?
Deleuze and Guattari present two key axioms with regards to the war machine. Firstly they attest that ‘the war machine is exterior to the State apparatus’ and secondly,that ‘the war machine is the invention of the nomads (insofar as it is exterior to the State apparatus and distinct from the military institution).’ 22
The first axiom is accompanied by a proposition which states that ‘this exteriority is first attested to in mythology, epic, drama and games.’ 23
Deleuze and Guattari borrow from the work of Georges Dumézil the Indo-European myth of the double-headed nature of political sovereignty embodied in the figures of the magician-king and the jurist-priest. The magician-king and the jurist-priest each represent the twin poles of political sovereignty, requiring each other to express their sovereign legitimacy and in conjunction form an apparatus of capture; they seek to bring all elements (people and things) under their jurisdiction. The point of this expression is that in a similar way to Foucault’s panoptic mechanisms the model of sovereignty does not allow escape. By way of contrast the war machine ‘comes from elsewhere’24
and is thus not reducible to capture by the apparatus of the state. The war machine resists and in fact is not able to be fixed on the Foucauldian grid or by the multitude of codes that are embodied in the state apparatus.
Deleuze and Guattari use the example of chess against the game go
. Chess is clearly a game of state but go
is fluid, implying perpetual movement and a game of exteriority. This is not to state, however, that go
is without rules or is without form. All games follow rules. In chess there is a grid and the space of chess is “striated”. There is no exteriority to the grid of chess where each piece possesses intrinsic properties and limited powers. A pawn is always a pawn (except paradoxically unless it can avoid destruction and undergo a metamorphosis when it is promoted at the eighth level, becoming something other, usually a Queen). A Queen, however, cannot become a pawn. But all of the pieces in chess follow pre-written rules or axioms. Each piece can only move within the pre-ordained grid and there is no way to modify or escape the codes of chess. By contrast, Deleuze and Guattari stress that the war machine in this form has very little to do with war proper, but as in the game go
, it follows a guerrilla logic and ‘it is a question of arraying oneself in an open space, of holding space, of maintaining the point of springing up at any point: the movement is not from one point to another, but becomes perpetual, without aim or destination, without departure or arrival.’ Deleuze and Guattari note that ‘in the case of the striated, the line is between two points
, while in the smooth, the point is between two lines.’ 25
In the example here this is typified by the “smooth space” of go
, as against the “striated space” of chess. 26
Moreover, the war machine is a ‘form of thought so radical that it wages the violence of war on existing orders of knowledge [and] condition’s Deleuze’s politico-philosophical project in its entirety.’ 27
This is Julian Reid’s understanding of the potential for a type of postmodern left resistance to the globalising tendencies of capital, and which has been popularised by Hardt and Negri. However in contrast to Hardt and Negri, Reid does not valorise the vagueness of the “multitude”, which is so effectively undermined by Boron. As he notes in his critique of Empire:
if we applied Hardt and Negri’s work to the prosaic reality of contemporary Latin America, we should ask ourselves if the paramilitaries and death squads that razed Chiapas…sewing terror and death, are included in the multitude; or the landowners who organise and finance a great part of the private repression exerted in those countries against peasants and aboriginal communities…Do humiliated and exploited peasants form part of the multitude too?28
So again we should be careful in what we think it is plausible to state about two things. Firstly, the war machine is not here to save us and neither is nomadism to be taken out of context. Although Boron is largely correct that the paramilitaries and the death squads are not part of the “multitude”, they most certainly constitute a certain type of war machine as noted above, namely those social formations that can potentially be at antagonistic to the state form but eventually become part of it or “take it over”. This should serve as further warning to scholars in International Relations who (quite rightly) are attracted to a form of leftism that escapes the codification found in the mirror of the state-form, i.e. the vanguardism of the Party, and secondly, the “multitude” as espoused by Hardt and Negri, a different celebratory type of vanguardism without substance, which is at best illusory and, as Boron goes on to say, is a concept that Hardt argues is to be understood poetically and not as fact. 29
In other words there is not much empirical support for the “coming together” of such disparate “political communities”.
However, when considered as a particular modality of thinking then the Deleuzean concept of the war machine can be taken non-metaphorically as a conceptual tool of politico-cultural resistance. It does have the potential to have real-world significance, but only if understood in the sense of all concepts Deleuze (and Guattari) espouse. In other words, war machines have at least a double function. They can, on the one hand, serve as affective and active agents of resistance, but by the same token can be captured by the state form. So, as Reid goes on to argue, although resistance and power are caught up in shifting arrangements of deterritorialisation and subsequent reterritorialisation (by capital), ‘it is not, therefore, a question of occupying a position of exteriority to power. Rather, the exterior is a limit
towards which a body projects(emphasis added).’ 30
Mobility and resistance are central to this type of thinking and one can immediately see in the war machine, which is set in opposition to the apparatus of state capture, the distinctions Deleuze and Guattari make between “smooth” and “striated” space and go
against chess. The apparatus of state capture will always attempt to “striate” space, whereas the war machine will always attempt to create “lines of flight” that make space “smooth”. Similarly chess, no matter how complicated, will never be a game of complexity. It follows axioms, whereas go
follows a generalised complex model of continuous change. Despite its general rules, go
becomes something other, always. In this sense go
is similar to the point made at the beginning of A Thousand Plateaus
in which Deleuze and Guattari highlight the essential feature of the war machine as follows:
The problem of the war machine, or the firing squad: is a general necessary for n
individuals to fire in unison? The solution without a General is to be found in an acentred multiplicity possessing a finite number of states with signals to indicate corresponding speeds, from a war rhizome or guerrilla logic point of view, without any tracing, without any copying of a central order. 31
The distinction drawn between the sedentary and the nomadic here can be generalised across practically all aspects of existence as well, from pre-modernity to modernity and in the postmodern condition, too. The word “nomadic” takes on different connotations from the pre-modern nomad and denotes adaptability, movement, shifting patterns of behaviour, “phase transitions” and a continuously shifting calculus between humans and nature. Deleuze and Guattari also introduce here the themes of spontaneous self-organisation, non-linearity and the adaptive nature of complex systems, some things that could also be read as quite sympathetic to a certain ill-defined strain of anarchist thought. Or maybe a certain form of romanticism left remaining as a hangover from Anti-Oedipus
Although Deleuze and Guattari present Plateau 12 as 1227 A. D. , as the date when the ungoverned steppes of inner Asia existed in its pure form for a moment, James Scott argues in his recent book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia
that Zomia (the mountainous regions
, roughly the size of Europe, that traverse slices of seven Asian countries) have for the past two thousand years contained a number of groups that have actively resisted the attempts to be incorporated fully into the states that surround them (the Karen people are perhaps the most well-known). In this sense, Scott presents a direct challenge to the generally accepted narrative of civilisational progress, whereby pre-civilised nomads become civil(ised) by virtue of becoming incorporated (tamed) to one state formation or another. However Scott demonstrates that “societies without states” have used numerous tactics to escape capture by state-makers, from geographical dispersal, living with an oral culture, agricultural practices that encourage mobility, becoming sea gypsies (orang laut
and resisting co-option into expanding state machines.
In other words, Scott presents Zomia as the ultimate war machine; the social machine of resistance par excellence. The Zomian war machine thus serves as a timely if not uncontroversial reminder that, basically speaking, Deleuze and Guattari have got it right. Axiom two related to the nomads: ‘the war machine is the invention of the nomads.’ The Zomian war machine, embedded in peoples occupying vast swathes of territory and existing for more than just a moment continue to exist on their own plane of immanence. Although Scott’s thesis is contestable, the war machine is not simply negation to over-coding. It is creative and affirmative; it engenders a double movement. Firstly, resistance to the codification of life itself by others, e. g. empires, tyrants, invaders and the purposeful expression of positive desire not to become sedentary, coded, classified, fixed in space and time. In the case of invaders we can still see this decoding in operation today in the form of movement without possession of territory. Possession of a territory implies that the territory itself has to be defended rather than creating a “line of flight” to a new and still un-possessed or partially possessed territory; perpetual movement, even if the movement is contained within one physical space.
Secondly, the Zomian war machine creates its own lines of flight creating smooth space and this space is a space of (but not pure) freedom. Freedom not necessarily from
but freedom to
…remain beyond and exterior to attempts to be co-opted into a confined and coded geographical space. If we view the state-form in a non
-romantic view through the prism of the peoples of Zomia, we see a great deal of sense in active resistance to state-making and the solidification of states and their fusing with capital; a “fire machine” that for many meant and still does mean not war as the general model of operations, but extreme violence (police) and enslavement (imprisonment, work). Thus it should really come as no surprise that being “against the State” is not simply a negation
, but the recognition of a different mode of becoming and a willingness to ‘seek a kind of war machine that will not re-create a state apparatus, a nomadic unit related to the outside that will not revive an internal despotic unity.’ 33
In this sense we see elements of the emancipatory potential of the war machine and the activation of axiom two related to the nomads; ‘the war machine is the invention of the nomads.’
Deleuze and Guattari find in the work of Pierre Clastres support for axiom two. Contrary to the accepted narrative of civilisational progress noted above and challenged more recently by Scott’s account of Zomia, Clastres breaks with the standard account that a required level of economic “development” be achieved prior to the founding of a state apparatus. He also breaks with the notion that primitive societies are not sophisticated enough to make the evolutionary jump from levels of economic development to the organisation of complex forms of ordering principles and practices.
As Deleuze and Guattari state:
Primitive, segmentary societies have often been defined as societies without a State, in other words, societies in which distinct organs of power do not appear. But the conclusion has been that these societies did not reach the degree of economic development, or the level of political differentiation that would make the formation of the State apparatus both possible and inevitable: the implication is that primitive people “don’t understand” so complex an apparatus. 34
Clastres breaks with this reading of modern ethnology which states quite simply that societies evolve almost linearly from nomadic to agricultural, eventually developing complex social relations of power that somehow enable the formation of a state apparatus. Clastres describes in detail numerous “primitive” societies that are in effect stateless, but where groups actively repress the social power required to establish a state formation. Clastres notes that these societies are ‘an extraordinary patchwork of “nations”, “tribes”, and societies made up of local groups that take great care to preserve their autonomy.’ 35
This is not to state that these societies are isolated and do not have any power relations at all. That would be to suggest that they are in fact not societies at all. What is suggested throughout Clastres’ work is that power is exercised through various forms, for example, the warrior chief who loses all his power when a particular conflict ends. In other words, Clastres suggests a more socially embedded and situational form of power. He goes on to note that ‘the tribal universe is unquestionably an effective means of preventing the establishment of socio-political groupings that would incorporate the local groups and, beyond that, a means of preventing the emergence of the State, which is a unifier by nature.’ 36
The appeal for Deleuze and Guattari in Clastre’s work is that he identifies ‘war
in primitive societies as the surest mechanism directed against the formation of the State: war maintains the dispersal and segmentarity of groups, and the warrior himself is caught in a process of accumulating exploits leading him to solitude and a prestigious but powerless death (emphasis added).’ 37
The implication of this reading is that bands or packs have complex mechanisms for warding off the State form and that far from being unable to “understand” what a state formation implies, primitive peoples had a very clear idea of what the consequences of the state was and took quite complex pre-emptive action to keep it at bay.’ [G]eronimo, the last of the great North American war chiefs, who spent thirty years of his life trying to ‘“play the chief” and never succeeded…,’38
Geronimo was only a chief in the sense that he was needed to lead in battles, not war. Once the particular battles, skirmishes and so on ended he was no longer automatically assumed to be the
leader. In other words the power he held was specific to the battle, not war. Dispersal follows battles. At this point Deleuze and Guattari are at pains to point out that the war machine, is not, by definition “better” than the state apparatus, merely that it operates according to different principles, the ‘fundamental indiscipline of the warrior, a questioning of hierarchy
, perpetual blackmail by abandonment, or betrayal, and a very volatile sense of honor, all of which, once again impedes the formation of the State.’ 39
What Deleuze and Guattari are presenting is a genealogical view of the philosophy of history in terms of relations of force. On one pole there is the unifying force of state formation noted above. On the other pole are forces of fragmentation that resist these tendencies, “the war machine”. Two models of social organisation that will always be at odds, though it is fair to say that at present the state/capital formation has the upper hand and that, as Deleuze and Guattari correctly point out earlier in Anti-Oedipus
, ‘a pure nomad does not exist; there is always and already an encampment where it is a matter of stocking – however little – and where it is a matter of inscribing and allocating, of marrying, and of feeding oneself.’ 40
What they are presenting is instead a counteractive force to the decoded flows of capitalism itself. This is the actually quite straightforward reading of the meaning of the war machine. It has very little to do with real nomads and those critics of nomadology and nomad thought who equate it with “style”, subversion, and a postmodern lifestyle choice. They seem to be missing the point. 41
As Ronald Bogue correctly points out ‘Deleuze and Guattari’s object is not to systematise received anthropological taxonomies; rather it is to articulate two tendencies – the nomadic and the sedentary – that have each a certain inner coherence – that manifest themselves in various mixed forms. Essential here is the differentiation of observations de facto (of fact) and de jure (of law or right), a distinction of long standing in scholastic legal theory and the philosophy of natural law.’ 42This is a tactic long used by Deleuze and borrowed from Bergson. There is nothing postmodern about nomadology. Nomad thought is central to Deleuze’s critique of representational thinking in Western metaphysics. As Deleuze states at the end of his essay “Nomad Thought”, ‘we must ask ourselves, “Who are our nomads today, our real Nietzscheans?”’43And as Nietzsche himself said, ‘those fearful bulwarks of which the state organisation protected itself against the old instincts of freedom – punishment belongs above all to these bulwarks –, caused all the instincts of the wild, free nomadic man to turn backwards against man himself…such is the origin of “bad conscience”.’ 44
Thus the genealogical account of the state form against the war machine becomes Nietzschean/Foucauldian in its expression. The apparatus of the state form in Deleuze and Guattari is quite similar to that found in Nietzsche, including the machinic language used to describe social formations. State formations appear for Nietzsche not as an outcome of economic development which gives rise to social complexity, but instantly and fatefully, imposed from the outside ‘as a crushing and thoughtless machinery, until such a raw material of common people was finally not only kneaded and malleable but also formed
This coming together re-inforces the sentiment that it is with Nietzsche that we see the introduction of the sedentary against the nomadic type of being. 46
The War Machine and Power
Having now established the fundamentals of the war machine and the state form, the sedentary and the nomadic, it is now necessary to ask what relationship (if indeed any) the war machine has with contemporary forms of power. Most people live in states and most people are settled. Institutions, contracts and the law have successfully captured most people. They pay taxes, are marked and inscribed from birth and are subject to a panoply of biopolitical interventions that cut through all elements of their existence via education systems, the factory, the barracks, the prison, control of movement via passports, constantly surveilled both physically and virtually, i. e. in cyberspace. Furthermore, many settled people have what they think is a stake
in the present system, rather than viewing it as a system of oppression. One of the wonderful aspects of the system of capitalist social relations is the ability of capitalism to be truly revolutionary in the sense that it too, like the nomads and unlike the apparatus of the state, which feeds from it, is in perpetual motion. It has to be. As Deleuze and Guattari note, ‘[capitalism’s] interior limits under the specific conditions of capitalist production and circulation, that is in capital itself, but it functions only by reproducing and widening these limits on an always vaster scale. The strength of capitalism indeed resides in the fact that its axiomatic is never saturated.’ 47
What chance then for the war machine, to make itself meaningful as a positive politico-ethical and politico-cultural force?
Is it possible that war in the contemporary world, as Hardt and Negri argue, has become the “permanent social relation
” on a global scale?48
In other words war becomes the organising principle for all social relations and forms of control irrespective of the level of violence or bloodshed involved. Hardt and Negri are following Foucault in this line of reasoning who argues that war is the general model of biopolitics for society and, as Hardt and Negri note, is ‘applied to forms of competition and relations of force that do not generally involve lethal violence or bloodshed
, such as sports, commerce, and domestic politics. In all of these contests, one has competitors but never really enemies properly conceived.’ 49
The settled people are encouraged to think that this mode of being is “good” and natural, normal, timeless even. It is, after all, fundamental to capitalism to reward this type of behaviour and can be seen in everyday life. In the realm of economic exchanges a particular discourse is utilised; the focus of this discourse is on “economies” and the “fundamentals” of the “economy”. Fundamentals are a euphemism for the right
policies that will underpin a sound economy. These fundamentals include tight
money, a sound
macroeconomic framework, the correct
relationship between government and business, and perhaps most importantly the fight
, or war
This is a discourse of control societies, largely organised through a discourse around fear and other forms of self-regulating behaviour. Since around the mid-1970s inflation, for example, has been described, amongst other things, as a “scourge”, “disease” and “evil”. 50
In this narrative the concept of inflation becomes biopolitical, operating on the individual consciousness, lending credibility to technocratic claims that it (inflation) is undesirable and a threat to society. The individual’s response to this societal threat should be to actively combat this evil curse. Inflation is not normal
must be waged upon it, and we
must remove it as we would any external threat. The settled people are imbued with the discourse of war. This is reasonably clear and points to the important argument made in Anti-Oedipus,
which is the re-statement of Wilhelm Reich’s problem: ‘[a]fter centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point that they actually want
humiliation and slavery not only for others but for themselves?. . . . under a certain set of conditions, they wanted
fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for.’ 51
The on-going financial crisis is another example of this tendency. The continuing unrest in Greece
, for example, reveals much about the triangulated relationship between the population, the state form and global capital. There is no bailout for the Greeks as has often been suggested. What we are witnessing instead is an intra-capitalist argument about how to bring a member state form into line, about how they will bring a peace worse than war to the Greeks (and most surely to others as well). As Deleuze and Guattari maintain, there is nothing intrinsically good about the various forms of war machine. In this variation, a war machine assemblage involving representatives of transnational capital, credit rating agencies, hedge funds, finance ministers, European Union bureaucrats, heads of state and representatives of the European Central Bank are in the process of re-configuring social relations of power in Greece according to the dominant axioms of capital.
The interests of the global capitalist war machine are what are at stake here, despite appearances of this particular financial assemblage being statist in function and form. 52
Global capital is a war machine of a wholly different type and one in which the apparatus of the state form has failed to incorporate or fully tame. 53
The whole tragedy has very little to do with the Greek population themselves. There is a fundamental disconnect between the interests of global capital, the state form and lastly the population. Popular euphemisms are utilised to conceal the axiomatic nature of capital. Terms such as the “market” and “international creditors” are used to conceal and obfuscate the tendency of global capital to add to its axioms, whilst media representations give the impression that the apparatus of the state form is in some way superordinate to the apparatus of capital. There is no real concern for the state form from global capital. Sovereign credit downgrades, or the threat of one, raising the cost of capital on the international capital markets and the inability of states to regulate in increasingly stochastic and fluid system attest to these simple facts.
As for the Greek and other “weak” European populations, they will be told what to do, whilst wearing their masks of protest. They will continue to have momentary war machines when they take to the streets, blurring the fault lines of the state form and the axiomatic nature of capital, but they will be just that; moment[s]. As for the German population (whose state representatives are supposedly the prime architects of the Eurozone bail-outs), they are not involved either. A few are, the rest are observers, or appear in the mass media to re(present) the narrative of the state-capital nexus. Furthermore, any attempts at authentic dialogue between the social body and capital are swiftly polarised by media representations of the very basics of the relationship between capital and labour. Therefore it seems quite clear, in Europe at least, that new tactics are required.
By way of contrast to the settled people the war machine can
, as Deleuze and Guattari state, manifest itself in many forms and in itself it presents a radical form of opposition to modernity itself. However it should be made clear that the anti-modernism epitomised by war machines are not primitive
. On the contrary they are above all active and affective. It would be a mistake to view the relation to currently dominant forms of global power to all that seek alternative ways of being and knowing as a series of binary opposites. Binary oppositions belong to a time long gone, to the standing armies of Europe, who used to stand arrayed in lines in open space, but at the same time striated by cartography and war-craft in general. The fortification or the Maginot line has long been superseded by speed of intensities and movement. This is evidenced by all of the instances in what is sometimes called “asymmetrical warfare” or more recently re-classified and labelled as the “war on terror”. It is more accurate to consider non-state forms of terrorism in many instances as complex adaptive systems. 54
For example, in modernist systems of thought it is not necessary to “see” things in their physical space. Recall the drone operator subject mentioned at the beginning of this essay. It is only necessary to have the “relevant” and usually quantified knowledge about them to exercise a form of power over the said object. We can see that it is a general point relevant today in the form of drone aeroplanes and surveillance mechanisms. The object in question can range at the micro level of the individual within a firm, for example, to the macro-level of the governance of nation-states via complex systems of surveillance and financial, disciplinary power. Although it should be noted that Deleuze in his later writings felt that many of the institutional practices associated with discipline were being superseded or rendered obsolete by mechanisms of control. This type of thinking is more analogous to the Deleuzean argument that we have moved from disciplinary societies to control societies.55
If we continue with this analogy though we see that it encounters problems and severe limitations in the field of knowledge when the “target” is fluid, as is the case of complex financial transactions, or subaltern forms of resistance to non-state forms of terrorism (all of which can constitute a type of war machine). These phenomena can no longer be fixed for the purposes of control or destruction. Problematic questions of authenticity are raised here and for Deleuze and Guattari, in their opening salvo in A Thousand Plateaus
, a denial/negation of the unitary, unified and authentic subject. So we have a double problem. There no longer exists a stable grid or table with which to assemble the requisite knowledge of the “target”. What this implies is a movement towards movement itself as a general category of understanding complex flows of people and things, with many of these things having taken on characteristics of virtuality, becoming non-things in the process. Therefore the “reality” of these examples becomes precisely one of becoming
and never one of being
. The point of being is arguably the point of disappearance or destruction, the moment in time when the phenomenon appears on the temporal plane only to exit and to reappear as something altogether different. This is a type of power that the apparatus of capture is least comfortable with as it escapes, it creates, it morphs and moves, and perpetually, i. e. it is a fluid. However it also points to the ambivalence of the meaning of the war machine in A Thousand Plateaus.
The war machine promises transformation, but sometimes at too high a cost
, perhaps? As Deleuze and Guattari note, ‘lines of flight are realities; they are very dangerous for societies.’56
This condition is due to the fact that a line of flight does not have pre-determined points and it is not always possible to know if the line of flight will be ‘itself the living weapon it forges.’ 57
The Apparatus of Capture and the War Machine
It seems fair to state that we are living in what Antonio Gramsci called an interregnum, in, which ‘a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’ 58
Gramsci was writing specifically about historical fascism in the Italian setting, but his comments seem to resonate as powerfully today. In Gramsci I see affinities (as well as very clear dissonances) with the works of Foucault and of Deleuze and Guattari. Gramsci was all too well aware of the realities of the state and its apparatus of capture in both senses of the word. Literally incarcerated by Mussolini and also cognisant of the way in the way in which the state-capital nexus needs to control the desires of humans in order to make them “fit” the logic and imperatives of capital. Gramsci recognised early on in Fordist production the need
for a new type of worker that would comply with mass industrialisation being introduced early in the twentieth century. In his discussion on the reconfiguration of labour and society following the methods of Taylorism and Fordism, Gramsci points out practices that render a worker that can meet the requirements of the producer, such as being diligent, consistent, calculable and (reasonably) sober; having a stable domestic existence. In other words Gramsci recognised the need for workers to be trained
to conform to certain patterns of behaviour, regularities based on the control of time, movement and sexuality. The common theme that runs through these practices is delayed gratification, i. e. waiting to be paid, waiting to be gratified at home, the delay of desire, all of which is subject to the regime of calculability.59
Returning to Deleuze and Guattari, they argue using different language, a different time frame but in similar vein that people are organised on a large-scale according to the underlying logic of capital and the accumulation of surplus value. As they say:
A State apparatus is erected upon the primitive agricultural communities, which already have lineal-territorial codes; but it overcodes them
, submitting them to the power of a despotic emperor, the sole and transcendent public-property owner, the master of the surplus or the stock, the organiser of large-scale works (surplus labor), the source of public functions and bureaucracy. This is the paradigm of the bond, the knot. Such is the regime of signs of the State: overcoding, or the Signifier. It is a system of machinic enslavement: the first “megamachine” in the strict sense
, to use Mumford’s term. 60
What Deleuze and Guattari suggest is that it is indeed the state (or ordering practices) that renders human beings calculable but also disciplined as ‘predisabled people, preexisting amputees, the still-born, the congenitally infirm, the one-eyed and one-armed.’ 61
It is the state that takes hunter-gatherer societies and introduces agriculture, metallurgy and lastly public works, not the other way around. As such the state is an alien formation in relation to societies; societies who may indeed have maintained quite complex networks of exchange, for example, but which nonetheless had no desire to be captured by an exterior force; an alien force not really required but imposed. The logic is reasonably straightforward and can be expressed by the desire to capture the energy of bodies and put them to use for extraction of that energy. The human body is simply energy-matter and the apparatus of capture needs to extract as much of this energy for itself; the creation of surplus value. In line with Foucault’s reasoning, the population is an undifferentiated mass that requires naming, classifying, encoding and ordering, largely through the tripartite system of power he outlines in Discipline and Punish
Manuel DeLanda, again using different language but expressing the same sentiment argues that society and the population that inhabits it:
appears as just another ensemble of fluxes, with reservoirs of potentials of different kinds (water, energy, population, wealth etc. ) driving those fluxes. From the point of view of the machinic phylum, we are simply a very complex dynamical system. And like any other physical ensemble of fluxes, we can reach critical points (singularities, bifurcations) where new forms of order may spontaneously emerge. 62
And it is this potential
that the apparatus of capture embodied in the state formation seeks. It is at this point that we must take one variant of the war machine and ask: what does it have to offer in terms of resistance to capture?Deleuze and Guattari seem to argue near the end of Plateau 13 that it is perhaps to be found in the minoritarian politics of ‘the revolutionary movement (the connection of flows, the composition of nondeumerable aggregates, the becoming-minoritarian of everybody/everything).’63
This variant of the war machine is the one that we are most interested at this juncture.64
Becoming-minoritarian is set in opposition to what Deleuze and Guattari call “Royal Science”.65
Royal Science is primarily established and maintained to act as a reactive blocker. Royal Science, for Deleuze, is concerned with identifying and reproducing invariant laws from matter. This “matter” can include human subjects
, for example, and “Royal Science” suggests that this matter follows universal laws. It establishes boundaries, sets the parameters of the correct questions to be asked and ultimately serves to police
the legitimacy of knowledge. For example, it goes almost unnoticed that practically all discourse of “others” is subject to the Royal Science of the superordinate referent of the “West”. Nomad thought or Minor Science is established as a counter-force, primarily to create thinking and speaking spaces blocked by Royal Science and its associations with the state form and apparatus of capture. Nomad or Minor Science is not concerned with a constant, but follows the singularities or variations of matter. The question then is what does minoritarian thought have to offer?
Those seeking a plan, an alternative, a manifesto, should be disappointed, or confused by the antagonism between the line and the point. The point
of the line is, as I have been arguing, to follow the line; to be at a point between lines and not travelling from point to point. Consider escape along lines of flight as journeys; journeys where one does not know the destination but where ‘other world’s are (already) possible.’66
There is an emancipatory aspect to this line of thinking that is looked at disapprovingly by some of those on the left, who prefer the politics of the manifesto or plan (point by point). By this I mean those on the left who do not move with the exigencies of the times or in the Machiavellian sense of il tempi
. What the above suggests is the enormous contribution Deleuze and Guattari’s excursus on the sedentary and the nomadic can add to the analytical armour towards an understanding the modern subject, both in the sense of individual subjectivities and forms of various political communities and how they are literally assembled. What they highlight are the absurdities of those seeking ready-made solutions. On the contrary Deleuze and Guattari emphasise the experimental, the ambiguous, the misleading and the aleatory nature of becoming and of life itself. In turn this opens up theoretical space for others beyond social theory to re-conceptualise the concrete assembling and disassembling of many entities without recourse to mainstream International Relations neo-realism, or to more recent challenges from constructivism. And in the spirit of sampling, splicing, improvisational jazz, and re-mixing found in musical creation, this logic is perfectly applicable to intellectual creations, too, such as this essay or a book. Viewing this essay as an emergent assemblage as opposed to some(thing) that has to be listened to or read as being on the register of intellectual authority has merit and shares similarities with the Deleuzean attentiveness to the emergent possibilities of the “social”, as well as the ‘ambiguous, complex and contested flows that International Relations focus on stable
, unitary actors and identities can at times obscure.’67
I have attempted to illustrate here that there is in the conceptual schema of Deleuze and Guattari's war machine a way of creating theoretical space for thinking about what it means to resist the apparatus of capture in modernist societies. Resistance, like the war machine, has a multitude of meanings. Resistance, as Gramsci famously noted, does not have to be in the first instance a war of manoeuvre; it takes time to build capabilities, to formulate the problem properly, to assess the actuality of late modernist imperialism. There are no ready-made formulas, no cookbooks, no Transitional Programmes68
and so on for the interregnum that we find ourselves currently facing, with perpetual war as the operating principle of global order. Added to this we have the various “wars on…. ” to contend with, and regressive neo-conservatism in the heart of the globalising capitalist system to deal with. All of this may seem too overwhelming to allow thinking about ordering the whole world in different, fairer and socially just ways. However to give in to a form of late modernist nihilism is probably exactly what those who have always known exactly what they are doing would desire. Get people away from public spaces, bemoaning the state of their existence, and as the more dis-associated from self and others they become the more easily they become “willing victims” of this particular form of ordering of social and political relations. When the city space is “striated” then the imperative is to seek out the “smooth” space of freedom, not in an abstract sense but in a material sense.
Consider for a moment the people who interact in a dynamic and fluid way in cityscapes with their bodies. I am thinking of those practitioners of Parkour
or “free-running”, for example; materialists who resist (or perhaps reassemble) the pre-given codification and control of urban space, people who resist the “is” of a wall or set of stairs and re-codify these objects by adaptation, absorption and movement. Rather than seeing the obstacles of the enclosure of public space, the practitioners of Parkour
see obstacles as something to be overcome by intensities of speed and movement. 69
As such they deny the ontological certainty of the meaning of any object in public space and appropriate it for their own ends. It should be clear by now that there are war machines everywhere and that there is the potential for them to globalise, much in the same way that capital has globalised. However, this is not a retreat into an idealised form of political community that will cohere horizontally tomorrow. And Parkour
, just like so many other subaltern activities and subcultures, will and already is being commodified. Free runners (traceurs
) are not here to save us or to speak for us or for others. They speak with their bodies. However they do demonstrate the potential for radical and novel forms of material practices not only about the objects that surround us in our everyday lives, but more importantly to enable us to question what objects are for
, what they can do, and on a global scale.
The creative and emancipatory potential of war machines to be realised will take a struggle of forces or a multiplicity of forces, and one cannot fall into the trap of imagining that such a multiplicity of forces will be easy to establish. However, in the spirit of the concept of the war machine imagination, and above all creativity, are required; creativity to imagine not merely destruction (perhaps an unfortunate interpretation of the war machine) but to imagine alternative worlds. This will be no easy task, as the axiomatic nature of capital, as noted above, never seems to become saturated. As Deleuze and Guattari state, ‘there is no assurance that two lines of flight will prove compatible, compossible. There is no assurance that the body without organs will be easy to compose. There is no assurance that a love, or a political approach will withstand it.’70
However, if the aims of disparate groups in International Relations discourse and practice are to extricate themselves from the dominant axioms of the discipline and associated real world practices – to overcome being overlooked, despite the strength of their cause or argument – then the various journeys along equally indeterminate “lines of flight” and following the logic of positive war machines will be worth the throw of the dice.
To sum up, this essay introduced the concepts of nomad thought and of the war machine in Deleuze and Guattari. In doing so it highlighted the ambivalence of these concepts. I argued that although the war machine has been given many meanings by Deleuze and Guattari, not all of which can be considered positive, the most promising interpretation of the war machine is stated in the two axioms: the war machine is exterior to the state and the war machine is the invention of the nomads. I argued that only in exceptional circumstances does the war machine take war as its object; rather the object of the war machine is the creation of a radical form of becoming
that is resistant to the overcoding of the apparatus of the state form and its associations with the axiomatic nature of capital, and is embodied in practices that resist being fixed on the grid or table of modernity. However I also argued that although in most instances war proper is subordinate to escape, a war machine can become part of the apparatus of capture. However this is a war machine of a different kind, i. e. a war machine that has been taken over, captured and put into the service of the state form or taking over the state itself and becoming the state, either as fascist or totalitarian in form.
In that sense there may be accusations of romanticism, or even basic errors of virtual concepts serving a double purpose,thus claiming to be read on the grounds of pure philosophy but backed up with real-world representations and anthropological and ethnographic examples.71
The claim is made that the war machine is simply yet another vague anarchist utopia whereby desire is freed from the shackles of capitalist overcoding and the apparatus of state capture. Yes, it is difficult to escape the mayfly effect, to think and act as if the state formation is not the normal mode of being; most are born into it after all
, and most likely die under its care. There may also be accusations that this analysis is pessimistic and defeatist. That is not the case. Many other forms of social organisation are possible. Everybody already knows this. What they are prepared to do about it is the proper formulation of the problem which, as Bergson and Deleuze correctly state, is the real task at hand.72
In that sense truly novel forms of being and knowing do indeed remain as future goals, but not impossible ones, despite the police of Royal Science who would like to maintain its current monopoly on the disciplinary boundaries of knowledge, whereby so called debates occur within and without the academy, according to the established and entrenched axioms of capital. Or, as Jameson argues, it might be preferable to view the antagonism between nomadism and the state form in the age of the global capitalist axiomatic as ‘the return of myth and the call of utopian transfiguration.’73